Alexei Ponikarovsky scored 102 goals in his final five seasons as a Maple Leaf ó and has barely been heard from since.
He failed in his brief stint with the Pittsburgh Penguins. And heís played a marginal role, chipping in with just five goals for the Los Angeles Kings.
Why does this matter?
For perspective, it does. Ponikarovsky was considered a solid player in Toronto, but has proven not to be that anywhere else. Tomas Kaberle was thought to be near-elite with the Leafs. In Boston, he looks slow, sloppy and ineffective.
Joffrey Lupul couldnít play on the first three lines of the playoff-bound Anaheim Ducks, but ended the season with first-line duty in Toronto. Already, Ron Wilson has said he sees him as a 30-goal scorer next year, even though he hasnít been close to that number in five years.
This is what needs to be looked at in a broader sense by the often myopic Maple Leafs fan. Here, we overrate by habit. Yet, player by player, year after year, Leafs have moved on to other NHL clubs, few of them ever measuring up to the lofty expectations that they had in Toronto.
You see the difference most at playoff time: Just how really far away this franchise is from being able to compete with the best in hockey.
THIS AND THAT
Brian Burke said an offer sheet for restricted free agents is not out of the question in the future. Which begs a further question: Would Burke considering jumping in on the best of the restricted players ó Steven Stamkos, Shea Weber, Zach Parise, Keith Yandle, Zach Bogosian? Now, that would be interesting ... The Leafs have all kinds of money to spend in free agency, but not all kinds of talent to spend it on. Alas, another question: If the best centre available, Brad Richards, doesnít want to play here and may be too old for the Leafsí tastes, do they look at the second best free agent centre, Brooks Laich, of the Washington Capitals? Another intriguing free agent, assuming he isnít signed by July 1: Ville Leino of Philadelphia ... A two-game playoff scorecard on Roberto Luongo: Game 1, perfect; Game 2, jumpy, like in previous playoff years. The difference between this yearís Vancouver Canucks and maybe this yearís Chicago Blackhawks ó maybe Luongo can get away with jumpy against the diminished Hawks ... The one playoff team other than distracted Phoenix that doesnít look like it belongs is the New York Rangers. Theyíre a goalie and not much else. It must eat away at a good man like GM Jimmy Rutherford to see his Carolina Hurricanes out of the playoffs with that Rangers team still alive, if only for the moment.
HEAR AND THERE
Bobby Ryanís favourite wrestler: Archie (The Stomper) Gouldie. His second favourite: Tarzan (The Boot) Tyler ... Just a thought, watching the Boston Bruins and their rather ordinary forwards, but wouldnít this team be a serious Stanley Cup contender with Phil Kessel on the wing? Isnít he exactly what theyíre missing? ... Donít know what bothers me most: That I didnít have Logan Couture first on my Calder Trophy ballot or that the Sharks donít get him with a first-round pick if our old pal, John Ferguson Jr., doesnít make that rather horrible trade with San Jose for Vesa Toskala ... Speaking of the Toskala trade, did you know that Mark Bell led Kloten to the Swiss League final, where it was beaten by Davos ... Some things in life make no sense, such as Kyle Wellwood playing on a checking line, and playing well for the San Jose Sharks ... Maybe Zdeno Chara being hospitalized later for dehydration explains the mindless penalty he took in the final minutes of Game 1 against Montreal ... Only in Edmonton, where they support everything but downtown arenas, would there be a draft lottery party celebrating a team that finished 30th and will pick first. And why does the NHL bother having a draft lottery when the winner, doesnít get first pick?
