Archives

How The Canucks Have Gone ‘Full Willie D’ In 5 Steps

We’ve all heard the phrase “never go full (insert name here)” in regards to buying in passed the point of no return where all the decisions you make are now in serious trouble. Well, the Canucks are now in some potentially dangerous territory that may or may not result in some big changes. Come to think of it, they’re passed the danger zone… they’ve gone ‘Full Willie Desjardins’.

There have been a growing amount of decisions/non-decisions, comments and “real goods” that have put the Canucks in a bit of a bind. Sure, not all the current problems with this team can be acquainted with the Jim Benning, Willie Desjardins and that Weisbrod fella, but after the first year of Willie’s tenure in Vancouver, it’s abundantly unclear of where this team is headed.

Are the Canucks ever going to be a playoff team again? Can the power play be revived? How long does Willie last?

All of these questions are nagging at our brains and if the Canucks continue down the same road, not only will they JUST miss the playoffs but they’ll end up with a mediocre draft pick, yet again, and the impact players we need will pass the team by. WD has frustrated the heck out of all of us and below are the five ways the Canucks have truly gone FULL WILLIE D and why we should probably be more worried than confused.

1 – THE POWER PLAY STINKS LIKE A BONE MARROW DOG FART

I really wish I didn’t have to get so descriptive about that but if you have experienced that smell, you have also experienced the current Canucks power play situation. It’s awful, unbearable, and I can’t even be in the same room when it happens. On January 15, the Canucks were 27th in the league with the man advantage and could easily fall to last by garbage day.

It’s so darn predictable and I’m amazed that Willie and his coaching staff hasn’t figured out that the fans, as well as the Canucks opponents, have figured it out move for move. Until the game against the Devils, there was no change to the execution: gain the zone, pass it around to the Sedins, eventually, let Stecher shoot from the blue line…no goal, try again.

Had no one on the team suggested, and I’m including the Sedins here, maybe using Nikita Tryamkin at the net to set up a screen? He’s such a big dude that it’s painfully obvious that would at the very least put the PP up a few spots. If not him, how about Loui Eriksson “goal scoring machine”? He digs in front and has the natural talent to score goals with a shovel. He just needs a chance.

Henrik and Daniel will continue to lead the team on the power play because Willie isn’t willing (no pun intended) to let the younger, faster-moving players take over. The PP has gone Full Willie which is ironic because it’s basically empty.

2 – PRESS CONFERENCES REQUIRE M. NIGHT SHYMALAN TO DECIPHER

When it all started everything was good. Literally. In fact, it was “really good” no matter the player or situation. It’s been awhile since WD has uttered a true “really good” but there hasn’t been much good to talk about. The pressers are filled with reasons why the PP will continue, why Jake Virtanen can’t play after being called up, something about stuff? and how players are not injured and then really injured within a day of nothing happening.

The same power play that is almost last is about to take off? WOW! I don’t get it.  Here’s another head-scratcher:

How about when Jake Virtanen was on his way back up to the Canucks after a 2 game conditioning stint and couldn’t play because he forgot his stuff? Honestly, what does that even mean? It’s fine to lie to us or withhold the truth but c’mon man, don’t just flat out BS everyone. I get that we shouldn’t be intensely excited for certain players who most definitely will not turn this team around in one shift but just stop the crap.

It’s carried over to the players now:

Willie has forced them into a game of chance, apparently. This is the point where the coach needs to get his team to buy into a win in regulation because of the odds of taking overtime. To be fair, if the Canucks make OT, we actually don’t have any idea of what will happen.
Henrik, what’s your take?

So I’m guessing Ro-sham-bo is next? That at least would be more entertaining.

The pressers are so Full Willie D.

3 – PLAYING WITH 5 DEFENSEMEN IS WAY HARDER THAN 6

This shouldn’t even be included because it’s just common sense. If you have a healthy player and an open spot and you dress him, you play him. Even 2 minutes is ok. Benching a guy you’re trying to figure out just pisses him off. In a game where the Canucks lost by a goal, you’d think having a rested defense pairing for at least a minute or so would give them just a bit of a breather to fight for the tying goal.

Nope.

Let’s play with 5 defensemen, almost 4 that night, and see if we can outlast a division opponent. That’s stupid. Anton Rodin is the player in question and even though it was a short turn around to play the Flames for a second straight night, management, as well as the coaches should have never let a player dress with zero intent of playing him.

This ranks up there with some of the stupidest stuff in the game, Patrik Stefan missing an empty net to ice the game is right there too! If the playoffs are the goal, you have to have a full team to try and get those points. Maybe Willie should try that in game 82 when it’s all on the line. I don’t know if he likes a challenge or if it’s some crazy AHL/WHL thing he has done before but this is the NHL and everyone is laughing at us.

Playing without a full deck is big time Willie D.

4 – THE BLENDER IS GONE AND THE TURNSTILE IS BROKEN

When things get tough, a coach usually chucks his lines in the blender and sees what sticks. WD doesn’t even OWN a blender so what you see is what you get… on a losing team. I agree, there are some lines that shouldn’t be broken up like the Horvat/Baertschi/Burrows and the Sutter/Granlund pairing but how did it take THIS long to get Loui Eriksson back on the Sedin line?

