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...because don't you want to be friends with this guy? (In case you were wondering -- yes, he is holding a little pink purse. It all stemmed from this story.)

· You have to be intrigued by the stories appearing today regarding The Manatee's status as the No. 1 guy (here's TSN's, here's the Citizen's and here's the Sun's.) I guess most felt the need to to hold back on "making a call" after what's been going on in net this year, but as someone who watched all games of the West Coast swing, I'll tell you that it seemed pretty bloody obvious after the San Jose game. Gerber is doing things right again -- he's not cowering in the back of the net, and he's also positioning himself to cut off the angles with greater success. However, this time around, there's been one additional "improvement": He's freezing more pucks. I know normally you wouldn't want to encourage that type of behaviour, but it's like someone (I dunno...Ray's boy, perhaps?) said to him: "Look, dude...if you can't control the rebound, just stop the damned thing for now and we'll take our chances on the faceoff." Jason Spezza and Antoine Vermette are currently 12th and 17th respectively in faceoffs won overall. Obviously No. 29 has to still deal with subpar play in his own zone, but I'm guessing he somewhat feels he has a leg (or flipper) up on the situation when the puck is dropped -- hence the plan of hanging onto the rubber for the meantime.

One more thing on Gerber: I've been noticing how the media likes to point out that he plays best when he's not being pushed by someone else. Look at it this way: How would you feel if your job was constantly being threatened by a disinterested layabout (a.k.a. Ray Emery), because the staff figured he deserved multiple grabs at the brass ring (which was only due to past performances Emery has yet to replicate, and a salary that can't be explained away)? This isn't last year, where Emery was the hot young hand and a swap was justifiable. This season was about two goalies with problems: One was willing to put in the work; the other was not. And the one who busted his ass wasn't allowed to redeem himself, thanks to Paddock's "win and you're in" system. It wasn't about the pushing, kids. It was about the circumstances surrounding it, and frankly, I think any netminder in the league would have a problem with it if they were in The Manatee's skates.


When things are going wrong with a team, you naturally want to look back to when things were right -- thankfully, I kept a PVR clip from the Ottawa-Buffalo conference final last season. Going back to look at the recording is like night and day. Their passing is effortless, whereas recently it's become so laboured and inconsistent. They were fighting along the boards. They won the puck battles. They played a physical game. And most importantly, they charged the freaking net. We're talking run-of-the-mill hockey basics, all of which have mysteriously fallen by the wayside this year. It's the first time I've watched that clip and felt truly sad.

More later.