Monday, January 30, 2012

How will the NHL Western Conference end up? PREDICTIONS

Alright folks! The second half of the season is about to get underway and we are one step closer to the playoffs. The Western Conference has seen a lot of movement in the past month which makes things interesting as the end of the regular season draws near. Here are my predictions on how the Western Conference standings will look at seasons end.
Playoff Teams

1. Detroit Red Wings: The Red Wings have been a model franchise for years with excellent development and talented veteran players. Detroit's stars have withstood the test of time with the likes of Nicklas Lidstrom(41), Pavel Datsyuk(33), Henrik Zetterberg(31) and Johan Franzen(32) all leading the way, the Red Wings look poised for another long playoff run.


2. Los Angeles Kings: This pick is a bit of a reach but hear me out. Los Angeles has a very young team hungry to get back in the hunt for the Stanley Cup, and on the back of strong goaltending they should make a significant push up the standings. Currently in 7th place with 58 points LA has a very easy February schedule that should help them pile on points before the final month of the season. The last two games they play of the season are against current division leader San Jose Sharks which may prove to be very pivotal games to end the regular season.

3. Vancouver Canucks: If Vancouver had been in any other division I would not have ranked them this high, however with teams such as Colorado, Minnesota and Calgary in the same division Vancouver does not have much of a threat to challenge them for the division lead. I feel the Canucks will need to get tougher before the deadline if they have much of a chance in the playoffs but for the regular season they should have no problem closing out the season on top of the Northwest division.


4. Chicago Blackhawks: After winning the Stanley Cup in the 2009-10 season Chicago finished just short of making it back to the Finals last season when they were bested by the Vancouver Canucks in 7 games. Still a very young and talented team with tremendous scoring threats in Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp along with a strong defensive core Chicago is the real deal.


5. San Jose Sharks: For years San Jose has always been at the top of the standings but always come up short in the playoffs. Now with aging veterans Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau not getting any younger, it may be now or never for the Sharks. Although they lead the Pacific division as is, I do not feel they will sustain this pace and will be surpassed by the Los Angeles Kings in February.


6. Nashville Predators: Nashville has always some how some way made it into the playoffs which is a testament to the coaching staff of the Predators and most notably Barry Trotz who should be top 3 every single season in Jack Adams voting. The trade deadline will have an enormous impact on Nashvilles success, most importantly the fate of Ryan Suter, will he stay a Pred? Or will Nashville trade him before the deadline rather than risk him walking for nothing in the offseason? Only time will tell!


7. St. Louis Blues: A big surprise in the West has been the incredible home-ice play of the Blues who are 21-3-4 at home, first in the NHL. Having said that, St. Louis will not sustain this high level of play. Not to say they will completely drop off and fall out of a playoff spot, but I find it unlikely they will finish at the top of the standings by years end.


8. Dallas Stars: Finally the Dallas Stars. After a red-hot start out of the gate to start the season winning 16 of their first 20 games the Stars have fallen from grace and find themselves in 10th in the West. This is due in large part to an injury that saw Kari Lehtonen miss considerable playing time.

Non Playoff Teams

9. Colorado Avalanche: Improving year by year, Colorado is still missing a few pieces that will make them a playoff bound team. They have high hopes on youngster Matt Duchene, but he still has some seasoning before Colorado can really hitch their wagon to him and ride him to the playoffs.


10. Anaheim Ducks: I hate to say it, but Anaheim will come up short despite what I feel will be a very strong second half push in the standings. It pains me to watch a team with such high-end talent finish well below where they should in the standings.


11. Calgary Flames: Jay Feaster has been adamant the Flames will not be sellers but buyers at the trade deadline. I just don't think it will get them to the playoffs this year.


12. Phoenix Coyotes: After several very successful seasons in front of a single digit home crowd, Phoenix just hasn't had the magic this year. It looks like another top 10 pick is in their sights.


13. Minnesota Wild: After a stellar start to the regular season Minnesota has plummeted in the standings, I think it's only a matter of time until they hit rock bottom.


