Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Slide continues in Leaf Land - Playoffs a distant memory.

Good afternoon Leaf fans! Thanks for checking out our latest blog! This weekend I am going to talk about the Leafs recent woes and the impact it may have on the offseason. We've heard of the 'Suck for Luck' campaigns in the NFL, but this year in the NHL will it be 'Fail for Nail', 'Fail for Mikhail' or 'Stumble for Dumba'? Alright, the Dumba one was a bit of a stretch but you get my point.

Joffrey Lupul
Since February 7th the Leafs have lost 13 of their last 15 games and the Leafs are in the rear view mirror of the playoffs. Their last win coming in Montreal 3-1 last Saturday(I'll take it). To make matters worse, Joffrey Lupul sustained what may be a season ending separated shoulder. The loss of Lupul, to me, was the last shred of playoff hopes Toronto had left for this season. Now comes the question, do you hope to be bad?

Well, to be fair, I would hope no professional hockey team ever wants to lose, if they have any pride at least. But I can't help to hope, even as a Leaf fan that they just keep on losin'. If the Leafs are going to miss the playoffs they should go big or go home. It would do the Leafs a great deal of good to have a top 5, maybe even top 3 selection in the prospect pipeline.

The NHL Draft could be interesting for the Toronto Maple Leafs who currently sit 7th from the bottom of the NHL standings. At the rate they are going, a top 3 pick is not out of the question. Here are the bottom of the standings as of Saturday March 10:

30. Columbus Blue Jackets 22-39-7 51pts
29. Edmonton Oilers 26-35-7 59pts
28. Montreal Canadiens 27-32-10 64pts
27. New York Islanders 28-31-9 65pts
26. Caroline Hurricanes 26-27-15 67pts
25. Anaheim Ducks 29-30-10 68pts
23. Toronto Maple Leafs 30-30-8 68pts

At the pace the Leafs are on, a top 3 pick isn't out of the question, and for the 2012 NHL draft that boasts a very deep draft class, the Leafs could have a future star player on their hands. Here's a quick look at the projected top 3 picks in this year draft.

Nail Yakupov
1. Nail Yakupov, RW(Sarnia Sting, OHL) 31G 38A 69P 42GP

Yakupov has a certain edge to his game that makes him intriguing. He's not overwhelmingly large at 5'11'' weighing only 189lbs but he brings a lot of excitement to the game every time he touches the puck. Although smaller, Yakupov has obviously drawn comparisons to Russian superstar Alex Ovechkin. While I don't see Yakupov being quite the scoring threat as Ovechkin, he may pan out to be a superstar at the NHL level due to his unmatched speed and great vision along with a deadly set of hands.

2. Mathew Dumba, D(Red Deer Rebels, WHL) 20G 33A 55P 65GP

From the Red Deer Rebels Mathew Dumba is a skilled defenseman with a tremendous skating stride. Widely praised for his ability to land big open ice hits, Dumba has been compared to Red Deer Rebel alumni Dion Phanuef. Not a player I see the Maple Leafs taking, Dumba is most likely destined for the Edmonton Oilers who need a young promising D-man.

3. Mikhail Grigorenko RW/C(Quebec Remparts, QMJHL) 39G 45A 84P 56GP

Another skilled Russian projected to go top 3 is Mikhail Grigorenko. In his first season playing hockey in North America for the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL, Grigorenko has been nothing short of dominant. Currently 7th in the QMJHL in scoring, first among all rookies, Grigorenko could go anywhere in the top 5 this season. As a potential threat to retreat to the KHL his draft stock may slip a little, but there are teams I'm sure that would be more than willing to take the risk to have him suit up for them.

Whatever the case may be, I am always excited to see what happens during the draft and where the Leafs finish could add to that excitement. Keep checking back as the season comes to a close as we will look forward to the draft after the playoffs. In the coming weeks we will be looking at the Maple Leafs prospect pool and players they could look at in the draft to help build on an already steady foundation.

Remember to follow us on Twitter @LeafsDinosBirds or Like us on Facebook at here.

And if you can't laugh at yourself you're not living, for all my fellow Leaf fans with a sense of humor...

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Episode 5

       This is long overdue but here is Episode 5 of the podcast.  This week we look at the big news of the Toronto Maple Leafs firing Ron Wilson.  We also talk about the Leafs hiring Randy Carlyle to replace him.  What does this mean for Toronto and how will it change their season?  We also look at the Raptors improved play as of late as well as the Blue Jays kicking off their spring season against the Pirates.  Let us know what you think about the change in coaching for Toronto.

Remember to follow us on Twitter @leafsdinosbirds, and like us on Facebook.

Special Podcast: Trade Edition

       Here you go everyone our first special podcast.  This special edition talks about all the trades that happened during deadline season.  Justin and I break down all of the trades and determine who were the winners and losers.  We talk about what the Maple Leafs were able to do and if it will make an impact on their team.  We also talk about who didn't get traded and why this happened.  We hope you enjoy and let us know what you thought of the trade deadline.

Remember to follow us on Twitter @leafsdinosbirds and like us on Facebook.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Rocky Tenure Of Ron Wilson

       The news that a lot of Maple Leafs fans have been wanting occurred on Friday with the firing of head coach Ron Wilson.  It is a period of time in Leafs history that will most likely be met with feelings of what could have been.  Wilson was an experienced coach who came to Toronto with promises of playoff dreams and Stanley Cup fantasies.  But when we look back at the four years those dreams have turned into nightmares and the Maple Leafs current play has to be the low point.  When I look back on Ron's time with the Leafs I have to think that a lot of the issues that surround the Leafs may not actually be his fault.  However this could be another example of an organization that could not get rid of the players so they got rid of the coach.
Courtesy Maple Leafs Hot Stove
       Ron Wilson was signed on to coach the Leafs in 2008 when Cliff Fletcher was the Interim General Manager and was signed to a four year contract.  In his first season with the Leafs they finished in tenth place.  His signing caused the rumours in Toronto of Brian Burke coming to Toronto.  Half way through the 2008 season Burke came over and began the re build in Toronto.  The turnover was quick as Burke tried to give Wilson a roster that he could use to create a winning team.  Before Wilson's second season, Brian Burke made a trade with Boston to bring Phil Kessel to the Leafs.  This resulted in the the loss of two first round picks and a second round pick.  A decision that would come back to bite the Leafs as they would finish the 2009-2010 season in 15th place.  This gave Boston the second overall pick in the draft costing Toronto Tyler Seguin.  Seguin has gone on to be a key piece for the Bruins and even won a cup with them in his first season.
Courtesy Macleans
       Heading into the Leafs third season the team was taking more of a shape with their captain Dion Phaneuf in his first full season. Kessel was healthy and the young team was starting to develop  However, with a slump at the beginning of the season, the Leafs were soon out of the race.  After the all star break rookie goalie James Reimer almost got them into the playoffs but the Leafs once again fell short.  However, Reimer was signed to a new contract and Toronto fans believed that they had their goalie of the future.
       Then came the 2011-2012 season.  What many felt was a make or break season for Ron Wilson as coach.  The Leafs had brought in the pieces to make everything work.  Tim Connolly was brought in to be the number one centre between Lupul and Kessel.  The Grabovski - Macarthur - Kulemin line was looking to establish themselves as a solid second line.  John-Michael Liles was brought in to replace Kaberle, Jake Gardiner broke out of camp as a rookie sensation and the look of a solid young Leafs team was there.  At the end of the first month Toronto was sitting second in the Eastern Conference and were well on their way to a great season.  And even after the second month Toronto was sitting in fourth place.  The first two months which had normally spelt doom for Toronto had turned into optimism.  However, like seasons past, the penalty kill was near the very bottom in the league.  What was supposed to be Ron Wilson's strength had turned into a very big weakness.  Soon after the Leafs were showing promise they slumped and headed into the new year in 10th place, 2 points out of 8th.  A long cry from where they were early in the season.  After battling in January Toronto sat in 8th place and were in a spot to control their destiny.
       Then February came.  What would be the death march for Ron Wilson and perhaps the Leafs season.  After going 3-0 to start the month the wheels would fall off.  The Leafs would go on to lose 10 out of 11 games with their one win being an overtime victory in Edmonton.  The players looked like they had lost all confidence and Ron Wilson looked and sounded like a man defeated.  The worst game of the losing streak came at home against Florida.  A 5-3 loss that led to Toronto fans chanting "Fire Wilson".
       It turned out that Brian Burke listened to the fans and decided to let Ron Wilson go.  Four seasons of no playoffs.  A losing record.  A dismal penalty kill.  All factors that led to his firing.  What Toronto fans must realize is that the players need to improve.  There is only so much the coach can do.  The team needs to win the battles, gain some confidence and fight for their lives.  Toronto is now in 12th place in the East.  They are 5 points back of Winnipeg and have 18 games to turn their season around.  I fear that if things do not change there will be a very different Maple Leafs team next year.  Something that very well could be needed.  It will be interesting to watch over the coming days and see if Toronto can turn into a team we can be proud of.

