Friday, October 31, 2008


If you’re Canadian and someone asks if you like football there are four suitable answers:

a. Yes.
b. I’m a CFL fan.
c. I’m an NFL fan.
d. I hate soccer.

While I suspect most of you would reply with an enthusiastic ‘yes’, it would be foolish not to assume some of you are fans of either one league or the other. (For now, we’ll leave soccer on the outside.)

To fully determine which answer is most appropriate for you, consider the following:

If you enjoy waking up at the crack of dawn and heading down to the stadium to tailgate for hours before kick-off, you’re a NFL fan. If you slam six cans of beer in between parking your car and walking across the parking lot to the game, you’re a CFL fan.

If you want 110-yard touchdowns, 2-1 scores and gambling (going for it) on third down the CFL is your game. If you want 50-yard punts and real 50-yard field goals, along with 2000 Bud Light commercials, focus on the NFL.

If you live for Sundays and aren’t afraid to spend 6-10 hours firmly fastened to the couch, you’re a NFL fan. (Some people might call you lazy. I call you dedicated.)

If you want to see the same half dozen quarterbacks continuously being run out of one city only to become competent again in the next, it’s the CFL for you.

If you like to catch your favorite players on the nightly news (no, not SportsCenter), you’re an NFL fan. If you stroll past your favorite players in Wal-Mart, you’re a CFL fan.

If you think a team should have to win at least half their games in order to qualify for the playoffs, the NFL is your league.

If you want to believe a running back rushing for over 1000 yards in a season is still meaningful, you should be following the CFL.

If you enjoy creative and sometimes over-the-top touchdown dances, CFL games will provide it. If you want to see players celebrate awkwardly or not at all because they don’t want to be fined by commissioner Roger Goodell, the NFL won’t disappoint you.

If you’re looking for the best halftime studio analysis the CFL is where you’ll find it. Randorf, Schultz, Dunigan and Climie are far and away the best panel in professional football. If you prefer hysterical laughing or listening to an incomprehensible Shannon Stewart, the NFL has you covered.

And while we’re on the subject of entertainment: NFL fans are treated to Usher, Keith Urban and Natasha Bedingfield, big, relevant names to kick-off a season. For the Grey Cup CFL fans somehow ended up with Theory of a Deadman, Suzie McNeil and someone named Andree Watters. Hey, at least it wasn’t Def Leppard.

(Quick tangent because I’m not ready to let this go: Did the NHL honestly believe Def Leppard was an appealing choice for their audience? Who okayed this? People thought McCain choosing Palin as his running mate was a bad selection. Well, this was easily 1000 times worse. What was the NHL thinking?)

If you’re a NFL fan you watch football with one eye attached to your fantasy scoreboard. If you’re a CFL fan you think a fantasy league involves five names of famous people you’re never going to hook up with.

(Tangent #2: I play fantasy sports 12 months a year and usually have numerous teams in several sports on the go, yet I’ve never been invited to join a CFL fantasy league. Not once. I’ve never even heard of a fantasy CFL league in casual conversation. Naturally, I googled CFL Fantasy football and clicked on This is what came up on the page:

CFFL Players,
Due to an unfortunate situation, all week 12 points will be nullified and the weekly prizes will be given out randomly. The Grand Prize standings will pick up again for week 13’s games.
We are sorry for the inconvenience. Our sincere apologies,
The CFFL Team

Rest assured, if an NFL Fantasy league tried to pull something like this, we’d be looking at multiple homicides and hundreds of friendships irrevocably damaged.)

If you're a NFL fan, years will pass before your team squares off against every other team in the league. If you're a CFL fan you wish years would go by without seeing the Tiger Cats come to town.

If you’re a NFL fan you grew up hearing stories about the ‘frozen tundra’. If you’re a CFL fan you grew up on the frozen tundra.

Friday, October 24, 2008

2008 Raptors Preview

When we last saw Chris Bosh and company, the Orlando Magic basically had them in a headlock as they cruised to an easy first round victory over the Raps in last year’s playoffs. To say that Toronto was overmatched would be an understatement along the lines of: Allen Iverson enjoys taking shots, or, Ron Artest is eccentric.