14. Edmonton Oilers: Although they have been better and are still improving, it appears to me the Oilers will finish near the bottom with yet another lottery pick. They are thin on the backend and a young mobile defenseman like Ryan Murphy(Everett, WHL) would be a welcome pickup for this franchise long removed from the glory days of Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and Jari Kurri.


15. Columbus Blue Jackets: They need help, and they need it bad! Finishing last with a shot at OHL standout Nail Yakupov(Sarnia Sting) will do some good for this franchise who are very used to losing.

Well, there you have it!  My picks for the Western Conference final standings at the end of the regular season. Remember to follow us on twitter @leafsdinosbirds.

Where Will The Maple Leafs Finish? And The Rest of The East...PREDICITONS

       With the NHL season not getting back in action until Tuesday I thought it would be a good time to blog about where I thought teams would end up this season.  The race in the East looks tighter then it has ever been and it will be a fun ride seeing where all the teams end up.  Below I will give the position I think the team will finish and why.

Playoff Teams


1:New York Rangers:  With 66 points the Rangers come out of the break in first and I do not think that will change.  They have given up the fewest goals in the NHL with the help of the best goalie in the league in King Henrik.  Their defense has proven strong and I think they have the offense to hold off Boston.

2:  Boston Bruins:  Currently four points up on Ottawa for the division lead, the Bruins have shown they have the talent to make another run at the cup.  With rumours of a Tim Thomas trade looming I feel like they are the only team that wouldn't be hurt by losing their number one goalie.  Tukka Rask is a great young talent and if needed can take Boston on a great playoff run.

3:  Washington Capitals:  They only have 55 points currently but due to the division lead they sit in third.  I think Washington has too much talent for Florida to knock them off their perch just yet.  But if they don't pick it up this prediction could be wrong and Washington could miss out on the playoffs all together.

4:  Pittsburgh Penguins:  They sit in fifth but are coming out of the break on a hot streak.  Malkin is playing like he did when he won the Art Ross and if Crosby can make his way back then Pittsburgh will take over the four spot.  I do not think they can catch NYR but this is a team I would not want to run into in the playoffs.


5:  Philadelphia Flyers:   The Flyers have been fairly consistent over the course of the season and I do not see them falling back any further then fifth.  What a match up Pittsburgh vs. Philadelphia could be though.  The battle of Pennsylvania.  Philly is talented but will be taken as far as their goaltending will carry them.  This is where Bryzgalov earns that big contract.

6:  Florida Panthers:  This is a bit of an out there pick for me but I really like how Florida has played this year.  Their goaltending needs to be better but I feel they can do it.  This could potentially set up a Florida vs Washington matchup which plays into a division rivalry which is always good for hockey.

7:  Toronto Maple Leafs:  As much as I love the Leafs I still feel like I can't trust this pick.  Until they make it into the playoffs I just will not feel comfortable.  Depending on the moves Toronto makes at the deadline this pick could go up or down.  Gustavsson must continue to play strong if Toronto is to have a chance.  With my prediction Toronto would face Boston in the first round which could be ugly.  It should be an interesting second half for Hogtown.

8:  Ottawa Senators:  I do feel Ottawa is going to drop off in the second half.  However I do like the way they have played and I do think they can make it into the playoffs sooner then many thought with this rebuild.  How well they do remains to be seen but you can never count a team out in the playoffs.

Non Playoff Teams


9:  New Jersey Devils:  Of the teams with 55 points currently I feel they will be the odd team out.  Marty will wear down, Parise will have next season on his mind and the distractions will be too much.

10:  Winnipeg Jets:  I would love to see them make it in but I feel that it just won't happen.  The fans are great and I don't think it will be long before we see Winnipeg playing playoff hockey.

11:  Montreal Canadiens:  The disappointment continues.  Distractions on and off the ice have hurt Montreal.  I think more moves are coming and a rebuild could be followed.

12:  Tampa Bay:  Perhaps the disappointment of the East.  I think some moves will be made due to age and cap space.  They need a talented young goalie.  Roloson is just too old.  Hopefully this a one year bump in the road for a talented team.

13:  Buffalo Sabres:  Another disappointment with all the money that was spent.  This could be blown up by the end of the year.  Miller could be gone.  So could Derek Roy and maybe even more.  Should be an interesting offseason in Buffalo.

