27 May 2009

A New Captain K?

There was a report yesterday, initially dismissed given the source (Sovietsky Sport, the same folks that made up a bunch of false items about Alex Kovalev and his feelings on then-coach Guy Carbonneau) but which has picked up considerable steam in the past 24 hours. I saw it on the Sportsnet ticker last night just before going to bed and now I see it has reached the TSN site as well. In sum:
- Saku Koivu will not be offered a new contract
- Alex Kovalev will be offered a new deal worth between $6M and $7.5M and be made the next captain of the Montreal Canadiens
- Mike Komisarek was offered a multi-year deal at $4M per season, which he declined in the hopes of getting $6M per season.

Each of these news items is very weighty for Habs fans to consider.
Saku Koivu has been captain for 9 years, longer than anybody except for the great Jean Beliveau. He has spent his entire career in Montreal. He is both beloved and underappreciated by the city and its fans. While his skills have diminished in recent years, his production remains high and the leadership he brings to the team is unquestionable. It would be a very strange sight to see the 2009-10 season begin and Saku Koivu wearing another team's jersey.
Alex Kovalev can be loved and hated all on the same shift. He is a wizard with the puck, nobody questions that, but that wizardry has its limits and Kovy often tries to do too much with the puck. When he is on his game, he is amazing and can bring people out of their seats. He was the toast of the town on All-Star Weekend, and was sat out for two games only three weeks later. The dollar figure sounds high (especially the upper end) but he has proven, during Saku's occasional absences due to injury, that he can lead this team.
Mike Komisarek is one of the most popular players on the team and has been considered by many to be a future captain. He is a strong part of the team's young and emerging core, with his crushing bodychecks, sound defensive play, and willingness to get in the way of shots. But he does have limitations--he has very little offensive upside (Josh Gorges scored more than Komi did this year!) and he never seemed to recover from the beating that Milan Lucic gave him last fall. He's a very good player, but $6M is great player salary and would mean he makes more than Andrei Markov. Who is more valuable to the team? With Markov out, the Habs lost their last 8 games. With Komisarek out in mid-season, the team still survived and many guys stepped up to fill the void. They may have to do so on a permanent basis next season.

What's an Extra $10 Billion?

So it turns out that yesterday the numbers delivered to us regarding the Government of Canada's spending were in true Chretien-esque underdelivered fashion. It's not going to be a $40B deficit -- it's going to be a $50B deficit. Why?

[A] triple whammy of extra costs, including auto-sector bailouts, rising Employment Insurance claims and a drop-off in tax revenue.

Hmmm, a drop-off in tax revenue...drop off in tax revenue. Oh that's right, against the sound advice of numerous economists and the Liberals, the Conservatives felt it would be a wise idea to drop the GST by 2%. In their unceasing quest to do optical politics that look nice but actually cause great harm, the Tories cut Ottawa's revenue stream by billions of dollars so that a double-double at Tim Horton's would cost 3 pennies less. A few months ago, when it was projected that the Conservatives would only lead us into $80B of red ink over 5 years, it was calculated that their ill-advised tax cut actually took away pretty close to that exact amount. Obviously things have changed--for the worse--in the past few months, but all of a sudden those extra pennies look mighty useful come budget time don't they?


And it looks as though people are getting the idea in their heads that the Tories' credibility deficit is the only thing that exceeds the fiscal deficit:

26 May 2009

The Rocket's Red Glare

There really are no words to describe how awesome this is and how much it will be treasured when it arrives:

A Record Of Distinction

My hat goes off to Stephen Harper and Jim Flaherty for their most remarkable achievement. They have done something that no government in the history of Canada has been able to do before. They've pirouetted past Trudeau, Irish eyes are smiling beyond Mulroney, governed like a majority better than Clark, fidgeted with budget numbers much more profoundly than Chretien or Martin could have imagined, and done more with a canal than anybody since Pearson.

Unfortunately for us, Canada, we're the ones drowning in a canal of red.

