Friday, December 31, 2010

Top Moments from 2010

sidney crosby golden goal canada
It’s the end of the year and that means it’s fashionable to look back at the last 365 days and sum everything up in a neat and tidy list. Let’s hope the end of the year means the Leafs will magically transform from their current mess to something that actually resembles a competent hockey team.

For more year-end goodness check out the always hilarious Down Goes Brown.

Here are my top moments from the past year that stood out above the rest.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Who is the Best Team in the East?

The East is a conference of haves and have-nots. There is a clear distinction between the teams currently in the playoffs and those that aren’t. Sure, the Senators are only six points out of eighth, but their goal differential is almost as bad as the hapless Maple Leafs. Sorry, you're not good; you’re not making the playoffs.

It seems likely that the teams currently in the top-8 in the East will be there come playoff time – barring any crazy winning streak by a team on the outside or a prolonged losing streak by one on the inside. The three-point game means that it’s too hard for teams to make up ground otherwise.

But among the eight current playoff teams there is not a lot of points separating each team. The Penguins lead the conference with 50 points, but the Flyers are right behind them and there are other teams with games at hand, meaning the distance between first and eighth could be a lot closer than it appears.

So who is the best team in the conference? The end of the year seems like a good time to evaluate everyone and see who is in the best position to meet in the Stanley Cup Final. I'll take a look at the West in a few days.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Fantasy Hockey: Mid-Season Pickups

It’s December and it looks like some of my fantasy sleepers have already proven they're fantasy busts (you’re making me look bad Bozak). However, some have turned out down-right dominant (Claude Giroux). So let's say at least some of my suggestions work out.

If you’re struggling in your league you can afford to take a gamble on a young player just up from the minors. Hopefully you aren't struggling in your league because you took my advice before your draft. Here are a few mid-season pickups that might help you turn your sorry team around. All players are under 20% owned in Yahoo! Sports leagues, so it’s likely they’ll still be available by the time you read this.

Friday, December 17, 2010

2011 HHoF: The Case for Doug Gilmour

doug gilmour leafs hall of fame
Amidst my Leafs depression I seemingly forgot about the 2011 Hockey Hall of Fame series I was writing. That’s what happens when your team spends the better part of a month losing games with shocking regularity. All of a sudden the Leafs have won a few games (and been throttled in a few others), so I’m slowly getting my mojo back.

So after a brief respite here’s the final piece in the series outlining the players who should comprise the 2011 Hockey Hall of Fame class. I’ve already made the case for Ed Belfour, Eric Lindros, and Pavel Bure, but I’ve saved my personal favourite for last. Uh oh, that must mean it’s a Leaf!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

How the Flames Resemble the Post-Lockout Maple Leafs

burke flames leafs trade stupid
The Calgary Flames went through the pre-season without losing a game and convinced everyone in Calgary that their team would rebound from a disappointing 2009-2010 to contend in a tough Western Conference. Well, that certainly hasn’t happened. The Flames are currently second last in the Western Conference – only two points above the last placed Oilers.

In actuality, the Flames have been a major disappointment every year since they made a surprising run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2004. They got lucky in 2004. Kiprusoff played out of his mind, Iginla was good enough to carry the team, and the rest of the players were hard-working and chipped in big goals at opportune moments. Everything came together for the Flames that season. It was magical, and expecting the Flames to duplicate that run was insane.

They followed up that season by winning the Northwest Division in 2005-2006, but were upset by the Ducks in the first round. They failed to make it past the first round in each of the next three seasons and missed the playoffs entirely last year.

It isn’t surprising that the Flames have performed at this mediocre level. They’ve always been good enough to contend for a playoff spot, but never strong enough to actually make any substantial run at the Stanley Cup. They’ve essentially had a team good enough to stay afloat, but not good enough to actually excel.

This reminds me of a team I know well. This team I know had major problems like the Flames, but continued to bandage their cracks instead of fixing their Grand Canyon sized holes. This eventually led them to become one of the worst teams in the league.

In honour of Dion Phaneuf’s return to Calgary tomorrow night here are all the reasons why the Flames reflect the hapless Maple Leafs of the post-lockout. That sentence alone should convince the Flames that they desperately need to re-build.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Baby Steps

macarthur kulemin leafs happy
It's only two wins in a row - both of which the Leafs needed a shoot-out to finish - but it's a start. Jonas Gustavsson said it best when he described it as two small steps in the right direction.

This win probably says more about the Washington Capitals than it does about the Leafs. What sort of Stanley Cup contender lets the lowly Leafs back into a game after being up 4-1 in the third period.

The Leafs are still seven points behind the Bruins for the final playoff spot, but, somehow, they're only two points behind 9th place Ottawa with two games at hand (which speaks to the atrocity of the Eastern Conference).

The rest of the week will determine whether the Leafs mini-streak is anything more than luck. The Leafs play the Penguins on Wednesday, followed by the Flyers on Thursday, and the loathsome Habs on Saturday.

Despite how ugly tonight was, it was a win, and, at least for tonight, that's all the matters.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

November Recap: The Bad, the Awful, and the Horrawful

I didn’t want to write this monthly recap. There’s nothing good to talk about as evidenced by the titled. It was a horrific month.

People are jumping off the Leafs bandwagon at an alarming pace. It’s the 1980s all over again. Miraculously, I’m still hanging on. The Leafs are trying their hardest to break me, but, so far, I’m still kicking. It’s like I’m on a train doomed to crash. Instead of scrambling to get off I’ve just buckled myself in. Fuck it, might as well get a good seat for this baby.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Sports Ain't Fun No More

Click here to know how I feel.
I’m going to keep this short. Remember when I thought the Leafs saved their season? I'm like those oblivious housewives in Mad Men who are rampantly cheated on. Delude, delude, delude.

The Leafs haven’t hit rock bottom because they keep falling further and further. Just when you think it can’t get any worse, it does.

