It’s a stunning coup for Brian Burke, Dave Nonis et al. You wouldn’t think that a team with one of the lowest point totals in the NHL would be able to swing a multi-player trade in the salary cap league today. But they did so with stunning impact. Dion Phaneuf
is a 24 year old, two-time all-star with a booming shot which will pay dividends for the Leafs moribund power play and bone crushing hits. Although his salary is considerable, he’s a young stud defenceman who already has been a Norris trophy finalist. The other major piece in Jean-Sebastien Giguere may not be the former conn smythe trophy winner he was in 2003 or cup winner in 2007 but maybe like Austin Powers, he can reclaim his mojo being reunited with goaltending coach Francois Allaire and be buoyed by the fact he’ll be contending for the number one goaltending job while simultaneously mentoring Jonas Gustavsson
. Allaire and Vesa Toskala never saw eye to eye and the other departing Leafs were all expendable: Blake never had a consistent scoring touch, Stajan was a UFA while White was a RFA and due for a big raise, Mayers wanted out, and Hagman is an underrated goal scorer. The defence and goaltending has been shored up but now the offence will be a serious work in progress.RAPTORS
It wasn’t too long ago that skeptics and cynics and all-around wolves were out looking for blood from head coach Jay Triano. The team was 11-17 and Jay’s overall won-loss record as an NBA head coach was unsightly. But now, the Raptors are genuinely rolling, winners of 5 straight and just 4 and a half games back of the Boston Celtics. Credit Triano for understanding that 9 new faces needed time to coalesce. For not having the ego to take umbrage when players like Antoine Wright criticized the coaching staff for not being tough enough on certain guys or for the early defensive principles which weren’t working. For having an excellent relationship with Chris Bosh, the franchise player, both on and off the court and for giving Andrea Bargnani and Sonny Weems the confidence and license to not worry about mistakes on the offensive end. For not taking issue with Hedo Turkoglu saying he needs to touch the ball more when he already does a considerable amount. I spoke to president and general manager Bryan Colangelo and he said that he’s committed to Triano for this season and beyond and considers him one of the brightest basketball minds in the game. Colangelo told me that he thinks coaching is 50 percent x’s and o’s and 50 percent managing and manipulating personalities. Jay told me he wishes the numbers were like that but feels it’s more 30-70 and credits his coaching staff for helping on the technical aspects of game strategy. Off the court, Jay says he loves listening to Sarah Mclachlan(!) and is enamoured with the play Rent-one time watching it with complete strangers on Broadway. Clearly the man knows dedication.OTHER STUFF ON MY MIND
- You start to run out of words when you witness the brilliance of Roger Federer. Incandescent. Magical. Unflappable. The man never seems pressed or vulnerable. In soundly defeating the upstart Andy Murray, trying to become the first British man to win a grand slam in 278 tries, the Fed Express calmly picked up breaks and relied on his impregnable service game to win the first 2 sets. Then when pressed in a 3rd set and a terrific tiebreak which represented the only true drama of the match, Federer again rose to the occasion. Afterwards he joked that the girl standing next to his wife was not his daughter: “6 months yesterday, 8 years old today.” It was refreshing to see him so pleased and after appearing in 18 of the last 19 grand slam finals and winner of the record 16 overall majors, he’ll be entering the French open as a defending champion for the first time ever.
- Saw the Last Station Friday night for the twin performances of Helen Mirren and Christopher Plummer who are both expected to get Oscar nominations on Tuesday morning for best actress and supporting actor. It’s a well-made period piece about Leo Tolstoy’s final days 100 years ago and although it’s a thin narrative, the movie is bolstered by a terrific ensemble including my guy Paul Giamatti and James McAvoy.
- Couldn’t care less about the pro bowl but nice to see my guy Desean Jackson pick up a couple of touchdowns.
- Best line from the grammys was from Stephen Colbert: “Sure, Justin Timberlake might have brought sexy back, but this year Susan Boyle sent it away again…this year, your industry was saved by a 48 year old Scottish cat lady in sensible shoes.”
- Great to see Kathryn Bigelow pick up top honours from the directors guild and solidify her status as the favourite for the Oscar on march 7th ahead of her ex-husband James Cameron. Watched the hurt locker for the 2nd time and her direction along with the gritty cinematography and sharply drawn characters makes this an Iraqi war picture that is required viewing.