Just Be Cauz - The BCS is Better Than March Madness - NCAA

There is no such thing as a perfect system. In fact the term "perfect" should be thrown out from our lexicon. Unless you're speaking about 'The Big Lebowski' or an '82 Lafite', "perfect" just doesn't exist.

I felt like I needed to start with that disclaimer because I'm about to reveal something that most sports fan would be ashamed to utter aloud ... I support the BCS. Not only do I support it, I prefer it over March Madness!

Yes that's right, the evil, reviled system known as the Bowl Championship System. This revelation came to me while watching the Elite Eight over the weekend. Considering all the propaganda against the BCS this was not easy for me to come to terms with. Like a disk jockey saying on air he enjoys the entire Nickelback collection I would rather have my champion decided by polls, computers and shady voters.

Don't get me wrong, I love March Madness. Some of my fondest sports memories are watching the first round while enjoying the first hints of spring and quaffing back multiple Guinness' on St. Patrick's Day. Who doesn't adore an orgy of basketball games coming at you wave after wave of upsets and buzzer beaters?

There is just one tiny little flaw with it all, no one cares about the regular season. Beyond the odd Duke vs. North Carolina game just how much College Basketball do you watch before the start of the tournament? I'm guessing the majority of you start paying attention somewhere around the time the office secretary starts passing around the photocopied brackets.

What it comes down to is consequences, or the complete lack of, during the regular season for College Basketball. If you lose a couple games early on, no worries there is plenty of season left to get a high seed. Stumble near the end ... just crank it up in your respective Conference Championship and presto a #1 or #2 is often there for the taking.

The problem is that the regular season has such a small impact on who the champion ultimately will be. Upsets happen every year, just ask Kansas, and there is nary a #1 seed left in the Final Four. Quite frankly there are no games of great importance in January for College Basketball. How can there be if there are no significant repercussions if you win or lose two weeks after Christmas?

Now compare that to College Football where every game matters. Let me give you two quick examples.
September 1st 2007: The Michigan Wolverines lose to unranked Division II Appalachian State 34-32. That Michigan squad had the #1 overall draft pick Jake Long, along with a boatload of future NFL players: Chad Henne (Miami), Mario Manningham (NY Giants) and Mike Hart (Indianapolis Colts) on offence. This was a stacked team however their chances for a National Championship had ended before Labour Day.

September 25th 2008: The #1 ranked USC Trojans, coming off a jaw dropping whipping of 5th ranked Ohio State just one week earlier, lost to unranked Oregon State 27-21. That team, with Mark Sanchez at quarterback, was considered a favourite to win it all. But that one loss dashed those dreams all away. USC wouldn't lose another game, but it didn't matter that Thursday night loss had sealed their fate. Last year Duke lost by 14 to unranked North Carolina State yet they still went on to the National Champion over a five loss Butler Bulldogs squad.

That's the great thing about the BCS, it creates such a sense of gravitas for each 60-minute contest. Every individual game is an event, no matter what the calendar says. Yes I am aware this has as much to do with the shorter length of the football regular season as it it is about the BCS. Of course each game is going to mean more when than are fewer of them to play. However it is that lack of a playoff system that comes with the BCS that makes every week do or die.

Can you say that for any other sport?

I know the BCS has it's flaws and right now every sports fan is doing their usual Spring ritual in proclaiming their love for the Madness but I would rather have a system that places such a high premium on the entire season and not just the final couple weeks.

Game Previews - March 26th - Hockey Night in Canada

Written by Matt Cauz

Washington vs Montreal

The normal writers for the Star Selector Games are away so you're stuck with me! Don't worry, what I lack in accurate data and facts I make up for with horrible spelling mistakes and poor grammar. Let's do this!

Our first match-up between the Habs and the Caps is a battle of two playoff teams who certainly know each other rather well. Washington is playing their second game of a back-to-back while Montreal is coming off their most humiliating loss of the season, just a horrible 7-0 beat down by Boston. Way too avenge Pacioretty; Max probably got a concussion just watching that game on television. I hope he went to the movies instead.
Moving on.

With Alexander Ovechkin out on "sabbatical," there are plenty of other players worthy of a high ranking for this game. Mike Knuble tallied three points against the Devils and coming into the Ottawa game he has five goals in his last five games. Nicklas Backstrom looks like he's healthy and is a worthy option. Backstrom is solid on face offs and again should see more ice time with Ovechkin gone. Finally I like Marcus Johansson who scored two goals the last time Washington faced Montreal.

