Monday Ramblings – Jan 26, 2015: Raps Win the Weekend, Pro-Bowl was My Super-Bowl and Big Plans for Leafs in 2017?

It wasn’t pretty by any means, but the Raps won both their games this weekend. IT was the first time since the calendar flipped to 2015 that they won consecutive games. They were ugly wins against teams they would have beat by 40 in November. They squeaked by the 76ers 91-86 on Friday and beat the Jennings-less Pistons 114-110 on Sunday night. Both games featured the usual sloppy offense of late and some lazy defense at times. They looked more in sync at many times but the shot decisions still concern me. The didn’t attempt as many 3s as they had been but they still took some low percentage shots. One thing I can tell you after seeing these games: no matter how good Kyle Lowry is or how hard Patrick Patterson plays, the heart and soul of this team is Amir Johnson. He has been banged up all year with bad ankles and knees and some nights moves like a 50-year old (he’s 27) but at both ends of the floor, he rarely makes a mistake. He only takes high percentage shots and he never gives up defending a play. He is an animal and the thought of him being traded or leaving (he’s a free agent after the season) makes my stomach turn (or it could be the two pounds of salami I consumed on Friday). Amir Johnson IS the Raptors and I hope he retires as a Raptor, even if he’s only 30 at the time.

Stafford to Tate for the first down? Glover Quin on the tackle? There were Detroit Lions front and center in a post season game in Arizona yesterday! Unfortunately, it wasn’t the Super-Bowl. Still, Matthew Stafford started the Pro-Bowl for Team Irving along with WR Golden Tate and S Glover Quin played against them on Team Carter. Stafford had a great day throwing for 316 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception (even the Pro Bowl can’t cure everything) and won the Offensive MVP Award for the game. Add in Golden Tate’s 2 receptions for 98 yards and Quin’s 4 solo tackles and 1 pass deflected, which was from Stafford to Tate in the red zone, and that was what I have always hoped to see in a Super Bowl WHEN the Lions get there. For now, at least I can say a few of them played a Big Game in Arizona in January.

SO, big rumors coming out of the NHL over the weekend. With 2017 being the Leafs 100-year anniversary, it is rumored that they will get the All-Star game, draft and an outdoor game. The problem is, there is no venue for an outdoor game. The Rogers Centre is the hot rumor but it has been documented that the roof can not be open in the winter because parts of it can freeze. It needs 3-4 days in a row of +10 Celsius before it can be open. Last season it didn’t open until mid-May because of the long winter so the Jays played indoors the first month so there is no way it is being used for an outdoor game in January. BMO Field is a possibility since MLSE runs the building and with the expansion it has a capacity around 30,000 but I think you want more than that for this event. Maybe less is more but my thoughts are to give Toronto the All-Star game in January, the 2017 Draft in June and one of the outdoor stadium series games or even the Heritage Classic but play the Winter Classic in Ottawa having the Leafs play the Senators. In addition to the Leafs anniversary, it is also Canada’s 150th birthday as a country and the 100th Anniversary of the NHL itself. What is more fitting for the country than playing an outdoor game in the nation’s capital featuring the most popular hockey team in the world during it’s 100th season against a Senators team whose original incarnation (also as the Ottawa Senators) also started in the NHL in 1917? Both teams as well as the NHL were all started in 1917 and with the country’s 150th birthday being this year, 1917 was the 50th birthday of Canada so there are a lot of ties there. It’s the perfect storm. Now, I know that TD Place Stadium in Ottawa only holds 24,000 but you could add temporary bleachers at the south end (where they used to have permanent ones) to bring the capacity well over 30,000. For this special game, maybe even add seats on the field around the boards. I think midnight fireworks on Parliament Hill and the Winter Classic twelve hours later would be outstanding. Just my opinion, but I’m usually right.

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