The Leafs Got Babcock… Now What?


Mike Babcock

Not to rain on the parade (Stanley Cup or otherwise) but the Maple Leafs still have a lot of work to do before we even think about Lord Stanley returning to its rightful home. Sure, bringing in a guy with the pedigree of Mike Babcock to coach the team is a step in the right direction, but don’t think for a moment that Brendan Shanahan’s work is done.

The Maple Leafs President has to fix the current team that finished 4th worst in the league last season. He also has to install assistants, hire a new scouting staff, not to mention hire a new general manager. But at least he has been able to fill an important hole.

To his credit, Shanahan managed to convince a high-profile coach in Babcock to come to Toronto. I, for one, did not think it would happen. With many other teams vying for Babcock’s services, I suggested the Leafs would be better off getting a fresh face but also someone who knows how to win. This is why I thought London Knights Head Coach Dale Hunter would be the ideal man to coach the Leafs. A Cadillac would have been fine but Shanahan instead got a Lamborghini.

Some are wondering why Babcock would leave a successful organization to one that has been a “laughing-stock” of the NHL. Babcock owes his success as a head coach to the Red Wings organization. That was one reason I thought he would remain in Detroit. But also I think Babcock, like Hunter, enjoys a challenge as much as he likes winning. Like I’ve said before, turning around the fortunes of a franchise that has not won the Stanley Cup since 1967 is a challenge.

Babcock also may have gotten sick and tired of seeing his players get pushed around on the ice each and every game and not being able to do something about it. As long as Ken Holland remained the Red Wings GM, Babcock would never have gotten the changes he needs to make sure his best players are protected. Now that he is in Toronto, and, for now, with only Shanahan to answer to, Babcock will get to put a team together the way he likes it.

From what I have heard at their news conference on Thursday, Babcock and Shanahan have set the bar as low as they could get. They say the team and Leafs fans will have to endure some “pain” over the next three or four years. But I believe they can turn things around more quickly. Having followed sports for a number of years, I know that the best people in the business often use mind games in order to help achieve their goal. If the Leafs win only 30 games next season and miss the playoffs, the thinking will be: that was expected. They are playing with house money.

Leafs fans can also expect to see a lot of boring games the next couple of seasons. Sure, the team may end up winning more games than they did last year. But unless Shanahan, or whoever the GM will be, gets guys that can regularly light the lamp, Babcock will implement a more defensive-minded system with the team he has now. I will bet there will be more espressos sold at Leaf games at the Air Canada Centre than beer.

It is interesting to see and hear how people, who for years hailed Babcock as a hockey genius, now all of a sudden feel he is throwing away a Hall of Fame career simply by signing with the Leafs. He is selling out they say. He is only going to Toronto because of the money as this misguided Habs fan suggests. You would think Babcock is going to be working for the Russians. But in reality, he leaving it (a.k.a: the Red Wings).

One last thing. What are the chances the Leafs land Steven Stamkos after next season as a free agent? I would have said less than 10 percent. After Wednesday, now that Babcock is head coach, I put it at least at 90 percent.

Also see:

The Case for Dale Hunter as Head Coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs
Maple Leafs Banking on Moneypuck
Why Not Shanahan?



Late Night’s Ultimate Sports Fan



If there is something about David Letterman, it was that he was a true sports fan. Baseball, golf, basketball, football, and hockey. Not only did he have everyone from the sports world appearing on his show but he also convinces them to participate in his silly stunts whether it is throwing footballs through the window of a moving taxi or throwing baseballs at television camera.

Letterman was not just a spectator watching from the sideline, he dove right in. He along with good friend, race car driver Bobby Rahal, owned and operated an Indy racecar team that fielded some very good drivers.

My dad and I once took a road trip to New York City in 1993. It was after the US Thanksgiving Holiday and a little over a month after the Blue Jays won their second consecutive World Series. While in town, I thought it would be great to see a taping of Late Show at the Ed Sullivan Theatre. I discovered it was a long process but my dad and I eventually got in and saw a great show with comedian Robin Williams, Charlotte Hornets forward Larry Johnson, and actor/singer Mandy Patinkin.

In honour of Letterman’s final episode as a late night host. Here are a couple of my favourite episodes. Sports-related of course! Thanks for making us laugh, Dave.

Top-10 List featuring the 1994 Stanley Cup Champion New York Rangers. Check out current Sportsnet analysts Nick Kypreos and Glenn Healy.

This one from 1993 has Toronto Blue Jays’ Paul Molitor and Lenny Dykstra of the Philadelphia Phillies.

Where are the Free Speech Advocates Now?


Shauna Hunt TFC

By now a lot of you already know the incident with CityNews reporter Shauna Hunt at the Toronto FC home opener. Everyone had an opinion on the matter. It was a disgusting display of behaviour by these so-called fans and it was all shown on live TV.

But the question I like to ask is: where are all the trolls crying out free speech? Are they all of a sudden hiding under a rock? You would think we would have heard from Larry Flynt on how the men are being unfairly persecuted on social media for telling the reporter to… you know. What’s more, no one seems to be mad as hell that the corporate big wigs at Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment have banned the four from all MLSE-owned properties. Talk about turning the other cheek. I wouldn’t be surprised that the ones who claim they are outraged are also ones that belly ache about MLSE being so heavy-handed with punishing unruly fans. Yes, the waffle-throwing Toronto fans are being grouped in with sexist ones whether you like it or not.