Than there is Montreal. It's kinda tough to point a couple guys out as legit starters, isn't it? The team only has 200 goals, fewest among Eastern Conference playoff teams. I don't need to tell you about the lack of legitimate offensive stars on this team. Tomas Plekanec is their leader with a paltry 53 points. Not a good sign when your best guy statistically is tied for 55th in scoring.
My hunch pick for Montreal is Brian Gionta. He's the type of veteran that can bounce back from a bad loss, and he has been fairly consistent recently

Back to Washington for a second. Keep an eye on Ice Time for the veterans. I could see Bruce Boudreau resting his key guys. Having the best regular season record didn't exactly help Washington last season, now did it?

List
Captain - Mike Knuble
Nicklas Backstrom
Marcus Johansson
Mike Cammilleri
Brian Gionta

Toronto vs Detroit

Before we get to this game, let me give a massive tip of the cap to whoever came up with Optimus Reim. Finally a great hockey nickname! No sport has worse nicknames than hockey. Every player just adds an "er", "ner" or an "esy" to their last name! I am now officially rooting for James Reimer to be a star.

The Red Wings haven't played since their 2-1 loss to Vancouver on Wednesday night so they should be well rested for the Leafs. Detroit has lost three in a row so expect them to come out firing. Yes you have to play Henrik Zetterberg, but with just four points in his last 11 games I wouldn't Captain him. Keep an eye on the health/status of Johan Franzen who was held out against the Canucks. Much like Washington, I could see Detroit reducing the minutes for their core veterans. Of course all their best players are North of 30. I say don't be a hero and pick some random younger guy on the end of the bench. See who is starting and take the "name" guys.

Speaking of "name" guys, Toronto doesn't have any. I kid, I kid.
Is Mikhail Grabovski getting better? After five games without a point he had a goal and an assist on Tuesday and picked up another assist against Colorado. Phil "Mr. Draft Picks" Kessel broke out of his mini five game goalless streak on Thursday and does have six points in his last seven games. I don't think two games is enough to say someone is "on fire" but Nikolai Kulemin, the pride of Magnitogorsk Russia, followed up his two assist night against Minnesota with a pair of goals in the Leafs 4-3 win over the Avalanche.

And don't forget about Tomas Kaberle. Oh sure he doesn't shoot that much, and really isn't that physical, but the guy is the best puck handler the Leafs got and despite all the trade remours he's really ... oh yeah he's in Boston. Sorry, force of habit. (I was really rooting for Kaberle to set the Leafs record for games played while constantly being the focus at the trade deadline.)

List
Captain- Johan Franzen (If they play him!)
Nikolai Kulemin
Henrik Zetterberg
Phil Kessel
Mikhail Grabovski

Calgary vs Edmonton

Remember when this was a rivalry? Boy those were good days. I'm sure the locals still get riled up when these teams meet but for the rest of us it has become a rather ho-hum affair. Kind of like the "Battle of Ontario" used to be a big deal but now it's almost impossible to generate any hate between the Senators and the Leafs. Thankfully InGamer is here to keep even the most mundane contest interesting!

I know he's out for the year but I would recommend you at least think about picking Ales Hemskey. Oh sure Hemsky hasn't played since March 1st but he's still tied for the team lead for points. Only the Devils and Senators have scored fewer goals than Edmonton. Looks like whoever is in net for the Flames is a good play. I might have recommended #1 draft pick Taylor Hall but Hall has yet to register a point in four games against Calgary. Jordan Eberle does have three points against Calgary this year. Yes I know I'm reaching but I can't go all Flames! Little known fact, the Oilers currently have four players on their roster who cannot legally drink in the States.

Really Calgary is the play here. Jarome Iginla is having yet another solid year and his four goals in his last four games warrants serious Captain consideration.

List
Captain- Miikka Kiprusoff
Jarome Iginla
Alex Tanguay
Jordan Eberle
Sam Gagner

Just Be Cauz - Death of the Icon!


What is going on with ICONS these days? Doesn't it seem like there are fewer and fewer of them around? I started writing my column entirely about the Barry Bonds trial and the lack of attention it is getting compared to the circus that was December 2003. I had it nearly finished and even found a way to make fun of Rashard Lewis and his six-year $110 million dollar contact he got from Orlando a couple years ago.

But then I was driving around today doing my best to avoid bad Toronto drivers and black ice (The most racist form of treacherous weather) when I heard that Elizabeth Taylor had died. Now for any of you below 30 let me try to put into perspective just how big Taylor was back in her day. Combine the box office draw of Julia Roberts, the scandalous nature of Angelina Jolie and the raw sexuality of Salma Hayek in 'Dusk till Dawn', that was Elizabeth Taylor.

