Bozak still sucks, Clarkson is exactly what I said he’d be, and Grabovski who?
The last 4 months of my life may have been the most frustrating, mainly due to the Leafs. I know, it sounds silly, but seriously, I wake up every morning mad at either Dave Nonis, Randy Carlyle or the Boston Bruins. Sometimes all 3. What happened in the last 10 minutes of game 7 combined with all the shitty moves the Leafs have made this summer make my head want to explode. The worst part is, there are actually people out there who AGREE with the moves made by Nonis! (or Carlyle, however you want to look at it). Granted, there were one or two decent signings and trades, but in the long run, this team is fucked. Basically, even though there are already plenty of blogs out there that explain this (mainly The Leafs Nation and Pension Plan Puppets), I feel the need to try to help educate, especially those who are fans of Tyler Bozak. My job here today is to look at every major move (and storyline) the leafs have made since game 7, and discuss what this means for the team.
**REMINDER: The Leafs had $20-ish million in cap space heading into the offseason**
Alright, I guess there’s no better place to start than with Tyler Bozak. When we traded for Dave Bolland (who I’ll be talking about later), I couldn’t express how happy I was. Why? Because I, along with everyone else in Leafs Nation, knew this meant that Bozak was probably on his way out. There was even a report that the Flames had a deal in place to sign him. Seriously, I was so incredibly happy, but that was my own fault.
The date was July 5th. The time was around 1:15 PM. I remember logging on to twitter while I was at work to check a few of the Leafs rumours. My heart sank when I read that the Leafs were prepared to offer Bozak a 5 year – 4.2 million dollar contract. It brought back the feelings of game 7 all over again: Hatred, disgust, sadness, confusion… except now I have to deal with those emotions for 5 years while they suck up 4.2 million dollars in cap space.
Tyler Bozak is literally one of the worst players in the NHL. Notice how I said literally. Notice how I said players, not first line centers. This is not opinion. This is fact. Its backed up by statistics and video. Tyler Bozak sucks.
Now, I’m going to throw a lot of stats at you guys, all of which were taken from TheLeafsNation.com. If you want to read much better writers write about how much Tyler Bozak sucks, head over there.
So, first off, what makes Tyler Bozak valuable? His faceoff ability? His chemistry with Phil Kessel? His defence? ***SPOILER ALERT*** None of the above. He’s not as good at faceoffs as you think, faceoffs are not as important as you think, he is a black hole when it comes to Phil Kessels production, and he cannot play defence.
@Jeffler posted a while ago about Bozak and the faceoff myth. Basically, what he did was take all the Leafs’ centermen and distributed the faceoff responsibilities evenly. Before he evened out the numbers, this is how they looked:
As you can see, Bozak took a hell of a lot more faceoffs than anyone else on the team. He won a lot more than anyone else, but he also loses more than any other player. Obviously, with the number of draws he takes, that’s expected. To even this out, Jeffler averaged out all the numbers. This is what he came up with:
What he did next is interesting. He took the gap between Kadri, who had the lowest amount of draws won, and Bozak, who had the highest number of faceoffs won. The gap between them is 55 faceoff wins a year, which he found to be just 1.14 extra faceoff wins per game over a span of 48 games.
To put this into perspective, Stephen Burtch did a little analysis on twitter. Basically, he looked at Patrice Bergeron, one of the NHL’s premier faceoff men, and how his faceoff taking ability affected the Boston Bruins in the 2013 playoffs. After all the numbers were crunched, he calculated that Bergerons faceoff wins created about 1.17 goals over an 18 game stretch. Again, we’re talking about a guy who wins 10% more faceoffs than Tyler Bozak.
They’re not as important as you think.
2. Chemistry with Phil Kessel
This is probably my favourite thing to argue with Tyler Bozak lovers. Pretty much every person who likes him has brought up this point, and pretty much everyone who brought it up ended eating their own poop after I explained that Bozak is the equivalent of a ball and chain around Kessels ankle.
It doesn’t take a genius to realize that Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak are not exactly on the same level when it comes to talent. Kessel is one of the best forwards in the NHL. Bozak is not. Yet, for some reason, idiot Randy Carlyle decides to play them together on a daily basis.
First off, lets take a look at the assists going both ways, meaning we’re gonna see how many goals bozak scores that are assisted by kessel and vice versa.
In 2012/2013, these are how the numbers played out (playoffs included):
-Out of Kessels 24 goals, Bozak assisted on just 5 of them (All primary assists). That turns out to be 20.8%. That means that almost 80% of the goals Kessel scored last season were not assisted by the first line centerman.
- Out of Bozaks 13 goals last season, Kessel assisted on 8 of them (6 primary, 2 secondary). This means that Phil Kessel assisted on 61.6% of Tyler Bozaks’ goals. That’s an ENORMOUS number.
Now, you may be thinking that this is just a one season thing, that the weird 48 game shortened schedule had some effect on these numbers. Sorry. That’s not even close to true. This time, let’s look at the numbers from the 2011/2012 season:
- Out of Kessels 37 goals that year, his centerman for THE WHOLE SEASON assisted on just 14 of those goals (8 primary, 6 secondary). That turns out to be a 37.8%. That means that Kessel scored 62.2% of his goals without the help of his buddy.
