Thursday, November 27, 2008

View From Above the Tunnel: At least we're better than Charlotte

I was at the Charlotte game last night, and that team is HORRIBLE (sadly, Toronto didn't dominate them as much as I thought they could, which probably means that the Raps aren't that good either). The difference between Emeka Okafor and Jared Dudley on the court, is pretty marginal. I guess Okafor is a little be better offensively close to teh basket, but he's really no that much better. Why Charlotte gave him $70 million is beyond me. I actually like Augustine's game, I thought I would hate him cause he is a midget, but I think he actually does have some real promise. Sean May made an appearence last night. I thought he was dead. Based on his play, he might as well be. The Bobcats have to have the most invisible frontcourt in the NBA. Oh, and Gerald Wallace? He is totally overrated. If you can't dominate Joey Graham, you just aren't a top line NBA player. $9 million per? Yet another HUGE mistake.

I loved the way Joey played last night, and I have come to 1 conclusion. All these articles about Joey "not getting it" are total bullshit and totally accurate at the same time! When Joey is asked to do only a single thing on defense (in the case of last night, it was follow Gerald Wallace around under any circumstance), he is actually a pretty good defender. I think its when Smitch asks him to help others that it all starts to fall apart for him (ie he gets lost, rotates poorly, etc). So if the Raps adjusted their defense so that Joey never switches, I think he can be a very useful player for them. Offensively, Joey threw up to SPECTACULAR airballs to go along with the thunderous dunks last night. It was pretty funny. Seriously though, Joey looked pretty good offensive when the Raps got a board, and Jose got a chance to push the ball up. Graham seemed to find the seams, and did a great job of taking Jose's pass, and just continuing onto the rim. Anyway, after all of this, I think Graham should get more burn, but to make him effective, Smitch has to simplify Joey's role. On defense, just point him at the guy you want him to guard, and tell him to never leave him under any circumstance. On offense, just tell him to cut the seams, and hope that Jose finds him. If he somehow ends up with the ball in his hands, just hope that he doesn't throw up too many airballs in between his forays to the basket.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tuesday Morning Quickie

1. I don't usually do Leafs links, mainly because I have no real hockey knowledge, but I found this Cox article to be quite disturbing. Seems like Burke isn't the slam dunk we all thought he was going to be. Oh, Richard Peddie, maynbe you and your lap dog Cliff Fletcher can stall long enough for Burke to tell MLSE to go fuck themselves. Let's hope not though........

2. Great post by Richie below about the current mob mentality of Raptors fans (I have to admit, I am one of the foremost "pitchfork and torch" guys out there). In fact, as a ringleader on the Fire Mitchell bandwagon, I couldn't keep my thoughts to the comments section, as this is just too meaty of a topic.

Here's a couple of rebuttal points:

1) Its clear that Mitchell isn't working with a full deck, and I think we can all agree that the Raptors probably do have the WORST 2/3 situation in the NBA. In fact, as you can see from my Desmond Mason post, I think the solution to the problems that the Raptors face must be solved with a 2 pronged attack. First, upgrade the roster, then upgrade the coach. However, why are we so willing to accept the excuse that Mitchell shouldn't be fired because his players aren't that great? I know at my job, I'd get canned if my excuse to underperforming was to just blame externalities. BC isn't an idiot, I think he realizes that there are holes in the roster, but Mitchell can't just throw his hands up in the air, and offer no solutions.

2. I know we all like to slam Joey and Moon for being retards on defense (and offense too, sad). But is it totally their fault? At some point, shouldn't we expect coaching to elevate a player's game? Look I do not expect coaching to make Moon an equal to LeBron, but I find it unacceptable for us to just accept the fact that there is nothing we can do about it. I mean, if coaching is really that meaningless in player development, why even bother to hire a coach?

3. My last point has to do with Mitchell's inability to adjust his in game strategy. During the NJ game, Devin Harris attacked Jose relentlessly, and Mitchell had no answer for it. Against Boston, Rondo did the exactly same thing, and Smitch's response was to have AP help, leaving Ray Allen wide open. After 2 days of watching video, knowing who the next opponent would be, Smitch's best strategic response was to help off Ray Allen? I know the JO injury is a big factor in the defense, but it can't be the sole reason for systemic failure. NBA coaching is about making adjustments, and with Smitch, he just isn't able to do that. The Raptors have their basic strategies that they don't veer from, but when a better coach takes those options away, the Raps end up looking like a D-League team. That just isn't right.

As an aside, as a Raptors fan, I never ever compare the Raps to the Leafs. Just beacuse the Leaves are making moves, in no way do I view what they do as progress. All of us should hope the Colangelo is smart enough to KNOW that being SEEN as progressive, isn't the same as actually making progress. That's the kind of cancerous thinking that holds the Leafs back.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Lord of the Flies anyone?

"Kill the pig! Cut his throat! Kill the pig! Bash him in!"

Is it just me or have the Raptors "faithful" quickly become an angry mob thirsting for the blood of Sam Mitchell? It risks escalating to the level of frenzy if they rack up a loss tomorrow against the mighty Bobcats.

The team has gotten off to a disapointing 6-7 start to the year and have a west coast road trip looming later this week. In other words, the possibility to sink further below .500 is not only a possibility - it's likely.

The question is....should we blame Sam Mitchell?

I believe the answer (after much hesitation) is "not really."

Looking at the facts, the Raps have lost a game due to a Calderon injury and the last couple meltdowns have been directly related to Jermaine O'Neal's knee issues.

With two of the big three injured the Raps have struggled to find consistency on offense without their point guard and the defense has completely fallen apart without O'Neal patrolling the paint. What you are left with is an inconsistent Bargs and Bosh trying to play Superman. Are these the ingredients of a winning team? Not bloody likely.

So lets say hypothetically that Colangelo fires Smitch and brings in Van Gundy or Flip Saunders, the question then becomes, can they win? With a debilitated O'Neal, Calderon unable to contain dribble penetration and a shooting guard/small forward rotation that is clearly the worst in the NBA, my hypothesis would be a resounding "hell no!"

I'm not saying he won't lose his job, because there is a good chance he will be slaughtered. The Raps fans smell blood and with the Leafs making trades and likely hiring Burke there is undeniable pressure on Raptorland to look progressive. Colangelo may need a sacrificial lamb to persuade them he is trying to improve things. But lets get one thing straight, in spite of all of Smitch's faults as a strategist, I highly doubt even the Zenmaster Phil Jackson could make lemonade out of this current roster of chihuahua piss.

