Thursday, February 28, 2008

Mishandling of Sundin situation boggles the mind

The Leafs tried to play it classy in how they handled Mats Sundin’s no trade clause and ended up botching it royally and coming off as totally classless (and clueless).

Hopefully the Mats bashers will layoff. Sure the team would have been better off long-term getting top draft picks or prospects for Sundin, not to mention the added advantage of sinking to the bottom of the standings and upping their chances of landing Stamkos on draft day. However, Sundin’s reasons for staying – his commitment to the team, city and his teammates – are exactly what you look for in a captain. He should be lauded for not simply demanding to be traded to a place where he “has a chance to win”. I always hate it when a superstar demands a trade to a contender. Stay where you are and make your team a contender, if you are a true star player. Finally, no one ever said, even once, that if the Avalanche were to fall out of playoff contention that they should look to move Sakic. His situation is very similar to Sundin’s (not exact, obviously as Joe has won a Cup and only ever played for one team) but the treatment of the two was very different.

As to the handling of l’affaire Sundin, as I said in my opening, it boggles the mind. What they should have done is so straightforward I had just assumed they were doing it behind the scenes. When Fletcher came in all he had to announce was the following:

1. I’ve been given a mandate and we are going to everything we can to get this franchise back to its rightful place at the top of league, competing annually for the Stanley Cup.

2. We have 5 players with no-trade / no-move clauses. I will be meeting with each of them, outlining my vision for the future and discussing how they fit in. In the best interests of the team I will ask each of them if they would consider waiving their clause if the right deal came along.

3. We have no interest in trading Mats. He has been the face of the team for the past decade and is our best player and captain. That being said, if we got knocked over with a great deal we’d have to consider it. If Wayne Gretzky can get traded, anyone can get traded.

Boom. Done. Press conference over, nothing more said than what happened anyway. Expectations properly managed and direction communicated.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Fixing the Leafs

Unfortunately there are no easy answers and no shortcuts. Even if they somehow get Steve Stamkos next year it is unrealistic to expect him to come in and have a big impact right away (it could happen, but it isn’t something the Leafs should bank on). He is going to be a great player but he is not Sidney Crosby.

The key for the Leafs will be putting some of that MLSE money muscle to good use. They can free up valuable cap space by sending Raycroft and Bell to the minors next season as a start (that is $4.1 million in cap space right there). If Kubina won’t waive his no-trade clause, they might need to play hardball with him and ship him (or threaten to ship him) to the Marlies as they can’t keep both him and McCabe and McCabe has a no movement clause.

They have some decent young talent but not a lot of it. If some of the kids make the final 23 next year (and they should, in my opinion, assuming they continue to develop as expected) that will strip the farm bare of replacement parts when the injuries arrive, as surely they will. The Leafs should look for some inexpensive depth guys on two-way contracts to give the kids a chance but also to provide a bit of a safety net. Think Boyd Devereaux and Dominic Moore types. They should look at guys with local connections who will take less money to be Leaf (or a potential Leaf). Sounds silly? I remember years ago driving on the QEW, passing a St. Catherines exit and the town was proudly displaying a giant banner that read, “Home of Bill Berg. #10”. Bill Berg. He was a Leafs 4th liner for 3 years and probably doesn’t have to pay for breakfast anywhere in the GTA and environs. I’m sure there is a car dealership somewhere with his name on it.

If they play the kids next season they won’t be any worse than they have been this year and they will have some money to spend in the off-season on decent, mid-level players if they want to go that route (just limit the term, and please, no more no movement clauses other than to veteran players signing below market, short-term deals). Sure, tanking the season to try and get Tavares is probably a better way to go from a long-term perspective but we all know that is not going to happen.

So, here’s what I think the Leafs should be projecting as their 2008-2009 lineup based on what is currently in their system and what they might need to do in the off-season. They should see if these young guys are for real and try to inject as much youth and speed into their lineup as possible.