They’re all Swedish, that should have been the first sign. They played on the same line at the World Cup and paying Loui a ton of cash to score goals with the Sedins means… playing with the Sedins and scoring goals. The natural progression of players earning time to move up seems to have gone by the wayside for the Canucks.

Bo Horvat had to absolutely crush it to get off the fourth line and when he was given the third line he basically turned it into line two. Brandon Sutter immediately had line two locked up and he wasn’t the best choice when he started. From there, injuries started coming and Jannik Hansen, the Sedins ideal linemate, was put on IR. So Jayson Megna was given the immunity idol and has been up front for way too long.

Jayson Megna shouldn’t even be on the Canucks and he’s getting prime ice with the Twins. Makes sense. It’s as stubborn as Linden Vey/Derek Dorsett crunch time minutes down a goal, up a goal, you get the picture. Willie is throwing away chances and it’s like he doesn’t even care. He probably doesn’t even realize he’s doing it.

OH CRAP, BO HORVAT is here? Aw man, I gotta get him some minutes. Oh wait, I guess it’s Rodin’s time to show me what he can do. You see what’s happening here?

The line rushes have gone Full Willie D.

5 – EVEN SPORTSNET IS AFFECTED

Imagine you are awarded a $5.2B TV contract and what’s better is that you have essentially exclusive access to all the Canadian hockey teams. You get the built-in fanbases and get to steal talent from the other networks. You figure it’s all downhill from here and then you realize that the Canadian hockey market has taken a pretty big hit in viewership and the word TANK comes up a lot.

Once the broadcasts end we find out who really changed the game and the 3 stars are announced. Even Sportsnet has gone Full Willie D.

Lately, it’s like no one even works there anymore LINK.

Can the Canucks buck this sickness and get back to being a relatively normal hockey team or have they gone so full Willy D that it’s too late and we are doomed to watch frustrating, unrewarding, drop pass crap.

Please, Willie, see the error of your ways and fix this team. Not the next team or the team before, this one. They just need to know you’re paying attention still.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

 

photo – sportsnet.ca

Advertisements

The 5 Types Of Players At Play On! Tournaments

I’ve played A LOT of road hockey in my day and I’ve seen so many different people that play and yet the same people keep showing up almost every single game. Add to this the tournament aspect, the need to stay in the game and…..rules; you have the setting but do you know the players? When you show up to Play On! Kelowna on June 18/19 @ Prospera Place, THIS is what you’ll see.

 

The Ringer

This guy is all kinds of awesome. He’s probably a washed up major junior player, the guy that killed it in school sports and everybody wants him on their team. He’s good, he’s really good. He’s usually the one putting the puck in the net and most teams that have him rely on him to carry them when quite frankly they just don’t have anything left….after the first half.

The Ringer passes if you ABSOLUTELY are open and he’s ready for a line change, he’s also the guy that somehow knows everyone from every tournament he’s ever played in. The Ringer is so good though that it really isn’t a big deal overall for him to play in this tournament and he most likely is out partying hard the night before. He’s just that good. I will never be the Ringer but I’ve known plenty of em. Instagram the ringer in your game and tag me. We’ll both laugh and that’s good enough for me.

 

The Temper

I probably don’t even need to type this one cuz you know him. The Temper is sometimes a hybrid of the Ringer but still he is his own man. He is an intense player, he’s aggressive in the corners and at some point there’s a confrontation. Temper usually has a pretty powerful shot and pushes the envelope on slap shots and going a bit further than just bump and run.

The Temper is potentially a big player on your team so when he goes off, you’re hooped. Thankfully, this person can be calmed down and usually learns his lesson. He won’t actually fight someone as he knows it’s still a game but no one would question the possibility of him totally annihilated the guy in his way. There’s always a guy that goats the temper…I hate that guy.

I know the temper and he’s a great guy but on the court/ice/road….he’ll own you in the moment.

 

The Lifelong fan/Clearly not all that great guy

I’m pretty much almost this guy. I love hockey, I mean I live it. The problem is as much as I love hockey, I can play but I am not that good. I’ll have my moments like anyone else but put me out there for 20 minute halves and I’m reaching for breaks after 10….like reaching. Thankfully with line changes I survive a lot longer.

This guy wants in 100% and wants to give it his all but he’s a 3rd line player on a 2.5 line team. Maybe I’m being a bit harsh. He wants to win and he’ll hustle but there is no finish there and any goals that DO come his way are forgotten by pretty much everyone but him. He’s thrilled he gets the free tee and energy drinks and just loves to be part of the action.

He might write a blog.

 

The Boozer

Our friend here is the one who hits up the pub in between games and might have even played the first game of the tournament hung over. He’s usually a pretty good player but this isn’t the most important thing in his weekend. Somehow, the boozer still manages to out play the lifelong/clearly not that great guy and he still is going to hit up the pub before the 3rd game.

There is no drug testing or breathalyzers so the boozer is safe. The funny thing about him is that he can definitely be the goalie and he’ll play out of his freaking mind the whole tournament. What a messed up group of characters we have here.

 

The Striker aka What Is Defense?