Kill the pig if you wish - but realize that the logic of the mob could lead things to continue to go south in spite of the change. Will Colangelo risk to change the coach and potentially expose his naked roster for what it really is? It shall be interesting to see...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

View from Above the Tunnel: It hurts so bad

So there will be no game review for either the Nets game (Friday) or the Celtics game (Sunday). Both were extremely painful, and should not be reviewed. Only bad things happened. After bad Raptors losses I tended to wander the internet looking for Raptors trade rumors, I consider it therapy, but its more like insanity, whatever. I keep surfing for some info about what Colangelo is doing to address the wing, or maybe the rumblings that Jeff Van Gundy or the Hobbit (Avery Johnson, who I hate though, and hope the Raps don't hire) might have been contacted by BC. But there is nothing, so I decided to look at the Raptor situation myself.

BC needs to convince the Thunder/Sonics to trade the Raps Desmond Mason and Earl Watson for anyone out of Kapono, Moon, Joey, Hump, 2nd round picks.

Best deal for the Raps would have to be Joey, Hump, Garbo's deal (or substitute Kapono, if OKC wants him), and a 2nd rounder.

That gives the Raps the projected lineup:

C - JO
PF - CB4
SF - Desmond Mason
PG - Jose
6th man - Andrea
PG2 - Watson
SG/SF2 - Moon

Conclusion: Very Sexy, and a Eastern Contender

Rationale for Okie: They are clearly already entering the Deron Deozen sweepstakes. Why not shed Earl Watson's $6.2 million and $8.6 million (expires 2010)? If Russell Westbrook is the future, he might as well play. Plus, having Joey Graham on the team, makes the locals like them, since they got booed the other night. Jeff Green is solid as well, so they can get rid of Mason and his $5.4 mil for a useable big like Hump. The 2nd rounder has decent upside, and you need as many warm bodies as possibles. Kapono gives them a shooter that they desperately need to open up the floor for Durant. And most importantly you send cash to OKC. You know that one of their owners lost a billion dollars (karma is a bitch), so they are probably looking to just sell everything off.

Rationale for the Raps: Mason solves 2 immediate needs: 1) Athletic perimeter defender and 2) Slasher. Desmond is a perfect fit. Plus defender, and he always takes it to the hoop, mainly because he has no jumper. Watson is a good back up for Jose, and makes that 2nd unit faster. You could even play Roko or Soloman or Moon at the back up 2, to give AP rest.

Financially, the Raps would have to trade the rights to Garbo (4.25 million, expire 2009), Joey ($2.45 million, expire 2010), and Hump ($3.2 million, expire 2011). Mason and Watson's total salary is $11.6 million for this season. The ESPN Trade Machine loves this trade ( ).

Potential Strategy or Pie in the Sky Fantasy?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Why I Loathe JP

This is why JP needs to be pulled into the street and beaten.

From ESPN - The Blue Jays are constantly being fingered as a possible suitor for Manny Ramirez. But GM J.P. Ricciardi told Rumblings, unequivocally: "We won't be involved with Manny. That keeps coming up, but it's not true. I think one reason is that Manny has always liked it in Toronto. He's hit more home runs here than anybody. And he likes the city, because he can fly under the radar here. So he may be asking his agent to try to find a way to put him here. He's a great hitter, so it's tempting. But being tempted and being realistic are two separate things."

Yeah, JP, who needs Manny, he's a totally unrealistic get, even though he wants to play here, has had an enormous amount of success hitting in the Dome, and the laid back baseball culture is EXACTLY what he is looking for. Right, who needs a Hall of Fame slugger that would stablize this lineup, put everyone else in their natural spots in the order, and probably make the Jays one of the more potent offenses in the AL, for at least the next 2 years. Speaking of unrealistic, you are trying to sign AJ, when the Yankees have made it clear that they want him and CC this winter. What's more unrealistic? Signing Manny when he wants to be in TO, or signing AJ who the YANKEES have a huge boner for.

Here's some more food for thought:
AJ's (Jays offer) - 4 years, $54 million
Manny (Based LA's offer, and most rumours about what he is looking for) - 3 years, $60 million.

On top of that Buster Olney reports that it is going to take a 5 year deal to lock up AJ, and the Yankees already have more than $54 million on the table for him. The only catch is that the NY offer is for 4 years.

So let's reiterate, its unrealistic for the Jays to expect to sign Manny for $6 million more than what they have currently offered Burnett. However, everyone knows that to get the AJ deal done, the final deal will have to be around 5 years for $67.5 million. $6 million more for a pitcher who is 32, and will be 37 at the end of the deal, and who has over the last 3 years in TO proven that he can't be counted on unless he is pitching for a new contract. Rather than saving that $6 million and signing a hitter that makes the TO lineup one of the more dangerous ones in the AL.

Yeah JP, way to allocate our limited resources efficiently. I fucking hate you.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Funny Quotes From the Knicks

I know this has nothing to do with the Raptors. but I hate the Celtics, and after yesterday's Knick's game, Z-BO (Zach Randolph) and Q (Queintin Richardson) had some pretty funny quotes. I also agree with them 100%, and I am glad that someone is finally calling out the Celtics:

"They do a lot of talking," Zach Randolph said after the Knicks lost their second straight and fell to 6-5. "They know they are protected on (the) court. That's why I don't pay that no mind. Because a lot of guys get off the court and they tuck their tails (between their legs)."

"I'd be just real curious to see what a lot of those guys would say if we weren't in a basketball arena, where there are no referees and NBA officials to stop certain things," Richardson said. "I mean it wouldn't be the same story. They are the world champions and rah-rah-rah, the tough talk I don't buy. I come from a neighborhood where you can say what you want to say and until you do something with it it don't mean nothing.

"Some of those guys woofing about 'Get a ring' and blah, you ain't been in the league long enough to talk like that to some people who's got as many years as we got over here. I don't got a lot of respect for that."

It all sounds kind of foolish, but we all know the Celtics are just frontin' anyway. Down with Boston!

