Posts Tagged ‘ Review ’

The Winnipeg Jets: Year In Review

Whether the record read 82-0-0 or 0-82-0, the verdict would be the exact same: what a year for hockey in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

I’ll never forget the feeling on that day in May 2011, when we found out the NHL was once again going to be calling The ‘Peg home.  But looking back, I now realize that I had no idea just what we were in for.  What a roller coaster ride it’s been, from the name announcement and logo design, to heartbreaking overtime losses and thrilling come-from-behind victories.

While it was a lot closer than most of us expected, the Jets just barely missed out on the post-season, but I think we can all agree that a run in the playoffs would have just been a bonus prize on what was a truly groundbreaking, and successful season.  The entire NHL knows now that Winnipeg has hands-down the best and loudest fans in hockey.  O Canada will never be sung the same way again.  But most importantly, I think the biggest success story of the Winnipeg Jets’ 2011-2012 season was the growth of almost each and every individual player on the team.  Let’s take a look:

Blake Wheeler (17 G, 47 A, 64 P)

It seems insane when I look back to the start of the season, and remember feeling bad for poor Blake Wheeler, who just could not seem to find the back of the net, no matter how hard he tried.  After every game, he’d say “Just gotta keep pluggin’ away, and hopefully they’ll start going in.”  And boy, did they.  Wheeler has put up some highlight-reel goals this season, and finishes with a career-high (get used to that word) 64 points to lead the team.  A truly classy player, who cemented himself as a staple on the team this season and beyond.

Ondrej Pavelec

What can you really say about Pavi?  Winnipeg was introduced to an all-star this season. When our guys weren’t executing the game plan, the reason we were always able to stay in the game was Pavelec between the pipes.  He faced the 5th most shots of all goalies in the NHL this season, and was nothing short of a human highlight-reel.  You can’t have a great hockey team without a great goalie, and that is one thing that the Winnipeg Jets can absolutely check off the list.

Andrew Ladd (28 G, 22 A, 50 P)

The captain.  Anyone who knows me knows I was far from a fan of Laddy in probably the first three quarters of the season.  I didn’t like his play, he was a turnover machine, he seemed to really enjoy taking penalties in the offensive zone in the last three minutes of a one-goal game… I’ll stop there.  And I’ll also give him a hell of a lot of credit, because he stepped up in the last 15 or 20 games of the season.  He was responsible with the puck, took his penalty minutes down, and started putting those pucks in the net like he was a goal-junkie.  The Andrew Ladd I saw at the end of the season is the guy I would be happy to call my captain, and will be glad to see back next season.

Dustin Byfuglien (12 G, 41 A, 53 P)

Big Buff is a player that brings bad with his good, and all you can really do is just hope that the good outweighs the bad.  I enjoyed having him on our team.  He brings a big presence to the ice, which is important.  There’s no question that he’s a capable defenceman, he just also likes to pinch in off the point, and sometimes gets caught out of position.  Personally, I think he is much more suited to a forward position, and hopefully once we get some more capable defencemen on our squad, he can be put back up where he belongs.  But there’s no question that Big Buff is consistently one of the most exciting players to watch, and he brings a lot of energy to the bench with his bone-crunching hits, 105 mph clappers from the point, and always-upbeat personality.

Evander Kane (30 G, 27 A, 57 P)

Our leading goal-scorer.  At only 20 years old, Kane has the potential to be this team’s all-star player in the near future.  But does he have the attitude? TBD.  There’s no question that Kane’s performance this season was downright impressive, as he set career highs in all three columns.  He was also the cause of a lot of whispers in the community, lashed out on Twitter a couple times, and didn’t even come out to thank the hometown fans once when he was the third star following a loss.  The question is, “Does Evander Kane want to be here?”  And that question will be answered in the off-season, when we find out whether or not he’ll be returning to the Winnipeg Jets for the 2012-2013 season.

