Thursday, July 30, 2009

Signs that you too may be getting hockey advice from a deranged homeless person

Hire him. This guy looks legit.
The strangest story of the week came out of Pittsburgh, where we learned the sad tale of a troubled homeless man who had been sending Mario Lemieux tips on how to better run the Penguins.

While this was clearly an extreme case, the fact remains that those in positions of power in the NHL are surrounded on all sides by people offering them advice. And unfortunately, not all of those people are going to be all there.

In an attempt to help out the NHL's power elite, here are a dozen signs that the person giving you hockey advice may in fact be a crazy homeless person.
  • His entire offensive gameplan consists of teaching your players how to do the breakaway move from NHL '94.

  • Whenever the team is faced with a difficult financial decision, he suggests calling Sergei Fedorov for advice.

  • He's started a petition to have the Maple Leafs adopt a new uniform that would feature their old vintage style jersey and no pants.

  • He spends eight hours a day hanging out in front of his mail box waiting for a qualifying offer from Dale Tallon.

  • He suggests that the team start new a playoff tradition by encouraging fans to mark key moments of crucial games by throwing an octomom on the ice.

  • He was the one who convinced you to give Chris Pronger a seven year extension.

  • He repeatedly suggests that "Maybe you should run that one by Mr. Wang", but you don't work for the Islanders.

  • The only job he lists on his resume is "Senior public relations consultant to Dany Heatley".

  • For some reason, he's wearing Chris Nilan's bathing suit under his clothes.

  • He keeps going on and on about how the Leafs should sign Chris Durno.

  • His laptop is full of downloads titled "Sideline reporter naked peephole video", but they're all of Pierre McGuire.

  • Every time he has a difficult decision to make, you catch him staring at his "WWJFJD?" bracelet.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Etiquette tips for the Jason Spezza wedding

The happy couple.
The big talk in Ottawa this week has been about the Jason Spezza wedding, and the question of how the media should handle an appearance by Dany Heatley. Local media debated the delicate question of whether it was appropriate to use the occasion to ask Heatley about his trade demands.

That question is moot now, since Heatley has decided not to show up. But the wedding will still be a major social event featuring plenty of NHL personalities, and that means there will be any number of etiquette questions that attendees may need help sorting through.

I know that several DGB readers are planning to attend this weekend's ceremony. So to help avoid any embarrassment, here's a handy etiquette guide. Feel free to print it out and take it with you.

No matter how adorable he looks in his little tuxedo, DO NOT tell Cory Clouston that you're sure he'll do a great job as ring boy.

DO NOT linger and stare at Wade Redden as he hands out programs at the front door, even though it will be the first time you've seen him actually do anything in two years.

If you see a hockey player who's sobbing and crying constantly, DO NOT assume that they're overcome with the emotion of the ceremony. It could also be Sidney Crosby.

When Bryan Murray is invited up to do the traditional readings from Ephesians, Colossians and Ecclesiastes, DO put on your raincoat.

When Spezza makes his vow to remain forever faithful, DO NOT laugh when Daniel Alfredsson leans over and whispers "I guarantee it".

DO be understanding if there's confusion on the groom's side during the exchange of rings. Remember, they're Ottawa Senators -- none of them have ever seen a ring before.

When the minister delivers his sermon on the importance of honoring commitments, DO NOT interrupt him to point out that the phrase "overpaid, one-eyed, gap-toothed, cherry picking glory boy" does not actually appear in the bible.

If you see Brian Burke at the reception, DO alert security. He wasn't invited, he just automatically shows up anywhere he thinks there might be a live microphone.

DO NOT get stuck behind Kyle Wellwood in the buffet line. This isn't really etiquette, but it will prevent you from starving to death.

Occasional place setting mixups are to be expected at a crowded reception. DO NOT make a big deal out of the fact that everyone has a cup except Marian Hossa.

No matter how nice his tuxedo looks, DO NOT ask Mike Comrie which ventriloquist supply store he got it at.

If you are seated next to Mike Fisher and Carrie Underwood, DO NOT repeatedly refer to her as "the poor man's Jessica Simpson". One time is enough.

If the bride informs you that they're planning an extended honeymoon in August, DO NOT create an awkward situation by turning to Spezza and saying "Wait, won't that interfere with you attending the Canadian Olympic team training camp?"

If you run into Martin Gerber at the reception, DO NOT ask him if he enjoyed the ceremony. He's actually just there to bus tables.

If you are Eugene Melnyk, no matter how much you want to create a sense of excitement and team spirit, DO NOT hire the gladiator guy to stand next to Spezza's honeymoon bed shouting "RISE UP!"

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Maple Leafs Overtime Heroes: Gary Roberts vs the Senators

Maple Leafs Overtime Heroes is an ongoing series where we'll look back at memorable Leaf playoff overtime goals. Today's goal is Gary Roberts' triple overtime winner against the Senators in game two of their 2002 playoff series.