I can tell you how this all got started. There is a certain population who feel they can get away with anything. Take the NHL trade deadline coverage on TSN last March where someone tweeted about Joffery Lupul having extra-marital affairs with Dion Phaneuf’s wife. It was despicable for sure but that was being defended as free speech. No different from what these goons did. However, that’s tame when you compare to things like breaking windows, looting stores, and setting police cars on fire. All were done in the name of freedom of expression. If you don’t believe me, just look at the recent incidents in Baltimore and Ferguson. All that were deemed by socially conscious groups and media as acceptable and it all led to last Tuesday outside BMO Field. If you can convince a section to support your cause, why stop at there?

No one thinks about the consequences their actions may cause or how it will end up hurting the ones you care about the most. But apparently no one could care less. They believe their rights have been violated and it is time to start cashing in on the publicity. One other thing. If you put in Ann Coulter or Sarah Palin in place of Shauna Hunt, I can bet you the amount of outrage towards the men would be a big fat zero. Everyone would instead be laughing it up for days. And you wonder why women continue to feel like they get treated badly.

At least the goons at the Toronto FC game had the balls to show their face in public. I can’t say the same for Leaf fans who like to hide underneath a paper bag. But you want a right to say something for everyone to hear at the expense of others. Congratulations. I hope it was worth it.

Also see:

The Leafs Bring Out the Worst in People
Racism Knows No Bounds
Sports is Not a Platform for Activism

The Past is Starting to Catch Up to the Patriots


Tom Brady Deflategate

The Tuck Rule, Spygate, and many other dirty tricks. You wouldn’t know how many people set themselves up for failure by the decisions they have made in the past. This is not karma, it is the past catching up with them. And the New England Patriots have used up all of their get-out-of-jail-free cards.

None of their experience of winning championships, producing hall-of-fame calibre players, and the respect that comes with being one of the NFL’s best franchises were able to get the Patriots out of this mess. It all got started on January 12, 2002 in the AFC Championship Game between the Patriots and the Oakland Raiders. That is where the Tuck Rule originated. Mind you, Tom Brady had nothing to do with it. The refs blew the call despite going over video evidence. But that call allowed New England to keep the ball and ended up winning the game on a field goal. They would win the Super Bowl that year. Then came Spygate in 2007 where Patriots were accused of videotaping signals being delivered by the opposing team.

Tom Brady suspended for four games, and the Patriots fined $1 Million and had two draft picks confiscated would be sufficient punishment under any circumstances. I say under any circumstances. What makes this peculiar is the fact that none of the evidence presented ties Brady to the deed. An investigator with the NFL says Brady “probably” committed the act or had someone carry out the act. “Probably” means I’m not quite sure but there is a good chance. That to me is not enough to even give a slap on the wrist. But there is this thing in sports called make-up calls. Penalties that are administered for an infraction that had been missed earlier. I have a feeling the Deflategate was more about missed opportunities than it is getting to the bottom of who deflated the footballs.

There is no question that the Patriots would eventually be caught. But Deflategate was driven more by an agenda than anything else. It is like arresting a drug dealer or a murderer for running a red light in order to get them off the street. But to those who hate the Patriots, the end justifies the means. One thing is for sure, the Patriots have become wounded ducks and nothing they do now can save them from this or future predicaments.

Also see:

Why We Like to Lay Blame and Not Give Credit
NFL Playoffs Prove Karma’s Not a Bitch, it’s a Bad Motherf***er
Video Review: The Ultimate Blown Call

Edmonton Better Not Blow This One


Connor McDavid

If there is one thing the Edmonton Oilers have shown over the last few years is that having the best talent on your team isn’t going to cut it. It is one thing if you are the MVP in junior, semi-pro, or other professional league. But what we are seeing is that the NHL is proving to be a whole different animal.

Landing Connor McDavid is a good starting point to rebuild. But it is going to take more than just McDavid to revitalize once was a successful franchise. It didn’t hurt that Sidney Crosby played on a line with same guy who signs his paycheques in his first season in the NHL. Mario Lemieux also realized that Crosby, as well as Evgeny Malkin, needed a supporting cast around him in order for the Penguins to become a Stanley Cup calibre team. I can tell you, unless Wayne Gretzky decides to come out of retirement, McDavid won’t have the same luxury in Edmonton. So it is best for the young phenom to surround himself with veterans who have been in the league for a while and can mentor McDavid until he is able to take the training wheels off. A guy like Scott Hartnell or Joffery Lupul would be the ideal players to be around McDavid both on and off the ice.

The Oilers had a boat load of first round picks over the years and have been in positions to take the best player in the draft. Yet, they are in no better position as the Leafs. I would even argue that the Leafs are in much better shape than the Oilers. The problem may lie with the fact that they always took the best player in the draft and not one that addresses their needs. No doubt Taylor Hall is a great player but if the Oilers decide to trade him straight up to the Leafs for Nazem Kadri, it would be a wash. Like I’ve said before, not everyone on your team can be a goal scorer. You need to have some role players and guys who can prevent opponents from scoring on their own net.

With the hiring of Peter Chiarelli as the team’s new President of Hockey Operations and General Manager, the Oilers are hoping next season will be the one where things head in a move positive direction. Chiarelli, like his predecessors, has experience on championship teams. So there is no question he knows what it takes to put together a contending team. But we’ve witnessed in the past that having a guy in charge that has won it before means very little. Chiarelli’s legacy will not be determined on how he does at the draft but rather on the trade front and free agency.

Players like McDavid come once every ten years or so, so the Oilers better not blow this opportunity to use this kid to his full potential. Otherwise, he’ll be just another first overall pick in a list of past Oilers’ first overall picks.

Also see:

Getting the First Overall Pick: Big Deal? Or Big Deal?
Get the Right Player First, then Spend the Money
Winners Blaze Their Own Trail