In one of the more depressing psychology experiments I’ve ever read dogs were given electric shocks. One group of dogs are able to end their shock by pressing a lever. The lever for the other group of dogs has no effect. The dogs were next tested in a box-like apparatus in which the dogs could escape the electric shocks by jumping over a low partition. The dogs that previously "learned" that nothing they did had any effect on the shocks simply lay down passively and whined. Even though they could have easily escaped the shocks, the dogs didn't try.

I think I’m just going to go lay down.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Responding to the TSN Message Boards

Message boards are a spawning ground for idiocy. There’s something about putting a bunch of anonymous people together in a virtual room that is conducive to general dumbassery.

I usual read and at the end of each article there is the chance for people to chime in with their two cents. Opinions are like assholes in the sense that everyone has one. And the TSN message boards have a lot of assholes with more opinions than they know what to do with.

The articles that generate the most responses are any that involve the Maple Leafs. People bemoan the amount of attention the Leafs get, but everyone loves talking about them. Both people who love the Leafs and those who absolutely despise the Leafs have something to say about the general state of Leafs Nation… always. By Sunday night there were 38 pages of responses to one Leafs game.

Reading these message boards are the worst after the Leafs put together a string of a few loses (or when they go 4-12-2 since their 4-0 start). During these times Leaf fans are usually very reactive and make stupid statements in their hyper-emotional state. Leaf Haters use this time to descend on the struggling club like a pack of wild hyenas.

Sometimes there are actual cogent thoughts that make a ton of sense, but you have to sift through mounds of garbage to find them.

Here are my responses to some of the beauties.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Chasing the Great One

From the mid-90s to the lockout in 2004-2005, it wasn’t uncommon for the NHL’s leading goal scorer to score less than 50. It was a little embarrassing. That’s one reason it was so exhilarating when Alex Ovechkin scored 65 goals in 2007-2008. It’s also why everyone is getting so excited about Steven Stamkos this season.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

2011 HHoF: The Case for Ed Belfour

ed belfour hall of fame
Here’s the third post in a four-part series examining which players should be selected for the 2011 Hockey Hall of Fame induction class. I’ve already made the case for Pavel Bure and Eric Lindros, and today’s feature will focus on a first-year eligible player that statistically ranks among the greatest goalies in the history of the NHL.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Leafs Save Their Season (Possibly My Soul)

kaberle leafs versteeg
The Leafs just saved their season. Facing a daunting eight game losing streak (not to mention 11 losses in the last 12 games) and quickly down 3-0 to the Nashville Predators the Leafs stormed back and scored four power-play goals in the second period to take a surprising 5-4 lead. The Leafs won the game by the same margin, but not before making things interesting. They took a couple of penalties in the third which could have easily broken them. An ice-cold Jonas Gustavsson even had to relieve an injured J.S. Giguere. The Monster made some great saves and the Leafs preserved the win to halt their losing streak at eight.

This certainly saved the Leafs’ season and possibly Ron Wilson’s job. But, more importantly, I think it saved my soul as a Leafs’ fan.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

2011 HHoF: The Case for Pavel Bure

pavel bure hall of fame
On Monday, November 8th, the Hockey Hall of Fame inducted five new members. The committee ended up selecting only one NHL player, Dino Ciccarelli, who scored over 600 goals in his career, but never won a Stanley Cup or an individual award. In addition to Ciccarelli, the committee inducted long-time Detroit executive Jim Devellano and Daryl ‘Doc’ Seaman, the latter playing an integral part in moving the Flames from Atlanta to Calgary. The Hall also inducted its first female members, finally selecting Cammi Granato and Angela James, which was long overdue.

I am not a fan of Ciccarelli’s induction to the Hall of Fame. Sure, he scored a ton of goals, but most occurred during the 1980s when goaltenders seemingly forgot how to play their position. By 1980 the 50 goal plateau had only been reached 24 times, yet during the 1980s it was reached an astonishing 76 times. The feat was even met by nobodies like Jacques Richard, who exploded for 52 goals in 1980-1981, while never breaking 30 goals or 50 points at any other point in his career. The 80s was full of these guys! Goals were free and Dino cashed in.

Ciccarelli is a good player (you can’t score over 600 goals and 1200 points and be bad), but he isn’t Hall of Fame great. He only led his team in scoring in three seasons. He never won a major award and he never even made the NHL First or Second All-Star team. Furthermore, he never won a Stanley Cup, although he did make the Final twice (with Minnesota in 1981 and Detroit in 1995). I don’t consider this a major failing considering a player could be stuck with bad teams most of his career, but I reserve that clause for the best players of their era – Dino does not fit this distinction.

Over the next few posts I’m going to outline who I believe should make the Hall of Fame in 2011. I already presented the case for Eric Lindros this summer, which, as expected, drew considerable opposition. The following candidate might draw some of the same criticisms that Lindros did, but he wasn’t generally regarded as a dick, so the discussion should at least be civil.

Pavel Bure, known as the Russian Rocket for his blazing speed, is the first in a three-part series of posts (since we’ll count the Lindros post) examining which players the Hockey Hall of Fame needs to assemble for their 2011 induction class.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Raycroft vs. Toskala: The Case of Too Many Goals Against

raycroft toskala leafs suck
After turning back the clock and examining the foulness of the JFJ era in Toronto I inevitably began to think of Andrew Raycroft and Vesa Toskala. How could I not? And anytime you think of either Raycroft or Toskala you have to think about how terrible they were.

I don’t know about you, but when I think of things like this I get mad. I know I shouldn’t. It’s silly to get worked up over sports, but I do. It saves me from getting upset over real things. There’s no hot water in the apartment today? Well, that sucks. But not as much as a .874 SV%.

As I thought about these two pseudo-goalies I began to wonder, which one do I dislike more?

Let’s make the case for each.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Happy Movember!

lanny macdonald leafs moustache
For anyone participating in Movember, here's something to aspire to.

October Recap: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

giguere schenn leafs
The first month of the NHL season is complete and the Leafs have looked equally surprising and predictable. To everyone’s surprise, the Leafs won the first four games of the season, while recently their ability to score has seemingly disappeared, not so surprising.

