Saturday, September 29, 2012

Can Kadri Follow in Pacioretty's Footsteps?

Nazem Kadri Leafs
Another training camp, another unflattering Nazem Kadri story.

This time, however, it wasn't even at Maple Leafs camp. On the opening day of the Marlies' training camp, head coach Dallas Eakins answered a reporter's question about Kadri's fitness levels (supposedly better after an off-season training with Gary Roberts) and responded that he was in the bottom 3-5 in camp. He was also described as being "average" on a number of fitness drills. Not the type of story to start the year.

Now Leafs fans are worrying over the former seventh overall pick's development, wondering if he is another bust in a long line of Toronto draft disappointments.

It wasn't long ago that further east along the 401 Montreal Canadiens fans were similarly fretting about one of their own top prospects.

Max Pacioretty, like Kadri, was a first round pick, although he was taken later in the first round (22nd overall). Just like Kadri, Pacioretty failed to make the NHL immediately after being drafted, instead hitting the books and going back to college for a year. Once turning professional, he also was yo-yo'd back and forth between the AHL and NHL, although not to the same degree as Kadri.

Now, after years of fan agony, Pacioretty has finally established himself as a top-line winger, something Kadri has yet to do. But the Montreal left winger's slow ascent should give hope to many waiting for Kadri to similarly fill his promise.

Leafs fans can learn something from Max Pacioretty's development.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Book Review: Hope and Heartbreak in Toronto

The Maple Leafs suck and you're an idiot for liking them.

That's essentially the premise of Why The Leafs Suck And How They Can Be Fixed by Al Strachan and Leafs AbomiNation: The dismayed fan's handbook to why the Leafs stink and how they can rise again by Dave Feschuk and Michael Grange.

The titles of both books imply that the authors, in their infinite wisdom, have the secrets to turning the Leafs around, although neither really does. Instead, both books spend the bulk of their print describing years worth of Leafs idiocy and basically laughing at anyone who is stupid enough to support the team.

Peter Robinson, author of the upcoming book Hope and Heartbreak in Toronto: Life as a Maple Leafs Fan, chooses not to take the same tired path as the aforementioned authors. Robinson doesn't want to profiteer off Leafs fans' misery, because he is one.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Norm Macdonald Recaps the '72 Summit Series

In a collection of amusing and entertaining tweets, comedian Norm Macdonald recapped the 1972 Summit Series on Monday night.

Here are his tweets, in addition to highlights from the series as well as some footnotes explaining what he's talking about in a little more detail.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Lockout Lasting: What to Watch

We're over a week into the NHL lockout and the lines of communication between both sides has pretty much disintegrated.

Bill Daly said today that he hopes talks will resume shortly. Well, if you're one of the heavy hitters during negotiations don't you think it would be helpful if you picked up the phone and scheduled something? Don't be afraid of making the first move, this isn't a middle school dance.

So as the outlook becomes bleaker every day it's time to start preparations for a long, protracted vacation from the NHL. But that doesn't mean a vacation from hockey. There is plenty to look forward to this season, it just won't be happening in the NHL.

Check out a list of some of the things to look forward to over at The Good Point.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Retro Diary: Canada Cup Final 1987 - Game 3

Mario Lemieux goal Canada Cup
It all came down to this. Canada vs. the Soviet Union. At stake? Only world domination (at least on the ice).

Canada got off to a rocky start and initially looked like they were on the verge of being blown out. But a little bit of Canadian gumption helped the team pick themselves off the mat and eventually back into the game.

Like the other two games in the series, game three was a classic, and goes down in history as one of the best hockey games of all time.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Retro Diary: Canada Cup Final 1987 - Game 2

Gretzky Lemieux Canada Cup
After losing a shocker to the Soviets in Montreal, Team Canada traveled west to Hamilton for Game 2 of the 1987 Canada Cup Final.

The team was battling the injury bug, with only 10 regular forwards in the lineup. It got to the point that defenceman James Patrick was being used up front.

But like every smart coach before him, Mike Keenan went to his big guns to pull out the victory. He sent Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux over the boards every chance he got, basically running them into the ground.

