Saturday, March 31, 2012

Canada's Loss to Mexico was a Reality Check

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Canada came into the men's Olympic qualifying match-up against Mexico as the heavy underdogs. That much can be said for the majority of games in Canadian soccer history; Canada isn't exactly the most prolific of nations. This year's Olympic hopefuls were making a real case for themselves though after last weekend's upset over the United States. Canada came out swinging in the opening minutes, briefly maintaining pressure on the Mexican goalkeeper. That faded away quickly, like so many hopes in the world of Canadian soccer, as Mexico began controlling the pace from then on out. Canada was scrappy, but simply outclassed by the Mexican squad. The score could have been much worse, as Mexico hit several posts and crossbars. It was fun to ride the week-long bandwagon, but Canada still has miles to go before they're a legitimate international threat.

Montreal's Self-Destruction Means Major Rebuild

Whoever becomes the next GM of the Montreal Canadiens is going to have the weight of the world on their shoulders. Montreal is a proud franchise dealing with one of their most dismal seasons in recent memory. Like Toronto, their whole system seems to be broken. The term 'culture change' gets thrown around a lot, but that's what needs to happen for Montreal to get back to respectability. A major purge already got started at the deadline, and expect a full overhaul by Patrick Roy, or whoever else takes over. The hard part is taken care of, as Carey Price is the answer in net for now and the future. He and PK Subban might be the only untradeables, but who else can really occupy that category? Teams that bomb eventually have to blow it up, just ask any Torontonian. 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Nash Feeling The Heat, Getting Out Of The Suns

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Steve Nash is probably the next big star on the move in the search for a title. The rumors swirling about his future in Phoenix were put to rest today in an interview with Dan Patrick; unless Phoenix can make some big moves in the off-season, Nash will be signing with a contender. It's a story as old as time, the classy franchise player on a sub-par team reaches the moment of truth.

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Nash's honesty in calling out his beloved Suns is a revelation. PC and DB athletes alike don't often go on record so bluntly. If Phoenix obliges and Nash returns, it'll be a reversal of the cliche. If not, the Miami Heat might get a whole lot better. Either way, Nash's legacy could possibly ride on what happens this off-season.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Chris Bosh Can Suck It

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Chris Bosh went from being king Raptor, to being a regular ass twiggy dinosaur. For the most part Raptor fans have moved on, we've been divorced several times, and by better players than Ru Paul. It was the fact he handled the media like a 13 year old girl getting ready for the prom that enraged Raptor Nation, pushing his public approval rating in T-dot to near-Vince status
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Apparently he hasn't learned his lesson. In an interview today on Toronto radio, Bosh made statements such as "It's never fun watching your friends struggle", affirmed his devotion to Miami fans, and was non-committal when asked if the Raptors should have traded him. Suck it, bud. Don't comment on your former team struggling when you could have stayed. Just stop twisting the dagger and go back to playing third fiddle.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Canada Stumbles Into Concacaf Cinderella Run

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Canada’s national under-23 soccer team is in an awkwardly opportunistic position. After a massive upset against the United States over the weekend, the Canucks found themselves unsuspectingly in the running to qualify for the 2012 Olympics. Nobody saw this coming, least of all the Canadians. All they needed to advance to the next round of their Cinderella run was a draw against Cuba Monday night. With 88 minutes down they were in position to actually win, but allowed an atrocious goal in the dying minutes, and escaped by the skin of their collective teeth. Much is made about a bungled chance at a better matchup, but Canada is outmatched by several teams in CONCACAF, so matchups be damned. If this team is going to catch lightning in a bottle, it’ll be with a little grit and a lot of luck.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Raptors Rebuilding the Right Way