Alexander Burmistrov (13 G, 15 A, 28 P)

I think 2012-2013 is going to be this sensational 20-year-old’s season.  Some of the glimpses of brilliance I saw from this young kid this season were exciting beyond words.  Burmistrov has a fantastic attitude, and I would go so far as to say that he has easily the best hands on the team.  He just needs to work on finishing now.  I can’t see anything but a young Evgeni Malkin or Pavel Datsyuk when I watch this kid play, all he needs is some more experience and I’m confident that Winnipeg will watch him grow into one of the top-calibur players on our team. This was an outstanding season for Alex Burmistrov.

Kyle Wellwood (18 G, 29 A, 47 P)

For a guy who played five and a half seasons in the NHL before coming to the Winnipeg Jets, setting a career-high in points is a pretty big deal.  I think Wellwood has finally found a home here with the Winnipeg Jets.  His hockey sense is outstanding, and this season he was one of, if not the most consistently good player on our team.  I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that he didn’t turn the puck over once the entire season.  He sees the whole ice surface, makes great heads-up plays, and even put up a respectable number of goals this season as well.  He’s a UFA at the end of the season, but I hope Chevy has a big raise planned for this guy, and he’s one that I will welcome back for 2012-2013 with open arms.

Zach Bogosian (5 G, 25 A, 30 P)

Bogosian almost falls into the same category as Wellwood.  He looked like a consistent player out there, he’s easily one of our best young defencemen, and I think this season was a great growing season for him.  Like Burmistrov, Bogosian had a great career-high performance this season, but I think next season is when we’ll really see what he can do.

Bryan Little (21 G, 25 A, 46 P)

Bryan Little was our clutch player this season.  When I think of Little, I think of “game winning goal”, because he got so damn many of them.  He was a player that we could count on to come through when we needed him to this season.  Unfortunately he’s one of those guys who just goes to work almost silently, and flies under the radar a little bit, so there’s not a lot to say about Little except to just look at his numbers, and know that he made a significant contribution to the team’s success this season.

GST (Tanner Glass, Jim Slater, Chris Thorburn) (22 G, 26 A, 48 P)

Two words: Heart, soul.  “GST” wasn’t a marketing gimmick developed by True North, and force fed into the fans’ mouths.  We all recognized the importance of the GST line, and paid those three guys the respect they deserved.  Known as “grinders”, the GST line went to work against the NHL’s elite, blocking shots, battling in front of the net, and dropping the mitts to beat a little respect into their opponents.  The GST line is about as much of a staple on the Winnipeg Jets as Ondrej Pavelec as this point, and their contributions this season are worthy of a standing ovation.

Mark Stuart (3 G, 11 A, 14 P)

If you looked at Mark Stuart, you’d probably guess that he’s a veteran. And you would not be wrong.  Not taking anything away from Andrew Ladd, but Stuart felt like the captain out there sometimes.  He’d never hesitate to put his body on the line to block a hard slap shot, or stick up for his teammates by dropping the gloves.  Stuart produced some of the most cringe-worthy hits of the season, and commanded respect with almost everything he did on and off the ice.  You know you’re doing something right when you’re honoured with your very own fan chant.  “STUUUUU!”

Spencer Mahacek (2 G, 7 A, 9 P)

How can I not mention Spencer Mahacek? Called up to the Jets on March 18, Mahacek continues to look like he’s been playing with this squad for years.  The nine points he has on the season were tallied in his first nine games back on the roster, and that is outstanding for a player called up from the AHL.  He’s even been moved up to replace Andrew Ladd in a game when Ladd got the boot after a fight.  No doubt that Coach Noel is high on this kid’s performance at the end of the season, and I expect to see a lot more of Mahacek in the 2012-2013 season.

And there it is, your 2011-2012 Winnipeg Jets season.  What will 2012-2013 bring? The triumphant return of Mark Scheifele? Who will the Jets pick up in the entry draft, with their extra two picks?  Learning from this season’s mistakes, are the Jets now favoured to make next year’s post-season? What sort of off-season moves has Chevy got planned for the summer?

It may feel like it’s been one hell of a ride, Winnipeg, but the Jets didn’t just come back this one season. It’s hard to believe, but this ride is only just beginning.

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WrestleMania 28: The Good, The Bad & The Downright Wrong

Another year, and another WrestleMania has been etched into the history books of the WWE.

