Thursday, December 19, 2013

WPBT Report

Lookee! A report! Kind of.

Insert all other reports here. Arrived, ate, played poker, saw good people, gambled, drank a bit, ate more, left. Good eggs, etc, etc..

I mean, why be repetitive? You know how these things go by now. Okay, fiiiiine, here are the highlights of a busy 5.5 days.

Small group this year. Around 40 in the tournament. The group of veterans of previous gatherings who were in New Orleans certainly cut the numbers down a bit. So be it. People can do what they want.

Brought my friend along so she could experience what I always rave about. This led to a tour of the classics for me.

Robuchon was as incredible as ever. This time the chef came out to talk to another table, and I noticed the tri-coloured collar on his jacket. The sign of a M.O.F. - the highest order of achievement of artistry in France (for many categories, cuisine among them). This should have come as no surprise, yet I was still impressed.

é was it's usual creative best, save for the annoying guest who felt it was his duty to educate his friends (often incorrectly) about what they were eating. The staff was visibly annoyed/amused, and the sous-chef for the evening focused on us as it was clear the other party couldn't hear him over their braying companion.

Craftsteak was delicious, even if we had to cover the cost of flakes who bailed last-minute, despite my rather clear exhortations to let me know ahead of time. Next time I think we aim for multiple small groups.

Raku was solid, but disappointing only because I've been there before and it didn't live up to past visits. A clearly missing broth course (that bowl and spoon wasn't for fried fish, I guarantee you), and the definite impression of at least one or two more courses missing (asparagus? chicken on a bed of spinach? where were you?). What was served was excellent, but if costs have gone up, then I wouldn't mind paying a bit more to get the full experience.

The last night's meal was at FIX, courtesy of Grange, and it was a great way to end the trip. Good company, good drinks, imported brandy (thanks Lori!) all adds up to a fine meal.

Also grabbed some fries and a beer with OhCaptain, Absinthetics, Nickerson, and Atarifan in there too.

Ziplining was freezing, but fun nonetheless. Maybe I'll get some video of my legs flying through the air up here sometime. Or some pictures at least.

The Neon Museum on Sunday was also pretty chilly, but the place looks far more orderly since the visitor's center went in. Pics eventually.

Managed to grab a bottle of can't-find-at-home liquor (Swedish Punsch) at Total Wine. Struck out on high-end whiskeys this time, but what can you do? I got good beer, some of it even free from Nate/Atarifan (yay backpack of alcohol!). Sadly, I didn't catch up with Grange in time again to snag an offered free bottle of Templeton. Them's the breaks... Superman slots were being too kind to me, and night photography outside the Bellagio is hard to pass up.

Even hit the north outlets and bought clothes and sunglasses. Although I think I could have got the shades cheaper back home.

Saw Beatles Love for the second time (first time was... wow, 8 years ago), and actually stayed awake through it (yay caffeine mints!). Great show, great seats.

Saw what's become of the IP. Bones are still there, but it's a scarily sterile place now.

Went out halfway in the tournament, but my last-longer partner Vinnay went out as Gigli on 0 hours of sleep in the previous 30ish hours, so I don't feel too bad. Then made a bit of profit playing cash at Monte Carlo with CK, Grange, Penner, Mondo, Katie, Matt, and some random others, I recall Drizz railing for a bit too. Hope I'm not missing anyone. Oh yah, and Bayne finally joined us too. This is where some Edmontonian convinced Grange and Katie to bet on a terrible hockey game.Suckers.

Railed BrainMC at Pai Gow, but when I finally sat down to a game, only Penner was still around. It's for the best, as the dealers hated me and kept taking my money away, so I may have been dubbed worlds worst Pai Gow player if there were more witnesses.

Some craps was played and some slots. A wee touch of bad video poker too. All told, I ended up a small amount. Enough to cover... well... not much. Gas? Resort fees? But it's better than a loss. And as always, not the point of the trip.

See you all same time next year? Super.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Maybe I'll Even Get Some Gambling In

It's rapidly approaching that time of year again.

The hap-hapiest time.

With brightly coloured lights, friends sharing food and drink, laughter abounding, stories being told over the warm glow of green felt tabletops.

WPBT time is next weekend. Remember when there used to be blogs about it?

I'm once again in town for my maximum tolerance level, and have once again crammed my schedule full of food and fun. Maybe even a comet this time around, depending on the power of our mighty sun. All hail Sol, destroyer of icy rocks.

I think we've got 13 people lined up for Craftsteak on Friday night so far. Still room for more if you're interested.

I'm running through my schedule in my head. I think I have a window of not doing anything early Thursday afternoon, and of course, post-midnight every day. Of course, this is under the assumption that my last longer partner Vinnay and I end up heads-up in the tournament. I see no reason to doubt that will come to pass.

But hey, Pai Gow and craps are always better after the witching hour, with a stomach bloated with food and a liver working on fine wine and cocktails. Which reminds me to check on my caffeine supply. Ah Vegas, land of health. Hell, dinner on Saturday starts at 10pm. Positively European... except that it's Japanese.

Happy Yanksgiving


Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Find Your Targets

I was watching the local news last night, mostly to see if anything new was going on in Ford Nation.

They ran a story about how His Worship Laughable Bumblefuck still has strong supporters and showed interviews with 3 or 4 people who more or less made excuses.

"There's been nothing proven in the courts."

"I think he's doing a good job, and if this doesn't interfere, who cares?"

"Everyone makes mistakes, we're all human."


Now, for the majority of viewers, this may have seemed fine. I noticed something though. I knew the neighbourhood all these people were being interviewed in. I used to live nearby, and I worked a couple summers across the road. All these people-in-the-street were found in the same place - directly in front of a pub, in the middle of the day. Each one looked... off. Unkempt, eyes glazed, and speech a wee bit slurred.

Yup, they found a bunch of drunks and asked them what they thought of Rob Ford.

At least we have an excuse for his base now.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Or Else What?

As a kid I remember it occurring to me that "or else" could mean nothing. Counting to 3 without a defined punishment at the end means that 4 could be what comes next.

I often find myself also thinking how delicate the agreed-upon rules of society are. If you walk out of a store with a bag full of stuff, that's shoplifting. I'd like to think most people don't steal because they know it's wrong. Many probably don't because they're afraid of getting arrested. But the reality is that if you went somewhere you rarely frequent and randomly walked out of a small store without paying for anything, that you'd probably never be punished.

An extreme example? Maybe. But so many rules are set up with the expectation people will act decently. The line "make me" or "what are you gonna do about it?" come to mind.

Which brings me to Rob Ford.

Toronto's Mayor's foibles and fuck ups have been well-documented. The latest twist is his friend, Alexander Lisi, a "stand-up guy" by Ford's own written admission, has been arrested for extortion, drug trafficking, and probably a few other things. The press got the documentation for the search warrants released, and they were revealing. Photos of Lisi and Ford going through spy-level package drops and meets, possibly drinking and driving, and generally looking shifty. Along with these came the admission from the Chief of Police that the cops also now had a copy of the crack-smoking video in their possession. The video Ford said didn't exist. The one that Ford had hoped had been mostly forgotten.