View From Above the Tunnel: Distruaght

Well, well, well....The Raptors went into the Magic Kingdom last night, and got their asses handed to them. However, this loss was worse than the playoff losses because it does look like the Raptors have addressed one glaring deficiency (getting owned by Dwight Howard in a prison bitch sort of way), only to discover a whole new and imporved way of getting crushed (not hitting any 3's, turning the ball over 20+ times). Let's break this game down because in the smoking ruins there were actually some good news, but its mostly bad.

1. Bosh's line: 40 pts-18 rbs, well it looks like Bosh still owns the Magic. CB4 was cooking last night in the face of Howard's strangely girlish/affectionate teasing?!? Anyway, Bosh is awesome, and its pretty clear that he has taken his game to the next level. Has the team followed his example? More on this later.

2. JO's line: 16 pts-10 rbs-5 PF/(Howard's line: 18pts-9 rbs), why did I include Howard's line as a part of JO's stats. Considering that Howard averaged 30-20 against the Raps last season, its pretty clear to anyone watching the game last night that JO was able to hold Howard in check whenever he was on the court. Yes, JO ended up in foul trouble, but the fact that he was able to guard D-12 one on one, and was able to mute the Superman's impact was, in my opinion, the most important development for this team. Of course, the team decided to waste this stellar defensive effort.

Well that was the good news. Are you ready for the bad news? Cause there's a lot of it.

1. Andrea Bragnani starting at SF: Why was Andrea out there trying to guard Hedu? Is Sam Mitchell actively trying to give the Magic a super obvious mismatch to exploit? Did Andrea morph into a 6-8 small forward over the summer? I have so many questions because this EXACT plan didn't work in the playoffs last year either. Are we really at the point where we are recycling strategies that have clearly FAILED? Because if we are, well I think we all know what road we are travelling down. Not only did Andrea get exposed defenisvely by Hedu, but his offense suffered as well since he wasn't able to play the mid range-semi post game is he trying to develop this season. Why is Mitchell messing with Andrea? The bigs had clearly defined roles that seemed to be working. Andrea at the small forward is a disaster, and has to stop.

2. 14 for 45, 15 turnovers. What an impressive measure of offensive shittiness. That was the shooting line for Raptors not named Bosh and O'Neal. Want to know why this lost by 13 even though 2 of their best players seemed have great and good games? Because when the rest of the team plays like it belongs in the D-League, guys like Jameer Nelson and JJ Reddick drop 32 on us, why do the Raptors even bother showing up. Pathetic.

Final thought. A lot of people are going to say, that the Raptors were undermanned because they were missing Jose. Fine, I accept that, with Jose, its possible that the Raptors cut down their turnovers dramatically, and this game is a lot closer. In fact, with the games that Bosh and O'Neal had, Jose might have been able to bring it home. However, that doesn't mask the fact that the Raptors collectively allowed Hedu and Rashard Lewis to light them up like Christmas trees. JO was brought in to stop Howard posting NBA Jam like numbers, which he did, but where is the sense of urgency from the rest of the team? Where is the improved perimeter defensive schemes from the coaching staff since they don't need to help on Howard on every possession.

Here's the truly scary thing. Bosh scored 40 pts, and missed like 2 shots in the 2nd half. Meanwhile, JO provided the interior defense that the Raptors desperately needed against Howard. So if I had said that those 2 things were locks to happen, most of us would say that Raptors would definitely have a fighting chance. Except they lost by 13! 13! This Raps squad is in trouble. 5-5 might look okay to some, but if you have watched every single minute of Raptors action this season (which I have), you know this team is desperately needs the dynamic to change.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Dispatches From the Wing

Quite excited about tonight's matchup against the Orlando Magic. Its definitely going to be one of those games where the Raptors will get a good sense of where they stand in the pecking order.

Just a few quick thoughts about the Raptors SF position after Richie's thoughtful post yesterday. I have to say that I whole heartedly agree with statement that Andrea is NOT the long term answer at the 3. With the way his post game is starting to show some signs of life, coupled with his newly discovered activity on the glass, its important the Smitch doesn't fuck him up by playing him out of position (ie, he is a 4/5, NOT a 3).

Going forward, I am pretty worried about our beloved Raptors. However, there are a ton of rumours out there about swingmen that would be great "fits" (as in cheap enough to prevent the Raps from paying the tax) for our intrepid Dinos:

1. Marco Bellini and Al Harrington: Apparently New Jersey was willing to trade both of these guys for Josh Boone (who is an orphan according to Smokey, not that it matters). Anyway, looks like G-State's gonna want Bragnani to get this deal, I say hell no, but its Chris Mullen, so maybe BC convinces him that Hump and Joey are good enough.

2. Jerry Stackhouse: A veteran presence that seems to want some serious minutes on a playoff team. Check out this rant from Stack. Seeing as how Dallas is a total crapfest at this point. Are any of us willing to bet against a trade of Stack for Joey and Hump, so Dallas can get out of Stack's deal?

Those are the freshest rumours right now, but there are plenty of bad teams (T-Wolves, Griz, Kings, Thunder) where a fire sale has to be pending.

A tangent:

T-Mac is hurt again! Yeah, karma's a bitch (not as much of a bitch as playing 42 mins a night for a shitty Orlando team, but still). Oh T-Mac, you're decline doesn't even give me any pleasure anymore. You and VC could've been champs, but now you'll never even know what the 2nd round feels like. I hoped you enjoyed your run as being "The Man" for your teams, and I hope it was worth sabatoging that once great future in Toronto for it. Looking back, it still hurts me to imagine what could have been. But with VC and TMac's bodies betraying them, it looks like the universe did punish them for their short sighted and selfish decisions.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Bargs back at SF?

The Raps grinded out a victory yesterday without the help of Jose Calderon on Sunday afternoon. In his place Will Soloman chipped in a respectable 15 points and 11 dimes.

Most notably in this game was the insertion of Andrea Bargnani into the starting lineup in place of Jamario Moon. This is not the first time we have seen Bargs play the three spot over the years. Who could forget the disasterous results it had last year against the Magic in game one of the playoffs?

However, it somehow seemed to work yesterday vs the Heat. The Raps frontline absolutely dominated the Heat and with the increased roles of Bargnani and Humphries ended up outrebounding them by a final of 52-35.

Can we conclude this experiment a success? Should Moon be perma-benched?