In the opening game of their 2002 second round series, the Ottawa Senators handed the Maple Leafs their most lopsided playoff loss of the modern era.

Oh sure, there have been games with a bigger margin of victory than that night's 5-0 Sens win. But anyone who saw the game would know that it could have been much worse. The Senators scored all five goals by the midway mark of the second period, and then shut it down. If they'd wanted to, they could have won 10-0 that night. It was that bad.

So heading into game two, the Leafs were already facing a must-win. With a long list of injured players that included captain Mats Sundin, it would have been all but impossible for Toronto to come back from a 2-0 series deficit. After all, they would be playing the next two games in Ottawa in front of 19,000 rabid fans, almost half of whom would have been cheering for the Senators.

No momentum. No captain. No hope. And no choice but to find some way, any way, to win.

Hmm... what would Gary do?

Let's review the tape:

The goal
Not much to talk about here, since the goal takes exactly two seconds. Let's just saw it's awful, and move on to everything that happens after.

Patrick Lalime's reaction
When we looked at the Mike Foligno overtime goal, I credited Tim Cheveldae with one of the great overtime "losing goaltender sprint off the ice" moves of all-time.

If you've ever wondered why goalies do that, here's Patrick Lalime to show you the alternative. As soon as the goal goes in, he does everything short of put a gun in his mouth.

Now I always thought Lalime got a bad rap from Ottawa fans, since we would have need a GAA of -1.00 to outduel Curtis Joseph or Eddie Belfour. But dear lord, Patrick, pull yourself together and get off the ice. The Sens were a young team, and nothing says "we don't really think we can win" like a goaltender who responds to one bad goal like my two-year-old realizing the Dora DVD has ended.

Of course, Lalime would later top himself in game seven of the 2004 series when he reacted to Joe Nieuwendyk's second goal by slumping to his knees, screaming something, then crawling over the zamboni and wrapping his lips around the tailpipe.

Wade Redden
Still not the worst thing a Senator has
ever put up their nose
Wade Redden
The clearcut highlight of the entire video is the shot at 0:30 of Wade Redden sitting on the bench with his finger up his nose, reacting to the goal by saying something that looks vaguely like "that's freaking great". Don't read lips, kids!

By the way, "Wade Redden sitting on the bench with his finger up his nose" was the title of the New York Rangers 2008-09 year in review DVD.

Ken Dryden clapping
I need to get this off my chest: What the hell was the deal with the way Ken Dryden clapped? This always bothered me. It was always the same: angry face, way too much intensity, hands held uncomfortably high, and just slamming his palms together with no coordination at all.

How is it possible to look so uncool when you're clapping? Are we sure this guy was one of the greatest players of his generation? Is it possible he died in 1999 and the Leafs replaced him in the press box with a badly made life-sized puppet?

Rod Bryden
You're with me, pleather.
Rod Bryden's jacket
I don't even have a punchline.

But I do have questions, such as: Where did he get that jacket? Is there some sort of "custom made novelty leather jacket" store that only rich people have access to? Has anyone other than Rod Bryden and Michael Jackson ever appeared in public wearing a bright red leather jacket? And where is that jacket now, is it for sale, and how much do you want for it?

Walter Gretzky?
Wait, is that Walter Gretzky appearing for a brief moment in a crowd shot? This guy is practically hockey royalty. Quick, everyone be on their best behavior! And for god's sake, don't let the mascot try to hump anything!

Carlton the Beat humping the glass
Yes, OK, so Carlton humps the glass at 2:00. Look folks, he's a bear. He has instincts. If you're going to hire a bear to be part of your game day marketing staff, this is just part of the deal. If the Leafs didn't think that was acceptable behavior, they shouldn't have let him walk around wearing a jersey and no pants.

The Most Obscure Guy in the Pile
I'm launching a new feature: "The Most Obscure Guy in the Pile", where we look at famous celebrations and try to pick out the most insignificant player involved.

Our inaugural winner is... Anders Eriksson! He's the guy wearing #44 and giving Roberts an extended head rub. This completely useless defenceman played 38 career games for the Leafs, recorded no goals and two assists, was once traded for Chris Chelios, and recently won the coveted "Most Swedish Name of All-time" award. There's at least a 90% chance that Roberts has no idea who he is.

Congratulations, Anders! Now get off the ice. And, um, you may not want to brush up against the glass on your way out.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Should the Maple Leafs change logos?

Toronto Maple Leafs logoIs it time for the Maple Leafs to update their famous logo? Some fans think they do, and they've started a web site and petition to make their case.

To be clear, the idea isn't to create a new logo. Instead, the petition is calling for the Leafs to go back to the 1930's style Maple Leaf currently found on their alternate jerseys, and drop the "modern" version that's based on the Canadian flag.