No one likes to play defense, I’m sure of this. Maybe actual defenseman and really they don’t count here. The Striker is all goals baby! He leads the rush and gives it all on every play; the problem is he doesn’t come back to help. He doesn’t need to be the guy that starts the play because he knows everything flows through him anyways.

El Striko gets it done on the offense but odds are he is a heavy minus because the rest of the team is paying for his striking. His legs are always fresh and they always will be. Everyone wants him to come back and usually for about a goal or two he does, but that’s not where he belongs.

It’s not his style, it’s not home.

He’s the Striker!

Play On! Kelowna is coming fast and there’s time to register your team. If you know who these people are make sure to put it up on instagram and tag me @always90four and hashtag it with what guy he is.

Could be fun.

Instagram – @always90four

Twitter – @always90four

cover photo – usedcowichan.com 

(Insert REALLY Important Jake Virtanen Article Here)

PHOTO BY METRONEWS.CA

By now, you might be sick and tired of hearing about Jake Virtanen, the hit on Connor McDavid, the Young Stars breakaway goal and how he just has to make the Canucks roster because he’s so gosh darn awesome. I’d hate to force ONE MORE article on you but quite frankly you’ve already clicked on the link so its your own fault.

Its tough to say something that hasn’t been said already about the young phenom JAKE VIRTANEN but I’ll muster up some knowledges and maybe a few reasons why the Canucks will give him a rose after the nine game tryout ceremony. I don’t think the Bachelor reference worked there but the point was made.

TSN 1040 had promising Canucks forward JAKE VIRTANEN on Bmac Donny and the Moj Wednesday afternoon and he gave us some tidbits we couldn’t help but get excited about. But you wanna see that video of him hitting CMacD again don’t you?

When asked about hitting that Oiler guy:

“Oh I was competely aware; when you get a chance to hit a guy like that you definitely take the opportunity to”

So we know he likes the rough stuff and has started to mature his game by eliminating the fly bys and utilizing his stop starts. Jake, we both share that burden and I feel ya bruh. I probably should add I also cannot compete let alone skate with kids a third of my age.

But this isn’t about me.

The Canucks do lack an offensive wrecking ball and if JAKE VIRTANEN follows the Bo Horvat model, which is nothing like the Boston model, he will be lacing his skates up besides such Canucks greats as Luca Sbisa, Brandon Prust and Linden Vey. Just kidding, Brandon Prust hasn’t proven himself to us yet.

There has been a never ending hype train surrounding JAKE VIRTANEN for the last year or so and thankfully I haven’t heard the over used “coming out party” line when referencing his Young Star Tournament efforts. Does that count if I just said “coming out party”? Or is it just a reference?

And let us not forget the “murders” as we have labeled them on the twitters. Not real murders because that’s wrong (I feel like I’m about to quote a Barenaked Ladies hit) but the hits that look to put opposing players in the ER/ Trauma 1 / ICU and all the other hospital 3 letter places. See here:

You can get excited about a big hit, you can even get excited about a goal that puts the whole arena on their feet, even in Rogers Arena but when you combine both of those and an overall talented player to boot, you have something special.

JAKE VIRTANEN turned heads from Canucks brass to the oracle, TSN’s Bob Mckenzie himself in Penticton and if Bob says he’s good well thats good enough for me…and basically anyone that just bases talent on written opinions. In all seriousness though, he was pretty good and this written opinion should be taken to heart.

Linden already said he was impressed with the young lad and really all the fluff will be sorted out when training camp is complete. Here’s the thing” JAKE VIRTANEN is pretty good at hockey. He throws a threatening hit and doesn’t back down from anyone.

Virts (sp?) will most likely be given every chance to make the team and seeing him get mentored by the Derek Dorsetts and Brandon Prusts and even Alex Burrows will go a long way. I know what you’re thinking, the knuckle draggers are going to teach Virtanen how to drop the mitts…sorry, VIRTANEN.

Not where I’m going with this; its knowing when to throw that hit and knowing how that can alter the game. Dan Hamhuis threw his patented hip check on Milan Lucic in 2011 and it backfired. Jake will soon learn what he needs to do to climb the ranks. It won’t be just hitting it will be controlling the momentum in Vancouver’s favour.

You didn’t come here for stats and I’m not going to give them to you. I will tell you that Jake’s hit to awesome ratio is 1:1 and that should be all you need to know. In Vancouver, we yearn for the wow factor, the next jersey shirt worthy player and we all want that to be JAKE VIRTANEN.

He’s worthy of me typing his name in caps 8 times and the potential for JAKE VIRTANEN (9 now) to become the elusive Milan Lucic/Cam Neely/Zack Kass….HOLD UP; Zack never got there and I apologize that I put him in that category. After Virtanen debuted as a pro in the AHL playoffs we quickly saw he could hang with the big boys.

His hilite videos will continue to mount as his career evolves and as we get ready to see what this future power forward will become we can take solace in the fact that he’s ours and Jim Benning could never screw this up.

OK ya he could but let’s not dwell on that.