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The Toronto Raptors may not win, but damned if they don’t look good losing. New head coach Dwane Casey is being dubbed by many as the team’s MVP, as this year’s edition of the Raps have shown a commitment to team defense unlike any in recent memory. That’s good news for the future, plus the Raptors will have an influx of talent coming in next season. 
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The Raptors are in position to possibly land a lottery pick. How that pick is used is anyone’s guess, but the Raptors will get a quality player. Euro board-beast Jonas Valanciunas will likely make his NBA debut next year, and should help their struggling rebounding. Add all that with the development of core dudes like Amir Johnson, DeMar DeRozan, and Andrea Bargnani, and you’ve got an exciting future in the Great White North. 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Tiger is Hitting His Stride

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There was a time when other golfers could only aspire to wax Tiger Woods' balls. Unfortunately for them, another age of the Tiger may be looming. Woods won convincingly today at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, beasting the next best player by 6 strokes. The impressive return comes just two weeks after a scary Achilles injury, but Tiger had his swagger on and didn't look bothered by his bum leg. It marked his first Tour win since September 2009, and maintained some important momentum heading into the Masters. He jumped from 18th to 6th in the PGA rankings, so his confidence is up, but we can't expect Tiger to produce at the same level of consistency as he used to. Jack Nicklaus is still within swinging distance though, and that's enough to make for some epic drama if Tiger catches fire.

NASCAR Bungles Johnson Penalty

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NASCAR baffled the racing world this week by overturning a penalty handed down to racing deity Jimmie Johnson's team for allegedly illegal C-posts. Johnson was docked 25 points and lost the pole in the season-opening Daytona 500, where he did not finish. Since then he's been unconscious, finishing top 10 in the next 3 races. The reversed decision now bumps him from 34th in the chase to 11th, no small jump. The penalty was seen as excessive by many as Johnson's car passed multiple inspections before being deemed illegal. The strange part is NASCAR chose not to overturn a $100,000 fine against Johnson's crew chief, sending his team, and the league, mixed messages about whether wrongdoing actually took place. Either way, NASCAR be warned: Jimmie Johnson is pissed, and that means trouble for every other driver in the chase.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Radulov Makes Preds Legit

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When Alexander Radulov bolted for the KHL back in 2008, it sparked massive controversy about fair and proper player movement between the two leagues. With that behind him, and after dominating rinks in his home country, he has returned a more seasoned player. This has got to be scary for the rest of the West, as the Preds were already seen by many to have been the big winners on trade deadline day. They’ve now got one of the deepest forward units in the NHL, and because they aren’t a very offensively skilled team, the addition of the crafty Radulov will be a massive boost. They’ve got defense, goaltending, coaching, and now a top-end goal scorer. Other GM’s may think it’s dirty pool, but all’s fair in love and war. This move could push Nashville into legitimate contention.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Manchester Showdown

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Manchester City isn't letting United off the hook in the chase for the EPL title. City remain just one point behind the Reds in the standings, after pulling out a huge comeback win over Chelsea. The tables have turned since they last met in a 6-1 trouncing of Manchester United on their home turf. United are now 7-0-1 in their last 8, and with Tottenham dropping three straight, the table's set for a Manchester vs Manchester showdown with only 10 games left. Despite uncertainty on both rosters, both have been able to battle through adversity, making the match-up all the more intriguing. Man U still have to balance Europa League dates along with EPL matches, and with Carlos Tevez now back in blue, this could be the year they finally slay Goliath and write "City" on the Premier League trophy.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Blue Jays in Beast Mode this Spring

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The Toronto Blue Jays look primed for a breakout season with a beastly 16-4 record in Grapefruit League, good for 1st place overall. That won't necessarily translate into the season, but no sane baseball critic can see this excellent start as a negative. A level of comfort has to have set in for the Jays; there were few roster spots available heading into Grapefruit League, with most already spoken for. That comfort is now manifesting as swagger. 
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Bubble players like Travis Snider, Kyle Drabek, and the embattled Dustin McGowan have all stepped up, providing management with their favorite problem: too much talent. Health permitting, this is going to be a scary good team, and their depth on the field and in the bullpen should carry them through any potential rough patches. 
MLB be warned: the Blue Jays mean business.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Pens Depth Could Take Them Deep