Look out for Justin's blog on what head coach Randy Carlyle will bring to the team.

Remember to follow us on Twitter @leafsdinosbirds and like us on Facebook.

Info via TSN.ca, NHL.com, mapleleafs.com   
       

Monday, February 27, 2012

And the Countdown is on! 2012 NHL Trade Deadline preview!

Good morning ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages. We are less than 12 hours from this seasons NHL Trade Deadline and I am as excited as ever! One word I could use to describe the trade deadline as is emotional, for all parties involved. Such a flurry of emotions are felt by coaches, GMs, players and fans alike. For some it is nerve-racking and for others it's optimistic, in some cases both.

Leading up to todays 3pm EST deadline there has been more surprising signings rather than trades which were on my top 5 players that will be traded(go figure). Here are two of them that had me scratching my head;

Tuomo Ruutu, LW/RW - Carolina Hurricanes

After the resigning of Tim Gleason it seemed as if Tuomo Ruutu was going to be on the move. With his name mentioned many times by nearly every media outlet it appeared Ruutu already had a foot out the door, and then, on February 22nd he resigned a 4 year $19 mil deal with the Hurricanes. This may open up possibilities to see a guy like Brenden Morrow moved, a very similar player to Ruutu in terms of scoring and physicality, something many NHL teams covet.

Ales Hemsky, RW - Edmonton Oilers

Another player I was shocked resigned was Ales Hemsky. Hemsky has been underachieving at best this season and missed the majority of the 10-11 season due to injury. Ales Hemsky by all rights should have been moved by the Oilers yet was resigned for 2 years at $10 mil total. With such a lack of depth on defence, both roster players and high-end prospects, I felt it was the perfect time for Edmonton to make a move for a d-man. I think a signing like this may make Magnus Paajarvi an expendable player, he was very hyped last season as a rookie and this year had hit the dreaded Sophomore slump. If Edmonton has an offer for a young stud d-man sending Paajarvi back the other way, I don't see them not pulling the trigger.

Today could shape up to be a significant day for some teams and an exciting day for fans. Stay tuned today as we are going to be blogging and tweeting a lot throughout the trade deadline. Keep checking back as we will post a list of buyers and sellers and players who have had their names thrown around in trade talks!

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

American League East Preview

       As the Blue Jays hold their first official workouts today we felt it was as good a time as any to examine all 5 teams in the American League East.  It has long been seen as the most competitive division in baseball.  While the AL West is getting up there in talent, I still feel that the East is the hardest division in baseball.  While the Orioles are still improving, the other four teams all have the talent to make it to the playoffs and do some damage.  The Blue Jays will have a tough mountain to climb to make it into the playoffs for the first time since their World Series win in 1993.  So lets take a look at what each team has done in the offseason and what we can expect out of each team.

Toronto Blue Jays - 2011 Record 81-81 - Fourth Place
Jays Closer Sergio Santos
       As the Blue Jays come into the 2012 season they bring a lineup that looks identical to how it finished last season.  It will be in the rotation and the bullpen that fans will notice the big changes.  John Farrell comes into his second season as manager looking to improve on the pitching woes Toronto had last season.  It was the bullpen that consistently let the Jays down last season.  In 58 opportunities the Jays only managed 33 saves.  Meaning they only saved 57% of their opportunities last year.  Not a good number for a team in the AL East.  It was because of this that GM Alex Anthopoulos did not make any big changes to the lineup, but made big changes to the bullpen.  Out are the likes of Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch.  In are the likes of Sergio Santos, brought over in a trade with the White Sox.  In is Francisco Cordero who signed with the Blue Jays after being a consistent closer in the Reds organization.  Add in the additions of Jason Frasor and Darren Oliver mixed with the returning Casey Janssen, and Carlos Villanueva the Blue Jays bullpen rivals any in baseball.  The pitching staff will be led by Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow.  It is a young staff but it has talent.  It will be up to them to realize that talent.  The lineup will be dangerous as always being led by the two time home run king Jose Bautista.  He leads a lineup that has a ton of potential.  From the 1 spot to the 9 spot Toronto can do damage.  A full season from Brett Lawrie should help the Jays as well as hopeful improvements from the likes of Colby Rasmus and Kelly Johnson.  This is a team that will be able to put up runs but it will be up to the bullpen to make sure those leads do not get wasted.  My Prediction: Second place in the AL East - AL Wildcard

New York Yankees - 2011 Record 97-65 - AL East Champs
The Captain
       When you talk the AL East you always have to talk about the New York Yankees.  With 27 championships and 40 American League pennants the Yankees are the most successful team in baseball.  Usually known for busy winters, the Yankees took a quieter approach to improving their team.  They didn't go after the likes of Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder, but make no mistake the Yankees will be competitive.  The biggest news in Yankee land was the retirement of lifetime Yankee Jorge Posada.  This leaves only Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera as the last of the dynasty Yankees from the late 90's and early 2000's.  The biggest issue is going to be age.  The Yankees have tried to improve their farm system and have made some steps, but a lot of the core pieces are aging.  Jeter(37), Rodriguez(36), Teixeira(31), and Sabathia(31) are all on the other side of 30 and are entering the past their prime years.  However with young talent such as Robinson Cano the Yankees should still be able to compete.  The strangest move the Yankees made was trading perhaps their best prospect Jesus Montero to the Mariners for Felix Pineda.  Now do not get me wrong, Pineda has ace type stuff and will help the Yankees.  But the Yankees pitching is fairly strong with the likes of CC Sabathia, Hideki Kuroda, Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes.  The Yankees must have been sure that Russel Martin is their catcher of the future because Montero has the potential to be a star in this league.  My Prediction:  Fourth Place Finish

