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Wilson Trying To Get Kessel Going

by Adnan Virk / Toronto Maple Leafs
Excellent read in the latest issue of Sports Illustrated from gifted hockey writer Michael Farber about the doghouse in the NHL. In it , he explores how players from Alexander Frolov to Aaron Ward have been in their coaches bad books and relegated to public ridicule either through public comments in the media or decreased ice time or being singled out in practice.

Maple Leafs head coach Ron Wilson is quoted in the story and explains the benefit of such measures, using the example of defenceman Tomas Kaberle. Wilson states that last year Kaberle was fat (15 percent body fat) and was told to improve his conditioning. Now, in Wilson’s esteemed opinion, the long time Leaf is one of the top blueliners in the league. Wilson is obviously trying to now get a rise out of star sniper Phil Kessel, mired in a terrible scorings slump that has seen him score once in his last 11 games. After Wilson called him out at practice last week, Kessel still was unable to find the score sheet against the Sabres or Penguins but in his coach’s eyes, was working hard as did the entire team. Look for more motivational ploys from Captain Ron since the Leafs have just two wins in their last ten games.


I can’t help but be impressed by the way head coach Jay Triano has handled this latest situation for the Raptors involving their point guards and the class both players have shown as a result. What could easily degenerate into a controversy over who’s the starter and other alpha male issues (see Ford, T.J.) has instead become a source of strength for the Raptors.

Last year, the backup point guard was a black hole thanks to Will (I am) Solomon and Roko Ukic. Now, Jarrett Jack has found his groove as a starter and also allowed Hedo Turkoglu to get more touches on the offensive end (nine assists versus the Spurs in a losing cause). And Jose Calderon is reminding all of us why we became enamoured of him in the first place. As a backup point guard is how he first rose to prominence, giving the second unit a palpable lift and he’s doing that once again for this club. Late in games, Triano still has the option of using both Calderon and Jack in tandem as DeMar DeRozan may start games but isn’t always the best option to finish them. In a season with various twists and turns, it’s comforting to know that point guard, no matter who’s starting, will not be an issue of concern.


- Watched my first episode of the Simpsons last night in years. It was the 450th episode and neatly was the precursor to the 20th anniversary special which was a must-see since I so enjoyed Morgan Spurlock’s earlier documentary, Super Size Me, in which he eats nothing but McDonald’s for 30 days - and lives to tell about it! Although the episode gave further proof to the popular notion that the series isn’t what it used to be, Krusty the Clown, did have this highlight: “I drink like I work. Alone. With a monkey watching me.” Rumour is that Krusty is actually based on David Letterman in his early days of Late Night since he’s this crazed performer on camera and then immediately becomes a depressed, miserable, alcoholic wretch (Dave quit drinking years ago). Regardless of his origins, Krusty has always been my favourite character, since I’m also similarly tortured although I do also love the eternally sunny Apu, one of the first characters of South Asian descent that I can ever remember on the tube.

- Nice work by the directors guild of America excluding Clint Eastwood for the entirely predictable Invictus, which is not one of Clint’s finer works. The nominees are Kathryn Bigelow for the Hurt Locker (my pick to win and on DVD Tuesday), James Cameron for Avatar (the populist choice, over a billion dollars grossed worldwide), Lee Daniels for (Precious my personal favourite and the first African-American nominated which is a crime that Spike Lee has been ignored), Jason Reitman for Up in the Air (which I think will win best picture at the Academy Awards) and Quentin Tarantino for Inglourious Bastards (his best film arguably in 15 years since Pulp Fiction.) Winners announced January 30th.

- What a flip flop by NBC on their late night programming. Jay Leno at ten was a catastrophe angering NBC’s affiliates to no end. Thus, the proposal of Leno at 11:30 for a half hour followed by Conan, Fallon and Carson Daly in oblivion. Meantime, my guy Letterman is ruling the roost as the king of late night.

- Dreadful performance by my Eagles against the Cowboys. At least when you’re so thoroughly overmatched there’s nothing to complain about. An 11 win season with a promising core of youth on offence evaporates in two weeks at the hands of America’s Team. Our defence, especially the safeties and linebackers need serious work. And how about Karlos Dansby saving Neil Rackers in Arizona’s thrilling win? At least one of the weekend NFL games provided competitive fireworks.
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