Let There Be Music – And Some Wins, Please

I mentioned on Twitter the other day that I was working on something special in my secret lair.  Here it is, in honour of the 2010-2011 Toronto Maple Leafs’ season:  The Toronto Maple Leafs Song. (Update 1:12 a.m.: I’ve been trying on and off all night to post a link to the .mp3 file on this blog, but WordPress wants me to learn new swear words instead.  So here’s a link to my Tumblr, which apparently has somewhat more delicate ears. )

I can’t believe I have spent as much time as I did over the last few days working on this thing.  With Furious G on the way in about eight weeks’ time now, and a busy early 2011 ahead of me work-wise, I have a feeling that the fooling-about time I’ve managed to scrape together over the past couple of evenings may well be the last opportunity I’ll have for a while to focus on ridiculous projects, but I hope everybody in the Barilkosphere enjoys it. If nothing else, have sympathy for the brave men of The Execrables – my PPP Phantasy Puck Team sacrificed their season in the name of this little project. I just couldn’t drag myself away from the production process long enough to pay any attention at all to the fantasy draft, and the autodrafter ended up selecting such luminaries for me as “Marc Savard and his head full of Jell-O”.

Anyway, it all started when I was fooling around, rhyming “Caputi” with “Verbeauty” (the nickname some folks at Pension Plan Puppets have for Kris Versteeg).   Before too long, I ended up going Adam Sandler on the Leafs’ lineup.

Enjoy, I hope it gives you a laugh or two.

Here are the lyrics, in case anyone is interested:

THE TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS SONG

Toronto is the centre of the world
Maybe not, but it’s where the Leaf flag gets unfurled
Our teams have missed the playoffs for many, many years
But this group of Leaf players is tops with the Barilkosphere.

‘Cause we’ve got filthy Phil Kessel, he’s Tyler Bozak’s wing
Kulie and Grabbo just keep on attacking
Monster and Jiggy will prove your offence lacking
While Colton Orr and Komisarek will give you a shellacking
Colby Armstrong has a job cause Matt Stajan was sent packing
Let’s hope we’ll all be cheering wins instead of Prozac-ing

We might not still be playing, when May turns into June
But that’s okay we’ll draft our way to the top
(Wait, what?) Too soon!

Tomas Kaberle makes cross-ice pass like you won’t believe
Still some folks dream of draft picks that we might receive
But I say to keep him, he’s talented and handsome
He better be – he’s passing to John Mitchell and Christian Hanson!
Francois Beauchemin, Luca Caputi
Nobody dangles like Kadri and Verbeauty!
Dion Phaneuf will do his Captain’s duty
And ladies tell me that Luke Schenn looks good in a suit-y
Mueller, Blacker and Aulie all seem like good recruitys
Ian White’s moustache is gone now but we’ve got Mike Brown’s fu manchu-ty

It might not be so bad, now that Toskala’s gone
Forget about the last few years, and help me sing this song:

I like Gunnarson’s acuity, hope Sjostrom stays here too-ity
Jeff Finger’s large annuity makes him a Marlie in perpetuity.
Let there be no ambiguity, show the Leafs that you are true-ity
Habs fans have no clue-ity, and Sens fans are sniffing glue-ity
Support your Toronto Maple Leafs, with all your ingenuity
Engage in promiscuity, if you can find someone who’ll do it-y
Just be sure there’s continuity, in your support for white and blue-ity.

Put on your white and blue
Make some noise and ballyhoo
Even if you speak Urdu
And haven’t watched hockey hitherto
Plan to use a big kazoo
Just be sure you follow through
Bang a chair with a wooden shoe
Make some noise for the white and blue
And
Go
Leafs
Go!

If It’s Tuesday, We Must Be Dropping One to Dixie

The Leafs lost to the Atlanta Thrashers tonight 3-2.   Where have you heard this before:  Tuesday night home loss to a mediocre Southeast Division opponent.

No doubt, some folks will be into the gnashing of teeth, given the Thrashers’ two goals in less than a minute in the second period.  No doubt, the Leafs fell apart for a bit for a few minutes there, and they paid for it when Atlanta cashed in a couple of markers.  Keep in mind, though, that this is the youngest team in the NHL.  They are bound to lose focus and composure from time to time this year, and it must be remembered that this will happen from time to time next year too.  The key thing for Leaf fans to watch when this happens – not “if”, but “when” – is how the team reacts.

