Invitation: The 2009-2010 Maple Leafs End of Season Banquet

Look what I found lying around yesterday…


March 25, 2010

Dear Valued Employee:

As a Toronto Maple Leaf player, you are invited to attend the annual Toronto Maple Leafs end-of-season banquet and awards ceremony.  This year, the banquet will be held on Saturday April 17th, 2010 at Jack Astor’s, unless of course we make the playoffs.  Ha ha, just kidding!  Seriously, though, the banquet is on the 17th at 7 p.m. sharp.

I’m not including a map to (or the address of) the specific Jack Astor’s restaurant we’re going to because it’s important that we keep the location of our team shindig confidential, to avoid having any unwanted guests.  In unrelated news, I’ve told Rickard Wallin (through a Swedish interpreter, he doesn’t read English) that we’ll be at Wendel Clark’s Classic Grille in Oakville.  He has been instructed to arrive early, demand to speak with the owner, and threaten him with trouble if we don’t enjoy our evening (which I have booked under the name “Fetisov”).  Don’t spoil the surprise for Ricky – remember how many stitches it took to close up the wound in Jason Blake’s face last year?  Oh, right, almost none of you were here for that.  Well trust me, it was good times.

The dinner menu at the actual, non-fake, banquet location includes: beef.  If you do not want to eat beef, or if you are a vegetarian or have other incorrect desires, let me just say that Edmonton gets pretty cold in the winter and – as incredible as it may sound – the Oilers are less likely than even us to win anything anytime soon. Jonas Gustavsson can have pickled herring, but only because he has a couple of doctor’s notes and I don’t like to get covered in exploding heart blood.  Remember, for this meal, the “Wellwood Rule” is in effect so portions will be limited to six servings of 48 oz. each.

After dinner of course, we’ll be handing out the end of season awards.  By tradition, your Master of Ceremonies will be the longest serving Leaf player, Tomas Kaberle.  As you know, also by tradition, the M.C. is ineligible to win any of the awards.  We offered to move Kabby out of that spot, but he insisted that he isn’t concerned about winning and wanted to stay (why does this sound familiar?);  in fact, he would like to MC both this year and next.  I can say that we’re prepared to meet him halfway on that one.

Awards to be presented this year include:

  • the David Williams Memorial “Mister Congeniality” Plaque (2010 recipient: Colton Orr – has anybody else noticed no one has disagreed with Colton about anything since he dummied Matt Carkner?);
  • the Wendel Clark “Most Valuable Player” Trophy (2010 recipient: Jeff Finger – shhh, don’t say anything, I’m talking trade with someone whose name rhymes with “Errol Flutter” and this MVP thing may get us Jarome Iginla and a pick); and
  • the Gary Leeman “Best Teammate” Prize (2010 recipient: former Leaf Vesa Toskala, in honour of the unremitting dedication to his craft he displayed.  He doesn’t know it yet, but Vesa will be in attendance at the Banquet courtesy of a burlap sack, some duct tape and the trunk of Jay Rosehill’s car.  Please note that this award will be presented posthumously and as soon as possible:  bring your own blunt object.)

After the awards ceremony, though it’ll be tough to top that last award, we’ll be moving to the entertainment portion of the evening.  Right now, the plan is for Phil Kessel, Nikolai Kulemin and Tyler Bozak to come up with something to dazzle us all. The rest of us will have to hope that’s enough.  So it’s pretty much business as usual.

Since he ought to contribute something to the team this year, Garnet Exelby will be responsible for bringing the beer.  When he screws that up, we’ll just buy some from the bar.  Please note that in view of the numerous unfortunate incidents resulting in so much broken glass at the goaltenders’ table last year, players are asked not to toss bottles to one another at any time.

Remember that while in attendance at this function, you are representing Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment and the Toronto Maple Leafs.  Be pleasant and respectful to the wait staff, bartenders and busboys, especially Boyd Devereaux and Justin Pogge.

Stay as late as you like, and enjoy yourself.  Our next meeting as a team will be in Los Angeles on draft day.  Maybe we can go to the zoo or something, we’ll have plenty of time on our hands.

Yours truly,

fake brian burke signature

What a Day for the Leafs: Now 100% Vesa Toskala Free!

A huge day for the Toronto Maple Leafs today: they traded Matt Stajan, Nik Hagman, Ian White and Jamal Mayers to Calgary for Dion Phaneuf, Fredrik Sjostrom and Keith Aulie. Stajan, White and Mayers are all on expiring contracts, so they are essentially rentals. Hagman has two years to go on an economical 3 million dollar deal for a streaky but reliable goal scorer.