Out at this year’s trade deadline: Gill, Kilger, Belak
To the Marlies: Bell, Raycroft
Young players making the big team: Kulemin, Tlusty, Earl, Stralman, Kronwall
Re-sign UFAs: Sundin, Moore

Forward lines:
Tlusty – Sundin – Wellwood
Ponikarovsky – Antropov – Tucker
Blake – Stajan – Steen
Earl – Moore – Devereaux
Extra: Newbury or Ondrus

  • Kulemin will push hard for a spot in the lineup and could make Ponikarovsky available. He likely starts with the Marlies as he acclimates to North American hockey (and life)

  • Earl’s speed earns him a spot on the 4th line and he could take over on one of the top 3 lines when needed as he has offensive potential

  • Mitchell could take over centering the 4th line from Moore (who has been very good for the Leafs this year)

  • Newbury basically replaces Belak

  • Wellwood and Blake could switch places

  • Tlusty projects as a centre, so if he is ready they could look at him to centre the 2nd line and reunite the Sky Line as the number one unit

  • If Tlusty, Kulemin are both ready the Leafs could potentially roll 4 lines with good speed and spread out scoring potential

Defensive Pairings:
Kaberle – Colaiacovo
McCabe – NEW veteran stay at home defenceman (free agent signing)
Stralman – Kronwall
Extra: White

  • They should try to maximize White’s potential by making him QB the second unit of the powerplay. He is always going to be a bit of a defensive liability, so they should try to take advantage of his strengths while limiting his weaknesses.

  • Yes, the veteran will be like a Hal Gill, but they should be able to get a better player even if they have to pay a little more. Gill is great killing of 5-on-3 disadvantages but he’s just too slow for today’s game. The Leafs should look at someone like the Devil’s deadline acquisition, Bryce Salvador, or even a Richard Matvichuk (if he has anything left in the tank?). Both are UFAs this summer and made in the $1.5m range this season. Anyway, the point being, there are plenty of veteran defensive defencemen to be had at a reasonable salary.


This team, with Kubina and not the veteran stay-at-home guy noted above, would have a cap number of about $49 million. Take him out and plug in a $2-3million for another defensemen and the Leafs should be about $7 million under the cap (projected at $54m).

If Tucker finishes strongly there might be a market for him. I could see him going to Calgary, especially if they move Tanguay. Fletcher should try to move him, Kubina, Raycroft et al before the draft but he might need to look at moving other pieces if he is looking for anything useful in return (e.g. Ponikarovsky, Blake). I think the guys with no-trade clauses can be moved in the off-season. These guys have families and kids in school so it is understandable that they don’t want to uproot their lives in the middle of the hockey season, or be apart from them for 2-3 months.

Is this team going to win the Stanley Cup? No, obviously not. But this is a start to building towards the future and clearing enough cap space so that Sundin can be properly replaced in a year or two. E.g. what happens if Lecavalier decides not to re-sign in Tampa…. I assume he will, but who knows what can happen. If nothing else, it would be a faster team and you need speed to contend in the new NHL.

1. They can move Kubina. With Boyle getting crazy money someone might view his $5million as a decent deal. Well, probably not. But I think the Leafs could give him away for a pick if all they wanted was cap space.
2. Sundin re-signs the same type of deal as this year
3. Whomever they Leafs draft in the first round isn’t ready to step in right away
4. Tucker has, in fact, been injured this year and does have something left in the tank. It might not be much, but something.
5. Wellwood’s year is best just written off. I don’t think he ever properly recovered from the two abdominal surgeries. This is a big assumption, but in this scenario he works hard on his fitness and comes back healthy and in shape next year. Without speed his shiftiness doesn’t come to much of anything useful. He doesn’t get much of an increase, if any, for next year.
6. Stajan gets an increase to $1.5 million.
7. Blake bounces back to his normal 20+ goals per season numbers
8. The Leafs are willing to play hardball with their players in order to move the team forward….

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Quick thoughts on a busy trade deadline day….

