Saturday, September 08, 2012
Interim GM Cliff Fletcher fired head coach Paul Maurice, along with two assistant coaches after missing the playoffs in back-to-back seasons. On June 10, Ron Wilson was hired as the new head coach of the Leafs. Wilson was fired in May by San Jose after the Sharks lost to the Dallas Stars in the second round of the NHL playoffs. The Leafs then hired Al Coates as their player-personnel director after spending the previous six seasons with Anaheim which only caused more speculation that Burke was coming to Toronto. There was also a connection between Wilson and Burke Ron Wilson as they had played college hockey together at Providence.
Throughout the offseason, the Maple Leafs have been involved in numerous transactions aimed at unloading veterans. Andrew Raycroft and Kyle Wellwood were put on waivers. Darcy Tucker was bought out of his three-year contract, the first of the Muskoka Five to leave. In September, right before training camp opened up, Fletcher was able to ship Bryan McCabe to Florida for the much injured Mike van Ryn. The second member of the Muskoka Five was gone. Mats Sundin left the team as a free agent and waffled for the longest time when and where he would return to the NHL. He finally signed with Vancouver in December so the third member of the Muskoka Five had moved on.
The Leafs eventually bought out Raycroft and when the free agent signing period began on July 1, Toronto signed-on defenceman Jeff Finger. Curtis Joseph and Niklas Hagman. Fletcher then traded for Mikhail Grabovski in exchange for the rights to Greg Pateryn and a 2nd round draft.
With a young roster, the Leafs were expected to have a lacklustre season. This proved to be correct, as they fell out of the playoff race relatively early and showed little sign of recovery. However, they showed signs of improvement in February and March 2009, during which they had a remarkable stretch of seven consecutive games which went to overtime. The Leafs lost the first two in shootouts then won four in a row with two overtime wins and two shootout wins, followed by an overtime loss. Late surges in meaningless games would become a pattern for the Leafs over the next few seasons. The leading scorer was Jason Blake with just 57 points.
In November 2008, Brian Burke obtained his release from the Anaheim Ducks and joined the Leafs as President and General Manager. Burke started his tenure with a lot of bluster declaring that his team was going to be one teams hated to play against, that he was too impatient for a rebuild and that there would be a change in culture in Toronto. We are still waiting for these to come to fruition.
Some of Burke's impatience was exhibited later in the season when he picked up Brad May and Martin Gerber in a futile effort to make the playoffs. All it did was rob the Leafs of a lottery pick at the draft. At the trading deadline Burke did move Nik Antropov and Dominic Moore for 2nd round picks.
On September 8, 1972 Game 4 of the legendary Canada - Russia hockey series was played in Vancouver, the last Canadian stop in the 8-game series. Canada only looked dominate in Game 2 so by the time Team Canada hit Vancouver, the press was beginning to turn on them and fans were becoming frustrated.
Things went bad quickly that night. Canada had to play without star Montreal defensemen Guy Lapointe and Serge Savard due to injury, and then got into early penalty trouble. Bill Goldsworthy, inserted into the lineup because of his energy and physical play, was too exuberant and was penalized twice in the opening six minutes. The Soviets made full advantage with two power-play goals by Boris Mikhailov giving the Soviets a commanding 2-0 lead early in the game.
From that point on it was the Vladislav Tretiak show. Tretiak stopped 38 of 41 shots, including 21 in the final period.
Gilbert Perreault scored a beautiful goal to get Canada on the board in the second period. But after Perreault's goal the Soviets answered with two second period goals of their own. Vladimir Petrov set up Yuri Blinov for a nice goal on a two-on-one break. Later in the period Vladimir Vikulov capitalized from the slot while Team Canada's defenders were hopelessly out of position. The 5-3 score was actually flattering to Canada on this night. The game MVPs were Boris Mikhailov and Phil Esposito.
In the first four games goaltending had been the difference. Tretiak sported a save % of .905 while Dryden was at .803 and Tony Esposito at .891.
The Vancouver fans booed Team Canada as they left the ice, which led to Phil Esposito's famous emotional outburst on national television.
"To the people across Canada, we tried. We gave it our best. To the people who booed us, geez, all of us guys are really disheartened. We're disillusioned and disappointed. We cannot believe the bad press we've got, the booing we've got in our own building.