14:  Carolina Hurricanes:  I don't think they will finish last but a rebuild looks to be in the works.  They have some pieces with the likes of Jeff Skinner but this could take some time before we see Carolina in the playoff picture.


15:  New York Islanders:  The lowest scoring team in the East will finish last.  Another high pick to help with the rebuild.  They need to figure out who their goalie is.  Three in the crease is too much.


       There it is.  My picks for the East this year.  Lets get the rest of the season going so we can get to the playoffs.  Watch out for the Big J B's predictions for how the West turns out.  Remember to follow us on twitter @leafsdinosbirds. 

Jose Bautista Named Cover Athlete In Canada For MLB 12 The Show

       TSN.ca announced today that Jose Bautista has been named the cover athlete for the wildly popular game, MLB 12 The Show.  Bautista will appear on the Canadian editions of the game which will do well in boosting sales of the already successful game north of the border.  This will be the first time that the game has had two different cover athletes.  Adrian Gonzalez of the Boston Red Sox will appear on other versions of the game.

       While this may seem like something small I feel as if it is a showcase of how far Bautista has come over the last two seasons.  He has shown that he is an elite player in the Major Leagues after not getting much of a chance early in his career.  Toronto gave him that chance and looking back I am betting Pittsburgh regrets losing him.  His breakout season was in 2010 where he appeared in 161 games.  During that season he had a .260 batting average and drove in 124 RBI's.  But the big statistic was the home runs.  Bautista hit 54 home runs that season to lead the major leagues.  This was an eye opener to everyone around baseball.  In the offseason he was rewarded with a big raise.  He was given a 5 year $64 million dollar contract.  A contract that showed that the Blue Jays knew he was for real.  And in 2011 he proved all the doubters wrong.  Bautista led the majors again with 43 home runs.  While this was a drop off in home runs he improved his walk rate as well as hitting for an average of .302.  He showed that he was about more then just the long ball.  He was becoming an elite all around bat that every team must plan their attack around.

       This is an accomplishment that shows that Jose is finally gaining the recognition that he deserves among the best in baseball.  This will be a big year for the Blue Jays and Jose will be front and center all year.  It should be a fun season and we look forward to covering it all from spring training right to the end of the season.  Below is a trailer for MLB 12 The Show featuring Jose Bautista.
      Be sure to show Jose your support by picking up a copy of the game when it releases on March 6th, 2012 only for the Playstation 3 and Playstation Vita.

       Remember to follow us on Twitter @leafsdinosbirds.

**Information via TSN.ca and MLB.com**

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Episode 1 Part 2

       Like I said everyone here is Part two of episode one of the Leafs, Dinos, and Birds Oh My! podcast.  Enjoy.

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Music provided by Maverick Judson
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Twitter: @maverickjudson
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Website: www.maverickjudson.com     
 

Episode 1

       Here it is everybody. The first podcast from Leafs, Dinos, and Birds Oh My! We have been working on trying to get this up to the site and we have finally figured it out. In this first episode we talk about the Leafs playoff hopes and possible trade prospects, including some very out there trades. We also talk some Raptors and figure out what this team is going to do to get better. We also fire off some headlines from the past week including the Blue Jays signings, Prince Fielder going to Detroit and the infamous Tim Thomas skipping the White House scandal. We hope you all enjoy it. It is a little long so we broke it up into two parts and we are looking forward to doing this for you every week. Feel free to give us feed back as we are new at this but other then that enjoy.  Below is part one and I will upload part 2 in the next post.  Remember to follow us on twitter @leafsdinosbirds.

Podcast Powered By Podbean

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, January 28, 2012

Great, Grand and Garbage! The good, great and terrible of this years All Star Skills Competition

Al Iafrate - eat your heart out Cyrus.
As a kid, All Star weekend was something I looked forward to every single year. I was always excited to see guys like Al Iafrate(with a mullet Billy Ray Cyrus would dream about) hammer a slapshot 105.2mph, a record that stood for 16 years, or watching Mike Gartner set the fastest skater record in '96 skating a lap in only 13.386 seconds!! The kind of stuff that made you feel alive as a kid and like less of a man as an adult. From the time I was a kid the All Star weekend experience has evolved quite drastically, there are events I still love to this day, and others that I find myself shaking my head at. Here is a list of what I like to call the Great, Grand and Garbage of this years All Star Skills Comp.