JAKE VIRTANEN!!!!!! That’s 10, OK now i’m done.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

Canucks Should Welcome 3 on 3 OT Spree

Things aren’t going to drastically change this season for the Vancouver Canucks and in a way that’s a good thing. Its no surprise things will once again be tight on the scoreboard but it may finally play into their favour. Overtime was once boring but oh how the times have changed.



Last year the Canucks were involved in 31 one goal games, 20 of those believe it or not were wins and get this: 12 of 17 games were won in OT or the beloved shootout.

With the NHL switching to 3 on 3 overtime this season, fans everywhere will be treated to fast paced, insane odd man rushes and hopefully quicker finishes to games that drag on longer than they need to with the gimmicky shootout bonus round.

So why should Canucks nation be excited about this? Well if you saw the Young Stars tournament in Penticton, B.C. this past weekend, you know that 3 on 3 creates excitement and it creates winners….quickly.

The Canucks are no longer an offensive juggernaut as they will be searching for scoring from pretty much everyone but Henrik and Daniel. That being said, the Twins aren’t spring chickens anymore and they won’t be producing to the levels they did when they were poppin collars and collecting those Art Vandelay Ross trophies.

Moving to 3 on 3 will actually give the Canucks reason for hope though. Sadly, as many games as I think they could win will be moot when and if they make the playoffs and they get brutally embarrassed once again by a Calgary or Anaheim or quite possibly the Los Angeleses. I think i just pluralized Los Angeles.

Lets let that sink in. It’s impressive.

Going back to that neato stat at the beginning, just over 1/3 of Canucks hockey last year was of the nail biting variety. I prefer not to relive it so if you go back we probably blew a good chunk of games too!

Again as I stated above, they won 12 of those games past regulation. So its safe to say even if they get remotely better this year whether it be better goaltending, a few of the young bucks having a surprisingly good year or just playing enough teams at the height of their suckdom; the Canucks can benefit from dragging out their games past 60 minutes.

Henrik and Daniel are the obvious choices to be put out for NBA Jam type hockey and Willie D may need to have 3-4 set options come OT. Practicing the shootout was something coaches didn’t really want to put too much effort into but with OT changing this year, this is a new outlet for the Canucks to specialize in.

I’d venture the Canucks can close out at least 5 more wins this year in OT with the new format. Having a puck moving defenseman will be key and if Luca Sbisa can work on one thing this year, it can be a successful outlet pass that isn’t turned into a breakaway on Ryan Miller. But lets be serious, he won’t be out there.

Canucks fans should embrace this new reality and maybe even cheer for it. I know, cheer for your team to drag their knuckles until its GO TIME!!! We don’t have Mason ” I’m fast but I trip over the blue line” Raymond anymore to give us the speed but guys like Bo Horvat, Jake “All the murders” Virtanen, Sven Baertschi and Mr. Clutch Canuck Alex Burrows can all make a difference in the new overtime.

This no doubt will turn OT into a young mans game or Sidney Crosby’s paradise, I’m not sure which. However, in a search for goals this year, the Canucks can definitely count on overtime being kind to them.

There will be plenty to complain about and I’ll be right there with you but one constant we will most likely cheer for is the puck dropping in OT. A line of Bo Horvat, Alex Burrows and Alex Edler could be very dangerous, I like danger….

Everything could go swimmingly in OT for the Canucks this year but they’ll have to get their first and if they don’t score enough goals or obviously keep them out; OT will be something we’ll see in every other arena outside of the lower mainland.

Maybe let’s just win in regulation, by a goal or two. I know, that’s crazy you say.

It’s too crazy, too crazy indeed.

Worst case scenario, we get this:

Follow my antics on twitter: @always90four

The 6 Faces Of Josh Donaldson

Its been a pretty exciting year for the Toronto Blue Jays. The fan base is revived, Rogers Centre is selling out and of course the team is winning and winning big. Thanks in large part to a strong core and what many believe to be this year’s AL MVP: Josh Donaldson.

A perennial all star, Donaldson came over in November of last year for the banged up young stud Brett Lawrie. At the time, I’ll be honest, I didn’t know who the dude was. Since leaving sports retail 3 years ago, my viewership of the Jays has declined heavily.

However, with the entertainment levels reaching epic proportions, Josh has made it pretty easy to find out how good he is. What has been really entertaining though is his compete level. This guy gives it and if he could bleed Blue Jays, I bet he would.

Every time JD swings the bat, its usually a hit for extra bases or a casual stroll back to home plate; he doesn’t just show up every game….he LIVES every game. His energy sliding into bases on close calls, his hustle to gain an extra bag or his Jeter-esque diving into the stands to turn a foul ball into a hilite reel catch just screams workhorse.

So here are the 6 faces of Josh Donaldson you most likely will see on any given night:

image

The Triple – this is the face you most likely will see when Josh hits a triple. Seems pretty self explanatory but this is one of the most extreme faces he makes and after the guy has run 90 feet I’d say he’s earned it. Most third basemen are too scared to even talk to him as theres a good chance he goes Street Fighter 2 all over him and I don’t think I’d want to get in his way. The triple face usually just settles to a simple smile once he’s batted home. Note: both faces are a combined unit as he comes home quite often.

image

The Home Run / Walk Off – Josh’s tongue is hanging out like a happy dog who just got a milk bone. It isn’t as ecstatic as his triple face because he used all his energy hitting the ball over the fence. He’s usually in a good mood and if it happens to be a walk off, it can transition into Triple face. This face is usually early on in the game, sometimes in the first inning. Most Jays fans in Western Canada do not get to see this face as they are working still.