"I'm completely disappointed. I cannot believe it. Every one of us guys -- 35 guys -- we came out because we love our country. Not for any other reason. We came because we love Canada."
This passionate speech and Esposito's leadership skills seemed to light a fire under Team Canada and the whole country. The players had 2 weeks to regroup before playing 4 games in Russia. During that time there was a lot of teeth gnashing across Canada.
Friday, September 07, 2012
For the 10th straight year, ESPN The Magazine has released its Ultimate Standings, a list that ranks every professional sports team in the NBA, MLB, NHL and NFL from 1st to 122nd. Now this is going to make the blood of some Leaf fans boil, but the Toronto Maple Leafs finished 122nd - last.
The eight major categories that make up the Ultimate Standings were created based on feedback from fans about what they want most from their favorite teams. So this rating is indirectly based on feedback from Leaf fans.
The categories are:
Bang For The Buck: Wins during the past three years (regular season plus postseason) per revenues directly from fans, adjusted for league schedules. Can anyone argue the Leafs provide low value?
Fan Relations: Openness and consideration toward fans by players, coaches and management. Despite the free exhibition game, the charity work by team and players their fans were not enthusiastic about player accessibility, staging promotions and giveaways, and engaging fans through social media.
Ownership: Honesty and loyalty to core players and local community. No owner of a losing team is going to be liked. Even less so if it is a big corporation.
Affordability: Price of tickets, parking and concessions. Despite their profitability and team record, management insists on raising prices each year by 5 - 7 %. Everyone knows its gouging.
Stadium Experience: Quality of arena and game-day promotions as well as friendliness of environment. I think the Leafs are rated low unfairly but I can understand fans walk away with a negative vibe when the team sucks.
Players: Effort on the field and likability off it. Let's face it the current team has no Doug Gilmour, Wendel Clark, Curtis Joseph or Tie Domi. Is there anyone on the team that would upset you if they were traded away?
Coaching: Strength of on-field leadership. Ron Wilson sucked and should have been fired long ago.
Title Track: Championships already won or expected in the lifetime of current fans. Seriously it's been 45 years.
Here are how the Maple Leafs fared over the past 10 years. It wasn't always this bad.
2012 - 122nd
2011 - 120th
2010 - 121st
2009 - 120th
2008 - 121st
2007 - 99th
2006 - no rating during lockout
2005 - no rating during lockout
2004 - 88th
2003 - 65th
They say lightning never strikes the same place twice, but try telling that to Melanie Martinez.Dubbed "America's unluckiest woman," the Louisiana native and school bus driver lost her fifth home last week to a hurricane. This time, Martinez witnessed herself as Hurricane Isaac pummeled her Braithwaite, La. home while she and her family huddled in the attic.
They had been trying to evacuate when her truck broke down, leaving them no other option than to stay behind and watch.
When the storm passed, they faced the all too-familiar wreckage. Martinez lost four other homes in the last 50 years Hurricanes Betsy (1965), Juan (1985), George (1998), and Katrina (2005).
To add insult to injury, A&E reality show Hideous Houses had selected her home for a $20,000 makeover just a few months before. Though she's considering moving to a home on higher ground this time around, Martinez is still hesitant to leave Louisiana.
"I was born here," she said. "It's home, home, home."
Remind never to buy property in Florida or Louisiana. Better to live in a cave.
The head of the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) Jim Wallace says smoking is healthier than the lifestyle that would be promoted by same-sex marriage.
Mr Wallace made the claim in a debate on marriage equality with Greens leader Christine Milne at the University of Tasmania. Answering a question from a student on the relevance of his views, he said health statistics among the gay community were worse than those for smokers.
"I think we're going to owe smokers a big apology when the homosexual community's own statistics for its health - which it presents when it wants more money for health - are that is has higher rates of drug-taking, of suicide, it has the life of a male reduced by up to 20 years," he told the audience. "The life of smokers is reduced by something like seven to 10 years and yet we tell all our kids at school they shouldn't smoke."
After the debate, Mr Wallace said the figures saddened him. Senator Milne accused the ACL of homophobia and said Christians should be more concerned with poverty than homosexuality. Mr Wallace accused the Greens of demonising churches with "hate language" and caring more for trees than children.
Thursday, September 06, 2012
Jessica Simpson is the new celebrity spokeswoman for Weight Watchers with a $4 million price tag.
She says that when she was pregnant, she was "constantly hungry" and had a "big appetite." She didn't realize the weight didn't all come off with the baby.