Great - Hardest Shot/Elimination Shootout


Zdeno Chara - the widow-maker.
These two events are fun to watch as a fan. Coming from a guy who plays beer league hockey and has taken a shot off every possible spot on my legs, it is a humbling experience for even the most hard-nosed, tough as nails shot blocker to see a guy like Zdeno Chara nearly put a hole through the net with every shot he takes. Chara for me is the runaway winner of this years competition with Shea Weber coming in second. The Elimination Shootout can be a little slow and mundane at times but there can be some excitement for the fans in it. Even if it happens to be foolish, exciting is exciting when it comes to the fans.

Winners
Hardest Shot - Zdeno Chara
Elimination Shootout - Pavel Datsyuk

Grand - Fastest Skater/Shooting Accuracy

The Fastest Skater competition can be an eye opening experience for both fans and fellow players alike. It's one thing to see a 'quick' skater who uses his angles properly and uses different speeds to fool opponents, it's quite another to see a guy get on his horse and fly around the rink all-out. For years the Accuracy competition was dominated by guys like Ray Bourque and Jeremy Roenick and lately there hasn't been anyone who has had the same dominance as those two so the competition is wide open. Not having a clear-cut number 1 guy to beat makes it a really fun event to watch knowing that anyone can come out on top.

Winners
Fastest Skater - Keith Yandle(Kessel second, but Yandle has a very smooth powerful stride)
Shooting Accuracy - Daniel Sedin

Garbage - Fastest Goalie?!

I don't think I even need to talk about this. The only thing I care less about than how fast a slow as molasses goalie crawl around the rink is which Kardashian sister decided to pop out a kid this week. I think even the goalies hate this competition, some of them can barely move side to side in their own net let alone skating in a straight line. I wonder what the odds are in Vegas of Jimmy Howard or Jonathan Quick having a heart attack mid-stride?

Winner
Really? Who cares?

Friday, January 27, 2012

4 Prospects Make Top 100 For Blue Jays

       In a division where you are playing most of your season against the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox you quickly realize the resources that they have at their disposal.  This has long been the Blue Jays downfall.  When the Blue Jays were winning they spent more money then any team and had the best attendance.  However in 1994 the team failed to produce and a strike occurred.  What followed was star players leaving and fans losing interest.  Revenue went down and all of a sudden the Blue Jays took a back seat to the spending habits of the Yankees and the Red Sox.

       Over the last five years or so the Tampa Bay Rays began to show vast signs of improvement.  All of a sudden this burst of young talent such as Carl Crawford, BJ Upton and Evan Longoria were in the big leagues and beating the likes of the Yankees and the Red Sox.  All of this while having a payroll that is dwarfed in comparison.  They used a plan of attack that was made to be sustainable.  Acquire lots of young talent that could not just leave for free agency.  Make them grow in the system together and become a well oiled machine.

     Since Alex Anthopolous took over as the GM of the Blue Jays there as been a systematic change in the approach to how the Blue Jays fielded a team.  In one of his first moves Alex traded Roy Halladay.  In return the Jays got pitcher Kyle Drabek, catcher Travis d'Arnaud and first baseman Brett Wallace.  Not long after this Brett Wallace was traded to Houston for centre fielder Anthony Gose.  With these trades Toronto had begun stocking the cupboards with young talent.  Now with one of the more exciting teams in baseball the talent is beginning to burst to the major league level.  Two of the players in the Halladay trade made it into the Top 100 MLB prospects of 2012.  Here is some information on the prospects about to take that next step.

#25 - Travis d'Arnaud (Catcher):  With the success of J.P Arencibia in the big leagues it is hard to imagine someone else playing catcher for the Blue Jays.  However d'Arnaud is looked at as having more raw talent then the current starting catcher for the Jays and could be pushing for the starting job before too long.  His above average arm allows for him to play the position well defensively.  He also possesses a very quick bat that will provide him with power and average at the plate.  He will most likely see some time at AAA Las Vegas this season and with a strong push could be seen in the big leagues this year.

