The youth movement may not determine whether or not the Toronto Maple Leafs make the playoffs this season or not, but they are the foundation upon which Brian Burke and Dave Nonis are counting on to build this team.
The vast majority of college free agents in hockey rarely translate their skills into the NHL but there’s reason for promise with Tyler Bozak
. While Viktor Stalberg and Christian Hanson have yet to make their present felt in call-ups to the big club from the Marlies, Bozak has breathed some life into the previously moribund first line. He’s established some chemistry with Nikolai Kulemin
and Phil Kessel
, although the sniper remains mired in that horrific scoring slump.
The Leafs don’t have a true number 1 centre and perhaps Nazem Kadri
can be that guy starting next season but for now Bozak’s speed, hockey vision and crafty instincts will hopefully ensure a longer stay with the Leafs than his college counterparts.
If good or bad things happen in 3’s, then it’s easy to ascertain the three most prominent victories of the season for the Toronto Raptors: wins against the Spurs, Magic and on Sunday versus the Dallas Mavericks, who were boasting the second-best record in the loaded Western Conference. The Mavs were equally as good at home as they were on the road (13 wins in both instances.)
Instead, the Raptors had the perfect game plan and executed it brilliantly. Andrea Bargnani, Chris Bosh and even Antoine Wright did a solid job in holding the great Dirk Nowitzki to under 20 points; Josh Howard was a putrid 3 of 12 from the floor; and the Raptors received solid contributions from their 3 primary positions - centre, power forward and point guard. Bosh and Bargnani have been the heart of this team but now this two-headed monster of Jarrett Jack and Jose Calderon which combined for 14 assists and only one turnover on Sunday have given this club new life as they seek that 5th spot in the East.
If they can only get some more wing production from the 2 and the 3, the Raps would be in excellent shape. Although Cleveland is a hugely talented team, the Raps did beat them on opening night, the Cavaliers are coming off a five game Western swing and they may be looking ahead to their next opponent in the L.A. Lakers.
OTHER STUFF ON MY MIND
- So ecstatic to see the great Jeff Bridges win the Best Actor for Drama Golden Globe on Sunday night. Crazy Heart
opened in Toronto on Friday and I was fortunate enough to see a matinee on Saturday afternoon, where the median age was 56 and my friends and I were clearly the only visible minorities in the audience. The tale of a down and out country singer in search of redemption is nothing new but Bridges embodies the character through and through and never strikes a false note. He’s a lock for his 5th nomination and hopefully after four decades of acting, wins an Oscar this year over his primary competitor George Clooney for Up In The Air
. To quote the unforgettable Big Lebowski, ‘the dude abides.’
- Speaking of the Globes, how outstanding was my guy Ricky Gervais? His shot at Paul McCartney’s divorce settlement was even funnier when you considered the Beattle’s clearly disapproving reaction. As for Mel Gibson (“I love a drink as much as the next man. Except when that man is Mel Gibson.”), at least he showed a good sense of humour by immediately slurring his words upon speaking.
- The highlight of the Globes for me of course was the incomparable Scorsese being feted by his boys Bob DeNiro and Leo Dicaprio for the Cecil B. Demille Award. DeNiro’s speech about Marty copulating with film was unexpectedly hilarious and Leo’s inspirational words (Van gogh, Beethoven, Shakespeare…a thousand years from now they’ll also be saying the name Martin Scorsese) made me want to pick up a camera and start imitating the master right away. The montage of Scorsese’s work left me breathless and his impassioned speech, as always, struck right to the core of what he’s all bout.
- Everyone’s against Jay except for NBC executive Dick Ebersol who blames Conan’s rigidity for the Tonight Show getting repeatedly beat by Letterman. Also standing up for Leno has been his long time friend Jerry Seinfeld who unsurprisingly has a show out on NBC which will be one of the programs replacing the horrific Jay Leno Show. Conan is believed to be getting 40 million dollars to walk away - but certainly not gracefully!
- Stunning loss by the Chargers. I was right on three of my four predictions. I’m happy for Rex Ryan, who grew up in Toronto, attending Blue Jays games at the Ex and he remembered the hype around Doug Ault being the next Mickey Mantle. Ha!