September 2008 Archives

You know, one of the oft-repeated truisms about Leafdom is that the frenzied media atmosphere is the product of the market's obsessive (or delusional and sheep-like) interest in all matters Blue and White. The fans want to read about the Leafs every day, the story goes, and so the media is compelled to turn every misplaced pass, ill-chosen word, or exposed dong into a front page, updates on the nines, soap opera.

And for a long time, I believed some of it. While realizing that a lot of what got printed was garbage, I believed that the pressure to come up with new angles meant that occasionally a working journo would have to seize on some nonsense to deliver a 'scoop' and stay relevant.

The last vestiges of that sympathy were swept away like a fart in a hurricane when I saw what the mittenstringers have come up with today.

Consider the situation. We have the most exciting, wide-open Leafs training camp I can remember. The team is in a total state of flux, with opportunity and peril present in every area of the team. Off the top of my head, here a few interesting stories:

Luke Schenn - will he stay or will he go?
Will Pogge be a viable #1 by season's end?
Ron Wilson - how is he coaching? Who does he like? What is the essence of his system, and are the Leafs getting it?
Cliff Fletcher - are there any moves coming before the end of camp?
Kulemin- how is he adapting to the NHL game? Where does Wilson want to put him? How is he adapting to Canadian life?
Jason Blake? Is he back? Is he changing his game? What is his role on the team? 
Steen and Stajan - are they ready to step up as leaders and thrive with increased ice time? Are they top 6 guys or career checkers?
The power play - who anchors the second unit? How does Van Ryn look back there?

These are literally just a few of the questions of interest to Leafs fans, and I didn't even mention over half the roster. There are intriguing hockey stories all over the place. Yet what do the mittenstringers give us?

Berger and Cox both took Tanenbaum's answer to a dumb hypothetical to savage the guy about 'MLSE not knowing what they are doing OMG what a maroon wanting to be competitive.' I'd be tickled to see their reaction if he had said all that mattered was one Cup. Oh, and apparently according to Damien, Roy Halladay is better at throwing baseballs than Tanenbaum is at running a franchise, or something. I guess DC Talk didn't study the fruit basket I sent him last week. The one with all the apples and oranges.*

Feschuk, on the other hand, takes some innocuous remark from Wilson about the Leafs being the Yankees of hockey and stretches it out to a painfully unfunny column. Come on Dave, Wilson's right - they're both gonna miss the playoffs this year. (FEEL THE BURN JORN).

No, this isn't the pressure to come up with a story. This is all these guys know how to do. I used to assume, despite all my criticism, that these guys knew more about how the game is played, what winning and losing hockey is than I do; for despite my love of the game, I skate like a drunk Wozniewski and my playing experience is limited to road hockey and dominating the various iterations of EA's NHL game. I've never played organized ice hockey.

But now I'm thinking the mittenstringers write all this look-at-me trolling bullshit cause at the end of the day, they don't understand hockey - how games are won and lost, how to measure the contributions of players, how franchises are built, how different penalty killing systems work, how a coach balances instilling a system and letting individuals flourish - they don't understand any of it. They don't write about hockey because they can't write about hockey. Prove me wrong, guys. I'm not holding my breath.

*This allows us to outline DC Talk's Other Sports Corollary
1. The only other sports DC Talk likes are country club sports; all other Other Sports are only referred to insofar as they serve to bash MLSE by comparison. Oh, and the CFL. Whatever.

** Be sure to enter our Berger '1967' Competition! We are going to do a tracking bar and prizes and everything! See the previous post for details!

Rearview Preview

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Training camp. A time to work out the kinks and prepare for the ardruous grind ahead. Everybody has a different routine. Alex Steen works on his initial burst while Matt Stajan tries to strengthen his upper body. Kyle Wellwood thinks about getting that refrigerator magnet installed, while a team of technicians remove Carlo "Monty Burns" Colaiacovo from his hyperbaric chamber and transport him, via Canadian Forces escort, to the ACC. Mats Sundin ponders the merits of bacon and eggs vs herring waffles until well into the afternoon, at which point he is no longer hungry.