Not content with plunging Canadians back into deficit with their reckless and ill-advised tax cuts and rampant spending, Messrs. Harper and Flaherty have decided to elevate their game to a whole new level and boldly go where no Canadian government has ever gone before.

They're aiming to cross the 40 billion dollar deficit threshold. And according to Kevin Page, they may well do just that.

A $40-billion deficit would be record territory for Ottawa and an . . . achievement for the Harper government, which came into office eager to trim public spending.

That level of red ink would be a shade higher than the $39-billion shortfall racked up in 1992-93 under the Mulroney Tory government, which is currently the largest deficit on the federal Finance Department's historical record.

Good job, Steve! Gold medal for you!

22 May 2009

Hockey, Hockey, Hockey!

Yes there's been more hockey talk than politics stuff lately - it's playoff time!

Even without my Habs, the Stanley Cup Playoffs this year have been tremendous to watch. The games are almost always close, last night's 7-4 Pittsburgh win notwithstanding, and the crowds are incredibly into the action, making for a great atmosphere. The best players in the game are stepping it up and really demonstrating why they are the best players in the game. You really cannot ask for a whole lot more, except to wish that every series manages to go the full 7 games. I have doubts of that happening, as even though the games are close, the great teams (Detroit and Pittsburgh) are finding ways to win.

Speaking of great hockey, I have to give the reminder for everybody to check out the Memorial Cup this weekend. The semi-finals go tonight, with the OHL Champion Windsor Spitfires taking on the QMJHL Champion Drumondville Voltigeurs, with the winning team advancing to Sunday afternoon’s final against the WHL Champion Kelowna Rockets. These are the stars of tomorrow in action, and they are giving some real glimpses of what the future of the NHL will look like. In last night's third period, I swear Taylor Hall (the projected 1st overall pick in 2010) was on the ice almost the entire 20 minutes. I'm glad I've already got this little gem:

Of course I'm cheering mightily for my Rockets, and I hope that Jamie Benn continues his excellence in this tournament - a Kelowna win on Sunday all but guarantees he'll be the tournament MVP. They'll also need Mikael Backlund to step up his game, as he's been very quiet since the Rockets knocked off the Hitmen in the WHL Championship.

In all, it's going to be a great weekend of hockey!

20 May 2009

Halifax Pre-Season Game Announced

Two years ago we got Montreal v. Boston.

Last year we got Montreal v. Boston and Detroit v. Boston.

So what do we get this year?

Ottawa v. Florida


*more crickets*

Off the top of my head, I have a difficult time imagining a less interesting combination of teams. When you factor in that it's much earlier in training camp/pre-season than usual, this will be the B teams of Ottawa and Florida. Egads. I guess July 1st will have to be a deciding factor in whether or not to spend my money to attend this one, because neither of the current rosters are of appeal to me so it'll be up to whatever free agent signings the two teams make to push me in the direction of going.

19 May 2009

Go Rockets Go!

One of the handful of regrets in my life is that I passed up on the opportunity to go the Memorial Cup Finals in 2004 to see the Rockets win the championship. Sure the secondary market for tickets was 50-80 bucks but it would have been a real blast and much more interesting than watching the game on the old battered TV in the Marketplace lunchroom. I was down at Prospera Place (it was still Skyreach then, I think) all morning long doing some opening-day campaigning for Vern Neilsen, the Liberal candidate in the election, and there was a tremendous buzz in the air for the hometown favourites. Who could have known then that the core of that team, five years later, would be in the NHL and kicking ass on a nightly basis? Josh Gorges, Shea Weber and Blake Comeau are the three most well known, but Mike Card and Cam Paddock are now starting to crack their lineups as well. It was a thrilling game and a great moment for the city of Kelowna.

Well, five years later the Rockets are once again poised on the verge of championship greatness. With an incredible victory last night over Drumondville they've secured themselves a spot in the finals, thanks largely to the heroics of Jamie Benn, who notched 4 goals and an assist. The game was so riveting that I didn't even flip over to TSN for the NHL playoff game in progress. The team is absolutely on fire after taking out Kamloops, Tri-City, Vancouver, and Calgary in the WHL Playoffs, and it has certainly carried over to the biggest stage in major junior hockey in Canada.