- In comparison, out of the 18 goals that Bozak scored that season, Kessel assisted on 10 of them (7 primary, 3 secondary), adding up to 56.6%. Wow.
Clearly, there’s it’s not mutual when it comes to helping each other score goals. Bozak will continue to ride Kessels coattails for the next 5 years, and Kessel will continue to provide Bozak with employment during that same time.
Jeffler tallied all the numbers and, since bozak has arrived in Toronto, these are how the assist percentages have played out:
- Of Kessels’ 109 goals since Bozak has joined the team, he has assisted on 40 of them, meaning that Kessel has scored 63.3% of his goals without Bozak.
- Of Bozaks 54 goals since he joined the squad back in the 209/2010 season, Kessel has assisted on 61.1% OF ALL THE GOALS TYLER BOZAK HAS EVER SCORED. OF THE 33 ASSISTS KESSEL HAS PROVIDED BOZAK, 25 OF THEM HAVE BEEN PRIMARY. HOOOOLY FUCK.
Now that we’ve established that Tyler Bozak is literally nothing without Phil, lets take a look at some other stats.
These stats, in my opinion, are more telling than the ones I’ve just shown you. Anyone reading this right now could be saying “yeah, Bozak may not have assisted on the goals, but he could have done something on the play that eventually lead to the goals”. Fair enough, so lets look at each others’ production when they aren’t on the ice together (:
- When Tyler Bozak is on the ice WITH Kessel:
Goals/60 minutes: 0.65 Points/60 minutes: 1.67
When Tyler Bozak is on the ice WITHOUT Kessel:
Goals/60 minutes: 0.31 Points/60 minutes: 0.82
- When Kessel is on the ice WITH Bozak:
Goals/60 minutes: 0.95 Points/60 minutes: 2.27
When Kessel is on the ice WITHOUT Bozak:
Goals/60 minutes: 1.28 Points/60 minutes: 2.09
So, not only does Bozak not assist on any of Kessels goals, but Kessel actually scores at a higher rate when Bozak isn’t even on the ice. Conversely, when Kessel is on the ice, Bozak scores at a much higher rate. Take Kessel completely out of the equation? Tyler Bozak becomes a bottom tier producer.
Also, just to add insult to injury, the Leafs actually have a positive Corsi rating when Kessel is on the ice without Bozak. Corsi is basically just a stat that shows a possession percentage, so having a positive Corsi (51% and above) rating means that the leafs had the puck more than the other team.
These are statistics, not opinion. There is no chemistry between Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak. One is an elite scorer, the other one is Tyler Bozak.
Naturally, next on my rant list would be
Wendel Clark David Clarkson. On the same day that the Leafs signed Bozak, they also decided to sign Clarkson to a 7 year, $36.75 million contract. Every day I have a different opinion on the deal, and here’s why:
I like Clarkson as a player, who wouldn’t. He plays his heart out every shift, plus he took a hometown discount to play in Toronto (LOL, discount). He gets shots on net at a high rate and is a fun player to watch.
Here’s the thing. He’s 29 years old, almost 30. By the time his contract is up, he’ll be 37. We’re talking about a guy who has NEVER cracked 50 points in an NHL season and is almost past his prime. The main reason people love this guy so much isn’t because of his scoring, but because he hits, fights, and takes penalties.
Let me just point something out, and this applies more to everyone who loves hits rather than to just David Clarkson: A hit means you do not have the puck. Players who record lots of hits are usually bad possession players. While hits are exciting and can change the feel of the game, the team with more hits is usually the team who had the puck less. Interestingly enough, though, David Clarkson is a very good possession player. Then again, you’d be hard-pressed to find a bad possession player in a possession oriented system in New Jersey.
The penalties thing, though, I’ll never understand.
This could be a move that helps us for the next two or 3 years. He’s going to be a solid player to add to this team. The reason I’m not a fan of this move is because it puts us in a terrible position years down the road. Who wants to be paying a 35 year old David Clarkson $5.25 million dollars a season when we’re going to be needing that money for other areas? And if you’re the type of person that thinks I’m stupid for caring about who our team is spending money on 6 or 7 years down the line then you can just f right off.
I think the scariest part of this deal, though, was that I realized Dave Nonis had become Randy Carlyles bitch. I had suspected that after the Bozak signing, but with this one coming just mere minutes (or hours, can’t remember, I was too mad about Bozak) after the Bozak deal, it confirmed it. Randy Carlyle is an awful coach, who I’ll be ripping on very soon, but yeah, I think that played a part in why I didn’t like this signing right from the get go.
-COLTON ORR, FRAZER MCLAREN AND FIGHTING-
Let me just get this out of the way: fighting is useless. Most of todays fights are staged and have no real impact on the outcome of a game. While it may be entertaining, it does nothing but delay the game in the long run. This is why I see no place on our team for players like Colton Orr and Frazer Mclaren. Neither of them are capable of playing hockey at the NHL level. Neither of them are able to really compete at the NHL level. All they do is fight and suck up a roster spot that could be used on someone useful.