New Jersey Devils – picked up a typical Jersey player. Is it just me of is beginning to feel a lot like this could be a Jersey year (again, ugh)? Salvador fits their system and they didn’t need to be bold as they are hitting their stride as we move into the latter stages of the season. You know they’ll be solid defensively and that Sutter will have them play a tenacious style. So the big question is can they score enough? Elias, Parise, Gionta et al, over to you.

Ottawa Senators – yikes! I like their pickup of Lapointe from a dressing room perspective, particularly as they got shut out again tonight (this time by Boston). No big moves by Murray but I think now that the main part of his GMing (is that a word?? Is is now)is done for the season he’s trying to figure out the best time to can Paddock and step back behind the bench. This has been a successful tactic in the past as it normally gives the team a lift and he is a good motivator.

Pittsburgh Penguins – Interesting move picking up Hossa. I was shocked when I read it on the ticker. I guess they figure the East is wide open this year so why not go for it? A long playoff run will also do wonders for their young players. Unless he loves playing with Crosby so much that he is willing to sign at a substantial discount, I don’t see Hossa staying in Pittsburg. Tampa Bay has proven you can’t tie up so much cap space in 3 forwards and they need to take care of Malkin this summer. Not to mention they still have Gonchar $5 million per season and Whitney at $4 million per year…. It will be interesting to see what the Pens do in the off-season with Hossa and Malkin (RFA in the summer of 2009).

Dallas – Huge move. I think Richards will pay big dividends.

I'll post my plan for fixing the Leafs tomorrow. Unfortunately there aren't any magic bullets or easy solutions.

The adventure continues - trailer for the new Indiana Jones movie

The new Indiana Jones movie, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, is scheduled to be released on May 22. I really hope this movie is good but I am a bit apprehensive. I mean, how old is Harrison Ford?? Nevertheless, the trailer looks good. You can watch it at the official movie site: .

In honour of his once again donning the fedora, here's my ranking of the Top 5 Harrison Ford movie roles of all time:

5. The Fugitive - Dr. Richard David Kimble
4. Blade Runner - Rick Deckard
3. Star Wars - Han Solo
2. Raiders of the Lost Ark - Indiana Jones
1. The Empire Strikes Back - Han Solo

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Make your own book with Blurb

Ever fancy putting together a book but just didn't know where or how to start? Well then, you should get yourself over to This is a pretty cool website that allows you (yes, you!) to create your own book. It can be a book of photos (e.g. your wedding, your trip around the world, your kids), your as yet unpublished stories / poetry, recipes, favourite wines, etc.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A winter weekend in Chicago - much better than it sounds

I was faced with questions all along the same theme: What?? Why there in February?

Well, let me tell you, Chicago is good fun at any time of year. Would it have been better with warm weather, the waterfront and the Cubs at Wrigley? Well, of course, but we wouldn't have got the same sort of hotel deal, you can be sure of that.

Let me first deal with the inevitable question about the weather: It was unbelievably frigid at times (Friday, Monday), surprisingly mild (and sunny!) at others (Sat-Sun) and we had our return flight delayed because of high winds. So there you go, clearly it was not the Bahamas but we still had a great time.

Some highlights if you ever decide to go:

  • Eat some deep dish pizza
  • Riding the EL
  • Going up the Sears Tower
  • Walking the Mag Mile
  • Walking along the waterfront by Oak Street Beach (yes, even during the winter, although you might want to choose a sunny, calm day)
  • The zoo
  • Millennium Park
  • Drinks at Ditka’s (we should have stayed here for a steak)
  • Trendy restaurant in the West Loop (we went to Sepia - which was excellent. Blackbird and Avec both came highly recommended)
  • Night out at a blues bar
  • Blackhawks game
  • Steak dinner at steak joint
  • The Art Institute of Chicago
  • Drinks at the Signature Lounge on the 95th floor of the John Hancock tower

Missed items for next time:

  • Bars in Fulton Market District
  • Bars / restaurants in Rush Street area
  • Second City

Had to be done

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Canstage has a winner with The Clean House

It has been a while since I'd been to Canstage and much, much longer since I had season tickets. I received a free pair of tickets to the final preview of Canstage and thought I'd give it a go. My expectations were fairly low, so The Clean House was a wonderful surprise. It deals with serious subject matter in a touching and funny (very, very funny) manner. A thoroughly enjoyable theatre going experience.