A couple of nights ago, the Leafs got themselves down 2-0 to the Rangers after two periods and managed to come back and get a win in overtime.  Tonight, the comeback wasn’t complete, but the team bore down and got a couple of goals to tie it before surrendering the eventual winner on an Antropov tip in front of Gustavsson.   There was some inspired play from Bozak again tonight, his pass to Stalberg on Stalberg’s first goal was brilliant.  Stalberg himself showed some good determination to get to the net, though it was a bit alarming to see that his shot on that first goal was actually headed wide but bounced rather fortunately off the goaltender’s skate and in to the net.  Tonight was probably one of Christian Hanson’s better games as a Leaf.  There were also some terrific saves from Gustavsson – especially his save on Afinogenov with about two and a half minutes left in the second period, when Afinogenov was in alone on him just before the first Stalberg goal.

So yeah, another Tuesday night, another loss to a mediocre southeastern opponent, but I’ll say it again:  there is reason for hope.

“Gustavsson” Scores a Goal on Sportsnet: Thanks, Joe Bowen

Sometimes in professional sports, in the latter portion of a lost season, one can get the impression that folks are just mailing it in.  Akin to garbage time in a game too far out of hand to salvage, the idea is that a team can be so far out of contention for a championship or qualification for the playoffs that those associated with the team have ceased to care about results in the remaining games.

Typically, fans are concerned that their professional heroes have given up and are going through the motions;  team management typically attempts to assuage these fears by stressing that players are auditioning for jobs for the next season.  They commonly also offer hope that the team is using the remaining games as a developmental exercise – setting specific goals and trying to learn how to win by achieving those goals, regardless of their ultimate factual irrelevance.

Happily for Toronto Maple Leafs fans, it would seem that the Leaf players are buying in to this narrative for the most part.  The Blue and White put in a mostly spirited effort against a depleted Bruins club that has given them fits this year, eventually prevailing in overtime on a goal by Nikolai Kulemin.

So no worries about anybody going through the motions in Leaf-land, right?  At least for one night?

Well, not quite.  The television broadcast crew that brought us the game on Sportsnet last night had some real difficulties.  In particular, Joe Bowen and Greg Millen seemed to be having an inordinate amount of difficulty keeping Jonas Gustavsson and Carl Gunnarsson straight.  It’s true that both men are Swedish and both are relatively new additions to the Leaf team whose last names begin with the letter “G”.  Really, though, is it too much to ask that the crew whose job it is to know about these players could, by the time game number 66 rolls around, reliably distinguish between the team’s much-hyped young goaltender and a defenseman who has pleasantly surprised?  Nevertheless, throughout Tuesday night’s game, Bowen and Millen continuously tripped over the Gustavsson/Gunnarsson identification.

This unfortunate difficulty manifested itself most notably late in the second period with the Bruins leading 2-1.  Following a faceoff in the Bruins’ zone, Carl Gunnarsson directed a shot at the Bruins’ goal that found the twine, tying the game at twos.  Regrettably, Joe Bowen attributed this goal to Jonas Gustavsson – the Leafs’ goaltender.   Check out the clip (from YouTube) below:

Home Opener Eve

Uncle Henry, don’t be dumb,
Liquor up your youngest son!
For he represents the royal army’s
Chances in the war.
Say hello to him for me
Ask him if his dog predicts
That the Maple Leafs are gonna beat Detroit
For the Stanley Cup!

…with apologies to Mike (a Red Wings fan that I like despite this obvious character flaw).

No, the above passage from the fine Rheostatics song “Uncle Henry/Cephalus Worm” does not represent my season preview in the form of song;  I don’t really think the Leafs are going to be among the teams in the building when Lord Stanley’s mug gets handed out sometime in June of 2010.  I am, however, much  more excited about this year’s version of the Leafs than I have been in a long, long time.

Happy Trails, Indeed: Francois Beauchemin is a Maple Leaf

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Francois Beauchmin Introduced at MLSE Press Conference

The Maple Leafs signed defenceman Francois Beauchemin, late of the Anaheim Ducks, to a 4 year deal today.  The deal brings an annual cap hit of about $3.8 million.