Simpson said in March that she weighed 170 pounds when she posed nude and pregnant for the April issue of Elle magazine. She's 5-foot-4. Weight Watchers tells members that a healthy weight range for a person her height is between 117 and 146.
Simpson says, she's doing about 60 minutes of cardio exercise a day, mostly walking. "My boobs are way too big to run at this point. I'm just walking."source
Not impressed by the guy driving into the sinkhole, how about the lady parking her car on power pole wire?
When she realized she was heading into oncoming traffic, she swerved even further off the road. "She went through three different yards, fences, bushes, mailboxes, garbage cans, and finally came to rest on the guy wire of a power pole," Hoyal said. "I couldn't get my door out and I was up in the air and some very nice guy that I'd like to thank helped me out of my car," Herrera said.
It is unknown how fast Herrera was going at the time of the accident, but the distance can be attributed to little or no braking on the part of the driver, according to Hoyal. "Once I hit the kerb and the airbags came out, I couldn't see anything," Herrera said. "That's why I went so far — I couldn't see anything once the airbag deployed."
The accident occurred at 8:40 a.m. Power was out in the area until about 10:30 a.m. while Rocky Mountain Power assessed the damage and worked to restore electricity. There were no injuries. Herrera was cited for investigation of careless driving due to committing three or more traffic violations in succession. Her car had to be towed away, but she's just grateful, she's still standing. "I'm glad there was nobody hurt. I feel bad about all the damage," she said.
Paramedics said 48-year-old driver Juan Pedro Unger, the only person inside, suffered a minor leg injury after getting out of the car. "I see ahead on the road this black patch that actually looked like fresh pavement, ... as I approached I thought 'Well I don’t know if they’re building anything here,'" said Mr Unger.
"I hear 'Bam! Bam! Bam!' like big loud noises and shaking, my immediate thought was ‘Oh my God, I hope I’m not getting killed and crushed here.’" Unger said he then started hearing voices asking if he was OK before two people helped pull him out.
"Given what I saw and what I went through, I’m just lucky to be alive," he said. "I hope it doesn’t happen to anyone else." Ottawa city officlals said the car is shifting inside the storm sewer it fell into. Contractors have been hired to see how far in it's moved.
This was a game Canada should have won Canada but instead they blew two two-goal leads during this game. It became obvious that this team was not yet in good enough condition or playing as a cohesive unit.
Despite out-shooting the Russians 15-9 in the first period, Team Canada only led by a 2-1 margin. Canada played very well in the first period, led by Jean-Paul Parise's goal just 1:54 into the game. Vladimir Petrov responded for the Soviets, but Jean Ratelle tapped in a wonderful pass from Yvan Cournoyer to give Canada the lead after one period.
Canada had begun to adopt a very physical game, led by Wayne Cashman, which the Russians didn't appreciate. They began to complain to the referees for failing to enforce the rules.
In game 3 the Soviets adressed a line of youngsters, Yuri Lebedev, Alex Bodunov and Viacheslav Anisin for the first time. The trio represented the future of Soviet hockey, and they contributed hugely to the tie in Winnipeg.
Canada opened the second period scoring thanks to Phil Esposito. Valeri Kharlamov answered with a short handed goal only to have Paul Henderson restore the 2-goal lead. But the Russian Kid Line began to dominate and at 14:59 of the second period, Lebedev deflected a Valeri Vasiliev point shot. Then at 18:28, the Bodunov took a nice centering pass from Anisin to tie the game at 4.
The third period featured no scoring and relatively few shots. But the period wasn't nearly as close in terms of territorial play. The Canadians tired noticeably in the third period and were lucky that the Soviets couldn't put them away.
The shots on net were 38-25 in favour of Canada and the game MVPs were once again Tretiak for the USSR and Henderson for Canada. Henderson was slowly developing into clutch scorer in the series.
Amanda Bynes has been charged with two counts of hit-and-run -- after allegedly smashing into some car and fleeing the scene ... twice.
If convicted on both counts, she faces up to a year in jail.
Prosecutors recently reopened Bynes' hit-and-run case from back in April because the actress was accused of yet another hit-and-run last month.
Now, the L.A. City Attorney has taken the next step -- charging Bynes with two counts of misdemeanor hit-and-run, stemming from the two incidents.