We ask that Josh saves this face for about 5:30 pacific time.

image

The Media Guide – Easily the most boring of the Josh Donaldson faces. This face is almost a staged face becacuse everyone knows there is a lot more to offer than a simple smile for the camera. I have a feeling that if the Blue Jays manage to add a ring to their impressive two championships, the media guide face is a bit more gong showish.

Side note: the media guide face is usually only shown in opposing ball parks starting lineup video boards or possibly a cable access sports package in Moose Jaw or something. This face is for profiling purposes only. Kinda like having Chumbawumba in the jukebox at your local pool hall.

image

The “I Can’t Feel My Face” – Similar to the triple but unique to big events. Beating the Yankees, hitting a go ahead run in a tight extra innings matchup or chugging his sixth red bull in 2 innings. When you go as hard as Josh Donaldson, sometimes you can’t feel your face. There is a lot of yelling and man hugging with this face but its for a good cause.

Edwin Encarnacion has a similar face but its basically just a thugged out version and has an additional two home runs tacked on. Neither of these faces will make you feel comfortable if you are an opposing team, parking ticket officer or if JD finds out you stole his hair tie. So far blacking out is not associated with the “I can’t feel my face” face.

image

The nWo – Let’s just clarify something: Josh Donaldson aka @BringerOfRain20 on twitter is not and has never been a member of the original nWo or updated nWo Wolfpack. Did he have a tee growing up? Entirely possible but the face abd hand gesture after many home runs is of his own doing.

A calmer demeanor but he works hard and even the stars need to cool down. When you hit 37 dingers like JD has this year, Kevin Nash and Hollywood Hogan would have been impressed. The nWo face actually represents success and is not exactly the best name for it but hey, it looks cool and I ran with it.

image

The Day Off/ Strike Out – This is the only living proof I have of this happening. I would imagine this face was captured on a random moment but or an internet photoshop but I wouldn’t cross this guy. Its possible the team ran out of Double Bubble or Spitz so the name itself isn’t exact  either.

Josh really isnt happy here, just forget this face exists.

So there you have it! The next time you see ol’ Bringer of Rain go uber face, hit up this article and find out what just happened on the field.

Please be aware not all faces are exact and do carry a degree of error of about +/- 0.5

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

Title photo: cbssports.com

Will Blue Jays Feel The Love In October?

Is it World Series or bust for Jays fans this year? Will they still feel the love in October? April 2016?

As Canadians, we tend to like a winner and if you look through all the Canadian sports franchises, there isn’t much to celebrate once the post season begins. The Stanley Cup hasn’t been awarded north of the U.S since 1993; despite the game being created by a Canadian, the NBA championship has never come to Canada, not even close, the NFL and the CFL well….. and of course the Jays won back to back titles in 92/93.

When the Blue Jays last won it all, I was 10 years old and Joe Carter hit a home run that still is vivid in my mind to this day; I don’t need hilites to remind me. Since then, September has basically meant NFL is here and NHL training camps are gearing up. Baseball fans tune out their emotions and watch Boston and New York duke it out.

Toronto has made strides to get back to glory but never all at once. Roberto Alomar, Carlos Delgado, Roger Clemens, Vernon Wells, Roy Halladay, Frank Thomas, Troy Glaus, Scott Rolen B.J Ryan and AJ Burnett; all names that bring both good and bad memories but they played for Canada’s team.

Always typical with any sports franchise on the cusp of doing something great: have a plethora of talent in one area but not the other. Pitching goes south and the bats catch fire, bats go dead and the pitching is lights out. You’d think because there isn’t a salary cap that the Jays could buy there way out of trouble.

They did. But never more than one star at a time.

Their other problem was that as soon as they developed a star, they traded him away because they weren’t in a position to win and felt they could just keep flipping and building, flipping and building. Why not struggle like the Rays did and eventually have a plethora of talent at your disposal?

Well, it looks like Rogers Media has pulled out all the stops and wunder GM Alex Anthopoulos has put together a dream team of sorts.  Anchored by some original talent like Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, the Jays have definitely put their money where their mouth is this year.

Trades bringing in Josh Donaldson for oft-injured Brett Lawrie, David Price and Troy Tulowitzki; big name signings like R.A Dickey, Mark Buehrle and Russell Martin have all put the Jays in contention to not only win the AL East for the first time since Full House was a staple of my Tuesday night viewing, but a chance to win the World Series and maybe keep some of the big stars around for a few more years.

But what if the Jays lose out to the Yankees by game 162 and slide to the one game playoff spot? Where will the Blue Jays fan base be? Can the bottom fall out that quickly? These are some pretty big questions that will be asked if it all falls apart.

The MLB post season is an enigma. Teams that run the table all year can be upset in one game or run into a hot team at the wrong time. With Toronto’s recent success, there have been struggles as well. Mark Buehrle has been less than perfect lately and Marcus Stroman is ready for return. R.A Dickey can knuckleball his way to a Cy Young but can he do it to the World Series?

