February 23 2013 01:32PM
Last spring, the Toronto Blue Jays went into the season with increased expectations. They won 12 of their last 22 games, including their last game on the season, to finish at .500, a symbolic marker if anything, and in the offseason got a glut of reinforcements from their prospect system to shore up their rotation and their infield. Young Brett Lawrie looked like he was on the verge of stardom, giving the Jays three right-handed power bats along with home run champ Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion.
Then, oh boy, the disappointment. The Blue Jays suffered injuries everywhere in their lineup. Closer Sergio Santos didn't make it out of the first month. Every good pitcher in the rotation suffered some sort of weird injury—three starters ended up on the 60-Day DL. The team got awful luck and finished 16 games below .500.
This isn't a baseball blog, and I'm by no means a baseball expert, but I do recognize how tough it is to come into a season with some high expectations and then see every player leave the lineup to some unfortunate accident. Welcome to the 2013 Ottawa Senators season.
Jeff Veillette (Jeffler)
February 22 2013 02:59PM
It's very rare for those in the hockey know around Toronto to agree on something. But, at this second, there is one subject that is an exception to this rule, and it's Jake Gardiner. With nobody sure if the Leafs will continue their success and approximately fourteen thousand defenceman up on the current roster, everybody still has a critical need to see their promising young crown jewel back in the lineup. The question is simple; when does he come back up from the Toronto Marlies?
The answer? That I can't give you - I'm not Dave Nonis or anybody else involved with the decision. But I will say this. If it were me, it's not for a little while yet. This isn't to say that Gardiner has "fallen off", or to scare you in any way, but at this second, he's not ready.
February 22 2013 12:56PM
The Leafs take advantage of the new-look Buffalo Sabres. Speaking of which, who the hell are the Buffalo Sabres?
February 21 2013 08:58PM
Photo: Abelimages via NHLInteractive
Another strong defensive outing for the Toronto Maple Leafs, although they had to rely on their goaltender for a couple of big saves in the first period. After the first 20, however, the game slowed to the crawl that Randy Carlyle prefers to play.
You could tell by mid-game that Ron Rolston didn't have any secret formula to turning the Buffalo Sabres into anything more than a mediocre one-line team with a good goaltender. If the Sabres were generating offence, it was purely out of the offensive instincts of Thomas Vanek. If the Sabres were stuck in their own end, it was very likely that Tyler Ennis or Steve Ott were kicking around on the ice. If the puck was around the Sabres net, it was Ryan Miller, not any defenceman, ensuring it wouldn't get in.
Over the last four days, the Maple Leafs have been fortunate enough to play three teams in the league that are worse than them. I'd say they looked good and got through this stretch of the schedule with relative ease, and would have swept the games if it hadn't been for a couple of weak ones by Ben Scrivens. He was sharp against Buffalo, though, although he didn't have to be in a 3-1 win that was a lot less close than the score indicated.
February 21 2013 11:54AM
The last time the Toronto Maple Leafs faced off against a Buffalo Sabres' team that didn't employ Lindy Ruff, Toronto got goals from Wendel Clark, Kirk Muller and Larry Murphy in a 6-3 loss to the Dominik Hasek-era Buffalo team. At that point, the Maple Leafs were still in the Western Conference and only played the team twice a year.
The Sabres were a tough team back then—they had to be. Short of Hasek, they had few offensive stars and just a collection of scattered journeymen providing the offence for them. They had no 30-goal scorers, but several 20-goal scorers including international superstars Brian Holzinger, Jason Dawe and team-leading scorer Derek Plante.
They weren't a team that scored a lot of goals. They got world-class goaltending from Hasek in his prime and fought people. The Sabres were third in fighting majors in the 1996-1997 season, led by Rob Ray, Matthew Barnaby and Bob Boughner. All three players fought Leafs that night, or a couple of nights before during the first half of the home-and-home at Maple Leaf Gardens.