Monthly Archives: January 2010

Leafs win two big trades

The Toronto Maple Leafs weren’t waiting for the trade deadline.

While many of the teams in contention for the Stanley Cup are getting ready to pull the trigger on major trades, the Leafs beat them to the punch. They addressed several of their needs, and landed two major players.

The first deal saw the Leafs get Dion Phaneuf, Fredrik Sjostrom and Keith Aulie. In return, the Calgary Flames get Matt Stajan, Ian White, Jamal Mayers and Niklas Hagman.

This is a deal that happens to benefit both teams. The Leafs get a potential franchise defenceman, and the Flames get secondary scoring help. Stajan has 16 goals this year, and Hagman has 20 (and has also scored 20 or more goals for the last three years).

The second deal saw the Leafs send Vesa Toskala and Jason Blake for J.S. Giguere from the Anaheim Ducks.

This was another good deal for Toronto. They give up on a goalie making $4 million a year that is so bad he lost the starting job to a 25-year-old rookie with a bad heart, and a forward that has 10 goals this year and making $4 million a year.

So in the end, the Leafs ended up with the best player in each trade.

As well, they shed about $15 million in salary total, and got $13.25 million back.

They now have some extra holes on their roster, which will be filled with young players next season, such as Nazem Kadri. They have a couple of extra defencemen now, but Mike Van Ryn and Garnet Exelby are free agents this summer. So is Alexei Ponikarovsky, Lee Stempniak, Wayne Primeau and John Mitchell. They’ll have plenty of cap space to go after big free agents, such as Ilya Kovalchuk or Patrick Marleau.

In the end, the Leafs won big time today. And they’re not even in the race for a playoff spot. Wonder what the general managers of those teams will be doing in the next few weeks.

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16 NHL thoughts for the week

Here are 16 quick thoughts I have about the NHL this week:

1) Don’t think the Washington Capitals will want to make a pitch for Iyla Kovalchuk? They have only $38 million tied up in salary next season, and only have Nick Backstrom as a major free agent player to sign. Imagine a powerplay with Ovechkin, Backstrom, Green, Semin and Kovalchuk. They’d be unstoppable. It also wouldn’t matter if they signed all their cash in a few guys, because they all like to take five-minute shifts. This team could be the first one of the modern era to only roll three lines. They could run a promotion where three lucky fans get to sit on the bench every game as a fourth liner and not actually play. Or as Georges Laraque calls it, a normal hockey game.

2) It will be interesting to see if players on the Russian team spend part of the Olympics trying to convince Kovalchuk to sign there. He’ll be surrounded by Malkin, Ovechkin and Gonchar and other NHLers. How many of them put a bug in his ear about how their respective cities are great places to play?

3) Is there any one besides the players who think no trade movements are a good idea? Teams don’t like them, general managers don’t like them and the fans certainly don’t like them. They’ve hampered a lot of teams (Edmonton, Toronto and Ottawa are just three examples).

4) Why did the Sens bother to go out and get Pascal Leclaire last year when Brian Elliott was playing well? And now that Leclaire has been injured several times, Elliott has stepped forward… again! Isn’t it time to announce the inevitable: that Elliott should be the #1 guy in Ottawa?

5) Flames general manager Darryl Sutter is denying rumours that he’s trading Dion Phaneuf. But would a GM ever come out and say they were going to trade someone, unless that guy asked for a trade?

6) A lot of Habs fans are saying that while Price is the goalie of the future, they need to have Jaroslav Halak as the #1. I disagree with that. If Carey Price is your go-to guy, then he’s got to get the bulk of the starts. What good will Price be if he doesn’t get a high amount of starts?

7) Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli has given a vote of confidence to head coach Claude Julien. Take the under of five weeks before Julien is fired.

8 ) Where will Kovalchuk end up? For some reason, I’m guessing the Pens. They like to make a big splash at the trade deadline. Maybe Kunitz, another players, picks and a prospect or seven.

9) The Habs won’t make the playoffs this year. Too many teams (two point separate eight teams fighting for three playoff spots), and the Habs haven’t been consistent all year. Plus, because of their cap space, they can’t afford to do anything major.

10) With so many teams fighting for so few playoff spots, a couple of them will have to realize they’ll be sellers this year. Besides Montreal (who doesn’t have a lot of value for trades), I think the Rangers will also be looking to sell at the deadline.