Are the Blue Jays faithful going to be just that as this gets closer and closer? Hockey season is getting close and the immediate market Maple Leafs will be vying for the whole pie as will the Raptors. Winning fixes everything so maybe now IS the time for this to happen.

Sellouts and Blue Jays haven’t been said in the same sentence for many many years and now you take a look in the stands and seats are hard to come by. The nice thing about the real baseball fan and I believe there are tons in Toronto, is that they don’t appear corporate.

When Air Canada Centre opens for business in October, the suits will take over and the real fans will be stuck up top. Here’s where the Jays can really put a stranglehold on that cold month. If they are winning or assured a playoff spot the fans will be there.

Over the final month of play, the Jays have just over 24 games left. Seven of those are against the Yankees, a quick set against the Braves and the rest against the Red Sox, Orioles and Rays. I venture to say it will basically be playoff baseball here on out.

Even though the Jays have made their amazing push, the only let down for the Yankees was their series awhile back vs. Toronto. They haven’t let up. Its going to be a “who flinches first” race to the finish and if the Jays can hang on, they have the fire power both in their starting rotation, bullpen and their batting order.

Winning will make this all very sweet but even in defeat, Toronto has managed to keep even the most casual fan interested. Josh Donaldson’s season long heroics have been things of legend even on the wrong side of the score as have Edwin Encarnacion’s hit streaks and yard balls.

The addition of Tulowitzki and Jay killer David Price have put the Blue Jays over the top and only a monumental collapse could derail this train. The Jays are for real this time and every dollar has been spent to ensure they get a proper chance to succeed.

Fans are coming out in droves, new fans are being created, bandwagoners are buying merch and the thought of watching post season baseball on Sportsnet with Buck and Pat gets me excited.

Hoisting the World Series trophy is rarely done with a home grown team, ok aside from the St. Louis Cardinals. The Blue Jays won with some pretty big splashes back in the 90’s adding Roberto Alomar, Joe Carter and a few other notable players, so this isn’t the first time they’ve struck it rich.

Cash is king in baseball and winning it all by drafting, developing and making a run is practically impossible. However, just because you spend the big bucks, doesn’t mean you’ll win it all. It can be done on a shoe string budget, just ask the famous “Moneyball” GM Billy Beane.

So even though the Blue Jays spent their money a few times in the last year or two, the clubhouse they have right now is producing wins, fans and if they have it their way: a third World Series Championship. But if for some reason it all falls apart and they come up short, don’t expect this revitalized fan base to simmer down.

The fans are pulling for this team and the belief is real. No more let downs come mid September. The Blue Jays have what it takes to endure the marathon that is the MLB. AA has put together a winner and confidence has never been higher.

I wouldn’t mind seeing 1993 replay itself with a walkoff Bautista dinger.

This may be the start of something truly special. #thehuntforblueoctober

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

Blue Jays Love Them Some Home Runs

Despite the way things have gone since the last time the Blue Jays won the World Series, they’re still my fav MLB team. I may not be the most vocal guy for them and I have given my fair share of criticsm. However, this current roll the Jays have been on has been fueled by the long ball and man do I love the long ball…and so do they! 

Now, the Jays aren’t new to hitting long bombs away or letting go of that real rocket, far from. In the last 10 years, Toronto has hit plenty of homeruns, the only problem was that usually the guy hitting it was the only one that crossed home plate.

So what’s different this go around? Well for starters, everyone on the team likes getting on base. Up and down the lineup there really isn’t a hitter that doesn’t contribute nightly with his share of base running.

Here’s a breakdown of the current batting order:

Tulowitzki, Donaldson, Bautista, Encarnacion, Smoak, Martin, Revere, Pillar and Goins

You can’t pitch around any part of that lineup because they…will…burn…you. Six of those nine players are very dangerous and are all reasons the Blue Jays have decimated pitchers all year long. Its such a long season and the post season takes everything up a notch but the lineup they currently hold gives them a chance to once again do something special for the entire country to cherish.

Let’s look at the hits: Toronto is tied for 6th in the MLB with 1159 hits. They make the most of every plate appearance. Of thoses hits, 244 or roughly 20% of their hits go for two bases. You know they all about that base, bout that base no troubles. Toronto also leads the league in extra base hits with 435. 

If you think about that for just a second, approximately 35% of all their hits are hard enough and far enough to reach at least 2nd base if not further. But what about the back back backs?

When it comes to the lasers over the fences, Bautista and friends lead the Majors with 180 dingers. Just over that 15% mark. That doesn’t sound like a huge number but considering over 1 in 10 hits goes over the fence, thats pretty good turnover.

Everyone loves the long ball, its the reason they have a Home Run Derby at the All Star Game every year. No other sport has an event that equals it, no not the dunk contest either. The sound a homerun makes, the arc from the millisecond it leaves the bat, the sweet feel when you are the one at the plate; homeruns are just the best. But don’t take it from me:

Just close your eyes when Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion or Jose Bautista are at bat; I’d almost guarantee you’ll know a homerun when you hear it. There’s nothing like it.

