Toronto Maple Leafs
I knew back in April we were sold fool's gold. The Jays looked awful coming out the gate, and there was no inkling that they would reverse course and actually compete for a playoff spot. By the end of April, it was going to take a minor miracle for my brother to win our $50 bet. On paper, he saw a playoff team. On the field, I saw a team that would be lucky to win 75 games.
Before I proceed, let me just say that it's perfectly okay to hate your favourite team. I'm a Jays fan and have been since '83, and I'll die a Jays fan, but that doesn't mean I need to wear blinders and love what I see. There have been Leafs teams in the past that I've hated, and I happen to hate the 2013 Toronto Blue Jays. That doesn't make me a traitor or a bad fan or a bandwagon jumper. That just makes me a realist.
The 2013 Toronto Blue Jays are limping to the finish line, buried in dead last in the AL East with a dismal .444 winning percentage. They threw in an extra wild card spot and we're still 16 games back. I find it very, very difficult to watch this team that seems to lack discipline, fundamentals and major league pitching. I'd rather stroll down to the local park and watch Little League.
When you hate your favourite team, you're left with one thing: hope. Having mortgaged the future for this crop of overpriced underachievers, there's little hope for 2014. In fact, it looks like the same team, complete with the same overrated underachieving manager. What's going to be different in 2014?
It's okay to hate your favourite team, so long as you don't adopt a new one. I'd never do that... it's not in my DNA. I'll be back next April, tuning in and grasping onto whatever hope I can salvage from this pitiful wreck.
In addition to locking up Tyler Bozak for five years ($21 million) the Leafs have signed David Clarkson to a seven-year deal worth $36.75 million.
Clarkson's 29-years old and scored 15 goals and 24 points for the New Jersey Devils in 48 games last season. He's a physical player who can score goals and he's a proud Toronto boy.
Not to mention he's definitely one of the best UFAs available this year. I like this deal.
When the Leafs traded Mike Brown to Edmonton, I became concerned. Were they eliminating Mikes from the team?
Earlier this week, the Maple Leafs used one of their compliance buyouts on Mike Komisarek, officially ending the Mike Komisarek era in Toronto. Earlier today, the Leafs used their last compliance buyout on Mikhail Grabovski. Mikhail, as you likely know, is just a Bulgarian / Belarusian / Russian Mike.
Two compliance buyouts and both used on Mikes. The systematic elimination of Maple Leaf Mikes continues...
The Toronto Maple Leafs have traded three draft picks to the Chicago Blackhawks for centre Dave Bolland. We'll give up #51 and #117 this year and our 4th round pick in 2014. Bolland, 27, scored the Stanley Cup-clinching goal for the Blackhawks less than a week ago.
We're still looking for a #1 centre, so if you're a #1 centre and interested in playing for the Leafs, David Nonis would like to have a word with you.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have acquired Los Angeles Kings backup goaltender Jonathan Bernier in exchange for forward Matt Frattin, backup goaltender Ben Scrivens and a second-round pick in either the 2014 or 2015 NHL Entry Draft.
I'm a big James Reimer fan, and the addition of Jonathan Bernier tells me Dave Nonis isn't sold on Reimer being a number one goalie. Bernier was stuck behind Jonathan Quick playing only 62 career regular-season games with the Kings, compiling a 29-20-6 record, .912 save percentage, 2.36 goals-against-average and six shutouts.
Is Bernier marginally better than Reimer or is he going to be another Toskala?
I still can't believe it...
You follow a team for decades... watch them in the preseason, catch every regular season game you can, then buckle up for the playoffs. Heading in, you have reasonable expectations. I thought Boston would beat us in 5 or 6. I never liked the matchup, in fact, I think it was the worst matchup possible.
Last night's collapse with a 4-1 lead in game seven and only 10 minutes left in the game was so cruel, so intensely painful, a day later I'm still stunned and totally bummed. I feel awful.... like a good friend just punched me in the gut. I still can't believe it happened.
I remember the loss to LA in the Campbell Conference finals. Game 7 was a devastating loss, with a finals against Montreal waiting in the wings, but this feel so much worse. Up 4-1, I was planning Leafs parties for the Leafs-Rangers series, a series in which we'd have home-ice advantage. I was so excited for my kids, my city and myself, a lifelong Leafs fan who jumped 4-feet in the air when Kadri scored.
I realize it was just a game, and when I step back and get perspective, I realize how silly it is that I feel this way, but this one hurts.
The first home team clinching game I recall was when George Bell squeezed the last out to clinch my Blue Jays the AL East in 1985. It wasn't until that next April, however, that we broke out the Diet Coke.
The Maple Leafs were awful in 1985-86, finishing 25-48-7. In the Norris Division, that was good enough for fourth and a matchup with the division winning Chicago Black Hawks.
It was only a best-of-three back then in the first round, and somehow, against all odds, the Leafs played superb hockey taking games one and two on the road. In game three, on April 12, 1986, my brothers and I watched Wendel Clark lead us to the sweep.