It's no different for the mittenstringers. The key thing to work out as early as possible is to establish the meta-narrative of the Leafs season, be it (from past seasons) MLSE incompetent, Quinn can't coach, fans have unrealistic expectation, team can't win the big one. Once established, this meta-narrative can serve as the one column they crank out every three days all season, with a few minor alterations to keep it fresh (1967, Jeff Finger sucks, etc.) This saves time. With so much change over the summer, the usual suspects are having a bit of a harder go this year, although I am sure they will settle happily into some variation of "Leafs suck and you are a waste of cells for watching them" before long. Witness today's effort from Working Class Howard. He opens with:

The '97-98 Leafs, under head coach Mike Murphy, had trouble moving the puck beyond centre-ice and were one of the lowest-scoring teams in the NHL [194 goals in 82 games for a 2.37 average]. The club was also a victim of shaky goaltending, as Felix Potvin had lost much of his swagger and confidence. Murphy, therefore, deployed a trap-lock system designed to keep the puck out of the Toronto net, and the attack was non-existent.

He then compares Murphy to Quinn, previewing perhaps an article about the new coaching philosophy. However, the whole argument breaks down faster than Monty Colaicovo taking a regular shift:

It is Wilson's objective to ensure that the talent-thin Leafs are among the top defensive clubs in the league and if he pulls it off, he'll end an alarming trend that has lasted for more than 30 years. Not since the late Roger Neilson coached the Leafs in 1977-78 [I was 18 years old], has the club embarked on a season with a defense-first posture.

Contradicting himself within three paragraphs? Apparently it's going to take Howard a few weeks to get his Ctrl-V skills back up to par. Also, apparently Pat Burns's tenure was a swashbuckling era of no-holds-barred firewagon hockey, which makes sense with Bill Berg, Peter Zezel, Mark Osborne, Bob Rouse, and Jamie Macoun in  such prominent roles.

The rest of it, a player by player breakdown of the 08-09 QUEST FOR FAIL is too dull to bother with, although Howard tips his hand as to who his whipping boy is going to be this year. In a textbook demonstration of why "journalists," who are "professional writers" with "access" and "insight" are vastly preferable to bloggers like ourselves, who rouse ourselves from our opium stupor to glare blearily at what could be Hockey Night In Canada, could be Spongebob before typing up our latest mishmash of stupid amateur amateurism, WCH writes:

NIKOLAI KULEMIN: The Great White Hope of the Leafs will try to fill part of the abyss created by innumerable flashes-in-the-pan over the decades.

flashes-in-the-pan create abysses? This reads like A Brief History Of Time translated by a drunken badger.

Expect to see a strong, two-way performer come out of the Russian hockey program. The Sporting News has this assessment: "A hard-nosed, hard-skating winger, Kulemin could be ready to make an impact as a checking-line forward. At 6-foot-1, 183 pounds, he is strong along the boards and could blossom into a solid 15-goal scorer.

Here it is folks. One of the more intriguing Leaf rookies in a generation comes along, and to analyze his prospects Howard forgoes:
-watching him in practice or rookie games
-interviewing people within the Leafs organization
-talking to his scouting contacts around the league
-bending the ear of Russian hockey league coaches, players, or journalists
in favour of pinching a quote from a publication renowned for giving about as much space to hockey as I give Phil Collins on my ipod. Here's a preview contest of my own. Counting last week's kickoff column, how many times will Berger write '1967?' We'll keep track and the winner gets a prize.

Feel the excitement! Only 211 days till hockey season is over!