Positives include:
a) The aforementioned rebounding advantage
b) A competent offensive player like Bargnani on the court masks a number of Moon's deficiencies in terms of shooting/driving/decisionmaking
c) Without Calderon to create opportunities for teammates, the Raps offense clicked anyhow - I'm hesitant to give too much of that praise to Soloman in spite of his 11 assists

Negatives include:
a) The perimeter defence was horrific - giving up 8 triples (but isn't it always?)
b) The defense seemed incredibly porous at times and the Heat had little difficulty getting high quality shots at will
c) Bargs will never be able to cover small forwards - ever


I am still a huge skeptic. Bargnani may only appear to be the solution due to the generally horrific play of other Raps like Moon, Kapono, Graham, Adams, etc. In principle, he is simply not suited to play the 3. While it worked yesterday I do not foresee a lineup of O'Neal, Bosh and Bargs being effective over the long haul.

That being said, the improvement of Bargnani is very encouraging. His trade value has gone from nonexistant at the end of last season to incredibly valuable over the span of a few months. While I do not think Colangelo will trade him, it is nice to contemplate the type of players he could potentially bring back in a swap.

While he may never be Brandon Roy, things are definitely looking up.

Friday, November 14, 2008

From the "It Could Be Worse" Department

Admit it, as Toronto sports fans (as sports fans in general?) we like to bitch about our teams. From losing streaks and personnel moves to corporate profits and suits taking up the good seats, there's always something to complain about (that's what makes blogging fun!) But once in a while its nice to sit back and take stock because, let's be honest, It Could Be Worse...

1) Today the Tampa Bay Lightening fired Barry Melrose, a mere 16 games into this season/his comeback tour, and replaced him behind the bench with Rick Tocchet, a guy with a sterling reputation right now due to his links to a shady gambling operation. Check out my NHL season preview from a few months ago. After watching him on ESPN the past few years, I firmly believe that Melrose is a joke. I said the Lightening would be terrible, but that The Mullet wouldn't be fired. 50% ain't bad. Frankly, I'm impressed those new owners had the guts to pull the trigger on him.

2) Meanwhile, despite some hue and cry over the rumors of Burke's impending arrival as GM of our fair Leafs, at least we're not Bengals fans. The fans of that truly tortured club are currently spending their own hard earned cash paying for billboards to be posted around that city, begging the cheap ass owner of that pathetic organization to hire a GM.

Yikes, it could be worse...

Time to Plan the Parade!

Ok, ok, ok, I know there are few "jokes" that bother us in the Barilkosphere more than those stupid "plan the parade" ones, but I had to get you to click on the link to this article somehow.

The truth is, today actually does mark an important date. If the NHL season ended today (only 17 games in!) your Toronto Maple Leafs would make the playoffs with the #8 seed, which is a testament to how Ron Wilson has this young club playing - and which is far more than we can say about the Leafs teams of the past few years.

A lot has already been written about last night's win against the Oilers, and I don't want to be overly repetitive except to say that it was a big win - on the road, in the Oilers' barn, and coming after a loss in Calgary. This team is making some very impressive strides. Stajan continues to improve and impress (Archimedes points out that he's actually 25th in the league in scoring), Ian White is rocking Wendel Clarke's old 'stache and even Jason Blake showed up last night looking like he might actually still want to play hockey at the NHL level.

Of course, the Burke speculation is going to continue until he signs on the dotted line in TO and holds his first press conference... at which point the speculation will switch to "what's he going to do now?" It is an important question though because despite the graphic above, I continue to believe that this team needs to stay focused on the long haul and not be swayed by the lure of making a late season acquisition for the sole purpose of making a run this year. If you can get a guy who fits into the long term building plan - obviously do it. But no more abusing cap space and trading picks for short term rentals. I hope you're reading this, Mr. Burke.

As noted, I am impressed with this team, but I also think we're still a long way away from going into a seven game series as the 8 seed vs. PIT or MTL and being able to win it. Even still, its increasingly looking like Burke is walking into a pretty good situation. Fletecher has done most of the grocery shopping and Ron is helping to set the table. Its time for Burke to come home with the final ingredients and put this baby together over the next few years.


UPDATE: Let's all wish Smokey a very Happy Birthday!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

MLB Free Agency Looming

Free agency is nearly upon us. What should we expect from the Blue Jays? A variety of scenarios abound...

1. Uncle Roger will blame a weak Canadian Dollar on the fact that he cannot spend money.

2. AJ Burnett will stay in Toronto. (fingers crossed he doesn't!!!!!!!)

3. JP Ricciardi will continue to diss Johnny Mac and sign another crapola shortstop of the Eckstein ilk.

4. Lyle Overbay seems on the wayout, leaving the obvious money going to a new first baseman with some pop.

5. At least one starting pitcher will need to be signed. ESPN seems to think it will be Brad Penny due to his ties with pitching coach Brad Arnsberg.

6. Designated Hitter rumours of the Giambi variety are floating.

7. Trade BJ Ryan to clear salary for a bigger move. (Please, please, please, please..)

8. But let me state the thing that the vast majority of Jays fans are thinking. I apologize if this is completely and utterly obvious.... but we want the wow factor. Remember the year the Jays signed Roger Clemons and you were like "fuckin A right!"

Well this time instead of picking up a guy who shoots roids in the butt, lets offer Manny Ramirez a guaranteed 4 year contract. Not only is he awesome on the field, I defy you to read this article and tell me he is not also the balls off it.

Without a truly outstanding offseason the Jays could sink to fifth in the division. I don't want to have to curl up in the fetal position and weep.

Our lives are in your hands Mr Rogers, Beeston, Ricciardi dudes. Give Cito something to work with. Sing it with me now - "Ok, Ok, Blue Jays, Blue Jays, let's, let's, play, play, ball."

Food for Thought: Owning Your Own Defense

An interesting statement by Jermaine last night got me thinking.......

Jermaaine O'Neal stated a very important point that the Raptors guards/small forwards should take to heart. He mentioned that the Raptors lost last night's game in large part because they just could not get a stop in the 4th quarter when they really needed one. He pointed out that the team was able to close it to 1 or 2 points several times, but just couldn't get over the hump by getting a stop. Importantly, he also mentioned that while on the road these kinds of games happen, it shouldn't be the case in your own gym, when the crowd is getting into it (since I was there, I can vouch for the crowd. It was sitting on its hands in the first half, but we were loud and into when the Raps made their runs).

Interestingly, he was fairly direct with his critque. He stated that at some point, every man on the Raptors needs to feel accountable for their defensive assignment. For the Raptors to become an excellent defensive team, he believes that the perimeter defenders have to defend like they are not going to get any help. I thought this was a pretty clear point that strikes right to the heart of the Raptors' defensive problems.