11) Best dark horse for buyers? The New York Islanders. They’re hoping to make the playoffs for only the second time in five years (and remember, they traded a lot for Ryan Smyth a couple of years back). They’ve got a good young team, and a round of playoff experience (even a big loss) can do wonders for a team. Just ask the Penguins.

12) Darren Dreger of TSN says Peter Mueller may be traded. After a 22-goal, 54-point rookie season a couple of years back, he has suffered horribly, as did many young players under coach Gretzky. Maybe the Great One quitting the team back in training camp was actually the best thing to happen to the Coyotes.

13) Someone will take a chance on Mueller. As Latendresse and Pouillot proved earlier this year, a change of scenery can do wonders for a young hockey player.

14) The Sharks may have the best record in the league right now, but they still need a top-six forward with Stanley Cup experience for the playoffs. Who fits that mould? Ray Whitney. Would the Canes accept Ryan Clowe or a Devin Setoguchi for him?

15) Don’t believe Sheldon Souray will wind up with the Kings at all. L.A. already has good young defencemen in Johnson and Doughty, and bringing in a guy for their powerplay will only hurt their development.

16) Just heard this NHL rumour. Three-way deal: Price to L.A., Dion Phaneuf to Montreal and someone from L.A. to Calgary. I don’t think it will happen though. One, we have enough defencemen as it is, so much so, we have two of them playing forward on some nights. Two, I don’t think Gainey will ever trade Price. Three, Quick is playing great for L.A., so I don’t think they need a goalie. and four, Phaneuf is making $6.5 million a year, so we’d need to give up more than Price to make it work salary-cap wise.

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Major keeper pool trade

So I made yet another trade in my keeper pool.

And it was probably the biggest trade I will ever make.

The trade was I would give up Evgeni Nabokov, Marian Gaborik, Scott Niedermayer, Sergei Gonchar and Stephen Weiss.

In return, I get Steven Stamkos, Marty Turco, Matt Duchene, Ryan Whitney, Kyle Quincey and a first round pick in 2011.

First, a bit of background. I was in third place, but about 100 points out. The guy in second, Matt, needed a top goalie to catch up to first place, as he was about 55 points out. So he came up with this deal.

It put Matt into first place by a few points, and I get a team that is looking good for years. For forwards, I now have Stamkos, Duchene, Malkin, Semin, Cammalleri, Roy, Wheeler and Evander Kane.

On defence, I now have Duncan Keith, Ryan Suter, Whitney, Quincy and Pitkanen.

And for goalies, I now have Turco, Price, and Gustavsson.

Overall, this helped both teams. But I am very happy with this trade. I have two young potential superstars in Stamkos and Duchene, and the potential to get another one next year with the first rounder.

Most of all is what I did with my defence. At the beginning of the year, I had Gonchar, Niedermeyer, Rob Blake and Mathieu Schneider. I plan on dropping Blake and Scheider during the offseason (we get to keep 15 players plus two rookies). My defence is so much younger now, and should be good to go there.

The only position I really need to improve on is goalie. I have two young good goalies in Price and Gustavsson, who should be #1 goalies next season for their respective teams, but I think I still need to get a great #1 goalie. So I’ll be looking to trade for one next year or see if I can pick one up in the draft.

So what do you think? Was it was a good trade?

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Semifinal NFL picks

So last week, I went 0-4 in my picks, proving once and for all that nobody is perfect.

I may be close, but not quite.

But this week, I figure I have a 25 per cent chance of having a perfect week. Even if I flip a coin, I have a one-in-four chance of going undefeated this week.

Unfortunately, I’m not flipping a coin, so my odds are probably lower.

Anyways, on my picks::

New York Jets at Indianapolis Colts, Colts favoured by 7 1/2

The Jets have surprised a lot of people so far in the playoffs. Needing a lot of help to even make it to the postseason, the Jets have used a good mix of running and strong defence to be this year’s Cinderella team. 

Well Cinderella, it’s about to strike midnight, and that great ride you’re on is about to turn into a pumpkin.

And there’s no Prince Charming to save you from the wicked stepsisters.

And there’s no fairy Godmother… ah… screw it.

Basically, the Jets are in trouble. They’re playing the Colts, who has been the best team in the NFL this year. The Colts are one of those teams that will change their strategy every week to beat other teams. That may sound like common sense, but there are plenty of teams that keep doing the same thing week after week.