The Clean House plays until March 8th at the Bluma Appel Theatre.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Best Valentine's Day Idea Ever!

The theatre is always a popular date event for couples, especially on days like Valentine's Day. Now, you may say, that you don't enjoy the theatre, that you find it stuffy, pretentious, boring, etc. Well, have I got something for you: Evil Dead: The Musical is back at the Diesel Playhouse. What says Happy Valentine's Day more than the splatter zone?? If there is more fun to be had at another musical I need to be going to see that show right now. I really can't recommend this show enough. It is one of the funniest things I've ever seen, and I'm not just talking about at the theatre. I laughed, I cried, it was much better than Cats... and I may, in fact, go see it again and again.

Suggested pre-theatre musical selection: My Bloody Valentine.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Head injuries and the Philadelphia Flyers

Unfair or not, the question probably needs to be asked: Do the Philadelphia Flyers know how to properly handle concussions suffered by their own players? By all accounts Philly is a first-class organization. They have good crowd support, ice a competitive team (almost) every year and players want to play there. However, in light of Simon Gagne’s THIRD concussion of the season you have to wonder what they are doing when it comes to head injuries (their propensity to inflict head injuries is another issue altogether). Eric Lindros’ concussions were not handled properly. Keith Primeau was allowed to play when he had a concussion and is still paying for it today. And now Gagne. These aren’t fourth-liners hoping to stay in the league and willing to put their well-being on the line to avoid a trip down to the AHL (or out into the real world). This is headline talent we are talking about. And with Gagne pushing to get back on the ice next week, even after he was allowed to come back early in November and suffered another concussion, this situation could take a very ugly turn.

Gagne suffered a concussion on Oct. 24 and sat out four games; he then had another concussion on Nov. 7 and missed the next 26 games. His third concussion of the season was suffered on February 10th in a game against Pittsburgh. He hopes to return before the end of the season.

Hmmm... I also wonder what impact this could have on my projected Team Canada 2010 roster?

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Converse Chuck Taylors

With Converse celebrating its 100th birthday, Karen Von Hahn of the Globe and Mail took the opportunity to celebrate Converse's iconic Chuck Taylor sneaker. Incidentally, the venerable Chuck Taylor All Stars turn 91 themselves this year.

I've been meaning to get some Chuck's for a while. I might have to take a stroll down Queen Street West to Get Outside (they have a great selection) and pick up a pair sometime this weekend.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Up the Yangtze

I went to see Up The Yangtze by Montreal filmmaker Yung Chang on Wednesday night at Bloor Cinema; it was playing as part of the Doc Soup series and it is a film everyone should go to see. It is now playing at the Cumberland Theatre in Yorkville. Go see it for a moving experience and to support Canadian film making. Also, buy a t-shirt as proceeds go to help support the "relocatees".

Film synopsis from the National Film Board of Canada:
A luxury cruise boat motors up the Yangtze - navigating the mythic waterway known in China simply as "The River." The Yangtze is about to be transformed by the biggest hydroelectric dam in history. At the river's edge - a young woman says goodbye to her family as the floodwaters rise towards their small homestead. The Three Gorges Dam - contested symbol of the Chinese economic miracle - provides the epic backdrop for Up the Yangtze, a dramatic feature documentary on life inside modern China.

To learn more about the film visit its website:

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Primary Fever

Hmmm... interesting. I suffered from an acute case from primary fever in January during the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries. I had the same symptoms you did if you were similarly afflicted: regularly checking various websites, spending way too much time on CNN and then cross-referencing what you were hearing there with more balanced reporting on BBC World News and CBC Newsworld. It was a big deal and I devoted a fair amount of time and energy to following what was happening. And then I got better. It seemed a long, long way to Super Tuesday. Sure, there were some twists and turns here and there but... there were more pressing issues, like the Super Bowl and whether or not the Leafs would trade Mats Sundin.