For the Raptors, defense, rebounding, and secondary scoring behind Bosh were cited as the main reasons behind the quick playoff exit, but perhaps just as damning was the presence of Me-J Ford and his ball-dominating ways. Ford went from a solid point man that was able to direct the offense and score when needed, to a ball-hogging head case that refused to put the team first. He basically saw everything Jose Calderon did, and then tried to do the exact opposite. And succeeded. So it was to no one's surprise that GM Bryan Colangelo traded Ford (and Rasho Nesterovic) to the Indiana Pacers in exchange for former All-Star Jermaine O'Neal.

While it remains to be seen whether O'Neal can regain his past form (or even play a full season for the first time since 2004), the trade has to be viewed as positive because it means Calderon will be playing 40+ minutes a night. It should also allow Andrea Bargnani to make it through the first minute of the game without picking up two fouls, simply because it's extremely difficult to collect fouls from the bench. That's the definition of win-win right there.

Also working in the Raptors favor:

1. They happen to call the Atlantic division home, which comes with the benefit of knowing you'll have the dreadful New Jersey Nets and New York Knicks beneath you in the standings. And let's be honest: there is no way the Celtics match what they did last year. Garnett, Pierce and Allen have combined to play in 2792 NBA games and the collective hunger they had to win that first championship will now be missing. (I'm not suggesting Boston be left out of the playoffs or even lose the division, but 60+ wins and the championship? Not going to happen.)

2. If they can live up to their considerable offseason hype, Toronto could be in position to land a quality veteran who gets bought out late in the season. Roko Ukic and Will Solomon you have officially been put on notice.

3. In Jason Kapono, the Raptors have the best 3-point marksman in the league at a time when 3-point shot attempts are at record highs.

4. Television viewers won't need to keep one finger on the mute button anymore because Chuck Swirsky and his laughable homer bias and awful forced expressions ("onions baby" or "break our the salami and cheese") opted for Chicago Bulls radio over Toronto Raptors television.

On the flip side:

1. Our best player just spent his entire summer playing highly intense playoff-like basketball instead of working out and taking a break from everyday basketball activities. Colangelo and head coach Sam Mitchell had better find a way to get Bosh 10 days off at some point during the season or come playoff time CB4 is going to look more rundown than Amy Winehouse after a four day bender.

2. After two seasons the first pick of the 2006 draft is a total wild card. The seven-foot Italian has a sweet stroke but almost no idea how to move on a basketball court and the term rebound has obviously been lost in translation. The second coming of Dirk Nowitzki he's not.

3. For some reason the coach refuses to get Jason Kapono looks from 3-point land. Did I mention he’s the best 3-point marksman in the league?

4. After years of playing second-fiddle to the mighty West the Eastern Conference has gained ground and now features as many as 10 of the top 18 teams in the league. On paper, every non-playoff team in the East (outside of New Jersey and New York of course) look like they could improve their record, which may result in an extremely close battle for the 6 thru 10 positions.

Coach's Corner:

As for the man on the bench, Sam Mitchell has only one year beyond this on his contract and a career record of 3-8 in the postseason so if things don't go as planned early, Colangelo could deliver Mitchell the pink slip. Judging by the way the rest of the professional sports teams in Toronto operate, if Mitchell was indeed let go, Raptor fans should prepare for the return of one of Butch Carter, Lenny Wilkens or (the horror) Isiah Thomas.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Sid-O-Meter

For years now the NHL has been disappointed with the lack of media coverage it receives in the US as it falls further and further away from the 'big three' (NFL, MLB, NBA) of North American professional sports.

And yet they never seem to get pro-active with the situation. Instead of sulking because they aren't getting the respect they deserve, why not try something new?

Well, I've got a PR stunt that can help hockey generate some much needed buzz South of the border.

As we've all noticed over the past few years, several hockey players have dated Hollywood starlets. Sean Avery was with Elisha Cuthbert before the '24' star moved on to Dion Phaneuf. Jordin Tootoo went out with American Idol contestant Kellie Pickler, Sheldon Souray married former Baywatch beauty Angie Everhart, and Mike Comrie and Hilary Duff continue to go strong. Even Alexei Yashin hooked up with Carol Alt before heading back to Russia (for good...we hope).

