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Toskala Turns It Around

by Adnan Virk / Toronto Maple Leafs
It was only a matter of time before Vesa Toskala would turn things around. Or was it?

Many were already writing his epitaph and saying he was done in Toronto and perhaps in the NHL after his brutal start and .838 save percentage were being bandied about as evidence of his demise. So full credit then to Vesa for turning things around. Prior to the loss against the Coyotes, the embattled Leafs netminder had a .926 save percentage during the Leafs past six home games-no small feat when you consider how merciless some of the boobirds have been in his general direction at the ACC.

Of all the components that have come around, including rebound control, poise and general awareness, I think his greatest boost to his recent play has been his aggressiveness in challenging shooters. Part of the brilliance of Francois Allaire’s approach is in teaching his pupils about the best possible positioning and more than anything, Vesa’s right at the top of the key, trying to maximize every bit of his undersized frame, rather than staying tucked back in his net. You can assume his loss to the Coyotes was an aberration and now with Jonas Gustavsson back in the mix, the Leafs appear to have solidified some of their uneasiness between the pipes.


Head coach Jay Triano says the feeling of carrying the Olympic torch for 300 metres on Thursday was amazing and awesome. He said even more impressive perhaps than actually jogging with the flame was the experience of riding around in the van with the other people selected for the honour of being a part of the Olympic team, including he told me the ‘Brad Pitt of Bollywood.” (The name escaped him so I can only assume as the onetime host of Bollywood Boulevard seven years ago that it was Shahrukh Khan.)

Triano even went and retrieved the torch from his office so I was able to hold it for a moment along with the assorted media that were present. Weighed about fifteen pounds and it was authentic to be able to see the top of the flame burnt with black soot. I also asked Jay if he was scared of dropping the flame but he said not at all, since that’s why they give you the special gloves to prevent that from happening. Triano’s shown the Olympic touch before guiding the national team to the Sydney Olympics back in 2000 and has long ties to the Vancouver area dating back to his time at Simon Frasier University. Here’s hoping Triano’s indelible moment will translate into that magic touch with the raptors after a disappointing start to the season.


- Amidst all the crush of Oscar hopefuls and big budget blockbusters about to crush multiplexes, I have to mention one of the most unexpectedly brilliant pictures of the year. Mary and Max, a clayography feature from Academy Award winner Adam Eliot. It tells the story of eight year old Mary, a chubby girl dealing with loneliness and her inattentive alcoholic mother and her pen pal relationship with Max, a 40 something severely obese Jewish New Yorker suffering from Asperger’s syndrome. Hilarious and poignant with an unforgettable musical score, it deserves to be seen on the big screen but sadly only had a limited run at the Bloor cinema. Look for it on DVD January 26th or visit For its originality and audacity, it’s an absolute treasure and especially noteworthy is the voice work of my guy Phillip Seymour Hoffman who’s completely unrecognizable as Max.

- Enjoyed the Raptors NBA TV/Leafs TV/Gol TV holiday party last night at our offices and my kebabs were polished off in no time thanks to the potluck edict from the organizers. The biggest winner? Undeniably Colonel Sanders and his evocative KFC.

- For one year of Roy Halladay, I guess the Jays did what they could but that’s of little consolation when you realize that none of the three players are going to have much impact in 2010. At least appreciate how loyal a solider the good doctor was during his years in Toronto when too often he was the best, and only reason to attend a jays game.

- Fascinating to seeing two very different sides of President Barack Obama on Sunday night. First on 60 Minutes he talked tough with Steve Kroft, defending his decision to send more troops to Afghanistan and the importance of pushing through his controversial health care bill while unemployment remains a raging concern. Then with Oprah in prime time, he gave himself a B+ for his first year of office, showing his disarming smile and exchanged witty banter with his wife Michelle. Here’s hoping the president can deliver on the promise and potential that he has such charismatic ability to articulate.
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