Boston Red Sox - 2011 Record 90-72 - Third Place
Carl Crawford
       Last season was one to forget for the Boston Red Sox.  After suffering one of the worst collapses in baseball history, the Red Sox ended up missing out on the playoffs on the very last day.  They also suffered through rumours of beer drinking and chicken eating in the club house during games.  These stories mixed with the collapse caused their manager Terry Francona to retire and their GM Theo Epstein to move on to the Chicago Cubs.  Their long time closer Jonathan Papelbon signed with Philadelphia which caused Boston to go out and get Andrew Bailey from Oakland to replace him.  The Red Sox will not be counting on big offseason moves to help them improve.  Instead they will be hoping moves made last offseason will help them.  The Red Sox will need Adrian Gonzalez to continue his stellar play and they will need Carl Crawford to return to the form that caused the Red Sox to sign him to a 7 year $142 million dollar contract.  After putting up only 11 home runs and 56 RBI's Crawford will be determined to live up to the contract.  New manager Bobby Valentine will have a challenge in front of him but should have a lineup that can still do some damage in the American League.  This team is too good to have a collapse like they did last season and I see them making a statement and winning the division. My Prediction:  American League East Champs


Tampa Bay Rays - 2011 Record 91-71 - Second Place - American League Wildcard
Rays Stud Matt Moore
       The Rays were the beneficiary of the most epic collapse ever seen.  As the Red Sox fell the Rays rose and ended up securing the Wild Card on the last day of the season.  After a fairly quiet offseason the Rays will look to continue making a name for themselves with a low payroll but a high level of talent.  The biggest move made by the Rays was bringing back Carlos Pena, who spent one season in Chicago.  Pena will provide a boost to the Rays lineup and returns to a stadium he always hit well in.  The key to the Rays success will be the continued growth of their incredibly talented pitching staff.  At the top will be James Shields and David Price.  Behind them will be Wade Davis and he will be followed by two studs.  Jeremy Hellickson and Matt Moore will enter their second seasons and both have number one quality talent.  Matt Moore is listed as the number one prospect in baseball and is perhaps the best number 5 starter in baseball.  Tampa Bay has taken those years of futility and turned it into a farm system that is the best in baseball.  Every time we think they are going to have an off year they end up making the playoffs.  They will be perhaps the Blue Jays biggest obstacle in making the playoffs.  Both are young teams looking to take the giants of Boston and New York off the top of the mountain.  With perhaps the best manager in baseball in Joe Maddon the Rays will be a force to be reckoned with.  My Prediction:  Third Place Finish


Baltimore Orioles - 2011 Record 69-93 - Fifth Place
       Manager Buck Showalter enters his second full season leading the Orioles hoping his young team takes another step in their development.  They did not make any major moves during the offseason and will be depending on their young stars to help them compete in the tough AL East.  It will probably be a long season for them but they will play every game tough.  The key to their success could be the development of Matt Wieters.  Entering his third season Matt will look to turn into the star the Orioles know he can be.  Other then that the Orioles will rely on Adam Jones, Nick Markakis and Mark Reynolds to provide the offense.  Tommy Hunter leads an unproven pitching staff and will need their offense to provide as many runs as possible.  My Prediction:  Fifth Place Finish


       It should make for an interesting season and we will all be watching with excitement as we hope to see this exciting Blue Jays team emerge as a contender.  It would be nice to see the Rogers Centre full and rocking like it was back in the 90's.

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Info via MLB.com, bluejays.com, yankees.com, redsox.com, orioles.com, rays.com

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Movers and Shakers leading up to the NHL Trade Deadline

Helllllllo sports fans! Thanks as always for stopping to read the blog! It is that time of year hockey fans, the time of year fans love and players hate, that's right...the Trade Deadline! Today I'm going to breakdown the significant trades that have happened so far leading up to the deadline and what implications they may have on the Leafs going into the February 27th Trade Deadline.

So far the big movers have been the Tampa Bay Lightning and Philadelphia Flyers. Philly making depth moves to bolster their blueline and Tampa selling off for draft picks.

Pavel Kubina
Philadelphia made two moves to acquire veteran defensemen to try and fill the gap left by the injured Chris Pronger who is out for the rest of the season with a concussion. Last Thursday the Flyers traded a 2nd round pick in 2012 and a 3rd round pick in 2013 to the Dallas Stars for defenseman Nicklas Grossman. Then on Saturday Philly traded for defenseman(and former Maple Leaf) Pavel Kubina from Tampa Bay, a large steady d-man with a big shot from the point. Tampa received mid-level prospect Jon Kalinski, a 2nd round draft pick and a 4th round draft pick. Philly is taking the 'go big or go home' approach this year really pushing for a playoff spot as they have traded away four draft picks and a prospect to obtain these two players. However with the acquisition of Brayden Schenn in the off season and drafting Sean Couturier, Philly can afford to lose a few picks.

After trading away Kubina to Philly, Tampa Bay made two more moves acquiring draft picks for the future. First Tampa traded journeyman centre Dominic Moore to the San Jose Sharks for a 2nd round pick. The next move Tampa made was swapping right winger Steve Downie with Colorado's defenseman Kyle Quincey and then flipped Quincey for a 1st round pick from the Detroit Red Wings. 

New Hab Blake Geoffrion
The last significant trade that has happened so far was out of Montreal. The Habs traded defenseman Hal Gill and a conditional 5th round pick to the Nashville Predators for a 2nd round pick in 2012, Robert Slaney and forward Blake Geoffrion. The amazing and most exciting part of this trade is Blake Geoffrion, the grandson of Canadiens legend Bernie 'Boom Boom' Geoffrion, a hall of fame right winger and the inventor of the slap-shot AND great-grandson of another Hab legend centre Howie Morenz who is an original 12 inductee into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Montreal fans will be chanting this kids name for quite a while and he will be treated like a rockstar in Hab-land. 

So how does this affect the Toronto Maple Leafs? Well, with Philly trading for two big d-men essentially replacing Chris Pronger, the chances of them trading for Toronto defenseman Luke Schenn have been greatly reduced. With the Flyers being the most likely destination for Schenn, chances are he will most likely be staying with the Leafs.

Columbus centre Jeff Carter
Luke Schenn
In past years, Brian Burke has been notorious for beating the rush and dealing well before the deadline while being quite at the actual deadline. If Burke is going to continue that pattern, there is a good chance the Leafs will either make only minor deals, or not make any at all. With Rick Nash's name being thrown around every day in nearly every rumor from every media outlet, many Leaf fans are preying to whatever god they pray to that he will end up in Toronto. I do not see this happening, you never know, but I don't think it will happen. A more likely scenario would see the Leafs landing Jeff Carter from Columbus, he fills a need the Leafs need in a 1st line centre and the asking price would be much less than for Nash. If Columbus were to send Carter to Toronto it may still include a package with Luke Schenn, but most likely something centered around young prospect Nazem Kadri. A lot can change in a week as we all know too well, what is rumored today may be an afterthought tomorrow. So far leading up to the deadline things have been fairly quiet with no big names being moved but all in all the deadline will still be exciting, I for one took the day off work just to keep up with the moves and get some blogs up for you guys!