It’s a long season and it’s always important to remind yourself of both the good and the bad to ensure you don’t get too high or too low.

For example, after the Leafs started the season 4-0, I was very seriously considering betting on them to win the Northeast Division. The odds were good and the Leafs were rolling. Then I told myself they squeaked by against Montreal, held on against an undermanned Pittsburgh team, outplayed a badly undermanned New York team, yet only won on a power-play in overtime, and throttled Ottawa because the Senators are garbage. The reasonable voice inside my head told me the Leafs finished 29th only a year ago and I already predicted they would have to fight all year just to make the playoffs (which they’ll make in case you’re wondering). The rational fan won. The passionate fan was too busy getting drunk and yelling ‘Go Leafs Go!’ to provide a cogent argument.

Let’s take a brief look at the first month of the season and see what’s going right for the Leafs and, unfortunately, what’s going wrong.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Does the NHL Need a Coach's Challenge?

colton orr leafs smash
Last Tuesday night the Leafs defeated the Panthers 3-1. What’s significant about this isn’t that the Leafs won (because they’ve actually been doing that with surprising regularity early in the season); rather it’s the manner in which they won that created a minor controversy.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Meet the New Leafs

kris versteeg cup rap
You might be noticing a lot of new faces around Leaf-land these days. Gone are the good ol' days when Jason Blake took 60 foot wrist shots from the boards. The days when Matt Stajan paraded around as a number one centre (wait, he's still doing that in Calgary?) and Vesa Toskala decided playing NHL 09 was just as effective as practicing.

The season's a few weeks old, but it's never to late for an introduction (unless you've already seen that person around for months and it's too late to ask their name because they definitely introduced themselves and you should know it, but instead you were politely nodding your head and thinking about how you could really go for a cheeseburger and 15 minutes later they were still talking and what's their name?). In those cases you need someone else to facilitate the introduction.

Here's semi-frequent guest columnist Ted Rigby who, in the past, has kindly lent his knowledge of the world of moustaches and the frivolity of draft picks. I promise you dancing, drunkenness, and white-boy raps.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Top 10 Dumbest Moves of the JFJ Era

jfj mlse dumb stupid leafs
In honour of Jackass 3-D’s surprisingly warm reviews (7.5 on imdb, 67% on Rotten Tomatoes) and great opening weekend at the box-office ($50.4 million), I thought it would be appropriate to count down the dumbest stunts performed in Leafs history. Then I figured I could just as easily make a list of the ten dumbest moments in JFJ’s sordid tenure as Leafs’ GM. That’s not hard considering his most endearing feature is resembling Count Chocula.

Listing JFJ’s ten dumbest moments might be a little unfair considering he was really just a patsy for the Leafs’ inept ownership group. Allegedly, JFJ went to the board and asked permission to re-build the Leafs (either before or after the 2005-2006 season), but was rebuked. That’s the moment when he engaged in some of the most inept trades and signings anyone has seen since Mike Milbury attempted to murder the New York Islanders.

Plus, JFJ was woefully under qualified as a GM in the largest hockey market in the world and didn’t receive any help from disposed GM, and then current coach, Pat Quinn. According to Craig Button, who served under JFJ at the time, Ferguson was afraid to involve himself with anyone who could be seen as a threat to his power in the decision-making process. So he was dumb and didn't let anyone help him. Perfect.

Hiring a 36-year-old whose only experience in the NHL was a five-year stint as assistant GM of the St. Louis Blues isn’t the most intelligent decision. But that's not surprising considering MLSE is good at making money, not making savvy hockey decisions.

I’m sure Steve-o and Johnny Knoxville’s parents didn’t pay any attention to them as children, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t morons. Despite the mitigating factors surrounding JFJ’s tenure, he’s still an idiot.

Let me count the reasons why.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

31 Shots: Parade Planning Edition

phaneuf leafs goal
I’m frenzied. The Leafs have started their march to the playoffs by going 3-0. Last year they didn’t win their third game until November 7th. The last time the Leafs started a season 3-0 was 1999-2000. That year they won the Northeast division with 100 points before losing in the second round to the eventual Stanley Cup winning New Jersey Devils.

If you were expecting a long thesis driven piece you’ve come to the wrong place. Here are 31 random, crazed thoughts about the Leafs so far, based on Elliotte Friedman’s excellent series titled 30 thoughts. Originally, I intended to name this series 41 Shots after the Bruce Springsteen song, but that is actually about the police shooting death of Amadou Diallo, which isn’t really a light topic you relate to on your hockey blog. Plus, 41 harebrained thoughts are hard to come up with.

Why 31? It’s one more than 30.

Get ready to shake your head.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


welcome back hockey
I think this picture pretty much sums up my feelings.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

2010-2011 NHL Season Preview

chicago blackhawks stanley cup
Last year’s NHL season was wacky enough that you could have consulted a Magic 8 Ball for your prognostications and you’d fair just as well as any reputed pundit. Phoenix and Colorado surprised everyone by making the playoffs, while pre-season favourites like Philadelphia and Boston didn’t solidify their spot until the last few games of the season.

Once the playoffs began even more madness took place. Montreal surprised everyone by defeating the President’s Trophy winners and the defending Stanley Cup champion, while the Flyers became only the third team in hockey to ever rally from a 3-0 deficit to win a series.

Predictions are a fool’s game. Accordingly, I won’t begrudge you if you are skeptical about the following predictions. If they turn out completely wrong I'll pretend a robot wrote this. However, don’t condemn me as a witch if they turn out with a supernatural accuracy.

If you attend a certain university in Southwestern Ontario this article might seem familiar. The difference between reading this on my blog, as opposed to the student newspaper, is that this will ramble on and I’m liable to piss more people off… starting now…

Even though Montreal fans enjoyed a surprising run to the Conference Final last season they shouldn’t bother planning their semi-annual riot.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

A Reason to Watch the Marlies

nazem kadri leafs marlies
By all indications, Nazem Kadri will start the 2010-2011 season in the AHL with the Toronto Marlies. Ron Wilson originally penciled Kadri into the opening night line-up after an impressive season in the OHL, but the former seventh overall pick has registered an underwhelming training camp. I wouldn’t necessarily classify it as bad, but it hasn’t been nearly good enough to warrant inclusion among the top-6 forwards.