While I still feel like the WWE is really missing that “wow” factor that it had so many years ago, WrestleMania 28, like any WrestleMania before it, had its highs and lows.  There were moments and matches that exceeded expectations, and those that could have been so much more than what they were.

John Cena vs. The Rock

I think the match itself lived up to what we were expecting.  Chris Jericho said it best when he said, “I think Cena vs. Rock is going to be one of the greatest matches we’ve ever seen, because it’s destined to be that.”  It was two of the biggest stars the WWE has ever seen, and that we thought would never cross paths, going toe to toe in the squared circle.  The atmosphere alone was destined to make the match everything we wanted it to be.

But the outcome… I’m sorry, but I completely disagree with what the WWE did here.  The Rock wins? My, oh my, oh my… Now, I’m not going to pretend to be able to see into the future. For all we know, these two could have a rematch and split the wins.  But if The Rock is packing up and leaving once again, as we all expect him to, this was an atrocious decision to make. And if you know anything about me, you know I hate John Cena.

But the fact of the matter is, tomorrow, and five years from now, Cena will still be here. He’ll be bleeding WWE until the day he hangs it up, and for that reason alone, he needed to come out on top in this match. So Rock wins, and what kind of mileage does he get from it? Nothing, he’s as good as gone again already.  A win in one of the biggest matches in WWE history is worthless where he’s going.

The match itself was great. Rocky clearly got in good ring-shape for the match, as we would expect him to. There was some good back and forth, and nice false finishes.  Rock still has the best arm drag in the business, but it’s not good enough for me to feel good about the final 3-count in this match.

Undertaker vs. Triple H

What can you really say about this match?  As soon as it was announced, I said, “I bet they want to make up for their stinker at WrestleMania 27,” and I stand by that opinion; their match last year was a piece.  The story-telling in this year’s match, with the addition of HBK, was outstanding.

Without question it was the most physical match of the night. Those chair shots had me cringing.  But Shawn, Hunter and ‘Taker all told a great story in there together. I would be comfortable calling this the best match of the night.

And I may take flak for saying this, but it should not be that way. And leads me to my next point:

Daniel Bryan vs. Sheamus

Pardon my French, but are you fucking kidding me?

This “match” was an absolute disgrace, and flat-out insulting and disrespectful to Bryan Danielson first, Sheamus second, and the fans third.

I said right off the top that this match would steal the show, and two talents like Sheamus and Danielson going at it easily could have.  I don’t know who Danielson pissed off, or what Vince McMahon was smoking backstage, but this was just mind-boggling.

As I alluded to earlier, newcomers like Sheamus and Danielson hold the future of the WWE in their hands. When guys like ‘Taker and Triple H aren’t around anymore to send the fans home happy, it’s going to be up to these guys to do the heavy lifting. And they should be stealing the show right now at WrestleMania.  And like I said, these two could have, they’re fantastic talents.

Quite frankly, these two are owed an apology in the form of a rematch, with no time limit, so we can see what we should have on the Grand Stage.

Horrible booking.

CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho

Honestly? Nothing special here.

Was it a good match? Absolutely.  But this was one of the matches on the card that had the capability of exceeding its expectations, and I don’t think it did. It was everything it was supposed to be, but nothing more.

The other matches were all filler, and quite frankly I don’t think anyone came here to read about them.

And to come a little out of left field here, this is as good as official: They need to bring Money in the Bank back to WrestleMania. It never should have left.  I can guarantee that probably 99% of the WWE Universe would have rather seen the participants of Team Johnny vs. Team Teddy in a MitB match instead.  It was consistently one of the best matches on the card, and really rounded out the whole show.  Bring. It. Back.

And that’s that!  Another WrestleMania down, and this one was really one of the better ones I’ve seen.  There were some things I didn’t agree with here and there, but I think the good outweighed the bad.  The only thing I’d say is most important right now, is that the young talent starts being given the opportunity to step in and fill the roles that guys like Edge and Triple H are leaving behind. And an 18 second bullshit match is doing the exact opposite.