Thanks as always for taking the time to read our blog, let us know your feedback! Don't forget to follow us on Twitter @leafsdinosbirds.


Pictures courtesy of Google images.

Maple Leafs Four Game Home Stand - What It Means.

       How is it going Leafs fans.  I know in Leafs Nation it has been a rough few games.  The Leafs have been in their biggest slump of the year, losing five of their last six.  They were only able to pull out one win in Western Canada where they have always had trouble.  In those six games Toronto has been outscored 25-11.  A ratio that Toronto can not have continue if they want to make it into the playoffs for the first time since the lockout.  With 23 games left in the season there is room for Toronto to either climb in the standing or drop right out of contention.  This week Toronto has a four game home stand against teams that are also fighting for playoff spots in the East.  It is the first of two more four game home stands for the Leafs and they need to solidify themselves at home if they want to compete with the big boys at the top.  In this blog I am going to examine each game and see what each one could mean to the Leafs playoff hopes.  This very well could be the week we all look back at as the one that got the Leafs in or out of the playoffs.

February 21'st - New Jersey Devils
Photo Courtesy the Toronto Sun
       The first game of the week is against the always tough New Jersey Devils.  Toronto will face a New Jersey team that is one of the hottest teams in the entire NHL.  They are 8-1-1 in their past ten and have gone from fighting for eighth spot to being in a position to have home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.  New Jersey looks set to make the playoffs after an off year last year where they missed the playoffs for the first time in the post lockout era.  They always bring their A game when they play Toronto and will look to add to their point total as they try and run down New York for the division title.  New Jersey will not lay down in the game and Toronto must be prepared.  Jonas Gustavsson will get the start for Toronto in net and he will look to have a repeat performance against New Jersey.  Back in November he had 19 saves giving Toronto the win in their first meeting of the year.  The teams have split the first two games and will play one more later in the year as well.  If Toronto is to play well they will need to use their speed to frustrate the defensive minded Devils.  The Devils have proven to be a tough road team posting 18 wins so far this season.  More then they have at their home rink, the Prudential Center.  This will be a chance for Toronto to try and track down Ottawa and separate themselves from Washington and Winnipeg.

February 23'rd - San Jose Sharks
Former Sharks Coach Ron Wilson
       The first and only meeting between these two teams will take place Thursday and will be another tough test for Toronto.  However Toronto will be playing a team that is fighting for their playoff lives.  While they currently sit third in the West with 69 points, the Sharks are in danger of being caught by a very hot Coyotes team.  If San Jose does not turn their play around they could drop from third to seventh and risk being caught by the likes of LA, Calgary, and Dallas and could be on the outside looking in for the first time since the 2002-2003 season.  Toronto has a record of 24-16-5 against the Sharks and will look to take advantage of a team not playing up to their potential.  This will be a tough game but one Toronto should be able to win.  If Toronto can shut down the likes of Logan Couture and Joe Thornton then it should make it easier for Toronto to take advantage of the mediocre goaltending San Jose has had lately.  This will be a great game to watch.

February 25'th - Washington Capitals
       Depending on what happens in the previous two games the team you see in Toronto could look a lot different.  This is the last game before the trade deadline and there will most likely be one or two new faces in the lineup for Toronto.  This is the same for Washington as they may look to shake things up after being one of the big disappointments of the NHL season so far.  They currently sit tenth and are risking missing the playoffs for the first time in four seasons.  However they are only two points back of the Southeast leading Panthers and depending on how they play could move from tenth all the way up to third.  A win against Toronto would provide Washington with the chance to catch Florida but also make sure they are closer to the eighth spot if something goes wrong.  The teams have split the first two games, one of which was a 7-1 thrashing delivered by the Maple Leafs.  They will play once more after this game and those will be four big points up for grabs.  Toronto has proven they can shit the Great 8 down and when they do that they have the speed to match Washington, something most teams can not say.  A win here would help Toronto separate from teams below them and help secure a spot in the playoffs.

February 28th - Florida Panthers
       This game will have a lot of the same implications that the Washington game will have.  Florida is currently third in the East and looking to make the playoffs for the first time since the 1999-200 season. A streak of ten seasons that is the longest in the NHL.  A streak that if broken could come at the expense of Toronto who ironically have the second longest drought at six seasons.  This will be a fight between two teams who need to make the playoffs. Florida needs wins to make sure they don't risk losing the division lead and right out of the playoffs.  They have both Winnipeg and Washington right on their heels and this game could help get them some separation.  This is the third of four meetings this season and Florida has won both so far.  Toronto has no played well against Florida this year and needs to turn it around.  They have given up five goals in both games and will need their goalies to step up and help them win this game.  This will be the first game after the deadline so depending on the previous three games this could be a Toronto team that will look vastly different.  Perhaps we will be seeing Rick Nash suit up for his first game as a Leaf.  Either way this is the last game of the home stand and take Toronto into Chicago where they will finish out February and head into the final month.
Photo Courtesy Mississauga News

       With the trade deadline looming this is a stretch Toronto needs to do well on in order to give themselves a chance.  Too long has Toronto allowed other teams to determine their playoffs lives.  We have seen when you do that more often then not you end up teeing it up at a golf course.  Toronto needs the playoffs.  This team needs to show they are headed in the right direction and give this city something to cheer about.  We will see if at the end of this stretch if we can be a little more certain about the Maple Leafs future.

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Monday, February 20, 2012

Episode 4

       Here it is everyone.  Episode 4 of our podcast.  This week we talk about the Leafs tough Western Canada road trip and the Raptors rough week.  We also get into the Blue Jays starting spring training.  We also dive into the trades of the week as well as the rumor of Rick Nash being traded.  Lots of big news.  Let us know what you think and remember to follow us on Twitter @leafsdinosbirds.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Jose Bautista - aka Joey Bats, aka MVP

       As the Blue Jays season nears we bring you our second player spotlight.  The big bat in Toronto's lineup for the last two years is someone that a lot of people never really saw coming.  When Toronto traded for him from Pittsburgh for a player to be named later nobody looked twice.  But after the last two seasons he has turned into one of the most well rounded and dangerous hitters in the entire league.  Jays fans know who I am talking about and that is number 19, Jose Bautista.

Photo Courtesy Premier Life
       Growing up in the Dominican Republic, Jose dreamed about making a living playing baseball.  A very similar dream to most people in the Dominican.  The first step of that dream came in the year 2000 when he was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 20th round.  And after four years his dream came true when he made his debut with the Baltimore Orioles.  However, what seemed like a dream would turn into a nightmare.  Jose would end up being on five different rosters in his rookie season.  Starting with Baltimore he would then move on to Tampa Bay, Kansas City, the New York Mets, and finally back in Pittsburgh where he was drafted.  Finally, in 2006 Jose earned a regular role on the Pirates roster.  He would take over third base duties from Freddie Sanchez and became a serviceable major league player.