Kadri was the Leafs' wild card heading into this season. A potential internal upgrade to a Leafs' offense predicted to struggle this season. This is one of the reasons he’s garnered so much media attention. However, on the ice he’s looked tentative and unsure, possibly due to the great expectations laid at his skates.

Kadri’s demotion may concern some (or put all of Leafs Nation into a panic if you believe certain journalists), but it is the best thing for Kadri long-term.

Monday, September 27, 2010

2010-2011 Fantasy Hockey Sleepers

tyler bozak leafs
I had to hold off on posting my fantasy draft report because I didn’t hold the draft for the league I run until last night. I certainly can’t be posting my super secret studs for everyone else to see. Except now everyone can drop their duds and pick them up off waivers...

There is still some time before the season starts, so I’m posting my sleepers list before mid-way through October when I can no longer claim I knew player x was going to put up all those points.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Optimism Abound

nazem kadri leafs happy
It’s the start of another season and since January 31st the Leafs have made drastic changes to the line-up that started last year so poorly.

The beginning of every season provides ample opportunities to get overly excited and make rash predictions about how the season will fare. Let’s just say I’m glad I started this blog after the start of last season, otherwise there would be a very erroneous prediction forever engraved on the internet.

This year is different. I’m certainly still optimistic about the Leafs’ chances this season, which is my usual September feeling, but I also recognize the reasons I should be pessimistic. The Leafs did finish second last a year ago.

Without a first round pick (yet again) Leafs Nation will be fully committed to a winning season. Tank Nation is dead. With the season about to begin here are five reasons to be optimistic, five reasons to be pessimistic, and five reasons to be realistic about the upcoming Leafs’ season.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

2010 Fantasy Hockey Team Names

simpsons nerds
Follow Five Minutes For Fighting on Twitter and Facebook!

Training camps have started and the regular season is only a few weeks away. Not only does that mean the start of hockey season, but it also means the start of fantasy hockey season.

Fantasy sports embrace everything nerdy, yet involve sports, so they somehow get a free pass. There’s little difference between fantasy sports and Dungeons and Dragons. Getting killed by a goblin in the Temple of the Frog is just like drafting Johan Franzen in the first round and seeing him tear his knee in the first week of the season. (Note: I had to google that Dungeons and Dragons reference, so there)

As if becoming hyper-involved in a fake sports team isn’t bad enough, there is the very serious business of naming your team. It’s not enough to just name your team, but you need to have the right name that creatively incorporates something hockey into a well-known pop culture reference. It's essential.

I admit I boringly used Blades of Steel last season (after the Nintendo video game). I’m not gifted with this particular trait. To compensate I have scoured the internet for the best team names I could find. I procured most from message boards or previous leagues I have been a part of, so I make no claims of ownership.

However, my friend Mike has the astounding ability to create some of the most clever and hilarious team names I have ever seen. He’s been generous enough to throw me a whole bunch of suggestions which I have added below to what is a (growing) list of fantasy team names for general consumption. Because no one should feel the shame of a lame fantasy hockey name.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Comparing the 2010-2011 Leafs and Habs

grabovski kostitsyn fight leafs habs
The title of this article was originally ‘A Biased Leafs Fan’s Objective Comparison of the 2010-2011 Leafs and Habs – An Analysis of both the Short and Long-Term’. But of course that’s a longer title than Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire.

Based on last year it might seem foolish to compare both teams. The Canadiens managed to make it all the way to the Eastern Conference Final, while the Leafs not only finished dead last in the Eastern Conference, but gave their second overall draft choice to the Boston Bruins.

However, it took Montreal until the last game of the season against the Maple Leafs to clinch a playoff berth – which they narrowly achieved by losing in overtime.

Montreal starts the new season largely the same – minus their team MVP who is now in St. Louis. The Leafs made dramatic changes in January and have made minor tweaks this off-season.

How do these teams compare now? Let’s break it down.

Friday, August 20, 2010

10 Ways to Make Hockey Even More Fun

rick dipietro hurt injury
The lockout severely depressed me, but it also fixed many of the numerous problems that were plaguing the NHL. Sometimes I watch old games on ESPN classic and am incredulous watching the rampant hooking and holding taking place. If referees called obstruction in the 80s there would be no way to actually stop players. I’m pretty sure Gretzky would easily throw down a few 300 point seasons.

Thankfully, the new rules implemented after the lockout helped quicken the pace of the game and made a much more entertaining product. HD TV has certainly helped as well. If this was around in the mid-90s there wouldn’t be a need for a glowing red puck. Despite the great strides the NHL has made to create a better product there are still some tweaks that I’d like to see implemented.

On Wednesday and Thursday the NHL held a research and development camp which examined some potential tweaks to make NHL hockey better. Some absolutely need implementation right this second (hybrid icing where it’s no-touch icing unless the attacking forward gets to the face-off dot first), while others shouldn’t even be considered (no icing the puck while short-handed).

None of these changes are revolutionary, but all have the potential to make hockey a better sport. But what are some things that could make hockey more fun. What types of changes can we make to create a better overall fan experience?

Some are pretty outlandish (I’m talking about you #4).

Here are ten ways the NHL can make watching hockey more fun.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Please, No More Kaberle Rumours...Ever

kaberle leafs trade
The NHL had its second most talked about trade deadline Sunday night as Tomas Kaberle’s contractually imposed trade deadline came and went at midnight with the long-time Leaf staying in Toronto – despite most people’s predictions.

The Tomas Kaberle trade saga is a longer and more bloated tale than anything Stephenie Meyer could have concocted. This has been going on for three years and seems to get more and more disappointing with each passing year.