With her passing you are left to ask; who are the active iconic figures in Hollywood? Jack Nicholson, Meryl Streep, Dustin Hoffman, Clint Eastwood, the list is shrinking every year. Oh by the way I've booted De Niro and Pacino off the list, don't blame me, blame 'Righteous Kill.'
So this naturally led me to start thinking about who are the greatest living icons in sports and what the hell has happened to so many of them???

You have Barry Bonds who is proclaiming that he never knew that he actually took steroids. How could Bonds not have known what he was taking? Oh sure I may not ask a doctor about the exact medical make-up of what is in that large syringe being injected in me, but I'm a civilian. Double B was a the best player in baseball, we are to believe he was completely ignorant about what some man was injecting in his body? Does B-Squared really seem like the most trusting guy? Hey at least he's playing the dumb card over the race card, a refreshing change in the world of sports.
Speaking of steroids, what about Lance Armstrong? Every couple of months there is a new probe or "revealing"evidence from another former rider accusing Lance of some sort of infraction. Personally I give him a pass. I have a simple rule on this, if you have raised well over $10 million for cancer research you kind of get a free pass from me. Moving on.
Then there is icon in training Lebron James. It kinda feels like he traded in his legacy for the opportunity of a bunch of cheap titles and delicious mojitos.

Michael Jordan's legacy just keeps getting worse and worse. From that gawd awful Hitler moustache, his venomous Hall of Fame Speech and the sad state of every franchise he has run, Jordan would have been better off as a celebrity pit boss at Caesars after his playing days were over.

Jerry Rice, Emmitt Smith & Evander Holyfield: Here's another simple rule, if you have participated in 'Dancing with the Stars' please hand in your "Icon" card to the nearest Kiosk.
Finally there is my favourite fallen icon, and as a NY Giants fan it pains me to bring this one up, but how about Lawrence Taylor's recent justifications for sleeping with an underage prostitute????

Here are three quotes from Taylor, guess which one is a fake:
(1) "I'm not the cause of prostitution. And sometimes I make mistakes and I may go out there. And I didn't go pick her up on no playground. She wasn't hiding behind the school bus or getting off a school bus. This is a working girl that came to my room."
(2) "It's the world of prostitution," he said during the Fox News interview. "You never know what you're gonna get. Is it gonna be a pretty girl, an ugly girl or whatever it's gonna be."
(3) "I'm not looking for a relationship. Hey, sometimes I look for some company. It's all clean. I don't have to worry about your feelings. It's all clean. I'm not saying it's right. It's the oldest profession in the world."
The best part, they're all real! I love his honesty but man how the mighty have fallen! Remember the good old days when LT was using golf as an escape from his vices. Now he's just a poor man's Charlie Sheen.

There are so many examples to pick and choose from. Really all this tells us is that athletes are no different than everyone else with the exception of the crazy amounts of money they have made and their freakish once in a lifetime athletic ability.
I'm going to end on a high note. I wanted to come up with my list of living iconic athletes. The
Elizabeth Taylor's of professional sports. The guys who changed the game, galvanized the sporting public and (unlike the players I have mentioned) have done precious little to tarnish their legacy. Everyone on this list was at their peak at least 25 years ago but still are a part of our collective consciousness. Please feel free to add to this list. Let's be honest I'll miss about 728 who should be part of the discussion.

(1) Muhammad Ali
(2) Jim Brown (I know he has had multiple issues with the law, some of them very serious, but the man devoted so much of his life to helping out so many different communities, I can't leave him off.)
(3) Hank Aaron
(4) Bill Russell
(5) Willie Mays (From all reports he's a jerk to many people he meets, but still, it's Willie Mays!)
(7) Bob Gibson
(8) Oscar Robertson
(9) Gale Sayers
(10) Dick Butkus

Game Previews - March 19th

There are 3 Hockey Night in Canada broadcast games Saturday night. Star Selector’s have the choice between Boston vs Toronto or Tampa Bay vs Ottawa for the 7:00pm EST Saturday night with Colorado traveling to Edmonton to play the back end of double header action.

Boston vs Toronto 7:00pm EST Saturday March 19th.

This is a match up between contrasting teams. The Boston Bruins will be contending for Lord Stanley’s mug when the playoffs commence in early April. Boston sits comfortably a top the North East Division standings and 3rd in the Eastern Conference Standings. While it is a different and familiar story in Leaf land with the Buds on the outside of the play off picture. A question to consider Saturday night is what Toronto Maple Leaf team will be showing up? Will it be the version that lost two must win games this week by a combined score of 10-2 or the team that battled to big wins over Carolina and Buffalo. Whatever version you think is playing will have a direct impact on your Star Selector starting five but here is an interesting tidbit that might influence your selections. The Leafs have been shut out in the first period 39 times this year so if you are unsure you can hedge your bet on the Bruins and make second period adjustments if need be.