Since the Golden State game, the Raptors perimeter defense has sagged dramatically. Is this because they have gotten lazy and dependant on Bosh and JO to clean up their messes and missed assignments? Is this just their lack of athleticism showing? Is this because the coaching staff has put in a defensive scheme that doesn't put their players in a position to succeed? Is it a failure of the coach to get through to his players about playing defense with accountability?

Whatever the answer is, I go back to my point last night (with perspective from JO), if the Raptors don't commit totally to defense, and play with the reckless abandon shown by teams like Boston and Atlanta, then the Raptors are just running in place, and the future is indeed glum.

Comments are open, and I look forward to hear everyone's thoughts on this.......

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

View from Above the Tunnel: Embrace the Blow By

So I just got back from the game, and well, let's just say I am totally confused and frustrated. It was a poor effort from the start, and the Raps never got closer than 1 point at home, and they were down by as much as 16 pts.

I am not going to be doing 3 things because well, frankly, there was only 1 good thing. Once again the Raptors bigs came through with some great play. Double Doubles for both Bosh and JO again, Andrea had a very nice game off the bench.

Sadly, the motley crew of Raptors guards completely fell apart. Kapono, AP, Moon, Graham, all of them were terrible on offense (an astounding 6/28), and they looked completely lost on defense. Jose got hurt at the end of the 1st quarter, and watching Soloman/Roko "run" the offense was horrific (not as horrific as watching Philly's guards blow by them, but it was close).

Of course, Smitch looked like he was at a total loss at how to coach his team. Obviously, its not completely his fault, since he isn't the one playing some solid "torro" defense. At the same time, he had no answer to try and disrupt the Philly offense.

Bosh has taken it to the next level, and JO has proved to be a decent #2/3 option. Jose isn't as efficient as he was last year, but I think its because Raptor opponents are selling out to stop him from turning the corner, and keeping him from dumping it back to Bosh on the roll. Andrea seems to have taken to his role coming off the bench, and he is finally showing some consistency. For all of that, the Raptors still look like they are lacking something.

Honestly, I think this team is as good as its gonna get with the current personnel and the current schemes. Now that Jose is hurt, I fear that it will get significantly worse. I don't know what else there is to discuss. After tonight, I think BC has to pull the trigger on something. Is that a shake up going to be a big trade or a coaching change? Only time will tell, but something must be done.

Crank up the Rumor Mill...

and let the frantic speculation begin!

Brian Burke is out as GM of the Anaheim Ducks and Bob Murray, who has been with the Ducks in an executive capacity since '99, will replace him.

Does this mean he's headed to the Leafs? No, not necessarily. In fact some have even linked him to the Bruins. However, despite everyone's constant denials that a deal was on the table for Burke in TO, the fact is that this whole thing is all playing out according to the script many predicted a long time ago. And I, for one, would welcome Burke as my new hockey overlord.

Rage can be Blinding

During the last couple of days, it has come to my attention that I have used some rather derogatory language in my posts. I would like to apologize to my fellow posters, and any of our readers who may have been offended by some of the phrases that I used. My posts were not written to offend anyone except the Boston Celtics and their fans. However, I should have picked more tasteful language to use, and I offer my sincerist apologies to anyone who may been offended. Blind rage is not an excuse not to write some of the things that I have, but please take it easy on me, cause I actually do hate the Celtics to the very core of my being.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Quick Musing on Sam Mitchell

So after yesterday's fiasco in Boston where Bosh didn't get one shot in the 4th quarter, I have been quite interested in some of the rumblings coming out of Camp Dino. According to Feschuk , it sounds like CB4 is definitely voicing his displeasure at Sam Mitchell for not letting him attack the juvenile and childish KG. Of course, Grange does an important point that Mitchell isn't the one on the court . I used to be a pretty big supporter of continuity, and I thought Sam was coming around as a coach. Well you know what? He isn't. How do you keep Jason Kapono in the game to cover Paul Pierce, and do NOTHING, while Pierce torches Kapono for 22 in the 4th, and something like 10 in a row to close it out. I say get rid of Sam Mitchell now, and bring in Jeff Van Gundy. JVG always seems to have a boner for the Raps on the ESPN telecasts, so I say to Colangelo, grant his wish, bring him in for the next couple of seasons (while hiring a potential Euro replacement to be his assistant next season).

Also, EVERYONE in the Boston is a douchebag (yeah, that's "FAWK YOU" BOSTON)

Rant over, the Raps better beat Philly at home tomorrow.

TFC DP?!?!

In a meeting yesterday of the MLSE board of directors, Toronto FC got approval to pursue a DP (which unfortunately in this instance stands for Designated Player). Essentially, this is the “Beckham Rule” whereby teams can sign a superstar for whatever money they want, and only about $400k of which counts against the cap. The roster rules in Major League Soccer are complex to say the least (a beginner’s guide) and have been developed to gradually increase the quality of the league while improving and expanding a large base of players for the US National Team. The consistent, decent showing of the US Men’s team at World Cups and Gold Cups, added to the estimated $40 million bids needed for the next batch of MLS expansion contenders show that the League’s policies have been successful in achieving the aforementioned goals. The system is by no means perfect as Toronto FC supporters can attest to, having had to endure important fixtures with the majority of the squad away on international duty, for instance, based on the league roster requirements.
As for the designated player specifically, three of the four semi-finalists in this year’s playoffs have a DP – Schelotto at Columbus, Blanco at Chicago and Angel at New York (but I’m not a big fan of any of that lot, so it’s “Come On Salt Lake City” for me!). It seems that the right player in the right environment can be a big time help for a “nearly there” team. Toronto is that team. If TFC had a solid finisher, a 15-20 goals a season man, some of those losses last year would be draws, and those infuriating draws would have been turned into triple the points. At this point I’m saying, “Aim high”. Set our sights on a world class striker – MLSE has the cash – and see what we can get. Admittedly, the plastic pitch and Canada’s lack of international cachet probably make it difficult. There has already been a long and distinguished (ed- “so’s my Johnson”) list of players linked with TFC and plenty of ‘my friend has a friend’ style rumors. With yesterday’s news this is sure to continue and I for one am glad of it.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Leafs win, Raps need a 3, and I Hate Chuck Swirsky.