It was a wild back-and-forth affair that took two overtimes to solve. After the game Gretzky would tell reporters that it was the most physically and mentally draining game of his life.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Retro Diary: Canada Cup Final 1987 - Game 1

Gretzky Lemieux Canada Cup
The Summit Series in 1972 is one of the defining moments in Canadian history. 

In many ways it was more than a simple hockey series, it was a battle between communism and capitalism. It was a battle between two very different ways of life.

The Iron Curtain shrouded the USSR in mystery, which led many in Canada to severely underestimate the Soviets' ability, which was evident by the total shock the reverberated from coast to coast after the 7-3 drubbing Canada received in the opening game.

Eventually, thanks largely to Paul Henderson, Phil Esposito, and a tomahawk chop from Bobby Clarke, Canada prevailed, although the myth of Canadian superiority was shattered. In addition to showing the talent gap between East and West was miniscule, the series made it apparent that not all of the best players in the world were in the NHL.

The success of the Summit Series led to demand for a true world championship of hockey, which eventually led to the creation of the Canada Cup in 1976. That year both Bobby Orr and Bobby Hull, two players who were forced to miss the Summit Series for various reasons, helped Canada capture the tournament's inaugural championship.

The Soviet Union won the next edition in 1981, with a 8-1 drubbing of Canada in the final. It was a national embarrassment, and one that was only slightly avenged in 1984 as Canada eliminated the Soviet Union in the semifinal, before defeating Sweden for the gold.

Nothing could compete with the tournament in 1987, however. Canada met the Soviet Union in the final, which Wayne Gretzky described as "the biggest thing since '72." The two hockey super-powers had another chance to determine who was the greatest hockey playing nation on Earth. More importantly, the tournament marked the first and only time that Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky, the two greatest hockey players ever, donned the same uniform. The pair didn't disappoint.

Besides Gretzky and Lemiuex, Team Canada boasted nine other Hall of Famers, including Mark Messier, Paul Coffey, and Ray Bourque. The team was so stacked that players like Al MacInnis, Patrick Roy, and Steve Yzerman didn't make the team. It might just be the greatest collection of hockey players ever assembled.

TSN is replaying the classic final (Sept. 11, 12, and 13 at 7:30 PM ET) and it is definitely worth the watch. It might just be the best series in the history of hockey. It's also pretty easy to find on YouTube if you don't want to wait. And if you want to own a piece of hockey history yourself, it is also available on DVD.

Over the next three days I will have a three-part series recapping each game in detail. Here is a running diary of the classic first game, in which the Soviets stunned Canada and put them on the brink of elimination.

Friday, September 7, 2012

A History of Harold Ballard's Villainy

Harold Ballard Leafs
The recent passing of Art Modell, the former Baltimore Ravens owner who moved the team from Cleveland, has prompted the "new Browns" to hold a special tribute before Sunday's game against the Philadelphia Eagles. 

While most people do not feel the joy in someone's death, even someone they very may well have hated, any sort of tribute for the man who ripped the Browns from Cleveland will surely be met with hostility.

It wasn't long ago that Toronto had their own Art Modell. Not an owner who was hell-bent on moving the team, but one that destroyed them nonetheless.

Harold Ballard.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Youth is Served

Gabriel Landeskog has topped off his Calder winning season with another accolade: He's now the youngest captain in the history of the NHL.

In most cases I'm all for conservatively bringing along young players in the NHL, not giving them too much responsibility before they are ready, and putting them in the best possible position to succeed. Draft picks are too valuable to just throw an 18-year-old to the wolves and hope he can figure it out for himself.

That's why you might think I would be against Colorado's decision to name Landeskog their new captain, what with the added pressure and responsibility that comes with the title. But for certain special players, the choice is obvious. No one batted an eye when Jonathan Toews was named captain after his rookie season because he was such an obvious choice, he just oozed leadership (pesky teenage hormones). Landeskog is from a similar mould and as history has shown, young leaders work.

Check out The Good Point to read more.

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