My Star Selector Starting Five:

Milan Lucic - Captain

Tim Thomas or Tukka Rask (depending on who is starting)

Tomas Kaberle

Patrice Bergeron

Nikolai Kulemin

Tampa Bay vs Ottawa 7:00pm EST Saturday March 19th.

Once again we have a battle of playoff vs non play off team with the only difference in this match up being Ottawa having absolutely no chance of making the post season. That said the Senators have been competitive lately posting a respectable 6-4 record during their last 10 games. Craig Anderson has been providing solid if not spectacular goaltending and Jason Spezza is preparing to represent Team Canada during April’s World Championships. Tampa Bay will be looking to atone for Thursday nights loss at the hands of their potential first round opponents from Montreal. Steven Stamkos continues to lead the NHL in goals and is 6 points behind Vancouver’s Daniel Sedin for the Art Ross trophy.

My Star Selector Starting Five:

Steven Stamkos - Captain

Martin St Louis

Teddy Purcell

Vincent LeCavalier

Jason Spezza

Colorado vs Edmonton 10:00pm EST Saturday March 19th

There is no playoff pressure for either of the teams squaring off in the back end of Saturday nights Hockey Night in Canada’s double header. I could take the easy way out by copying and pasting the preview article from two weeks ago but will offer a different strategy for the battle of the cellar dwellers. Try out a new strategy. If you haven’t picked goalies before? Dress both starters. Always go with the leading scorers? Try some roll players for a change. My point is not to throw this match up in your quest for the phase 2 leader board but rather these type of games, when teams have little to play for, are extremely tough to predict so why not try something new and see how it plays out? You can always change your roster for the second period anyway.

My Star Selector Starting Five:

Matt Duchene - Captain

Ryan Jones

Linus Omark

Erik Johnson

Paul Stastny

Just Be Cauz - The Missing Link Between S.I., Chara and Steriods


Written by The Razor, Matt Cauz

I want to talk about Mark McGwire, steroids, Zdeno Chara and Sports Illustrated. In my mind they suddenly are all connected, you may or may not agree.

I'm the biggest fan of Sports Illustrated, I just love it. The simple pleasure of finding out who is on the cover each week always excites me. I'm the type of nerd who tries to guess who/what will be on the cover before looking.

Nothing gauges the temperature of what is going on in North American sports quite like the SI Cover. Unless of course you are a hockey fan where you're still waiting in 2011 for anyone even remotely involved in hockey to make the cover. Hey puck fans, did you know that since June 22nd, 2009 your entire sport has been represented on the cover the same amount of times as NFL vagabond Jason Campbell? But since most NHL fans are secure in their love for their sport and pay no regard to what Americans think, I'm sure this little fact doesn't rankle them one bit.

Of course my favourite SI Cover travesty was at the expense of soccer fans. In 1998 the editors decided that Mike Ditka and his off season in New Orleans should be on the cover over France beating Brazil in the World Cup. This was in July! Unless Ditka was found in a motel room bed with Ricky Williams and a used cigar I can't think of any reason why he made it over the World Cup finals. I mean except of course for the fact that the popularity of soccer in this continent is a giant myth, but that's another story.

I bring this up because of last weeks edition with Joe DiMaggio and the 70th anniversary of his 56-game hit streak. An excellent throw back cover, far more compelling than shots of NFL lawyers or Kevin Mawae.
But wait what does this have to do with hockey head shots? I'm getting there, slowly, please don't click away just yet!

This cover jogged my memory of other baseball covers most notably Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa as Sports Illustrated's "Sportsmen of the Year" winner back in 1998.
I went back and read old article during that historic summer when McGwire and Sosa dragged baseball back to relevancy by shattering Roger Maris' home run record. I was amazed that no one even brought up the idea of steroids. Even with the spectre of Androstenedione being found in McGwire's locker looming, no one bothered to investigate!

Check out what SI writer Gary Smith (one of the smartest writers in the business no less!) had to say:
"As is our custom late each fall, we at sports illustrated sat down to discuss nominations for sportsman of the.... No, we didn't discuss. We didn't even sit down. It was automatic. It was unanimous. It was the easiest selection in our history. It couldn't be one sportsman of the year. It had to be two. Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. All in favor, say aye. All opposed, report back to your coma."

Now I don't blame S.I. for being duped. Everyone went along for the ride until the wisest of all sports figures, Jose Canseco, pointed us in the right direction.