No disrespect to any of the above players (except to Yashin who is a bum and should be buying blocks of tickets and giving them away to Islander fans), but when it comes to ability and star power, none of those guys could hold Sidney Crosby's jockstrap.

Which is why the NHL marketing department should be sending doctored pictures of Sid out and about with numerous Hollywood hotties to every celebrity website possible. Perez Hilton,, theSuperficial, whatever. Each time Crosby passes a certain pre-determined point total, they forward photoshopped pictures with taglines that read "Hockey star Sidney Crosby spotted eating lunch in Manhattan with Rihanna" or "NHL superstar Sidney Crosby was seen snuggling up with 'Hills' star Lauren Conrad at Hollywood hotspot Les Deux".

To make it even easier, I've already come up with a detailed list:

25 points - Madonna: A-Rod strikes out as Madge moves on to Sid the Kid.

50 - Katy Perry: She kissed a boy and she liked it.

75 - Lindsay Lohan: Sid breaking up Lohan's lesbian romance?

90 - Emmanuelle Chriqui: You Don't Mess With the Crosby!

100 - Paris Hilton: A last second entry into the contest to find her new BFF?

120 - Heidi Montag: Crosby bodychecks Spencer to the sidelines?

140 - Anne Hathaway: Sid scores again off a rebound.

160 - Anna Kournikova: Malkin, Ovechkin and Enrique Iglesias all furious as Crosby steals another prize.

180 - Jessica Alba: Cash Warren demands a paternity test as rumours swirl that Sid is the 'real' father.

Friday, October 17, 2008

It's Time to Start Over

With the Tampa Bay Rays (the freakin RAYS!) on the verge of finishing off the Red Sox and completing their journey from AL East doormat to possible World Series champions, a major change in strategy is necessary if the Blue Jays ever want to get back to the postseason.

Because for the last decade or so Jays fans only had to worry about the two Evil Empires: the hated Yankees and the (now equally) hated Red Sox. However, with Tampa and their ridiculously stacked team of young star players, Toronto now has three very good teams directly blocking their path to the playoffs.

And it's clear the Jays are the worst of the four teams by a wide margin. With or without A.J. Burnett. If the AL East were 'Entourage', Boston would be Vince, New York would be Ari, Tampa would be E and Toronto and Baltimore would flip a coin for Turtle and Drama. Constantly on the outside, forever mocked and left behind.

During the offseason the Red Sox will tinker a little, add more pitching and be better next year. The Yankees are getting ready to spend roughly half a billion dollars on superstar free agents to add to their already formidable core, and the baby Rays will be a year older and armed with ample playoff success. Hell, B.J. Upton and Evan Longoria might surpass 100 homeruns all by themselves. The point is, none of the three teams that finished ahead of Toronto this year are getting any worse.

Toronto is no closer to the playoffs today than it was 5 or 10 years ago. If anything, they’re further away.

The cut and paste technique that has been employed by the Blue Jay front office for more than a decade isn't working. The core of the team simply can’t compete with the best. Scott Rolen and Lyle Overbay are complimentary players. The holes at shortstop and behind the plate aren’t going away. Adding mid-level free agents and swapping mediocre veterans for more mediocre veterans (Brad Wilkerson or Kevin Mench anyone? Anyone?) isn’t going to change the fact that the nucleus of this team doesn’t have enough skill to go head-to-head with the three AL East powers.

For that reason, it’s time to move in a new direction. Think ‘firesale’. Or see: Marlins, Florida (1998).

Which means it's time to cash in the biggest chip the Jays have and move Roy Halladay. It will absolutely be tough to watch ‘Doc’ go. The guy has been unbelievable in his decade as a Blue Jay and is unquestionably the best pitcher in the AL over the last five seasons. He's thrown more complete games than entire teams and has consistently been amongst the league leaders in ERA, wins and strikeouts, but he was always more than just stats. Watching him work every fifth day was truly a treat, every time out you thought "this could be the day Roy throws the second no-hitter in franchise history".