They also have the greatest quarterback of the past 10 years in Peyton Manning. He knows how to win, and I believe he’s actually more comfortable playing in a game that is 24-21 in the fourth quarter, as opposed to the Colts being up by 31. He thrives on pressure, and hates to lose.

Manning will be under a lot of pressure this week, as the Jets like to blitz. Look for Manning to figure out how to keep the Jets from blitzing as often, and taking over the game.

How do you spell loser?

J-E-T-S! JETS JETS JETS

Colts to win.

Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints, Saints favoured by 3 1/2

Way back in week one, I wrote this about the Vikings:

“The Vikings offensive line is outstanding  (which means less sacks and more runningback room). They have the top runningback in the league. They have a half-decent quarterback. And their defence is one of the best in the league.”

Nothing has changed since then. Brett Farve has one of his best years in quite a while. Adrian Peterson had a career rushing season. Several wide receivers had their best seasons.

The defence is the same. I know the Saints can get involved in shootouts, but this isn’t the Arizona defence they’re facing. The Vikings can stop the run and the pass. New Orleans will have to be creative to score on the Vikings. If the Saints can keep it close, they could win it by a late field goal. But I think the Vikings will win it outright.

Vikings to win.

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The Book of Eli movie review

So I had a chance to see The Book of Eli the other night, and contrary to a lot of critics’ opinions, I thought it was very well done.

For those not familiar with the movie, it stars Denzel Washington walking across America 30 years after some incident (called the Flash) during a war. They never quite explain what the incident is, which is kind of important, but you could take an educated guess. Time doesn’t matter anymore, and time is known as two-different periods: pre-flash and post-flash.

Most of the humans have died, and those that are left are mostly in it for themselves. People lie, steal and kill to get what they need, especially water. And apparently, no one has bothered to learn how to read after the flash.

Anyways, so Eli is taking a book across America, one that is so important that everyone wants it. In face, there’s only one of the book left across the entire planet, which makes it so valuable.

The name of the book? If I Did It, by O.J. Simpson.

Okay, a slight lie there. If you’ve seen any commercials about this movie, you know it’s the Bible, even if the movie tries to keep it a secret for half the film. It also keeps his name a secret, although if you’re seeing the film, you know his name.

So apparently, every book of the Bible in the world was destroyed after the war. Not sure how that was accomplished, but Eli has the last remaining one. He’s also a pretty good killer. He won’t start trouble, or even help out those who are in trouble, but he certainly finishes it.

If you’re the type of person who normally likes a lot of answers to questions, you might not like this film. I say ‘might’, because I’m normally one of those people, but in this film it doesn’t matter.

Unresolved questions include: How does Eli know all those fighting skills? What was the war about? How can you possibly destroy every copy of the Bible in the world?

Also, near the end of the film is a surprise twist. Not quite The Sixth Sense type of twist, but one that leaves you wondering. It almost makes you want to see the film again for clues, but upon looking back at the film, no clues jump out.

(As a side note, the twist apparently has created a little bit of debate: I don’t want to ruin it for you here, but just keep an eye out for it).

As a surprise, Mila Kunis is in this film. I had no idea, so I was shocked when she appeared. She plays the daughter of a blind woman married to Gary Oldman’s character, Carnegie, who is determined to get the book from Eli.

Her role as a sidekick is actually a pretty good one, although it creates another question at the end (again, I won’t give it away).

Anyways, I recommend this movie. It’s pretty good, although a bit gory at the beginning. I give it four out of five stars.

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Captain Canada not very classy

Strangely enough, hockey has more in common with professional wrestling than any other sport.

It’s a tough, physical sport, but the players need to trust their opponents with their bodies. Sure, they’re trying to win, but with the game played at such a high speed, players need to know the other team will have some respect and not take liberties when they are out there.

That’s why some players never seem to get respect in the league, because they don’t respect their opponents. The last NHL player to be like that was/is Steve Downie.

For those who don’t know, Downie was suspended in the juniors for cross-checking his teammate because his teammate wouldn’t be hazed. In an NHL preseason game, he left his feet with a hit on Dean McAmmond that got Downie suspended for 20 games. He’s also been suspended in the AHL for abuse of an official.

All this has not led to a great NHL career, as you can imagine. Guys who cheapshot rarely have a great run.

And now you can add Patrice Cormier to that list. This guy, who was captain of team Canada at the world juniors last month, has a penchant for illegal elbows. After using it a few times with cheapshots at the World Juniors (you can see that video here), Cormier decided to keep it up.