The Leafs signed Mclaren to a 2 year, $1.4 dollar contract. The Leafs signed Orr to a 2 year, $1.85 million dollar contract. The Leafs tied up $3.25 million dollars in cap space on wrestlers. The worst part about this isn’t that they each make more than league minimum, it isn’t that they’ll be playing every. single. night. But it’s the fact that Leafs management made it a PRIORITY, yes, a priority to get these guys signed. Again, it keeps coming back to me seeing moves and not trusting management, and I don’t think I’m out of line.
Both of these guys are easily replaceable, whether that be through waivers or free agency. The Leafs have actually won more games over the last few seasons without Colton Orr in the lineup to ‘protect’ his star players.
You want me to stop whining? You got it! I actually really liked this signing, mostly because I really like Gunnarsson. He’s young, he’s a very solid defenseman, and we signed him to a team friendly contract. Really, there’s nothing else to say. Plays decent minutes, can put up points(?). That’s all I have to say about this signing.
This one had me a little bit confused. By all accounts, Paul Ranger played fantastic hockey with the Marliest last season, NHL calibre hockey. The fact that we got him for just $1 million this season is fantastic. Why, though, would you spend a million bucks after you’ve wasted all your cap space and still have Kadri and Franson to sign? I love Ranger as a player (from what I’ve heard) but was it really a necessity to get him signed over Kadri or Franson? If you ask me who I want on my back end next year, I take Franson over Ranger any day of the week.
**Fun fact: Franson actually outscored Clarkson last season**
Ranger is definitely going to be cashing in once his new contract expires, and I’m not denying that he’s going to be a solid addition to our back end. It’s just the timing of this deal that had me kinda scratching my head a bit.
At the time, this was my favourite deal of all time. Like I said before, the acquisition of Dave Bolland was supposed to mean the end of Tyler Bozak in Toronto. After that didn’t happen, I sat down and looked at this deal and still came to the conclusion that I liked it.
Dave Bolland actually scores at a higher rate than Tyler Bozak and takes more shots as well. Lets all just think for a second about the lines they play on. This is a great depth move for the Leafs, as Bolland (assuming Kadri gets signed) will be an extremely solid third line shut down center. Although I’m not a huge fan of his contract, it’s not a big deal as it expires after this season. All in all, good trade bringing him in. Can’t complain.
This, in my opinion, was the stupidest move the Leafs made all summer (yes, dumber than re-signing Bozak). If Randy Carlyle wasn’t such a fucking idiot, people would still love Grabo just like they did a year ago. The second I found out about this, I just kinda put my hands on my head while gazing off into the distance for about 10 minutes. You know that ‘impossibru’ meme? That’s kinda what my face looked like. The human brain just wasn’t wired to take in all that stupidity at once.
Grabovski was the Leafs’ best center. Yes, FAR better than Tyler Bozak and better than Kadri as well. In the short amount of minutes that Kessel played with Grabo, he put up better numbers than he had with any other centerman. Also, Grabo was one of our better possession players, a rarity in our organization.
For some unbelievably idiotic, stupid, foolish, asinine, indefensible reason, Randy Carlyle has never liked Mikhail Grabovski. Instead, he prefers players like Bozak and Orr. Because of this, he completely ruined Grabovski and gave him limited minutes in a mainly defensive role. We’re talking about an ultra talented center, one that could potentially take our first line to the next level, playing limited third line minutes.
When Grabovski was sent out on the ice to start a shift, only 36.7% of the time did he get to start that shift in the offensive zone. How is anyone supposed to produce when he has to start each shift in his own zone? Comparatively, Tyler Bozak started 45% of his in the offensive zone and Kadri started 47.7%. Just noticed now while writing this, Kuleimin had a lower offensive zone starting percentage than Grabovski. Carlyle is a fucking tool.
I have a theory that if Grabo was Canadian, he’d still be on this squad. Randy Carlyle is a xenophobic piece of poop, and a terrible coach to boot.
I feel so bad for James Reimer, seriously. The guy is a #1 goalie. In the time that he hasn’t been concussed, he’s proven that he can carry this team. I don’t care that he has an arguably below average glove hand. The guy stops pucks at a .925 SV%. He CARRIED us to the playoffs. Yes, carried. The guy has had to face 30+ shots on a nightly basis because Randy Carlyle gave all of his possession players defensive zone starts and no minutes. Without Reimer, we would not have made it to game 7 against the Bruins. Yet, for some odd reason, he never gets any of the respect he deserves. I really don’t understand… Is it because we live in Toronto and love to run goalies out of town? That has to be the reason. If James Reimer is on ANY other NHL team (okay, maybe not Vancouver) he’s the undisputed #1 goalie going in to the 2013-2014 NHL season. It honestly blows my mind how stupid someone could be to ignore all his stats and write him off simply because he doesn’t have a fantastic glove hand. Christ.
James Reimer and Jonathan Bernier are the same age. The difference? Reimer has almost 2x the amount of starts, playoff experience that everyone talks about, and, wait, what’s this? A higher save percentage? So, Reimer has actually put up better numbers over twice the amount of games played? Wow! That’s not what I’ve been told by my fellow Leaf fans! From what I’ve heard, Bernier is the next superstar! The next can’t miss prospect! He was drafted 11th overall!… In 2006.