But the thing is, no matter how well Halladay pitches next year, or even the year after that, he won't be able to pitch the Jays into the postseason. It will not happen. Can't happen. Impossible. Unless baseball changes the playoff format and adds more teams, Toronto has zero chance of reaching the playoffs in the next two years. So what is the point of finishing fourth with a high-priced veteran club? Wouldn’t it make more sense to tear the whole thing down?

Moving Halladay, Vernon Wells, Alex Rios, and B.J. Ryan would net a significant haul of prospects that in combination with Travis Snider, Adam Lind, Aaron Hill and the surplus of young pitching already in place, could form the type of core group it takes to realistically stand up to the free-spending Yanks and Sox.

Re-directing free agent cash towards drafting high-ceiling, expensive amateur players is the obvious formula. That could be the only way to ever really contend in this division. It’s certainly how the Rays did it.

Friday, October 10, 2008

CBC's Opening Night NHL Doubleheader Diary

7:02 Def Leppard kicks off the night. Yes, Def Leppard. I guess Poison was booked.

7:03 Seriously, Def Leppard is performing. Although it kind of looks like Brooke Hogan is singing.

7:13 The Red Wings raise their 4th banner in 11 seasons with a simple and understated ceremony that includes Detroit legends Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay.

7:24 Our first look at Marian Hossa in a Red Wings uni and it's strange. I can't look at him without wondering how he could say no to a guaranteed $50 million. And this seems like the appropriate time to bring up the reported 10 year/$80M offer Marian Gaborik supposedly rejected today. Gaborik has played 65, 65, 48 and 77 games his last four NHL seasons. He must really, really hate Jaques Lemaire.

7:26 Craig Simpson tells us Leaf coach Ron Wilson will 'play Luke Schenn in all situations and try to get him 20 minutes of ice time'. If Toronto keeps Schenn past the 9 game mark and doesn't return him to junior it might be time for Toronto to get a new interim interim General Manager.

7:52 I predict Dominic Moore will be the Leafs first line center at some point this season.

7:56 Chris Osgood feels sorry for an awful Toronto power play and decides to set up Pavel Kubina with a perfect pass that Kubina happily deposits into an empty net.

8:04 During 'Coach's Corner' Grapes questions the Luongo captaincy, refers to the Sedins as the 'bobbsey twins', and gives strong playoff endorsements to every Canadian team outside of Toronto. Of course he and Ron Maclean spend most of their time discussing the dysfunctional Leafs.

8:20 I predict Dominic Moore will be the Leafs first line center sooner rather than later.

8:28 Detroit is playing like it's game one of a near meaningless 82 game regular season. Let's just say a 1-0 second period deficit hasn't exactly lit a fire under Datsyuk and Zetterberg.

8:37 Nik Antropov’s stick-handling covers the first 3 rows of seats in ice chips. Meanwhile Kris Draper and Kirk Maltby take turns passing the puck in each other's skates. Ummm, the preseason is over...right?

8:40 Dominic Moore continues his strong play and bangs away at a rebound before firing it upstairs for the second Leaf goal. I predict Dominic Moore will be the Leafs first line center starting in the third period.

8:42 Tomas Holmstrom answers quickly for the Wings from his office in front of the net, slipping a backhand between Vesa Toskala's legs.

8:49 A one goal lead for Toronto heading to the third can mean only one thing: Detroit has the Leafs right where they want them.

8:58 As George Stroumboulopoulos takes us through the finalists for the new Hockey Night In Canada theme song, I'll pass on what my friend Morgan said to me: Why not just go with Stompin' Tom's the Hockey Song and call it a day?

9:18 Back to the action and the Wings turn it over to rookie Nikolai Kulemin who puts a nice move on Osgood to give Toronto a 3-1 lead with 12 minutes left.

9:21 As the Leafs threaten to take control of the game Holmstrom scores on another rebound, this time a power play goal with Matt Stajan in the penalty box. The Wings have about 9 forwards who would play on Toronto's top power play unit.