The potential Kaberle trade has been relentless discussed and dissected in every way imaginable. There was more excitement surrounding the possible end of this whole ordeal, rather than the actual excitement of a trade.

Even though everyone said they were sick of Kaberle, the Hockeybuzz servers still overloaded with the amount of traffic they received Sunday night, so people clearly cared.

However, there was no trade. I can’t say I’m pleased.

Monday, August 2, 2010

41 Shots: Summer Edition

What a slow and boring July - both hockey wise and blog wise. I went 2 for 31. Ugly. At least July had some beautiful weather which made it terribly easy to get away from the computer. And TV is back to being great now that Big Brother and Jersey Shore are numbing minds. So who cares about hockey, right?


I’ve compiled a list of my thoughts over the summer because despite my prolonged absence from the net and the lack of hockey news tumbling through town, I’m still craving hockey.

Consider this the first instalment of a series I’ll call 41 Shots. I’m taking the idea from Elliotte Friedman who does a great piece for CBC's website called 30 Thoughts.

Here’s a collection of thoughts that don’t care for proper structure and paragraphs. It’s the summer. Give me a break.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Meet the New Best Team in the NHL

cody hodgson canucks trade
Almost immediately after Jonathan Toews hoisted the Stanley Cup for the Chicago Blackhawks the vultures descended upon the team and began to pillage the champs. Chicago’s cap crunch was well documented and every team with a competent GM knew there were players to be had on the cheap.

The Hawks have already traded Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager, Brent Sopel, Andrew Ladd, and Kris Versteeg from their championship roster and almost lost RFA Niklas Hjalmarsson to the San Jose Sharks. Plus, John Madden, who is a UFA, won’t be re-signed. Additionally, Antti Niemi is going to arbitration and will certainly receive a large raise from the $800,000 he made last year. If the contract he’s awarded is too large it is entirely possible that the Hawks will walk away from the decision and attempt to sign another goalie for a cheaper salary.

Even after the Hawks bury Christobal Huet’s $5.625 million in the minors they will have a very small amount of money to fill out at least 5 roster spots. According to Tim Sassone of Chicago’s Daily Herald, the Hawks have 15 players under contract for $59.3 million (including Stanley Cup bonuses), while the cap limit is $59.4 million. Without Huet, Chicago's cap space isn’t even $6 million.

The Hawks will still be one of the best teams in the league next year because they have Kane, Toews, Hossa, Sharp, Bolland, Keith, Seabrook, and Campbell, but they will find it very hard to repeat as Stanley Cup Champions because they lack the tremendous depth that made them so successful last season. It’s also entirely possible that the Hawks will have to trade another player like Sharp to get under the cap, so I don’t see them repeating.

With the Hawks set to slip from their lofty perch it seems the Western Conference will send a completely different team to the Stanley Cup Final. It won’t be San Jose because even though they’ll be good, they’ll still be San Jose. The best team in the Western Conference, and likely the entire NHL, will be the most overrated team of the past two seasons - a team which is now probably underrated due to two straight second round beat-downs.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Further Dismantling the Champs

kris versteeg hawks leafs
Burke’s speedy re-tooling of the Toronto Maple Leafs took a step forward this week. On the eve of free agency, Burke took advantage of the cap constrained Chicago Blackhawks and acquired Kris Versteeg and prospect Bill Sweatt in exchange for Viktor Stalberg, Phillippe Paradis, and Chris DiDomenico.

Friday, June 25, 2010

2010 Fictional Hockey Player Entry Draft

mighty ducks disney bombay
I’m totally unconcerned with tonight’s NHL entry draft. Why? If you didn’t know, the Leafs made a somewhat controversial trade that removed them from not only the first two rounds of this year’s draft, but the first round of next year’s draft as well. Watching Boston go up to the podium to pick second isn’t what I call enjoyable television.

But there is a draft that I am very interested in. It did not receive much hype, so not many people knew about it. That’s what happens when your league doesn’t have a major TV deal in place. This past weekend I watched the most riveting live draft that I’ve ever seen. You may not have caught it since not many people subscribe to TSN3.

The draft in question is none other than the 2010 Fictional Hockey Player Entry Draft (you read that correctly).

Toronto may have traded their 2010 and 2011 first round picks in the NHL Entry Draft, but they still have their first round pick for the 2010 Fictional Hockey Player Entry Draft. The draft order was determined in the same way the normal draft was. That means Toronto held the second overall pick.

Here’s a running diary of the madness that ensued.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

We Don't Need No Stinking Draft Picks

alexander daigle sucks sens
Here's another guest post from our good friend Ted Rigby. He's previously written about the glory of the moustache and if you are a fan of his writing you can check him out over at John Olerud's Helmet. He's writing today to make sure everyone in Leafs Nation isn't too depressed on account of this Friday's NHL Entry Draft.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Is Eric Lindros a Hall of Famer?

eric lindros hall of fame
Last year’s Hall of Fame inductees were all slam dunk choices. There was no way anyone could intelligently exclude Brett Hull, Brian Leetch, Luc Robitaille, and Steve Yzerman, all of whom made it into the Hall in their first year of eligibility.

The Hockey Hall of Fame will announce their 2010 class this Tuesday at 3:30pm and the choices will be much more difficult for the selection committee.

One of the more polarizing figures who is in his first year of eligibility is Eric Lindros. If Lindros is selected to the Hall of Fame there will certainly be many vocal detractors, but I’m will not be one of them. I think that Eric Lindros must be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Halak Traded! Montreal to Riot?

carey price jaroslav halak trade habs
I guess my last post is completely obsolete now. Well, not totally, but certainly the part about a hypothetical Jeff Carter-Carey Price swap. That’s because there was a shocking trade made between the Montreal Canadiens and the St. Louis Blues today.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Times They Aren't a-Changin': Flyers Need a Goalie

flyers goalie sucks
I’ve given the Flyers almost a week to enjoy the satisfaction (disappointment?) of making the Stanley Cup Final and valiantly battling the eventual champion Blackhawks. Now it’s time to get real.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

2010 5MFF Playoff Awards

chicago blackhawks stanley cup
The Conn Smythe Award is by far the coolest looking award in all of sports. That might just be the Canadiana in me talking because it rocks the giant maple leaf, but I’m sticking with that statement.

