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January 17, 2008 @ 09:02

I write this posting in defense of John Ferguson Jr.

Yes, I think he should be fired because he’s obviously not up to the job. But the way it’s playing out is disgusting and I’m sure sets him up for a juicy lawsuit against MLSE.

It’s been confirmed that the Maple Leafs have received permission to talk with the ancient Cliff Fletcher about coming onto the scene in an interim basis to fix what’s wrong with the hockey team.

But this is being done while Ferguson is still the GM. Talk about cruel treatment.

How must this guy feel?

Usually a guy is fired before his replacement is named, or the pursuit of you successor is kept quiet until a deal is made. But not in Toronto. Like everything else they do, MLSE is doing this ass-backwards.

It’s too easy to blame the media for letting the cat out of the bag in this hockey crazed town but that's no excuse in this case. You’d think by now the Leafs would know how to play the game and dismiss an executive with care and compassion while not hanging him out to dry.

Ferguson has been subjected to treatment that nobody should have to suffer under and hopefully he talks to a lawyer, because his public humiliation has got to have an affect on future employment and the Leafs should have to pay for that.

*the attached photo is a Toronto Mike original. Go here for more.

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Freddie P. On TV

January 15, 2008 @ 10:28

It should be fun on CHCH Live at 5:30 this afternoon. We’re going to talk about the Toronto Maple Leafs and their horrendous situation.

Bill Carroll is filling in for Donna Skelly today, so it will be a guy fest with Mark Hebscher, me and Carroll.

Here’s a little preview.

I have to agree with the strategy of hiring of Cliff Fletcher on an interim basis.

Ideally, you’d like to bring in a young and dynamic General Manager, but these are the Leafs and they don’t do anything properly and there isn't anyone available mid-season.

Anyway, here’s the scuttlebutt.

The Leafs will fire JFJ and then bring in the 72 year old Fletcher to do whatever has to be done to fix things. Then n the summer, when the season ends the Leafs would choose from a pool of long term managers.

The best thing that could happen to the Leafs would be to continue of their current path and fall to the bottom of the standings and right now Ferguson’s doing a fine job with that but there’s something else to consider and it’s beyond JFJ.

The trade deadline.

The Leafs shouldn’t hesitate to move Mats Sundin if he agrees to lift his no trade clause, and they should trade Darcy Tucker and Tomas Kaberle while they’re at it.

Trading the grossly overpaid Jason Blake and Pavel Kubina will be impossible.

Sundin, Tucker and Kaberle would command a lot in return but you need the right guy to make the right trades to make sure they get enough in return.

Obviously you don’t want a lame duck like Ferguson to make the trades, so you have to let somebody else do it, and Fletcher seems to be the best available at this point.

However, this has got to be interim.

The Leafs don’t need Cliff Fletcher or Scotty Bowman for the long term, they need a new era General Manager and their search should stop at Brian Burke.

Look at this track record. The Leafs should do whatever it takes to get him out of Anaheim.

He’d probably love the challenge.

Category: Sports | Television

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Money Well Saved

January 14, 2008 @ 09:32

A couple of months ago, me and my buddy Darren planned a trip to California that was supposed to take place last week.

The original plan called for us to fly into Los Angeles on Saturday January 5th and then golf for a few days before going to see the Leafs in Anaheim on the ninth. We would head back to the Los Angeles area for a game the next night and then head up the coast for another round of golf before catching the Leafs in San Jose on Saturday.

Thank goodness we didn’t.

It would have been a great trip, but something has always nagged at me whether I see the Leafs in Buffalo, Montreal or Florida.

Last year Darren and I flew into Tampa for some golf and caught the Leafs against the Lightning before driving across the state to see the Leafs play the Panthers.

The Leafs won both those games, but even then I wondered if the Leafs were worth spending the money on. I think of all the Leaf fans that go to great expense to follow their team around North America and get relatively nothing in return.

Sure, the Leafs might win the odd game, but when it comes to the big picture their wonderful fans get shat upon. There is no long term plan that rewards a Leaf fan for their loyalty.

They are taken for granted.

That’s why I’m glad we didn’t end up going to California last week. I have no idea what the tickets would have cost, whether they would have been face value or below cost, but it doesn’t matter because no matter what we spent, it wouldn’t have been worth supporting this pathetic franchise on principle.

There’s nothing wrong with going to California and by coincidence catching a game. It's fun to see a different rink and some different teams, but to actually plan a trip around the Toronto Maple Leafs isn’t worth it any more and they don’t deserve the support

Air fare, hotel, car rental. These things are consistently purchased at great expense by Leaf fans as they follow their team all over the continent but they’re never acknowledge for it. They’re never thanked for it.

Sure, from time to time a player or management member may pay lip service to a large Leaf contingent in Montreal or Buffalo, but it’s insincere because they never get the pay back that so many other fans in the NHL get.

A decent hockey team.

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Enough Already

January 10, 2008 @ 09:58

Not to rehash history and bring up old news, but if there’s one good thing about not getting the co-hosting job on The Bill Watters Show; it’s that I don’t have to include the Maple Leafs in my daily life that much.