9:39 Babcock pulls Osgood for the extra attacker with a minute left in the game. Shortly thereafter Jamal Mayers flips the puck into the stands for a delay of game penalty that sets up a 6-4 man advantage for the Wings, but Toskala weathers the late storm and Toronto hangs on for the win.

9:46 Don Cherry says Kubina is 'playing like a Norris trophy winner right now'. Wow. One game in.

9:48 In one of the strangest entertainment combinations ever, the NHL follows up the Def Leppard set with Alanis Morisette. Because, you know, nothing gets people ready for hockey like Alanis Morissette.

9:58 Remarkably we are being treated to more Def Leppard. Is the NHL trying to alienate their entire fan base, or attempting to corner the 40 year old mullet demographic? Hard to tell at this point.

10:08 Darren McCarty just drove a motorcycle onto the stage with the Stanley Cup in tow and then handed it off to the Brooke Hogan guy who proceeded to put the Cup down on it's head. I am embarrassed for everyone involved in this debacle.

10:22 I'm assuming the entire hockey audience has either flipped to the baseball playoffs or whipped their remote against the wall.

10:46 In Vancouver, for game two of the double header, the Canucks and Tom Cochrane open with a moving tribute to the late Luc Bourdon.

10:57 Three minutes into the nightcap and we’ve already seen more aggression than we got the entire first match.

10:58 As per NHL rules new Canucks Captain Roberto Luongo isn’t wearing the C on his chest, but has a C located below his cage near the bottom of his mask. I thought you needed to know.

11:01 I keep waiting for Marc Crawford, in his new gig as CBC analyst, to subtly bash Todd Bertuzzi with a few backhanded compliments as payback for Bertuzzi dragging Crawford into the Steve Moore lawsuit, but so far he’s resisted and kept it professional.

11:26 The scoring Sedin messed up a partial breakaway but recovered enough to find the passing Sedin for a bang bang goal. By the way, if the twins have a big year, they could command a $100M contract for the pair of ‘em. Every Canuck fan just threw up in their mouth a little bit.

11:38 Did Mike Milbury leave TSN for CBC to take over Coach’s Corner in a year or two? Just a thought.

11:50 The Sedins combine again to set up linemate Steve Bernier’s first goal as a Canuck and Vancouver is ahead 2-0.

11:53 Flames goalie Mika Kiprusoff directs an awful rebound right onto the stick of Alex Burrows who buries it for a 3-0 lead. The old Mike Keenan would’ve yanked Kipper the moment the puck hit the back of the net. The new Keenan doesn’t move a muscle, it looks like he could be a robot. In fact, are we sure that’s really Mike Keenan?

11:57 Crawford finally obliges when he compliments Bertuzzi’s skills and toughness but tacks on ‘Todd hits to hurt’.

12:13 Bertuzzi, who is taking up space and providing almost nothing, takes a penalty that puts Vancouver back on the power play. The speed and power that defined Bertuzzi’s game during his heydays as a Canuck are nowhere to be found.

12:25 Mattias Ohlund hammers Jarome Iginla then whispers ‘Sean Avery was right, we don’t care about you’ (I can read lips), which incenses Iggy who gets the only penalty and his Flames find themselves shorthanded again to end the second period.

12:38 Just saw the preview for ‘The Express’ for the 25th time tonight, and after watching Dennis Quaid in ‘Any Given Sunday’ and ‘The Rookie’ it’s safe to say I will see any sports movie he stars in.

12:43 Burrows scores again early in the third on a one-timer to give Vancouver a four goal cushion. How long till the fisticuffs?

1:02 As the contest continues to get chippier, Ohlund scores on a power play to put this game to bed. I’m ready to do the same but am holding out hope that Calgary will try to send a message with their fists.

1:08 Phaneuf just wallpapered one of the Sedins and Bernier steps in to dance. Good for Bernier. I think the last six minutes will play out fine without me. For Def Leppard, Alanis Morissette and myself, good night.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

2008 NHL Preview: Contenders, Pretender & Everyone in Between

Young, Emerging, and Perhaps Playoff Worthy
16. Edmonton Oilers
The Oil have stockpiled young talent but many questions remain. Such as:
a) Can Sam Gagner and Andrew Cogliano build on their fine rookie campaigns and turn into bonafide offensive threats?
b) After missing a season can Sheldon Souray return to the level that made him the most lethal PP point man in the league?
c) Will Kevin Lowe be able to resist his annual urge to turnover a quarter of his roster?

