Canucks Dismantle Ducks

What a fabulous return to Vancouver that was for Todd Bertuzzi.  Not only did he score five goals in a 9-0 Anaheim victory over the Vancouver Canucks, he was also named first star and given a key to the city by Mayor Sam Sullivan.

Then Bert woke up this morning and reality hit.

Matt Cooke Goal

His return to the city that was arguably the biggest influence on his professional hockey career was overshadowed by a dominating 4-0 Canucks victory over the Ducks.

Of all the Canucks games this year, this one ranks right up there as one of the best all-around team efforts as Alain Vigneault’s crew got contributions from Markus Naslund with his 11th of the season, Cooke on his fourth of the season and emerging star Ryan Kesler, who picked up his sixth and seventh goals of the season.

What was even sweeter about this win was that the Canucks knocked off the defending Stanley Cup Champs on home ice, where Vancouver had not beaten Anaheim since 2002, according to TSN.  Not only did Vancouver, the hottest team in the NHL right now, beat the Ducks on the scoreboard, they beat them to pucks and won a lot of the battles along the wall against much bigger players like Chris Pronger, Sean O’Donnell and Ryan Getzlaf.

Cooke, who scored the third Vancouver goal on a deflection off of a Alex Edler shot from the point, was a thorn in the Ducks’ side all night as the spark plug caused numerous scuffles with his opponents and got the Canucks going in the second period with a relentless fore-check and board-shaking hits.  That’s the way No. 24 has to play every night if he wants to be successful on this team and for the team to be successful.  He isn’t a 30-goal man, it just isn’t going to happen.  However, if he hits, pesters the other team without taking penalties and can chip in on the odd goal then he becomes a valuable asset to this hockey team.

You can’t blame J.S Giguere for the loss tonight.  His team did him no favours by taking penalty after penalty in the later part of the second period and the first few minutes of the third period, which ultimately led to Kesler’s beautiful second goal of the night. 

By the same token, Roberto Luongo simply outplayed his nemesis at the other end.  Luongo, for what it is worth, was named Pierre McGuire’s Monster Performer on the night and rightfully so.  Extending his shut out streak to just over 135 minutes, Luongo kept the Canucks in the game during the first period that saw Anaheim direct 15 shots at the Canucks goalie.  The rest of the game, Luongo faced just 11 shots to preserve his third shut out of the month.

All-in-all, the Canucks’ play tonight was that type of effort needed to win a championship.  That was the effort that most hockey fans witnessed when Anaheim dominated the regular season and the playoffs last year on their way to winning the Stanley Cup.  The trick is to keep it up until the middle of June.

Quick question out of curiosity …  On a night that saw the Canucks pulverize the Ducks, did anyone else even notice Todd Bertuzzi out there?

Todd Who.  Not a question, but a statement.

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R.I.P. Sean Taylor 1983-2007

Sean Taylor

This is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to write.

Sean Taylor was one of the players I hoped one day I could be like when I was in high school.

Now he’s gone.

It was a home invasion, a burglary, a robbery, whatever you want to call it, that didn’t end well.

When I first heard that Sean had been shot I didn’t initially think too much of it. He had a checkered past and it looked like another situation someone else may have avoided, but not Sean. “Here we go again,” I thought. I may have even snickered a little bit.

This morning when the news came across my screen I was shocked. I had followed his career since his sophomore year in Miami and now he’s gone. It was a emotionally confusing day.

Growing up I wondered if I would ever be 6’3 and 230 lbs or run a 40 yard dash in 4.3 seconds. (none of which came to fruition) Sean had that. He was the ultimate athlete. The perfect fit for the safety position. Sean had the instinct and the ruthless highlight reel hits. He had severely underrated ball-skills and though he made a few mistakes in coverage, he still encompassed everything a defensive player needs to be.

He’ll be missed.

As a sophomore at the University of Miami, Sean helped lead the team to the national title game, which many contest the referees blew with an overtime pass interference call to this very day. I still remember the play and the incredibly late flag.

That year he started 13 games, made 85 tackles (4tfl), broke up 15 passes and had 4 interceptions.

His junior year was the stuff legends are made of. He only started 11 games and yet picked off 10 passes, tied for the single season record at UM. He also tallied 77 tackles (6tfl), and broke up 13 passes. He was named first team All-American and drafted fifth overall by the Washington Redskins that year.

The rest is history.

Sean became one of the most feared players in the NFL. Sean Taylor is gone but not forgotten.

Thanks for the hits, thanks for the inspiration, thanks for playing ball. 

Rest In Peace.

Bert’s Back In Town!

Todd Bertuzzi

Finally the hockey game we have all been waiting for.

 Todd Bertuzzi’s return to the place that made him a superstar, as well as the place that helped bring down that stardom.