It was another nice win for the Buds last night as they took down the Habs 6-3. Van Ryn was the recipient of a cheap shot that resulted in a 5 minute boarding call and ejection, and the NHL will be taking a closer look at the hit. There was a positive that came from this hit; the team had Van Ryn's back. Carlo went after Kostopoulos right away, and the rest of the team ran Carey Price for the rest of the night (which worked very well, better get used to Carey). This group of guys is really starting to look like a team. Every step in the right direction is a good thing.

I want to echo Billy Bee's comments on the Raptors need for a wing player. It is such a glaring hole in a team with so much potential that BC has to make a change. Jamario Moon has the potential to be a great bench player, but he is not an NBA starter. Joey Graham doesn't appear that he will make the leap either. Giving Darius Miles a 10 day contract (after he serves his suspension) isn't a bad idea. Something needs to change.

I decided that I should help the GM out and do a little homework with the ESPN Trade Machine. Every trade listed here works in terms of dollars. This is a birthday wish list of deals I'd like to see the Raps make to fill the hole at the 3.

4) Anthony Parker and Joey Graham for Hedo Turkoglu.
Hedo has lost a few steps on the D side of the ball in recent years, but he would give the Raps a veteran who can be another scoring option. Toronto is "international player friendly", but Turkoglu is a little older than I'd like.

3) Andrea Bargnani and Anthony Parker for Caron Butler.

The Wizards are going no where and the sooner they start to rebuild the better they will be in the long run. This is the kind of deal that could burn the Raps for years if Andrea develops any level of consistency.

2) Anthony Parker, Joey Graham and cash for Stephen Jackson.
Monta Ellis put the first nail in this teams coffin when he crashed his Vespa. Corey Maggette is the future in Golden State, and it's time for Jackson to move on. Stephen Jackson and Jermaine O'Neil being reunited in Toronto would make this the best season ever. If this trade happens I will officially buy a jersey before the first game. (I couldn't choose between these two pics; both rule).
1) Josh Howard for Andrea Bargnani, Jamario Moon, and Kris Humphries. Josh Howard would be a great option, but this trade is a long shot until he does something brutal. Gerald Green has been brought in as a security measure in case Howard does something dumb, which I am hoping happens in the worst way. Mark Cuban has always had a chubby for tall white guys (Raef, Dirk, Bradley), and although he loves controversy he wants to win a title even more. Dallas isn't going to win a title with the roster they have now.

On another note, I am so happy that I can finally watch Raptors games in peace. The salami and cheese is no more. Although Chuck Swirsky can be credited with helping to develop the Raptors thriving fan base, it was mostly new basketball fans who enjoyed his schtick. For fans who just wanted to watch basketball and not be "entertained" during EVERY SECOND, he was the most annoying person who every existed. Even this video click couldn't make it better.

I'm not 100% sold on Devlin yet, but ANYONE is better than Swirsky.

TFC Season Review - Part 2

A couple years ago, while watching Laurent Robert score a cracking goal for Newcastle, I declared him as having “The Most Electrifying Left Foot in the Premiership tm” - a purely subjective award that has since been bestowed upon such gifted southpaws (hoofs?) as Arjen Robben and Jon Arne Riise – all recipients have subsequently left the Premier League. You can imagine my delight when I found out that the temperamental Frenchman had signed for Toronto FC. Larry was to join former League MVP Amado Guevara, Welsh International “Crazy Carl” Robinson, 2007 Rookie of the Year and FIFA 09 coverboy Maurice Edu and team gadabout Rohan Ricketts in a midfield that could roll with any in the MLS. How then did this cosmopolitan and undoubtedly talented midfield fare in 2008? Well, in a word (and one that’s all too well known to Toronto sports fans), inconsistently.

Robert typified this inconsistency by performing well in his first few games before he started putting in as much effort in his game as Dylan McKay does in being cool (i.e. none). This was rewarded with a mutual au revoir and a late August contract termination.

On the other wing, TFC scored a major pick-up in Rohan Ricketts. Having played with both Arsenal and Tottenham, Ricketts’ career seemed to be declining into first division obscurity before he was handed a fresh start in Toronto. Flashes of quality were overshadowed by a string of pretty ordinary displays that neither the fans nor Ricketts himself can be content with from a player of his caliber. His form did improve toward the end of the season, so hopefully his “poppin” off field persona can be matched with a greater presence on it in year three.

Going the other way across the Atlantic mid way through the season was Maurice Edu. At around $5 million, I think perhaps Rangers overpaid for an unproven centre mid who was having a bit of a sophomore slump at the time of the sale. He’s certainly got the quality to play in Europe in some capacity, but I don’t think the big leagues of Spain or England will be calling him for a few years. I met him briefly in the BMO Field beer garden just before he left for Scotland and wished him all the best. His response? “Thanks, man.” Pure class.

Amado Guevara was considered by some in MLS circles to be a moody, dramatic locker room cancer and therefore a risky acquisition for TFC. He’s proven to be the opposite, seeming to genuinely enjoy being in Toronto. The most frustrating thing about Guevara (when he’s playing for TFC, and not shredding Canada with the Honduran national team) is that, even though he’s always one of the better players on the field, he’ll occasionally pull some shit that leaves you scratching your head and wondering how this guy isn’t a perennial MVP candidate. The more Guevara plays with this team, the more those around him will be able to benefit from his skill.

I am firmly in the belief that Carl Robinson is a key to the squad. His occasional perfect passes to no one in particular notwithstanding, his role as the core of the team, tucked in between the more attacking Guevara and the back four was recognized recently with him being awarded team MVP ( ). As of now, and despite assurances from the team management, it’s not certain whether or not Robinson will be in TFC red come pre-season. His would be a big pair of shoes to fill and for a team that hopes to build upon the improvements of this past season and qualify for the playoffs next year, Carl Robinson provides the all important steadying influence in the middle of the park.