15. Chicago Blackhawks
I could see the Hawks finishing second in the Central and making the playoffs or getting off to a terrible start that costs Dennis Savard his job. Just like everyone else, I'm a big fan of Jonathan Toews, but was it really necessary to strap the kid with the 'C' to start his second season?

14. Washington Capitals
Alexander Ovechkin goals this year: 59.5
Sergei Fedorov: 12.5

Playoff Bound but Not Without Issues
13. Ottawa Senators
Alfy will lead, Heatley will score, Spezza will act goofy (and get hurt) and goaltending will kill the Sens...again.

12. Carolina Hurricanes
The Eric Staal deal was a bit of a reach if you ask me. Not that Staal isn't a very good player, because he is, but of all the ridiculously long contracts handed out in the last few years (Ovechkin, Lecavalier, M.Richards, Briere), I feel the least certain about this one. Is Staal a 40 goal, point per game player…or more? If I’m paying you $70M, I would want more.

11.Calgary Flames
I really want to believe the Flames can do big things this year, but can't help feeling that Kipper is on the downside and Bertuzzi is, well, almost finished. Even though he's only 33, Big Bert has been through 10 years worth of adversity since the lockout and I'm not sure he has the speed to keep up anymore.

10. New Jersey Devils
If Brent Sutter was coaching in New York or Toronto he would be heralded as the best in the business. In New Jersey, he and superstar goalie Martin Brodeur will continue to be brilliant, under appreciated…and successful.

9. Boston Bruins
Don’t sleep on the Bruins. They pushed the Habs in the first round last year and then added Patrice Bergeron and Michael Ryder. Say what you want about Ryder’s contract, but the guy scored 74 goals in three seasons with everyone in Montreal cheering against him.

Potentially Dangerous (as always)
8. San Jose Sharks
The young Sharks are getting old. Well, maybe not old...but older. After years and years of being on the cusp of greatness you have to wonder if this particular group of players will ever live up to their expectations and push the team to the next level. I say no.

Good But Not Great
7. Philadelphia Flyers
Phase one of GM Paul Holmgren’s makeover was a success but if the Flyers want to make another move up to top contender status, Holmgren is going to need a phase two. That would include acquiring another goalie and at least one defenceman, maybe two if Parent doesn’t hold up.

6. Dallas Stars
How nervous do you think the Stars management got when the story broke that Hollywood is going to base a movie on Sean Avery's summer internship with Vogue magazine? Here's a guy who has had all sorts of personality issues everywhere he's been and maybe now he feels validated. Scary.

5. NY Rangers
Handing Wade Redden $40M at this stage of his career is like someone offering Sloan a new four record deal. Good band, solid act and they’ve been around forever, but their best years are cleary behind them.

4. Montreal Canadiens
With 13 guys set to become free agents after the season, including every key player (Tanguay, Koivu, Kovalev, Lang, Higgins, Komisarek) the Habs are built for this year. Oh, and about Lang: he'll be fine in the regular season but the fans will boo him out of the line-up at some point in the playoffs.

The Top Shelf
3. Anaheim Ducks
Isn't it weird that Brian Burke continues to work for the Ducks even though he's about to become General Manager of the Leafs?

2. Detroit Red Wings
I want to say the Wings are the Atlanta Braves (circa 1991-2005) of hockey. Their home crowd is so bored with the playoffs they can't even be bothered to sell out the building. But now Detroit has four Stanley Cup wins during their 17-year playoff streak so the comparison ends there. If I'm Marian Hossa and someone offers me $50M to one-time pucks into empty nets on a line with Crosby, I would have to have an incredible reason to turn them down. Will we ever get to find out what that reason was?