So with this revelation, the media descended on City Hall. Ford came out, mumbled his way through excuses, and said he wasn't going to resign, because there was no reason for him to.

He's kind of right.

There are no criminal charges against Ford. Even if he WAS smoking crack in the video (and his lawyer has already said it wasn't crack in the pipe, or more accurately, that they can't prove it was crack, because straws offer good grasping support), that's not enough evidence to charge him with anything. It just means he's a liar, which most people already knew.

If you were accused of a crime and told to quit your job, would you? Or would you defend yourself? Especially if there was no actual charge, just the public casting you as guilty.

Ford SHOULD temporarily step aside to avoid being a further distraction, with the promise to return when his name is cleared. But he won't do that either.

For he knows full well that there's nothing anybody can do to him. Council can't have him removed. There's no recall option. The Provincial Government can only remove him if he's charged with (or convicted of?) a crime. He also knows the support he has left is among die-hard morons who would stand behind him as he threw puppies at a button that would nuke the city. So in short, what can be done to him? He'll just keep deflecting and denying and hoping it all blows over and is forgotten.

What this will do is reignite the investigations into his life and past. He will have no privacy, and no secrets. He knows the police are following and recording him. His friends are rapidly getting arrested. His allies are abandoning him to save their own hides. It will end up being him, his brother, David Price, and maybe one or two council members who are too stupid to get away.

Oh, and I expect Lisi will look for a plea bargain to avoid court, which could keep the video under wraps indefinitely. Because for some reason, the Ford family seems to be scarier to criminals than jail.

Here's hoping he doesn't see a second term.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Vegas Bound


Either $747.28 or $622.73 depending on how the bonus works on tier credits.

That's all I need to hit platinum on my M life status. A pittance by Vegas standards. But it has to be achieved by October 1st.

So I'm heading to Vegas this weekend to reach that goal. Clearly I'm a sucker for loyalty programs. I get a 10% better point bonus, taxi and valet priority, and an extra 5% off at retail shops I buy water and snacks at. Oh, and probably better deals on hotel rooms for future trips.

Just checked - also turndown service! (which I've had the past couple trips on Gold, but maybe that was the tip at the front desk). Priority access to cabanas and clubs I don't frequent!

But the card is a different colour, and that taxi thing and better deals are the real appeal. After all, I'll be back in December and February, so that's when this pays off.

Anyway, off to Vegas this weekend on a flight paid with other points. The hotel rooms pretty much cover the tier points I need (due to some big-ass music festival this weekend driving up the prices), but I'll do a dinner or two in MGM properties to make sure... plus the gambling.

Solo trip. But it helps to have friends there so I don't seem too degenerate. I just have to make sure I actually set some stuff up with them. I'm also curious how the festival (which has some pretty huge names) will affect The Strip. Massive crowds usually means expensive tables and busy poker rooms.

But I'm not even sure how much gambling I'll see. I'll likely play in a tournament or two, and maybe play bad poker at cheap tables. I can't see me not rolling some dice and hitting the slots as I wander around, but I can't say I have a huge gambling urge this time around. I suppose that's generally a good thing.

No, I think I'm most looking forward to seeing a few friends and generally taking it easy. I'll keep the planning to a minimum and try to clear my head. Maybe get into the right mindset for my even less-planned birthday the following weekend. After all, it's a completely non-number one. No 5's or 0's. No significant milestones of life, just another tick on the calendar. Hell, nothing even expires this year. Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.

Who the hell goes to Vegas to relax? This guy apparently, and I don't even know where the pool is.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Free Agent Frenzy!

They call it a frenzy because they can't think of other F words that work. Fustercluck?

It's free agent day in the NHL. Lots of players get overpaid and everyone gets to complain about their team. Man, hockey is truly the sport that never has an off-season.

The Leafs managed to re-sign their #1 Centre, Tyler Bozak. They also picked up David Clarkson, a power winger, Toronto native, and one-time 30-goal scorer. Yesterday they dumped Grabovski to free up some money. I like Grabo. He'll do fine wherever he lands.

So, as is typical in Hogtown, the Leafs fans are bitching about the signings.

First, Clarkson - 7 years and $5.25m/yr. The general consensus is that 7 years is a long contract. Especially in Leafs land. I agree. But those extra 2 years are what it takes to get the top UFA this season. Hell, $5.25 million is a bargain in this market. The Leafs aren't looking for a 30-goal scorer in him either. 15-20 goals and his tough play will be enough to make fans happy. Lay down some hits. Get knocked down and jump back up. Occasionally put the puck in the net when it matters, and he'll be loved. But of course, the fans are jumping on this as a terrible overpayment for a mediocre player who will never pay off. He's actually exactly what the Leafs like and the fans cheer for. Sigh.

Remember, these are the fans that think Phil Kessel is awful. Because they're idiots.

Which leads to Kessel's buddy - Tyler Bozak. They were dubbed Bert & Ernie in the locker room. They live together (Bozak didn't have an apartment and the season was short, so Phil offered him a spare room.). They've played on the same line for 2.5 seasons now. It's called chemistry. It's what makes a team.

And $4.2 million for 5 years is just fine. It's a small overpayment for the guy, but hardly ridiculous. But the knock on Bozie is that he's not really a first-line centre. He doesn't have the size, or the points apparently.

Fuck that.

I've covered this before. The top-line centres that had better numbers than Bozak tended to have names that will be in the hall of fame one day, or played with  a pair of guys who sit atop every scoring category. And guess what? None of them were available. So if you lose Bozak, you end up hoping Kadri is ready to play every day on the first line. He may not be there yet.

Bozak had a decent faceoff percentage. He made plays happen. And he ALWAYS knows where his linemates are. He took every damned defensive zone faceoff.  He was a major key to the Leafs getting to game 7 in the first round, and his absence was a possible reason why they couldn't get to round 2.

Sure, I'd love a Crosby or Staal or Stamkos or Datsyuk, Getzlaf, or Toews on our top line. Ain't gonna happen. So I'm happy with a solid all-around 2-way player with some heart and a desire to play for my team any day. Leave it to Kessel, JVR, Lupul, and Kadri to rack up the points. Or hell, maybe Bozak's one of those guys who will actually try and be worthy of his contract and prove all the naysayers wrong. He stepped it up in the playoffs when the "we lack a centre" talk was getting louder, here's to a career year in 2013-2014.

So he doesn't fit in the big #1 Centre mould?  So what? Change the game. He's a playmaker who can win faceoffs. With a top-10 scorer on his wing that likes playing with him. If a team can't make that work, then the coach has issues. If the fans can't see past the "he's not 1st line centre" mantra, then they should open their eyes, because guess what? He's ours.

$4.2m/year for 5 years? I can live with that.