As for the second alleged incident, the "smoking gun" for detectives was that the damage to the victim's car matched the damage to Amanda's.
I think car insurance rates will drop dramatically if Amanda Bynes were to be locked up for a few months. The number of dinged cars on road will drop dramatically. Some auto repair shops could be at risk of becoming insolvent. Think about it, we really need to keep Amanda off the streets.
UPDATE: California insurers are likely ecstatic today. The courts have taken away her drivers licence.
Wednesday, September 05, 2012
For the last year, Alberto Nunez performed hundreds of dental procedures on patients at his unlicensed Melrose Park dental practice, according to Cook County Sheriff's police.
Nunez, who lives in the 7800-block of South Kenton, allegedly operated out of a home in the 2000-block of North Emerson in unincorporated Cook County.
Nunez faces a felony charge for practicing dentistry without a license and a misdemeanor charge for unlawful possession of hypodermic syringes.
Inside the home on Emerson, police say they found a dental chair, lights, plates, tools, syringes, an x-ray machine and much more. Police allege Nunez performed a range of dental procedures, including root canals, bite impressions, cleanings, x-rays, surgical dental procedures and braces.
Police say Nunez claims he went to dental school in Mexico City, but he could not provide documentation that he completed the program.
"Based on statements made by Nunez," Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said in a press release, "it is believed he has been 'in practice' for approximately two years, had another location before this current one, and saw roughly 30 patients each week."
When police tried to set up an appointment as part of their investigation, a receptionist said nothing was open for a week because of the full schedule of patients. Guess what, I bet this guy was doing a good job. I've been to dentist who were total butchers. I'm not advocating unlicensed be allowed to operate but some of these professions are a closed shop and prices and damn too high.
Tom Anselmi replaces Richard Peddie as president and COO of MLSE. He's been doing the job for the past 8 months on an interim basis which signals same old, same old. He previously controled the popular yet terrible Toronto FC. So we can expect the focus of MLSE to remain the same, make lots of money and don't worry too much about losing.
Tuesday, September 04, 2012
Where is the past I have been apoplectic about missing NHL hockey during a labour lockout, not so this time. Last season the Leafs finished 14th in the East and 26th overall. The lineup that wasn't good enough last season is pretty much going to be returning intact when the season resumes.
Brian Burke went from being unhappy with his lineup in April when the season ended prematurely for the Leafs was suddenly okay with it in July. Sure he signed a defensive centre and flipped a disappointing Luke Schenn for a disappointing James van Riemsdyk. Meanwhile eastern rivals were aggressive in trying to improve their lineups. Certainly some of these teams will fail but sitting pat is not an option when you're at bottom feeder.
So if we lose 1/2 season because of a lockout, I'm fine with that. It will shorten the pain. Instead I can focus on the high draft pick that the Leafs will be awarded when the bottom out this season. Perhaps this can kick start the hiring of a GM with an actual plan and a real rebuild.
Oscar Pistorius the so-called “Blade Runner” was surging to a third straight 200-metre gold Sunday night when he was overtaken close to the finish by Alan Oliveira, who is also a double amputee. Pistorius then criticized Oliveira within minutes of the upset, claiming the Brazilian used longer carbon fiber prosthesis than should be allowed.
He has since apologized for the outburst. But the idea of his rant is annoying and to some extent hypocritical.
He runs with the aid of Cheetah Flex-Foot carbon fibre transtibial artificial limbs. In 2007, Pistorius took part in his first international competitions for able-bodied athletes. However, his artificial lower legs, while enabling him to compete, have generated claims that he has an unfair advantage over able-bodied runners. The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) amended its competition rules to ban the use of "any technical device that incorporates springs, wheels or any other element that provides a user with an advantage over another athlete not using such a device".
So using his blades to beat able-bodied runners is just fine but someone using better blades to beat him is cheating. An interesting perspective.
Tonight is the 40th anniversary of Game 2 of the 1972 Canada - USSR series played in Maple Leaf Gardens. Game 1 had tons of hype and the game was played on a Saturday night. Game 2 was a more subdued, the cockiness was gone. I watched it alone at home rather than with a crowd of friends.
As it turns out Canada redeemed themselves in Game 2, thanks largely to two sets of brothers as well as a much better game plan. After the Game 1 blowout Game 2 took on incredible importance.
Canada held the upper hand on the Soviets most of the night, but had significant trouble beating Vladislav Tretiak.