1. Pittsburgh Penguins
I don't have the Red Wings in the number one position because in today's world of professional sport it's just too hard to repeat as champion. The seasons are so long, the training so hard, the physical and mental toll so taxing that a hangover is only natural. It's not that I don't think a team will ever repeat again, it's that I believe the odds are overwhelmingly against it. As for the Pens, no one else has a 1-2 punch that's anywhere close to Crosby and Malkin and now it's Jordan Staal's turn to play for a new contract, so I see Pittsburgh scoring a lot of goals on their way to another Cup final.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

2008 NHL Preview: Contenders, Pretenders & Everyone in Between

The Usual Deadbeats
30. Atlanta Thrashers
After seven seasons in the NHL and a grand total of four playoff games, I'm guessing either the Atlanta Spirit LLC ownership group has no idea that the Thrashers are actually a part of their business holdings or Don Waddell has compromising photos of the entire board. I refuse to believe any other explanation.

29. Los Angeles Kings
The Kings have a decent collection of young talent that undoubtedly
will go to waste. It's not that I have low expectations for this group, it's that I have no expectations. Finishing outside the bottom three would be shocking.

28. NY Islanders
The good news for Islander fans is that after Garth Snow's salary officially came off the books last season, their GM no longer counts against the team cap. The bad news is that Garth Snow is still their GM. And their top three players (Guerin, Weight, Comrie) usually show up to play every third or fourth game. But at least one of them can get backstage passes to the Hilary Duff concert.

27. St. Louis Blues
I'm going to have to say there is no way Brad
Boyes matches the 43 goals he scored last year, which was the most improbable 40 goal campaign since...well, ever. Okay fine, since Jeff O'Neill scored 41 for the Hurricanes in 2001.

A New World of Hurt
26. Toronto Maple Leafs
If the Toronto media has it right, Luke Schenn is the second coming of Bobby Orr. Whether Schenn stays (gulp) or goes back to junior (please, common sense prevail just this once) the Leafs will be drastically improved defensively under Ron Wilson. But with a forward corps that looks a lot more AHL than NHL, where will the goals come from?

25. Vancouver Canucks
For some reason new GM Mike Gillis continues to pretend that Mats Sundin is chewing on the $20M contact the Canucks have sitting on the table. Mats just spent three years outside the playoffs and if he wants to do it again it’ll be in Toronto, not in Vancity. Even with Luongo standing on his head 70 times a year this team simply doesn't have enough to make any noise.

Forever Stuck in Neutral
24. Columbus Blue Jackets
I'm going to guess Rick Nash won't be signing an extension with Columbus before his current deal expires after next season.

23. Florida Panthers
How in the world did Jacques Martin convince Cliff Fletcher to include a 4th round draft pick in the Bryan McCabe trade? Paying the $2M bonus wasn't enough? Was the deal completed at 4am? Did Fletcher get a winter home in Miami as part of the deal? I need to know, because from the outside it seems absurd. As for the Panthers: the defence looks solid but Josef Stumpel and Stephen Weiss up the middle aren't scaring anyone.

22. Phoenix Coyotes
After a less than impressive start to his coaching career, the Great One has been getting all kinds of praise for his performance the last couple seasons and his Coyotes have received considerable hype as playoff contenders this year. But how could people have missed the fact that Phoenix has a combined 9-29 record in March and April the last two years? They’ve been finishing like Eric Gagne in a Brewers uniform.

Team Hollywood
21. Tampa Bay Lightning
Are the new owners more Mark Cuban or Dan Snyder? Only time will tell, but the early signs point more towards the meddling and dysfunctional Snyder. (Although the Redskins are 4-1 so what do I know?)

Still Here But Mostly Forgotten
20. Nashville Predators
Certainly having Jim Ballsillie and his 'maverick' ways as an NHL owner would've been terrible, it was a much better idea to go with William 'Boots' Del Baggio even if he didn't have any mo
ney. If Anaheim and Los Angeles can operate within 30 miles of each other, Southern Ontario should be able to find a way to get a second NHL team.

19. Colorado Avalanche
I'm thinking Joe Sakic will be questioning his decision to come back for one more year the second or third time he collects a minus because someone blew a 60 footer past a bewildered Andrew Raycroft. But hey, when times are tough at least they'll be able to turn to Peter Budaj.