I am a huge fan of this signing, for several reasons:

  1. It will be hilarious to watch Montreal’s Lollipop Guild of Cammalleri, Gomez and Gionta spontaneously pee their tiny little pantses when the Leaf defence pairings stomp on to the ice this year.   Seriously, the Leafs have more beef on the back end than Oprah, J-Lo and Tomas Holmstrom combined.
  2. The move gives Burke options.  He can trade Tomas Kaberle for Jesus Christ and a (top five) first round draft choice or he can move some of the surplus second-tier blueliners now milling about the halls of the ACC, bumping into each other and the walls (such as Stralman, Van Ryn, Finger, Oreskovic, etc.) for more urgently required spare parts:  “depth” (i.e. “crappy”) forwards or draft picks.
  3. Whatever the fate of Kaberle, adding a bona fide fearsome defender like Beauchemin on top of the earlier Mike Komisarek signing, the addition of Garnet Exelby (via trade with Atlanta) and the continuing threat of Luke “The Human Eraser” Schenn ensures that no one will come within approximately sixty feet of the Maple Leafs’ crease next season.
  4. This last fact ought to help in the “Monster” derby, the race to sign Swedish goaltender Jonas Gustavsson, which ought to help bring some depth to the goaltending position.  This is a polite way of saying that the Leafs’ goaltending sucked donkey balls last year.  I love Curtis Joseph dearly, but he did not play well, and an injured Vesa Toskala also turned in a performance best described as “weaksauce”.  Why does the signing of Happy Trails Frankie help out in this regard?   Ask yourself: if you were a young Swedish lad considering which team to join in order to make your NHL debut, wouldn’t you kind of want to go to a club where the defencemen treat attackers like Godzilla treats Japanese public transportation vehicles?
  5. It’s back to the future, man.  Back in the day, when the Leafs were the shit instead of just being “shit”, their style of play was always defined by hard-nosed defence.  The Leafs of the 50s and 60s were more about Horton and Stanley than they were about any fancypants offence.  It’s how we do things in the Blue & White:  crushing hip checks; solid positional play; gutsy shot blocks;  pick and shovel, physical defence with a soupçon of elbows, facewashes and general bad-assery.  Leaf fans have always been especially taken with the lunchpail brigade, but we are especially enamoured by players who patrol the blueline this way.  It has been this way since of Red Horner and Bucko McDonald, through the Horton and Stanley era and more recently to guys like Sylvain Lefebvre, Dmitri Yushkevich and Danny Markov.  This tradition is why Luke Schenn will be the captain of your Toronto Maple Leafs by 2012.
  6. I am really looking forward to seeing Beauchemin use his breath weapon to destroy Daniel Alfredsson.

Attaboy Burkie.  I see the plan, and I like it.  Watching the reaction to the Beauchemin and Komisarek signings in the twitterverse these past few days, I can tell you that your fanbase is definitely loving it too.  (Side note:  It was absolutely fascinating watching the Beauchemin signing in particular unfold via Twitter today;  I saw a tweet that reported the signing, was able to confirm it via Sportsnet, then tweeted about the signing myself and watched as the news spread from person to person via re-tweets.  Enjoying the salty tears of disappointment shed by Habs fans despairing of a lost opportunity was especially enjoyable when experienced in real-time.  In all seriousness, though, the revolution has come.  This is the way we’re going to get our information about things from now on.)

If the Leafs can’t land an elite scoring forward or two through trades this year (most likely immediate candidate for dispatch in this regard:  Tomas Kaberle;  dark horse trade bait:  a rejuvenated and repaired Vesa Toskala), I am content to watch the young forwards like Tlusty, Grabovski, Bozak and Hanson try to make their way in the league.  Some, if not most, of them will struggle and/or fail, and the team will similarly struggle to score goals.  We may continue to lose games, and lose them often.

But I’m going to really enjoy watching this team play this year.  There will be no easy nights for the Leafs’ opposition.  Better still, I can see the foundation of the team being built and I can really foresee now, for the first time in a long time (since JFJ got his mitts on the controls, really) a time in the not-too-distant future when this team will be demanding that it be reckoned with as a legitimate Cup contender.