Which brings me to Chara.
I am always afraid to way in on head shots and the level of violence in the game. This is about as polarizing as it gets for fans of the NHL. You're either on the side of safety and concern for the health of the players or you are on the side of the "soul" of the game, believing it to be great the way it is and that players are grown men who know what they are getting into to.

This latter argument reminds me of what we did with McGwire and Sosa. We just want to enjoy the greatness of the sport without looking at the warts that exist. I understand why people would be in this camp. The NHL and the media surrounding it spend far too much time ripping their own product instead of celebrating it. The majority of die hard fans must be sick and tired of all this talk about how to change the game.
The game is just fine the way it is!

No it's not. It's a simple problem, the players are just so much faster and stronger than they were even just a decade ago. The size of the rink hasn't changed, their hasn't really been any earth shattering changes in the equipment to protect the players. Despite this the NHL will not place a draconian style ban on hits to the head. They don't want to disturb the game, they need to investigate.
Really?

The NFL (you remember that sport, right?) changes rules every year, heck they changed it mid season this year after James Harrison, Dunta Robinson and Brandon Merriweather were all found "guilty" of helmet to helmet hits in one weekend.

Ten years ago those hits would have been the highlights for an NFL sanctioned DVD. Now, because of all the new information that has come to light about head trauma the NFL did something about it.
It's time for the NHL to follow suit and realize the good "old" game has changed and they need to change as well.
I just hope the next time the NHL does make the cover of Sports Illustrated it isn't for a player being carted off the ice with a concussion, a broken neck or even worse.

Just Be Cauz - Sports Nerds Unite!!!

Written by the original maker of tiger's blood, Matt Cauz

Before we get to this week's blog/rant/column I heard this great stat that I thought I would share. Last season Lebron James as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers went 61-21. For the Heat just to record that same record they are going to have to run the table for the rest of the season! I guess this means that Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon are as good as Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh.

I was trying to decide what to write about this week. I haven't watched enough College Basketball to preview March Madness, at least not yet anyway and quite frankly I'm tired of NFL Labour talks. Charlie Sheen? I already have October 18th, 2011 in my death pool. As a NY Giants fan I was tempted to complain about the return of Tiki Barber, but really does anyone care? Tiki reminds me of a Dolphin. They are cute, but both are wildly overrated. We need a Tiki return like we need another Matthew McConaughey movie. I'll give 'Lincoln Lawyer' about two weeks before its booted out of the theatres.

Instead of pouring through the sports section for ideas (that is in the "Newspaper" for anyone under 25) I decided to do the next best thing, watch 'Revenge of the Nerds'. From football to crazy javelin throws I dare say Nerds is more of a sports film than a comedy. As I was watching Ogre castigate the herd of checker shirts and pocket protectors as "Nerds!" it got me thinking ... are sports fans really the biggest nerds of them all?

Let's break down the easiest nerd to identify, the Star Trek nerd. Here are six basic characteristics that took me about 45 seconds to come up with.

(1) They dress up in silly costumes.
(2) Live in their parents basement.
(3) Have acquired an ungodly amount of useless information about George Takei.
(4) Line up for and attend a myriad of conventions ranging from Star Trek to comic books.
(5) Bedrooms look more like the promotions department for Wrath of Kahn than say, a bedroom.
(6) Not exactly doing as well with the ladies as Captain James Tiberius Kirk.
BONUS for the uber-nerd: They actually learn to speak Klingon! Jumping Jesus on a pogo stick is that both nerdy and useless! Yeah I could learn Chinese which will help in the work force ... ahh F-It I want to recite Hamlet in Klingon.

But let's flip this around for a second and apply these same characteristics to a dude who is "fanatical" about sports ... ie: a "Sports Nerd".

(1) They dress up as their favourite players by wearing their jerseys, paint their faces before games and many of them even wear jerseys out to social events. Listen if you are over 21 stop tucking in your Ray Lewis jersey into your dungarees before hitting the bar. You look goofy.

(2) Many sports nerds eventually will gravitate to sports media which means they will have the lowest paying job of any of their friends. Trust me, you can make more money as a Sharecropper in a Third World Nation than you will as a producer. This eventually leads to them moving back home as they can't afford rent unless they take a basement apartment in Pickering.

(3) This one is easy. How many buddies do you know that can recite every relevant statistic for their favourite pitcher, goalie or running back? If you ran into me on the street I would first wonder why you are running than I could tell you every Super Bowl MVP from Bart Starr to Aaron Rodgers in the amount of time it would take to defend 'The Search for Spock'.

(4) Grown men line up for Pete Rose to sign their baseballs while others spend three hours in traffic to attend an Arizona Cardinals home game. I have been to a Trek convention and have watched Derek Anderson throw a pass, I would argue the convention is more enjoyable.