Tyler Rosenlund and Gabe Gala provide the depth in midfield and are both promising in their own way - if not quite ready for regular MLS appearances. The most often used sub was Johann Smith, a genuine contender to Marvell Wynne’s “Fastest Guy in the League” title; his second half introductions throughout the latter part of the season had a twofold purpose in my opinion: motivate Ricketts, as he was more often than not subbed off to accommodate Smith, and to see if Smith was in fact the real deal as a player who could come on late in the match and influence the result. His performance at New York suggests he is. That being said, TFC is all bout influencing New York:

Overall 2008 Grade - Midfield: C
Top Off-season Priority: Keep Crazy Carl and acquire a solid left winger.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Declaration to Bryan

After watching the Raptors get destroyed by Joe Johnson tonight, BC needs to do something on the wing. I know Jose had a very rough night shooting, and I shouldn't over react. However, the Raptors are just too vulnerable on the wing defensively. I think the Raptor's big man rotation is decent. He needs to go out and sign Darius Miles. He'll play for the minimum. I know he might be totally useless, but so is Hassan Adams (Joe Johnson was shaking him so bad that he fell down, TWICE!!!!!). I mean, why not take a gamble. Dallas gave Gerald Green a shot, and he looked awesome against Denver.

Hopefully, BC recognizes this weakness in time. Bosh looks like he has made the leap. Jose is in great form (ATL not withstanding). JO looks like he is rounding into form, and Andrea is giving you something off the bench in the big man rotation. Kapono, while incredibly frustrating is a decent offensive option off the bench as well. Joey and Jamario just aren't getting it done. All I ask is for Colangelo to go out and give Darius a 10 day. What's the harm? He needs to address the wing. The Raptors got destroyed with the Joe Johnson iso play tonight. The Raps just did not have an answer. That retarded zone that Smitch was throwing out there put the Raps in terrible position. They need a perimeter stopper cause its not going to be Moon or Graham.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

View From Above The Tunnel: Not Maverick Enough

So the Raps faced a somewhat depleted Pistons team last night, and came up short. I was hoping for a another strong comeback, but alas it was not to be. Onto my observations:

Three things I liked:

1. Chris Bosh stepping up in the 2nd half: After not being able to buy a bucket in the 1st and 2nd quarters, Bosh went into the zone. He almost brought the Raps all the way back, but just didn't get enough help at the end.

2. Jose Calderon taking on a bigger scoring load: With 50 Cent guarding him last night, Jose showed Fidy, who was a real gangster by dropping 20 plus on him.

3. Andrea's continued solid play off the bench: Obviously it would be ridiculous for me to say that Andrea is the 6th man of the year, but he is certainly playing well. 5 of 6 from the field off the bench, plus he almost made the defensive play of the game when he stuffed Rip on his drive (unfortunately, Sheed was being lazy, and hanging out by the 3 pt line, and lucked out by picking up the loose ball and hitting the long 2).

Three things that made me shudder:

1. Will Solomon is a disaster: What can I say, this guy is a bum. When he was in the game, the Pistons went on big runs. When Jose needed a quick breather in the 4th after the Raps pulled within 2, Solomon promptly allowed the 50 Cent to drive the lane, and he stagnated the offense by not giving the ball to a RED HOT BOSH. Note to Solomon, you got cut BY THE VANCOUVER GRIZZLIES, AND GOT BANISHED TO EUROPE; IN THE 4TH QUARTER OF CLOSE GAMES, PASS THE BALL TO BOSH (idiot).

2. Sam Mitchell not chewing out Will Soloman's ass before he got in the game: See above. What the hell!!!! Be the coach for god sakes. I mean, if Will Solomon is gonna suck that bad, why not just like Roko play????????

3. JO's disappearing offense: The Raps desperately needed a 3rd option last night, and given the fact that JO was able to shake his man pretty consistently in the post, you have finish!!!!! I am chalking it up to rust right now, but I am CONCERNED if he doesn't start finishing better around the hoop.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Is Age (Young or Old) Really That Important Anymore? And other ruminations on the Leafs...

Cliff Fletcher is 78 years old and working his blackberry like crazy while doing a job designed for men much younger, with much less need for rest. Luke Schenn is 19 years old - and at an age when most of his peers are playing beer league hockey or just plain drinking beers in college, Luke is competing every night for one of the most storied franchises in professional sports.

First, my apologies to Cliff Fletcher. We have, admittedly, referred to him as "Grandpa Cliffy" around these parts in a derogatory manner based on our summertime belief that he was not what this club needed in the post-lockout era. However, seeing as how I write on this blog anonymously, and that my wife doesn't read it, I can admit to being wrong on occasion. In fact, given the club that Cliff has assembled so far, and how he and Ronnie have these guys playing over the first few weeks, I may just continue to use that term, but in an affectionate way.

We also all know about the ascension of Our Luke and Savior to the ranks of the top 4 d
men on the club. So with that said I ask the question: does age really matter anymore?


During the summer, I was firmly on board with the "tanking" strategy. In fact, I thought the current squad was largely devoid of legit NHL'ers and that this team - with a few exceptions - would struggle to compete against even the bottom dwellers of the big leagues. With Ron Wilson's patience and preaching, this tea
m is proving me - and c'mon admit it, a lot of you - wrong. Plus, as the Celtics proved with their tank job during the Oden/Durant sweepstakes, tanking a season doesn't always land you the #1 pick. Plus, as Mike Brophy alludes to, the distinct lack of depth in this draft after the first and second spots (some combo of Tavares and Victor Hedman) makes tanking a risky strategy this year if you do happen to miss out on those top two guys.

Now, I point you to Cliff's recent comments in a Sportsnet interview that "we are not about to go and get any short-term help to get us into the playoffs," and ask the question: Why not? Would you rather finish the season with the current group and have the #13 or 14 pick in the draft - or would you rather make a playoff appeara
nce for the first time in years and have a slightly lower pick in an admittedly weak draft class?

Naturally, I'm sure most of you readers are out there yelling: "I agree with Cliff! Of course we shouldn't leverage the good thing we've got going just for a short term rental! Those days are dead!" However, let's consider a scenario that most of us couldn't imagine 5 minutes before the puck dropped in Detroit on opening night: what if this team is juuuuuuust good enough to sneak into that #8 playoff spot? Are we going to be able to keep that level-headed calmness during a spring time playoff push and continue to argue that Gramps (there I go again) stay put and do what's in the best interest of the long term future of the club? Even with the perceived dearth of talent in this year's draft class AND with all that cap space we've got?

I continue to vote for the long term build, but have a feeling I'll be reading plenty of "Trade for Gabby!" and "Trade for Kovy!" postings in
the Barilkosphere come trade deadline time.