#57 - Anthony Gose (Center Field):  The one word you can use to describe Gose is simply FAST.  This young man has shown he has the speed to run with anyone in the Majors.  He has stolen 70+ bases twice in the minors which is an impressive feat in itself.  He is looked at as over aggressive on the base paths however in his first season with the Jays he improved his success rate from 57% in 2010 to 82.4% in 2011.  Gose is a five tool player.  His speed allows him to catch up to any ball in the field and his arm is one of the best in the minors.  He needs to improve his strikeout rate but he is learning to tap into his natural power and will provide some pop as well as some average.  He will be an exciting player for Jays fans to watch.  He will most likely see time at AAA this season.

#58 - Jake Marisnick (Outfield):  Coming in on the list right behind Gose is another talented outfielder.  Jake Marisnick emerged in 2011 as someone to watch for the Jays.  He currently plays in center field but his power suits him more to the right field position.  He has great speed which allows him to steal some bases as well as provide exceptional defence.  He hits for average but the power game will come as he adjusts to each level.  He played in Single A Lansing last season and should see a move up to AA New Hampshire this year.  The outfield of the future looks bright with the likes of Gose and Marisnick patrolling the Rogers Center.

#95 - Noah Syndergaard (Pitcher):  This kid is a strikeout machine.  He struck out 29% of the batters he faced last season.  Incredible numbers.  He is a power pitcher.  He has some zip on his fastball and a good power curveball.  He is still developing a change-up that he will need if he wants to advance further.  He is only 19 years old which may be the scary thing.  As he develops he will get stronger and has the type of body you want to see out of a number one pitcher.  He moved across a few Single A levels last season but I think we will see some of Noah at AA before this season is out.  His projected arrival is 2014 but with strong performances we may be seeing this fireballer on the mound a lot sooner.  


**All information provided by bluejays.com and MLB.com**

  

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Leafs extend John-Michael Liles 4 years. What's next for Leafs?

The Toronto Maple Leafs made a significant long-term move today signing Defenceman John-Michael Liles to a 4 year contract extension with an annual cap hit of $3.875M. The extension will see Liles in a Leafs jersey through the 2015-16 season. Acquired via trade from the Colorado Avalanche for a 2nd round pick(originally from Boston as part of the Kaberle deal) Liles has been a stable veteran presence on D and a great quarterback on the powerplay.

Currently on the Injured Reserve with a concussion, the extension comes as a bit of a surprise, however it shows the Leafs confidence that Liles will be back healthy and 100% shortly.

So what does this mean for the rest of the Maple Leafs D? As it stands now the Leafs Cody Franson and Keith Aulie are the only two defencemen on the active roster not with a contract next season, both are Restricted Free Agents at seasons end. With Liles locked up long-term and an abundance of young quality players on the Leafs back end, a trade could be in the works for one of the following players;

Keith Aulie, 22, D:

A young, big and mobile defender with a ton of upside makes Aulie a very sought after prospect. Originally acquired along with Dion Phaneuf from the Calgary Flames Aulie hasn't stuck with the Leafs roster full-time and has spent time going back and forth between the AHL Toronto Marlies and the Leafs in the NHL.

Luke Schenn, 22, D:

Schenn has had his name thrown around in a number of trade rumors as of late, most notably rumors surrounding the Philadelphia Flyers. Schenn could be thrown into the mix as the trade deadline draws near, but the return to the Maple Leafs would have to be very worth while to Brian Burke and the Leafs to help them win NOW.

Mike Komisarek, 30, D:

Luckily Komisarek hasn't been as bad as he was last season, and at times he has shown he can be a shutdown defender for the Leafs. Having said that, if a trade came along where Toronto could unload his enormous $4.5M contract(which runs through the 2013-14 season) the Leafs would be foolish to pass it up.