(5) Two words: Fat Head. If you go to fathead.com right now you are just two easy clicks away from owning your own authentic Lomas Brown fat head mural for your bedroom. Haven't we all suffered from the same problem, not enough Detroit Lions offensive linemen on our walls? I'd say that's at least a push versus a poster of Ricardo Montalban dressed up in fur pelts.

(6) You know what you are NOT doing when you are memorizing stats, going to games, checking out Mel Kiper's mock drafts, meeting girls. Yes there are some women at these events but let's be honest most are a "sports hot" as Bill Simmons puts it; women whose attractiveness is boosted because they are standing with a group of obese men eating brats wearing under sized Warren Sapp jerseys.

BONUS: Oh God that last one is hard to compare with. Hmmm how about men who own season tickets to WNBA games. That is the closest nerd comparison I can come up with to those select few that have dedicated their lives to learning Klingon.

So to all those jocks out there busy giving nerds wedgies and stealing their lunch money, look deep inside your soul I think you'll find a little bit of nerd in you. Of course you'll also find used condom wrappers, invites to jacquzzi parties, ski vacations ... you know what let me join in NERDS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

HNIC - A Curse to the Leafs?

Written by Keesje Kort @keesje_ingamer

If the Leafs fall short in making the playoffs for the 5th consecutive year (6th if you count the lockout), they can look at their performance on Hockey Night in Canada as a key contributing factor. Toronto will play on CBC national broadcast games a total of 24 times this season. To date they are a terrible 5-10-4, outscored 37-53 and have been shut out 4 times. By comparison in all other games the Leafs are 24-18-6; a pace that would have them safely in a playoff position. So why the tale of two teams? Do the Leaf players have such disdain for the Hot Stove Lounge, and Elliott Friedman or Glenn Healy’s proximity to their bench, that it’s causing such a drastic shift in performance? Or are there other factors at play here?

Let’s face it, when you play in the world’s largest hockey market there is never a shortage of exposure or opportunities for friends and families to watch your games. The same can’t be said for most of the elite level talent playing south of the border. Granted cable packages like the NHL Game Center or Center Ice have certainly afforded those willing to shell out $24.95 per month the vehicle in which to watch their favorite players, but it still does not have the same reach as the 2 million or so people that tune in to watch Hockey Night in Canada every week. With the exception of a shoot-out win over Boston back in the December, the Leafs have failed to beat a US-based team on Saturday night!!

What is even more astonishing is that in the majority of these games, their opponents were on the tail end of back-to-back games. Nobody wants to be embarrassed on national television and, consequently, the Leafs do not get the benefit of tired legs or less enthusiastic opponents. No offense to less traditional hockey markets, but I have to assume it is much easier to get pumped up for a HNIC national broadcast game against Toronto than a Saturday night battle with the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh.

This is not to suggest that NHL players do not play hard every single game. For the most part they do. However, most look for any type of motivational edge when dealing with the physical and mental impacts caused by the grind of the regular season. A packed arena, 2 million+ watching on television and an opponent from the largest hockey market in the world certainly provides the motivational edge to conquer tired legs. This isn’t to say the Leafs aren’t going to make the playoffs, but if they don’t their Hockey Night in Canada record will be a main factor why.

Game Previews - Saturday March 5, 2011

Chicago vs Toronto 7:00 Est CBC

Saturday Night’s Star Selector match up pits two of the hottest teams in the National Hockey League with the upstart Toronto Maple Leafs (6-1-3 in their last 10) hosting the defending Stanley Cup Champions from Chicago. The Blackhawks are currently riding a 6 game winning streak and Leaf Nation is hoping that it continues Friday with a regulation home victory over the Carolina Hurricanes. Jonathan Toews, February’s NHL’s player of the month, is red hot with 8 goals and 17 assists in his last 15 games and a must have in your Star Selector line up. The Leafs are coming off a home and away Pennsylvania sweep with consecutive come from behind wins against Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. James Reimer is providing elite level goaltending, Phil Kessel is coming off player of the week honors, there is talk of a contract extension for Coach Wilson and the Buds are three points out of a playoff position. Who would have predicted that one month ago?

The pride of NFLD and card carrying Leaf Nation member Be-Leaf sends us his Star Selector starting 5. Thanks Be-Leaf!