I can control it, and that’s good, because like a lot of people I’ve talked to lately, I've had it with the Leafs and actually try to avoid the subject these days.

I’m amazed at how many of my friends say they don’t even bother to watch Leaf games anymore, and the last thing they want to do is sit and listen to radio hosts, regardless of who they are, go on and on about a shitty team that appears to have no interest in improving themselves. They'd rather hear about other teams.

Take last night for instance; I didn’t bother to watch the Leaf game. I was up well past ten o’clock, but the thought of watching them get creamed by the Ducks wasn’t a big priority for me.

I get up this morning not surprised to find out they got cleansed and even less surprised to hear the usual crap coming out of them.

“It’s discouraging” said coach Paul Maurice. “We’ve got to find a way to get some of these guys going.”

“Our power play hasn't been good all year, for some reason.” Said captain Mats Sundin.

"We were looking to turn things around, but it seemed like we were all trying to do too much," said centre Matt Stajan. "It was like everybody wasn't on the same page."

Yea yea yea. It’s the same old crap with the same old results.

Go away Leafs.

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Swap The Swede

January 9, 2008 @ 10:02

It seems the story of the week is whether the Toronto Maple Leafs should deal Mat Sundin at the trade deadline on February 26th.

For it to happen, Sundin has to lift the no-trade clause in his contract, and according to Richard Peddie, the whole thing would have to be approved by the board of directors.

In today’s Toronto Sun there’s a story about Sundin’s desire to win a Stanley Cup in Toronto and his passion to stick by his mates with the Leafs, and in the Star they poll several hockey experts about who they’d ask in return for Sundin if they traded him.

But getting back to the original question, it’s a no brainer. Yes, the Leafs should trade Sundin at the deadline, and yes he should waive his no-trade clause.

The only nagging part this scenario is John Ferguson Jr. and whatever wing-nut in Leaf management would over-see the trade. You can’t trust these guys to get what they should.

Given that Sundin is remarkably healthy and he’s on pace to have one of his best seasons ever, he would command quite a bit in return for a team that’s on the verge of winning the Stanley Cup.

Be it Detroit, Anaheim or even a team like Pittsburgh, the Leafs could dangle Sundin and make a trade that could turn them in a completely different direction.

But that’s providing whoever pulls the trigger knows what he’s doing and we can’t take that for granted. Remember it was only a year ago that Ferguson traded Brandon Bell and a second round draft choice to Phoenix for Yanic Perreault.

This was just one of several examples of the man’s bizarre assessment of players.

As for Sundin himself, he shouldn’t hesitate to lift his no-trade and get to hell out of town. For his own good, and a thank you to the fans of Toronto who’ve given him just as much as he’s given them.

Sundin is a fine hockey player and he’s been a good for Toronto, but he’s never really been great for Toronto.

People complain that he’s never really had anyone to play with and he’s never been able to reach his full potential in Toronto. I beg to differ. From 1998 through 2002, Sundin played on a fine hockey team that went to the conference final twice.

Crazy thing is, in both those playoff runs Sundin was injured for portions and the team actually played better without him.

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Rocket Launches

January 8, 2008 @ 09:46

It was compelling stuff from Roger Clemens yesterday. If this guy is lying, he’s an excellent liar.

Clemens held a news conference to confirm that he’s launching a defamation lawsuit against former trainer Brian McNamee.

Roger maintains he’s innocent, he’s never taken steroids or human growth hormone and his name got sucked into the Mitchell Report because McNamee was threatened by a cornucopia of heavyweights.

It still doesn’t explain much, like why he would use Clemens name under pressure if Roger was innocent, and a taped seventeen minute phone conversation didn’t reveal much either.

Clemens lawyers played the tape at the news conference hoping the conversation which happened last Friday would implicate McNamee as a liar. Although McNamee didn’t say Roger took steroids during the phone call, he didn’t say the opposite either so I don’t know what it was supposed to prove.

It was a bizarre afternoon that proved only one thing. Sometimes the best defense is a good offense and when you’ve got enough money behind you, you can pretty well get anything you want.

Clemens is ready to spend millions to save his name and without the other side having any concrete proof or a smoking gun, only the word of another man, Roger's team of shrewd lawyers could end up with all he wants – his name cleared with an apology.

Even if he’s guilty.

Category: Sports

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Roger Roger Roger

January 7, 2008 @ 09:36

I watched Roger Clemens on 60 Minutes last night and as expected he denied everything.

What else was he going to do? He’s gone too far with the “innocent guy” story to turn back now. He’s got to follow it through, even if it makes him look like a fool and last night he looked a little foolish to me.

There’s no need to re-hash the entire interview or review key questions by Mike Wallace because it doesn’t really matter. It’s Clemens word against that of former trainer Brian McNamee and until somebody comes up with video or pictures of some advanced form of retrospective blood testing, it will remain that way.

Of course this won’t help Clemens reputation and it doesn’t make him look any better when he hedges on whether he’d take a lie detector test.