       The beginning of the rest of his career began in 2008.  After not performing well in Pittsburgh he was sent down to AAA.  Another bump in the road for Jose.  However he would end up being traded to Toronto before the deadline and became a backup infielder and outfielder for the Jays.  In 2009 he also served as a utility player but near the end of the season he showed promise hitting 10 of his 13 home runs on the season in September.  Then what I like to call "The Year" happened.  2010 would turn into The Year of Jose.  after being named the starting right fielder for the Blue Jays, Jose knew he finally had a consistent role on a team for the first time in his career.  Jose began to tear up the league.  He hit his 20th home run two months into the season which already topped his career high.  And the home runs didn't stop.  He would hit his 30th in the month of July. He then broke a Blue Jays record on September 15th by hitting his 47th home run of the year;  breaking George Bell's team record that was set in 1987.  As the end of the season came along, Jose would finish with 54 home runs which was the highest total since 2007 when A-Rod did it.  He also became the 26th player in history to hit over 50 home runs.  His final stats for the 2010 season was 54 Home Runs, 124 RBI's and a .260 average.  Over the course of the season he was named to his first all-star game, won the Hank Aaron Award, and a Silver Slugger.  However he would finish fourth in MVP voting.  It was the season nobody saw coming, and it would continue.

Photo Courtesy CBS Sports
       After his breakout season Jose would sign a huge 5 year $64 million dollar contract with Toronto.  A number many were shocked by.  Experts across the league were claiming 2010 to be a fluke and that Jose would drop off and revert back to being a nobody in the league.  Comparing him to the likes of Brady Anderson who would hit 50 home runs in 1996 but never came close to that mark again.  Also, in the age of steroids Jose was targeted by many as having taken performance enhancing drugs.  Jose is tested more than almost any player and has never failed.  Something he takes pride in.  As the 2011 season began Jose began proving doubters wrong.  He started the season off with a bang hitting his first of the year on Opening Day, a sign of things to come.  By the all-star break Jose led the league in home runs with 26 and also led in walks, OPS, OBP, and slugging percentage.  He was also near the top in many other categories.  He would set a record for votes in an all star game with a staggering 7,454,753.  Jose would finish the season with 43 home runs and while it was less then his 54, he still led the league becoming the first player since Mark McGwire to do so.  He also finished the season with 103 RBI's and moved his average above .300 to a mark of .302.  Jose showed he was truly an elite hitter and during 2011 showed he about more then just the long ball.  He would once again win both the Hank Aaron award as well as a Silver Slugger, but once again fell short in the MVP race to Justin Verlander of the Tigers.

       As we enter the 2012 season there is a sense of optimism around the Jays.  A core of young promising talent waiting to break through.  However the league must be aware of the man who has risen to the top of the league.  At 31 Jose is in his prime and should continue to produce.  And with the help of the other young sluggers on his team, he should be able to push Toronto to its first postseason birth since 1993.  He is a proven leader and has shown the willingness to do what it takes for the team to win.  He has switched positions when it would benefit the team and did it with a smile.  With Brett Lawrie entrenched at third base, Jose should finally get to play a full season in right field.  It should be an exciting season and I for one can't wait to see what Jose pulls out of his bag of tricks this year.

Thanks again and remember to follow us on Twitter @leafsdinosbirds

Info via MLB.com and bluejays.com

Monday, February 13, 2012

Ricky Romero - The Ace

       How is it going everybody.  As we said in our podcast we are getting geared up for the 2012 Blue Jays season.  With that said we are going to reintroduce all of you to the Blue Jays and talk about who they are and what they have done for the team.  We will also tell you what we should be able to expect from them this season and give you an inside view on who they are.  And to start it off it only seems fitting that we begin with the ace of the Blue Jays pitching staff.  That being the 27 year old Cal State Fullerton product, Ricky Romero.

Romero Sporting the New Uniform
       After leading the Cal State Fullerton Titans with 13 wins Romero was drafted by the Blue Jays with the fifth overall pick in 2005.  Romero struggled early in his career with injuries but by the time 2008 came around he had progressed to AAA.  It was at this time that the Blue Jays staff had noticed the potential in Romero and after an impressive spring training in 2009 Romero earned a spot in the Blue Jays rotation.  Romero would go on to debut on April 9th against the Detroit Tigers.  He would pitch against another young prospect in Rick Porcello.  Romero would go on to post a 2-0 record in his first 3 starts.  Impressive for a pitcher in the tough AL East.  Romero would finish with an impressive record of 13-9.  He would strike out 141 batters but he posted an ERA of 4.30.  A little high but for his first year they were decent numbers.  He was a leading candidate for the AL Rookie of the Year Award that year but would go on to lose it to Andrew Bailey of the Oakland Athletics.

       In the 2010 season the Jays saw plenty of change with the trade of their long time ace Roy Halladay. This would push Romero along with Shaun Marcum into a leading roll on the Jays staff.  It was now that the Blue Jays were beginning their rebuild into a team of the future.  With new GM Alex Anthopoulos the Blue Jays had turned their vision to a young exciting team that could sustain results over the next decade.  Romero was one of the big pieces of this project and he did not disappoint.  In 2010 Romero posted a record of 14-9 and an ERA of 3.73.  An improvement from his rookie season Romero had taken another step into emerging as the staff ace.

       When the 2011 season came around Marcum had been traded for prospect Brett Lawrie and Romero stepped into to the role of the staff ace.  He would get his first chance at starting Opening Day.  He would go on to post a win against the Minnesota Twins in a 13-3 final.  Over the season Romero was impressive and it earned him some recognition.  He was named to his first All-Star Game and would go to Arizona along with Jose Bautista representing the Blue Jays.  At the conclusion of the season the Jays ace posted career highs in wins (15), complete games (4), strikeouts (178), ERA (2.92) and shutouts (2).  This solidified Romero as the future of the Blue Jays pitching staff.

Romero in the Canada Day Uniforms
       As Romero heads into the 2012 season he will look to help the Jays get into the playoffs for the first time since 1993.  He is one of the best left handed pitchers in the league and has emerged as a true leader on a young Blue Jays team.  I would expect to see an even better year out of Romero then he posted last season.  I think along with the retooled bullpen Romero should be able to win at least 15 games if not more.  He will lead a staff that will consist of Brandon Morrow, Brett Cecil, Henderson Alvarez and the returning Dustin McGowan.  A staff that while young is full of talent and should take the Blue Jays far.

       Romero loves his Los Angeles sports as he is a big fan of the LA Lakers as well as the San Francisco 49ers.  He is active on twitter and you can tweet him @RickyRo24.  He is a big family guy as he still lives with his parents in the offseason in California.  Like a lot of the Blue Jays he loves to interact with the other teams in Toronto.  You can often see him tweeting in support of #TeamUnit which consists of players from the Blue Jays and Maple Leafs.  He also likes to have fun with some Raptors as can be seen with his latest bet against Raptors PF Amir Johnson.  The bet being that if the Raptors lost to Romero's Lakers that Johnson would have to buy ice cream for his followers.  A close bet as the Lakers only won by two points.

       Romero has proven he has the talent to lead the Blue Jays staff to the promise land.  It will be a great season watching the young team turn into an elite team in the majors.  And front and center will be the ace.  Ricky Romero.  Thanks for your time everybody, remember to follow us on Twitter @leafsdinosbirds.  Look out for our next Blue Jays Player Spotlight leading up to the 2012 season.

**Info via bluejays.com, mlb.com**

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Who's going where? The 2012 NHL Trade Deadlines most likely movers.

Hey everybody! Thanks as always for checking out the blog. In this edition I am going to breakdown 5 players I think will have new homes at this years NHL Trade Deadline as well as 5 players many will expect to move, but I anticipate wont.