Captain - Phil Kessel
Jonathan Toews
Mikhail Grabovski
Nikolai Kulemin
Clarke MacArthur

Montreal vs Tampa Bay 7:00 Est CBC

If the regular season ended tonight this would be a game 1 Stanley Cup playoff series preview article. Montreal earned their third consecutive win and Carey Price his 7th shut out of the season in Thursday’s 4-0 over Florida. Tampa Bay, in the midst of a two game mini losing streak, is hoping that injured star center Vincent Lecavalier will make his return to the line up Saturday night. Lecavalier is currently listed as day to day after suffering an upper body injury in Wednesday nights loss to New Jersey. A homecoming to the friendly confines of the St. Pete’s Time Forum could not have come at a better time for Steven Stamkos. Stamkos, held pointless during the Lightning’s recent three game road trip, still holds a commanding 8 goal lead in the race for the Rocket Richard trophy. Look for the NHL’s leading goal scorer to rebound Saturday night as he hasn’t gone more than three games without registering a point all season.

Star Selector Starting 5:
Captain - Steven Stamkos
Carey Price
Martin St. Louis
Simon Gagne
Andrei Kostitsyn

Edmonton vs Colorado 10:00 EST CBC

There are a lot of similarities between these two team playing in the late game. Both are out of the playoff picture, give up a lot of goals and boast line-ups with young emerging superstars. While the only impact this contest might have for the 2010 NHL Season is draft position it does however have the potential for a huge star selector point night. Edmonton and Colorado rank 29th and 30th respectively for goals against so it as a match up to keep both goalies on the bench. Edmonton will be with out the services of rookie sensation Taylor Hall who injured his ankle during his first professional fight Thursday night against Blue Jacket Derek Dorsett and Ales Hemsky who is suffering from an injured shoulder. The Avalanche are an ice cold 1-7-2 in their last 10, have lost 4 straight but should be well rested as they haven’t seen any action since Tuesday nights overtime loss to the San Jose Sharks.

Star Selector Starting 5:
Captain - Matt Duchene
Paul Stastny
Shawn Horcoff
Jordan Eberle
Magnus Paajarvi

Trade Deadline Snorefest

Written by Keesje Kort @keesje_ingamer

Working from home tends to be a hit or miss scenario. Without distraction my productivity improves tenfold but occasionally, like I am sure must of you with the same flexibility to work in sweatpants and an old tee can attest, the simplest of items have the capability of becoming massive attention diversions. Yesterday’s all day coverage of the NHL’s trade deadline proved to be my personal Gannicus; slayer of my good work intentions (sorry couldn’t resist a Spartacus Gods of the Arena reference). I found myself drawn to the television anxiously waiting for the, ‘Trade Breakers’ to interrupt James Duthie with insider information about some blockbuster trade between two teams that I really have no interest in. The end result for me was a late night work blitz to make up for my day’s procrastination and enough insight for me to write this article about 5 observations from the NHL trade deadline.

1: @BizNasty2point0 is far and away the most entertaining NHLer from a twitter perspective. If you aren’t on twitter or following Biz you should consider signing up just for his tweets alone. Here is a snapshot of his work yesterday:

Any trades yet? Just woke up. My phone hasn't rang so I'm safe so far. Although I prolly wouldn't wave my no trade clause. #Twooperstar

In case you folks are wondering I have a no movement clause, but its from the middle of the bench. #PlugLife #4Line4Life

I am now a one man wolf pack. Now taking resumes for new friends.

For those of you who don’t know who BizNasty is, he is Paul Bissonnette, a fourth line left winger on the Phoenix Coyotes.

2: Brian Burke was busy yesterday. How can I say that given the Leafs only move was sending John Mitchell to the Rangers for a seven round pick? Burkie’s ever present, I’m so busy that I can’t do up my tie look for his mid afternoon impromptu interviews with TSN and Sportsnet. There are nine stages to complete the standard Windsor knot and Burkie couldn’t get past stage 1 so obviously a lot was happening in the Leafs war room.

3: Anytime you a filling air time with highlights from the previous years deadline show you know it is an extremely quiet day. Not only was that bad but some folks in the twitter universe mistakenly interpreted the news as a 2011 deal. Justin Pogge’s career might have finally hit rock bottom after some so called social media experts tweeted that he had been moved for a TSN panelist but at least it provided the on air personalities with some good material to jibe at Aaron Ward. Lord knows they would have needed something to help them pass the ten hours of live coverage.

4: Charlie Sheen’s all out media blitz yesterday prompted his long time publicist, Stan Rosenfield, to resign. I can’t imagine what the final straw was that pushed Rosenfield over the edge but if you watched any of the ‘epic’ or ‘gnarly’ highlights from the Sheen interviews you know he has earned every cent of the money paid to him over the years. On second thought, I gotta think it was Sheen’s claim to have hit a 445 foot bomb during batting practice earlier that morning that was nail in that relationships coffin. You didn’t think I wasted all day just watching TSN did you?