The basic argument seems to go like this:

  • The modern version is associated with the Ballard era, the darkest period in Leafs history.
  • The old version has as much (or more) tradition behind it, and was worn for 10 of the Leafs' 11 Cups.
  • Everyone seems to like the alternate jerseys better these days, so why not make them permanent?
What do you think? I posed the question on twitter today and the feedback was mixed.

The more I think about it, the more I'm leaning towards keeping the current leaf. Here's why:

It's simple - There's something to be said for simplicity in a logo. These days, every team seems to want to create some overly-complicated monstrosity, full of hidden symbolism and influences (as no doubt explained to team executives in a powerpoint presentation delivered by some guy wearing horn-rimmed glasses and outrageously complex facial hair).

I've always thought that a good logo should be able to pass this test: can a little kid draw it on his pencil case? The modern 11-point leaf can, with a little practice. The 1930s version? Not so much.

(Do kids today even have pencil cases? Do they still know how to use pencils? Do I need to update my rule to something like "does it look good as a small icon for an app on a five-year-old's iphone"? Get off my lawn.)

I have about 8,000 items with the old logo in my house - Seriously, it's everywhere. Bottle openers, salt and pepper shakers, pillows... Apparently when you're Christmas shopping for a Leafs fan, you just buy the first thing you see with a logo on it and move on.

What I'm trying to say is that I don't feel like replacing every item in my house. And I think my personal convenience needs to be a priority for everyone on this one.

It's all about the flag - Have you ever stopped to really think about the fact that the Maple Leafs' logo is a direct ripoff of our national flag? That, my friends, takes some serious grapefruits. Even the Yankees and Cowboys don't go stealing national symbols.

And as a Leaf fan living in hostile territory, I can tell you that the flag thing drives non-Leaf fans crazy. And if you can convincingly pretend that you think the Canadian flag is actually based on the Maple Leafs logo and not the other way around, there's a 50% chance the other fan will have a stroke on the spot. That has to be worth something, right?

So that's my argument: the current logo is better because it's simple, it's all over my house, and it annoys people. I think I'm on pretty solid ground here, but I'm open to being swayed.

What do you think?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A look ahead at the Maple Leafs 2009-10 schedule

The Maple Leafs 2009-2010 schedule was released today. And since we already have a pretty good idea what all the rosters will look like next year, that means I could spend the afternoon loading everything into the top-secret DGB supercomputer to find out what will happen.

After several hours of flashing lights and whirring noises, I had my answer. Based on today's schedule, here are several highlights from the upcoming Leafs season.

(Warning: The following contains spoilers. If you want to be surprised, stop reading now.)

October 1 - The Leafs play the Montreal Canadiens in the season opener. Sadly, the traditional intermission "timbits" game is ruined when Bob Gainey wanders onto the ice and offers everyone contracts.

October 3 - The Leafs head to Washington. Hoping to catch the Capitals off guard, Ron Wilson gives Justin Pogge the surprise start in net. In a related story, Alexander Ovechkin becomes the first player in the league to reach the 50 goal mark.

October 10 - The Leafs host the Stanley Cup champion Penguins. Unfortunately, Evgeni Malkin and Tyler Kennedy are forced to miss the game after coming down with a bad case of the Schenn Flu.

October 17 - The Leafs host the Rangers, and get their first look at the newly acquired Dany Heatley. "I know some fans don't support me," says Heatley, "but I'm just thrilled to be playing hockey again."

October 17 - 24 - After a gruelling half-month of hockey, the NHL's schedule makers decide that the Leafs need a full week off. Gary Bettman defends the move by explaining "We sensed that fans were really starting to get excited about hockey, and wanted to nip that in the bud."

November 1 - 30 - The Leafs play 13 games during the month. Ron Wilson calls for a stick measurement in every single one, just to annoy Howard Berger.

November 13 - The Leafs head to Chicago for their only game of the season against their longtime rivals. In other Blackhawk news, Dale Tallon starts to get a sinking feeling that he forgot to register his kids for school.

December 7 - Nik Antropov and Pavel Kubina return to Toronto as members of the Atlanta Thrashers. After hours of answering questions about what it was like to play in Toronto, how exciting it was to play in a city that cares about hockey, and how difficult it is now to play in front of so few fans, they finally tell Ilya Kovalchuk to just be quiet and wait for free agency.

December 9 - The Leafs host the Islanders. During an intermission interview, John Tavares attempts to blink out a message asking someone to come rescue him.

December 14 - In a game that recalls the infamous "Flu Game" of 2004, the Leafs are awarded a forfeit win after the Ottawa Senators refuse to take the ice in what will later be known as the "Schenn Flu Game".

December 16 - The Leafs host the Phoenix Coyotes. Jim Balsillie buys every ticket, sits in the front row, and spends the entire game lighting cigars with $100 bills while giving the camera the finger.