It was our first taste of the thrill a playoff series victory brought us, and we instinctively headed to the fridge for something to celebrate with. I remember we grabbed cans of Diet Coke and began spraying them at each other in celebration. Our Leafs were victorious and we were elated.
I'll never forget that first Leafs playoff round victory celebration and the Diet Cokes. I can't wait for tonight.
Back in January, I got a cease and desist letter from Brian Burke's lawyer on his behalf. You can read that letter in its entirety here.
I was sent that letter because this blog was hosting an anonymous comment alleging Brian Burke had an affair with Hazel Mae. The letter wanted me to do two things: remove the offending comment and reveal the IP address of the anonymous commenter. I removed the comment right away and decided not to reveal the IP address.
Yesterday, Brian Burke filed a lawsuit with B.C. Supreme Court against 18 people who left similar comments on forums and blogs. Burke doesn't know who these 18 people are, just their handles Poonerman, Sir Psycho Sexy, Slobberface, Loob, Steve, etc. Here's a statement from Burke's lawyer Peter Gall:
Brian has decided that it is time to stop people who post comments on the Internet from thinking they can fabricate wild stories with impunity. Brian is determined to find the authors of the lie about him and those who have circulated the lie.
Back in January, when this rumour was being shared via chain emails and on forums and blogs, I dismissed it as "scandalous speculation". Such rumours about people in the public eye are nothing new, and the complete lack of mainstream media coverage spoke volumes. By February, the rumour had all but disappeared.
Suddenly, thanks to Burke's defamation lawsuit, the story is being widely reported by the CBC, Toronto Star, Globe and Mail, CTV, Toronto Sun, Canadian Press and numerous other MSM news sources. Burke has the masses Googling for details about the rumour this morning. In essence, Burke is now experiencing the Streisand Effect:
The Streisand effect is the phenomenon whereby an attempt to hide, remove or censor a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely, usually facilitated by the Internet.
As I write this, I am not being sued by Brian Burke. I suspect that's because I didn't personally write about the rumour and willfully complied with the request to remove the comment. If I hadn't removed the comment from Anonymous, would Anonymous have been a 19th person included in this lawsuit? I have no idea.
I also have no idea how Burke will get damages from anonymous posters in online forums and blogs. Will a judge force the website owner to cough up the IP address? Were the IP addresses already voluntarily shared with Brian Burke's lawyer in response to a cease and desist letter like the one I got? And we all know an IP address won't reveal the commenter, only detail about the network they used to access the web when they wrote the comment. For example, the IP address might reveal the place where the commenter works or the commenter's ISP, but it would require a court order for the ISP to name the customer. And what about commenters who used public wifi networks? Or if the commenter simply jumped on a network belonging to a friend or neighbour? I have no idea how Burke can be successful here.
But one thing is certain... he's successful at making this a far bigger story than it would have been. It had fizzled out, as such rumours always do, and the CBC, Globe and Mail and other news sources had rightfully ignored it. But not anymore. Now Burke's made this a very interesting story and has Canadians from coast to coast searching for more scandalous details.
I'll be watching this story closely from a rather unique perspective. If I receive a summons, you'll read it here first.
It seems some are outraged that Maple Leaf home playoff tickets are 75% more expensive than regular season Leafs tickets. It doesn't bother me a bit.
They can charge a million dollars a ticket if they like, it just means I won't be buying any. That's my right. I don't have to buy Leafs tickets.
Then again, I find regular season Leafs tickets to be too expensive. I'll happily accept a free ticket to enjoy the game at the ACC, but it's been about a decade since I paid for a Leafs ticket. During that time I've paid to see the Argos, Raptors, Blue Jays and TFC, but not my Leafs.
But I can't wait to watch Maple Leaf playoff hockey from the comfort of my living room on CBC in HD. This is going to be fun.
When my Leafs defeated the Sens last night, we secured a playoff spot for the first time since 2004. That was nine long years ago.
So what's new? My favourite barometer for measuring our playoff drought is my daughter Michelle. She's turning nine this summer. The Leafs haven't played a playoff game since she was born.
The last time the Leafs played a playoff game, I was in my 20s. Really. I WAS IN MY 20s.
Sure, this blog was active, here's an entry about our last playoff game in which Karel Pilar scored a big goal before Mats Sundin scored late to force overtime. (That's right, I wrote Karel Pilar.) But there was no Twitter. There wasn't even YouTube. Facebook was just for Harvard students. And we all watched the Leafs in standard definition. And if you had a cell phone, it was likely not a smartphone. Compare the television and phone you owned in 2004 to the ones you use today.
I big tradition in my family has always been my brothers (and sometimes mom) coming over to watch Leafs playoff games. We'd all wear our jerseys and go crazy for the blue and white. Neither of my brothers had kids last time we did this. Now they both do, and just like my daughter, one of my nephews is almost nine.
I could go on.... nine years is a long time. What matters now is that the drought is officially over. The Leafs are in the playoffs and playing a fun brand of hockey I've enjoyed all season. But make no mistake... if we're going to advance a round or two, it will be because of this remarkable young man.
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