Bertuzzi, finally healthy and playing, comes into town in maybe the most anticipated return to Vancouver by a professional hockey player since Pavel Bure, yet I offer up one question: Who gives a you-know-what?

Everybody in this city is so wrapped up about whether or not the hulking winger will be booed or cheered in the place that made him a hero and a zero in the span of of eight seasons with the Canucks.  It doesn’t matter what reaction this guy receives because quite frankly, he isn’t worth a reaction.

Yes, you heard correctly and here’s why he isn’t worth a reaction.

He didn’t do anything.  Okay, he put a lot of points on the board in the ’01-’02 season when him and Naslund were combined on a team that got beat out in the first round by the Detroit Red Wings.  He put up a lot of points the following season as well, including just two goals in 14 games during the playoffs in which the Minnesota Wild came back from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Canucks in the Conference Semifinals.

Then there was the year after that, where the “most dominant power forward” signed a brand new, multi-million dollar contract with the Canucks.  That was the year he demolished Steve Moore after posting just 17 goals until the fateful night.  He was on pace for 21 goals.  Bertuzzi then got suspended for the rest of the season and was reinstated following the NHL lockout, but not before the Canucks were eliminated by the Calgary Flames in the first round prior to that lockout.

The following year, Bertuzzi scored 25 goals and produced 71 points and was minus 17 in 82 games.  If memory serves correctly; the Canucks didn’t make the playoffs.

Now, not all of the past playoff and regular season failures are Todd’s fault, but for a guy that gets paid the amount of money he did in this city and for the hype that follows him about how great a hockey player people think he is, he did nothing.  Naslund can be considered in that category too.

The mark of a great player – which some people believe Bertuzzi to be – is measured by success in the playoffs. Bertuzzi hasn’t done anything in the playoffs to be even recognized as a good hockey player.

What is lost in this outrageously ridiculous situation is the fact that there is a hockey game between the defending Stanley Cup Champs and a team that is striving and has the potential to be champs themselves.  The Ducks knocked out the Canucks in the Conference semi’s last year and physically dominated the series, dating back to the regular season.

The focus that matters is the game between the Ducks and Canucks and this game will be a huge indication of what kind of a team the Canucks really have this season.  The Ducks have struggled to establish dominance, and being the defending champs, they should be played accordingly.

Todd who?

On the Topic of Toronto

Richard Peddie

So while we are still on the subject of Canada’s most criticized hockey organization, another laugher out of Leaf nation comes up in the news.

Yesterday, my fellow TSC writer Cam Tucker wrote about the failures of this franchise so far this season. Today, the president of the team, Richard Peddie, came out and said that hiring GM John Ferguson Jr. was a mistake.

Really? No way! Finally, someone in authority comes out and says what everyone has been thinking.

“To be honest, it was a mistake on my part for not fully understanding at the time what the job of being (the Leafs GM) in this market fully entailed,” Peddie told the Toronto Sun. 

So Peddie’s fault was hiring a rookie general manager, and judging by the Leaf’s rank in the standings right now, it was a big mistake. JFJ was thrown into a pressure cooker we all know as T.O., where the fans, the league, and the media will not hesitate to criticize and rant. Not to mention the common hobby of dissecting every move this team makes.

“Let’s face it. It probably was the wrong place for a rookie general manager to start. I mean, all GMs make mistakes, but they are not under the constant microscope and scrutiny that you have in Toronto, which is, in our opinion, the top hockey market there is,” said Peddie.

He then continues to say that Ferguson and coach Paul Maurice’s job are safe for now and they are not looking for replacements.  

John Ferguson

What? How can the president of Maple Leafs Sport and Entertainment come out and say that his employees are not capable of doing their jobs yet continue to allow them the opportunity to fail and embarrass the franchise?

If Peddie is going to come out and call out his G.M., then he better back up his statements. Walk the talk Mr. President, because right now, you’re on the spotlight.

Maybe Peddie should be the one losing his job. He admitted that he made a mistake hiring Ferguson, and he’s not doing anything about it. Toronto is currently sitting in the 14th spot in the Eastern Conference, yet no one has taken the fall for it. If there is a time for ownership to take action, it’s now.

Unless they are purposely wanting to be the joke of the league, someone in T-dot better start scratching the “firing” finger.

But why would I care? I love watching the Leafs fail miserably. The lower Toronto sinks, the happier my life is.  

As far as I know, this Toronto organization is just continuing to add more punch-lines to what we’ve come to know as the never-ending NHL joke. 

Are The Leafs Mathematically Eliminated From Playoff Contention Yet?

Toronto Maple Leafs

Like sand through the hour glass, so are the days of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Okay, maybe that didn’t make a whole lot of sense from one perspective, but if you read more into the lead than just the words, you’ll understand what it means.  If you don’t, I’ll help you out. 