Friday, June 07, 2013


Gotcha! Just one musical - The Book of Mormon.

I shall sum up my review thusly -- meh.

I shall put some blame on hype. Some more on the touring cast and sound guy being unable to spell enunciation, let alone pronounce it clearly enough for me to understand it.

But most of it goes on the show. An uneven, poorly-connected tale that relies on occasional shock value to create the illusion that you just saw a great show.

I didn't. I saw an alright show. Adequate. Not worth the $130 for a good seat in the 1st balcony.

The songs dragged on, the jokes were repetitive, and the story was edited to the point of being barely coherent. Which is a shame, because the underlying tale had a lot going for it. False belief, seeking meaning, logical fallacies in religious texts, opening one's mind, the selfish nature of evangelism, the core purpose of helping people, etc, are all messages the world could use exposure to.

Yes, there were some funny spots. There were even a few hilarious ones. There was clever use of jokes to misdirect for another, unexpected joke. There was the trademark Parker/Stone shock humour that was great the few times they were actually able to use it. I love irreverent humour, and they did nail it occasionally.

But it was all too little and was overcome by the larger, mediocre whole. There was maybe 30 minutes of funny vs 60 minutes of "is this song still going on?"

Give me Spamalot or Evil Dead: The Musical any day. They may not have anything under the surface, but they were hilarious and entertaining. I have both their original cast recordings on my shelf. In fact, I left the theatre last night singing Evil Dead songs, because the melodies shared so much with what I'd just seen. I didn't buy the Book of Mormon CD. 12 hours later I barely remember a single song.

Although "Hasa Diga Eebowai" was pretty good.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Credit and Context

Hrm, a post on Blogger about a gripe that was catalyzed by Tumblr. Maybe I'll tweet about it.

Tumblr - I'm still not sure I "get" it, but I have one that I post at infrequently. It's a decent way to find some interesting stuff that doesn't necessarily make it to Twitter. One of its major problems, however, is the lack of proper sourcing. Lots of pictures, comics, gifs, etc., fly through it without being attributed to the original source. I've seen a couple of my photos on there with narry a link to my Flickr page or mention of me. I assume similar things are happening elsewhere on the Web as well.

[there was a part in here about Tumblr making it hard to anchor to the original source. This seems to be something they fixed, so that part is gone now.]

There are users out there that do try though.  The Frogman comes to mind as someone who tries their best (or at least, his assistant does) to find out where things are from originally instead of just hitting the reblog button. Likely because he creates a great deal of original work that gets ripped off.

Wil Wheaton is another who has championed sourcing your material. But he often falls prey to the beast of "it's easier to hit reblog".

Case in point, this recent post.

This one caught my eye because I instantly recognized the location. It's the Distillery District in Toronto. That truck is all over the place. I've taken some shots myself. Thinking that "hey, Wil retumbld a shot from my city", I clicked on who he got it from. It was from an actress, who as far as I could tell was neither a ballerina, nor photographer, nor from Toronto. It seemed unlikely she was the original source. In very light grey and a tiny font, hidden amongst the tags of her post, was a "source" link - to a Tumblr of a 19-year-old dancer, or at least dance enthusiast. Okay, this seemed to be getting somewhere. Except that there was nothing else like this in her feed, and no more links to earlier sources. It seemed that this was just someone who liked the shot and put it up without attribution.

To be fair to Wil, he had a more visible link to this same source on his post

So I spent a whopping 5 seconds copying the link to Google's search-by-image tool, and found this article in Chloe Magazine about Heather Ogden, a Principal Dancer of the National Ballet of Canada. The second image in was the one in question. With two others from the Distillery District. Photography was credited to Aleksandar Antonijevic - whom another search revealed is another Principal Dancer in the National Ballet, who also happens to be a photographer.
It took far longer to ramble on here than to actually find where this image came from. It's really not that hard. It's even easier if the original poster includes a link in the first place. I mean, I have 10 links in this post alone. They're really easy to use.

Thursday, May 23, 2013


If you still read here, you've seen my rants against Mayor Laughable Bumblefuck, AKA Rob Ford. If you pay attention to any of the same information streams I do, then you know there's a video out there that appears to show our beloved mayor smoking crack with drug dealers in what's generally considered one of Toronto's worst neighbourhoods.

The saddest part about this is that it's not really all that surprising.

Alright, fine, nobody expected crack. Cocaine had been rumoured for a while. Getting drunk wasn't uncommon for him. He had been pulled over in the States once possessing weed. But crack? Really? Our millionaire moron mayor smoking crack? It'd be funny if it wasn't so pathetic (okay, it's still funny).  This will all be rambly from here on out. What else is new.

It's day 7 since this all started, and there has been one comment from the Mayor. He claimed this was the Toronto Star going after him and that the claim is ridiculous. His brother Doug, a councilman, spoke yesterday with what sounded more like a campaign speech than anything of substance. Oh, and he attacked the Star as well.

As an aside, it should be pointed out that the Toronto Star is the most-read newspaper in Canada. It's generally well-respected, if a bit left-leaning. It isn't a tabloid, or a rag, or known for wild accusations and ill-researched propaganda.  That's the Sun (the firmly right-wing tabloid counterpart that Ford loves). The way the brothers Ford have talked about it for the past few years though might leave the impression it's the National Enquirer and Daily Mail and NY Post all in one. It isn't.

Also absent in these attacks is mention of Gawker's independent description of the video. That would lend credence to the story of course.

So, a week since this story broke, and no real comment from the accused Mayor. I'll grant the long weekend to him as time to circle the wagons and meet with his lawyers. But it's 3 days now since that ended. Indications are that his lawyers told him to shut the fuck up, and he's listening for a change.

Of course, none of that looks good on him. I mean, if I hadn't smoked crack and someone had video of someone who looked like me smoking crack, I'd deny it immediately.

Any hope that this will go away is foolish. It's only getting bigger.

Of course, with everything else this dipshit of a politician has done, who knows what effect this will have long-term?

Although he has lost his real job - high school football coach. The one he spent more time at than his elected office. The one that had him hire football assistants on the city payroll. The one that got him booted once from office for raising funds using city materials. I imaging being told he can't coach his team any more to be the bigger blow to him than any political fallout. Because priorities.

My guess for what will happen. Eventually he will have to speak. Either because Gawker buys the video and posts it, or his team finally figures out a way to confront this. It will go like this:

Blahblahblah I've done great things for this city blahdebloopbeblah The Toronto Star hates me and has been harrassing my family blahblahblahblah the left-wing commies are out to get me blahblahblah I am not perfect and have made mistakes blahdeblah nothing in my personal life has affected my performance at City Hall, I fight for the taxpayers, I'm doing a great job blablahblah I am stepping down as Mayor because of the pressure from the media on my family and it's affect on my health or some bullshit.

A video of him smoking from a pipe isn't nearly enough for a criminal charge. An admission of guilt might be problematic. So he won't directly admit anything while admitting it. Or, maybe his blubbering honesty will come through and he'll actually admit to it, seek help, and still blame the Star and the leftists.

