The draft is less than three weeks away.
In the last 10 days, three new General Managers were hired, two coaches fired, and Jacques Martin left the executive suites of Florida to stand behind the bench in Montreal.
A Stanley Cup champion will be crowned no later than next Tuesday.
Despite it being June and there being just two teams left in play, there is much for hockey fans to discuss. This is indeed a time of change, hope and expectation for hockey fans.
And so, after the jump, you'll find this week’s five questions. As it's such a heady time for hockey, we'll of course be discussing hamburgers, Sutter, redacting the Cup, sporting nicknames and George Brett.
When I was in university I rented a ramshackle five bedroom house from a little old Chinese lady who insisted we call her Yee.
I have no idea if that was her first name or her last name. We made our cheques out to "cash."
Yee always said her name so loudly and cheerfully it should have had an exclamation mark appended to it.
She was a great landlord. Each month when she came to collect the rent cheques she’d bring the five of us gifts. Sometimes a giant bag of fortune cookies, other times some apples or maybe some sticky rice. It was always food and, as impovrished students, it was always welcome.
Occasionally we would awake to find the house full of Chinese girls scrubbing the kitchen and polishing our floors. We weren’t the cleanest fellows I guess, but Yee assured us that we were "nice boys" and better tenants than the previous ones who apparently put a motorcycle through the front window.
All that for $272 a month each (in 1993 dollars).
My housemates from those days are now living in various cities across Canada. For the past 10+ years, each spring we’ve picked a city somewhere in North America and agreed to meet up.
More importantly, each and every year we claim we’re going to have a contest to see how many McDonald’s burgers we can eat in an hour. No fries, no shakes, just a giant pile of burgers and 60 minutes of gluttony.
I have no idea where the idea for this challenge came from, but like all things involving a group of men there’s a huge amount of bragging, trash talking and general idiocy involved.
Unfortunately, each year this all important contest falls apart in the rules process (what can I say - three of my former roomies are lawyers). Someone won’t eat the pickles, and of course if they’re not going to eat the pickles then we all have to get our burgers without the pickles. Oh, and maybe the onions. No onions across the board. And what about cheeseburgers instead of regular burgers?
I know we’re never going to answer the age old question of just how many burgers each of us can each consume in 60 minutes. I just hope that on my death bed I’m not left wondering if I could have emerged victorious or if I would have puked near the Playland.
I figure I could eat 12 burgers easy. Who couldn’t eat 12 of those tiny morsels?
I think 15 would be the start of a bad stretch.
At 17 I’d know I was in trouble.
At 18, I’d have consumed twice my recommended daily caloric intake, 144 grams of fat and 378% of my daily sodium requirement.
Each and every burger past the 20 mark would carry some sort of punishing retribution, a mark of Cain (or is it McCain’s?) to be borne until the grease was purged from my system.
All of this burger talk leads to the first of this week’s all important questions: It’s well known that Alexi Ponikarovski is the Leafs’ resident McDonald’s man. Pending UFA Centre and former Leaf almost-great Nik Antropov is all about the Boorger King (that’s Russian for Burger King). Given their love of burgers…
Question 1: Do you think the Leafs should pursue Antropov this off-season? And as an all-important follow-up: how many McDonald’s burgers do you think you could eat in an hour (with full toppings, none of this hold the pickles crap).
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The bad news: former Leaf Gary Leeman won the Stanley Cup with the Montreal Canadiens in 1993. This may not mean much to those of you who weren’t around for Leeman’s stint with the Leafs back in the 1980s, but he was not the most popular guy in town and far from the most popular guy in the room. Let’s just say bad rumours and ill will abound.
The good news: Leeman didn’t play enough regular season or playoff games with the Habs to qualify to have his name inscribed on the ultimate sports trophy.
Question 2: If you could excise one name from the Stanley Cup - one name that would be erased from the history books, internet databases, and disappear from the surface of the cup itself - which name would go? Who would you remove?
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He’s on his third coach in three years. His team has gone out in the first round of the playoffs every year since the lockout. He mismanaged the cap so badly his team couldn’t even dress a full roster, icing just 10 forwards against Minnesota.
He signed the so-called franchise goalie to $6M cap hit through 2013 along with a no-movement clause, only to see said goalie continue to put up ever worsening numbers since his Vezina win in 2006.
This is a guy that dealt for Adrian Aucoin, a d-man with two destroyed groins and a $4M cap hit.
The team is carrying $48M in salaries with at least five roster positions still to be filled.
Question 3: If Darryl Sutter did this while GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs, how many 24 hour specialty channels would be launched? How many dedicated news paper sections would be printed? How many column inches spent? Is there even a unit of measure that could capture the resulting media storm? How is this man still employed?
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I just found out that when Pierre McGuire called Luke Schenn "the Human Eraser" he was copping the nickname from Marvin "The Human Eraser" Webster, a former NBA centre who clocked in at 7' 1" and was known for his shot-blocking abilities.
Other recent disappointments in the nickname game include "Schenner" – the handle appointed to Braydon Schenn (as I posted in the comments at PPP, at least it’s better than "Schenny").
Whatever happened to quality handles like Killer, Charlie Hustle, the Baby Faced Assassin, the Popcorn Kid, the China Wall, or Leo "Snake Hips" Boivin?
Question 4: Which Leaf has the best nickname, which has the worst? Who needs a new nickname and will Jiri "NSFW" Tlusty ever really take off?
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I’m not much of a baseball fan. Once or twice a year I’ll watch a game on TV. I don’t really follow the standings nor do I have a favourite team. I hate the Sky Dome Rogers Centre with its cement sterility and the huge distance between the fans and the field.
I do like the sound of a game on the radio in the evening though. Once my kids are in bed, there's something to be said for sipping a beer or a Black Bush on the rocks while I sit on the back deck - the more silence and game sounds, the better.
Baseball may also have the greatest stories. Bull Durham is one fantastic movie (we jokingly call our boy Nuke and he even has his own Durham Bulls hat), Ball Four is one of my favourite books and Money Ball really should be required reading for sports fans.
One of my favourite sports stories comes from former Kansas City Royal George Brett.
When he was asked about his ideal last at bat, the last time he'd ever step up to the plate, Brett said, "I want to hit a routine grounder to second and run all out to first base, then get thrown out by a half step. I want to leave an example to the young guys that that's how you play the game, all out."
Could you get a better answer? Seriously.
Here’s a guy that may be the greatest all-time third basemen in the history of the sport, an automatic hall of famer who put up huge numbers throughout his career and he wants to go down hustling out a routine play to first.*
Question 5: Ideally, what would your last shift as a professional athlete be?
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*For the record, Brett’s final at bat came against the Texas Rangers. Brett was on a hitless streak and, in a scene right out of Bull Durham, the Rangers’ catcher Ivan Rodriguez told Brett the pitcher, former Jay Tom Henke, would be throwing nothing but fastballs. Four pitches later, Brett singled up the middle. Gary Gaetti later hit a home run and Brett's final act on a major league diamond was to touch home plate.
Color me impressed.