The Toronto Maple Leafs are a modern day sporting soap opera.  There are problems up and down this organization, from the ownership group – which is about as torn apart as a t-shirt found in an 18-pack of beer, to the general manager and coaching staff and then the team itself.

This team is a joke.  Plain and simple, the Toronto Maple Leafs are the laughing stock of the NHL because there just isn’t any hockey sense within the organization.  John Ferguson Jr., the general manager of the most despised sports team in Canada, doesn’t know how to run a winning hockey club.  He uses more money than he does brains by signing players that just aren’t good enough to win.  The Leafs haven’t drafted well in the past few years and then they go out and sign guys that are tier two NHL players.

Next to Mats Sundin, who has been the only consistent contributor to a dismal hockey club, the Leafs biggest offensive threat is Nik Antropov.  You expect to make the playoffs or win in the playoffs with Antropov as your second or third go-to-guy. 

The defence isn’t worth dragging through the dirt, which we have done enough on this website, but they’re not a good enough defensive corps to be successful.

This team is simply horrible.  They are dysfunctional, they look more for a quick-fix solution rather than a substantial decision that will change the team for the better.  It is impossible to just sign a whole bunch of players with no real purpose or reason other than ‘they produced at a slightly above average rate during other parts of their career,’ and expect them to win.  The New York Rangers did that and they were the laughing stock of the NHL in the late 90’s and early part of this decade.

The worst part of the ridiculous problems with the Toronto Maple Leafs?  We, meaning the majority of the Canadian populace that, despite what CBC believes, hate the Maple Leafs and yet every Saturday at 4 p.m. we are subjected to watching the most boring and pointless brand of NHL hockey. 

Does the CBC not realize that there are at least 10 other better hockey games being played in the NHL at 4 p.m. on Saturday that they could fill the schedule with? 

To sum up this whole rant, I’ll just say this:  The Leafs are a horrible example of a hockey team, yet there they are on Saturday night, Hockey Night in Canada, for our entertainment because someone at the CBC thinks that they are worth watching despite what a horrible hockey team they are right now.

Having said that, I beg the question.  Are the Leafs mathematically eliminated from playoff contention yet?

Football Finale

So did you watch the Grey Cup game? Ya, neither did I.

Congratulations to the Saskatchewan Roughriders for winning their first title in however-many years, but honestly, we don’t care. The battle of the Prairies sounds about as boring as Bob Cole’s voice.

I watched the highlights of this match, and maybe it was an entertaining showing by both teams, but who am I to judge since I didn’t even watch it, right? Let’s ask those who actually tuned in to the game. Anyone?

Maybe besides the Toronto fans, who showed up to watch Lenny Kravitz perform, and of course, the loyal supporters of the competing squads, there wasn’t much generated interest. It just wasn’t appealing.

Call me bitter, call me sour, it doesn’t matter. A majority of CFL fans will tell you that they would prefer to watch the league’s best B.C. Lions take on the “supposed” home team, Toronto Argonauts. But unfortunately, both teams were eliminated last week in the Conference finals. 

So here we have it, this Sunday, the Grey Cup final. The CFL Glory.

And Canadians across the country were presented with a Winnipeg – Saskatchewan match-up. Maybe I’m not the right person to say it, but it seemed like just another ticker headline. 

Still on the subject of football, I was really impressed while watching the Kansas City Chiefs game today. I don’t know why but I’ve always been a big fan of K.C.’s running backs and Kolby Smith was no exception. Priest Holmes has always been one of my favourites and Larry Johnson is unbelievable as well. Smith had a great game today, and scored two TDs while producing some potential highlight reel runs.

Nice to at least see some form of good football today. 

Best of the Best: Part VII – Feel Good Stories

Lebron James

I was just reading a few sports articles, as I continued to procrastinate from school work, when I came across a story on Cleveland Cavaliers’ star LeBron James

Apparently, James and the Lebron James Family Foundation treated 800 locals, most of whom are homeless, to a thanksgiving dinner at Quicken Loans Arena, and then to a movie this past Monday. He also gave families free gift cards for groceries and free transportation passes over the holidays.  

“It’s great to see the smiles on kids’ faces,” James said. “That’s the most important thing to me. It really means a lot to them and it’s special for me.” 

Now that’s using power and money for the right reasons. 

“I’m in a position where I’m able to do things like this. It’s not like I have to, it’s because I want to. I know I can’t fulfill every kid’s dream. But I’m thankful I can do something like this, especially during the holidays.” 

This is a very heartwarming story and a much needed one especially for the NBA and sports in general. James, who is one of the league’s bona fide superstars, understands that he has the ability to give back, and – take notes pro athletes – that’s exactly what he does.