This trade was 100%, COMPLETELY unnecessary. Bernier had stated several times that he felt he deserved to be a starting goalie. Why bring him to Toronto when we have Reimer, who’s clearly proven to be a starter, and a fully capable backup in Ben Scrivens? There is no reasonable evidence that suggests Jonathan Bernier is a better goalie, or WILL become a better goalie, than James Reimer, and people are already giving him the starting job.
Here are my issues with the trade:
When we acquired Bernier, we acquired him as an RFA who wasn’t under contract. He’s stated many times that he felt he thought he should be a starter, so he’s not going to take backup money. Obviously, we ended up signing him to a deal where he gets paid $3 million a season.
On top of that, the Leafs retained about $500k in the deal. So, actually, Bernier is costing us $3.5 million dollars in cap space this season.
Ben Scrivens is a fully capable backup goalie. Ben Scrivens does not cost 3.5 million dollars. Ben Scrivens, at this point in his career, has measured up to Jonathan Bernier.
The Leafs gave up Matt Frattin. The Leafs have no more wingers. They have absolutely no depth at a position they were pretty strong at last season.
Who knows, maybe this may be the deal of the century and Bernier turns out to be the next great goalie in this league. At this point in time, though, it’s a move the leafs really did not need to make. It’s like Dave Nonis doesn’t understand that there’s actually a limit to his spending.
The leafs have issues at the center position. They could use a few touch ups on the back end. Goaltending was not an issue. Again, the thought process going through managements head just blows me away. P-R-I-O-R-I-T-I-E-S.
-DAVE NONIS AND RANDY CARLYLE-
I would rather have Ron Wilson as my coach than Randy Carlyle. Yup. I said it. Randy Carlyle is a terrible coach, and not so great of a GM at that! (ha ha).
For some reason, Carlyle favours all the wrong players. Bozak, Orr, Mclaren, Holzer, Kostka… Come on man. The guy played Dion Phaneuf with Holzer and Kostka all season long and people wonder why he had such a tough year? Actually, Dion was among the league leaders in quality of competition. Basically, I think there were only two other defensemen who played harder minutes against harder opponents than Dion Phaneuf. Take this into consideration: Dion was playing 25+ mins a night with an AHL calibre defensive partner against some of the hardest competition the NHL has to offer. Fucking A Carlyle! Smart Coaching!
Also, we’ve all HEARD of the one they call Jake Gardiner, why don’t we ever get to see him? Ah, Randy Carlyle, that’s why. He insisted on playing players much less skilled than Gardiner all season long.
How sad is this: it took injuries for Randy Carlyle to finally be forced to dress his best lineup… And this happened in the playoffs. Over a 48 game stretch, he was still sitting out some of his key players. It took people getting injured to FORCE him to play his best lineup, and look what happened! We were 10 minutes from advancing to the next round!
Randy Carlyle ruined Mikhail Grabovski, Randy Carlyle is the reason Clarkson, Bozak, Orr and Mclaren are all here. Randy Carlyle is a huge part of the reason why we went in to the offseason with $20 million dollars to spend and came out marginally better with two key players left to sign and only $5 million dollars to do it. Randy Carlyle is an idiot. Dave Nonis is just a huge pussy who will do whatever Randy says.
Don’t fool yourselves, this was Brian Burke’s team that made it to the playoffs, not Dave Nonis’. Dave Nonis actually managed to make the team worse by trading for O’Byrne. I could not believe that Nonis actually got a ‘GM of the Year’ vote this past season.
I guess you guys can already tell, but I’m not too happy with the Leafs. I was so sick and tired of the Leafs being made fun of constantly, and when they made the playoffs, I thought it was all going to disappear. I hope you guys know that the Leafs aren’t making the playoffs this season. Or next season. Or the season after that.
And when Kessel and Phaneuf walk next offseason because the Leafs have spent all their money elsewhere and you don’t know how that happened, you can refer back to this post.
Screw Dave Nonis. Screw Randy Carlyle. Screw MLSE. It’s sickening to know that a 17 year old college kid could run a multi million dollar team better than
Randy Carlyle Dave Nonis. Can’t take any more of this crap.
^^ Some stats taken from these sites
There wasn’t even supposed to be a season at all. In September of 2012, hope for an NHL season was bleak. It looked as though the greed from both parties was going to overtake the love of the game and completely wipe out hockey for the year. It looked this way until January 6th, when the magical words were spoken: The NHL and NHLPA had come to an agreement. There would be hockey this year. Even though I was still pissed at the NHL for all it has put its fans through, I was happy. I finally got hockey, and my Leafs, back.
After a week long training camp, we got to see how the teams shaped out. Toronto had made a couple key acquisitions over the summer and I was pretty interested to see how they would work out. There were a few surprises too, with Tim Connolly, among others, not making the team straight out of camp. When I looked at this roster on paper, even after all the crap that happened last season, I thought we had a chance to make the playoffs if we got off to a quick start, and we did just that. In our first game of the season, the Leafs beat the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 on goals from Nazem Kadri and Tyler Bozak, both of whom would end up having an immense impact on the outcome of the leafs season (well, in Kadris case).
