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Time To Give Young Players A Chance

by Adnan Virk / Toronto Maple Leafs
After Niklas Hagman and Phil Kessel, it’s been some serious underachieving on the Maple Leafs front line. And I think it’s time to shake things up some more by sending down Jason Blake to the Marlies.

Sure, he’s making 4 million dollars a season but two goals with plenty of ice time in 25 games played is not a massive return on the investment the club has made on him. Call up Ryan Hamilton or Alex Foster and give them a chance to restore some punch to an offence that has accumulated tons of shots but either doesn’t have enough scoring ability or has been snake bit by hot goaltending (see Miller, Ryan).

Right now according to point total, the Maple Leafs are the second worst team in the National Hockey League and need to get to the .500 mark by Christmas which has been head coach Ron Wilson’s stated goal. The only way to reach that aim is to send a message and shake things up and sending Blake down certainly would accomplish that.

Unlike some other teams, the Maple Leafs can’t blame injuries for their predicament especially with the return of Mike Komisarek to an improving back line. The issue is players not performing to their potential and that’s gotta change, sooner rather than later.


My friend and colleague, former coach Jack Armstrong raised the idea of whether the Raptors should start implementing a zone defence since the club has had such issues at the defensive end and a zone can help cover up the team’s individual weaknesses as one-on-one defenders.

I posed the question to head coach Jay Triano Tuesday and he thinks it’s too early for such a radical move in his estimation. The way he explained it to me, the players are still acclimating themselves to the defensive systems that he’s trying to teach and in order to use a zone, he’d like to go ‘live’ with it in a practice or two rather than just dropping it into a game. He said the next opportunity to properly teach the zone in practice wouldn’t be until late December so for now, it’s a matter of the players staying the course, switching off of rotations and doing their best to keep the man in front of them. As for transition D, sometimes it’s as simple as just hustling back as soon as possible, something this club hasn’t been able to do on a consistent basis.


- Went and saw Fantastic Mr. Fox and enjoyed the animated tale. I wasn’t drawn in by the a-list cast although George Clooney, Bill Murray and Meryl Streep were impeccable as always but by the wondrous talent of co-writer and director Wes Anderson. I’m either blown away by his work as in the hilarious Rushmore and bittersweet The Royal Tenenbaums or impressed by his attention to detail and unforced quirkiness in Bottle Rocket and the Darjeeling Limited. Since his characters and situations can sometimes feel cartoonish, it makes perfect sense that an animated tale would be the perfect complement to his talents.

- What a devastating end for the Saskatchewan Roughriders. I covered the 2006 Vanier Cup and spent a week in Saskatoon and have seen first-hand the passion and love the Green Riders instill in those prairie dwellers. I even considered wearing a watermelon on my head on air in support of the currently downtrodden. 

- Poor Tiger. The longer he stays quiet, the more salacious the rumours get. I don’t anyone who’s buying his version of the events which are about as vague as you can get according to his statement.

- Outstanding choice of Sports Illustrated naming Derek Jeter as its Sportsman Of The Year. A World Series winner on the field and the epitome of class off the field with his Turn 2 Foundation helping those battle drug and alcohol abuse.

He’s been the face of baseball which has been ravaged by steroid allegations and put together one of his finest seasons on the field culminating in another World Series championship. Honourable mention to the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world Manny Pacquiao whose servitude to his countrymen is nonpareil.
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