One other alternative: A conspiracy gets tossed out. He was drugged and then given the crack when he was under the influence of something else in order to blackmail him. He's the victim here. He confronted these guys to protect his at-risk players, and they tricked him.

Regardless, this isn't the last we've heard of this buffoon.

Hey, local news is now covered with coverage of a city Councillor getting pulled over and failing  a breathalyzer and getting a warning. That should buy Rob another day.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

How it Goes

Out in 10th.

The tweet said KJh < 66. But that of course only tells part of the story.

With stacks as low as 17k and 3k/6k/500 being the starting level, I knew that action would be fast and furious to start. So I kept my 124k chip lead mostly out of the way.

Things settled down a bit as people dropped and chips consolidated. I stole some blinds and antes, wasn't stealing when I won a couple as well. I more or less stayed where I was, which was enough to stay above everyone else, but I knew that couldn't last without being proactive.

Eventually, I looked down at 66 in the BB. At this point the button and SB had both limped to me, and I opted to check and set mine.  Flop came 288 rainbow and the SB checked to me. I pot-bet and the button folded. The SB debated for a bit and then pushed all-in for 65k more. So I'm calling 65k for 118k pot. I have around 95k in front of me, and 66 with a paired board and no information. I'm kicking myself for not raising pre. I finally fold, worried not only that he caught an 8 or had pocket 2s, but that he's actually got a couple overcards that will hit. Right after I fold I realize I've been in a hand with this guy once before, and that he's capable of pushing with air. My internal monologue is ranting at me for being a wuss.

I'm still in okay shape though. An orbit later, again in the BB, UTG pushes all-in for 28k. SB (same guy as before) calls, and I come over the top all-in. UTG is happy for the protection, and SB curses me for my move before folding. My AQ falls to a KJ with the jack on the river, and I'm down more. SB explains the concept of calling and checking down to me. I explain the concept of "no prizes for making the final table" to him. There's no way KOing UTG and gifting SB over 80k helps me out.

I'm short now, but manage to limp to a river against the usual suspect, and win a small pot with a pair of 4s. I take it.

Break comes and I spend it eating while staring at my stack and talking poker pro stories with the guy I've been sparring with. Coming back it's 6k/12k/1k for 10 minutes before we get to 5k/10k/1k.  I'm in trouble.

I let a couple hands go by before pushing with A7o UTG. The same guy as previously tanks in the BB and finally calls with... A8o.  Dammit. AT4 on the flop. 8 on the turn. Fuck me. T on the river... Two pair, 10s and Aces with an... 8 kicker. I survive and win half the blinds.

Couple hands later, AJo. I push, win some a couple limps and the BB. I have some chips. Around 90k. 5/10/1 though, so it ain't pretty yet.

A couple hands more and I see KJh.  My nemesis for the evening raises to 20k, I push over the top. It's enough to make him think. And think. He finally calls with 66, a hand that in hindsight hated me last night. Two hearts and a queen on the flop and I'm in good shape with 15 outs twice, and a runner-runner straight draw for fun. 6 on the turn does me zero favours, but I still have the hearts as a possibility. River is a black card and I'm done.

I have no complaints about the final hand. I have none about the previous plays I made. Except one. The 66. I'm positive I was ahead there, but talked myself out of it. Maybe he catches something and I'm out earlier. Maybe he doesn't and I'm huge and he's gone. Either way, I'm sure I made a mistake.

Oh, and it's how it always goes - the guy who I battled with? Won the whole thing. GL to him in whichever 1k WSOP event he's playing.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Divided Attention

Two unimaginable games. Back-to-back victories over the Bruins. Somehow, The Leafs, MY Leafs, were in game 7, with all the momentum their way.

And I was heading uptown to play free poker in a bar with poorly placed televisions. My Leafs jersey (Clark 17, C, Winter Classic) was on, and a Tim Hortons cup was in my hand as I boarded the subway. I exchanged nods with the random stranger in a Leafs jersey sitting across from me. I looked at the other jerseys around me. They all got off at Union station, a short underground walk to the Air Canada Centre and Maple Leaf Square. I stayed on the train.

It was day 2 of the main event after all. I didn't play to get here for nothing.

Up the stairs I wandered, got my seat assignment, and listened to the welcome and game changes for this stage of play. I was table 6, downstairs, away from the rest of the action. Seat 1 was obstructed view of the TV in the opposite corner. It would suffice.

7pm saw the cards in the air and the puck dropped.

20,000 chips in front of me. 20,000 fans in their seats.

I called a few small raises with hands meant to catch. They didn't. I was more interested in the game on the TV than the game I was playing. Boston scored. The bar groaned. I said it was still early. I counted my chips and was down 10%. It was still early.

Franson scored. The bar erupted in cheers. My chips hadn't changed much.

We broke for dinner, I was down 5%, Leafs were tied at the beginning of the second.

Franson scored again, 2-1, happy bar. My grilled chicken caesar wrap with tasteless fries was served.

Back to the game, back to watching the game. I make a huge error. I flip the 5k chip off the top of my stack instead of taking the 500 from the bottom, plus a couple 100s. 5.2k pre-flop raise in the hijack instead of 700 at the 100/200/25. Pocket nines. The table pauses, unsure how to react. Folds to the small blind, who tanks and then calls. Big blind is in pain, wanting to take part, but now extra scared by the call. He folds.

Flop comes K99. Dem's quads. SB thinks and bets 5.1k into the 10.8k pot. He has less than 10k behind, I have around 14k. I push, figuring he either can't get away or has AA, AK, or KK and won't leave. He calls and flips over TT for the runner-runner quads draw. It doesn't come and I find myself with around 38k, having doubled my stack.

Third period starts and Kessel scores. 3-1 Leafs. Table lead me.

Kadri scores. 4-1 Leafs, nothings changed at the table, but most of us are cheering and watching the TV anyway.

Bruins get one back, I comment that I HATE 2 goal leads because they create a false sense of security. Two idiots at the table comment that it's okay, because there's no way Boston scores two goals in 10 minutes. The Leafs will shut them down. I politely inform them to keep their traps shut.

Play continues both on the ice and at the table. My chips stay static, my hands inconsequential.

Boston scores again, after my guys can't pot an empty-netter. We can't see how much time is on the clock due to obstructing wall. I check my apps and see 1:22 left. Sonofabitch.Same morons as before tell us not to worry, I contemplate defenestration, even if it's only onto the patio.

Tied game. I tweet one word, but use a lot of capital letters and "U"s.

We colour up and the table breaks to join the rest of the tournament upstairs. Overtime is starting. I hope nothing happens until I get to my new seat.

One TV in the corner, but I have a better view than before. The upstairs guys are a few minutes behind us, and are still colouring up the small chips. I lean against a bar rail and try to keep my stomach from churning. 3 games of momentum completely switched around. 3 minutes of unfortunate play exposing the inexperience of a young team. Gasps and almost cheers and texts and tweets and nerves and pain and anticipation all roiling around, and I still have a tournament to play.