It’s nice to see that not all sport figures are bitter and selfish … 

Another great sports moment, which happened over a year and a half ago, is about an autistic high school basketball player named Jason McElwain.

Watch this inspirational story, which is worth retelling over and over again.

Continuing on with this theme, Rick Reilly, one of my favourite sports writers, has compiled so many amazing articles, which makes you want to go out and be a better person after reading it. 

Here are just a few examples of his feel-good articles on Sports Illustrated:

But one of my all-time favourite has to be this story:

The World’s Greatest Father 

From Sports Illustrated, By Rick Reilly

I try to be a good father. Give my kids mulligans. Work nights to pay for their text messaging. Take them to swimsuit shoots.

But compared with Dick Hoyt, I suck.

Eighty-five times he’s pushed his disabled son, Rick, 26.2 miles in Marathons. Eight times he’s not only pushed him 26.2 miles in a wheelchair but also towed him 2.4 miles in a dinghy while swimming and pedaled him 112 miles in a seat on the handlebars–all in the same day.

Dick’s also pulled him cross-country skiing, taken him on his back mountain climbing and once hauled him across the U.S. on a bike. Makes taking your son bowling look a little lame, right?

And what has Rick done for his father? Not much–except save his life.

This love story began in Winchester , Mass. , 43 years ago, when Rick Was strangled by the umbilical cord during birth, leaving him brain-damaged and unable to control his limbs.

“He’ll be a vegetable the rest of his life;” Dick says doctors told him And his wife, Judy, when Rick was nine months old. “Put him in an Institution.”

But the Hoyts weren’t buying it. They noticed the way Rick’s eyes followed them around the room. When Rick was 11 they took him to the Engineering department at Tufts University and asked if there was anything to help the boy communicate. “No way,” Dick says he was told. “There’s nothing going on in his brain.”

“Tell him a joke,” Dick countered. They did. Rick laughed. Turns out a lot was going on in his brain. Rigged up with a computer that allowed him to control the cursor by touching a switch with the side of his head, Rick was finally able to communicate. First words? “Go Bruins!”

And after a high school classmate was paralyzed in an accident and the school organized a charity run for him, Rick pecked out, “Dad, I want To do that.”

Yeah, right. How was Dick, a self-described “porker” who never ran more than a mile at a time, going to push his son five miles? Still, he tried. “Then it was me who was handicapped,” Dick says. “I was sore for two weeks.”

That day changed Rick’s life. “Dad,” he typed, “when we were running, it felt like I wasn’t disabled anymore!”

And that sentence changed Dick’s life. He became obsessed with giving Rick that feeling as often as he could. He got into such hard-belly shape that he and Rick were ready to try the 1979 Boston Marathon.

“No way,” Dick was told by a race official. The Hoyts weren’t quite a single runner, and they weren’t quite a wheelchair competitor. For a few years Dick and Rick just joined the massive field and ran anyway, then they found a way to get into the race officially: In 1983 they ran another marathon so fast they made the qualifying time for Boston the following year.

Then somebody said, “Hey, Dick, why not a triathlon?”

How’s a guy who never learned to swim and hadn’t ridden a bike since he was six going to haul his 110-pound kid through a triathlon? Still, Dick tried.

Now they’ve done 212 triathlons, including four grueling 15-hour Ironmans in Hawaii . It must be a buzzkill to be a 25-year-old stud getting passed by an old guy towing a grown man in a dinghy, don’t you think?

Hey, Dick, why not see how you’d do on your own? “No way,” he says. Dick does it purely for “the awesome feeling” he gets seeing Rick with a cantaloupe smile as they run, swim and ride together.

This year, at ages 65 and 43, Dick and Rick finished their 24th Boston Marathon, in 5,083rd place out of more than 20,000 starters. Their best time? Two hours, 40 minutes in 1992–only 35 minutes off the world record, which, in case you don’t keep track of these things, happens to be held by a guy who was not pushing another man in a wheelchair at the time.

“No question about it,” Rick types. “My dad is the Father of the Century.”

And Dick got something else out of all this too. Two years ago he had a mild heart attack during a race. Doctors found that one of his arteries was 95% clogged. “If you hadn’t been in such great shape,” One doctor told him, “you probably would’ve died 15 years ago.” So, in a way, Dick and Rick saved each other’s life.

Rick, who has his own apartment (he gets home care) and works in Boston, and Dick, retired from the military and living in Holland, Mass. , always find ways to be together. They give speeches around the country and compete in some backbreaking race every weekend, including this Father’s Day.

That night, Rick will buy his dad dinner, but the thing he really wants to give him is a gift he can never buy.

“The thing I’d most like,” Rick types, “is that my dad sit in the chair and I push him once.”

Watch their video. It’s truly unbelievable.