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Pictures courtesy of Google Images

NHL Power Rankings for January 25th

Rank
       ZCAB
   The Big J B
1                
Detroit Red Wings                        
Boston Bruins
2
New York Rangers
Detroit Red Wings
3
Vancouver Canucks
New York Rangers
4
Nashville Predators
Philadelphia Flyers
5
Pittsburgh Penguins
Vancouver Canucks
6
St. Louis Blues
Nashville Predators
7
Boston Bruins
St. Louis Blues
8
Chicago Blackhawks
Chicago Blackhawks
9
Philadelphia Flyers
San Jose Sharks
10
San Jose Sharks
Pittsburgh Penguins
11
Los Angeles Kings
Ottawa Senators
12
Ottawa Senators
Los Angeles Kings
13
Toronto Maple Leafs
Florida Panthers
14
Washington Capitals
New Jersey Devils
15
Anaheim Ducks
Minnesota Wild


ZCAB  

       Winners of seven in a row, the Detroit Red Wings have jumped to number one in the NHL and on top of my first power rankings list.  With an incredible home record of 20-2-1 they are the best home team in the NHL.  The Nashville Predators are quickly rising up the ranks.  With a 9-1-0 record in their last 10 they sit third in the best division in hockey.  Not bad for the small market team that is looking to build on their first playoff series win last season.  After a rough stretch the Pittsburgh Penguins have rattled off 7 straight wins.  They have a key home and home vs. Toronto after the all-star break that will go a long way in clearing up the Eastern Conference playoff picture.  After winning both games against the Islanders the Toronto Maple Leafs sit at number 13.  Sitting in a log jam around the eighth playoff spot the Leafs have a chance to make up some ground with two games against the Penguins.  Finally the Anaheim Ducks sit at number 15.  With an 8-1-1 record the Ducks are quickly rising from the Western basement.  With a talented lineup this could be a team to watch in the second half.

The Big J B


          The Boston Bruins have been nothing short of dominant over the first half of the NHL season both at home and on the road and top my first power rankings list. Not only for their 2nd ranked 15-7-0 record on the road but for their league leading +69 goal differential! To put that statistic into perspective, the Detroit Red Wings are second in goal differential at +48. Even after the loss of James van Riemsdyk the Philadelphia Flyers have still managed to win 6 of their last 10 games and have the best road record in the NHL at 18-7-2. In the Western Conference the St. Louis Blues have shot up the standings going 7-1-2 in their last 10 games and have recorded shut-outs in 4 games in the month of January. Had we done this list a month ago the Minnesota Wild would have been much higher on the list, as of late they have really taken a significant dive in the standings and barely made the cut on this list. Finally, my team to watch in the second half are the Calgary Flames. GM Jay Feaster has stated Calgary will not be sellers at the Trade Deadline and after an abysmal 9-0 loss to the Bruins on January 5th, the Flames have collected points in 6 of their last 8 games. Keep a close eye on them to after the All-Star break.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

All Hail Mikhail and the 'Silver Stick' kid

The NHL awards a Silver Stick to players who have played 1000 career games in the NHL. In the Maple Leafs locker room, Jake Gardiner is known as 'Silver Stick'. The reason being, although he only just played his 42nd game in the NHL, he plays with the confidence and savvy of a veteran well beyond his years. Gardiner scored his first career NHL goal tonight and added an assist for his 14th point as a Toronto Maple Leaf but his biggest play of the game came with a blocked shot at a key moment in the game that could have turned the tide in the Islanders favor.


Mikhail Grabovski had an enormous game of his own as well notching 1G and 3A, what I would say was the most well-rounded game a Maple Leaf has played all season(Lupul comes second, a few times). Grabo scored the go-ahead goal late in the third before the Islanders sent it to overtime and then assisted on the game winning goal by Clarke MacArthur 2:06 into the overtime period.

One last thing I need to mention or I wont forgive myself. Al Montoya's (almost) save! I have to admit after I was able to collect my jaw from the ground I was so flustered I could barely get the letters 'O M G' out of my mouth.

Three Final Thoughts

1. This game could be incredibly significant for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Both Mikhail Grabovski and Clarke MacArthur have had their names thrown around in trade rumors and with a performance such as this from both players, those rumors are only going to become more and more frequent. The Maple Leafs brass will have some big decisions to make in the coming weeks. If Grabo and MacArthur continue this level of play but the Leafs do not continue to win I believe one if not both of them will be dealt. However, if the Leafs continue to win and are in the hunt to make the playoffs they will need to strongly consider keeping them for the run unless something comes along they cannot turn down.