What did you think of WrestleMania 28?  Share your own opinions, or comment on mine. Let me know!

HirOshima.

I might have enjoyed Hiroshima by John Hersey a little bit more if I hadn’t read the book from front to back in about seven hours, between 11:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.  But this, of course, is my own fault and will not prevent me from giving a genuine and honest opinion on the book.

After hearing it in blog presentations and reading it on people’s blogs for myself, I feel a bit repetitive in saying it, but clearly what worked best and what stands out the most in Hiroshima is the level of detail that Hersey poured into the work, that really brought it to life.

I read something in this book that will likely stick with me indefinitely as one of the most eye-opening (no pun intended) and startling things I’ve ever read, and that is when Hersey describes one of the main characters stumbling upon a group of (temporary) survivors whose eyeballs had melted and were running down their cheeks.  It was partially because I really had no idea that eyeballs could actually melt like that, and just the visual of the scene, it was so gripping and disturbing, and it’s details, however gruesome they may be, that really makes Hiroshima come to life.

One thing that I thought didn’t work in this book was simply the number of characters Hersey chose to focus on.  He chose six in total, and at 152 pages in the book, that leaves an average of about 25 pages for each character’s personal story.  Not only did it possibly force Hersey to jam details together where they might have benefited from being more drawn out, but the characters were just too hard to all keep track of.  They all had specific details to their story, and going from one to the next, to the next, to the next, rinse and repeat just became a headache after a while.  Sometimes I would start a new section on, say, Mr. Tanimoto, and I’d have to flip back to the end of his last segment to remember where his situation had left off, because I’d just finished reading about five other people.

I don’t think anything is necessarily “missing” from this book.  It is an internationally acclaimed piece of writing, and I am a firm believer in the saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” As grammatically incorrect as it may be.  Like I said, I don’t think anyone would have complained if Hersey had chosen to maybe focus on only three or four of his chosen subjects.

The number one thing, in my opinion, that journalists can learn from this book, is the art of storytelling.  This is a non-fiction work, so how does Hersey make it read like a work of fiction or an action/adventure novel?  Well I certainly don’t have the answer, I assume that Hersey does, but I guess what I’m trying to say is that journalists can learn how important storytelling is to their craft.  The straight facts of Hiroshima, while historic and intriguing, would probably put most of us to sleep if they were just read one after another after another.

But there I was, four in the morning, glued to that book as if my grades life depended on it.  I’m being sarcastic of course, but I really did find the book interesting, and plenty of others in Hiroshima’s place definitely could have put me to sleep at those wee hours of the morn’.  But Hersey’s ability to weave everything together, and make it readable is what journalists need to realize is so powerful about this book.

It’s also what sets the book apart from a lot of other non-fiction works.  I’ve read non-fiction books – professional wrestler autobiographies, let’s say – and a lot of times it’s hard for authors to avoid telling a true story without (basically) saying “After that happened, this happened.”  It’s extremely difficult to try and recount a true story that is full of details without sometimes making the reader feel like they’re just being fed detail after detail.  But Hersey somehow manages to make the entire book, from start to finish, one cohesive unit that flows nicely.

Originally published in The New Yorker, Hiroshima was met with mixed reviews, but I think it was ultimately highly praised. From what I read, it seems like there were some people who believed that, in publishing this work, The New Yorker was taking the stance of being sympathetic to Japan and regretful that the bomb was dropped.  The New Yorker cleared up any and all misconceptions, and, like I said, it was met with mostly high praise.

I enjoyed reading John Hersey’s Hiroshima.  It gave me a really good perspective on the human side of what happened when the atomic bomb was dropped, and I think that is something that we are fortunate to have gotten.  It’s one of those things that is tragic to read about, but important to read about, and I think Hersey did a fantastic job of presenting in a way that is approachable and digestible.

So… You Want To Be A Wrestler?

As promised, here comes a review of The Wrestling Road Diaries.