After a scoreless first period, Phil Esposito, who was quickly establishing himself as the undisputed leader of Team Canada, opened the scoring in the second period. Yvan Cournoyer used his blazing speed to beat the Russian defense on an early power-play in the third period, but Alexander Yakushev, pulled the Soviets to within one just 4 minutes later on the feared Russian power-play unit.
Yakushev's goal was the only one that would get by Chicago Blackhawks goalie Tony Esposito. Phil's brother had replaced Ken Dryden in the Canadian nets for this game. It was a good move as Esposito played well and adapted better to the Soviet's criss-crossing offense.
On the same power play, Pete Mahovlich scored on what was perhaps the most remarkable individual effort of the series. With Canada killing a penalty, Pete picked up a Phil Esposito clearing attempt just inside the center line. Faking his patented slapshot, Mahovlich deked a Soviet defender and drove in alone on Tretiak. He faked a forehand shot, went to his backhand, and while falling on top of Tretiak managed to slip the puck into the net by using his impressive long reach.
Big brother Frank Mahovlich teamed up with Stan Mikita a little more than two minutes later to cement the win. Mikita stole the puck behind the goal and centered to the unchecked Big M, who one-timed a shot off of the post and behind Tretiak.
Canada's successful came from a simplified game plan, one they would utilize again and again in international games. They dressed a more physical lineup and focused on a fierce forechecking game as well as a tight defensive game.
Canada outshot USSR 36-21 and Tretiak was selected the game MVP for Russia while the Esposito brothers were the Canadian MVPs.
In a pact reminiscent of the eroticism featured in the best-seller Fifty Shades of Grey and the notorious novel The Story of O, the saleswoman from Padua signed the explicitly-worded agreement with her then boyfriend in 2004, when she was 24.
They married in 2006 but the relationship eventually fell apart and the couple separated last year.
The woman, now aged 31, has shown the two-page contract to her lawyers to support her demands for a divorce and accusations of physical abuse. She also accuses her former partner of stalking her since their split.
The contract stipulated that she be considered a "slave" to her husband, a property manager who was 10 years older than her.
He was referred to throughout the contract as her "padrone" or master.
The husband, now aged 41, argues that she signed the pact entirely of her own volition and that their activities were always consensual.
A lot of questions come to mind, like why did it take her 7 years to come to her senses or why did she agree to this in the first place. I'm sure some of this will come to light during the trial.
A Lindbergh woman's dog was kidnapped and held for ransom and she put her life on the line to get it back. Emily Connors said she was willing to risk her life for Plato, her 7-year old Maltese. She was willing to meet with the man who stole her dog and pay him a $1,000 ransom to get her back. She received several threats from the suspect but it was a picture he sent her that convinced her she had to do something. The photo was of Plato with a gun pointed at her head. The photo even gave Atlanta Police pause. They knew they were dealing with a dangerous criminal and needed time to organize a takedown.
But Connors said she couldn't wait because she felt her dog's life was in danger. She agonized for two days after a burglary at her Lindbergh apartment on August 15th. Connors said she came home to find someone stole her TV, laptop, and other electronics and Plato. One day later Connors would find out her dog was still alive but in danger. She learned it from a cryptic phone call. "And he says I got your dog and it's going to cost you $3,000 to get her back," she said. A series of threatening text messages would follow, including one that said: "And u right i am a terrist and if u think im kidding dnt have that cash and watch how i torture this dog".
She eventually convinced the suspect to accept $1,000. He texted "So bring the 1000 and just remember if u play eany games i will kill the dog in front of you". Then he sent the picture with the gun pointed at Plato's head. "And he threatened to kill her, to cut off her head, to torture her," Connors said. Connors got the suspect to agree to meet her in front of her bank on busy Cheshire Bridge Road. "And he just strolled up like nothing was going on with the dog completely enclosed in the backpack," she said. Plato was zipped up inside a backpack. Connors said she and the suspect went back and forth about who would turn over the money or the dog.
Connors said Plato jumped out of the backpack. At the same time the suspect grabbed the envelope of cash from Connors hands.
Monday, September 03, 2012
The Iranian-born, London-raised actress and Scientologist dated Cruise from November 2004 until January 2005. Her preparation began in October 2004, when she was told only that she was preparing for "a very important mission" on behalf of Scientology.