That was a huge deal. My preliminary evaluation is that the trade reeks of desperation on the part of Darryl Sutter. He has overpaid for a couple of scoring forwards in a desperate attempt to turn the Flames’ ship around and make a run for the Cup while they have the core (Iginla, Kiprussof and Bouwmeester) signed up. Calgary is tied for third worst in the Western Conference at 143 goals for; turning to two players from the 29th place team in the league for help, and giving up a 24 year old potential franchise player-calibre asset for three rentals and a streaky scorer in the process, is a recipe for disaster. Darryl Sutter has just gone all in; this move combined with the Olli Jokinen trade last year may well cost him his job. Heck, he might have to move out of Calgary if Phaneuf re-acquires half of the potential he showed in his first couple of years in the league.

Even more remarkably, however, Brian Burke managed to unload Vesa Toskala the Incompetent and Jason Blake – the world’s most expensive and energetic hamster – for J.S. Giguere. I am at a loss to understand how Bob Murray steels himself to approach the microphone and announce to the press gathered for Ducks news that he has traded for Vesa fucking Toskala. The only explanation that makes any sense at all is that his team plays in Anaheim and nobody – himself possibly included – really cares about hockey.

As for how these trades affect the Maple Leafs, my analysis is posted over at Maple Leafs Hot Stove.   Click on over there for the full details, but my general sense is that these moves make sense and represent positive steps towards the ultimate goal of icing a competitive team.  It isn’t going to happen this year or possibly even next, but everything that happened today is consistent with the over-riding objectives I identified in my article about the rebuild for the Maple Leafs Annual last summer.

Update: I just realized something else…Brian Burke didn’t just make a bunch of trades, IT’S FREEDOM 55 DAY!!!

Jason Blake blue no bg
This and the #35 should hang flaming from the ACC rafters.

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.

Monster’s Inked: Jonas Gustavsson is a Maple Leaf

Citizens of Monstropolis Hope Gustavsson Doesnt Wear Number 2319
Citizens of Monstropolis Hope Gustavsson Doesn't Wear Number 2319

Last night, I painted a metaphorical picture of  Maple Leafs’ defenceman Francois “Happy Trails” Beauchemin and his bulky blueline brethren as  each being rather like a rampaging Godzilla, treating the opposition like so many unfortunate stomped-upon movie extras.  Today, Brian Burke brought us a real live Monster;  the Toronto Maple Leafs have signed Swedish goaltender Jonas Gustavsson to a one year entry-level contract.   For those of you who are heavily medicated, have severe brain injuries, or are Ottawa Senators fans, I will explain slowly and carefully: the nice man who used to wear the yellow and blue hockey sweater has a funny nickname – that’s a name that isn’t his real name, but which people use to refer to him anyway – and that nickname is “Monster”.  Yes, that’s right, just like Jason Spezza is known as “Giggles” except, you know, about 100 bajillion times cooler.

No doubt Don Cherry will rant that the Leafs have blasphemed by signing a foreign Monster, when good Canadian beasts like Ogopogo or Champ can’t catch a break in the NHL.  Cryptozoological curiosities aside, however, I am very much encouraged by today’s news.  Not only the Toronto Maple Leafs, but indeed society at large will enjoy many advantages as a result of this development.  In an effort to foster reasoned, objective and complete debate about all of the many wide-ranging positive ramifications of this acquisition, Heroes in Rehab: the blog has developed the following Monster quick-reference fact sheet:

Benefits of The Monster:  a preliminary (but holistic and societal) estimate:

FACT: Unless my old Dungeons & Dragons papers have gotten mixed up with these scouting reports, the Toronto Maple Leafs are now the only NHL club whose goaltender shoots left, catches left, and has a fiery breath weapon that does 8d10 damage.  Note:  simple chronic halitosis doesn’t count as a “breath weapon”, or Henrik Lundqvist (who presumably eats rather a lot of lutefisk) might have qualified here.  Gustavsson’s fiery cone of destruction is advantageous because the repeated immolation of Ottawa Senators forwards on national television, in additon to being profoundly entertaining, will teach young children not to crash the crease irresponsibly unless they are willing to man up and make a saving throw with 2d10 or (in the alternative) are impervious to fire.   Wait; come to think of it, I might be slightly confused about this one.

FACT: Sports headline writers throughout the mainstream media learned of this signing today and instantly burst into tears of joy.  They immediately saw that (as a result of the off-the-charts pun potential of Gustavsson’s nickname) they could seriously elevate the already considerable level at which they are just fucking mailing in their work, and that this profound apathy can reliably be expected to continue until the end of Monster’s contract year or until newspapers themselves become officially extinct, whichever comes first.   In any case, the world has thus been spared the possibility of these ink-stained wretches having to actually work, becoming unhappy, and going postal on a Mickey D’s while screaming incoherently about not being able to come up with any new foliage-related bon mots.

