For Leafs fans: A look at the last ten 25th Overall picks

This is Kyle Dubas’ first draft at the helm of the Toronto Maple Leafs warship. Toronto has the 25th overall pick, and as the following list will show you, this range of the draft is incredibly hit or miss. If the Leafs are going to make the jump from first round playoff fodder to full-blown contender, they will have to hit on these picks in order to give their core of Matthews, Marner and Nylander a solid and affordable supporting cast.

2017 Ryan Poehling, Montreal

Poehling was the youngest player in the NCAA when the Habs took him in last year’s draft. It seemed like a weird pick at the time, but the center from St. Cloud State had an excellent 2017-18 that saw him score 31 points in 36 college games as well as center the US’s top line at the World Juniors. April’s Hockey News “Future Watch” has him ranked as  the 37th best prospect in hockey and Montreal’s top prospect.  Read more

Breaking down the 2018 Hart Trophy Finalists

Tonight is the NHL Awards ceremony in Las Vegas and, while I’m sure people are itching for some Lady Byng talk, the Hart Trophy for the league’s MVP usually garners the most interest. This year you will be shocked to not see a Crosby, Malkin or McDavid (actually I’m really surprised to not see a McDavid) on the finalist list for the award. All three of the 2018 candidates have never been a finalist for the award before and all three have an equally legitimate claim to win the thing. In what should be the most open race for the MVP in years, here’s the case for Taylor Hall, Anze Kopitar and Nathan MacKinnon to each win the Hart.

Screen Shot 2018-06-19 at 11.53.55 PM Read more

Throwback Thursday: 2007 Cleveland Cavaliers AKA the Last Team to get Swept in the Finals

Let’s remember a few names. In honour of the Cavaliers getting pushed to the brink of Finals Sweep at the hands of the Golden State Warriors, I thought I’d take a look back at the last team to get swept in the Finals… Lebron’s 2007 Cavaliers. This by no means is a shot at the present or past Cavs. The 2018 Cavs can still win a couple of games to avoid the sweep and when all is said and done and the 2007 Cavs were not supposed to make it that far. Nonetheless it is an interesting practice to reminisce on some of the guys Lebron dragged to the Finals a decade ago.

Ira Newble

Image result for ira newble

Who? A quick glance at Newble’s Basketball Reference page shows that Ira was a veteran of eight NBA seasons split between San Antonio, Atlanta, Cleveland, Seattle and the Lakers. 380 career regular season games is nothing to turn your nose up at… But this guy was as big of a non-factor imaginable on an NBA Finals team. In the 2007 playoffs Newble only got in 6 games and averaged 1.7 minutes per game and didn’t score once. Lebron had his work cut out for him. Read more

Top 10 Biggest Blunders in Sports History

Professional athletes are the embodiment of power, grace, and skill. They are the peak of physical fitness and perform at the highest level for the world’s enjoyment. Likewise, they are also human and are prone to the same mistakes and lapses of judgment that us mere mortals face on a daily basis. The thing is: when I fall down the stairs at the Wizmer House, spilling three drinks I had just purchased all over myself, only the select few individuals who happened to be looking will remember my dignified tumble. For professional athletes, their mistakes are broadcasted on live television and will live in infamy for the rest of their lives. This article is going to look at some of the biggest blunders that sport has ever seen. The way these are ranked is based on how egregious the mistake was, and the severity of the situation. If there are any that you think I missed, do not hesitate to let me know. Without further ado, let us dive right in.

10. Patrik Stefan and the empty net whiff.

It is impossible to have a list of the biggest sports blunders without including this dandy from former first-overall pick Patrik Stefan. I mean, you know your career was bad when the biggest highlight is you not scoring. Stefan is one of the worst busts in draft history and this clip is a perfect illustration of his tumultuous career. The fact that he woefully misses the empty net only to see Ales Hemsky tie the game with seconds remaining is just perfect poetic penance for Stefan as he retired 13 games later. Thankfully, the Stars still won the game 6-5 in a shootout but this remains one of the most embarrassing moments in NHL history.

9. Jose Canseco and the header home run.

Jose Canseco will always get the last laugh about this video. After all, he is a two-time World Series champion, former American League MVP, six-time All-Star, and four-time Silver Slugger winner. REGARDLESS, the sheer improbability and hilarity of this clip make it one of the all-time best baseball bloopers. The saving grace is that this was during a meaningless regular season game in May. It was the 25th anniversary of this clip just last week.