December 26 - The Leafs host the Montreal Canadiens on Boxing Day. That ends up being somewhat ironic, since there are several incidents of fisticuffs during the game. And also because every player on the Canadiens goes home in a pine box.

January 8 - The Leafs kick off a four-game homestand with a game in Buffalo.

January 26 - The LA Kings make their only visit to Toronto. Brian Burke leaves early, presumably to catch a flight as he's seen dragging a heavy duffel bag out of the arena. In an unrelated story, the Kings report that Brayden Schenn has gone missing.

January 29 - February 5 - The Leafs play Jacques Lemaire and the Devils three times in one week. Leaf fans look back fondly on that comparatively thrilling week in October when there weren't any games.

February 8 - The Leafs host the Sharks, and get their first look at the newly acquired Dany Heatley. "It's unfortunate that things didn't work out in New York," Heatley says, "but I'm happy to be in San Jose because I'm all about the team."

February 12 - The NHL breaks for the Olympics games, a grueling three-week tournament featuring the very best players from around the world. Or, as the entire Maple Leafs roster calls it, "February".

March 11 - The Leafs host the Lightning, and get their first look at the newly acquired Dany Heatley. "I really think this will be a good fit," Heatley says. "When do the world championships start?"

March 13 - Prior to playing the Leafs, the Edmonton Oilers assure everyone that they're still totally in on the Dany Heatley sweepstakes.

April 4 - The World Health Organization declares Schenn Flu to be a global pandemic. They advise anyone who has ever thought about bodychecking a Leafs player to remain in an underground bunker for the next 15-20 years.

April 7 - The Maple Leafs are mathematically eliminated from the 2011 playoffs.

April 10 - On their way back to Toronto after the season finale, the Leafs stop at a McDonalds drivethru and get their first look at the newly acquired Dany Heatley. "I really think I handled everything well this year," says Heatley. "Would you like fries with that?"

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Maple Leafs Overtime Heroes: Mike Foligno vs. the Red Wings

This post kicks off a new series where we'll occasionally look back at memorable Leaf playoff overtime goals. Today's goal is Mike Foligno's winner against the Red Wings in game five of the 1993 playoffs, which gave the Leafs a 3-2 series lead.

Any Leaf fan over the age of 25 should remember Mike Foligno's overtime goal against the Red Wings. Probably the most famous goal of Foligno's long career, it served as turning point in the Leafs' eventual series win that launched the rebirth of the Leafs as quasi-contenders.

Heading into game five in Detroit, the series had been predictable: the heavily favored Wings had won two blowouts at home, while the underdog Leafs had won two squeakers at MLG. Mid-way through the game it seemed like the pattern would hold, as the Leafs were trailing 4-1.

Thanks to a furious comeback by the Leafs and some Toskalish goaltending by Tim Cheveldae, the two teams went to overtime for the first time in the series. And just two minutes in, this happened:

The video pretty much speaks for itself, and I could just end the post here. But I hope everyone realizes by now that that's not the way things work around these parts.

No, instead we're going to analyze the entire clip in ridiculous detail. Here are nine interesting things about this goal:

Probert's giveaway
The play starts with one of the worst overtime giveaways in recent memory. Bob Probert has an easy path out of the Wings zone, but sees a check coming from Foligno and throws the puck carelessly along the blueline instead.

Now a lot of people will criticize Probert for this one, but I'm going to defend him. Put yourself in his position. He's trying to make a play along the boards when out of the corner of his eye he sees somebody skating towards him wearing a Maple Leafs jersey with the numbers "1" and "7" on it.

Every other time this happened to Probert in his career, he spent the next few days trying to poop out shards of his own teeth. So I don't think you can blame him for going into full-on panic mode here. I think he actually showed a lot of restraint by not finding the nearest exit, sprinting down the hallway and pulling the first fire alarm he saw.

Anyways, the puck slides almost all the way across the ice before two players converge on it.

Clark vs. Lidstrom
Yes, that's a young Nik Lidstrom trying to stop Wendel Clark along the boards. Clark winds up with the puck. Lidstrom winds up with a nicely framed diploma, because he gets taken to school.

Here's an approximate transcript of Nik Lidstrom's thought process on this play:

"Here comes the puck, I should probably go and... oh god almighty, here comes Wendel. OK, stay calm. Hook him. Hook him again. Don't make eye contact. Hook him a third time. He's not stopping. Dear god why isn't anybody helping me? Now he just slammed on the brakes and left me standing here by myself. Good, I'm going to just aimlessly skate backwards and let somebody else deal with this. Hey, did somebody just pull a fire alarm?"
After Clark is done shrugging off a terrified Lidstrom he spins back and executes a backhanded saucer pass to a streaking Foligno, who Clark was no doubt able to spot because of...