2. Although the Leafs were able to pull out a win there are many things they need to work on. The most notable mistakes they made were poor turnovers to the wrong people. The Leafs turned the puck over in the offensive zone on the powerplay which led to a 2 on 1 and an Islanders shorthanded goal. Jake Gardiner made a key shot block after a turnover which should have been a goal and really would have taken the wind out of the Leafs sails.

3. Finally, the Leafs need to bring in a big player that can score and provide some toughness. Kessel spent the majority of the first two periods battling, hacking and slashing with Islander players who had been all over him anytime he even looked at the puck. At one point Travis Hamonic appeared to be holding Phil Kessel at arms length as an adult would a toddler. To be the big, truculant team Brian Burke wants them to be either somebody will need to step up big time or they will need to bring in some hired guns for a playoff run.

Thanks for checking in! Follow us on Twitter @leafsdinosbirds
Pictures courtesy of Google Images

Blue Jays Re-Sign Morrow, Sign Cordero

       While the big news of the day came out of Detroit, across the border the Blue Jays made a couple of signings that will pay off in the 2012 season.  The Blue Jays re-signed starting pitcher Brandon Morrow to a three year contract with a club option for a fourth.  They then finished the day by signing former Cincinnati Reds closer Francisco Cordero to a one year contract.

       Morrow's contract is worth $20 million dollars with Morrow making $4 million in year one followed by $8 million in the next two seasons.  The club option is worth $10 million with a buy out option of $1 million.  This locks up Morrow for his remaining arbitration years as well as his first year of free agency.  It also keeps the top of the rotation set for the next few seasons with Morrow joining Ricky Romero as the Jays young one two punch.  Morrow was very thankful is his press conference making sure to recognize Alex Anthopolous and his team for the work they did to not only bring him into Toronto but to sign him long term.  Morrow seems determined to succeed in a Toronto market that has had trouble drawing fans over the last few seasons.  Morrow finished 2011 with an 11-11 record with a 4.72 ERA.  Not great numbers but it must be remembered that this was only his second full season as a starter.  Morrow has shown the ability to strike guys out with the best pitchers in the league.  However it will now be on Morrow to live up to the big contract as well as the pressure that is put on him to live up to his ace potential.  Something that critics and fans will be quick to remind him of.  All in all this looks to be a solid deal for the Blue Jays who continue to look to build from within.

       The other deal of the day was the signing of relief pitcher Francisco Cordero.  The one year deal is worth $4.5 million.  Coming into the offseason it was known that the Blue Jays were tied for the AL lead in blown saves.  The bullpen was an issue for concern.  But the moves Anthopolous has made has brought a young closer in Sergio Santos as well as veterans Jason Frasor and Darren Oliver into the fold.  Cordero will become the set up man to Santos and will create a late inning duo to rival anyone in the AL. It also gives the Jays a safety net if Santos struggles.  Combine these signings with the returning Casey Janssen and Carlos Villanueva and the once weak bullpen is looking like it is a whole lot stronger.

       The 2012 season will see the young Blue Jays players grow a little bit more.  And with their ability to score in bunches, the improved bullpen could be the last piece of the puzzle that will push the Blue Jays back into the playoffs for the first time since 1993.

**info via bluejays.com**

The Start of Something Special

       This first post is just a simple introduction to our blog.  It is going to be the place where all fans and haters of the Maple Leafs, Raptors, and Blue Jays can come and read about the important news of the week.  It will also be a place where we can debate the issues.  We are not stupid.  We know there are a lot of people out there who do no like Toronto sports.  But we also know that there are millions who do.  We look forward to talking to all of you.

       Over the course of the next few months you can expect Justin and myself to be posting blogs about everything from player signings to potential trade rumours.  We also plan on posting podcasts on a weekly basis with us just talking about whatever comes up.

       So we hope you will follow along with us and contribute to our little blog.  Follow us on twitter @leafsdinosbirds where we will post updates about the blog.  We hope you have as much fun with this as we are going to.

ZCAB