So, Super Tuesday has now come and gone. Fortunately, while I paid attention to what was happening I was not as obsessed with is as I had been in January. The Democratic race should be a dogfight right down to the last minute, and the Republicans find themselves in a tricky position. Is McCain electable (in general)? And, can the Republican machine get behind a man they clearly don't all support (or even really like)?

No offense to Mr. McCain -- who, if we had to have another Republican President would, at least, be one who would do a decent job -- but here's my t-shirt for 2008:

T-shirt is available at Foul Mouth T-Shirts

Ah yes, the slogan t-shirt, no better way to get your message across.... Good times.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

(Re)Looking back at music in 2005

While thinking about what songs should make my January 2008 list I came across this nugget from the past buried in a folder about an annual, boys golf tournament (the GPO). After spending some time listening to these songs I thought I'd capture it here for posterity:

Well, 2005 has pretty much come and gone. As per my norm, here is a list of my favourite tracks from 2005 -- sticking with individual songs this year instead of albums… it’s an iPod age, my friends. Interestingly, I can’t actually remember the last time I was in a record store? Very odd considering I used to be in them about once a week.

2005 Faves
1. Rebellion (Lies) – The Arcade Fire
2. My Doorbell – The White Stripes
3. An Honest Mistake – The Bravery
4. I Predict a Riot – Kaiser Chiefs
5. All These Things That I’ve Done – The Killers
6. Feel Good Inc. – Gorillaz
7. Mr. Brightside – The Killers
8. Take It Easy (Love Nothing) – Bright Eyes
9. Middle of Nowhere – Hot Hot Heat
10. Hung Up – Madonna

Honourable Mention:
Do You Want To – Franz Ferdinand
Gold Digger – Kanye West

In hindsight, Gold Digger should have been on the main list, and probably near the top.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

January Music Review

Okay, it is now the end of January and therefore time to look back and reflect on my January musical obsessions, discoveries and guilty pleasures. Of course, when looking at this list it is quite apparent that none of these songs are from January 2008. Of course, I never promised that either... I have a job which gets in the way of actively tracking new music with that degree of dedication [note to self: if the internet was around in its current incarnation when I was in university I would have (a) attended class and studied even less frequently, and (b) been able to seriously indulge a Rob Fleming-style music obsession (note: this is different than a Musical obsession, which is something my Dad has)].

So, here's a list of songs I should have been obsessing about in 2007 but either did not know about them until the end of 2007 / early 2008, or that were released too late in 2007 to develop a full blown obsession.... Track these down, listen and enjoy (all now available on iTunes). You won't be disappointed.

Canadian Indie:
Live Off Lamb -Said The Whale
This Winter I Retire - Said The Whale
We Should Be Believing - These Electric Lives
Night Windows - The Weakerthans
Good to Sea - Pinback
Jezebel - Two Hours Traffic
Heros of the Sidewalk - Two Hours Traffic
Stuck for the Summer - Two Hours Traffic
Your Rocky Spine - Great Lake Swimmers
Fashionable People - Joel Plaskett Emergency
Backed Out On The... - Kevin Drew
Take Me to the Riot - Stars
Challengers - The New Pornographers
My Rights Versus Yours - The New Pornographers

Other Cool Stuff (and a few guilty pleasures):
All My Friends - LCD Soundsystem
The Underdog - Spoon
Piece of Me - Britney Spears
Speakerphone - Kylie Minogue
Shut Up and Drive - Rihanna
Time to Pretend – MGMT (amazingly, this was an iTunes freebie of the week earlier this year)
Is There a Ghost - Band of Horses
No One's Gonna Love You - Band of Horses
Paper Planes - M.I.A.