Bergeron scores for Boston, and I pound on the rail and hang my head. The bar empties out. Play resumes. It's suddenly very hot under my Jersey, so I hang it on my chair. Börje Salming was dealing, now it's just a guy named Phil who looks about as thrilled as I am. I fold hands and pay no attention to the table. I tweet and text and support my forehead with my hand as I toss out antes.

A Canadian is returning from space and landing in the sea in Kazakhstan, contained in a sardine tin with two other astronauts. He's inspired hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people over the past 5 months with videos and photos and songs and a goofy and ultimately Canadian sense of humour. He's cheered the Leafs the whole time. He's watched the games a day behind, asking 750,000 people not to spoil the outcomes for him. He was hurtling towards the Earth and experiencing forces I never will as the boys in Blue and White were choking on youth and anxiety. I hope he doesn't ask what the score is until he's out of the capsule. I'm incredibly proud of our representative to the world while simultaneously sad about a hockey game.

I start paying attention to the game. The dealer/player is raking in a big pile of big chips. He's a good player with the apparent table lead, and two to my left. This could take some work. I see nothing particularly worthwhile, but steal some blinds and antes. I fold more than I call, but my 29k in chips is rapidly depreciating as the seconds tick by.

A 5k chip is found under the table. Everyone agrees it's probably the dealer's from his big hand. Tournament director declares it a dead chip as it had been there for a while. Dealer tilts. Leafs loss was probably the instigator, chip is the catalyst.

Parachutes are open and the Soyuz is on screen. All systems look good. I watch players push and survive. I keep getting change for my antes and blinds.

Dealer, still tilting slams down a call against two all-ins. His KJs catches a J on the river and knocks them both out. Still a roiling boil under the lid.

Splashdown. I see QTd with no action ahead of me. I raise and get only the BB calling. Q6T on the flop, BB bets, I push, BB calls. K6 is no good against my two pair, and I double up to a useable stack.

Next hand see QTs, and again, no action before me. I raise again, and get called by the simmering dealer. Everyone else folds. Flop comes all spades, all lower than my T. I bet just under the pot. My opponent tanks with an incredibly deep scowl on his brow. He almost starts talking to himself. I get a death stare and blink. He calls. Flop is a red card. I push. He calls and says, "You have a flush?" "Yup." "I knew it." He shows AJd, and maybe caught a pair on the river. I somehow had him barely covered after my last win. He calls over the floor and demands that he be relieved NOW. Deals one more hand. They break the table to let him get away. I say nothing. A "good game" sounds insulting in my mind, so I keep it to myself.

I count as I rack up for the move - 120k. Chip lead.  Commander Hadfield is out of the capsule, last of the three. All safe and sound and getting used to gravity while looking forward to a hot shower and toilets that flush. I imagine a flame-grilled steak wouldn't suck either. Our achievements so far are not comparable, although I'm okay with a camera.

New table is uneventful. CBC continues in the background, but it's nothing of interest anymore. We break to colour up the 100's and we are 5 away from breaking for the day, or 23 minutes, whichever comes first.

Shortly upon return, I'm moved for the final time. Best view of the TV all night, nothing good on. As I unrack my chips, the classic "ah, here to distribute the wealth" line is quipped. I retort with "no, I'm on a mission of consolidation so they have less bags to worry about tomorrow." Then I steal the blinds and antes to show that I'm serious.

I get a walk in the BB a bit later, but otherwise don't play as stacks drop off. 3 left. 2. On the bubble and hand-for-hand between the two tables.

A medium stack raises from the button. The BB pushes all-in. They're close. Button calls quickly with AKd. BB shows QJh. The board plays out with low cards, but a third heart on the river. AK doesn't see it and assume he won. Comments that he feels bad, but thinks the BB has him covered, so the BB is still around for tomorrow. Dealer counts, and he's right - the BB does have him covered, so the button is out. He doesn't understand. The whole table points out the flush. AK feels like a fool and announces he's the bubble and out, wishes everyone good luck, and scampers out.

On his way, the floor lets him know he's actually out 16th, as an all-in went out at the other table just before him. The result doesn't change, but Day 3 is now 15 players instead of 16, and the guy gets to feel worse on his way home.

Chips are bagged, photos are taken, handshakes and congratulations are offered all around. When all is said and done, I'm still chip leader with 124k, ahead of the 101.5k second place before it drops to 80's and 50's and lower. 935,000 chips in play, 62k average stack. 3000/6000/500 8-handed to start today, 20 minutes a level.

And the Blue Jays will be on in the background.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

A Learning Experience

I'll keep telling myself it's not over. That it's just a 3-game win streak. One game at a time. Hope reigns eternal in Leafland.

But my Leafs are down 3 games to 1 against the Bruins. This isn't actually unexpected. Once the matchups were known, the jokes flew. "I'll enjoy all 3 games" was a popular one. The reality is that the Leafs have had a hard time with Boston for a long time. They're a solid, hard-nosed, suffocating team with great chemistry built from years of playing together. The Leafs are a young team with limited experience that's really only had half a season to get to know each other and their coach.

Still, my guys have played some great hockey, and even with reality in the back of my mind, I want to believe. I sat on my couch with my Clark jersey and Leafs cap on. I reminded myself to breathe time and again. I scared the cats. I'm sure I scared the neighbours. And in the end, I nearly collapsed with Boston's overtime goal. Krejci Temple-of-Doomed my heart out of my chest with his hat trick.

If it had been a blowout, I would have sighed. But this was sudden death overtime. This was an evenly-matched game. This was the Leafs showing great pressure, hitting posts, and Rask somehow stopping them time and again. This was all kinds of anticipation and joy crushed in an instant. Hell, I even thought O'Byrne had knocked the puck off Krejci's stick at the last second. It hurt.

But, like this series, like this whole season, this is a learning experience for my team. Of the whole team, only 9 guys have ever seen the playoffs before. That's some serious inexperience. Carlyle can preach and teach and drill, but until these kids see what happens when they don't listen, they won't learn. This is the school of hard knocks for them.

Kadri's learned that he can't be a fucking superstar if it means he'll give away the puck.

Reimer's learning that any weakness will be exploited, and that he has to see through bodies.

Gardiner is starting to show why he could be a great offensive defenceman with some more seasoning and maturity.

Grabovski's showing that all he's ever wanted is the chance to play in the second season.

Lupul and Kessel are showing great on-ice leadership.

And Phaneuf has been reminded that high-risk plays in playoff overtimes are fucking idiotic.

They're learning. It's apparent every single game. On Friday they get another lesson, and their hardest test yet - how to face elimination, and how to do it in a hostile environment. This will be mentally hard on them. The one-game-at-a-time belief will HAVE to sink in for them to have a chance. They'll have to remember every lesson, and summon every ounce of skill and discipline. And if, by some chance, they find themselves in a game 7? They can't get cocky.

