You wake up this morning and see the Maple Leafs with 74 goals against - 12 more than any other team - and there's really nothing more to be said. The club is in a shambles, yet those in charge, like the most ardent Leaf fans, appear reluctant to acknowledge the obvious. . .Poor Jiri Tlusty. First he's victimized by a gal pal. Then he has those who insert synonyms for the male appendage into their every writing rising to his defence. Otherwise, he's mostly getting support from those who can't argue the point so simply blast everyone who differs as a rascist and a homophobe. Meanwhile the basic argument, that the Leafs need to insist on a higher standard of behavior from their best young players should they ever hope to become a winner, is totally lost. And I know dozens and dozens of quality young teenagers who wouldn't be caught like Tlusty was. Don't you dare stigmatize an entire generation by saying this is what all kids do today. . .Don't know how the Bruins will fare this season. Do know they look spectacular in their home blacks. . .Somebody was doing some awfully sharp scouting for the B's to pick up hulking yet skillful Milan Lucic with a second round pick. . .Marc Staal skated more than 23 minutes for the Rangers last night, the fifth time in seven games he's played more than 20 minutes. Suddenly, he looks like the best Staal in the NHL.
If you're a Leaf fan, it had to be frustrating Thursday night to watch Peter Schaefer, hardly an NHL power forward, back Bryan McCabe into Andrew Raycroft's lap. But then, some will simply blame that one on the rules. There's always an excuse available if you cheer for the Leafs. . .It was symbolic how the two headlines ran side-by-side; Barry Bonds indicted and baseball zooms past the $6 billion mark in revenue. That's pretty much what it was all about, right? While Bonds now takes on the feds, you have to wonder if the Mitchell report will name him at all. Congress, after all, seemed to completely ignore the slugger when it was holding hearings. . .Boy, those Yankees sure play hardball, huh? Something tells me that with the conscience of the franchise gone - Joe Torre - some messy times lie ahead. . .The Argos and Bombers go into Sunday's Eastern Final with two of the league's best known and most successful kickers in Noel Prefontaine and Troy Westwood. Yet both teams, due to a variety of circumstances, are very worried about their kicking games.
To me, Tom Higgins had a little Jimmy Carter in him. Just too nice a man to be a CFL head coach. John Hufnagel, meanwhile, is a combination of John Turner and Paul Martin. We've been hearing about this guy for so long, you wonder if he won't end up being a major disappointment. . .Nobody, it appears, wants to win the national championship of U.S. college football. Oregon last night became the fifth No. 2 team to lose to an unranked school. . .Unable to beat U.S. military academies in back-to-back outings, perhaps Notre Dame should challege the U.S. Postal Service. . .Okay, it appears I may have been completely wrong on the Boston Celtics. Apparently these three fellows really will play unselfishly together. . .With Sheldon Souray now out indefinitely - good thing noboby gets hurt in hockey fights - the Oilers are facing a terrible problem. They could finish dead last, and the Ducks own their first round pick. I'm sure Brian Burke won't make a big deal out of it. Unless Dustin Penner (three goals, 19 games) picks it up, this could turn out to be as bad as Tom Kurvers-for-Scott Niedermayer.
Sooner or later, the NHL is going to have to acknowledge that it has a scoring problem on its hands again. My bet is on later. . .The next 10 days could be huge for the Argonauts in terms of laying down a new imprint in town. . .Don't forget, it was a critical fumble by Charles Roberts that cost the Bombers dearly in a semi-final match in the dome against the Argos last year. Resourceful Chuck Winters made the strip. . .Getting Obed Cetoute in the fourth round of the '06 Canadian college draft is making somebody (Nick Volpe, perhaps?) look awfully smart. . .So far Mark Bell, bless his heart, has challenged Chris Neil and fought Milan Lucic, losing badly. I just don't think Bell's future success can possibly lie in dropping the gloves on a regular basis. . .Go figure. Andrew Raycroft can't hold two, one-goal leads against the Habs or stop Mike Komisarek (eight career goals) on a breakaway and is rewarded with the next start. It's all hindsight now, but wouldn't the Leafs look completely different as an organization right now if they had Tuukka Rask and one of Angelo Esposito, Alexei Cherepanov or some other top pick from the '07 draft on their depth chart?
Two goals from Jason Blake in 20 games and one from Darcy Tucker in 13 games, yet offence isn't really the Leaf problem. . .Worth remembering when the Leafs and Rangers hook up; the two teams have combined for one Cup in 107 NHL years. . .Early Hart Trophy candidates include Henrik Lundqvist, Vinnie Lecavalier and Henrik Zetterberg. Last year's three finalists - Sidney Crosby, Martin Brodeur and Roberto Luongo - aren't in the conversation right now. . .True story. A member of an opposing team was shocked to have a young Calgary Flame player skate up to him and request a fight in order to impress Mike Keenan, who had openly questioned the youngster's toughness. Tells you something about how the Flames are feeling about their coach these days, and something about the legitimacy of NHL fights. . . So Ricky Williams is back on the football field, again proclaiming his drug-free status and happiness to be a football player. He's confused, but harmless, I guess.