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.
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