FACT: Rodan and Mothra are now 38% less likely to attack and destroy the Air Canada Centre during a Leaf game – which is good for MLSE and its shareholders, mostly for insurance reasons.  Oh, and also, there is also some non-financial (but still desirable for MLSE anyway) benefit to the fact that 18,000 Leaf fans won’t be slaughtered in their seats by giant prehistoric monsters bent on destruction.  This is also good for beer sales.

FACT: In an unusual move, the National Hockey League will prohibit Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa from even entering the building if and when Jonas Gustavsson is present.  This ruling comes as a result of the Brian Berard incident in 2000;  apparently, the league is worried that Hossa’s casual approach to stick control might cause a similar injury to the Toronto goaltender.  The NHL is determined to avoid the significant embarrassment and notoriety resulting from the inevitable subsequent references to the “One-Eyed Monster” in net for Toronto.  The league is reported to be extremely concerned about one nightmare scenario in which a wounded and monocular Gustavsson plays poorly and is replaced during the game, in which case the wags would no doubt scandalously be talking about Ron Wilson pulling the One-Eyed Monster.¹

FACT: It’s 2009 and there’s a worldwide recession in full swing, people.  Except that now MLSE has the Monster and cross-promotional marketing and advertising opportunities abound!  New Leaf sponsors are expected to include (hey, I hear they’re so good, they even got Andrew Raycroft a new job – playing hockey!), Monster cable (I suspect somehow related to the washrooms in the ACC), Monster trucks (ACC Zambonis, suitably modified, clear the ice and crush surplus Chevy Cavaliers at centre ice during the intermissions), and the occasional monster movie (Aliens vs. Predators on the ACC Jumbotron at intermission with Gustavsson in goal for the Leafs against Nashville, naturally).  Result: Jonas Gustavsson single-handedly saves the global economy.

Some will tell you that Gustavsson’s signing is a good one because it gives Brian Burke and the Leafs some depth and flexibility at the goaltending positon with Justin Pogge still apparently developing in the AHL.  Some may say that it should have the desirable result, via the natural engine of pre-existing national rivalries and competition for employment, of spurring Finland’s Vesa Toskala to greater achievements in Toronto’s twine tent this season.  Should Gustavsson prove himself equal to the job of an NHL starter, some may even say that this signing might provide Brian Burke with the ability to trade a (hopefully) rejuvenated Toskala for some scoring depth at forward while simultaneously retaining the mobile, offensively gifted and musically beloved Tomas Kaberle.  This latter achievement, of course, would be the stick and puck managerial equivalent of the loaves and fishes miracle and would legally entitle Brian Burke to slap every other NHL GM in the face whenever he wanted, just for shits and giggles.  These are among the various benefits that some hockey analysts will identify in relation to the Jonas Gustavsson signing.

But you know better, gentle reader.  You know that the real benefit has to do with breath weapons, economic recovery and a significantly reduced risk of annihilation by rampaging mutant dinosaurs.


¹Critics will tell you this was a very long way to go for a dick joke, but I stand by my artistic decision-making process.

Happy Trails, Indeed: Francois Beauchemin is a Maple Leaf

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.

Primer for Young Leaf Fans

Chapter One

Look at the men.  They are wearing blue and white.  Why are the men wearing Blue and White?  They are Toronto Maple Leafs hockey players.   They are teammates playing a hockey game.  They wear blue and white shirts.  They wear blue and white pants.  The blue and white shirts and pants are called uniforms.  Why do the Maple Leafs hockey players wear uniforms?  If they did not wear uniforms, they could not be sure that the player they are passing the puck to is on the other team.

leaf primer
TML for Kids

Look at the men’s feet.  The men are wearing funny shoes.  The funny shoes are called skates.  Why are the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey players wearing skates?   Judging by the way the Toronto Maple Leafs are playing against the Florida Panthers, no one is really quite sure.

Look at the man at the end of the rink.  He is wearing lots of extra padding.  Who is the man wearing lots of extra padding?  His name is Vesa Toskala, and he is the Toronto Maple Leafs’ goalie.   What is a goalie?  A goalie stands in the way when men from the other team shoot the puck.   A goalie stops the puck and makes a save. Doesn’t that sound scary?  Let’s watch Vesa Toskala.  See the man with the puck?  Shoot, man, shoot!   Okay, that one went in the net.  It is not a save.  Let’s watch again.  See the man with the puck?  Shoot, man, shoot!.   Hmmm, I’m sure Vesa Toskala will stand in the way of one of these shots soon.  Maybe we should come back later.

