Monday, July 28, 2008

Cheering and Team Selection

Over at Puck Daddy and a certain Toronto Maple Leafs blog there's been a heated topic over the subject of picking a team to root for. I find this really interesting, mostly because the reactions have been outrageously extreme.

this pretty much sums up my view of Leaf fans yelling at each other

Now, I'm a Leafs fan, no doubt about it. Live in Toronto, go to games, hate people in Habs jerseys, etc.

However, when I was just a young lad my aunt moved to San Jose. When she left I told her I'd root for the Sharks for her. She's still living in California, I'm still cheering for the Sharks to win*. Plus I really liked Street Sharks as a kid.

I don't have to tell you how awesome this toy was

* The caveat is that if the Sharks play the Leafs, the Leafs must win. I was pissed when we blew a 2-1 lead to them last season. Sorry auntie, my team vs. your team, my team must rip Thornton's head off.

I should also say that there's a chance I'll be moving down to California in the future. In that eventuality I'll be buying a Sharks jersey. I'd still be a Leaf fan, and I'd show up in my colours whenever an Eastern team came to town, but at the end of the day I'm a big fan of teal too.

I can understand not really cheering for a certain team over another. With certain applications of modern technology I can stream just about any NHL game onto my TV, and when the season's on I don't care who's playing, I'll watch all night. Most days I couldn't give a damn if Colorado beats Columbus, and the team I want to lose is the first team that pisses me off.

I'm also just breaking into soccer (football). Right now I'm just cheering for my favourite player, Michael Ballack, after seeing him with the Germans in the World Cup. This makes me a de facto Chelsea fan, not bad because they have a similar colour scheme to my boys in blue, but a fact that makes me a little uncomfortable because I haven't developed any attachment to the history or city of the team.

With all that, I understand not really having a favourite team. While I think the people who get jerseys of divisional rivals sewn together are a little confused, I'm willing to grant that there are in fact degrees of fandom out there. Us in the Barilkosphere, most of us are die hard blue and white, but I can tell you right now most of the people I know who call themselves Leaf fans don't know the name Kulemin, or Stralman, they still think Owen Nolan is playing for us, and if they turned on the TV next season and saw Cujo in net they'll think he never left.

It's weird, but some people don't seem to take this hometown win or die sports fan thing very seriously.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Footballers hate cunts, and Cox

So a couple days ago I stumbled upon an article in the Globe about John Carver (coach of the TFC) responding to the negative media in Toronto. It took me a while to find it online because it's not linked anywhere on their soccer page for some reason.

Some choice quotes:

"I sit and wonder, why hasn't (Toronto's) hockey team won anything? Why hasn't the baseball team been successful lately? Because I'm coming from the outside and I don't know if you guys get your heads together cause you don't like writing nice things. ... You just want to write sh--..."

"Does Toronto want their teams to be successful? I'm asking you."

""Do you want me to get up and (leave)," Carver asked with incredulity."

Now, the article goes on to detail how he's been suffering under the stress of the media coverage, that in England he only gives weekly updates but in Canada he's expected to appear every day.

We hate on Cox, Simmons, et. al. for their rhetoric and the fact that they always point the finger at their fanbase whenever their idiocy and general negativity is thrown under scrutiny. Rare is it in history that you can continue to be paid not just after you call your consumer base clods, but because you can barely hide your disdain for them. It reminds me of when I used to work in a comic book store.

As much as we hate on them for their opinions of us, what about the players? We quickly dismiss the thought regularly, these are after all adults making millions and they can just fucking deal with it. But whether consciously or subconsciously, what kind of affect does this constant attention have on their psyches?

Players blow it off in interviews but they hardly want to come off as whiners. At the end of the day, is the topic that we blow off as childish in fact the reason for our downfall? Is it because of us, the media that we'll digest constantly, the need for more interviews, more news, that our teams under perform? That our guys choke when it's most important? That losing a few games becomes a losing spiral, that the same problems that plague our teams never get fixed?

Is it odd that it takes someone from England (a football crazy country) to come in and tell us that our ravenous consumption of sport media is ludicrous? Possibly detrimental to his team? Could the media in fact be a major contributing factor to not only the discontented mentality fans have towards their teams, but also to the play of the teams themselves?

I don't like the idea of blaming the media for our teams' woes, there are more obvious factors at play here than a subversive media turning our players all into depressed choke artists. But every Toronto fan knows that the media here does factor in greatly in the lives of our professional athletes. Carver isn't telling us anything we didn't suspect, but a coach from a foreign land playing a game that hasn't yet been embraced in Canada has a bit better of an outsiders' view on this city than we do.

