Monday, June 21, 2010

G20 hosting benefits

So, the leaders of the 20 richest nations on the globe converge on Toronto this coming weekend, after the "in crowd" huddle up at the G8 summit in Huntsville.

I've heard both sides of the story here: Canada does benefit from being a partner in these privileged ranks, for now. Our way of life is guaranteed to be above average because of economic unions like these. Conversely, globalization is a worrisome phenomenon. All that wealth, power, and information in the hands of one entity should be a concern. Two mantras come to mind here; the cream always rises to the top; and absolute power/wealth corrupts absolutely.

Feel free to think how you want to about this issue, because either way, you're right. None of this, however, has stirred me to write this post.

My concern is that we have been told that this will be a tremendous economic boon for the city of Toronto, the province of Ontario, and Canada overall. I sincerely fail to see how this is so.
While the city of Huntsville will likely reap the rewards of having many high profile guests and media attention, I don't believe this will happen in Toronto.

A large chunk of the downtown core will be completely off-limits for the duration of the summit, including the Rogers Centre, the Air Canada Centre, Union Station, the CN Tower, Harbourfront, and swathes of the entertainment district and the financial district. The area being cordoned off is at least 20 times greater than the area actually needed for the summit.

Thousands of commuters will have to make provisions to work around this blockade, and they are the lucky ones. Many businesses will be shut down completely, and many more employees will have to miss a week of work or so to accomodate this intrusion.

Will these businesses be re-imbursed the losses they will incur for shutting down for this length of time? We're talking prime real estate here folks. Rent isn't cheap, and it's always due. This is prime time for businesses too. Some of these venues, like the Rogers Centre and Harbourfront don't make a whole lot of money in the winter. If they are being reimbursed, by who? By the government? How is that a positive for us economically?

What about the people being kept away from their livelihoods? Are they going to be reimbursed as well? How can we afford to pay people to stay home? How will the greater part of them survive without their pay if we don't?

And 1.3 billion dollars to keep this area secure? Way more spent than at the Olympics, and for way less time and fewer people to protect, albeit, more important people. This is the biggest fiasco I have ever witnessed!

It seems to be that the only people who will benefit from this whole ordeal are the Police/Army/CSIS/FBI/Secret Service/Security personnel, and the people who will feed and lodge them. They should have left this all to Huntsville, where it would have been cheaper and more beneficial to the city. I want to know how all this is being paid for!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Comprehensive Overview of the 2010 Toronto Maple Leafs

Brian Burke, Dave Nonis, Dave Poulin, Claude Loiselle and Dallas Eakins, the five-headed hydra managerial conglomerate of the Toronto Maple Leafs, have a busy summer ahead of them. I'm quite comfortable having this group calling the shots, and I have confidence that this group will not waste time in their efforts to improve the quality of the team and the depth of the organization.

First up is the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, June 25-26th, in Los Angeles. Leafs select 62nd, 112th, 122nd, 144th, 182nd, 202nd. No picks in the first, second or sixth rounds, one in the 3rd and 4th rounds, and two in each of the 5th and 7th rounds. I don't buy for a second that Burke and company will allow 61 players to be selected before they make their first podium appearance. Look for them to target a late first round pick, Phoenix's 22nd or Atlanta's 24th, as both have two first rounders, and parity in this draft sets in midway through the first round. Also, the top tier is dominated by defencemen, after Hall and Seguin, and Burke has no pressing need for defencemen. Burke isn't afraid to make deals, and does have some value on his roster which he can parlay for picks. More on that later.

Burke will add his new picks to an impressively deep prospect pool. HF Boards has the Leafs ranked at 6th for prospect depth, though that number will vary, because many of the players listed will graduate to the Leafs full time for next season, and some are yet unlisted.
Top 20 at HF Boards: 1. (1) Nazem Kadri, C 2. (2) Jonas Gustavsson, G 3. (4) Tyler Bozak, C
4. (18) Carl Gunnarsson, D 5. (5) Viktor Stalberg, LW 6. (NR) Keith Aulie, D
7. (6) Jimmy Hayes, RW 8. (8) Jesse Blacker, D 9. (11) James Reimer, G
10. (10) Christian Hanson, C 11. (13) Jerry D'Amigo, LW 12. (3) Mikhail Stefanovich, RW
13. (9) Chris DiDomenico, C 14. (NR) Philippe Paradis, LW 15. (7) Kenny Ryan, RW
16. (NR) Juraj Mikus, D 17. (NR) Korbinian Holzer, D 18. (14) Phil Oreskovic, D
19. (15) Jerome Flaake, LW 20. (16) Matt Frattin, RW