But in the more likely event that I won't be distracted during my Monday night poker tournament, they'll have to take these lessons home with them. When they come back to training camp next season they'll have to remember everything they've learned and be ready to build on it. Carlyle's messages will mean more. They'll have the weight of experience behind them. They'll be prefaced with "remember when you did this in the Boston series?" The roar of the crowd will still be in their hearts, the taste of the playoffs in their mouths. The expectations of Leaf Nation will sit heavier on their shoulders. They'll have war stories between them, bonds made stronger by crushing hits and heartbreaking goals.

And they'll only get better.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Poker For Fun And... Fun

A while back a friend of mine moved to an apartment building over a sports bar. He's not much of a sports fan, but they also happen to host a weekly game in a local bar poker league, and he does play some recreational poker. His weekly tweets about the game piqued my dormant poker bug and a couple months ago I finally dragged myself up there to toss some free chips around.

I returned weekly. I peeked at the other venues they played at, and considered joining in the Sunday Poker Stars home game they host (but seeing as my online roll is limited, that was unlikely). Turns out I was having fun playing with nothing really on the line.

The added incentives of points and final tournaments and champions games for WSOP trips didn't hurt either.

So I showed up for 7 of the 8 possible weeks I could have played, and picked up enough points for two entries into their main event, made 3 final tables, and have generally had a good time. Then they went and gave me a 3rd entry from a random draw of people who had hit one of the nightly bonus hands (I hit a flush early once and got credit only because everyone had forgotten it had been added that week as a bonus hand).

Entries are simple enough - they're running 6 day 1's, and I could enter 3 of them. If I made the final 8 in any of them, the remaining were forfeit, as day 2 starts with a fresh rack.

I played in the first of them last night, and now don't have to play the other two, having very undeservedly made the final 8.

It was my second straight week of fairly terrible poker.

The structure, as would be expected, is terrible. Designed to get everyone (around 40 players on any given night) out in five hours. 8-handed tables and 15 minute levels means one's range expands, and one's aggression increases. The mix of players, from absolute donkeys with gills to players who have WPT and WSOP cashes under their belts also means you have to be at least somewhat aware of who you're up against and what they are or aren't capable of.

I played weak, passive poker while being distracted by the Leafs-Bruins game playing above me, knowing I had two more entries in my pocket. Truly a fantastic mix.

I overcalled and overbet early on, blowing 25% of my starting stack by the first break. A bit of luck helped in the second hour of play, where my 9Tc saw a 7JK rainbow flop, giving me the ol' double gutshot straight draw. A pot-sized bet from my left thinned out the crowd, but wasn't enough to get me away. The 8o on the turn was perfect. It checked around to me, and I bet 2/3 of the pot, leaving me with a pittance behind. Left of me tanked and tanked before folding (I had him on a call for sure), and the 3rd player in our hand verbally called, thinking I had bet 1/10th of what I actually had (500 instead of 5000). When informed of my actual bet, he was obviously unhappy but bound. The river T wasn't something that pleased me, but I pushed in my last few chips, which were called by Mr. Can't-see-across-the-table with his pair of kings. I got a nice double-up plus some to let me breathe. The original bettor revealed he had folded two pair, which shocked me and gave me a ton of info on him.

I was able to take a few blinds and antes, and chip up a bit more. Then I gave all my winnings away on a bad call (2nd pair vs two pair) when I didn't believe the dealer's all-in (the dealers are also players, and are generally a higher caliber). Back to push-or-fold mode for me.

A couple hands later I got it back with AQ beating AJ, and then another AJ going down to my KK a hand after that.

Then I gave most of it away when my QJ ran into KJ with Jxx on the flop and a short stack pushing against me. I didn't like the call, but I needed the chips and could barely survive the loss. But we were down to sixteen players, and the numbers were dropping fast.

I did a lot of folding when I couldn't afford to. Wishing I had enough chips to scare someone out instead of getting an insta-call from the blinds. I lucked out and scared off the SB to my BB with a push to her limp that she really should have called. Some fishhooks got no calls and I pulled in blinds and antes. More players fell. With two left to the end I once again shoved my BB into the SB's limp and she called. My KJ caught a J on the flop that held and she was crippled while I had nearly tripled up. Someone on the other table went out. I returned the favour a hand later, calling from the SB to her less-than-the-BB all-in on the button. A check-down between me and the BB saw me win back my call in the side pot and triple her up.

Two hands later, the other table saw the final elimination and there was much applause and hand-shaking.

The organizer of this league astutely noted that I should have been gone hours before. The dealer we'd had for most of the game was amazed I'd come back so many times. I wholeheartedly agreed with their assessments. I was just happy that my evenings had cleared up this week.

Day 2 comes next week. Day 3 the day after with the final 16. The winner gets a trip to Vegas and a $1000 WSOP buy-in. If I have any aspirations to spending a few days in the sweltering Vegas heat this summer, I have to play much better. But if I don't? The summer session is playing for a shot at the LAPT in Panama City.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Pressureless Playoffs

Nine years.


Lots of things have changed since then, but this isn't about that.

This is about relaxation. This is about relief. This is about my Leafs being back in the playoffs.

They clinched on Saturday. Their seed is still up for debate, but 5th place vs the Habs looks likely. Which, in reality, is about the most ideal matchup possible this year. Oh, the Leafs and Canadiens, one of the greatest rivalries in all sports, haven't met in the playoffs since 1979.

Even though it's been nine years since the Buds were last wearing skates in May, and 34 years since they saw the bleu, blanc, et rouge across the ice from them, there's no pressure here.

Because let's be honest -- they shouldn't even be here.

They got outshot 50-22 in their last game, and won 4-1.

They're 25-15-5, with no shootout wins. They were outshot in TWENTY of those 25 wins. That's obviously 1st in the league for that stat. They've been outshot 1461-1202, a 259 shot differential. The ONLY team with a worse diff is Edmonton, and they're in the shitter. It's been more than a decade since a team saw the playoffs with a ratio this bad.

They also lead the league in blocked shots. So in the ol' pucks directed towards the net concept - they're terrible.

Penalties - they're 2nd in penalty minutes, and 1st in majors. This is a team that likes to beat your team up. They get away with it because they also happen to have the 3rd best penalty killing unit in the league. Oh, and they also have more hits than anyone else by a mile. Truculence and aggression and all that.

Shooting percentages are out of whack. Kadri is shooting 18.6% and leads the team in goals. Bozak is shooting 19.7%, JVR 13.3%, Lupul, who everyone in Toronto now agrees is the best player on the ice when he's healthy, is shooting 27%! For perspective, Crosby's shooting percentage is 12.1%, Stamkos is 19%, and Ovechkin is 14.2%.

In fact, all the fancy stats say the Leafs are in an unsustainable season. Good thing it was only 48 games then. The question becomes - can they carry this unexpected success into the playoffs?