8. Patrick Roy and the Statue of Liberty.

The Colorado Avalanche and Detroit Red Wings had one of the best rivals in NHL history during the 1990s and early 2000s. With a blood feud and multiple hall-of-famers on both sides, it was always must-see TV when these two squads were playing. Entering the 2002 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the two teams were tied at two cups a piece in the past decade before matching up in the Conference Finals. The Avalanche jumped out to a 3-2 series lead and had a chance to finish the series off at home in Game 6. Instead, Patrick Roy tried to showboat after robbing Steve Yzerman in close and Shanahan buried what turned out to be the game-winning goal. The Red Wings went on to win Game 7 by a score of 7-0 and defeated the Carolina Hurricanes in five games to win their third cup in six years.

7. Leon Lett’s Super Bowl fumble.

See, if the Cowboys went on to lose this game then this could perhaps be the biggest blunder ever; but, they were playing the Buffalo Bills so obviously they were up by 35 points at this time in the game. Lett could realistically make another appearance on this list for his Thanksgiving Day debacle against the Miami Dolphins, but since it was in the regular season I decided to leave it out. Instead, we are blessed with this tasty gem that looks like it is straight out of Madden 18. Lett, being the showman that he is, decided to start celebrating his forthcoming touchdown at the ten-yard-line. Unfortunately, Don Beebe definitely had the Bills covering +40 as he hustled his butt and stripped Lett right before the goal line. The Cowboys still won the Super Bowl, handing the Bills their third consecutive loss in the big game, but Lett delivered another web gem to go into the archives.

6. JR Smith is off the henny again.

This is what inspired me to do this list in the first place. JR Smith has always been a bit of a wildcard on the court. The man will hit a half-court heave with a hand in his face but brick the most open jumper the world has ever seen. Furthermore, he has many fantastic off court hits such as his shirtless appearance during the World Series, and everyone’s favourite DM – “you trying to get the pipe?”. All these things aside, Smith has proven to be a serviceable player over the course of his NBA career and he played a big role during the Cavaliers 3-1 comeback in the 2016 NBA Finals.

WELL.. last night he had one of the biggest blunders in NBA history and it could not come at a more costly time for his team. The Warriors opened the game as 13 point favourites over the Cavs and many people thought that the Dubs would steamroll their way to another championship. Instead, LeBron James did what LeBron James does and put up 49 points during regulation which gave the Cavs a chance to win Game 1. George Hill went to the foul line with 4.7 seconds left and hit his first free throw to tie the game at 107. He bricked the second, but thankfully JR Smith was there to collect the rebound and kick it to LeBron for a game-winning shot opportunity. Oh, sorry. Wait a second. JR, a man who has played 13 seasons in the NBA and makes an annual salary of $12.8 million USD actually thought that the Cavs were in the lead and tried to dribble the clock out. I have coached Grade 6 kids in minor league basketball who had better late game awareness than JR did in this situation. Alas, the Warriors went on to decimate the Cavs in OT winning the game 124-114 and wasting LeBron’s historic 51 point effort. Thanks, Henny god.

5. Fred Brown forgets who he plays for.

Poor Fred Brown. After some guy named Michael Jordon knocked down a 17-footer to give UNC a late 63-62 lead in the 1982 National Championship, Brown brought the ball up the court for a last gasp attempt at stealing a victory. After faking a pass to teammate Eric ‘Sleepy’ Floyd, Brown thought he had Eric Smith open at the top of the key. Instead, Brown made a worse visual decision than I did the last time I took a girl home from the bar and passed the ball straight to UNC’s James Worthy which effectively ended the game. Brown and Georgetown would avenge their demons in 1984 as they knocked off Houston to win their first National Championship but this blunder still lives large in the minds of the Hoyas faithful.

4. Steve Bartman becomes the most hated man in Illinois.

We all know the Bartman story. The Chicago Cubs, a team seemingly cursed from ever winning the World Series again, were up 3-2 in the 2003 National League Championship Series against the Florida Marlins. They were searching for their first title since 1908 and were up 3-0 in the 8th inning of Game 6. Pan in, Luis Castillo hits a fly ball towards foul ground as outfielder Moisés Alou starts to track it. Instead of Alou catching it for the second out of the inning, this odd looking fellow wearing headphones reaches over the wall and interferes with the catch. As (bad) luck would have it, the Cubs went on to surrender eight runs in the inning before losing Game 7 by a score of 9-6. Bartman instantly became the most hated person in the stadium, and eventually in the city, as he was sent a multitude of death threats during the whole situation. Thankfully, the Cubs ended the curse in 2016 after defeating the Cleveland Indians in seven games and they attempted to rectify the Bartman incident by sending him a World Series ring of his own.