Players that will be moved

1. Derek Roy - 28, C Buffalo Sabres
Since a breakout season in 2007/08 scoring 32 goals and tallying 81 points in 78 games played Derek Roy has since his numbers drop steadily every season. Only scoring 27 points through the first 53 games of the NHL season, on pace for his worst statistical season since his '03/'04 rookie year, Roy may need a change of scenery soon to regain his scoring touch. Undersized and aging he most likely will need to stay on the wing to be an effective player.
Most likely destinations: Montreal Canadiens, Nashville Predators, New York Rangers


2. Mason Raymond - 26, LW/RW Vancouver Canucks
Mason Raymond (right) driving past Shane O'Brien (left)
Almost the same old song and dance for Mason Raymond, since a 25 goal season in 2009/10 Raymond has seen a sharp decline in his point production. He is still young at 26 and has room to grow and mature as a player and on the right team would thrive. Raymond has the speed and the skill to potentially be a game breaker, he just needs to put all his tools together consistently.
Most likely destinations: Edmonton Oilers, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs


3. Scott Hannan - 33, D Calgary Flames
The Calgary Flames are a team in need of a rebuild and need to retool the roster with young talent. Scott Hannan is a workhorse defenseman that can log big minutes for any team he is on and is a reliable defender.
Most likely destinations: Philadelphia Flyers, Florida Panthers, Chicago Blackhawks


4. Ales Hemsky - 28, RW Edmonton Oilers
Edmonton is at a crossroads in their franchise's future. Ales Hemsky has been a significant piece for the Oilers since they drafted him 13th overall in the 2001 draft but it appears it is time to move on. While still young at 28 and proven a potent scoring threat from all over the ice the Edmonton Oilers need to pull the trigger on a deal to bring back some major building blocks for the future to compliment young stars Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Edmonton needs a D-man they can use as another building block for the future and Hemsky can get them that kind of return.
Most likely destinations: Los Angeles Kings, Nashville Predators, Pittsburgh Penguins


5.Tuomo Ruutu - 28, F Carolina Hurricanes /Brenden Morrow - 33, LW Dallas Stars
Ruutu and Morrow are nearly carbon copies of each other as goal scoring wingers that can lay the body. Both big body scorers teams covet, Morrow has 103 hits and Ruutu has 105 hits so far, many teams could use either one of these guys to make a push for a long playoffs.
Most likely destinations: Ottawa Senators, Boston Bruins, Vancouver Canucks


Players that wont be moved


1. Cory Schneider 
Cory Schneider
It is only a matter of time until Cory Schneider is a number one goaltender in the NHL and it may not be in Vancouver, but I don't think he will be traded at the deadline. If Schneider is dealt my best bet is it is an off season move, most likely around the draft.



2. Rick Nash
Everyone and their dog has said Rick Nash should not be playing on Columbus. He has put many years and many goals into a franchise that has not given him any support to be a competitive team. Again if he is moved it would be a blockbuster deal and most likely in the off season. I for one, would love to see him in Blue and White, but every NHL team would be lined up to take him off the Blue Jackets hands.


3. Luke Schenn
A lot of rumours have been swirling around the potential of Luke Schenn being moved, most notably to the Philadelphia Flyers, to be reunited with brother Brayden but I don't think it will happen this year at least. Brian Burke has made it clear he is looking for a top 6 forward with size and James van Riemsdyk fits the mold but I don't think Burke is willing to take the chance just yet on JVR after his most recent concussion he is still recovering from.


Ryan Suter
4. Ryan Suter
Suter said he would not be talking about a contract extension with Nashville before the deadline as he does not want it to be a distraction. With Nashville currently sitting in 5th in the Western Conference I think Suter will stick around for another playoff run. If the Predators management do not offer him the money he deserves or surround him and Shea Weber with talent to make a legitimate Stanley Cup run, he may very well walk on July 1 as an Unrestricted Free Agent.


5.  Nazem Kadri
I've said it a few times before, the writing may be on the wall for Nazem Kadri in Toronto after being sent down to the Marlies yet again, but I think the Leafs may not make this move until the off season. I'm still on the fence about this and think he still may be traded, but nobody makes it anywhere in this line of work by sitting on the fence!


Thanks again for checking us out! Be sure to follow us on Twitter @leafsdinosbirds. Keep checking back with us as we will have a Facebook page up and running soon enough!

Photographs from Google images.

Episode 3

       And we are back.  Here is Episode 3 of our podcast.  This week we talk about the Leafs and Red Wings playing in the Winter Classic, the Raptors slight improvement over the last week, and how excited that we are for the Blue Jays Season to kick off.  We also talk about the emergence of Jeremy Lin and another Tim Thomas controversy.  Take a look and let us know what you think and look out for more blogs coming your way.  Remember to follow us @leafsdinosbirds

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Friday, February 10, 2012

2013 NHL Winter Classic

       One of the worst kept secrets in the NHL was revealed yesterday as the Toronto Maple Leafs will cross the border to face the Detroit Red Wings in the 2013 Bridgestone Winter Classic.  This is something that as a Leafs fan I know that I have been waiting for.  Of the seven outdoor games that have been held by the NHL only three Canadian teams have been involved.  A fact that most Canadians are really not happy with.  It has appeared that NBC, the network the game is broadcast on has been hesitant to involve a Canadian team due to wanting to make sure ratings remain high.  However to the delight of Leafs fans ratings dropped a tad this year and they became a little more open to having an original six team join in on the fun.

       The announcement was made at Comerica Park in Detroit by Commissioner Gary Bettman.  The event itself has become much larger with AHL, OHL, University, and youth teams taking part in the weekend.  Comerica Park will host the annual Alumni game which should showcase some old favourites of the Leafs with the likes of Gilmour, Clark, Sundin, and Sittler taking part.  Perhaps Felix Potvin can make his way into the net for the Leafs as well.  There will be an AHL game between the Toronto Marlies and the Grand Rapids Griffins, the AHL affiliates of the Leafs and Red Wings.  Four Michigan universities will take part in the festivities.  And two OHL games will be played.  The first being the Windsor Spitfires vs the Saginaw Spirit and the second being the London Knights vs the Plymouth Whalers.  These events in themselves will draw fans from across the border to take part in the festivities.

The Big House
       Then comes the big game.  The Maple Leafs and the Red Wings will play on the largest stage of any NHL game.  The game will be played at the Big House on the University of Michigan campus.  The stadiums capacity holds a little over 100,000 but the NHL wants to try and push it to around 115,000.  This rivalry is one of the oldest in the history of the NHL with both teams going back to the formation of the NHL.  The teams have met an astounding total of 644 times with Detroit holding a slight edge with 275 wins to Torontos 273.  A fact that shows how close that these games have been.  Now that the teams are in separate conferences they only play once a year.  And every time they meet it has the aura of a playoff game.  Something that should be heightened within the atmosphere of the Winter Classic.
Brian Burke

       As Brian Burke said at the press conference "It will be Hockeytown vs. the Center of the Hockey Universe."  Brian stated that Gary came to him and asked if he could sell 40,000 tickets.  Brian replied with "give me 48 hours."  Gary replied with ok how about 50,000.  Brian came back with "give me 72."  A statement of confidence from Burke who knows that Leafs Nation will make the treck to Michigan and will fight to make that crowd as close to a home game as they can get it.  And as another bonus the Leafs GM will be able to take part in the hit series HBO 24/7.  An uncensored inside look at both teams.  That in itself is going to be worth the price of admission.