I don’t really understand why the NHL doesn’t give out any other playoff awards. Those awards would be more impressive than the regular season ones. Although maybe the thinking is that the only trophy that matters during the playoffs is the Stanley Cup. Amen to that.

However, I’m all about fun. And what’s more fun than giving out a bunch of awards. If the NHL isn’t going to do it, then I will.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

2010 NHL Playoffs: Ex-Leafs Report

darcy tucker crazy
With the advent of social media there are new and easier ways for people to stay connected. This also means that there are new and easier means of staying connected with your ex. Or should I say creeping on your ex. Before you had to hide in the bushes outside your ex’s house to find out what was going on. Now all you need to do is check out any scandalous pictures from the previous weekend on Facebook.

Where can I possibly be going with such a creepy intro? Of course I’m going to go through a rundown of all the ex-Leafs who were fortunate enough to get out of Toronto and actually make it into the playoffs this year. How did they fare this post-season? No need to hide out in any bushes, just read on.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

2010 Wendel Clark All-Stars

wayne gretzky kerry fraser penalty
Athletes are a strange breed. Routine and superstition bordering on OCD rules many. Some routines are as innocuous as eating the same meal every game day, while others are as odorous and disgusting as peeing on your own hands (yes, I’m talking about you Jorge Posada). Allegedly, Jorge pees on his hands to toughen them up and that's why he doesn't need to wear batting gloves.

During the playoffs, when a player’s season is on the line, superstitions and rituals often become more rigid. No one wants to lose the Stanley Cup because they didn’t wear their lucky underwear.

The most widespread playoff tradition in hockey is the playoff beard. Players stop shaving when their teams enter the playoffs and don’t shave until it's all over - whether that be elimination or Stanley Cup victory.

Some players, like Henrik Zetterberg, grow their beard and keep it year round, deciding to emulate their Viking ancestors with a magnificent mane. I’m going to say that Zetterberg does this because he plays like every game is a playoff game. Go with it.

The originators of the playoff beard are widely credited as being the New York Islanders in the 1980s. Although, the tradition might be a little older than that. Dave Lewis said the tradition actually started during the Islanders’ playoff run in 1975, which was the first time the team made the post-season.

"I recall that playoff beards were an important part of every playoff we were in," Lewis said. "Part of the rationale was that it was a symbol that this was a different time, separate from the regular season. It was the championship season. It was also part of the unity of our team and I think we thought we probably looked a little more rugged with beards. (via

The Islanders grew out their beards and won four consecutive Stanley Cups. Was it the power of the beards or was it just the product of having multiple future Hall of Famers like Bryan Trottier? I'll go with beards.

However, the playoff beard tradition did not catch on until the 90s. The Edmonton Oilers did not grow out beards as a team, nor did the Montreal Canadiens or Calgary Flames (the other Stanley Cup winners of the 80s).

The 1994 New York Rangers notably refused to grow playoff beards because it was started by the rival Islanders. You can’t support your rivals, even if it means looking like a badass.

The tradition seemed to resume with the New Jersey Devils in 1995 and teams have embraced it on a wider scale ever since.

Some see the playoff beard as a silly superstition that operates at a minimal 6.25% efficiency (only 1 of 16 playoff teams will lift Lord Stanley’s mug), but I like to think of it more as an act of solidarity and camaraderie. These are the men you’re going to battle with every night and it’s an easy way to feel connected to each other.

In 2003, J.S. Giguere stated that both he and his wife hated his playoff beard, which was thicker than a Northern Ontario forest, but he did it for the team.

Of course, not all beards are created equal. For every J.S. Giguere, there is a Sidney Crosby. Poor Sid grew a wispy moustache envied by every 12-year-old male across the country. But you have to give credit to Crosby for sticking with his teammates, despite looking like a Quebecois smut peddler.

In honour of the best playoff beards this post-season I present the first annual Wendel Clark All-Stars.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

2010 NHL Playoffs: Ranking Predictions

The playoffs have been a wacky time. Hardly anyone predicted the Canadiens to win their opening round series, yet they made it all the way to the Eastern Conference Final. I guess that’s why they play the games.

Before you take stock in anyone’s Stanley Cup predictions maybe it’s time we check out their records so far. It’s much easier to put this up when my underdog pick continues to win (that would be the Flyers – I readily admit I had no faith in Montreal).

It was pretty hard to go back and find different writer’s predictions, so the list is much smaller than when I put it up after the first round. Maybe that’s because some people made terrible picks and didn’t want to put their name next to any others. Or maybe my record was actually the worst and I wanted to make myself look good. Believe what you will.

So just in time for the first game of the Stanley Cup you can see who is predicting either the Hawks or Flyers and what their record has been this post-season. Here is another link to Dobber Hockey where you can see the same type of format for a group of writers. Very few sites made finding their predictions this easily. Maybe there’s a reason for that.

Friday, May 28, 2010

2010 NHL Playoffs: Stanley Cup Final Breakdown

For the third year in a row the Stanley Cup Final is an excellent match-up for the NHL (Gary Bettman is secretly mad). Two major American cities that have young and exciting teams.

This is actually a much closer matchup than the seedings suggest. While Philadelphia finished the regular season as the Eastern Conference’s seventh seed with 88 points, 24 behind the Hawks, they shouldn't be considered heavy underdogs.

At this point Philadelphia is playing like the team everyone thought they would be at the beginning of the season, rather than the one that limped into the playoffs on the last day of the regular season.

Philadelphia is sort of like the Eastern Conference version of the Blackhawks, just a little older and maybe a little shallower on the blueline.

The Chicago Blackhawks are who we thought they were.