See the man at the bench?  His name is Ron and he is a hockey coach.  He is the coach of the Toronto maple Leafs.  Coach, Ron, coach!  What does a coach do?  When the players on the team make a mistake, the hockey coach must fix it. The hockey coach must tell the players what they did wrong.  He must teach them never to do that again.  Doesn’t that sound interesting?  Would you like to talk to Coach Ron?   That would be fun,  but Coach Ron is a VERY busy man.

Look at Vesa Toskala again.  See the man with the puck?  Shoot, man, shoot!  Well, that was not a save either.   Let’s watch one more time.  See the man with the puck?  Shoot, man, shoot!  No, still not a save.  Yes, I know, I said that Vesa Toskala is a goalie.  I know I said that a goalie makes a save.   But Vesa Toskala has not made a save.  How do I know he’s a goalie?  He has a very nice mask.

See the man scowling?  His name is Brian.  Scowl, Brian, scowl.  Brian is the General Manager of  the Toronto Maple Leafs.  What is a General Manager?  The General Manager’s job is to make the team better.  The General Manager’s job is to make the team win.  Do you hear Brian talking?  Brian says bad words.  Brian says filthy words that you must never repeat.  Brian is angry.  Why is Brian angry?  Why is Brian scowling?  Why does Brian say bad words?

Wouldn’t you?

The Day I Bought the Leafs.

I bought the Toronto Maple Leafs today. No, really, and although the Maple Leafs I own will never win the Stanley Cup, I’m just as happy as can be. Just to fit in with the previous owners, The New Proud Owner of Your Toronto Maple LeafsI told the first guy I met on the street today, “you’re fired.” I also raised the price of beer – formerly free in the paradise that is Juniorvania – to $18 a pop – and you’ll be lining up to use the bathroom at my place from now on, too. Did I miss anything? Oh yeah, I promptly forgot everything I ever knew about hockey and have instead begun following the Market quotes rather obsessively.

Okay, seriously, what’s this all about?

Some of the regulars over at Pension Plan Puppets are having some good-natured fun at the expense of fans of other NHL teams. There’s a new reference site about hockey being set up called, oddly enough, That site has a page for every NHL player, team and coach. Evidently, the good people at would like to bank a little coin to pay for all the server space being devoted to such arcana instead of hosting Second Life netizens; accordingly, they have set things up to allow regular folk like you and me to sponsor the page of their choice. Sponsorship entitles the rights holder to inscribe upon the page a caption for all to behold, as well as to insert a link of the sponsor’s choice.

Interested fans of many teams are scooping up the rights to their various principal nemesises (can that word be plural?) and posting appropriately scathing tributes to their targets. Thus, Caps fans have taken care of Jaromir Jagr; choosing not to overthink the prank, the not-so-huge fans of their former captain at Japer’s Rink (a Leaf fan’s home away from home while cheering on the Caps) have selected a heckle of a traditional bent, pointing out that Jagr wears women’s clothing. They happen to have a link to certain photographic evidence proving the claim (on at least one occasion) to be indisputably true.

Leaf fans have secured the rights to the pages devoted to certain of our own historic arch-rivals, with extensively comedic results: thus Daniel Alfredsson, Wayne Gretzky, and Chris Neil have been skewered. Toronto supporters have also turned some of their anger about the team inward and have given some of the Leaf players the same treatment: see for example Vesa Toskala, Bryan McCabe and – inevitably – Jiri Tlusty.

I chipped in a few bucks on my own behalf and in honour of dear old Dad (hey, Father’s Day is coming up and a guy never knows if he’s going to remember to get a card) to ensure that the Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators franchise pages are under the control of Toronto sympathizers. As I understand it, a suitably stinging caption is still being crafted at this time. I will update with linkies when the deed is done and the prank is posted.

I was of course personally interested in the Wendel Clark page, but it had been snapped up by Sean at Down Goes Brown. I know Sean will take good care of the page; anybody who names their blog in honour of a hockey fight featuring Sylvain Lefebvre is okay by me. (I believe “Down Goes Brown” is a reference to an incident in a game that I actually attended, a December 1992 dust-up between Sylvain Lefebvre and Rob Brown of the Chicago Blackhawks. An overhand right from the usually mild-mannered Lefebvre clobbered Brown and sent him crumpling to the ice, causing Joe Bowen to exclaim – repeatedly – the title phrase.) Since I couldn’t get Wendel, I decided that I would buy the whole damn 1992-1993 team; as I’ve written before, that team gave me so much joy watching their run to the Conference Finals against the Kings.