I received the DVD last week, and have since watched it two times all of the way through, and have also been through the deleted scenes/extras as well.  The Wrestling Road Diaries stars Bryan Danielson and Colt Cabana, let’s be real here.  Is Sal Rinauro in the documentary more than anyone other than Danielson and Cabana? Yes.  He’s still barely featured, in both match footage and interview footage. And also his name is misspelled on the DVD cover not once, but twice.  Copy+paste is a great way to make sure you always spell someone’s name correctly.  It’s also a great way to make sure you misspell it multiple times.

The DVD clocks in at two hours and 40 minutes in length, with the deleted scenes tacking on over another hour.  So get your dinner on your lap, and a bucket to pee in because chances are you aren’t going to have any interest in pausing this DVD to get up off the couch; it is that good.

What makes this documentary so great, is sort of the same thing that makes Wrestling With Shadows so great; unplanned events that just happened to come together at the right time. Wrestling With Shadows would have been a good documentary if the Montreal Screwjob hadn’t happened; but it was an amazing documentary because it did.  In that same way, The Wrestling Road Diaries would have been a good documentary if it was just 10 days on the road with these indy wrestlers; but it’s great because it’s Danielson’s last 10 days on before starting with the WWE, and Cabana had just recently been released from the WWE.

What I loved most about the film was that it gave an accurate portrayal of being a professional wrestler working on the independent circuit.  Watching these three young men drive five hours to a town, wrestle a show, get back in their car and start over again, really allows the viewer to feel the tediousness of their living.  It’s a never-ending struggle for 99% of wrestlers working the indies.  All they have is that 1% chance of being good enough to make it to the big leagues.  Most never do.

The film follows the three wrestlers over a span of ten full days, as they travel from city to city, wrestling for the televised Ring of Honor shows, and also local community centre shows in front of crowds of about 50 people.  The documentary does a great job of opening your eyes to the fact that there’s really only the indies and the big leagues like the WWE or (kind of) TNA.  And guys like Danielson can spend over 10 years struggling on the indies, barely able to pay their bills, until catching a break and getting signed to the WWE.

As a wrestling fan, I found the film hilarious.  There’s just something very uplifting and motivating about watching these guys get beat up night after night and still maintain a sense a humour.  Cabana is the comedian of the group, but Danielson definitely has his hilarious moments as well.

I would recommend this DVD to any fan of professional wrestling, whether you’re looking to find out more about the indies or not.  It’s also a fantastic to pick this documentary up, as Danielson is currently sitting on pending World Title run, and Colt Cabana actually had a dark match at the Smackdown! tapings last night, so we could be seeing him back on WWE programming very soon.  I wouldn’t recommend this DVD to non-wrestling fans.  There are plenty of DVDs that I would show to a non-wrestling fan, that would have appeal to them, but this is not one of them.  You need to have a basic understanding of the business before popping The Wrestling Road Diaries in.

The Wrestling Road Diaries can be purchased online at Colt Cabana’s merchandise website ColtMerch.com.  $25.00 for the feature, and $35.00 if you want the deleted scenes as well (highly recommend).

The Wrestling Road Diaries was a fantastic watch for me, as we rarely get such an in-depth glimpse into the actual lives of professional wrestlers.  It’s great to be able to see where Danielson came from, and the struggles he endured for 10 years before catching a break.  This documentary is one of the best I’ve seen in a long while, and I would definitely recommend picking it up.

Money!

Last night Money in the Bank rolled into Chicago, IL and what a night it was! I buy two Pay-Per-Views a year; Royal Rumble and WrestleMania. So, first of all, there’s a lot to be said for the fact that I even had the interest in buying this one.

All of the elements were there to make a colossal explosion, it was simply a matter of whether or not the WWE would pull it off, and I think they actually did it bigger than a lot of people expected.

Let’s start first with the Smackdown! Money in the Bank match. Couple of things to touch on here, the first being the Sin Cara injury angle. I honestly can’t see any reason for it other than Sin Cara being let go, or possibly being sent down to FCW to work on not botching every second move that he does. I found something suspicious in the way Booker specifically said, “Well, Sin Cara’s had an amazing run here… but I wonder if this could possibly be the end for him.” I can only assume we’ll find out for sure this Friday on Smackdown!

