Toronto's Next Champion

CN TowerAn article in today's Star from Garth Woolsey has me thinking about Toronto's next championship team. Excluding the Argos and Rock, which franchise will next win it all?

The Leafs haven't won since 1967 and appear further and further from this goal every game they play. The Raptors have never come close but may have a bright future with Bryan Colangelo in charge and Chris Bosh getting better each week. The Blue Jays haven't won since 1993 but spent a great deal of Teddy's coin this past off season and have a better than decent chance of making the playoffs for the first time since '93. Which of these three teams will win our next championship?

Right now, I'd bet on the Blue Jays, but I honestly don't think any of these teams will win it all in the next decade. In my dreams MLSE guts the pig and instills a sensible strategy for becoming a world beater by 2010. Then, with James old enough to appreciate it and Michelle old enough to cheer along, we win it all in an Olympic year which has Team Canada winning gold.

It could happen.

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Take Five

Blue JaysWith the signing of free-agent catcher Bengie Molina to a one-year deal worth $4.5 million US with a mutual option for 2007 worth $7.5 million or a $500,000 buyout, Toronto Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi has now made five significant upgrades to the roster. Right-handed starter A.J. Burnett, closer B.J. Ryan, third baseman Troy Glaus and first baseman Lyle Overbay are the other four.

Last season, Molina posted career-bests with a .295 batting average, .336 on-base percentage and 15 homers with the Los Angeles Angels. He also hit 17 doubles with 69 RBIs in 119 games. He's also one of the best defensive catchers in the game and pitching and defense still win championships, right?

I'm psyched about our '06 season. I smell an honest to goodness pennant race. I can't wait to watch our magic number again and play games that matter in September.

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Super Bowl XL: Pittsburgh Steelers 21, Seattle Seahawks 10

NFLIn my adult life, I've never watched so little NFL action as I did during this past season. I saw the Colts blow their undefeated season, I saw the Colts lose in the playoffs and I watched yesterday's Super Bowl.

My interest in the NFL began to wane when my Buffalo Bills cut Doug Flutie. Then, there was this epiphany. I watch every Leafs game, a number of Jays games and a Raptor game here and there. Football, always number four on my depth chart, took the biggest hit when I began to procreate.

Yesterday's game wasn't a particularly good one. There were a few big plays, including a 43-yard chuck for a touchdown from wideout Antwaan Randle El, but for the most part Ben Roethlisberger and the gang were underwhelming. I'd say Pittsburgh didn't win their fifth Super Bowl but Seattle lost their first.

Once again us Canucks missed out on most of the best ads, but that's why Al Gore invented the Internets. Ever since Janet exposed her nipple jewelry the half time shows have been ultra safe. Now we have the Rolling Stones boring us to death and going so far as to remove the line "you make a dead man come" from "Start Me Up". Who's on tap for next year, dc Talk?

The Bus has made his last stop a successful one, winning it all in his home town. Jerome Bettis is the reason I was rooting for the Steelers. Satisfaction.

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Maple Leafs 4, Devils 2

Go Leafs Go!For a while, this game looked a lot like this one. We jumped out to a 3-0 lead and sat back while the opposition made a run. This time, Ed Belfour shone bright and we held on for a badly needed two points.

Current Record  Last Games Season Leaders
57 points
3rd in Northeast
4-2 Win vs. New Jersey
4-1 Loss vs. Washington
3-2 Loss vs. Tampa Bay
B. McCabe - 50
J. Allison - 46
T. Kaberle - 43

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Maple Leafs 1, Capitals 4

Go Leafs Go!I thought the Leafs did a really good job neutralizing Alexander Ovechkin. He took a number of big hits, had an angry Bryan McCabe in his face all day and had little room to work his magic. Unfortunately, there were other Capitals on the ice who made us look like a team that's 1-8-2 in its last 11 games.

There was a neat little brawl in the first period when Ovechkin crashed into Ed Belfour. McCabe cross checked the intruder, Belfour slapped him upside the head a couple of times and Olie Kolzig stormed the length of the ice to take on our goalie. McCabe managed to get one last sucker punch on Ovechkin and somehow, against all odds, we ended up with a powerplay.

It was a chippy fair with another dismal result. Boston, of all teams, sits one point back of our final playoff spot. At some point, wins may be required to play in the second season.