She just didn't quite make the cut, thanks to a couple verbal missteps with Scientology leader David Miscavige and Cruise. Boniadi moved in with Cruise and shared a bedroom, but by the third week of January, she was asked to move into Scientology's Celebrity Centre. Cruise reportedly had the Scientologists do the dirty work of breaking up with his live-in girlfriend.
You can never get tired of reading about Scientology.
Arlington County Police have released surveillance video from the botched armed robbery of a 7-Eleven store. The robbery attempt happened at about 3:25 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 19.
An approximately 5’8″ tall white male enters the store wearing a hooded sweatshirt and a bandana over his face, while pointing a handgun at the store clerk.
A second suspect, a 5’7″ tall black male in a white v-neck t-shirt, then enters the store behind the first suspect and appears to throw a firework.
The firework made a loud bang and startled the suspects and the two men ran from the scene empty-handed.
Arlington police are asking for the public’s help in identifying the suspects.
An 82-year-old woman with a rap sheet that dates back to 1955 could face new criminal charges in more burglaries.
Torrance Police Sgt. Robert Watt said the department is submitting evidence on eight burglaries to the district attorney's office Tuesday for possible charges against Doris Thompson. Thompson — who has 25 aliases — is being held on $80,000 bail.
Watt said Thompson targeted doctors' offices. He said she would enter an office, hide until closing and search for keys to the cash box. He said she stole about $17,000.
Thompson was arrested at an El Segundo hotel without incident, Watt said, and police found evidence linking her to the burglaries.
Watt said a detective who had dealt with Thompson identified her from a video that allegedly caught her in the act. The detective recognized her distinctive hair, which Thompson wears in a stand-on-its-end electric style similar to boxing promoter Don King.
Thompson has a 20-page rap sheet dating to 1955. Burglary appears to be her chosen career.
According to court records, Thompson has been imprisoned at least nine times for burglary in Los Angeles and Orange counties. She first spent time behind bars in 1983, when she was 53, according to the records. It's unclear why they don't go back further.
In the case of a man charged with prostitution for engaging in phone sex, Italian judges ruled that a lower court made a bad call.
Phone sex is not, in and of itself, prostitution, Italy's Supreme Court found on Friday.
"Verbally servicing an interlocutor for the purpose of sexual excitement does not constitute a sexual service, if it does not involve the bodily erogenous zones of the person who is getting paid for such a service," the court ruled.
The defendant had paid a woman to provide phone sex to one of his business clients. The lower court said that act constituted a crime.
Prostitution "may well be carried out via telephone or Internet Web chats" if the customer asks the vendor to perform a sex act.
We've seen some crazy television shows come out of Japan, but this has to qualify as the craziest. Paradise TV, a Japanese satellite adult channel, recently hosted an unusual charity event: a breast squeeze benefit.
The breast squeeze event was part of its "Erotica Will Save The World" event, a 24-hour live-streamed event late this month in Tokyo.
The event went down as follows: after making a donation and sanitizing their hands, participants over the age of 18 were allowed to squeeze the breasts of one of 10 Japanese adult video actresses. A limit of two squeezes per hand were allowed.
All the money raised at the charity breast squeeze went to benefit STOP!AIDS, an organization aimed at promoting AIDS awareness, treatment and prevention. It is not affiliated with the Stop AIDS Project that is run by the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.
Sunday, September 02, 2012
There are few events during my lifetime that have had the national attention like the 1972 hockey series between Canada and the USSR. Sure the Kennedy assassination, the first moonwalk, the Canadian centennial, 9/11 attack and the Vancouver Olympics were significant events but I have never seen the country literally stop like it did for the Summit Series.
Today is the 40th anniversary of game 1. I remember the hype but what dominated the country was this feeling of confidence, even smugness. We were going to roll right over the Russians. After all they were amateurs play professionals. They weren't playing the nobodies we send to the Olympics and Worlds at that time. These were Canada's best.
I watched game 1 in my family room with a crowd of friends from camp and school who came to celebrate Canada's anticipated triumph. Everything was going according to the script when Canada scored on the first scoring chance of the game just 30 seconds into the action. Phil Esposito, who seconds earlier enthusiastically won the ceremonial faceoff, potted a Frank Mahovlich rebound past a flopping Russian goalie named Vladislav Tretiak.