So far, Cormier has been suspended indefinitely, and there are possible charges coming from the police.

This is disgusting. Cormier doesn’t deserve to be playing professional hockey. He’s a cheapshot guy, and as Downie has showed, once a cheap shot guy, always a cheap shot guy.

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NFL playoff semifinal picks

They say week two of the NFL playoffs is the time when the home team wins.

The stats back it up, and it makes a lot of sense. The best teams have had a bye week, which gives them more rest. And they’re obviously the better teams (hence the reason for the bye).

Normally, I agree with this. And I think the majority of the home teams will win this weekend. But I think most of the road teams will cover the spread.

Sounds crazy, I know. But I think all of the road teams have a good shot at winning their games, or at least keeping it close.

So on to the picks:

Arizona Cardinals at New Orleans Saints, Saints favoured by 6 1/2

If someone predicted a final score of 72-68, would you really doubt that person that much? These are two teams that score often, and score quickly. Look at the Cardinals time of possessions last week that led to touchdowns: 3:38, 0:48, 4:30, 3:45, 1:27 and 6:02. In fact, they only had the ball twice where it took longer than five minutes. You just don’t see a lot of 10-minute drives where they wear down the defence.

However, the Cardinals will probably do that a couple of times this week. The Saints allowed 122.2 rushing yards per game this year and 19 touchdowns total. Those numbers would probably be worse except for the fact in the first half of the season, they had such big leads on teams, their opponents had to throw more in an effort to catch up. I expect the Cardinals to run a little more, which would be unexpected by the Saints defence.

The other factor in my pick is the Saints record in the second half of the season. They lost their last three games (one of them to the 2-12 Tampa Bay, and another to 7-8 Carolina). They struggled against teams such as Washington and Atlanta. They just haven’t looked good lately, and that’s not a good sign.

The Cardinals, on the other hand, seem to kick it up a notch in the playoffs.

Arizona to cover (if not outright win).

Baltimore Ravens at Indianapolis Colts, Colts favoured by 6 1/2

For Baltimore to win this game, Joe Flacco needs to be a better quarterback. He only went four-for-ten against the Patriots last week.

But the key to the game is in the running. The Ravens were fifth in the league in rushing yards per game, and tied for first in rushing touchdowns. The Colts, on the other hand, were in the bottom ten in the league in rushing yards allowed. They’re going to do their best to stop the run, and make Flacco beat them.

I think the Colts are going to win, but I don’t think it will be by a touchdown. Ravens to cover.

Dallas Cowboys at Minnesota Vikings, Vikings favoured by 2 1/2

All right, all right. I’m a believer now. The Cowboys can win in December and January.

The Vikings have an old quarterback, and a team that peaked early in the season. They struggled in the last month, losing games to teams with sub-.500 records. Not a good sign.

They’re also a mediocre team when it comes to pass defence (10th worst in the league in passing touchdowns allowed), but are great at rush defence (second in rushing yards allowed, and tied for first in rushing touchdowns allowed).

The Cowboys are one of those rare teams that has both a solid running game and a passing games. If they can keep the Vikings defence guessing, that should put them in a key position to win.

Plus, I keep waiting for the Brett Favre meltdown, where he decides to not hand off the ball, and end up throwing three straight interceptions on three straight series.

Cowboys to win.

New York Jets at San Diego Chargers, Chargers favoured by 7 1/2

The largest spread of the week, and this has to be the game where I think the favourites will win. The Chargers were the best team down the stretch, winning 11 straight games (although that is a little deceptive: only five of those games were against teams with better than .500 records).

But as the other playoff teams show, the better teams don’t always win against the underdogs (see Saints, New Orleans).

Don’t believe all the hype about the Jets great streak (running the football, strong defence, etc.). Look at the Jets last seven games:

* Nov. 29: A win against a 4-6 Panthers team

* Dec. 3: A win against a 4-7 Buffalo team

* Dec. 13: A win against a 1-11 Tampa Bay team

* Dec. 20: A loss to a 6-7 Atlanta team

* Dec. 27: A win against a 14-0 Indianapolis team that rested all its starters

* Jan. 3: A win against a 10-5 Cincinnati team that rested its starters

* Jan. 9: A win against the Bengals in the playoffs

So in those seven games, they played one tough team for a full 60 minutes, and that was in the playoffs last week against a team that has an emotional season.

So the Jets stats aren’t enough to convince me yet. They still have to beat a good team for me to want to choose them.

Chargers to win.

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