EDIT: Sin Cara has been suspended for 30 days for violating the WWE’s Wellness Policy. Mystery solved.

Hats off to Bryan Danielson. I was surprised but equally thrilled to see him pull that briefcase down, and the emotion that he showed after doing it just proves that it was the right thing to do. Danielson is 30 years old, and spent over 10 years on the independent circuit before making it to the WWE. Just off the top of my head, I don’t think there’s another Superstar currently on the roster who’s spent that long on the indies.

Danielson is in the business simply because he loves it, and there’s only small number left who that is true for. Winning the briefcase essentially guarantees him a World title run in the near future, and shows that the WWE has a lot of faith in his ability. Nice to see that payoff finally come for him, and I will eagerly await his first title run.

(I’ve got a copy of Wrestling Road Diaries currently on its way to me, and will be doing a full review of it on here hopefully in the coming weeks, so stay tuned for that!)

I don’t know whose idea it was to unmask Rey Mysterio while he was on top of a ladder, but it was a bad one. Next.

Alright, here we go; John Cena vs. CM Punk. An amazing storyline, an amazing match, an amazing crowd, or an amazing finish; nailing one of the four will usually put a smile on the people’s faces. But when you somehow manage to put all four together… something special happens, and it happened last night.

Punk’s dynamite promo a few weeks ago lit the fuse, and that, combined with a cluster of other elements, set the stage for a historic night. Punk’s contract was expiring, it was for the WWE Championship, Cena would be fired if he lost, and it was taking place in Punk’s hometown of Chicago. I’m not sure if the entire thing could have been planned any better.

The crowd was unreal. It was almost as good as ECW One Night Stand 2, as the crowd was overwhelmingly supportive of their hometown hero, CM Punk. Cena rarely gets the “You can’t wrestle!” chants anymore, unless he is in pretty hostile territory.

The match was an exceptional display of both men’s ability, and I was pleased with the way Cena performed. He pulled out quite a few new moves, and seemed to work pretty well with Punk. The match flowed great, and both men did a fantastic job of keeping the fans on the edge of their seats, right to the final bell.

The finish made sense. John “Superman” Cena, Mr. Hustle, Loyalty and Respect, not allowing Vince to pull off another “screwjob” because he’s got too much pride, and it immediately bites him in the ass, giving Punk the 1-2-3, and igniting the hometown crowd.

It was at this point that I expected the classic WWE cop-out to come. Yep, here’s Vince getting on the headset and calling for Alberto Del Rio to cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase, and take the strap off Punk. Normally, this is where the WWE would go “gotcha!” and insult the fans’ intelligence, like they seem to really enjoy doing lately.

"Mwah!"

I can honestly say I did not expect the finish; Punk laying out Del Rio, and escaping into the crowd – his crowd – with the WWE Championship. Again, makes perfect sense. WWE storylines and character behaviour is not often well-thought out and realistic, but I was pleasantly surprised with what I saw out of Punk. He’d just won the title, of course his next move would be to haul ass out of there while he still could.

Many questions to be answered on Monday Night RAW tonight, the biggest of which is; is CM Punk truly finished in the WWE? Storylines and kayfabe completely aside, many people, including myself, are of the opinion that it would be truly unfortunate if Punk was really done in the WWE. As great as this angle was, to unleash a Superstar’s full potential a month before his contract expires doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Where normally I would feel like Punk “re-signing” with the WWE would be another typical WWE cop-out, this time I wouldn’t even care; more CM Punk!!

And also, didn’t CM Punk promise to re-design the title if he won it? Whether Punk is leaving or not, I think this could possibly be the end of Cena‘s spinner championship, and let me tell you; I am so okay with that.

And finally, to Chavo Guerrero; you need to shut the hell up. You spoke your mind once, great, but then when Cena actually delivered like you asked him to, you just went full “whiny bitch”, and took a completely cynical attitude toward the match. Chavo, you say Cena is lazy? Well damn, I guess he’s won 10 WWE Championships on lazy mode then, as opposed to your big fat zero and you say you give it everything you’ve got every single night. Maybe if you were as critical toward yourself as you are toward him, you’d still be in the WWE.