In 1892, English poet Sir Henry John Newbolt wrote VitaÃ¯ Lampada (They Pass On The Torch of Life), a lyric about a soldier learning the tenets of bravery and courage -- of stoicism -- through the practise of sport.
There's a breathless hush in the Close to-night
Ten to make and the match to win
A bumping pitch and a blinding light,
An hour to play, and the last man in.
And it's not for the sake of a ribboned coat.
Or the selfish hope of a season's fame,
But his captain's hand on his shoulder smote
"Play up! Play up! And play the game!"
Back on December 1st 2010, the Toronto Star broke a story which, if accurate, was poised to change the sporting and business landscape in this city and country forever. It would also represent the largest sporting transaction in Canadian history and will likely represent the most significant indication of the inevitable merging of the telecommunications, media and internet industries of our generation. This transaction will play a huge and direct role in transforming the way business in these sectors is done moving forward in this country. Â The story literally broke out of thin air. Â The concept that the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan (OTPP) would be selling out of their cash cow that is MLSE was nothing more than a fantasy which most Leaf fans would not allow themselves to even consider as a possibility. Now, several months later, and despite repeated denials by everyone involved including the OTPP, MLSE, Rogers, etc., the matter has gone purposefully and strategically public and what was once only a whisper and a rumour has now become a verified fact. The OTPP are mercifully on their way out and will be selling off their ownership stake (66%) of the MLSE sporting empire.
While there's no debate that James Reimer has risen to assume the mantle of starting goaltender for the Toronto Maple Leafs this season, his rise has opened to door for some debate over which direction the team will take with their goaltending as the conclusion of the regular season fast approaches. With just eleven games remaining, and Reimer having started 15 straight, the general consensus seems to be that Giguere will start tonight in Sunrise Florida as the Leafs take on the Panthers in a game the Leafs simply have to get two points from.
Many analysts credit the Toronto Maple Leafs'Â run for a playoff spot to the goaltending of James Reimer. While he has no doubt been a key contributor, much of the credit has to be distributed to Phil Kessel, who is suddenly tied for the team lead in points and ranks first in goals with 27.
Yes, "poor Kessel," the one who was picked last at the All-Star Game and had 25-goal man Alexander Ovechkin snap a photo of him as he sat alone and made the best of an awkward situation.
Whether it's what happened in Carolina, the hunt for a playoff spot or simply Kessel turning itÂ on at the right time, much of the Leafs' playoff hopes hinge on its 23-year-old sniper.
With Tomas Kaberle and Francois Beauchemin now wearing different uniforms, the Leafs have freed up a total of $8.05m from what was a tremendously well-compensated defense corps. However, they have also created two rather large holes to fill in the process.
While Keith Aulie has done a good job thus far filling Beauchemin's skates, the question remains: who steps in for Tomas Kaberle? If Carl Gunnarsson is not the man for the job - and early returns indicate he may not be - another puck-mover will be essential if the Leafs are to maintain their slim playoff hopes. The question is, who should the Leafs look to target? And how much should the team be willing to give up?
After what has felt like a lifetime of speculation and rumours, the Toronto Maple Leafs officially pulled the trigger on a transaction that will see Tomas Kaberle, the longest serving member of the organization, on his way out of town.
By now you know that the Maple Leafs received prospect Joe Colborne, a first round pick, and a conditional second round pick from the Bruins in exchange for the services of Kaberle.
Itâ€™s a move that already has been held up to the light my many, in an attempt to evaluate the pros and cons from both angles.Â The scrutiny will only intensify as Kaberle gets back into the playoffs with the Bruins, and the Maple Leafs use their picks received either as assets in another deal, or in drafting players at this yearâ€™s 2011 NHL entry draft. [more…]
Of course Brian Burke would pull off a substantial trade on the eve of a midterm. Such was the case last night when I was trying to study, but had my eyes glued on Twitter for anything about the Leafs and what had transpired. And after zillions of characters typed and an equal amount of opinion being thrown around, I'm ready to discuss the Versteeg departure.
Upon first reading about the deal, I was a little angry. Why? Because Versteeg has 50 point capability and it seems counterproductive to let him go at such a young age. And after a night's sleep and some more time to think about it, I pretty much feel exactly the same.
Now, I totally understand that a lot of people are excited that the Leafs received a first round pick in the deal. It's what many have been requesting for quite a while: a chance at a true rebuild. Fair enough. But..
Phil Kessel has been one of the most polarizing figures in the history of the Toronto Maple Leafs during his short tenure with the blue and white.Â Kessel will forever be linked with 2010 #2 overall selection Tyler Seguin and the jury might never come to a firm conclusion if that deal was in the best interest of the Leafs short or longer term.
Recently Kessel has come under heavy fire for his pointed comments regarding his lack of recent scoring and suggesting that maybe it â€œisnâ€™t working hereâ€.Â The Toronto media and fans of the team instantly took offense to this comment and basically hung him out to dry.Â Iâ€™ll admit it made me pause but this is Toronto, one of the largest media hubs in the world where even marginal players have microphones and cameras shoved in their grills, after a practise.Â [more…]
The frustration was evident in Phil Kessel's tone as he answered a stream of media questions regarding his latest goal-scoring slump, now at ten games. Or perhaps, more accurately, his tone was one of resignation.
Sighing often, Kessel repeated the words "I don't know" on multiple occasions in response to inquiries as to why he has been so snake-bitten, and what he feels can be done to re-discover his scoring touch. This was clearly a player at his wit's end, a player who seemed to be completely out of answers as to why the puck won't go in despite numerous scoring chances of late.
It was almost enough to make one feel sympathetic toward his plight; to make one feel as though he was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders, a victim of perpetual misfortune who was giving his all and unjustly coming up short.
Phil Kessel made a statement today. A big one. It's now put Brian Burke between a rock and a hard place. A decision must be made and it looks as though the Leafs (arguably) best sniper has put that responsibility on Brian Burke and only Brian Burke.
"It's not working out here," said a frustrated Kessel after being demoted to the third line during practice on Sunday. He's now sitting on the right wing of one Darryl Boyce and one Joey Crabb. "Maybe there needs to be a change."
Phil Kessel has sounded an alarm today, and all Leafs fans should be listening.
Considering the Leafs have an all-time record of 25-56-6-2 in Buffalo, it's not exactly earth-shattering that the club struggled to contain its Northeast rivals on the scoresheet.
There is little doubt among observers that the Leafs will attempt to make some moves at the trade deadline a month from now, and with the team's leadership meeting in Florida to plot strategy, many feel there could be a shakeup coming prior to the annual auction at the end of February.
The question is, what sort of a shakeup will GM Brian Burke be able to pull off? With the team in a rut, and several core players not playing up to expectation, can the Leafs be realistically expected to put together a major deal which could turn the franchise around?