The Toronto Maple Leafs are reportedly ready to sign captain Dion Phaneuf to a long-term deal, but Iâm wondering if itâs the right deal for the Leafs.
Granted he eats up a lot of minutes per game and usually plays against the visiting teamâs best offensive unit (with mixed success), but Phaneuf lacks leadership skills and a clever player, he is not.
Letâs remember, Phaneuf was given the C by the big American bag of wind Brian Burke, who promised to build the Leafs a Stanley Cup contender in five years. Well the five years are up, and aside from a brief playoff run in last yearâs strike-shortened season, the Leafs are now fighting for their playoff lives with about a dozen other teams down in the NHL dungeons. And just think, five years ago, the Leafs could have had Scotty Bowman, but opted for the blowhard Burke.
As for the fired Burke, he has surfaced in Calgary where he again assumes his role as centre of attention. Burkeâs replacement as Leafs GM, Dave Nonis authored a good deal in landing Jonathan Bernier who has combined with James Reimer to give the Leafs top-notch goaltending. In their own end, however, even with captain Phaneuf, the Leafs are too often slow and a step behind and right now team management is wondering how much to play Jake Gardiner, Morgan Rielly and John-Michael Liles.
And how are the forwards doing? Aside from Phil Kessel (17-15), the Leafs best player might well be Mason Raymond (11-14) who is looking more like the $5-million man David Clarkson than the $1-million bargain basement free agent signed after a pre-season tryout. Nazem Kadri and Joffrey Lupul deserve full marks too but Clarkson who came over from New Jersey as their big off-season acquisition has just two goals and four assists â a big time bust.
Being an NHL general manager is like being in the movies or some kind of fantasy world. Where else can one lose millions upon millions of the ownerâs money and still have a job in the morning. Of course, when the money comes from TV rights to your teamâs games it doesnât hurt as much.
Take the New York Rangers for example, theyâre stuck with huge contracts to Brad Richards and Rick Nash and their best player Ryan Callahan is going to be an unrestricted free agent this summer. Can you imagine, some of hockeyâs GMs working for the Irvings or our own Tim Banks.
Leafs management think they know whatâs best and they are pleased with the Phaneuf contract, apparently seven years at $7 million per year. Toronto Maple Leafs fans should feel reassured, just look at their record during the past 45 years.
Former Island rugby star Bill Doucette, a pharmacist at Murphyâs Parkdale Pharmacy and Dr. George Carruthers, who works out of the same location, canât ever be accused of being soft.
The two were part of an expedition to the worldâs highest mountain Mount Everest and spent climbed up to the base camp at 21,000 feet above sea level.
At the very top, Mount Everest is 29,100 feet above sea level and the temperatures can get very cold.
Bill and George are finding the temperatures here on the Island rather balmy at -14C. If you visit Parkdale Pharmacy during the holidays, you can take a coffee along to Bill at the Pharmacy or Dr. George in his office in the same building.
The annual DeltaWare noontime oldtimers hockey championship game, organized by commissioner Mike Hennessey, went Thursday at UPEI and the Whites hammered the Reds 11-4.
âLittle Willisâ thought he had stacked his Red team but without all-star defenceman Terry McKenna, his club faded badly. Ex-UPEI great Wilf MacDonald, Keith Ford and Gerry Moore all had hat tricks while Jeff Hannam and Glen Gaudet had singles and Brian Cameron four assists for the winners. Whitesâ goaltender Jamie Cudmore was as sharp and deserved full marks for the victory while Cory Gray was left alone too many times and made 52 saves in a losing cause.
Former Quebec sniper Mark MacLean, Sandy MacDonald, Len Kelly and Steve MacIsaac tallied for the losers. The Whites were without ex-NHL 40-goal man Al MacAdam, who was shifted to the winners by the commissioner to balance out the squads. Back to the Reds for Al.
Live harness racing continues today at 1 p.m. at Red Shores Charlottetown with a 13-dash card. The $2,200 top class has attracted a top December field, including from the rail out Blu Meadow Willie (Ron McInnis), Nobestbfor (Walter Cheverie), Mcjestic (Corey MacPherson), Pinner (Marc Campbell), Doll R General (Mark MacKinnon), Stayoutofmyafair (Jason Hughes), Malek Hanover (Mike Stevenson) and Artist List (Mark Bradley).
At Woodbine tonight the $34,000 top class goes in Race 2 and it has a terrific field, including invader Modern Legend (Jack Moiseyev) who had been battling the likes of Pet Rock, Bolt the Duer, Sweet Lou and those types at U.S. tracks. Others include last weekâs open winner Sparky Mark (Anthony MacDonald), Casimir Jitterbug (James MacDonald), Mystician (Bill Davis), Upfront Hoosierboy (Randy Waples) and Franceschetti (Doug McNair).
A number of the horse crowd are wrapped up in the NFL football. Ex-breeder Elwood Lawton is hoping Santa Claus drops off a New England victory this Sunday over Baltimore. Jamie Smith and Doug MacGregor are already planning a Seattle Super Bowl party. Tom Mullally and Florence Skinner are wondering how their New Orleans Saints will do on the road this week at Carolina. The Sports Prophet has bad news for both of you.
On a more sombre note, the local harness racing game was saddened with the passing last week of former owner Ben Gallant from Rustico. A longtime employee of Holland Collegeâs Royalty Centre, Bennie owned and raised numerous stakes performers including the top mare Crafty Mary. To this great old gentleman, our condolences.
If you are looking for nice Christmas gifts for the horse crowd how about tickets for the kitchen party associated with the OâBrien Awards or the awards night itself. As well, the pro basketball Island Storm has great five- and 10-game packages, which you will enjoy. They are available at the Eastlink Centre box office.
After so many upsets last week, the NFL playoff picture is still muddled.
New England Patriots (10-4) at Baltimore Ravens (8-6) â The Patriots, who lost last Sunday in Miami as I forecasted, visit Baltimore in a must game for the Ravens. The Ravens swept the Pats last year and the teams hate one another. This is a good game to keep your money in your pocket.
Arizona Cardinals (9-5) at Seattle (12-2) â The Cardinals need to win out and now visit Seattle who is unbeaten at home. Spread is too high at 10.5 points, so stay away. The same goes for home teams San Diego, Detroit and San Fran who are double figure favourites â avoid, sucker bets. Letâs take a look at four more
Dallas Cowboys (7-7) at Washington Redskins (3-11) â The Redskins are 3.5 home dogs against a team that blew a 29-3 lead against Green Bay last week. The Skins under QB Kirk Cousins looked sharp last week, bet the Skins, but keep those heart pills nearby.
Denver Broncos (11-3) at Houston Texans (3-11) â The Broncos need to win to clinch the AFC home field and Peyton Manning is trying to beat the TD record. I usually donât bet heavy favourites, but considering the circumstances give up 10 points and take Denver.
Indianapolis Colts (9-5) at Kansas City Chief (9-5) â The Colts rebounded last week to clinch a playoff spot by beating a terrible Houston team. The Chiefs are the far better team and Indy without Reggie Wayne is not a threat. The spread is just six points so jump on the Kansas City bandwagon.
Chicago Bears (8-6) at Philadelphia Eagles (8-6) â The Eagles gave up 48 points last week against a Vikings team without Adrian Peterson and they need this game to make the playoffs. The Bears have two great receivers in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey and a power back in Matt Forte. Theyâll score more points than the Eagles. The Eagles are 3.5 favourites, so Iâll take the Bears.
As always, pay the mortgage first.
Fred MacDonaldâs column appears in The Guardian each Saturday. He can be reached at email@example.com.