By the 6:32 mark Canada upped the score to 2-0 when Paul Henderson wired a hard, but seemingly harmless shot to Tretiak's far side. Tretiak looked awkward as he feebly attempted to knock down the puck.
The predicted rout was on. The party was on. We were high-fiving each other and predicting 8 wins for Canada.
The Soviets settled their nerves after falling behind early. They began to play their game of wonderful passing and skating. The overconfident Canadians eased up, and, as the initial awestruck feeling eased away, the Soviet players took full advantage.
Evgeny Zimin, a miniature speed demon, took a pass from Alexander Yakushev and beat Ken Dryden at 11:40. Before the period was over the Soviets scored a back-breaking goal while killing a Canadian power play. The great Vladimir Petrov scored as he easily tapped a Boris Mikhailov rebound past Dryden.
The score was tied at 2. It was very quiet in my house. The Soviets went on to simply dominate the second half of the period. They mesmerized the unsuspecting Canucks with their precision playmaking, effortless skating, and intricate and inventive offense.
The Soviets continued to impress their opponents and the increasingly quiet Montreal Forum faithful in the second period. Specifically the electrifying Valeri Kharlamov impressed the most. Considered by many to be the greatest Soviet player of all time, Kharlamov scored twice in the middle frame. His explosive speed and scoring ability made him a household name in Canada after that fine period of play.
The rout was still on, but definitely not as predicted.
The Canadians came out in the third period and played their best hockey in the opening 10 minutes, creating several scoring chances only to be foiled by the amazing Tretiak. The scouting reports were wrong about Tretiak -- not only could he stop the puck, but time would prove he was one of the all-time greats.
The Russians used their advantages to their fullest extent. They were a team in the truest sense of the word. They had been playing and practicing together for months, not weeks like the Canadian players, and it showed. They were also incredibly better conditioned -- they trained year round, while the Canadians enjoyed their summers of beer and golf and relied on training camp to get back into playing shape.
When it was all over the USSR beat Canada 7-3 and killed the myth about Canada's hockey supremacy. Valeri Kharlamov was the game MVP for Russia and it was obvious he could step into the NHL and be a star player. Bobby Clarke was Canada's MVP. The cockiness was gone from Canada. Canadians would be biting their nails the rest of the series.
After giving up a top prospect for Andrew Raycroft, Ferguson was desperate for a starting goalie that could carry the Leafs into the playoffs. He gave up 1st, 2nd and 4th round draft picks to San Jose for their backup goalie in addition to having to agree to take on Mark Bell's contract. Toskala started out alright but his game deteriorated likely due to the pressure in Toronto and the heavy workload that comes with being a starting goalie. His fate was sealed with the Leafs when in March, 2008 he let a shot from 200 feet get by him.
This was on top of a goal scored by Bryan McCabe early in the season into his own net in overtime. The once star defenseman had struggled considerable post-lockout and the goal put him into the fan's doghouse which became pretty crowded as the season progressed.
On October 8, 2007, newly-acquired winger Jason Blake announced that he had chronic myelogenous leukemia, a treatable form of cancer. He continued playing during treatment and did not miss a game that season. Despite having a very mediocre year he was awarded the Bill Masterson trophy in the offseason. However, the Air Canada Centre crowd slowly turn on Blake as he became one of the team scapegoats.
To add to the already circus environment, in mid-November, 2007, Jiří Tlustý was caught in a scandal when nude photos of him appeared on the Internet. Tlustý apologized for this incident and admitted he made a mistake.
With the Leafs struggling in the Northeast Division, the future of Ferguson's tenure was widely debated after team president Richard Peddie admitted that hiring Ferguson was "a mistake". The Leafs asked former Toronto GM Cliff Fletcher to serve as interim GM early in January. On January 22 it was announced that Ferguson's time with the club had ended, as the board of directors at Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment voted to make a change. Fletcher was named interim General Manager and a hiring committee was formed to find a permanent replacement.
Fletcher's mandate was to clear the table for the GM by trading away veterans for draft picks and prospects. The problem was that all the Leaf veterans has no-trade contracts and refused to move. The group of Mats Sundin, Darcy Tucker, Pavel Kubina, Bryan McCabe and Tomas Kaberle became known as the Muskoka Five because of the country club environment in Toronto. It would take 3 years to move the last of the 5 members.
As a result Fletcher was stuck making minor deals, trading away Hal Gill, Wade Belak and Chad Kilger.