Lupul is back (again, again), and one would think relatively fresh with only 13 games played this season. He hasn't been stellar in his 3 games post-concussion, but he does have two goals in there. One from a hard drive to the net, the next from a stolen puck and mini break. Kadri has been in a slump since March, but got a flukey goal on Saturday, which may get the monkey off his tiny baby-faced back. Kessel has been quietly been playing the best overall hockey of his career all season, despite whining from the fans who used to bitch about how one-dimensional he was. Phaneuf has played his best season as a Leaf, showing maturity and eating up all kinds of minutes.

Then there's Reimer. Since the trade deadline he's basically said "Roberto Who? Mikka what?" with his play. 2.12 GAA, .939 SV % in April. The guy is standing on his head, and the players around his net are helping him look even better. Since he re-learned how to catch, he's been nearly unbeatable. A hot goalie heading into the playoffs? Leading a team with 4 legitimate offensive threats across two lines, and a whole team willing to block your shots and crush you into the boards? Yah, I'll take that. Fancy stats be damned.

The playoffs are a different brand of hockey. They're tougher. There's no quarter given. Every game is a must-win. The pressure starts at 10 and ratchets up with each round. And the reality is - Leafs fans are just happy to be there. Everything else is gravy right now. The team knows it. They're loose. They're happy. They have a coach that will whip them into the right mindset if they falter. This could be fun.

Besides, if my guys somehow, against all reason, miraculously go all the way? It won't count to anyone outside of Toronto, after all, it wasn't a real season.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Shut Up About the Goaltending

Since last season (and honestly, for a number of seasons), the cry has been that the Leafs need a bona fide goalie. Montreal has Price, Calgary has Kiprusoff, New Jersey has Brodeur, Pittsburgh has Fleury, etc.. The Leafs have Reimer and Scrivens. We haven't had a legit #1 since Belfour at the tail end of his career.

Reimer raised eyebrows a couple seasons back, covering when Gustavsson and Giguere were having issues. He did so well, he became the starter to finish the season in an attempt to get the Leafs into the playoffs. He was the #1 goalie last season, started strong, and then went down with "concussion-like symptoms". He returned before he was 100% and didn't play the same. Throw in some serious head-fucking by goaltending "guru" François Allaire, who only knows one style, and "Optimus Reim" was looking like he was about done.

Allaire's gone. Reimer is healthy. I had faith that he could return to form. I seemed to be alone.

Calls for Luongo from Vancouver were loud. Kadri and Bozak for Roberto! Gardiner can be traded! Kessel for Bobby Lu! Give me a break.

But still, the fans and the papers go on and on about Toronto's need for an established goaltender. Apparently they're all brain dead.

Alright, maybe a veteran PRESENCE would help. Like Giguere was, or Cujo's brief second stint. Someone who can tell the younger guys how to prepare, how to deal with the day to day. But you know what? You don't need someone who dresses every night for that. You need a guy on staff, not the roster. See if you can grab Joseph from his Kingston Frontenacs goaltending coach gig. Hell, some nights even bringing Johnny Bower into the locker room for a pep talk would probably be enough.

Because Reimer and Scrivens are doing just fine.


Reimer: 20 Starts, 2.52 GAA, .920 SV %, 13-4-4
Scrivens: 16 Starts,  2.59 GAA, .918 SV %, 7-8-0
Average: 2.56 GAA, .919 SV%

Among goalies who have started 16 or more games: Reimer is 19th, and Scrivens 21st out of 33. Not great, but not terrible. Especially if you keep in mind that the Leafs score 3.11 goals per game (4th in the league behind Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Tampa), that's over half a goal/game of room to play with.

Oh, but the Leafs give up a lot of shots. A ton. 31.8/game - 4th worst in the league. So those save percentages? Reimer is 9th, Scrivens 13th. Again - goalies with 16 or more starts.

Wins are relatively easy to rank. Toronto is 7th overall in the league in wins.

But wins/start? Reimer is 6th. Scrivens? A far less impressive 26th.

So, with all that info out there. The question becomes - who the hell are people looking for?

Obviously the franchise goalies aren't going anywhere, so the Prices and Fleurys can be ignored. Also, any team in the playoff hunt isn't going to part with their starter, so guys like Backstrom or Rask are going anywhere. Also forget anyone in the East helping the Leafs. So Ottawa ain't sending Bishop our way.

So who does that leave? Let's go with stats.

GAA, better than Reimer and theoretically possible: Roberto Luongo? Ray Emery? One of Anaheim's tenders? Yah... out of those, Luongo is the only one actually available.

Better than Reimer in SV %? Hrmm... nobody. Not a one. Anderson is the only goaltender who would be worth the upgrade (.952), and he's not moving from the Senators, plus he's been injured for half the season. Seriously, even Crawford has only a .005 better %. It's a tight group at the top. Oh, and Luongo? .904 - 28th.

How about wins/games started?  Unless Chicago's got Emery on the block or Anaheim wants to give up Fasth for a 3rd round pick. Not much out there. Luongo? Has won exactly half his starts vs Reimer's 65%, which as stated, is 6th in the league.

Actually, Emery keeps popping up. He's about the same at SV% as Reimer, and beats him in the other two categories I'm looking at. Except he was a head case in Ottawa, bounced around after that, is having a career season, and plays for CHICAGO. All strikes against his being worth anything away from that team. Besides, the Hawks aren't sending him anywhere.

Oh, one other - Tomas Vokoun. Better in every category (2.33, .922, 77%), and he's Fleury's backup. Consistent SV%, 2nd best year for his GAA. Oh, but also 36 years old. Of course, he's not an every day guy, is in the same conference, and is exactly the kind of backup you want for a playoff run. So again, not going anywhere, and not worth particularly much.

So that's a long way of saying there's not much out there. Bernier from the Kings? Sure, except how is he a more proven variable than Reimer? 9 starts this season? His numbers are generally better, and he's definitely an upgrade over Scrivens, but he's not a proven starter, and stepping into Toronto for a hockey player is like playing for the Yankees in baseball - you are in a media maelstrom. Does LA's backup have the mental toughness for that? Do you take that chance?

Reality is harsh. Toronto's goaltending may not be top-tier. For as good a tandem as they are, our guys don't offer the consistent backbone of a Fleury or Price or Rask or Crawford or Miller. But there also aren't any of those guys out there to be had for Toronto. Sure, there are intangibles in a bona fide starter that don't show up on stats sheets, but with 12 games left in the season? A playoff spot FINALLY looking realistic? Frankly, no change between the pipes is worth it right now. We can revisit in the off-season.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Leafs Update

Since my last post:

- Kostka gets a break in the press box and Liles plays (called it)
- Lupul back Saturday
- Steckel traded to Anaheim for Ryan Lasch and a 7th rounder in 2014 (I'll take a "called it" on that too)
- 4th loss in a row, unbelievably key game against Winnipeg on Saturday

Doesn't look like Lupul will start on the 1st line. No surprise there. 3rd with Kadri and Kulemin looking likely, with Frattin and MacArthur on the 2nd with Grabo. 1st unchanged with Bozak, Kessel, and JVR.