       This is an event that brings out the best in all involved.  The Maple Leafs players have already expressed their excitement and the city of Detroit is going to make a great host.  The Leafs have improved over the course of the last couple seasons and always bring their best when they play Detroit.  This should be everything a hockey fan wants in a Winter Classic.  And for Red Wings fans I can almost guarantee that this will be enough to bring your captain Nicklas Lidstrom back for one more season.  How could you resist with an event like this.

       I can state right now that The Big J B and myself will do our best to get tickets to the event and will make that trip with our Leafs jerseys and cheer them on as loud as any fan.  It should be an atmosphere like none other and will show that Leafs Nation is home to the greatest fans in the hockey universe.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Battle of Ontario

       How is it going everybody?  Hope everyone enjoyed the Super Bowl this weekend.  I know I didn't. While I know a lot of people were glued to the television on Sunday, there was a game on Saturday that meant a lot to us.  The latest round of the Battle of Ontario occurred between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Ottawa Senators.  Over the last couple of years there has not been the same type of spark between these two teams as has been seen in the past.  However with both teams fighting for a playoff spot, the games have had meaning again and the fire between the two teams can be felt.

       However this game was not the close affair we have been used to.  Toronto came out on Ottawa's ice and handed them a big 5-0 loss.  A win that for Toronto gave them a valuable two points in the tight Eastern Conference, and more importantly drew them even closer to passing Ottawa in the Northeast standings.  As The Big JB and I watched the game we saw a lot of different things that could have a big impact on the rest of the season for the Leafs.

The Return of Optimus Reim
Reimer on Saturday
       The all-star break brought renewed life for one particular Maple Leaf.  James Reimer started the second game of a back to back with Pittsburgh and stopped 25 shots for his fifth career shutout.  This put a halt to an 8 game win streak for Pittsburgh.  Then came the game in Ottawa.  The Leafs did a good job forcing the Senators to the outside but they still managed to throw 49 shots at Reimer.  However he stopped them all for his second straight shutout.  The 49 saves were the most by an NHL goalie this season in recording a shutout, beating Cam Ward's previous high of 47.  James spent the all star break out in B.C with his trainer getting himself back into the shape he was in at the start of the season.  It showed in these two games and the man thought to be the Leafs number one may have earned his job back.  He will start again tonight against Edmonton as he looks to earn his third straight shutout.

Lupul Sets New Career High In Points
Joffrey Lupul
       With two assists in the Ottawa game, Joffrey Lupul set a new career high in points with 54.  He has been by far the biggest surprise of the season for the Leafs.  Lupul was seen as a throw in last season when Toronto traded Francois Beauchemin to Anaheim for rookie sensation Jake Gardiner and the resurgent Lupul.  He has proven a perfect compliment to Phil Kessel and could break the 30 goal plateau for the first time in his career.  With exactly 30 games left in the season, Lupul can now focus on piling on to his career high and push the Leafs to the playoffs.  He is my vote for comeback player of the year.

Grabovski Continues Hot Streak
       With ten points in his last five games Mikhail Grabovski is on fire.  The Leafs are starting to receive some secondary scoring and it couldn't have come at a better time.  With the Leafs fighting for a playoff spot they will need all the help they can get.

Kessel Gets Back On Track
Phil Kessel
       With a goal and two assists, Phil Kessel broke out of his scoring slump and pushed his point total back to a point a game.  We obviously knew he wouldn't keep up his early season pace but it was nice to see him get back on track.  Kessel has shown more consistency this season and is on pace to break the 40 goal mark for the first time in his career.  This is the Phil Kessel Toronto wanted when they traded two first round picks and a second.

Closing The Gap
       After the win in Ottawa Toronto now has 60 points.  Two points up on Washington for eighth spot, Toronto is still fighting to stay in the playoffs.  However Toronto is now only one point behind Ottawa with three games in hand.  With a couple more wins Toronto could catch up to the likes of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.  They have also closed the gap on Boston to eight points.  Other then the losses against Boston, Toronto has played the rest of the league just as Boston.  If Toronto can turn it around against the Bruins in the last part of the season, we could see Toronto making some noise in the playoffs.

Information via TSN.ca and mapleleafs.com

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Episode 2

       How is it going everybody? As we promised here is Episode 2 of our podcast.  This week we talk about the Leafs current hot streak, potential draft picks for the Raptors and a recap on the recent state of the franchise address by the Blue Jays.  Thanks you everyone for listening and we look forward to hearing what you think.


Remember to follow us on Twitter @leafsdinosbirds

Music provided by Maverick Judson
Facebook: www.facebook.com/maverickjudsonmusic
Twitter: @maverickjudson
Youtube: www.youtube.com/mavvyj
Website: www.maverickjudson.com    



Saturday, February 4, 2012

Jekyll and Hyde, this seasons ups and downs of the Toronto Raptors

Hello everybody! We've really appreciated all the support and are excited with all the readers we've had and feedback received. We haven't had much chance to get an NBA blog up yet with the NHL All-Star weekend recently but here it is! 

Draft pick Jonas Valanciunas(left) with GM Bryan Colangelo(right)
Coming into the 2011/12 NBA season Bryan Colangelo preached patience while still maintaining optimism for the future of the franchise. After drafting 6'11'' C Jonas Valanciunas from Lithuania with the 5th overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft, Colangelo had good reason to be optimistic. I must admit, I really wanted Toronto to draft Kemba Walker(who had a triple double against the Wizards last Saturday, but that is besides the point) but I'm not hating what we ended up with. The Raptors have a bright future ahead of them, but also have some significant decisions to make between now and next season. Do they give up Andrea Bargnani, Calderon and Barbosa among other veterans and completely blow it up and start from scratch? Or do they hold on to Bargnani and continue to build around him? Had I been asked this last year, in all likelihood I would have said they should trade Bargnani first and foremost and rebuild. Now? I'm not so certain. Andrea has been an absolute force for the Raptors this season, albeit when healthy. Without Il Mago in the lineup the Raptors tend to look lost, listless and often do not score enough to be able to compete with even mediocre NBA teams.

For example:

Toronto Raptors record with Bargnani in the lineup is 6-9 (.400).
Toronto Raptors record without Bargnani in the lineup is 2-7 (.222).

An 18% difference in winning percentage without Andrea playing. Need more stats? Sure! I'm a stats guy too so take a look at these numbers:

Andrea Bargnani
Toronto Raptors points per game with Bargnani in the lineup is 88.26ppg
Toronto Raptors points per game without Bargnani in the lineup is 83.44ppg

A difference of 4.82ppg is a significant difference in scoring output. Without Andrea Bargnani in the lineup Toronto looks like a different team altogether.

Toronto need Bargnani healthy and scoring, but they also need secondary scoring from their other players. Having Bargnani play 48 minutes and score 40 every game isn't exactly sustainable for the Raptors to win, he will have off nights, he will have slumps and he will get cold from time to time. Demar Derozan has shown he can play with the best of them at times, he has also done his best David Copperfield impersonation and completely disappear.