After a decent start to the season, the Leafs got their first real test of the year: The Boston Bruins. The Bruins had dominated the Leafs over the past few years, especially last season. The thought was that if the leafs could compete with the Bruins, they could compete with anyone. Well compete they did, losing 1-0 in a game they probably should have won. Things were looking up in leafs nation, and for good reason.
Over the next couple of games, fans started to get increasingly frustrated with Phil Kessel, as he went 10 games to open the season without scoring a goal. Well, he ended the year tied for 7th in scoring with Tyler Bozak as his centerman, so… There’s that.
The next major leafs storyline this season was the emergence of Nazem Kadri. Brian Burke’s first draft pick as GM, Kadri was slated to be the next great player in the Leafs organization. That was back in 2007. Many fans had become frustrated with Kadri, suggesting the Leafs trade him, among others, to Vancouver for star goalie Roberto Luongo. Thank god we didn’t. Kadri was given a real shot with the Leafs this season and boy, did he ever deliver. The 22 year old scored 44 points in 48 games, becoming one of the core pieces in a young Leafs team looking to make a statement.
And so the season went on, and I watched the Leafs clinch their first playoff birth since I was in the fourth grade (I’m going to university next year). There was a buzz that was building around Toronto that I had never really been a part of… You could tell that playoffs in this city just meant so much to the fans that had been deprived of them for so long… It was just special, that’s really the only word to describe it.
As the season wound down, we were left to play our last game of the season against a team that we had pretty much owned all season long: the Montreal Canadiens. The stakes were pretty high for this one. A Leafs win would guarantee them a first round matchup with the Canadiens but a loss would pit us against the big bad Bruins. All Leaf fans with a brain wanted Toronto to win, naturally, so that they could face the easier opponent. Too bad it didn’t work out that way. The team that we had dominated all season long suddenly looked like a different squad, handing our asses to us in a 4-1 win at the ACC.
By the time the start of the playoffs rolls around, I, along with 99% of other Leafs fans, weren’t too confident in the Leafs’ playoff chances. Even though we had played Boston hard all season long, this was still a team 2 years removed from a Stanley Cup win and honestly just a group that was built for the postseason. So, with all that taken into account, the Leafs began their journey to the Stanley Cup.
Game 1 – Toronto (1) @ Boston (4)
If this game didn’t scare the crap out of you (as a leafs fan), I’m not sure what will. The Leafs came out strong, getting an early goal from JVR to put them ahead by 1, but that’s pretty much all they did besides turn the puck over. I think game 1 was one of the worst all around performances the Leafs had all season. They were basically handing the puck to the B’s every time it was on their sticks. Honestly, it just looked like an extremely nervous team that was dealing with the pressures of the playoffs. The only positive that I took from this game was that all the mistakes being made were fixable, and that’s something the Leafs really worked on to get ready for game 2.
Game 2 – Toronto (4) @ Boston (2)
This one started out like you’d imagine, with Boston going up 1-0 after a number of chances provided to them by Leaf givaways. After the goal, though, something interesting happened. The Leafs began to… outplay… the Bruins? In the playoffs? What? Yeah, so much so that they ended up taking a 2-1 lead on a pair of Joffrey Lupul goals. I really believe that this was the turning point in the series for the Leafs, because from this point forward they were the better team 80% of the time. Anyways, the Leafers ended up taking this one 4-2 to even up the series at 1 a piece.
Game 3 – Boston (5) @ Toronto (2)
Now, the score is a little deceiving here, because the Leafs didn’t play that bad of a game. A couple key turnovers led to a few Bruin goals but other than that, the Leafs played a pretty solid game. It looked like they were a little nervous to be playing their first home playoff game in 9 years, and kind of realized that the pressure that accompanies playoff hockey in Toronto.
Game 4 – Boston (4) – Leafs (3) OT
This game might have been my favorite just because I had the opportunity to head down to Maple Leafs Square, along with 15 000 other Leaf fans, and watch the game outside. Just touching on MLSQ for a second, that might have been one of the best sport experiences I’ve ever been a part of. The fans down there are awesome and I know that if we make it to the postseason again next year, I’ll definitely be heading down for more than just one game. ANYWAYS, back to hockey. The Leafs came out strong, again, scoring 2 goals in the first period to take a quick lead. That didn’t last long. Boston came out gunning in the 2nd, scoring 3 goals to silence the crowd down at the ACC. At the end of the second, MaCarthur decides that he’s going to start scoring again and ties the game at 3′s. The score held up for the third which meant I got to witness probably the most fun, nerve-wracking, and inspirational thing in all of sports: Overtime NHL playoff hockey. There’s nothing better. I thought the Leafs had it won it off a shot by Frattin (I think) but luckily for Boston, it hit the post. A couple minutes passed, with not much going on, until ’that play’ happened. Let me just say, I love Phaneuf, so I’m not going to rip him at all. He knows it was a stupid play. It’s over and done with. Anyways, Phaneuf makes an ill-advised pinch, gets caught, O’byrne decides he feels like shitting the bed as well by just letting Krejci walk in, and Boston scores, giving them a commanding 3-1 series lead in a game that Toronto should have won.
Game 5 – Toronto (2) – Boston (1)
Leaf fans can thank the hell outta James Reimer for this one. He absolutely, 100% stole this game for us, which we needed badly. That save on Bergeron has to be one of the best stops of the playoffs, if not the season entirely. Honestly, I just wanted to make it past game 5 so we could say we did better than the habs, but man, was I in for a surprise.