Of course this list doesn't include Jussi Rynnas, G or Ben Scrivens, G, Burke's most recent signings, giving us unprecedented depth in goal. It also doesn't include Brayden Irwin, C, Luca Caputi, LW, Joel Champagne, C & Jamie Devane, LW. I'm actually quite surprised Luca Caputi isn't further up the depth chart, as he played out the end of the season from the trade deadline, and was selected in lieu of a second round draft pick, which would have been 50th, had they not acquired Jordan Leopold from Florida. Brayden Irwin was won over to sign in Toronto with the promise of playing the remainder of the season with the big club, but needs time in the AHL to develop. Champagne has bottom-six potential, and Devane is a heavyweight, so both have the potential to become serviceable NHL'ers in the Burke system, a la Jay Rosehill.

Burke believes greatly in allowing for player development instead of rushing prospects along and potentially ruining their progress. I expect the first 5 on the list to make the Leaf roster, and Hanson, with the rest being sent to the Marlies, though any still eligible to play junior will likely return to that environment. My prediction: Kadri is a lock for the NHL this year. On to the current roster.

Signed: Phil Kessel, C, Mikhail Grabovski, C, Tyler Bozak, C, Colton Orr, RW, Viktor Stalberg, LW, Fredrik Sjostrom, RW, Luca Caputi, LW, Jay Rosehill, LW, Nazem Kadri, C, Mike Komisarek, D, Tomas Kaberle, D, Francois Beauchemin, D, Jeff Finger, D, Luke Schenn, D, Dion Phaneuf, D, Carl Gunnarsson, D, J.S. Giguere, G, Jonas Gustavsson, G, James Reimer, G.

The general assumption here is that Kaberle has played his last game in blue and white. Other players I consider movable are Grabovski, Rosehill, Komisarek, Beauchemin, Schenn and Reimer. Grabovski might go to make room for Kadri in the top-six, and might return the 2nd round pick paid for him, a decent exchange. Rosehill may pique interest from teams looking to add muscle to their lineup. I've never been sure how Komisarek and Dion would get along, considering their history with Elisha Cuthbert, but this may be moot, and with Komi coming off of injury, interest won't be great. Beauchemin may be worth more traded than he is on the roster, given the pricetag on our defense. Schenn is no longer spoken of as "the future face of the franchise" or "our next captain", and for good reason. He has yet to establish his forecast potential. A change of venue may be a boon to all parties involved. Reimer is the only goaltender I could see Burke moving, as everyone else is too new, too valuable or too expensive to move. Look for any of these names to be involved in a trade to get the Leafs into the first two rounds of the draft, or some top-six talent for the roster. If only we could move Jeff Finger....

RFA's: Nikolai Kulemin, LW, John Mitchell, C, Christian Hanson, C.

Of these, I'm hopeful all will be re-signed cheaply, though Kulemin is demanding more than Burke would like to pay. If he balks, Burke has quite a valuable trade commodity, and the RFA pool is more attractive than it's UFA counterpart, if a more expensive endeavour. I wouldn't mind moving John Mitchell, but I don't think the return would be worth it.

UFA's: Wayne Primeau, Tim Brent, Jamie Lundmark, Andre Deveaux, Mike Van Ryn, Garnet Exelby, Jonas Frogren.

Rickard Wallin has already signed in Sweden. Mike Van Ryn will get a tryout with the team, and that's a class move by the brass. I don't think any of the others merits a new contract, though Primeau was a useful player at times this year, and Lundmark, Frogren and Deveaux would all be great Marlies. It really depends on Burke's needs in filling out the affiliate's roster, and if he wants the space to test unknown commodities or use players he already knows the value of.

Free Agent Frenzy begins July 1st, and while there are useful pieces to be had, this year's crop is not laden with offensive prowess, which is what the Leafs desperately need. While I wouldn't rule out a veteran acquisition, I'm assuming that Burke sticks to the gameplan here and signs players under 30. Find a list of all available UFA's by position here, and all RFA's by team here.

Burke will find a way into the top two rounds of the draft somehow, I believe. I also foresee at least 2 big UFA signings, like Matthew Lombardi, Colby Armstrong, or Raffi Torres, and one move for RFA rights should Kulemin not re-sign with the club, David Clarkson or James Neal heading the list of those I covet here. I also predict one more trade on the horizon, either before the season starts, or within the first 30 games, to obtain the pieces necessary for roster balance and special teams improvement.

As always, your input is encouraged, and appreciated. Tell me what you think will happen, where you agree with me, or where I am completely out to lunch. Thanks for reading!

GO HAWKS GO! 2-0 Series Lead!!