Failing Upward

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Two intriguing items crossed the trellis this week. First, this tidbit from Alec Brownscombe:

*Shameless Name-Drop: John Ferguson Jr. attended this afternoon's Florida-Pittsburgh game. We exchanged pleasantries - if any reader knows what he's up to, please let me know - I didn't have the nerve to ask him.

and then, in this morning's Star:

Things are so bad in Liberal circles, a story making the rounds describes a policy meeting in which Dion insisted on doing things his way because, "I was elected to lead the people of this party to leave a better planet."

"No," said Bob Rae. "You were elected because you're not me and you're not Michael Ignatieff." 

On behalf of the Barilkosphere, let me be the first to congratulate John Ferguson Jr. on his senior leadership role with the Liberal Party of Canada. Does Rae have a no-movement clause now?

Also, I would love it if you took the time to read this remarkable piece about what it means to be human, written by David Foster Wallace. He died this weekend, perhaps because his humanity was just too much to carry. 

RIP, DFW. Thank you for shining a light.

Godd Till Presents: Till Bits

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Today a surefire sign of fall landed in my inbox, like Steve Simmons cannonballing into the leaves Dave Hodge just spent all afternoon raking. Fred Isher kicked off the first email in our yearly Leafs-Habs email shitdown, a beloved Canadian institution that involves about ten hockey fans, including several professional writers, resorting to profane jokes about Patrick Roy's marriage and Wendel Clark's bachelorhood in order to razz the other. It's kind of like a drunken, profane, Greek chorus to the NHL season.

Defending the right and good against the universe's third-lowest life forms (topped only by Sens fans and Mike Bullard) stirred something in me. Something I feared was lost forever since Kim Jorn packed up and left me for dead in the land that thinks that Trevor Linden is an all-time great. I felt like Tito Santana at Wrestlemania V, going for the hot tag and seeing Rick Martel turn his back and walk up the aisle, leaving him alone against the Brain Busters (no, not Pratt and Taylor). I felt an existential ennui no amount of Tillweisers could ease.  

Sure, I saw the question pop up - in emails, on PPP. I'd hear it on the bus. I think Larry King mentioned it a couple times (Good guy, by the way. Total mensch). I heard it on every cool late-summer breeze:

"Where's Godd?"

 "Where's Godd?"

 But I didn't have it in me. No, I let Kim post from the road while I remained silent. I let Kim trash me in public, while I remained silent. I even saw a German guy claim that Godd was dead. Well, too bad, Fritz!

Cause Godd Till is ready to TALK SOME MORE SHIT ON THE INTERNET!!!!

 Yes, Blocheads, get ready to fire up the old ROFLCopter for another year of us covering the coverage of another hilariously depressing, depressingly hilarious Toronto Maple Leafs Quest For Fail.

In just a couple weeks the mittenstringers will be back making shit up, quoting people out of context , and inserting '1967' into every second paragraph. And by 'paragraph' I really mean 'word.' And fear not - Godd Till, and the other guy, will be there.

 Coming soon is our season preview, and all sorts of other goodness. In the meantime, enjoy some Till Bits:

Item! People sure love to hate on Sportsnet's unctuous fratboy Mike Toth. Take this message board screed from TFC loyalists. And not even Darren Dutchyshen has inspired what is either a cruel prank, Connected slashfic, or the revenge of a battered producer.

But no matter what you say about the Tothster, you gotta admit: he's cool, he's cocky, he's bad.

Item! Damien Cox must still be on vacation. Some wag at the Star submitted a column under his byline that featured actual reporting and didn't suck. Nice try!

Item! Why is Godd Till not weighing in on the Eklund plagiarism 'controversy?' Well, we don't cover Snuffleupagus or Polkaroo either.

 And finally something to cheer you up: SENS FANS FOLLIES!

