continues to razzle and dazzle for the Maple Leafs thus far.
I know the team has significantly underachieved and optimism is small but reflect on how sensational Kessel’s been considering the obstacles he’s faced.
Serious offseason shoulder surgery, and a mountain of expectations in the most hockey-mad city of them all and yet how does he respond? Like gangbusters. Five goals as a Leaf and 47 in his last 88 regular season and playoff contests. That averages out to 44 goals over an 82-game season. Now I know that hockey is more freewheeling than it has been in years past but 40-goal scorers still are not dime a dozen.
Clearly, what he needs most of all is a number one centre. For all the respective talent and gifts of Matt Stajan, John Mitchell and others, the Leafs still need that dynamic playmaker to be the engine of this club’s offence. They may have that player down the road in Tyler Bozak
or Nazem Kadri
. But for now, you can’t help but admire Kessel’s sniping and undeniable nose for the net. One can only hope it becomes contagious and fast for his fellow teammates.
When I first looked at the schedule back in the summer, I predicted the Raptors would be 4-8 after the first 12 games of the season. So by my logic, 5-7 is a slight improvement.
Sure the loss to the Suns hurt, but as Jay Triano correctly pointed out, the team had no reason for any regrets with one of the primary reasons for Hedo Turkoglu being brought in was for his 4th-quarter pedigree. He hit a couple of big shots but unfortunately didn’t hit the biggest one. The Denver game degenerated into a blowout but with the club missing Turk, this was not a major surprise while clearly fatigued on the second game of a back-to-back set. In during Toronto’s fateful 4th quarter against the Jazz. 5-of-21 shooting, a 1-14 stretch and 6:50 without a field goal ultimately did them in, but not before a furious rally cutting the deficit from 18 to just one point.
Marco Belinelli was a pleasant surprise on the road trip, scoring 15 points a game and shooting 50 per cent from the field including 11-of-22 from downtown. And Chris Bosh is second in the NBA in rebounding, averaging 13.8 boards on the roadie. Defence is still an issue - both in transition and in the paint as the club has been outscored 122-72 in the paint in the last two games. OTHER STUFF ON MY MIND:
- Enjoyed Pirate Radio for the dazzlingly eclectic soundtrack(from My generation to Dancing in the streets to A Whiter Shade Of Pale) which the movie is built around, essentially the audience listening to every staple of the 60’s along with an amiable cast (led by my guy Phillip Seymour Hoffman playing the indefatigable Count), making for a pleasant if alternately disposable viewing experience. Much better, evidently, than the U.K. version The Boat That Rocked, which sank like the Titanic.
- Jeremy Shockey with quite the diss on LeBron saying he could never play in the NFL and could only run a 4.9 40. Shockey did win a super bowl with the Giants - no wait, they won in spite of him not doing anything productive when they finally put things together en route to the win. And then they got rid of him. But his word is bond.
- With the decade winding down, I think it’s fair to say The Sopranos was my favourite TV show of the past ten years. Honourable mentions to the cringe-inducing humour of Curb Your Enthusiasm, the zaniness of Arrested Development, the sleekness of Mad Men and inconsistent power of Rescue Me.
- Strong move by TFC to bring in Preki. He’s been a defensive master with Chivas and has both coached and played in the MLS, with an excellent pedigree on both counts.
- The TTC fare hike is frustrating. Three bucks! Aren’t we already in a recession?