buchanan

Canada’s 19-year-old centre back Kadeisha Buchanan was – along with the always stellar Christine Sinclair – one of the reasons her team slid past China with a 1-0 win. Former national team star Kara Lang ranks Buchanan “as important” as Sinclair to the success of the Canadian Women’s National Team at this year’s World Cup.

Though Buchanan is still a teenager, she has been a bona fide star since 14, first playing for the senior national side at 17 and having amassed 33 senior caps to date. She is tall, fast, tough and unflappable. Canadian coach John Herdman praised his centre back after the match: “That’s a kid 19 years of age who just stepped and played like THE best centre back in the world. Look, I’m going to give her that label. That was as good a performance I’ve seen under that sort of pressure from a centre back.”

High praise indeed… Centre back is a notoriously difficult position to play, especially as Canada moves on in the tournament and perhaps faces Japan, Brazil, or the U.S., with their world-leading strikers. Buchanan’s skills and judgement will be put to the test – but many around the team believe she will be more than equal to that test.

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Messi 4th Champions League trophy

Four Champions League trophies and with a fifth Ballon d’Or all but guaranteed for the 2015 calendar year, Lionel Messi is looking more and more like he will be considered the best player to ever have played the game of soccer.

Pele has his three World Cups. Maradona has one World Cup which is widely considered a one-man achievement. But do those great achievements stack-up favourably against Messi’s collective and individual achievements in a career that is not yet over?


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leafs losing

In a sweeping sociology-meets-sports tour de force, excellent hockey scribe Nathan Kanter exhumes the sad cadaver that is Hogtown’s recent sporting history…and the autopsy results are not pretty.

Kanter, who can dissect a game with Corsi & possession stats as a forensic pathologist might wield a scalpel, here pulls back the skin of an entire city’s sporting culture – and lo, the broader view is even bleaker than the tale of any one Toronto team’s ineptitude, hard as that may be to believe. You may think the Leafs embody a history of failure unique in professional sport – no argument here – but it’s only when you also roll in the bottom-feeding records of the NBA’s Raptors and MLSE’s Toronto FC that the true relentless horror of the situation emerges.

So who’s responsible? Is it the players? The coaching or management? The owners – big, bad Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment? Well, perhaps…but the astute Kanter, effortlessly playing first Hamlet then Pogo, holds the mirror up to nature and sees that the enemy is us. The true culprit in Toronto sports teams’ ongoing failure, says Kanter, is the fans themselves – and in thus reasoning, he echoes the selfsame conclusion writ here just before the start of the Leafs’ most recent campaign (which we don’t need to remind anyone ended with early April tee-off times for Buds’ players & coaching staff alike).

Former Leafs coach Carlyle sets team strategy for April

Former Leafs coach Carlyle sets team strategy for April

Nathan Kanter’s advice? Embrace Canada’s original “national game” and go watch the Toronto Rock play – and win – lacrosse games. He also tentatively endorses Bendin’ Brendan Shanahan (we’re not so sure – and our predictive pre-season photo timeline of Bendin’ wasn’t so far off).

Our solution? Stay away. In droves. Until management takes the problems seriously. Until then we’re all just complicit. If, as Kanter suggests, Toronto is a City of Losers, it’s because it’s also a City of Enablers.

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toews

Hard to argue with after Toews’ performance in the last three games of the Ducks series.

The Chicago captain scored on his first two shots of Game 7 to post his team to a 2-0 lead less than 10 minutes into the game – and the Ducks never recovered.

As much as the Black Hawks also rely on the otherworldly offensive talents of Kane and the stalwart shutdown play of Keith, it’s Toews who sets the tone, and never more so than when the going gets tough. Sportsnet Stats @snstats tweeted this summary of Captain Serious’s feats in key games going back five years:

  • GM 7 vs Ducks: 2 Goals
  • 2014 (Olympic) Gold Medal (game): Goal
  • GM 7 vs Kings: Goal
  • GM 7 vs Canucks: Goal
  • 2010 (Olympic) Gold Medal (game): Goal

Clearly, Toews has a history of elevating his game when the games mean the most. That’s the mark of an elite performer at any level. He is one of the best players in the world, and it’s why the Hawks will defeat the Lightning in 6 games.

And why Toews will in 2015 win his second Conn Smythe trophy.

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