15 May 2009

Deficit > $85B

"Our deficits will be large...as large as they have to be." -- Stephen Harper

No wonder the Conservatives would much rather talk about their tried-and-true canard about Michael Ignatieff being a Canadian of convenience. Much better to change the channel from the real world to the kids networks for the Tories these days.

13 May 2009

BC Election

Kitties aside, hats off to Gordon Campbell for winning his third straight election last night. Of all the candidates he was and remains far and away the most qualified party leader for the job, and the rank hypocrisy of the NDP and Carole James over the carbon tax was stomach-churning enough for many to realize that they're an opportunistic lot that will all-too-happily sacrifice long-treasured principles if they think it will make their numbers go up a couple percentage points. I've met Campbell only once, at the official announcement that OUC would become UBC-O, but he has long been a very impressive politician and the best premier BC has had in my lifetime.

You Spin Me Right 'Round, Baby, Right Round, Like a Record Player Baby...

Because everybody needs a good laugh every now and again:

05 May 2009

Michael Says What I've Been Saying All Along

From the Vancouver Province (btw - 47 days till I'm home again!) comes this little Q&A excerpt with Michael Ignatieff:

Q: What do you say to people who accuse you of being an imperialist, a right-winger? Some critics in the Toronto Star are saying you’re soft on torture and so on — how do you answer those people who question your liberal credentials?

A: Read my books, actually read them.

Q: For those who don’t have time to read the books?

A: But hey, that’s what I object to. I’ve had three years of people taking quotations out of context on the torture issue, and conveniently missing pages of A Lesser Evil, which say things like, "Democracies have to fight terror with one hand tied behind their back, and they win because they keep one hand tied behind their back." They never quote that, right? So all I’m asking is for people to treat me with the respect I hope I treat them. Am I an imperialist? Never, never. I’m a

I've been writing for months now that the value of actually reading a book can go a long way in getting to understand what Michael Ignatieff thinks about the issues of our time. Granted, it won't help the dunderheads who insist on parroting Tory smear points or the left-wing wackos that think of Ignatieff as an apologist for torture and American Empire, but for people who are fair and honest with themselves and their political expressions, reading his books is a great thing to do. It seems like such a simple request, but nothing easy is ever simple, which is why I'm glad that the Province actually came out and asked him flat-out about this straw man that people have created.

04 May 2009

Reflections on the Convention

There's any number of reasons I wish I was still in B.C. at this time: the Rockets are two wins away from clinching the WHL Championship, the local team is still in the playoffs (admittedly I've never been much of a Canucks fan), the weather, etc. But one reason in particular that I wish I was in B.C. right now is that it would have afforded me the opportunity to attend the Liberal Leadership Convention this past weekend. Though largely a coronation, these things are fun. I had a blast in Toronto in 2003 and I'm sure that this one would have been as well.

I didn't watch much of the convention on TV because they don't play out as well for the cameras and the weather was half-decent this weekend. I did get to catch Ignatieff's acceptance speech and I found it to be exactly the type of speech that needed to be delivered. The new leader excoriated the failures of the Harper regime without getting into the mud and he proposed an alternative vision based on the core liberal values that have made Canada the success story that it is and continues to be. It wasn't a typical politician's speech because Michael Ignatieff is anything but a typical politician. We need more of that in this country.

Another item that passed with much fanfare was the approval of the one member, one vote policy that allows all members of the Liberal Party of Canada to express themselves and their preference for the party leadership. Having 3,000 of your closest delegated friends in red in one hall is a cool experience but it does shut out the overwhelming majority of the party membership from the actual process. You could find nary a Sheila Copps supporter at the 2003 convention because the process was so heavily weighted in favour of Paul Martin - though the 94% approval he received in Toronto was an incredible sight, was it an accurate reading of his overall support from the party? Difficult to say, but not something that will be encountered in the future.

In the end, the weekend was a great success for the party. Now begins the march towards increasing the party's support throughout the country.