And a pressing question remains, why would McNamee tell the truth about Andy Pettitte who admitted to taking the junk, but lie about Clemens? When this was posed to Roger he fluffed it off as a completely different matter.

Roger Clemens looked extremely uncomfortable to me last night and nothing he said changed my opinion. I think he took steroids and human growth hormone but he’s desperately trying to hold on to a wonderful legacy and I understand that part of it, but it could lead to big trouble down the road.

In the coming weeks he’s expected to testify in front of a congressional hearing and that involves taking an oath.

He’ll sit beside Brian McNamee and both will tell their stories. But one will be lying, and if it turns out to be Roger, he’s done.

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What About The Coaching - Part Two

January 6, 2008 @ 09:51

I realize the Maple Leafs had 56 shots on goal during Saturday night’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers, and probably should have won the game.

But they didn’t, and the bottom line is this, they have 16 victories after 42 games and they’re going nowhere fast.

That’s why I have to ask the same question I asked back in November after the Leafs had played 20 games had had only seven victories.

What about the coaching?

There are still those who stand behind Maurice as coach of the Leafs, including good old Wilbur Watters, but I just don’t see it.

How do you judge a coach? By progress and this team just doesn’t show any, and it goes way beyond wins and losses. They don’t seem to have a system, their defensive game isn’t getting any better, but more importantly, the kids aren’t progressing.

Even if the Leafs continued to lose but showed signs of improvement you might feel better about their situation, but the likes of Alex Steen, Mat Stajan, Ian White and even the two big Russians are not developing.

The players I’ve just mentioned are considered Maple Leaf assets and the key to their future because there’s absolutely nothing down on the farm. But these guys are stuck in neutral and definitely not getting any better. If anything, by not getting better they’re getting worse.

How much longer does Paul Maurice get a pass when it comes to the progress of this team?

Yea, they basically stink, we all know that, but within the mish mash of nothing there has to be some markers along the way. There has to be some indication that the situation is improving even if it doesn’t play out in the win column and there’s nothing encouraging about the Leafs.

On most nights they look like a listless, uninterested, disorganized, defensive nightmare and Maurice doesn’t seem to be able to correct it. And I don’t want to bring John Ferguson Jr. into this because the team is what the team is and at this point it’s just not coached very well.

Ferguson will be measured down the stretch by what he does before the trade deadline, if he lasts that long, and then by what he does with what he acquires, but for the time being the spotlight should be on the coach.

Maybe there’s a master plan that we’re all not aware of. As I mentioned several days ago the best thing that could happen would be for the Leafs to fall to the bottom of the standings as quickly as possible, trade a bunch of veterans at the deadline and start all over again.

If that’s Paul Maurice’s mandate then he’s doing a hell of a job.

Meanwhile, Damien Cox has a great piece in today’s Star about the contrast between the Leafs and the Flyers. It’s worth a read.

Category: Sports

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Canadian Culture

January 5, 2008 @ 18:29

What is Canadian culture? Is there a Canadian culture?

This is a question that's been asked much too frequently over the past decade or so as our population becomes more diversified and the face of the country becomes ever so blended, especially in the GTA.

It's the been the argument of many who've come to this country and pushed against what our fathers and grandfathers fought for and generations have built.

There is no distinct Canadian food or distinct Canadian religion. There is no distinct Canadian dress or ceremonial object.

There is only a feel, a feel of what it is to be Canadian and you can only feel it if you want to. It's hard to put your finger on it and downright frustrating when you're called upon to explain it or prove it.

That is until you sit down and watch a gold medal game involving Canada's National Junior Team. Then it all becomes crystal clear. That's Canadian culture.

Young men with ancestry from all over the world playing the game we love with a common cause, to win gold for the country that's represented on the front of their sweaters, a sweater that most Canadian kids so desperately want to wear just once in their lifetime.

And when they stand shoulder to shoulder with their arms around each other with gold medals draped around their necks singing the National anthem explaining Canadian culture becomes a lot easier.

But if you still can't put it in words that's OK because all you have to do is point to the pictures.

There "is" a Canadian culture and it's a wonderful culture built on pride, peace and acceptance and it includes anyone of any background who wants to buy into it.

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Milt Dunnell

January 4, 2008 @ 10:01

The passing for former Toronto Star sportswriter Milt Dunnell shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone because he was 102.

But it does leave a fella who grew up in Scarborough with a heavy heart.

Our house was a “Toronto Daily Star” house when I was growing up, and I couldn’t wait for the Star to arrive in the afternoon so I could dive into the sports section and one of Dunnell’s columns.

Back in the 70’s there was no all-sports radio or TV stations, so your information supply through the electronic media was somewhat limited compared to what it is today so that made the newspapers that much more enjoyable.

Most leaf games “weren’t” on television and in the early 70’s it was rare to get video highlights of road games on sportscasts.

You had to take peoples word for it and Milt Dunnell had a great way with a word. He did right up until he wrote his last column in his 90s.

When I woke up this morning and heard that Milt died last night I felt sad, but then quickly put things in perspective.

Toronto had Milt Dunnell much longer than we do the average pundit and for that we should be thankful and happy.

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