Let’s break this sucker down.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Case for Supporting the Blackhawks

kevin james
Leaf fans may be conflicted about who to cheer for during this Stanley Cup Final. There are factors that could make seeing either Mike Richards or Jonathan Toews lift the Stanley Cup unsettling for Leafs Nation.

The Leafs and Flyers have a pretty heated rivalry that dates back to the 1970s when both teams took gooning to a whole new level. The rivalry was rekindled in the late 90s and early 2000s with a couple hard-fought playoff series. It’s because of the Flyers that instead of remembering this about the 2004 playoffs, I remember this.

While Leaf and Flyer fans do not like each other there is the complicating matter of Chicago’s last Stanley Cup victory – which happened a long time ago. Their last Stanley Cup happened so long ago that they actually own the longest drought in all of hockey. The team with the inglorious distinction of owning the second longest drought is the Toronto Maple Leafs. My math skills are lacking, but even I know that if Chicago wins the Stanley Cup then the Leafs will have the longest Stanley Cup drought in the NHL.

This factor is so compelling that one Leafs fan (who shall remain nameless for his safety) said he would cheer for the Canadiens against the Blackhawks if that was the Stanley Cup Final. That’s obscene, but I think it shows how strongly some fans feel about this disgraceful record.

Even though it means that Chicago will erase their Stanley Cup famine, I am firmly cheering for them to win the Stanley Cup.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Do the Sharks Need to Re-build?

evgeni nabokov sharks
The San Jose Sharks once again failed to make it to the Stanley Cup Final after being a top-seed in the Western Conference. They didn’t lose in horrific fashion, but the result will leave the Sharks with the same empty feeling that they have every year.

It's convenient to label this loss to the Blackhawks as another Sharks’ collapse, especially since they were swept 4-0, but that would be disingenuous. The Sharks may have lost four straight to the Hawks, but every game was close and more than a few could have gone the other way. And this wasn’t some underdog team that upset the Sharks - it was the most complete team in the entire league.

While there is no shame in losing in the Conference Final to a team like the Chicago Blackhawks, this is definitely a bitter moment for the Sharks and their fans, especially since it was all over so quickly.

Now the Sharks head into a summer where they face many big decisions. This team doesn’t need to be blown apart, but major changes certainly need to happen. This is a good team, but one who has failed to win a Stanley Cup despite being pegged by analysts as heavy favourites for a number of years. It may be time for Doug Wilson to realize that the current core of the team just isn’t good enough to win the Stanley Cup.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

John Olerud's Helmet


I'd like to take a momentary break from hockey writing to let everyone know that I am a part of another blog dedicated to the great sport of baseball - with an emphasis on the Blue Jays.

I'd appreciate it if you took some time to check out John Olerud's Helmet. I'm writing there in tandem with a couple frequent commenters and good friends, so it should be a fun time.

It's going to be a long summer without hockey and I'm going to have to fill the void with something other than the new season of Jersey Shore (which will be horrible and not in the good way that the first season was horrible).

I probably don't know as much about baseball as I do hockey, but that still means I'm maniacally obsessed with it.

I'm also just starting to learn more about sabermetrics, so it'll be fun to see if my posts descend into only analyzing players based on their WAR and UZR, rather than my usual method of hating players for a bad name or an ugly face.

Don't worry, I will still maintain Five Minutes For Fighting during the summer, regardless of the lack of actual hockey being played. I've got a bunch of ideas for posts that range from thought provoking to down-right insane. I've even got a few sure to piss of Montreal fans. It's going to be fun!

If you want to help me out you can send me some hockey related questions or comments and I can do a few mailbags over the summer. The more obscene the Montreal insults, the better.


Saturday, May 22, 2010

Will Nonis Replace Burke?

dave nonis brian burke leafs

Brian Burke has publicly stated that he is not interested in a five-year re-build. Bolding acquiring Phil Kessel indicates as much. Whenever you trade two first round picks (and a high second!) you are basically saying, “draft schmaft”.

I don’t really blame him. The GM position for the Maple Leafs takes a large toll on a person. One year as the GM of the Leafs is equal to three human years. That means a five-year re-build will take 15 years off Brian Burke’s life! No wonder he wants this done quickly, he won’t be around to see it finished otherwise.

Thankfully, the Leafs have assembled a super management team of former GMs and the two-year extension signed by Dave Nonis ensures that the super best friends, Burke and Nonis, will continue to work together for the immediate future.

Dave Nonis’ decision to re-sign with the Leafs was welcomed news to me, as he’s clearly a very smart hockey mind. After the Leafs allowed JFJ to drown without even the most modest support I’m always thankful when the Leafs hire or keep a bright hockey mind. I loved when they had Joe Nieuwendyk and I even like Cliff Fletcher in an advisory role – even though his senility wasted draft picks on Jamal Mayers and Ryan Hollweg.

I worried Nonis would leave the Leafs after his contract expired for a higher position with another club, which was definitely in play since he was reportedly a candidate for the GM position in Tampa Bay. He’s already been the GM of a high-profile team (see Vancouver, people sometimes respect you), so I worried he wouldn’t be satisfied playing second fiddle somewhere else (even though that somewhere else is Toronto).

I’m sure this will not be the first time that a team has interest in the former Canucks’ GM. However, Nonis has stated that Toronto is the ideal situation for his family. Additionally, he says he does not want to leave Toronto with so much work left to be done. Burke and Nonis are trying to win a Cup you know. Aside from these two reasons to stay I believe that Nonis has a long-term future with the Leafs and I don’t just mean in an Assistant GM capacity.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

2010 NHL Playoffs: Eastern Conference Finals Breakdown

simon gagne flyers injury hurt
The Eastern Conference finals take place tonight as the Philadelphia Flyers take on the Montreal Canadiens. It’s truly crazy to think that two teams who made it into the playoffs on their last game are now vying for a spot in the Stanley Cup final.

Philadelphia needed a shoot-out victory over the New York Rangers on the last day of the season to secure their playoff berth, while the Canadiens received a single point in an over-time loss to the Maple Leafs to squeak in the night before.