SCENE AND HEARD
Brett Cecilís win over Boston on Friday night was his third in a row over the Red Sox. The guy has this way of getting it done in big games. He is 10-2 against the Red Sox, Yankees and Rays since the beginning of last season ... A constant worry for the Jays: Adam Lind, Aaron Hill and Travis Snider have combined for two home runs in 146 at-bats before Saturdayís game at Fenway ... This doesnít happen often: Troy Tulowitzki ended last season crazy hot and has started this year the same, with seven homers already halfway through April ... The Angels get Vernon Wells. The Jays got Juan Rivera and Frank Francisco. Is anybody happy yet? ... The Jays stole 58 bases as a team last season. They should hit that mark under manager John Farrell some time in June ... Look for Canadian Danny Watkins, the late-developing tackle from Baylor, to be a late first-round, early second-round pick in the NFL draft ... First, it was UFC. Now we hear P.F. Changís is coming to Canada. Weather and elections aside, is this a great country, or what? ... This is how inspiring Kevin Naís 16 and Rory McIlroyís triple-bogey at Augusta was: I went shopping for golf clubs on Saturday.
AND ANOTHER THING
The state of the Phoenix Coyotes with regards to Winnipeg reminds me of the final days of the Atlanta Flames before their move to Calgary. There were all kinds of rumours and speculation about the Flames moving, but nothing really confirmed until a Calgary real estate agent let it slip that he was contracted to look for homes for GM Cliff Fletcher and the coach at the time, Al MacNeil ... Twisted geography: How come Detroit and Chicago play in the Western Conference of the NHL and in the Eastern Conference of the NBA? ... Bryan Colangelo was furious when Sports Illustrated tabbed the Raptors for last at the beginning of the NBA season. Turns out SI was wrong: The Raps ended up third last ... And this is why Twitter amuses me: On Saturday afternoon, somebody Tweeted that the NHL has finally found an owner for the Coyotes: Just happens to be Pavel Datsyuk ... Sunday stat: Cleveland was third in the NBA in attendance ... What the NHL might prefer: Finding an owner in Phoenix and moving the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg ... When Sacramento ends up moving to Anaheim, it will mark the fifth NBA franchise to relocate on commissioner David Sternís watch ... Happy birthday to Borje Salming (60), Rowdy Roddy Piper (57), Boomer Esiason (50), Ken Daneyko (47), Miguel Cabrera (28) and Brad Boyes (29) ... And hey, whatever became of Dave Manson?
It may take retirement and then some time before Carlos Delgado will be fully appreciated for all he did with the Toronto Blue Jays. Because there were no playoff games in his time in Toronto, he isnít remembered the way Joe Carter is or Roberto Alomar is or even someone like John Olerud. But all Delgado did was his job, hitting more home runs (336) than any Jay in history, scoring more runs (889), more RBI (1058), more doubles (343), more extra base hits (690), more walks (827). It isnít that he leads in every category: Itís that heís unlikely to be caught in almost any of his offensive categories for decades. Some might call the Alomar the greatest Jay ever. Some might point to Roy Halladay. But this much is clear: Delgado was the greatest offensive force in the history of the franchise.
WHAT TO DO WITH BARGNANI?
In one 7-foot package, you will find almost everything that is right and wrong with the Toronto Raptors. That is why after five years of waiting, the Raptors have to find a way to move on without Andrea Bargnani. He has been babied here long enough. You cannot build a winner around him. Statistically, Bargnani remains one of the NBAís enigmas: He finished second among centres in scoring this season, but 67th in shooting percentage among big men. He took 223 three-point shots, the most of any centre in the game, but was 34th among centres in rebounds. Bargnani can score, but canít be a first offensive option on any team. Whether he canít do anything else, or chooses not to do anything else, is no longer in question. To move forward, the Raps need to move their centre.
THE VERDICT ON BONDS
Barry Bonds is neither innocent nor guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, which may be legal in an American court, but it changes almost nothing for the disgraced one-time superstar. Those who believe that Bonds is a steroid cheat will continue to believe that, even though a jury in California could not come to any conclusion or consensus. And those who believe him to be a home run hero will continue on that road, as well. What Iíd like to know, and couldnít determine from court, is how much Bonds paid his long-time trainer, Greg Anderson, what their deal was for him to pick jail time over court time once again. Anderson is perhaps the only person who could bring absolute clarity to the Bonds story. But heís not talking and seemingly never will be.
RAPS ATTENDANCE IN DECLINE
Year Rank in NBA Avg. Attendance
2010-11 19th 16,566
2009-10 14th 17,897
2008-09 10th 18,773
2007-08 9th 19,435
ó source NBA