Game 6 – Boston (1) – Toronto (2)
After learning that Tyler Bozak was going to be out for this one, I really felt like the leafs’ comeback was going to fall short. He was the only player on the entire team that could win a faceoff. This was exactly the kind of situation that made me regret the Leafs trading Steckel for pretty much nothing, and something that the Leafs are going to need to address during the off season. Either way, both teams played an extremely tight game, with the Leafs coming out on top, earning their first playoff win on home ice and forcing an all deciding game 7 in Boston the following night.
Game 7 – Boston (5) – Toronto (4) OT
At the beginning of the playoffs, I predicted that the Leafs would lose in 5 games, so the fact that they made it to a game 7 was enough for me. Something was different though; I actually had confidence in the clear underdog in this series. The game started off by completely shattering my hopes, with a goal off of a terrible Cody Franson turnover, bringing me back to the terrible memory of game one. But again, like from game 2 onward, the Leafs began to outplay the Bruins. Franson made up for his mistake, scoring the next 2 Leaf goals, giving us a 2-1 lead that we actually held all the way to the third. To start the third, the Leafs scored another 2 goals, taking a commanding 4-1 lead with only 10 minutes left to go. Since after game 2, I figured that if we we’re going to play that well, we’d only have to deal with the first 5 minutes of the first period and the last 5 minutes of the third and we’d be fine. That couldn’t have been more true in the most crucial game not only of the series, but arguably of the decade for the Leafs. With 10 minutes to go, Nathan Horton scored a pretty predictable goal, cutting the Leafs’ lead to 2. Personally, I wasn’t too worried, as the Leafs had protected 1 goal leads in each of the last 2 games. Another 8 or so minutes passed until Lucic put yet another goal past Reimer, cutting the lead to 1 with just under a minute and a half to go. Even though there wasn’t much time left on the clock, you could feel another goal coming… You just knew it was coming. Sadly, that was the case, as Patrice Bergeron scored on a screened Reimer from the point. If you told me at the beginning of the series that the Leafs would take Boston to game 7 OT, I’d take that in a heartbeat, but not that night. It felt as though we’d lost even though both teams had an even chance at winning. Long story short, 5 minutes into overtime, Patrice Bergeron scores and finishes what would end up being one of the greatest playoff comebacks in NHL history.
I literally felt sick after Bergeron scored that goal. It’s been 3 days and I still haven’t watched highlights from the game, and I don’t think I ever will. But when you think about it, this is what sports are all about… I went through every emotion possible while watching this game, and even though it ended up being one of the shittiest feelings ever, I’ll take that any day over another 9 years without the playoffs.
Honestly, I’m just glad I got to watch hockey this year.
With the announcement of a new CBA agreement reached this past weekend, hockey fans all over the world are ready to put their anger behind them and get ready for a new season. Everyone’s excited to be talking about ACTUAL hockey again, including myself, and not about the negotiations between the NHL and NHLPA. As focus shifts back to the ice, teams will have a one-week training camp to get their rosters in order. GM’s all over the league are scrambling to put their teams together, even more difficult with no pre-season games to play and shortened training camps. One GM who won’t be doing anything, however, is Brian Burke, the former GM and president of the Leafs.
Early Wednesday morning, Burke was relieved of his duties as general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs. After four seasons in Toronto, he was never able to take the Leafs to the playoffs, and never above 10th place in the Eastern conference. The GM taking over for Burke, Dave Nonis, has been the Leafs assistant GM since Burke came over from Anaheim back in 2008. This move comes as a shock to many, including Sportsnet analyst Brian Lawton who called the move just plain “weird”.
Burke made it fairly obvious in his press conference he was shocked by the news and disappointed he could never get the job done in Toronto. “There’s sometimes when you get fired and you see the vultures circling and you understand it’s coming,” he said. “You’re not sure when you’re going to drop dead in the desert, but it’s coming and you can see the vultures.” He also compared his situation to being hit by “a two-by-four upside the head”. Needless to say, he was not expecting this, and neither was anyone else. While there was some resentment towards the new owners for firing him, he did call the Maple Leafs the “Crown Jewel” of the NHL, saying that working in Toronto is “About what I expected. It’s the Vatican, it’s the biggest stage in pro hockey- maybe pro sports”. When Burke was asked about the goaltending situation for the leafs, he said “The good news is that’s not my problem anymore. We were exploring options to upgrade at a lot of different positions. I believe that had we not been able to upgrade (in goal), I believe in James Reimer (Maple Leafs current starting goaltender). I’ve said that and I think I’ll be borne out on that one. But it’s someone else’s problem now”. After a concussion to James Reimer early last season, he never really played the same. This has lead to people calling for the Leafs to make a move for a starting goalie, more specifically, Roberto Luongo.