5: The NFL network combine coverage rivals NHL trade deadline for the most overhyped, over analyzed event. Seriously how many times can you watch athletes run 40 yards or press 225 lbs before you feel completely terrible about your own physical condition? It took me 4.4 seconds to get from my sofa to my fridge which was a personal best and might improve my home pre draft ranking but 30 hours of live coverage...c’mon man.

At the end of the day there were 16 trades involving 35 players and 12 draft picks. Jason Arnott moved from New Jersey to cup contenders in Washington while Dustin Penner exchanged the snow and sleet in Edmonton for the sun and sand of Hollywood. I am working from my office today just in case there is post deadline analysis as I can’t afford another wasted day.

Just Be Cauz - Trade Deadline is a Joke in Your Town!

Written by The Flurry to the Solarplexus, Matt Cauz

Raise your hands if you know who Alex Magee is. Unless your his parents I'm guessing your hand is down, heck even Alex Magee doesn't know who he is, but those are issues between him and his shrink, really do any of us know who we are ... all right now I'm getting off track.

The point is that Alex Magee was a defensive end for the Kansas City Chiefs who was traded at the deadline to Tampa Bay for the always sexy "undisclosed draft picks". Really I think you can disclose it to the public, something tells me we can handle it. Why so secretive NFL?

Speaking of secrets did you know the NFL has a trade deadline? Shouldn't this be a bigger deal?

If the NFL combine, an event where we get to see grown man's genitals flopping every which way as they try to run the 40 in under 4.5, is a big deal than I say so should be the NFL Trade Deadline Day.

Just consider the other professional leagues.

We go crazy around here for the NHL trade deadline, TSN and Sportsnet pull off their best 'Seinfeld' impression by spending the whole day talking about nothing with just a dash of Brad Richards thrown in for flavour.

With star players forcing their way to more glamorous teams the NBA's trade deadline has new life to it.

While in baseball their deadline day is a great time to see which small market players are heading to the Red Sox and Yankees while and in the process crushing the dreams for all Blue Jays fans that their team had a shot of making the playoffs.
But in football all we got in 2010 was one lousy Alex Magee trade and the bizarre travels of Randy Moss.

So who's to blame for this? I put the onus on the NFL schedule makers and of course Jimmy Johnson.

Let's start with the league itself. The trade deadline is in mid October, teams have only played about six games, that's far under half the season. At this point in the year most clubs, not named Buffalo, don't really have a clear idea of their true identity, they don't know if their team has a legitimate shot at the playoffs. It usually takes to Thanksgiving before we truly know who the contenders are. Why would any team make a serious move two weeks before Halloween? We've seen plenty of 2-4 teams rally from a slow start to make the playoffs.

All the other sports' deadline is well after the 50% games played mark. In hockey all clubs have laced it up for at least 60-64 games and baseball's deadline comes after the 100 game mark.

At this point in the season most general managers know if it is time to make a push for the playoffs or sell off assets and decry: Better luck next year.

But the NFL has barely lost their new car smell at their point in the season.
Than there's Jimmy Johnson. This is just my own pet theory but I think NFL GM's are afraid of being the next Mike Lynn. Who'se Mike Lynn you ask? Wow you ask a lot of questions in this blog. What Chris Wallace is to the NBA now, Mike Lynn was to the NFL back in the day. Lynn was the guy who, in 1989, said "yes" to Jimmy Johnson and the Dallas Cowboys trade offer for Herschel Walker. The deal, which included Dallas getting three 1st round draft picks, laid the foundation for the Cowboys dynasty in the 1990's and crippled the Vikings.

It's considered the most lopsided trade in NFL history bringing Emmitt Smith, Darren Woodson and Alvin Harper to the Lone Star State while Minnesota got an over-rated running back and a whole heap of mediocrity.

Just imagine if a trade like that happened now? If the Titans had moved Chris Johnson to say the Packers for a boat load of picks we would be going nuts about that for weeks. Tiger Woods could announce Ron Jeremy was his new caddy and we wouldn't care. We'd be more interested in the fantasy implications, how much better does this make Aaron Rodgers, who's the better back in the NFC North Adrian Peterson or Johnson ... the list goes on and on.

Really there is a simple solution to all of this, move the trade deadline day back! Make it Week Ten. At this point the season will have developed its personality, their will have been plenty of serious injuries on contending teams who need to patch some holes and the Bills realizing once again that God hates them can trade away Lee Evans for a high 3rd round pick.

The NFL is more popular than every other sport beat in just about every facet, its time they claim Trade Deadline Day as their own.
 
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