3. Chris Webber tries to be the Prince of Persia.

First off, for those uncultured swine who do not know what the Prince of Persia is – it is an older video game series where the protagonist has the ability to rewind time and correct his mistakes. Chris Webber certainly wishes he had that capability after this colossal choke job. It was the 1993 National Championship game. Michigan had made it all the way back to the finals after being manhandled by Duke in the championship the year before. Webber hauls in the rebound with 20 seconds left in a 73-71 game. He clearly walks with the ball but the officials do not call the travel. He proceeds past half-court, gets cornered with the ball, and looks at the official to reset and call timeout so they can draw up a play to tie the game. Except, Michigan had no timeouts remaining which meant UNC automatically got to shoot two technical foul shots effectively ending the game. It was a painful loss for Wolverine fans and haunted Webber for the entirety of his playing career.

2. Bill’s Buck Up.

We’ve talked about the Cubs curse already, but the Red Sox endured a lengthy World Series drought of their own. The Red Sox were up 3-2 in the 1986 World Series against the New York Mets. Game 6 was tied 5-5 in the bottom of the 10th inning. Mets left fielder Mookie Wilson hit a slow roller towards Buckner on the first base line which should have been the third out of the frame. Unbelievably, Bucker fails to get his glove under the ball and it rolls past him, bringing in the winning run and sending the series to a deciding Game 7. The Red Sox ended up blowing a 3-0 lead in that game and ultimately lost 8-5 as the Mets won their second World Series in franchise history. The curse continued for 18 more years before the Red Sox finally won in 2004 to end the 86-year drought.

1. Pete Carroll and the worst play call ever.

Yes, the worst blunder on my list is actually a coaches decision. With just 26 seconds remaining, the Seahawks are two yards away from winning back-to-back Super Bowls. For some inexplicable reason, Pete Carroll decided to throw the ball even with bruising running back Marshawn Lynch lined up on Russell Wilson’s left. Lynch was arguably the best goal-line back in the entire league, and the Seahawks were in their 94 Buck formation which was a running formation. Still, Carroll changed the play to a pass and the rest is history. Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler jumped Jermaine Kearse and picked the ball off at the goal line to give the Patriots the unlikeliest of wins. It is one of the most mind-boggling decisions ever made at such a high level and prevented the Seahawks from becoming a possible dynasty.

Rolling Rock (Unofficially) Presents: The Second Annual 2018 Bench Life Stanley Cup Prediction Battle

Another year another pick battle. Quite honestly I forgot to post the results of last year’s. To recap, Brendan won a case of Rolling Rock and Cam is a coward who never did a punishment for losing.

This time around, Ray has entered the fold and I’m going to put a punishment in writing. Winner will still win a case of Rolling Rock, otherwise known as the King’s spoils of war. The loser will have to change their Twitter profile pic to a picture of them wearing the jersey of their least favourite team and must not change the picture for a whole year. For Ballantyne and I we would have to wear one of Cam’s Bruins jerseys, Ray would have to wear a Blackhawks jersey and Cam would have to wear a Leafs jersey. The stakes have never been higher(?)

Before I break down our picks, I thought I would give an update on the podcast situation. We have been off of the air waves for a couple of weeks due to school ending and us having to figure out how to format over Skype. Expect a victorious return to the podcast game within the next week or so.

Without further ado, here’s our official Stanley Cup picks:

Pick the Winner (5 points for team, 3 points for amount of games, 10 points if both are right)
Thomas: Washington in 6
Cameron: Vegas in 7
Brendan: Washington in 7
Ray: Washington in 6

Conn Smythe (10 points)
Thomas:   Alex Ovechkin
Cameron: Marc-Andre Fleury
Brendan: Alex Ovechkin
Ray: Evgeny Kuznetsov (although realistically it’ll probably be Ovie)

Select 3 Forwards and 2 Defensemen. You get points for where they finish series in top 10 scorers (1st=10 pts, 10th=1 pt, 14th= 0)
Thomas: Marchessault, Ovechkin, Oshie, Carlson, Orlov
Brendan: Ovechkin, Kuznetsov, Smith, Carlson, Schmidt
Cameron: Ovechkin, Kuznetsov, Karlsson, Theodore, Carlson
Ray: Ovechkin, Kuznetsov, Marchessault, Carlson, Theodore (sorry Tatar and Nosek)

1st Player to be Handed the Cup after the captain (5 points)
Thomas: Vegas–Fleury  Washington–Carlson
Brendan: Vegas–James Neal Washington–Backstrom
Cameron: Vegas – Fleury, Washington – Backstrom
Ray: Vegas – assuming Engelland is the pseudo-captain, Fleury. Washington – Backstrom.  

For Every OT Tweet a VGK and WSH player for who will score the OT Goal. 10 points per correct pick.