For the past few months, there have been many rumors swirling that the Leafs were interested in acquiring all-star goaltender Roberto Luongo. It’s no secret that the Leafs have had issues in net, and if Burke could pull off this deal, it would certainly give the team a legitimate shot at the playoffs. Luongo, who signed a massive 12-year deal back in 2010, is being pushed out of town by up-and-coming goalie Cory Schneider. With Luongo not wanting to be a backup, and Toronto’s desperate need for a goaltender, a trade with the Vancouver Canucks seemed like a perfect match. There were a couple issues, however, surrounding these rumors. Firstly, Luongo has a No-Trade clause, putting him in charge of the team that he goes to. He’s made it public that he’d like to go back to Florida, the place where his family lives and the team he was with before being traded to Vancouver. It has also been said that Luongo doesn’t even want to come to Toronto, already trying to escape the pressure that surrounds him in Vancouver.
I have a lot of respect for Toronto, they are obviously part of the equation, there’s no denying that. But there’s a lot of things that can happen. I want to make sure I’m aware of all of the possibilities.
While the most likely case is that Luongo was just saying the right things to the media, not trying to hinder Vancouver GM Mike Gillis’ chances of trading him, there is a chance he’d welcome a trade to the Leafs. To make the trade, you need another partner, though, and that’s where Brian Burke comes in. From his self-imposed trade deadlines, to his ways of building his teams, Burke has always had controversial views on how to build a hockey club. One of his more famous beliefs, however, is his un-willingness to sign (or trade for) anyone with more than 5 years on their current contract or take on any players with back/front-loaded deals. This has lead to scrutiny by many, especially when he was un-willing to sign star free agent center Brad Richards to a lengthy contract. This reluctancy to take on players with these sorts of contracts may have lead to his firing. MLSE’s new owners, Rogers-Bell, bought the team in August of 2012. The thought is that they told Burke to get Luongo no matter what the cost, something that Burke clearly wasn’t comfortable with. This, along with 4 years of no playoffs and his relationship with the owners cost Burke his job.
This is where the story gets a little more interesting.
Dave Nonis, who took over for Burke in Toronto, has a previous relationship with Luongo. After Burke left as GM of the Canucks back in 2004, his assistant General Manager at the time, Dave Nonis, took over. His most notable move as GM of the Canucks? Acquiring goaltender Roberto Luongo, Lucas Krajicek and a 6th round pick for Todd Bertuzzi, Bryan Allen and Alex Auld.
In the 3 days its been since Nonis has taken over, the trade rumors have only picked up steam, with many experts insisting that Luongo is on his way out of Vancouver, and into the pressure cooker that is Toronto. Again, this is a goalie that led a prominent Canadian team to the Stanley cup finals, so would he be able to succeed in Toronto? Many believe that Luongo feels like he needs to prove himself, prove to the hockey community that he can still be the elite goaltender that he- and apparently the Leafs- think he is. It’s said that if you can succeed in Toronto, you can succeed anywhere, a saying that has proven to be true over the past few seasons. The Leafs haven’t had a true number one starting goalie since Ed Belfour all the way back in 2004. The arrival of Luongo in Toronto wouldn’t only bring a true elite-level goalie to Toronto, but it would also bring hope to a fan base starving for playoff action.
Over the past week, the Toronto Blue Jays have underwent a massive transformation. With the acquisitions they’ve made, its pretty exciting when you look at the possible lineup for next season.
1. Jose Reyes (SS)
2. Melky Cabrera (LF)
3. Jose Bautista (RF)
4. Edwin Encarnacion (1B)
5. Adam Lind (DH)
6. Brett Lawrie (3B)
7. Colby Rasmus (CF)
8. J.P Arencibia (C)
9. Emilio Bonafacio/Maicer Izturis (2B platoon)
1. Brandon Morrow
2. Josh Johnson
3. Ricky Romero
4. Mark Buehrle
5. J.A Happ
I love you, Alex Anthopoulos.
AA HAS JUST ACQUIRED R.A FREAKING DICKEY. ADD HIM TO THE ROTATION TOO
Unless you’re a sports fan living under a rock, you’ve heard about the gargantuan trade that sent Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes, Emilio Bonafacio and John Buck to Toronto in exchange for Yunel Escobar, Aideny Hecchavaria, Henderson Alvarez, Jeff Mathis and 3 prospects. Not only is this the biggest trade in Toronto Blue Jays franchise history, but as Buster Olney put it, one of the biggest trades in the history of Major League baseball. Obviously, the “biggest” trade money wise happened last year, with the Dodgers and Red Sox completing a deal that would send $200 million dollars worth of contracts in LA’s direction. The reason the Jays-Marlins deal is considered bigger is not only because of the $120 million in contracts on their way to T.O, but the long term effects that it will have on both franchises.
Last year in 2011, the Marlins went all out. They built a brand new publicly funded park worth $525 million, signed Jose Reyes to a 6 year, $106 million deal and Mark Buehrle to a four year $58 million contract. The fans truly, truly believed that they had a shot at the playoffs, but that clearly wasn’t the case. They finished 69-93, last in the NL east. This prompted Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria to ship out 3 of the clubs top players, including the aforementioned Reyes and Buherle. This has angered an already dwindling fan base, with talk from the fans about boycotting the season… Seriously. The deal is SO lopsided that there’s talk that Bud Selig, commissioner of Major League Baseball might veto the trade, although it seems extremely unlikely at this point. That’s how potentially detrimental this trade could be to the Marlins.