THRILL! to meatheads trying to argue that the Sens don't need Mats! GASP as you see Senators fans who believe they have a shot at the Cup this year! PUKE to read fans of the NHL's most notorious band of chokers argue Mats has never accomplished anything! Or SKIP the mental trauma and just go for the gold:

The unfortunate reality is that we live in city with such an enormous contingency of Leafs fans. Not a day goes by during the regular season, during the off season for that matter, that I don't hear those loud-mouthed Leafs fans talk about the Sens "choking" and our inability to make it to the big dance and come home victorious.
And I'll be damned it if we finally taste the sweet success that comes in the form of the Stanley Cup with Mats as an Ottawa Senator. The win would be tainted bitter sweet because Leafs fans would NEVER, ever let us forget that we couldn't do it until their hero came to our rescue. Thanks but no thanks Mats.

So let me get this straight - the owner of this franchise, the homeless man's Steinbrenner, discusses signing Mats for the principal reason not of winning, but of winding up his provincial rivals and the fans of his team respond that they worry about winning a Cup with him cause Leafs fans could still make fun of them? No wonder the Sens can't beat Toronto in the playoffs - it's tough skating around with that nine-million -pound inferiority complex on your back. Be careful heading out to work tomorrow - there may just be a Sens fan following you to your car.

It's Sunday, and I am insanely hungover, which means it is the perfect time to trot out one of the favourite tired tricks of lazy columnists the world over: A bunch of rambling nonsense, useless factoids, and hey-whatever-happened-to's strung together by ellipses...I'll start with an interesting fact: this type of column was pioneered by Peter Gammons when he worked at the Boston Globe...unlike a certain Sunday brainsqueeze, Gammons' column took up a full broadsheet page and was crammed with so much important info that it was a must read for baseball fans across North America...

I went to see the Saskatoon Blades play on Friday and was dissapointed to see that Wendel Clark's retired number was not hanging from the rafters like I had been promised...It turns out that they've taken it down in order to refit the arena to add more seats for the 2010 World Juniors which are taking place here...That banner must be freaking huge...

Speaking of western Canadian junior hockey, hair-product lab-rat Mike Toth's most recent column laments the lack of colourful nicknames in the modern baseball world...Sure, there are no Wahoos and Catfishes anymore, but Toth is apparently unaware of the brilliant McGlovin, bestowed upon the Blue Jays' Human Highlight Reel (with the glove, not the bat, of course) by Neate Sager...Instead, after detailing all the tortured logic behind his choices, Toth gives us The Arlington Assassin (Wells), Holy Cow (Scutaro) and Three Outs (Rios)...Now I know that someone who re-christened Pratt and Taylor as Fat and Failure shouldn't be criticizing the nicknaming abilities of anyone, but come on... 

Working Class Howard (now that is a nickname) took time from his busy schedule (filled with yelling 1967 at anyone wearing the colour blue) to answer some of his readers' questions...My fave:

Q. Jonathan in Medicine Hat, Alta. writes: Do you think if Sundin comes back, the Leafs will be a better team than last season? New coach. Hagman. Blake has a new coach. Tougher team. Better defense. Kulemin. Another full season of Antropov. Full season with Toskala. Pressure is off them.

A. No.

Thanks for the insight Howard...I'm sure Jonathan in Medicine Hat (a lovely town, by the way) really appreciates the thought and consideration you put into answering his question...I mean, Jesus, could you not have at least consulted the Magic 8-Ball and given us a "Very Doubtful" or "Don't Count on it"...These people are your readers Howard, and for whatever bizarre reason, they seem to like and respect you...Don't shit on them...

And hey, whatever happened to Godd Till?

Postcard from the Paris of the Prairies

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Ahoy Hoy Blocheads,

Well, we made it to beautiful Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. As most of you know, this is where a certain namesake of the Wendel Clark hat-trick (goal, assist, beating the cocaine out of Bob Probert) played his junior hockey for the Saskatoon Blades.

Bizarrely, there are no statues of Wendel, nor is there even any recognition of this important time in the history of hockey on the road sign leading into town. However, I will be going to a Blades pre-season game later this week where I can gaze in gape-jawed wonder at Wendel's retired number 22 hanging from the rafters.

Next stop is Kelvington. Wish you were here.


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This page is an archive of entries from September 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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