18. Buffalo Sabres

Note to Darcy Regier: We know you're still fuming from the way Briere and Drury left two summers ago, but are you sure the answer is to tie up Jochen Hecht and Jason Pominville for a combined $9M a year?

17. Minnesota Wild
I tried to type something as boring as the Wild. I failed. Jacques Lemaire hates all of us.

Part II featuring the top 16 teams coming tomorrow.

Friday, October 3, 2008

And so it began...

First and foremost, I'm a fan. OK, maybe I'm a bit of a freak. Alright fine…ahem. My name is the Canadian Sports Junkie and I'm a sports-aholic.

It started with hockey, the Jets in the late 80's.

Dale Hawerchuk, Thomas Steen, Freddy Olausson...those were my guys.

My Dad had a quarter-share of two season tickets at the old Winnipeg Arena and he'd take me to a handful of games each year, but mostly I listened on the radio. Back then the Jets played in the Smythe Division and the late puck-drops inevitably led to me falling asleep before hearing the final score (assuming my Mom hadn't already caught me trying to deke around her bed checks and confiscated my radio). Most of the time I could scan the newspaper in the morning, but if the Jets were on the West coast the box score would read 'late' and I'd be left in the dark until my Dad came home for supper that night. That was a crushing feeling as a nine year-old, and thankfully, because of the internet, a feeling no child will ever know again.

Hockey was my first jones, but it quickly spread from there.

I remember Ben Johnson winning the gold medal at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, then being stripped of it, and not quite being old enough to understand the proper context.

I remember buying the NHL Yearbook magazines and reading them cover-to-cover several times over, treating each edition like a newborn baby, preserving it in mint condition, year after year. I wasn't in a rush to do my homework, but I could tell you who the Sharks were most likely to select first in the expansion draft.

In the early '90s Henry "Gizmo" Williams initiated my interest in the CFL with his back-flip celebrations, but it was Matt Dunigan throwing for 700+ yards in a Blue Bomber uniform that won me over.

Then the Jays won back-to-back World Series and the Expos won in '94 (yes they did) and suddenly I had another itch to scratch. I know a lot of people complain that baseball is boring and the season is too long, but they're not taking into consideration how fun it is to hate the Yankees and Red Sox. Or how truly rewarding it would be to actually beat them again.

And then, after Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls caught my attention, the Raps and the Grizz joined the NBA and another love affair developed. Sure, those first few years of the NBA in Canada had the sizzle of a $2 steak, but hey, at least we had the Naismith Cup!

From there March Madness and soccer's World Cup were added to my roster, the WWE was dropped, and golf, tennis, and perhaps the grand-daddy of them all, the NFL, were brought onboard.

Why is it that every show on television is copycatted, but none of the other pro sports leagues will try to emulate the NFL? Short, meaningful regular seasons, concrete schedule, and do-or-die playoffs. I mean, could you imagine if the NHL played exclusively on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays? You don't think this would help attract US television audiences? A regimented schedule that you can plan for...what a concept!

Now? I'm a sick puppy.

European Tour golf early on the weekends? Check.

College football on a Saturday afternoon? Most definitely.

The Champions League on a Tuesday or Wednesday? Pour me a Guiness and count me in.

I might not wake up in time to watch Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso start the race, but I'll be there to catch the checkered flag.

No one will contact me on weekdays between 5:30 and 6PM EST because they know I won't answer them. That's PTI time, or as it's known in my

I live for stats, I can pore over box scores and league leaders for hours, but I also know how much they do and do not mean.

I love Christmas, but I might love the World Junior Hockey Championships even more. I appreciate Easter weekend, but Good Friday will (almost) always be Day 2 of the Masters to me.

In short, I love sports. I enjoy playing them and love watching and dissecting the games and contests. I love agreeing and disagreeing with the announcers, watching replays to see which players genuinely care, and busting my buddies chops when their teams lose, especially if it's at the hands of one of my own teams.

I know I shouldn't care nearly as much as I do, but I can't help myself. The competition, the intensity, the dim-witted GM's who constantly make bad decisions, it's all food for my insatiable appetite.