In that same interview, Fletcher says there isn't much action on the trade front right now. That shouldn't come as a surprise to those who've been reading the blog entries by former NY Rangers GM Neil Smith, who is doing some guest blogging duties over at the very good Torontosportsmedia blog. Smith says that at this point in time, GMs of all teams - rebuilding or contending - are going through the process of evaluating the players on their own rosters to determine who they believe is going to contribute this year and in the years ahead. When Gramps does make the inevitable move - whether it be White, Carlo or whoever else - it'll show us what the club thinks of those guys.

The Leafs and Obama: Work To Do

By now you all know the big story of the night... the Leafs lost 5-4 to the 'Canes in OT, after attempting, again, to be the comeback kids.

Kidding, obviously. The big story was, of course, the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States. To those who think politics has no place on a Toronto-based sports blog: get over yourselves. Elections alone are big news that happen only once every 4 years, and this one in particular was a monumental event. Plus, the reality is that no matter where you live, you are affected in some way or another by the USA. So deal with it.

Now, in keeping with my metaphor, much like President-Elect Barrack Obama's upcoming challenges, the Leafs have got a lot of work to do. While the offense has been clicking, there are a few areas of the club that need some attention:

1) Defence
With a strong goalie in Vesa Toskala, a stable of young and capable d-men and Ron Wilson's system, defense was supposed to be the hallmark of this Leafs team. Unfortunately though, they have given up 18 goals in the past 4 games. Yikes. That's an ugly stat. As pointed out by Cox today, the Leafs "started out the year in the top half of the league defensively but is now tied with Atlanta for the most goals given up (46) by any team in the Eastern Conference." They can't expect to be keep that up and continue to be competitive in games. The offense will, inevitably, go through stretches of drought and the defence will have to carry them. Captain Ron and his crew need to hit the film room and practice ice with a new determination over the coming weeks to tighten up the leaks.

2) Keep Developing the Youngsters
The play of Borat has been borderline spectacular over the early part of this season, and the addition of Hagman has been a revelation. However, the focus can't come off the youngsters. While Stajan and Poni have had their moments, Schenn continues to be steady and Grabovski currently leads the team in goals, we can't forget that Steen continues to disappoint, Kulemin has a long way to go before being able to perform to his full abilities night after night, and Tlutsy was assigned to the AHL. All these guys need to keep seeing the ice night after night and Ron & Co. need to keep working their magic during practice, as well as keeping the kids focused for the long haul. (Note: I still think a vet like Shanny would be a good add if we could get him on a 1 year deal at a decent price. Jason Blake sucks ass and is obviously not providing the kind of on-ice leadership this team needs.)

3) Make a Trade
As noted above, we've got a log jam on the blue line. We can't continue sitting guys like Ian White and Carlo in the press box night after night. While the prospect of being benched is a nice carrot/stick motivator for Wilson, its a waste of resources to sit all those guys on a nightly basis and certainly not helping their development. Grandpa Cliffy has got to swing a deal for a forward who can be a part of this club for the long haul. Obviously Kovalchuk would be an incredible add - but I have no faith in that happening with the parts we have to deal. Next move is yours, Gramps.

4) Forget about Sundin
He's in SoCal right now looking at the Ducks, 'Nucks and even Kings. I can't blame him entirely for wanting to live in a nice climate with no focus on hockey. He gave us his best years and the decision is his to make. Let's all just move on.


DISCLAIMER: The following is a rant about U.S. politics and journalism. Turn away now - or rip me in the comments - if you think it has no place on this site.

How about this piece of crap from the Wall St. Journal (a paper I admittedly subscribe to for business news), which goes on to spew about the "disgraceful" treatment current President Bush has received over the past few years. The author's main contention seems to be that simply saying that you're going to be bipartisan, and acknowledging that you'll need the support of all Americans, means you somehow were bipartisan and should somehow be immune from that criticism?!? I think that an illegal and unjustified war, keeping prisoners locked away in Gitmo with no due process rights, torturing other prisoners, conducting warrant-less wire-tapping of your own citizens, politicizing the Justice Dept, overseeing an economic collapse of monumental proportions, etc. etc. etc. might make you deserving of most, if not all, of said treatment. What's been disgraceful is his two terms as President. End of rant.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Leafs bend the Rangers over with 5 goals in the 3rd

Nice win boys, that was one hell of a game. I don't think anyone expected a 5 goal explosion over 5 minutes and 22 seconds, but we'll happily take it. It's a little worrying that the Buds are developing a habit for coming back from a deficit, but this is a young team and now is the time to learn these sorts of lessons.

Captain Ron has been living up to the hype of being able to develop young talent and rule with an iron fist, and a few weeks into the season I like what I see. He's had the balls to bench underachievers like Blake and Stajan, and it has had a positive impact in most cases. Stajan has been working harder and is not shying away from the front of the net, and even Blake is skating harder in recent games (though I still think that we should trade him for a pick and a reach-around). This team isn't going to be led from the doldrums by some Saviour superstar player, it's going to happen because we've got a young talented core that doesn't EVER quit.

Luke Schenn - Toronto's new favorite son has continued to impress. Time will tell if he can keep up with the rigors of the brutal NHL schedule, but he currently looks like he belongs. He's made a few rookie mistakes, but this is the perfect opportunity for him to get those out of his system with little to no expectations (for the team as a whole). Wilson seems to have his pulse on the situation, so we'll have to trust him to protect Schenn from getting Dan Blackburned (where a player gets burnt out early in his career by getting destroyed night in, and night out).

John Mitchell - This kid has been incredible over the last few games. The 2 goals last night were a great reward for how hard Oakville boy Mitchell has been working this season. This kid just loves to play hockey, and works his ass off every time his skates touch the ice. He's all heart, with what seems to be the talent to back it up. It's nice to see players on the ice this season who really want to be there.

As Leaf fans we've had to accept douche bags like Khristich and Berezin who were more concerned with their personal stats and pay cheques than with bleeding Blue and giving it everything they've got on a nightly basis. A strong young Canadian core of Schenn, Stajan, Steen, Moore, and Mitchell have the future looking brighter than it has in years. If Carlo can find his game, and Pogge can finally make the jump to the next level then I think we're getting closer. It's still early to tell how this core will develop, but last night was another indicator that we're moving in the right direction.

Remember the days with Dougie or Wendal put their bodies on the line to such a degree that you could see them wince? I do, and I hope that they are back.

And on the topic of things that make me wince, please see below.

Got crabs?