Monday, April 4, 2011

Weekend reset: Jarome Iginla scores his 1000th point, and more

This will be as regular of a feature as I can possibly make it, since Sunday night is a great time to cool down with a glass of scotch and recap everything we got to see over the course of the weekend.

Jarome Iginla scores 1000th point, used to play for a lousy General Manager

When I was about six or seven years old, one of the books that ended up in mine and my brother's bookcase was a light read chronicling all National Hockey Players with 1000 points in their careers. Early on I gained an understanding and an appreciation for the players who held on long enough to still be effective late in their careers.

The first player I remember consciously seeing score his 1000th point was Doug Gilmour. I don't remember the play (but thank Youtube I can revisit it) but I do remember his Toronto Maple Leaf teammates stormed off the bench and mobbed him, only to have the goal disallowed for whatever reason. It was a dress rehearsal, and the real thing happened later in the game.

I would have been seven years old back then. Holy smokes.

On Friday, Jarome Iginla scored his 1000th point on a partial breakaway. No pomp and ceremony, no jubilant celebrations from the bench, nothing to differentiate this 1000th point of Iginla's from his 672nd, which may have happened against St. Louis.

It was probably the worst time for a milestone point; you're hanging on for dear life in a playoff race and there is five minutes to go in a road game.

Still, you can't even see anybody pick the puck up in that video, although, granted, Chris Pronger is no longer with the Blues.

Jarome Iginla cemented his ticket to the Hall of Fame, and it is a shame that he will probably never win a Stanley Cup with the Calgary Flames, despite being ever so deserving as a player. Unfortunately, he was obedient to the backwards regime of Darryl Sutter that coasted for seven years off of the premise that the secret formula to winning in the playoffs is balancing your roster that has a perennial All-Star winger and a Vezina-winning goaltender with dime-a-dozen forwards you can pick up on July 10th, once all the good players have been signed.

Here's a post from Sandwiches Sports which pretty much sums up my feelings with Iginla. He's Raymond Bourque, a player who came close, but never won with the team he is best remembered for. He is Ichiro Suzuki, a production dynamo held up by his loyalty and his replacement-level teammates. Iginla is playing a season far beyond my expectation that he would slowly putter out as his career drew to a close, but, at 34, he is still moving. He is still racing.

Iginla has been out of the first round of the playoffs just once in his career, but nobody will ever question whether he is a "winner" or not. Perhaps this is because he scored two goals in the gold medal game in Salt Lake City against the Americans. Perhaps this is because he assisted on the defining goal of my generation of hockey fans, or, and this may be a stretch, perhaps even the most irrational of us can see that a player isn't a "winner" or a "loser" based on the successes or failures of his or her team. The greatness of Iginla is the yin to the yang of the turd platter Sutter served up in Calgary after the lockout.

But, we got to saw him play. Maybe, one day, he will be sent to a contender and win there. Maybe.

Blue Jays open season 2-1 against Twins

Despite reports of fisticuffs and roughhousing in the 500-level seats, opening weekend was a success in Toronto, with 101,683 fans moving the turnstiles to see the Blue Jays take the first two of the series against Minnesota before falling in the third game thanks to one questionable managing decision I will address in one or two paragraphs.

First, though, the offense looks dangerous. Jose Bautista looks dangerous. Not only did he rack up a couple of dingers in the weekend series, but he also drew four walks. In the ninth inning near-comeback on Sunday, where a two-run deficit was halved with the bases loaded for a 4-3 final, Bautista swung at an awkward first pitch from Joe Nathan, before working the count and drawing a walk that brought in a run.

Onto questionable management tactics, and this concerns the bunt in the home 7th on Sunday. After a pair of walks gave the Jays two runners on with no out, Yunel Escobar laid down a perfect bunt that advanced the runners, although Escobar was thrown out at first. I can't overstate how perfect the bunt was, he laid it down just past the plate and it slowly rolled forward, with Matt Capps' fastball hitting the bat like a marshmallow on a foam rod.

Men much smarter than I have calculated the number of runs a team should expect in any given situation, and, as it turns out, two on with none away carries a slightly higher likelihood of scoring runs than two on, albeit ninety feet closer each, with one away. Imagine, a play that requires such good execution to give your team less of a chance of scoring.

Small ball is fun to watch, I will give it that, but the Jays aggressive baserunning and micromanagement of hitters that we've seen in the first few games is going to lead to a lot of wasted outs throughout the season.

By the way, here my list of times where it is perfectly acceptable to bunt:

#1 - No runners are on base, you are a very fast runner, and the corner infielders are playing you deep.

#2 - There is no #2. #1 is pretty well the only situation where it is acceptable.

More stunning than this comeback is that there were six goals scored in a soccer game

Earlier in the day, Toronto FC had come back from a 1-0 deficit against Chivas USA at BMO Field. Not looking to be outdone, the Whitecaps spotted Sporting Kansas City a 3-0 lead until the 73rd minute. Then, with designated player and striker Eric Hassli out due to a suspension, the Caps came back thanks to a pair of goals from Camilo da Silva Sanvezzo, who is just as cool as his name would have you believe.

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