The Jays, on the other hand, benefit immensely from this trade. Crazy stat, before the trade was made, the odds of the jays winning the World Series were 100:1. After the trade? 15:1. Yeah. That’s the type of talent they’re getting back in this deal. What may be even better than this, however, is the fact that apparently the Boston Red Sox, yes, the Boston Red Sox made a pitch for a couple of these players. This is the team that basically stole John Farrell and the rest of the coaching staff. How nice does it feel to FINALLY come out on top over teams with double the payroll that we have? It feels frakin’ awesome. Also, remember when AA said he’d like to have all-stars at each position? Well don’t look now… But you’ve got Lawrie at 3rd, Reyes at short, Encarnacion at first, Bautista in right and if Rasmus can produce like he should be able to, there’s a potential all-star right there. Also, in my opinion, this makes the Jays one of the most dynamic offensive tams in the AL. When you look at the combination of speed they have on the bases to the number of power hitters they have in the lineup, it’s a scary thing to see for opposing pitchers. You’ve got guys like Davis, Gose, Reyes, Bonafacio, Lawrie and Rasmus who can all run, then you’ve got Bautista and Encarnacion, JP, and I guess you could include Rasmus again, waiting to knock them in. In addition to the hitters we acquired, Josh Johnson and Mark Buherle puts this rotation up there to Tampa Bay standards. Going in to this offseason, all Jays fans knew that starting pitching was a priority, and we believed that we might end up starting the season with an Edwin Jackson or Shaun Marcum. The fact that AA could swing a deal that brings two top tier pitchers to Toronto is a dream come true.
Another thing I love about this trade is that it shows the fan base that they won’t be lied to. Last year, in free agency, Jays fans wanted to go after the big names such as Fielder, Reyes, Buherle, etc. What the organization basically said was that once the fans start showing up to games, then they’ll spend money. Well, the fans showed up last season, and the organization definitely rewarded them with this deal. I honestly can’t remember I saw a Toronto fan base, including myself, this excited about am upcoming season.
“Alright, I’m pissed off!!! Plain & Simple”- Giancarlo Stanton
“Its a good day to be a bluejay!”- Jose Bautista
Yeah. Pretty much sums it up.
Over the past few days, there have been rumblings of Vince Carter wanting to return to where it all started… Toronto. Now, if you’re a Raptors fan, there are many feelings/memories associated with the name Vince Carter. The guy who scored the first basket at the Air Canada Center, the guy who lead the team to their first playoff series win in franchise history… The guy who stopped trying when he wanted out of Toronto. As a professional athlete, that’s one of the worst things you could possibly do, not only to your team, but to your fans as well. Lets go back to the 1998 draft when Toronto acquired the 6’6 guard out of UNC from the Golden State Warriors.
On June 24th, 1998, possibly the greatest Raptors trade of all time went down. Toronto traded their 4th pick, Antwan Jamison to the Golden State Warriors for a then 21 year old Vince Carter. Toronto had been in operation since 1995, not being able to win more than 30 games in each of their three previous seasons. In the shortened 50 game 1999 season, Carter was able to win rookie of the year, helping the team win almost 50% of their games. The next season, Carter really put Toronto on the map. He averaged 25.7 points a game, making the all star team and winning the annual Slam Dunk contest with his famous between the legs 360 dunk and his “Honey Dip” slam. This was also the first time the Raptors would appear in the playoffs, losing in 3 games to the New York Knicks.
Over the next few seasons, Carter would prove to be the franchise player that the Raptors initially envisioned, averaging over 23 points over the next 3 seasons, doubling the value of the Raptors and most importantly, making Toronto relevant in the NBA for the first time.
The next season would be the beginning of the end, in some ways. While Carter still had a productive season, averaging almost 25 points per game, he only played in 60 games. The team didn’t do very well without him, making it to the playoffs but losing in the first round. The next season, Carter got injured again, sending the Raptors into a free fall down the standings. From this point on, things were never the same in Toronto. Rumours began to surface about Vince’s desire to be with the Raptors and after a new coaching and managerial staff came in, Carter was dealt to the New Jersey Nets. Now, you’d think that when you deal your franchise player away, you’d get something of value in return. Instead, the raptors traded away the best player in franchise history for Alonzo Mourning, Eric Williams, Aaron Williams, and two future first round picks. Clearly, this is one of the most lopsided trades in recent memory… In favor of the Nets. To make matters worse, Alonzo Mourning didn’t even report to Toronto. This left a bad taste in many Raptors’ fans mouths as Carter left without leaving anything for the organisation that gave him everything.
Over the rest of his carrer, he could never really re-capture the magic that he had in Toronto. He is now 35, nearing the end of his career and has expressed his desire to return to the Raptors.
“If (Toronto) gave me the opportunity, I don’t even think I’d let them finish the question. Yes. I’m in.” Carter said. “Could I see it? Absolutely, I’d leave that up to the franchise. It all started in Toronto, I’d be a fool to ever forget that.”
This is what makes it so hard to hate the guy. He broke our hearts back in 2004, but has since managed to make amends for what he’s done. In several interviews, he’s praised the city of Toronto, the fans and the organization. Personally, I’d love to see him finish his career with the Raptors. Carter saying he would like his jersey retired, however, is a little too much for now.