Just how far away are the Maple Leafs from a Stanley Cup?
The question is fair.
The answer: Indiscernible.
When you see what the Chicago Blackhawks had down the middle ó Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, Dave Bolland, John Madden ó Toronto has nothing like that to answer with.
When you see what last yearís champions, Pittsburgh Penguins had at centre ó Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal ó the Leafs have no one of that level.
Without a first- and second-line centre, and even without a third centre the remarkable calibre of Bolland or Staal, itís difficult to win a championship.
Even the Philadelphia Flyers lost with Mike Richards, Danny Briere and Claude Giroux at centre and another centre, the injured Jeff Carter, playing on the wing.
As of today, the Leafsí No. 1 centre is Tyler Bozak. No slight to the improving rookie, but he wouldnít play on any of the aforementioned teams.
Which makes the Leafs, how far away from their next Cup?
This and that
One point of correction: Just about everybody claims the Leafs have the longest drought now without a Cup. Not so. The Leafs are tied with the St. Louis Blues, Los Angeles Kings and the part of the California Golden Seals that went to San Jose for the longest drought. The Leafs won in 1967. The following season was the first for the Blues, Kings and Seals ... Another potential flaw in the Brian Burke building process: The Blackhawks won the Cup before Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith got the big money. That kicks in next year. The Leafs are already paying big money to Phil Kessel and tomorrowís captain Dion Phaneuf, and they havenít won anything yet ... For a long time, the assumption has been that Bill Daly would eventually replace Gary Bettman as commissioner of the NHL. That wind is drifting: Word around is that league COO John Collins, a former NFL executive, is considered heir apparent to the ever-popular commish ... Toews is the first forward to win the Conn Smythe Trophy without scoring a goal in the Stanley Cup Final. The only other Conn Smythe winner to not a score a goal, other than goaltenders: Scott Niedermayer in 2007.
Hear and there
Two years from now, a Blue Jays starting rotation of Shawn Marcum, Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, Brett Cecil and Kyle Drabek could well be the strongest and deepest in all of baseball ... Dressing-room humour works in dressing rooms, not in real world. Latest example, the dreadful Stanley Cup parade rapper, Kris Versteeg ... Bottoming out in the NHL is a good thing, unless you happen to be the Columbus Blue Jackets or the Florida Panthers ... For those counting, Scotty Bowman now has 12 Stanley Cups, nine as coach from Montreal (5), Detroit (3) and Pittsburgh (1) and three as executive in Pittsburgh, Detroit and Chicago ... Best thing the Leafs could do with Tomas Kaberle is work in concert with agent Rick Curran, trading Kaberle to somewhere where he will sign on long-term. Kaberleís value is substantially more long-term than with one year left on his deal ... The Blackhawks assistant coaches are in demand. Donít be the least bit surprised if John Torchetti ends up as coach of the Atlanta Thrashers and Mike Haviland is in the running to coach the New Jersey Devils ... This was the weirdest Stanley Cup ending in a long time. Hardly anybody saw the overtime goal, and after that, when Gary Bettman came out to present the trophies, he was so loudly booed it sounded as though Philadelphia fans were booing the champion Hawks. It didnít look right or feel right.
Scene and heard
Vesa Toskala told Calgary GM Darryl Sutter that he wants to be a starting goalie again. Either that or a standup comedian ... Shortest book ever written: Great Quotes by Antti Niemi .... My four favourite Cecils: Cecil Fielder, Brett Cecil, Cecil B. DeMille and Beany and Cecil ... Don Maloney just re-signed winger Ryan Holl-weg, which begs the question: Is there still time to take back that general manager of the year award? ... Say this much for Aaron Hill: Heís the most powerful .188 hitter in baseball ... For whatever reason, Simon Gagne seemed to come off criticism-free but was there was a less effective player during the Stanley Cup Final? Your best players are supposed to be your best players: He wasnít ... Chicago defenceman Niklas Hjarmalsson, a restricted free agent, emerged as the Blackhawksí No. 3 defenceman in the playoffs, ahead of the highly paid Brian Campbell. Which makes Hjarmalsson and the Blackhawks a target for offer sheets come July 1 ... A recent Lou Piniella explosion: ďIíve won more than 1,800 games as a manager and Iím not a damn dummy, that I can tell you. There are only 13 (managers) that have won more games than me. I guess I think I know what the hell Iím doing.Ē So there ... In case you didnít know, Ringette Canada has announced its latest Hall of Fame members, which is only surprising because who knew Ringette Canada had a Hall of Fame.
And another thing
Iím trying to watch the World Cup. Honest, I am. I do this every four years at the urging of my soccer-loving friends. Itís better on HDTV but I still donít know what I hate more: The game or those nasty South African bee-buzzing noise makers? ... Even some of the Boston Bruinsí scouts are split on who they would choose if they have had first pick in the NHL Draft. ďIf we had a strong consensus, weíd consider trying to trade up to No. 1,Ē said general manager Peter Chiarelli. Instead, theyíll be happy settle for the Tyler or Taylor the Edmonton Oilers donít select first ... Just wondering: Will Jose Bautista be part of the home-run derby at the All-Star Game in Anaheim?... Donít care if you like baseball, hate baseball or donít care about it, but that first Stephen Strasburg start was pure theatre. You couldnít take your eyes off the kid pitcher ...... If Ville Leino played in Montreal, theyíd name a city after him ... Kids, the NCAA conferences you grew up with are no more. The Pac-10, for example, is neither Pac nor 10 anymore. Money, it seems, can buy off history ... Happy Birthday to Ernie Whitt (58), Willie de Wit (49), Jason Spezza (27), Jacques Rougeau (50), Jamario Moon (30) and Ted Cottrell (63) ... And hey, whatever became of Ivan Boldirev?
Is it premature to pick Phaneuf?
Both Brian Burke and Ron Wilson have complained privately and publicly about the entitlement of Maple Leaf players in Toronto.
Their argument, mostly, has been that the stock of average players elevates in this town strictly by the intensity of the market.
Without merit, average becomes good, good becomes great. But we wonder if Burke and Wilson arenít doing what they have objected to themselves by briskly naming Dion Phaneuf as captain of the Leafs.
Phaneuf is coming off an average season, given up on by the team that drafted him.
In a dressing room bereft of leadership in Toronto, his vocal ways stood out, more than did his game.
For that, he will be given the C on Monday.
The choice may be premature.
Bad as it gets for Toronto sports
This is not the worst time in the history of Toronto sports ó but itís close.
The driest decade was probably the í70s, with no championships from anybody.
In the í80s, the Argonauts won a Grey Cup and the Blue Jays made the playoffs.
In the í90s, the Leafs had some success, the Jays won two World Series and the Argos won three Grey Cups. Even in the past decade, there was an Argonauts victory and some Leaf success under Pat Quinn.
For the best years, though, you have to go to the í40s, where Toronto teams appeared in nine championships, winning eight.
Those were the halcyon days of Toronto sports. Unfortunately, few of us have been around long enough to experience anything like that.
Do the Raptors really play in this league?
Do the Raptors actually play in the same NBA as the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers?
I keep thinking that while watching this part-rugby, part-basketball compelling series that is the NBA Finals. This isnít the game we see in Toronto.
This isnít anything close. This is mean, rough, physical and intense.
And itís terrific to watch.
Every basket is contested.
Every possession means something.
Yes, thereís a difference between regular-season hockey and the playoffs but nothing like the difference between regular-season basketball and this Finals series.
Itís little wonder the Raptors canít compete at the highest level: They donít even play the same game as these teams in the Finals.