Foligno's helmet
Three things you need to know about Mike Foligno's helmet.
  • He made it himself out of an old salad bowl.
  • It had a white stripe around it for absolutely no reason.
  • For his entire Leafs career, it was always a slightly different shade of blue than everyone else's
And yes, I listed those in increasing order of how much they annoyed me. And still do.

The goal
Not much to say about this one, except to point out that Cheveldae executes one of the great overtime "losing goaltender sprint off the ice" moves of all-time. I love those.

There are only two types of athletes who are allowed to react to crushing defeat by storming away as quickly as they can: sobbing five-year-olds whose parents signed them up for sports against their will, and NHL goaltenders. And when they build a hall of fame for losing goalie sprints, the first inductee will be Ed Belfour.

Wait, what was I talking about? Oh right. Moving on...

The Foligno Leap
Every Leaf fan knows the Foligno Leap, and at least 25% have suffered a serious ACL injury trying to replicate it.

But here's a question: why did Mike Foligno have his own patented goal celebration? Has any other player in NHL history had a specific goal celebration that was unique ot them? I don't mean one-time deals like Ovechkin's hot stick or Selanne's air rifle, I mean specific celebrations that they did every single time they scored. I can't think of any.

Doesn't that seem odd to you? Journeyman grinder Mike Foligno somehow became the only player to get his own patented celebration. This would be like if the only NFL wide receiver to ever do an endzone celebration was Waybe Chrebet. And yet everyone in the hockey world was fine with this.

So Foligno does his leap, the Leafs pile onto the ice, and we get a rare sighting of...

Darren Puppa
Is it me, or is Puppa a little bit too involved in the post-goal celebration? He's only been on the team for a few weeks, but he's right in there, aggressively looking for somebody to hug but not finding any takers.

True story: I was once at a wedding reception with Darren Puppa. A friend and I decided to play a game called "how many reception pictures can you take that have Darren Puppa somewhere in the background?" After a few drinks, we were basically posing for pictures in his lap.

He probably hates me.

Alright then, moving on...

Todd Gill's celebration
This was an important goal scored by the Leafs during the 1990s, so you're no doubt assuming that Todd Gill was on the ice. And he was, as you can see on the right-side of the screen during the replay at the 0:50 mark.

Watch his reaction. When the goal goes in, Gill raises his arms in the air and appears to do a 360-degree twirl. He doesn't head for Foligno, or towards another teammate. He just stays where he is and spins around by himself.

It's a bizarre was to react to a goal, but it felt vaguely familiar to me. And then it hit me: arms raised... random spinning... no interaction with teammates...

Todd Gill is doing the goal celebration from NHL '93!

The only thing missing is an occasional fist pump, an annoying siren, and my college roommate desperately trying to check him headfirst into the boards from behind and then making me watch the replay of that seven hundred times.

Pat Burns' reaction
This is the single greatest "holy crap, I can not believe we actually won" reaction of all time. Burns doesn't even try to contain it. He can not believe the Maple Leafs actually won this game.

He's still smiling a minute later as the players are coming off the ice. He's in such a good mood that we get to see a series of awkward high five attempts, even though Burns is holding either a pen or a Virginia Slim cigarette. I think you can tell which players on the team were cool by how they react to the high-five. Doug Gilmour handles it smoothly, while Mike Krushelnyski has no idea what to do.

Also, Burns is wearing suspenders. I don't know why this makes it so much better, but it does.

The old man strut
At the very end of the clip, you can see Foligno leave the ice and walk into the dressing room. Except he doesn't walk. He lets out some sort of warrior scream, then proceeds to strut into the dressing room like he's Ric Flair fighting a stomach flu.

As an added bonus, Kent Manderville tries to leap into Foligno's arms but mistimes it and winds up awkwardly landing by himself.

Homework assignment: at some point this week, you must enter a room strutting like Mike Foligno. And that includes the pre-strut scream. I'd suggest a crowded elevator, a church service, or a conference room at work during a meeting you were not invited to. Report back here when done.

Update: Commenter kidkawartha adds a tenth moment: at 0:42, does Foligno seem to be... um... "getting to know" Bob Rouse?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Leafs/Canucks tampering case: Another fake NHL outrage

From this point on, the Sedins
will be sleeping in these.
It's ... the hockey world's most annoying new trend: fake outrage. And it doesn't take much these days to get hockey fans up on their soap boxes.
Me, from a June 14 post

And here we go again.

Yes, it's mid-July and there's nothing to talk about in the NHL, so somebody somewhere needs to drum up a fake controversy to give us all something to shout at each other about.

And right on queue, here comes the Vancouver media. Lead by Jason Botchford of the Vancouver Province, they're desperately trying to whip up a frenzy over Ron Wilson and the Leafs tampering with the Sedin twins.