Perhaps more than just the team will need to change in the coming years for success to come our way.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Offseason Boredom Post #1

Alright, so next season is basically a write-off in terms of rooting for the Leafs to win. They probably won't, and they'd be better off in the end if they ended up being the worst team in the NHL.

What, then, do us suffering Leafs fans have to look forward to next season? What do we cheer for?

I would say that if we can't crush our opposition on the scoreboard next year, we might as well try and crush them physically and spiritually.

With that in mind, I've compiled a Mark Bell (S)Hitlist tm assuming he's even on our roster next year (and I'd like to keep him, he fits Fletch's view of being tough to play against, a physical guy and he still has some skill):

1. Dany Heatley.

Just look at him. And really, Heatley kills Dan Snyder and gets off for being at the legal limit of alcohol, Mark Bell hits a signpost and gives a guy "whiplash" (onset symptoms after realizing that Bell makes over 2mil a year) and has to do time? Basically, Bell is a danger to society when drunk, while Heatley proves he is more of a danger to society while sober and gets off. WTF justice system? That's all kinds of whiggity-whack. It's time for Bell to show Heater that when justice fails, street justice prevails.

2. Sean Avery
I'm going to preface this by coming clean, I hate Sean Avery. A lot. Some don't, I do. I hate the fact that he's a dumbass, that he's an arrogant prick, that he dated Elisha Cuthbert, and I doubly hate the fact that he always scores on us. Plus, stick-waving? Mark Bell gonna show that there ain't no muther getting away with none of that bull-ish in our house.

3. Marian Hossa
I don't disagree him signing with the Wings at all. But it would be too damn funny if, after all that winning the cup stuff and burning his bridges with the Pens, he missed the playoffs and they were eliminated. Plus I know some Pens fans that would gush over the schadenfreude.

4. Andrew Peters
I still haven't gotten over the golf swing. How did it feel to be on the Sabres this year you worthless prick?

Any other suggestions?

(please note that the preceding message was in pure jest and that OGiB does not in fact support the bodily harm of any human being, Dany Heatley excluded)

Monday, July 21, 2008

Off topic ahoy!

This is Nikita Filatov

This is Amanda Bynes in She's the Man

I kno rite? :D

It's been a while, since I could...

So my Stralman jersey should be arriving any day now, meaning that he'll soon be traded (no joke). I haven't updated in a while because... there hasn't been anything to talk about.

It looks like Frogren will after all be allowed to come to camp at least, and then an arbitrator will decide on his contract. The problem inherent there is that Frogren's counting on his signing bonus to buy out his old contract in Sweden. It looks like he'll get the money at first, but as to what happens if the NHLPA's grievance turns south on us seems dicey. I'm looking forward to having a Dman with some footspeed to take over Gill's role, so I hope everything turns out in our favour.

We acquired Hollweg. Why I'm not sure, nor do I care overmuch, he's a depth guy that can always start in the minors, we gave up Pittsburgh's 5th for him so, well, whatever. However I don't agree that we could have just used someone from the Marlies in his place, as none of the Marlies looking to make a spot this year actually fight. Newbury tried once and I doubt he'll do it again, and both he and Ondrus actually comprise scoring forwards on the Marl. Earl's also traditionally been a scorer and a penalty killer, not the kind of guy who sits in the box for 5 mins. Really, beyond Kyle Rogers and maybe Foster or Boyce, there aren't a lot of guys on that roster who take the role of agitators.

I think Sundin will re-sign with us. If money was an issue then he would have taken Vancouver up on it's offer, however they don't offer him much in terms of probable success. There hasn't been much out of Montreal's camp lately, and I think that despite their success there's some question marks regarding that club next year, namely will Price pull a Raycroft, can the Kostitsyn's hope to be as wildly successful as they were, does Kovalev revert back to his old self, was Streit actually valuable, etc. At the end of the day I think that the options available to him aren't good enough to warrant turning his back on his team of 14 years.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

They call him Finger but... I've never seen him fing

Signing Jeff Finger was a great idea.

Alright, maybe not, but it most certainly wasn't a bad one. The Leafs acquire a budding d-man who had a breakout season his first full season in the NHL. You overpay in free agency and you pay for potential in the new NHL, the Leafs did both. God forbid that Fletcher takes advantage of the fact that we're rebuilding to try and find some guys whose best days aren't behind them yet.

I know we've gotten burned by bad contracts in the past, but it's time to let go. This is not Bryan McCabe. Nor is it Darcy Tucker. If Finger doesn't work out, then we can waive him or trade him. If we need cap space then we can waive him or trade him. If another team is willing to overpay we can even trade him at the deadline and acquire decent assets as well as cap relief. Buyouts? I know Damien Cox has his head up his ass, but the rest of Leafs Nation needs to calm down a bit. There are plenty more ways to get rid of most players other than a buyout.