Know what? That's a helluva set of lines there. I really like Kadri between Lupul and Kulemin. Kulemin can't score to save his life (not bad on assists though), but he's a great defensive forward, which gives Kadri and Lupul more freedom to take a chance or two, knowing there are essentially 2.5 defensemen behind them. Of course, this requires either Lupul or Kulemin playing on the wrong wing. One would hope Carlyle learned his lesson in Anaheim and LEAVES LUPUL ON THE LEFT. Kulemin can't be offensively worse on his off wing.

Grabo's speed and creativity might finally see the expected dividends with Frattin and Mac alongside him. 1st line speaks for itself right now.

At last Carlyle has, at least temporarily, dropped the "keep the Russians together" concept. Of course, all this could change by game time tomorrow.

Now, if these lines take off, don't expect much movement. Otherwise, Lupul will inevitably be on the 1st line again (where he belongs), with JVR and MacArthur being somewhere on the 2nd and 3rd.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Inn is Full

Long Leafs post. You've been warned.

I was going to write this yesterday, but opted to lose some bar poker instead. Still, the idea doesn't change that much on the heels of a 3-game losing streak for my boys in blue & white.

The Leafs have a roster problem. Too many players.

There are two noticeable absences in the line-up at the moment - Joffery Lupul and Jake Gardiner. Lupul was our number two scorer last year, and the top line of him and Kessel was unstoppable - and one of the only bright spots of the season. Three games in this year he took a Dion Phaneuf shot off the forearm and has been out ever since waiting for the fracture to heal. There seems to be a perpetual "1-2 week" period until he's ready to play these days. He skated with the team on Monday, but is still not 100%. This hasn't been a problem to date because others have picked up the slack. Van Riemsdyk  has worked well with Kessel on the top line. MacArthur and Kadri have chemistry on the 3rd. Frattin was shooting out the lights before he went down for a couple weeks, but he's back now and showing some good hustle. Still, Lupul's presence is missed - the guy has speed, power, finesse, is hard to move, and offered plenty of options when skating down the ice with Kessel on the the other side. Either could score with ease. Not to mention he constantly comes off as the most articulate and intelligent of the Leafs in interviews and is a leader in the dressing room.

Gardiner is our rookie phenom on D. With lots of speed and stick-handling ability he's got skills that our largely stay-at-home defense is lacking. He came back to the team too quickly after a concussion in the minors, and was sent back down to finish getting up to speed. He's been proving that he's ready to come back ever since.

So what's the hold up? Waivers.

The Leafs have a full roster and only 3 players who can be sent down to the minors without having to clear waivers - Nazem Kadri, Leo Komarov, and Korbinian Holzer. Kadri ain't going anywhere, being tied for the team lead with 25 points. Komarov is a hitting machine and the irritant every team loves to have. That leaves Holzer, another rookie D-man, who just got a 2-year extension. He's had a rough week, and was never good enough to justify staying in the lineup game-in and game-out with someone like Gardiner waiting in the wings. Until you look deeper.

Up in the press box sits John-Michael Liles and Mike Komisarek.  Two veteran Ds who haven't seen the ice in over a month. Komi is a failed acquisition who will be bought out once the season is done if he's not traded first. He COULD be sent down without fear of clearing waivers (because nobody would take him, and if they did, we'd be fine with it), except for his no-movement clause. Whoops. I've never been sure why Liles hasn't been given another shot on the ice though. He's got good speed, and good offensive production, but perhaps doesn't have a strong enough defensive game for Carlyle.

So, 1 player that can be easily moved down, 2 players that should be on the ice. That math doesn't add up.

There are a few things in play here that may not be obvious. First, Gardiner has 3 games to play in the big leagues before he can't go back down. So if he's brought up, he's up for good. Throw in an already jammed-up defense (8 D on the 23-man roster right now), and this complicates matters. Franson, Phaneuf, and Fraser aren't coming off the ice. Gunnarsson and Kostka COULD see time in the press box for a break if the coach had any faith in the $8.4 million in players already there. That leaves Holzer. I'll get to that in a second. Point being - there isn't room for the guy without a move.

So why not Holzer? Because Lupul HAS to come back, and Holzer is the insurance for that. Gardiner CAN stay with Marlies this season if need be. It sucks for him, but them's the breaks from a contract perspective. I'm sure Nonis and company are letting him know how much they want to bring him up, but just can't. Lupul doesn't have a choice. They're taking their time with his recovery (a lot of times, this sort of injury would see a guy back at 80-90% with a soft cast or something. But they're going for the full 100% here) because it takes pressure off the roster situation, and the team is doing fine so far. If a trade can't be made, then Holzer goes down to clear up space for Lupul, with Liles coming down from the press box to fill the spot on the blue line. If Holzer goes down now for Gardiner, then the Leafs are in a bad spot trade-wise. They'll HAVE to make a trade, and that shifts the advantage to the other side of the deal. Every GM will know that the Leafs have to clear roster space, so they'll offer less for more. That's not acceptable. So Holzer stays up... as leverage.

Ideally, the Leafs would love to trade Komisarek, or possiibly Liles. The fans would like to see Kulemin gone, despite him being a solid defensive forward (he's paid too much for that role, based off one offensively productive season). Any of those would go for reasonable draft picks or prospects, but we could potentially get an overpaid roster player if the fit is right. Someone like a Bozak, MacArthur, or Franson are also possibilities. The first two because they're UFAs at the end of the season and worth something now, the last because he's worth more than he's ever been and we're heavy on defense with Gardiner waiting and Morgan Reilly coming up quickly. Although the pressure to make the playoffs this year could prevent some of those trades from happening (do you trade your top faceoff guy, who takes EVERY defensive-zone faceoff? Do you trade one of your best playmakers? Or your top offensive defenseman?) Will anybody offer anything worthwhile for Komi, Liles, or Kulemin and their contracts? Will the Leafs have to carry salary for those trades to happen?

Also, how does Lupul's return change things? He goes on the top line sooner rather than later (maybe not game 1, but by game 4). JVR to the second? Where does that put Kulemin? JVR to 3rd and MacArthur to where?  The lineup shakes up significantly on Lupul's return. Only after that disturbance will the Leafs really know what they need and who they don't. So it's yet another reason to hold off bringing up Gardiner. Lupul returns and you get 1 or 2 weeks to assess your full team before the trade deadline.

So my call? Barring some unexpected trade (ie.- David Steckel for a 5th rounder, or someone comes calling for Komisarek, or Kostka is even an outside possibility), or this losing streak carrying on (creating panic moves), Holzer stays on the team until Lupul is ready to return. Then Holzer goes down, then trades happen, then maybe Gardiner comes up - if Carlyle can figure out how to use him.