Baylor SF Perry Jones
All and all Toronto will most likely finish in the bottom 5 and have yet another lottery pick. This year is chalked full with talented Power Forwards like Kentucky's Anthony Davis, Ohio State's Jared Sullinger and North Carolina's John Henson and big Small Forwards such as Baylor's Perry Jones and North Carolina's Harrison Barnes which will present another intriguing dilemma for the Raptors GM. Should he take a chance on drafting a player that may not have the high ceiling potential of some of the Power Forwards in the draft to fill other needs OR should he trade Ed Davis and potentially get another lottery pick in return and then draft a big man? Whatever the case may be, the next 6 months will be pivotal to the Toronto Raptors future and their hopes at one day FINALLY making it back to the post-season.

Thanks again for reading and don't forget to follow us on Twitter! @leafsdinosbirds

The State of the Blue Jays Franchise

Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos
       How is it going everybody?  I know it has been a few days since our last post but we are going to hit the ground running again.  In this post I am going to discuss the recent event that happened at the Rogers Centre: the annual state of the franchise address.  Every year the Blue Jays staff sit down and allow the fans to ask questions and comment on the moves made in the offseason.  It is a unique way for the fans to connect with the higher ups of their favourite team.  At the meeting was manager John Farrell, general manager Alex Anthopoulos, and president Paul Beeston.  Over the course of the meeting topics such as the field material, payroll, and playoff success were discussed.  It created a sense of optimism among those involved.

Rogers Centre
       The first topic I felt was nice to hear was that of the potential of changing the field of the Rogers Centre from turf to grass.  This has long been something I have wanted to see the Blue Jays move towards.  The field has twice been changed to grass to accommodate soccer matches for teams from Europe.  These events went off without a hitch.  However the biggest roadblock seems to be the Toronto Argonauts using the dome. If a grass field is installed, the configuration of the stadium must stay the same.  With the constant moving of seats to accomodate football the grass would not hold up.  But with the Argos potentially moving after this season this could become a reality.  The other hitch is events such as concerts coming as well.  However if events could be halted until outside of baseball season this could greatly benefit the team.  Turf has long been seen as dangerous in comparison to grass.  Players feel their careers will last longer playing on grass and it has stopped Toronto from bringing in big name free agents.  Most recently that of Carlos Beltran.  The fact is only two teams still use turf: Toronto and Tampa Bay.  This is a move that could greatly increase the chances of bringing in big name players and prolonging the careers of our current stars.

       Payroll was also brought up during the address.  Paul Beeston said for the second straight year that Toronto has the potential to one day spend upwards of $140-150 million dollars.  This would put Toronto up with the top tier teams in terms of payroll.  The major complaint fans had was the ability to not bring in any big names.  Specifically another big bat to protect Jose Bautista.  Mr. Anthopoulos stated that he only wanted to use trades to bring in players and would not commit to long contracts.  While I disagree with that sentiment I feel the Jays have the talent and the bats to protect their lineup.  However, in the future it would be nice to know that the team can at least entertain the idea of splurging and bringing in a big name bat or pitcher.  But the fact remains until fans come to the park, the budget will stay low.  So it remains to be seen who will budge first.  Will the fans come see a young team and bring in the dollars?  Or will the ownership have to cave and spend big money in hopes it will draw the fans in? We will have to see.
Blue Jays President Paul Beeston

       Along those same lines was the statement by Paul Beeston saying over the next five years he would like to see the Blue Jays in the playoffs at least two or three times.  He feels that the team has the talent to make an impact in the American League and that results should begin to show.  The fact is that when you are in a division with the Yankees and Red Sox, it will always be difficult.  Tampa Bay has shown that it can be done and I think the Jays have the core talent to make a push.  With the new wildcard in play anything is possible, and with the new bullpen in place this could be the first of many years of success for the Toronto Blue Jays.

       In the end this warm sense of optimism has to turn into something more.  For years we have said this will be our year.  But eventually that warm feeling turns into cold disappointment.  It is my hope as a life long Jays fan that this is the start of something new and not the same old feeling of good but not quite good enough.

Look forward to hearing your thoughts and reactions and remember to follow us on Twitter! @leafsdinosbirds.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Armstrong and Liles Return to the Leafs Tonight.

       The Toronto Maple Leafs got some good news tonight after a heartbreaking loss to Pittsburgh.  Both Colby Armstrong and John-Michael Liles return to the lineup after lengthy injuries.  The impact that this will have on the Maple Leafs could be enough to propel them to some positive results in the second half.

       Liles has been sidelined for the last 16 games due to a neck injury suffered after being hit in a game against Buffalo.  Liles insisted that it was not a concussion but rather a locking feeling he was getting in his neck that caused symptoms similar to ones seen in concussions.  Before the injury Liles had proven to be a great pickup for the Maple Leafs.  He was acquired in a trade with Colorado for a second round draft pick.  The Leafs also showed loyalty in signing Liles for an additional 4 years.  In 34
games this season Liles had 4 goals and 17 assists.  He was among the highest scoring defensemen in the league before he was hurt.  With his return it will be the first time in a while that the Maple Leafs defense will be completely healthy.  This will provide Toronto with the ability to rest some players such as rookie Jake Gardiner.

       Liles return also gives the Leafs even more speed in their lineup.  Liles can move the puck and is a smooth skater.  He will provide a boost to a powerplay that has struggled to put up goals in the new year and his skating and vision on the back end will provide speed through the neutral zone that will create more chances for the forwards.  Speed is the Leafs game and Liles will play right into this.  He also provides another leader in a young locker room.

       Colby Armstrong will return to the lineup for the first time since December 17th.  He has been plagued by injuries in his tenure in Toronto but when he does play Toronto seems to play a lot better.  His most recent injury was a concussion which is always a red flag in the NHL these days.  Armstrong plays hockey with an edge.  He gets into the dirty areas and plays the game hard.  He blocks shots, hits and can also provide some offense.  He is also a leader in the locker room and keeps his teammates loose as he is known to be a serious joker.  These are attributes that are important off the ice and keeps everyone focused on the fun of the sport when you may be going through a tough stretch.

       The lineup for Toronto is now as close to healthy as they have been all season.  Brian Burke and company can now get a better look at what they have in this team and if any moves need to be made prior to the deadline.  This will be a lineup that had Toronto has high as first in the Eastern Conference. After a rough game in Pittsburgh they get a second chance to stop a Penguins team that has now won eight games in a row.  If Toronto wants to make a push the time is now.  With a lot of divisional games left on the schedule the lineup must remain healthy and show that this is a team ready for the playoffs. While I do think some moves will be made I think this team has what it takes to get in to the playoffs.  And once a team is in I will never doubt their ability to go far.

       Due to the lineup additions the Leafs sent down forwards Nazem Kadri and defenseman Keith Aulie to the Toronto Marlies of the AHL.  This may cause even more rumours to swirl around those two names as they have been connected with potential moves to improve Toronto.  James Reimer will also get the start tonight after The Monster started the night before.  This will be a chance for Optimus Reim to get back on track.

       Overall the time is now for Toronto to make that push.  And Armstrong and Liles should help in improving the Leafs to a playoff level.  Remember to follow us on Twitter @leafsdinosbirds and be sure to look out for our second podcast this weekend.

**INFORMATION VIA TSN.CA, NHL.CA**