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The Pittsburgh Penguins have stolen everybody's thunder. Since Sid's return the team is going banana sandwich all over the league, i.e. last night's pond hockey game against the Jets. Crosby, Malkin, and Neal combined for 13 points as Pittsburgh pimp-smacked the 'Peg 8-4. But this was no regular blowout, it was an establishment of the boys and the men. The Penguins have all the hallmarks of a battle-hardened playoff team: Size, speed, grit, elite goaltending, savvy role players, great puck moving defensemen, intelligent coaching, and offensive skill for light years. The scariest part for the rest of the NHL is that they are JACKED that Crosby’s back. The teams that heat up at the right time of year usually do damage in the playoffs, and it’s doubtful that this will be any different. Watch out for these guys.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Leafs Picking Up the Pieces After Boston Beatdown

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Losing isn't something new to Toronto Maple Leafs supporters. Fans in this city have a pretty thick skin on that front. Every now and then however we witness an event so gut-wrenchingly atrocious it feels like we've just been bitch-slapped by our dream girl. Boston presents the model for the type of team Brian Burke promised to build upon his arrival in T.O. as G.M., but last night's 8-0 demolition was a true measuring stick for how far Toronto is from truly competing. The Bru-Tang Clan is big, strong, skilled, and wicked nasty. The Leafs can't be typified by any of those traits. The difference is one team are reigning Stanley Cup champs, and one team is heading for another off-season of heavy rebuilding.

UNC More Than One Man: We Aren't Marshall

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 The status of UNC point guard Kendall Marshall is haunting the dreams of Tar Heels supporters leading up to Friday’s Sweet Sixteen matchup with Ohio. Marshall underwent surgery yesterday to repair a broken wrist that will likely keep him on the shelf. The injury has many ready to burn their brackets as UNC was a popular choice to go deep. Marshall has played in integral role in UNC’s success this tear, setting an ACC record for assists. The team has relied heavily on his distribution, with injuries dogging them all season. 

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This may not be the apocalypse some gloom-mongers expect though. This type of adversity has galvanized this team all year, and they still boast impact players like Harrison Barnes. Don’t be surprised if we see a rematch of the ACC semis against rival NC State in the elite 8.

Monday, March 19, 2012

*Manning's Denver Decision Could Kill Tebow Mania

Peyton Manning vs. Tim Tebow: When one soap opera meets another. 
(photo courtesy of via Getty Images)
The most talked about free agent sweepstakes in the history of professional football seems to have a winner. The same city that lived the legend of Tebow mania will swiftly turn the page this off-season and usher in another new era. There’s this guy, he goes by the name of Peyton Manning, I hear he can play a little bit of football, and it looks like he’s just jacked Tim Tebow for his job in Denver.  

When it became evident that Peyton's career-long tenure in Indianapolis was over, the media instantly flooded our brain space with speculation about where Peyton would wind up. He had meetings in Arizona and Miami, with local cameramen covering every angle. He also met officials in Tennessee where he played college ball, and San Francisco where they were bringing in all the attractive supporting cast membersthey could to lure the four-time league MVP. Ultimately it was John Elway’s Broncos that won out, according to reports close to the negotiations. 
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Obviously any team in the league would be happy to have a guy of Peyton Manning's calibre on board. What makes this signing curious is the fact that the Broncos already have arguably the most popular player in football taking snaps for them. The debate about Tim Tebow's legitimacy as a starting NFL quarterback has raged since the day he was drafted, and on this issue it seems like even his biggest supporters have their doubts. Elway and the Broncos are now reportedly exploring trade scenarios for Tebow, basically throwing in the towel on what was a shaky, but exciting and compelling team dynamic.

Manning presents a massive opportunity for the Broncos to take a strong step towards contention. The potential for high rewards isn't debatable, however this deal is probably a higher risk than most people care to say. Manning is 36 years old and coming off of the first major injury of his career, an injury that had critics questioning whether or not he would ever play football again. Tebow is far from a safe bet, but to ship out a young star, regardless if that stardom is duly warranted, for a rapidly aging one could be their undoing. Manning can't have that much football left in him, and skills have a tendency to decline in the latter years of a player's career.