A lot of this came to a head today when Edwin Encarnacion did the most Canadian thing ever when he hit not one, not two but THREE yes THREE homeruns in a 15-1 route of the Tigers. What made it even more special was the fact he hit a 2 run, a 3 run and a Grand Slam for a combined 9 RBI!!!

A homerun hat trick? In Toronto?

Eddie has a murderous swing this year, as he has in previous seasons and he is making pitchers pay. 

Oh, and after the third dinger? The fans…you know what, here:

Does it get any better than this? A berth in the MLB post season or better yet, the Fall Classic would be the cream on this amazing season.

In case you didn’t get enough homerun love by now, here’s a great video that hilites this seasons Blue Jays bombs to Johnny Cash. FOR….THE…..WIN

The sweet smell of the grass, the crowd on their feet and that crack of the bat; the homerun is every bit entertaining as anything in sports…and more.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

Why Now Is A Good Time For The Canucks To Rebuild

Its been about 3 days or so since the Canucks have fired someone of importance and its only a matter of time before Fin get’s the axe and they introduce a skate-like mascot (hint hint). I have had some time to let everything sink in and evaluate what may or may not be happening to the Canucks; one thing is for certain: Trevor Linden and Jim Benning however unpopular and brash their decisions have been, are doing something that is bang on what should be happening RIGHT NOW. 

Its the best time to put this team in rebuild mode, but I ask that you read on so i can tell you why.

The future of the Canucks is coming and it is coming quicker than expected. Trevor Linden saw that his team was in danger of repeating itself and getting lost in the continuous cycle of politely tweaking a piece here and there to only keep things competitive.

The writing has been on the wall since 2012 and it has finally come to a head this year. We’ve all posed the question at one point or another “If you could have even just ONE Cup, would you take six to seven years of suffering?”

OK, im not saying things will get that bad but why not just do what we’ve told the Oilers and Flames to do: play the young guys and let them learn how to win, learn how to lose and grow together. The run Utica made this spring to the Calder Cup will help a handful of players gain the tools they need to be Vancouver Canucks on a full time basis.

Edmonton and Calgary held on way too long and in Edmonton’s case they just recently departed from the Oilers regime that has controlled the teams interests and is now finally making huge strides. I suppose having Connor McDavid helps things along.

So how do the Canucks make that transition? What’s left to throw away? Apparently the chance at decent draft picks but thats been beat to death. Do the Twins need to go now? Edler? Burrows?

Now, the Sedins haven’t been put to pasture and they are the type of players that could drop down the lineup for their final two years…maybe 2 more at a cap friendly number and help the young up and comers become pros. Linden did that to the Twins when they arrived and its coming around full circle.

We form bonds with our players and can’t justify sending them away when its obvious that’s the best decision. Trade them while their value is still good. Burrows has had some serious injuries and now would be the time to see a solid pick come back. Alex Edler can fetch a younger prospect or maybe a dman that just hasn’t fit in elsewhere.

Its possible the harsh decisions are over and TL and Benning are looking to build “their” team the way they want it. The ideology that didn’t result in a Cup is now being flushed out; The capologist was a great add at the time, as was the sleep doctor but gimmicks aren’t Trev’s thing. He’s a through and through hockey guy and he doesn’t need to push the BS.

Kicking Mike Burstein to the curb after 20 years was a shocker but as much of a shock as that was, was he still providing a valuable, reliable service? The way injuries have evolved over the last 10 years, you have to wonder if they were being read properly and given a proper diagnosis (see Cody Hodgson). Regardless, having a new voice, like any new coach can bring new life.

2011 was such a great year and its a shame that a rebuild has come so soon after it. A series of terrible decisions has brought us here and now is as good a time as any to start over…ish.

If it was a true rebuild, Ryan Miller probably wouldnt be here but riding out his talents isn’t the worst problem the Canucks have. The lack of fire and diminishing production in former core guys Ryan Kesler and Kevin Bieksa have made it a little easier to swallow their departures.

Don’t forget: many of you wanted these guys gone. Just because you didn’t get the return you thought was fair, doesn’t mean it wasn’t what was needed. As the eventual changes keep coming there will be dips in the Canucks cap number and opportunities to maybe add a star or two.

I don’t anticipate any important players will show up this year through free agency as it sounds like Benning has been given the AMEX for next years 2 big stars: Steven Stamkos and Anze Kopitar. It’s not like they will get them, either of them, but making a trade for someone big will be a lot easier; maybe Milan Lucic will come home.

Did you see how I bolded those guys? Now you’ll be thinking, how do we get Steven Stamkos? What will it take? Remember when we all thought Marian Gaborik was going to be a Canuck? It was infatuating and you couldn’t imagine a world where he wasn’t wearing the blue and green.

We were just given the same treatment with Lucic before LA snagged him. Lost my train of thought, sorry.

The new guys will be given plenty of chances to make the big club and losing won’t be welcome but it will become a new reality as things are gradually changing. Bo Horvat made the jump and could be the anomaly but with guys like Cole Cassels, Jake Virtanen, Brock Boeser and Frankie Corrado trying to get it done, winning takes patience.