Over Unders (2 pts for every pick)

Ovechkin Goals Set at 4.5
Thomas: Over
Brendan: Under
Cameron: Over
Ray: Over

Back-Up Goalie Starts Set at 0.5
Thomas: Over
Brendan: Under
Cameron: Under
Ray: Under

Total Overtime Games Set at 1.5
Thomas: Over
Brendan: Under
Cameron: Under
Ray: Under

Total Shutouts in Series Set at 0.5
Thomas: Under
Brendan: Over
Cameron: Over
Ray: Over

Total Goals in Series Set at 24.5
Thomas: Under
Brendan: Over
Cameron: Over
Ray: Under

Bench Life Sports

Throwback Thursday: the 2003-04 Washington Capitals

Let’s remember a few names. In honour of the Capitals finally making the Stanley Cup final, I thought I would look back at the roster that netted them the first overall pick in the 2004 draft and the right to draft Ovie. This team of studs went 23-46-10-3 (59 points) and set the foundation for one of the best regular season teams of the past decade.

Steve Konowalchuk

Konowalchuk was captain of this juggernaut Capitals squad… for 6 games. He was traded to the Colorado Avalanche with Washington’s third round pick in the 2004 draft (Casey Borer) to Colorado Avalanche for Bates Battaglia and Jonas Johansson. Since retiring in 2006 Konowalchuk became an assistant coach from 2009-2011 and served as the head coach for the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds from 2011-2017. The grit grinder is now an assistant coach for the Anaheim Ducks. Read more

The Raptors Coaching Search

After an extremely disappointing end to a historic season for the franchise, Masai Ujiri and the Toronto Raptors organization decided something had to give. As is the case in the sports world, that usually means that the coach must go. Dwane Casey is undoubtedly the best coach that the Raptors franchise has ever had, but all good the things must come to an end. It’s a tough look for the team that Casey was fired following him being voted the Coach of the Year by his peers, but Ujiri claims the team needs a “new voice” and I guess you can’t really blame him after witnessing another second round sweep.

Now we look ahead to who that “new voice” could be. Shortly after Casey had been relieved of his duties, names had started being floated around as potential candidates to fill the new coaching vacancy in the North. Here’s a brief look at some of the perceived candidates.

Nick Nurse:

Most Recently: Assistant Coach, Toronto Raptors (2013 – Present)

Notables: D-League Coach of the Year (2011), 2-time D-League Champion (2011, 2013)

Nurse has been a long time coach at various levels and experienced great success in the D-League. The Raptors gig was the first shot he’s gotten in the NBA, but his 5 years with the team has been the best 5-year stretch in team history. The only issue being that he has direct ties with the man who was just fired and doesn’t really have that “new voice” factor.

Rex Kalamian:

Most Recently: Assistant Coach, Toronto Raptors (2015 – Present)

Notables: 21 seasons as an Assistant Coach in the NBA.

Kalamian has clearly paid his dues as an assistant in this league, he’s done it for as long as I’ve been alive. But he has the same issues as Nurse, a long time Dwane Casey “guy” (coached together in Minnesota previously) and doesn’t qualify as a “new voice”. It appears unlikely that he’d be the guy, but he’ll get a look.

Jerry Stackhouse:

Most Recently: Head Coach, Raptors 905 (2016 – Present)

Notables: D-League Coach of the Year (2017), D-League Champion (2017), 18 year NBA playing career that included 2 All-Star appearances, 3rd overall pick in the 1995 Draft.

“Stack” is an interesting young coaching prospect because he has made the quick transition to coaching, and successfully, just 5 years after retiring from his playing career. He could offer a fresh perspective and appears to be the most logical “promote from within” candidate, but he also has other suitors too, which apparently includes Orlando and Detroit.

Mike Budenholzer:

Most Recently: Head Coach and President of Basketball Operations, Atlanta Hawks (Resigned in 2017).

Notables: Coach of the Year (2015), All-Star Game Head Coach (2015), 4-time NBA Champion as an Assistant Coach with the San Antonio Spurs.

The most intriguing and qualified candidate of the bunch. Budenholzer appears to be being fought over by the front offices in Toronto and Milwaukee for his services. Budenholzer has a solid resume in getting the most out of a team (see 60 win Atlanta Hawks) and systematically operates his teams in the heavy three-point shooting, “find the open man” type of way that the Raptors did so well in the regular season. He has also been crushed by LeBron in the playoffs, but who hasn’t really?

Becky Hammon:

Most Recently: Assistant Coach, San Antonio Spurs (2014 – Present)

Notables: First full-time female coach in NBA history, Head Coach of San Antonio Spurs Las Vegas Summer League Championship winning team (2015), 6-time WNBA All-Star.

Like Budenholzer, Hammon has grown her coaching experience under the tutelage of the legendary Greg Popovich. She has gotten a lot of buzz recently on how she’s ready to be a head coach in this league, and it would certainly be something if Toronto was the city where that happened.

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