Tebow won't be going to Miami, where he played in college and is a living football deity, as reports have David Garrard now signing there. There is speculation linking him to Jacksonville however, another Florida-based franchise in which he could thrive and grow into a quarterback more befitting of his status. That could be a major pie in the face of the Broncos in about 2-3 years time when Peyton is retired comfortably and Jacksonville is entrenched in renewed Tebow mania. 
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 There is no real correct stance to take on this if you’re John Elway. There couldn’t have been many teams out there that weren’t interested, on one level or another, in Peyton Manning. He’s a surefire first-ballot hall of fame quarterback. It’s just not that often that we see general managers in any sport moving out youth in favor of age. It goes against typical team-building mantras.

There is one scenario in which this becomes a grand slam (winning the Manning sweepstakes is already a home run): If the Broncos can convince Tim Tebow to stay on board as a backup. Tebow is an athletic specimen whose career has been plagued with criticisms about his throwing arm and play-reading abilities. Peyton Manning is in many respects the anti-Tebow; a true quarterback’s quarterback who thrives on his instincts and mastery of the intangibles of the game. Could there ever be a more perfect mentor? If there was a quarterback in the world that could help Tebow become the dominant force he was in college, wouldn't it be Peyton Manning? 

Alas, football is also a game of egos, and even a humble man of god like Tim Tebow is probably feeling a bit slighted by the signing. If Tebow can turn the other cheek however, he and Manning could prove to a be a formidable 1-2 punch behind centre, and that might be the only scenario that sees Tim Tebow become the star that the American public wants him to be.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Blue Jackets Setting the Bar for Bad

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The Blue Jackets are finished in Columbus, even if they don't know it yet. This team is not only dead last in the NHL standings by a country mile, but have a fractured management system from the top down. Perennial lottery picks that fail to pan out from poor drafting, misinformed free agent signings, and only one playoff appearance in their history. Not even Ken Hitchcock could save them, and he now has St. Louis in first place. The guy can coach. Compounding matters, their coveted first overall pick-to-be, Nail Yakupov, now has scrambled eggs in his skull. They've had bad luck, but the problem boils down to consistently atrocious mismanagement. With little fan interest, their franchise player begging to leave, and no discernible sign of hope on the horizon, I doubt they'll still be in Columbus within five years.
           (Columbus Captain Rick Nash addresses trade rumours)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy St. Paddy's Day!

From your bros at Good Hustle Sports. We'll be back tomorrow with more bloggins to bludgeon your brain with. Stay safe, but remember: GIVE'R TAKE ALL


Friday, March 16, 2012

Toronto's Operation #TankNation

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There's a debate raging around Toronto about the validity of #TankNation. It's the notion that when lower-end teams clearly aren't playoff bound, it's in their best interest to tank down the stretch to secure a better draft pick

Obviously no professional athlete would lose purposely, but this is more about the fans. The only thing they have to look forward to is next year, and they don't want their team to lose, but it wouldn't hurt. I understand the argument that to tank is classless, and it is, but bottom line, it's a struggling team's best chance at improving. The Raptors have embraced their fate and are tanking accordingly, while the Leafs are clinging to false hope, and after playing themselves out of the playoffs, will now likely play themselves out of a lottery spot too. #WorstCaseScenario.

Raptors Getting Real With Barbosa Deal

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Bryan Colangelo didn't have many moves to make at the NBA's trade deadline, but he was still able to make one that made sense. Leandro Barbosa has been one of Toronto's most consistent players since coming north. His energy off the bench, ball movement, and quickness have made him a perennial sixth man of the year candidate. But Barbosa is also aging, and on a team mired in what is, in reality, still a long-term rebuild, it didn't make sense to keep him and his expiring contract around. Coming back in return was a second round draft pick, turning an aging and expiring asset into one with essentially limitless potential. It's tough losing a leader like Leandro, but the toughest decisions are often the ones that make the most sense.