This all stems from Wilson's June 30 appearance on a Toronto radio station. During a discussion on potential free agent targets, he specifically mentioned the Sedins by name.

The Sedins never even made it to free agency, resigning with Vancouver the next morning (as Burke has already pointed out). But, the argument goes, Wilson's comments could have been used as leverage in last-minute negotiations. This may not have cost the Canucks the twins, but it could have cost them a lot of money.

There's a problem with that theory: by Blotchford's own reporting, the Sedin's had already received matching 5 year, $30M offers from the Canucks before Wilson ever opened his mouth. Hours before free agency began, the twins were able to negotiate themselves all the way up to ... 5 years and $30.5M.

That's right: a difference of $500K each. Total. Less than 2% of the value of the contract.

Not even enough money per year between the two of them to sign a single player to league-minimum deal. Less money than Kyle Wellwood spends in a week on Swiss Chalet dipping sauce.

And that's not even the biggest hole in the story. The entire premise of Blotchford's little scandal rests on the idea that, until Wilson opened his mouth, nobody knew the Leafs might target the Sedins.

But everybody knew. Just about every hockey outlet on the planet had spent weeks speculating about whether Burke would land the Sedins.

But we're supposed to believe that the idea had never occurred to agent J.P. Barry. Until the moment Wilson opened his mouth, of course, at which point Barry slapped his forehead and realized that the GM who had drafted the twins and had tons of money and cap room just might make an offer.

Of course, there is a precedent here. The St. Louis Blues lost a first round pick to the Devils as compensation for a tampering charge involving Scott Stevens. This case has been widely cited by Canuck fans as being a good comparison to the Wilson fiasco.

But there's a part that gets left out. In the Stevens case, the NHL determined that the Blues had been negotiating with Stevens, who was still under contract to New Jersey, and had already agreed with him on an offer sheet.

So we have one case where a coach drops a name on the radio, and another where another's team's player is already signed and sealed before ever reaching free agency. Yes, Vancouver, those two situations certainly do sound very similar.

(It's also worth pointing out that it took the NHL four years to come to a decision on Stevens. Apparently the case was heard by Mats Sundin.)

So how will it all play out? Tough to say. Tampering is one of those rules which isn't well-defined, has no specific punishment, and rests largely in the realm of "commissioner's discretion". That means Gary Bettman can do pretty much whatever he pleases here.

Ordinarily, the result would be predictable: help the small market team, screw the large market. But in this case, both Toronto and Vancouver are large markets. And since neither city is a struggling southern franchise without any fans, there's a good chance Bettman will just lose interest completely.

What Bettman should do is have the league investigate further... just in case. After all, if this goes any further than an offhand comment on live radio (such as actual contact between the Leafs and the Sedins before July 1), then it's a whole new ballgame and the Leafs will deserve whatever the get.

But if not, he should fine Wilson (for being an idiot), fine the Leafs too (since Wilson's an idiot), issue a stern warning and be done with it.

Finally, a friendly note to Canuck fans. Yes, we all understand why you're pretending this is such an outrage. After all, there's a possibility (however slim) that you could receive some Toronto draft picks out of this. And since the current Leafs roster is projected to score about 16 goals over the entire course of next season, those picks should be pretty decent.

So yes, we understand why you're acting like a broke college kid who just got into a fender bender with a guy driving a Porsche, grabbing your neck and shouting "whiplash" at any lawyer who wanders by. We get it.

But you may want to dial it back a little. It's one thing for some bored media types to try to create a story out of thin air. There's no rule that says you have to embarass yourself as you play along.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Leafs sign Beauchemin, but miss out on the big prize

Chris Durno doing what he does best:
blocking somebody's view.
Today is a sad day for Leafs nation.

The news came via a tweet from James Mirtle:
Avalanche signed forwards David Jones, Chris Durno, Darren Haydar, Matt Hendricks and Brian Willsie, along with goaltender Tyler Weiman.
So this is what it feels like when a dream dies.

The backstory: Two months ago, while breaking down the Denis Savard/Gary Leeman fight, I noted a small boy who blocks the camera with his #8 "Durno" Leafs jersey. Thanks to some google research, and timely help from some Durno-connected DGB readers, we were able to confirm that it was eight-year-old future Colorado Avalanche farmhand Chris Durno.

The groudswell was immediate, with Leafs Nation rising up as one and demanding that Brian Burke sign Durno to a minor league deal when he became a free agent in the summer. A "Bring Chris Durno to Toronto" facebook group quickly swelled to over 10,000 members, or almost certainly would have if I had bothered to create one.

We naturally assumed that Burke would listen to the outcry, since as we know he's kind of sensitive about what gets said about him online.

But apparently it was not to be. Burke was too busy building a 2009-10 roster consisting entirely of defenceman to close a deal. And after what we can only assume was a furious bidding war, the Avalanch re-signed Durno today.