There's been a lot of smoke blowing at both sides of the Finger debate, so let's try and clear the air a bit. Finger is not Colorado's #1 shutdown defensive guy. Nor was Adam Foote for most of the season, as he was acquired at the trade deadline. Kurt Sauer missed almost 30 games last season with a concussion, which is all kinds of bad news for a defenseman. Finger had the most goals of any Avs defensemen while posting the second best plus/minus next to Sauer, whom Finger played 18 more games than.

There's been a lot of observation floating around the blog world about Finger "not being very physical" or "...selective in [hitting]... almost tentative". Those people are idiots. Finger was second on the team in hits with 121, just behind Ruslan Salei who posted most of his 162 in Florida. He was way above Adam Foote's 93, most of which were posted in Columbus. So let's call him the most frequent hitter on the Avs. His 121 hits also tie Pavel Kubina for the most on the Leafs roster last season.

Want more? His 8.1 shooting percentage also ties Kubina for best on the Leafs, and was the best on the Avs among any defenseman who played over 50 games. Finger was the only defenseman who played more than 55 games on the Avs to come up plus in giveaways/takeaways, and not a single player on the Leafs last season was anything but severely negative in those stats.

At the end of the day, it doesn't matter if he pans out or not, we want to be losing. We couldn't grab a quick return on our assets like Philly, we're not going to become contenders next season. The best we can hope for is a slow burn like Chicago, several last place finishes turning into an exciting young roster. Say it with me Leafs fans: We. Don't. Want. To. Win.

Deep breaths.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Still in a daze...

Trying to forget that we ever gave Jeff Finger $3.5 million.
(kidding, I don't mind the Finger signing one bit, but that's for another post)

I'm also not going to get too much into the FA frenzy deals, for the purpose of brevity but also because they're better detailed on this great Toronto Maple Leafs blog.

Important news!

Dominic Moore has signed a one-year deal worth $900,000. It's always fun to have a Toronto boy back, and he adds a lot of speed and grit, as well as great work on the PK. He should have a blast with Mayers.

Mikhail Grabovski has also signed a one-year deal worth $850,000. It's good to have him but a real shame we couldn't lock him down for more. The other worrying thing is the gist of that article reads like he'll be promised top 6 minutes or at least PP time. I know he was lighting it up in the AHL, but he's not really a known quantity at the NHL level yet.

Which brings me to a better question:

What the hell are we going to do with all these forwards?

Right now on forward we've got Antropov, Ponikarovsky, Steen, Stajan, Blake, Hagman, Bell, Mayers, Devereaux, Moore, Tlusty, and Grabovski in our lineup. Which rounds out to an even twelve guys.

Looking to make the roster next year are Kulemin (who is basically a lock), Earl, Williams, and Mitchell. I'm not really counting Boyce or Foster (mostly because I didn't see much of Boyce and I'm not a fan of Fosters).

So what can we do to free up some roster space? Devereaux could act as a spare forward on the bench. Though I think he's still got something to give Earl or Boyce could easily fill his role come camp. There's been stirrings about Bell being shipped off/waived to the minors, depending on how his off season goes. I personally think that's a mistake as he still has a bundle of upside, but he might not do well having Ron Wilson as his coach, and would free up another spot. Trades are another thing entirely, and though I think that nobody from the old roster is safe (including Steen and Stajan) there are some decent candidates. Poni is basically an aging depth winger, he's good for 20 goals a season and should do well on any team looking to add a little scoring. He hasn't been exceptional and we have young guys looking to prove themselves in our top 6, so I think he's a decent candidate for a trade. Blake might take some harder doing, but there are a lot of teams hard up for scoring wingers out there and I believe we can find a way to get it done. Cap room isn't really what's needed, it's simply that he doesn't fit into a rebuilding philosophy of getting younger or being able to contribute down the stretch (which Blake will be in no condition to 3 years from now, cancer or not). Of course depending on camp any of Tlusty, Earl, Mitchell, Boyce, or Grabovski could be sent down with little fuss, but I think management knows we need to start giving young guys bigger roles. Should be interesting anyway.

Our defense is suffering a bit of a crisis too, with McCabe, Kaberle, Kubina, White, Colaiacovo, Stralman, Finger, Kronwall, and apparently Jonas Frogren putting their fingers in the pie. One of McCabe or Kubina should be gone come camp (my money's on Kubina) freeing up a spot, and Kronwall's a 7th dman at best. While it's possible Stralman could start the season in the AHL he's made it clear he does not want to be there and has proven that with a little bit more size and experience he can be capable in the majors. What I think is more likely is us moving one of White or Colaiacovo, likely White due to Carlo's injury concerns.

I'm excited to see our revamped roster in action, no matter how bad it is.