If the Maple Leafs just took care of business in regulation we wouldn’t be in this predicament. Maybe things will change when I get my hands on a Delorean.

Until then, here’s the breakdown of the Eastern Conference finals.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

2010 NHL Playoffs: Western Conference Finals Breakdown

patrick sharp blackhawks
The Conference Finals begin tomorrow and in the infinite wisdom of Gary Bettman and the NHL they will both start on the same day. Stupid. This is definitely to placate NBC who tend to bear with slotting the NHL on Sunday afternoons.

The Western Conference Finals begin at 2:30 pm and feature the (1) Sharks and the (2) Blackhawks. The Eastern Conference Finals start at 7:00 pm and feature the (7) Flyers and the (8) Canadiens. The seedings immediately jump out. The playoffs are a wacky time.

To get everyone ready for the big match-ups I have prepared a comprehensive breakdown of both Conference Finals. I’ll post the Eastern Conference breakdown sometime tomorrow afternoon. Maybe I’ll be nursing a hang-over and will fill it with plenty of bitter jabs at the Habs.

But for now here’s the Western Conference breakdown.

Friday, May 14, 2010

What's the Difference Between Me and You: Pittsburgh Edition

hall gill tall
The Pittsburgh Penguins’ round two defeat at the hands of the improbable Montreal Canadiens left a sour taste in my mouth. Once the Canadiens eliminated the Capitals I thought that the Penguins path to the Cup final was all but sealed. Maybe they thought the same thing.

As well as Montreal played, which was much better than Pittsburgh over the final three games of the series, there were fundamental differences between this year’s Penguins team and the one that won the Stanley Cup a year ago. Those differences played a large role in the Penguins' early playoff exit.

It is still shocking that the Penguins lost in the second round to the Canadiens, but maybe it isn’t so shocking that the Penguins were unable to make it back to the finals for the third time in a row.

I’m limiting this discussion to what was fundamentally wrong with the Penguins, not what the Habs did right throughout the series. Obviously, Jaroslav Halak was brilliant, the defence shut down both Crosby and Malkin, and Mike Cammalleri scored big goals often. You could even argue that the Bell Centre crowd shifted all the momentum in Montreal’s favour before game 6 even started. But I don't want to talk positively about the Canadiens any longer than I have to.

Here are the three main reasons why the Penguins are shaving their beards, rather than progressing to the Viking stage of facial hair (Sidney Crosby not included).

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Answer Me These Questions Three (or more)

pk subban habs
I started writing this last night when Montreal was winning 4-0. Very soon after I began the Penguins made it 4-2. I thought they were coming back. Maybe if I kept writing under the theory that the Habs had the game wrapped up they would blow it in horrible fashion thanks to my reverse jinx. Or maybe saying I was reverse jinxing them on twitter actually reverse jinxed my reverse jinx. Montreal winning is making me insane. I need to be committed.

I really don’t know how Montreal did it. First Washington, now Pittsburgh. What happened?

I have some questions that need to be answered.

Monday, May 10, 2010

My Nightmare

tuukka rask bruins
A thousand pardons for my temporary disappearance from the interwebs. Well, not total disappearance because I’ve been cracking jokes at the expense of the Habs on twitter - because trying to make a handful of strangers laugh is the only thing worthwhile about twitter. The worst thing about twitter, aside from the absolute lack of thought required for it, is people who live tweet sports. We get it, you’re watching the game. So are we. We saw the goal.

Talking about twitter is worse than actually being on twitter. Alas.

Another reason for my temporary disappearance may be a job change. That’s really just an excuse because I was working pretty much the same amount of hours for the majority of this blog’s life at my previous job.

The real reason may be the lack of Maple Leaf news. I can’t just write pieces trashing Montreal and Vancouver non-stop. It’s been hard restraining myself. However, this isn't why I've been away.

The true reason I haven’t posted in some time is I’m rattled. I’ve been having night terrors. Terrible dreams that haunt me. Really it’s one dream. It’s a striking image that I can’t seem to shake.

Friday, April 30, 2010

How Did the Habs Beat the Caps?

alex ovechkin caps sucks
It’s not every day that an eighth seed knocks off a number one seed. But it isn’t exactly Halley’s Comet either. In 1994 the Sharks upset the Wings; in 1995 the Rangers defeated the Nordiques; in 1998 the Senators shocked the Devils; in 1999 the Devils were again upset in the first round, this time by the Pittsburgh Penguins; in 2000 the Sharks beat the first place Blues; in 2002 the Canadiens beat their arch-rival Bruins; in 2006 the Oilers, propelled by Dwayne Roloson, defeated the Red Wings; and of course, last year the Sharks choked against the Ducks. It happens every few year. But each time it happens it’s still shocking (except when it happens to the Sharks).

Montreal’s opening round upset of the Capitals was the fifth biggest in terms of regular season point differential. There was a total of 33 points separating the Habs and the Caps in the regular season standings.

The largest disparity was in 1982 when the Los Angeles Kings upset the Edmonton Oilers. The total point difference between the two teams was 48.

This was certainly a huge upset. I didn’t take the Canadiens seriously and I’m sure no one outside of Montreal did either. Montreal fans can say they knew there would be an upset, but they’re lying. They may have hoped, but they certainly didn’t think it was likely. Although, maybe in their delusion they truly knew it was going to happen. If this year’s 29th place Leafs played the Capitals in the first round I would have thought the same thing. Early onset dementia.

However, I’d say the Oilers upset of the Red Wings in 2006 was greater. The Oilers overcame a 29 point differential, which isn’t as impressive as the Habs’ feat, but the Red Wings were a much more polished playoff team. The Caps have yet to find their way in the post-season and were susceptible to an upset, however unlikely it may have been.

But I’m not here to totally diminish the Canadiens’ accomplishment. Their victory was impressive, especially after falling 3-1 to the NHL’s most explosive team. What I’m sure many people are still trying to figure out is how the Hell did the eighth place Montreal Canadiens manage to beat the President’s Trophy winners? Let’s break it down.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...