In other news, the Leafs signed Francois Beauchemin. Or, as he will be known from this point on: Francois "Not Durno" Beauchemin.

Fair thee well, Chris. We'll always have Leeman/Savard.

(Unless this is some sort of sign-and-trade. Hmm... Kaberle for Durno?)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Dany Heatley meets with Kevin Lowe: The secret transcript

Two men enter. One leaves.
As everyone knows by now, Oilers president Kevin Lowe rushed to Kelowna last night to meet with Senators winger Dany Heatley in an attempt to convince him to waive his no-trade clause and accept a deal to Edmonton.

Neither side is commenting about what went on at the meeting. But as long-time readers may have suspected, DGB spies were able to breach the security at the Heatley compound and record the discussion.

What follows is the top secret transcript of the conversation.

Lowe: Dany, I want to thank you for meeting with me. I know this entire situation has been difficult for you, but I really believe that after we get a chance to chat, you're going to want to be a part of the Oilers.

Heatley: Hey, I'm willing to hear you out.

Lowe: Now, just so I'm clear on your side of things, you're demanding a trade because...

Heatley: ... because I can't spend another day in Ottawa. I'm miserable beyond any measure of human understanding. Every day I spend in Ottawa is the worst of my life, and the only joy I find is in the knowledge that every day wasted in that god forsaken town brings me one day closer to the icy relief of death.

Lowe: I see. And you're not waiving your no-trade clause because...

Heatley: ... all that still sounds better than spending the winter in Edmonton.

Lowe: Got it.

Heatley: No offence.

Lowe: No, none taken. Now, I understand you've had some problems with the Ottawa media. But I just want to assure you that the reporters who cover the Oilers are some of the very best in the business.

Heatley: Actually, a friend of mine used to play for the Oilers and he told me that the media there is very talented.

Lowe: Oh really? And who said that?

Heatley: Chris Pronger.

Lowe: Right.

Heatley: Veeerrry talented.

Lowe: Yeah, I got it. (Cell phone rings.) I'm sorry Dany, one moment please. (Answers phone.) Hi Bryan. Yes, I'm talking to him right now. It's going well. What's that? Sure, I suppose you could say hello. Let me put you on speakerphone.


Lowe: Oops, he must have got disconnected.

Heatley: Your cell has a speakerphone on it?

Lowe: Never mind that.

Heatley: Look Kevin, I just want you know that the regular season is nice. But that's not my focus. For a guy like me, the real hockey doesn't start until April and May.

Lowe: Yes, absolutely, it's all about the Stanley Cup.

Heatley: The what? No, I meant the world hockey championships.

Lowe: Oh.

Heatley: Man, I totally kick ass in that tournament.

Lowe: I've heard.

Heatley: I totally lit it up against Latvia this year. Their goalie had no glove.

Lowe: Yeah, I hear they have some weaknesses.

Heatley: No, I mean literally. He had no glove. He was using a baseball cap. I scored six goals.

Lowe: Wonderful.

Heatley: I tell you, as long as the game is completely meaningless, I am unstoppable.

Lowe: I'll keep that in mind. Now, I've heard that you've had some problems with Cory Clouston.

Heatley: Yeah, he's always singling me out. "Dany, you were out of position. Dany, you have to actually work hard. Dany, you have to come back into your own zone once or twice a game." It's like he thinks he's in charge or something.

Lowe: Right. But I think you'd get along great with our new coach, Pat Quinn. I was hoping you'd get a chance to meet him tonight, but I wasn't able to get a hold of him.

Heatley: Actually, he's outside.

Lowe: He's what?

Heatley: Right there.

(Heatley points to a shadowy figure looming outside his window. The figure takes a puff from a lit cigar.)

Lowe: Um... How long has he been there?

Heatley: Going on three days now.

Lowe: I see.

(The shadowy figure points at its eyes with two fingers, then points at Heatley.)

Heatley: He keeps doing that.

Lowe: Hm.

Heatley: Hey, wasn't Steve Tambellini going to be here?

Lowe: He's in the car. We don't let him get involved with actual decisions.

Heatley: Ah.

Lowe: So Dany, in closing I just want to say that everyone in Edmonton is very excited about the possibility of having you aboard.

Heatley: Everyone.

Lowe: Absolutely everyone.

(Heatley looks over to the shadowy figure in the window, who points at him and then makes a throat-slash gesture.)

Lowe: Almost without exception.

Heatley: Well, you've done a great job selling me on Edmonton. As soon as you leave, I'm going to call my agent and tell him to waive my no-trade. I'm going to be an Oiler!

Lowe: Wow! Really?

Heatley: Hey, I'm Dany Heatley. You have my word.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

ESPN names Maple Leafs worst organization in the NHL

Taking a quick break from the free agency talk...