There is not one team that has its rookie crop transform their team overnight. Even Chicago and Pittsburgh had growing pains. Coach Willie Desjardins will have to give these guys chances though and swallow a bit of pride along the way.

Get ready to lose some games this year but it’ll be worth it once the key guys turn the corner. This isn’t a doom and gloom piece; it’s the new reality we as Canucks fans live in. No one saw the the Messier era getting as bad as it did but even with that tire fire, good did come.

Sure, Bure and Mogilny winning a Cup here would have been nice, but we riotted after we lost Game 7 to New York, we aren’t allowed to have nice things. 

Jimbo will be given his chance to put the ultimate stamp on the Canucks and the true judgement will be right around the corner. Let the dust settle and see where he’s going to take this thing. The optics look like we are screwed for the forseeable future and maybe we are but ripping off the band aid is the only way things can truly change.

I don’t love how things have panned out but I don’t want to keep cheering for a push over either. It’s time to accept the rebuild and everything that comes with it. If anything, my daughters will know what it’s like to be a REAL Canucks fan.

Taylorism over on the twitter wrote this a few days back and it strikes a very similar parallel to what I’m getting at here.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

Photo cred: bcbusiness.ca

Kevin Bieksa Might Hang Around Another Year

The deal was as good as done: Jim Benning and Ron Wilson had the pieces in place to send Kevin Bieksa to the San Jose Sharks. Apparently, as crazy as Wilson is to send players like Ehrhoff for a cap dump and parts, he’s equally mad when it comes to basic verbiage in trade talks. Bieksa was a Shark and Wilson had to have back tracked on what he said he’d deliver to Vancouver. A 2015 2nd round pick was supposed to go the other way but it seems he balked on the year. So is Kevin Bieksa hanging around?

It happens all the time in fantasy sports; two guys are ready to make a deal and someone gets cold feet. It usually pisses off the other guy and the damage has already been done regardless of if the trade eventually gets made. We have all been pretty harsh on Jim Benning, including myself, but the man was trying to get a deal done that made everyone happy.

According to Elliotte Friedman’s weekly article “30 thoughts“, Bieksa had made a trip to San Jose to look for houses already. He had prepared himself for his new reality. Taken from said article:

According to a couple of different sources, three entities — Bieksa/Overhardt, the Canucks and the Sharks — were working on this for at least a week and probably longer. In fact, the player recently visited the San Jose area with his family to look at houses. Knowing that, it’s incredible this didn’t work out. Everyone involved had plenty of time to understand the parameters. As you can imagine, there’s a lot of private disgust.

Now, Bieksa hasn’t exactly been amazing the last few years but injuries and the eventual partnership with Luca Sbisa haven’t given him much to hang to. Lost in all this are his leadership qualities. We see grumpy Kevin in the media a lot but this guy was thought so highly of that Team Canada gave him the “A” last year at the World Championships.

He can be frustrating to watch at times with giveaways and some less than stellar decision making but with the injuries he has sustained in his career, one could wonder if maybe he’s trying to keep his body from falling apart. A healthy Bieksa is an affective one. That and being given the reigns again to make the offensive push that turned him into the player he is.

Juice had some of his best years with Dan Hamhuis when Hammer could hang back and play it safe while he pinched and made the risky play. Kevin Bieksa has a good amount to offer still and hopefully wherever he is, he’s given that chance.

With the whole Luongo fiasco that took place the last few years, it looks like Kevin is the next guy to get the shaft. With one year left on his deal, a failed attempt to move him somewhere new and quite frankly a lot of questions coming: why doesn’t Vancouver just keep him?

Players goto free agency all the time and for whatever reason GM’s feel that its always neccesary to get a full return on every player. Sometimes, that just doesn’t happen no matter how bad they want it. It isn’t easy to let a player walk at the end of the day but after what’s just gone down, they probably owe him that at the very least.

Like many players the last few seasons, Bieksa hasn’t looked the same and an aging core is quite evidently showing its face. If Benning doesn’t have something concrete before the season starts, let it ride until trade deadline. If it gets worse before then, revisit what the market is asking and go from there.

But for now, let the man enjoy his summer.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four


Photo credit – canucks.com

An Ode to PlayOn! Kelowna

Twas the night before PlayOn! and all through the house, all my socks, shorts and tees…dirty; all that was left? A blouse. My sticks, they were all taped, my runners laced up; shin guards, maybe, but definitely not a cup. The anticipation was building and hockey was in the air, the puck drops tomorrow and the Redwood Cup would be there.

This tournament is going to be a memorable weekend and everyone that has a stick in their hand will have something to talk about on Monday. Even the NHL will have representation in the form of the Longsticks. Curtis Lazar and friends will be most likely laying waste to the Elite division; too bad Alex Burrows is done in the ball hockey world.

I will be live tweeting as much as possible this weekend, mostly on Saturday. My team “Best Westerners” will be playing up top on the Delta parking lot. Come say hi. Make sure to tweet your pics to @playkelowna and make this one the #bestweekendever.

I plan on having a few pics myself. Good luck to everyone facing off this weekend. Be safe, good sports and above all else: PLAY ON!

Follow me on twitter: @always90four