Current Record  Last Games Season Leaders
55 points
3rd in Northeast
4-1 Loss vs. Washington
3-2 Loss vs. Tampa Bay
4-2 Win vs. Florida
B. McCabe - 49
J. Allison - 44
T. Kaberle - 41

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The Big D, Dion Phaneuf

Hockey CanadaTeam Canada's blue line has injury issues. Ed Jovanovski is a no-go and Scott Niedermayer may have to withdraw as well. When the team was announced back in December, I proposed adding another defenseman outright. I wanted Dion Phaneuf in Turin.

I hope The Great One realizes the time is now for this exceptional youngster. Team Canada will be a stronger force with Phaneuf than without him.

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Maple Leafs 2, Lightning 3

Go Leafs Go!Despite having lost nine of their last ten games, the Leafs are still in decent shape to make the playoffs. We're currently sitting in the 8th and final spot with a three point lead over Montreal, Boston and Atlanta. Montreal actually has a couple of games in hand, but the way they're playing that's unlikely to make much of a difference.

The fact Carolina is going gang busters means Ottawa will probably not be the top dog in the East. This is good for Leaf fans. Should we finish 8th we'd have the Hurricanes in the first round and not the Sens. I'm not interested in tempting fate and would rather avoid a first round series against Hasek and the gang.

Current Record  Last Games Season Leaders
55 points
3rd in Northeast
3-2 Loss vs. Tampa Bay
4-2 Win vs. Florida
4-3 Loss vs. Montreal
B. McCabe - 49
J. Allison - 44
T. Kaberle - 41

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Dave Andreychuk

NHLDave Andreychuk cleared waivers this afternoon. This most likely marks the end of the road for the 42-year-old.

He broke into the NHL way back in 1982 while playing for the Sabres, but I'll always remember him for his brief stint with the blue and white. He arrived in 1992-93 with Darren Puppa in a trade for Grant Fuhr and immediately gelled with playmaker Doug Gilmour. Finally, there was a pure goal scorer to receive Dougie's sweet passes and light the lamp. In 1993-94, Andreychuk scored 53 goals becoming only the third Leaf to surpass 50 in a single season. He was a massive reason why we reached the final four two years in a row and I was bummed when we traded him to New Jersey in 1996 for a couple of lousy draft picks.

Here's my autographed picture of #14. I gave him a holiday named in his honour in May 2004 and celebrated D. A. Day a couple of weeks later. He gave the NHL 23 great years and he will be missed.

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The Raphael In All Of Us

HockeyA guy known only as Raphael jumped on the ice during a Montreal Canadiens practice and shot a puck at Jose Theodore. He was in full hockey equipment and just wanted to show off his skills by scoring on a great goalie.

This guy is a freakin' hero to thousands of us schlubs who had the heart and determination but lacked the talent to play at an elite level. As a kid I used to dream about playing pro baseball and hockey. Just once I wanted a chance to try and steal a big league base, track a ball down at the warning track, dish off a pretty pass to my winger or take a shot at an NHL goaltender. Who amongst us has the balls to go for it, in spite of obvious talent deficiencies. Who has the courage to lace up the skates, put on the uniform, pull on the helmet, jump the boards and take that shot? Raphael did.

There are those who watch, those who sport a blue tutu, and those who actually take a shot. There's a little Raphael in all of us. I just wish he scored.

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Twenty Years Ago Tonight

RewindHas it been twenty years already? I have vivid memories of watching the Maple Leafs-Oilers game that took place on January 8th, 1986. The reason I remember the game so well is because of what transpired that night when my lowly Leafs met the best team in the league at Maple Leaf Gardens.

It was a shootout at the OK Corral. The high scoring Edmonton Oilers scored 9 goals against us, including three from The Great Wayne Gretzky, but we didn't lose that night. In fact, we won by a couple as Miroslav Frycer scored four of our 11 goals. The combined total of 20 goals in a game for two teams was the second-highest in NHL history and I distinctly remember the commentator rooting for another goal so the record could be matched.

It wasn't often we beat the mighty Oilers back then and it was thrilling for this twelve year old to watch our boys in blue beat 'em 11-9. It was probably the most exciting game I'd ever witnessed until this one which closed out the decade.

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