ESPN The Magazine released it's 2009 Ultimate Standings today. The idea is to rank all 122 major North American franchises based on criteria such as ticket prices, roster quality, titles won and the relationship between ownership and fans.

Based on that, I'll bet you'll never guess how the Leafs did.

Yes, the Maple Leafs finished dead last in the NHL, and 120th out of 122 teams overall (suck it, Knicks and Clippers!)

Now keep in mind, this ranking isn't meant as a measure of the quality of the team itself, and it's certainly not meant to measure the fans. Quite the opposite, actually -- the magazine says it wants to measure "how much MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL franchises give back to the fans in exchange for all the time, money and emotion the fans invest in them."

Given that criteria, it's hard to argue with the Leafs ranking. The only objection I'd have is that it's a year too late -- MLSE is finally doing the right thing by handing full control to Brian Burke. Maybe this sort of public kick in the pants will remind them to keep it out of the way.

I was interviewed by ESPN months ago for this year's rankings, and my comments appear in the Leafs profile. I had a sense from the beginning that the Leafs were going to wind up last, so this isn't a surprise.

As with all lists of this type, the end goal is mainly to inspire discussion, debate and angry ranting from fans. Let's just say there are more than a few head-scratchers. The Carolina Hurricanes as the NHL's top team? The Senators as the top team in Canada? Many will dismiss the whole thing for that reason.

Just remember: this is a black mark on Peddie, Tannenbaum and the rest of the MLSE suits. If anyone tries to tell you it's a knock on Leaf fans, tell them to go back and read it again. Or, if it's a Senators fan, to have it read to them.

Leafs sign Mike Komisarek

Well, it didn't take long for the Leafs to spend Pavel Kubina's money. They've signed former Hab Mike Komisarek.

Right now, the Leafs have a better defense and are a much tougher team than they were seven hours ago. The goaltending is still weak and the offensive depth is thinner than Mike Ribeiro's ankles, but you can't ask Burke to fix everything in one day.

This signing also gives the Leafs somebody other than Mike Van Ryn to get destroyed several times a year by Milan Lucic.

Burke is having a good day. Leaf fans are too.


Still waiting

It's been over five hours since free agency started, and here's a comprehensive list of the Leafs signings so far:

  • Colton Orr
That is all.

This isn't the worst news in the world, since free agency is the one day of the year when teams can make truly devastating mistakes. A quiet July 1 isn't the worst thing that can happen to a team, especially one that's rebuilding.

But at the same time, we go back to what Brian Burke told us about his plan. He said he'd be active today, and so far he hasn't backed it up. Just like at the draft, what Burke told us he wanted to do and what he's actually done seem to be two very different lists.

That said, it seems obvious that the Sedins were the prime target today, and they were taken off the grid with a few minutes before noon. Burke was in Sweden ready to make his pitch, and he never got the chance. That's hardly his fault.

Still... there has to be something coming, doesn't there? Mike Cammalleri seems headed to the Habs, but Komisarek and Beauchemin are both still out there. Of course, the Leafs may need to move a defenceman first.

Speaking of which... the reported Kubina to Atlanta deal seems to be in limbo. Multiple outlets have now said that Colby Armstrong is not in the deal, if there even is a deal at all.

Remember, Damien Cox reported his deal hours ago. And while I regularly knock his cut-and-paste columns, he's rarely wrong on his facts. I still expect it to happen, but right now nothing has been confirmed.

(Update: Just as I post, TSN is now saying the deal is Kubina for Exelby.)


Full size version is here.

Pavel Kubina traded to Thrashers?

A confused Pavel Kubina phones to ask why the guy in charge putting together the Atlanta Thrashers 2009 media guide just showed up to take his picture.

DGB post, March 7, 2009

Damien Cox is reporting that the Leafs have dealt Pavel Kubina to Atlanta. Various rumors say that Colby Armstrong is coming back the other way. Neither detail has been officially confirmed. (Update: Reports are now saying Armstrong is not in the deal.)

If true, the deal would save the Leafs almost $4M in cap room. The big question is which UFA is getting Kubina's money. Reports have the Leafs chasing Mike Cammalleri and Mike Komisarek.

I think there's a lesson here: if your team clearly wants to trade you, and they ask you to waive your NTC two years in a row so they can trade you to a contender... you might just want to waive. Because otherwise, you might wind up in Atlanta.

As for Armstrong, he brings belligerence. With Colton Orr's truculence already signed and sealed, Burke's shopping list is now down to pugnacity and testosterone.

Leafs sign Colton Orr

The Leafs have signed Colton Orr to a four year deal worth $1M a season.

This is a fantastic signing. For the first time since Wade Belak left, the Leafs have a true heavyweight.

The Leafs as a team are still not tough enough. But this is a major step in the right direction. Great work by Brian Burke.

Here are some Orr highlights to get you in the mood: