Toronto Sports Media Roundup: Gambling, Leafs Media, Natasha Staniszewski & MoreLots going on as NHL and NBA trade deadlines approach, sports gambling

<span class="entry-title-primary">Toronto Sports Media Roundup: Gambling, Leafs Media, Natasha Staniszewski & More</span> <span class="entry-subtitle">Lots going on as NHL and NBA trade deadlines approach, sports gambling</span>


As the calendar moves into April there certainly is a lot to talk about is there not?

Not one specific topic this week, rather some random thoughts for you:

As a lifelong Maple Leaf fan, I was reminded this week what a sensitive bunch we are. In the throws of a “losing streak”, I jokingly mentioned something on Twitter, and given the reaction of many a Leafs fan you’d think I was suggesting Ron Wilson was returning to coach the team.

Not sure whether it’s a Leafs thing specifically, but when it comes to the team certain fans IMHO take things a tad too seriously. I guess it’s a good reminder that FAN is short for fanatic.

The relationship between the fans and the media is always interesting to me.

Hat tip to Kevin McGran of the Star this week who re-looked at old Maple Leafs trade deadline deals. A few of them had come to my mind which Kevin addressed in his article:

The acquisition of Owen Nolan on March 5, 2003 didn’t work out, since Alyn McCauley and Brad Boyes went the other way. Nolan played well, as did Glen Wesley, who was acquired cheaply. But Boyes — who would retire a Leaf — would have been terrific as Mats Sundin got older and was left to his own devices later in the decade.

The 2004 Brian Leetch trade is more interesting. The Leafs gave up four assets to get him. They got 15 regular-season games and 13 playoff games out of Leetch, widely credited with helping turn Bryan McCabe into a top-level defenceman. Leetch produced two goals and 13 assists in the regular season, eight assists in the playoffs.

It’s funny how the sentiment of the media, or at least certain members of the media has shifted over the years.

Consider if you will:

“1. Toronto’s Kyle Dubas confirms he’s all in. The last two weeks haven’t been great, but the vast majority of the season’s been strong. He’s going for the best forward he can get and their top prospects are on the table. No Boston or Tampa Bay until at least the third round. Crazy not to take the leap.

That from Elliotte Friedman at Sportsnet.

Over at the Athletic, Jonas has been VERY giddy about all things Maple Leafs:

With the rare exception, with nearly half the season now in the books, the moves made by the Maple Leafs GM throughout the unusual 2020 offseason are paying off.

and his boss Mr. Mirtle?:

“This will sound like a bold statement, given we don’t know how the next few years will play out, but this very well could be the best opportunity the Leafs are going to get with this core of the roster.


I know the suggestion has been to trade prospects, but, ummmm

To quote Cliff Fletcher in 1996: “Draft Schmaft.”

A couple of things:

Isn’t the bar from which success measured usually somewhere around, how do I put this, WINNING?

Since when do accolades rain down 1/2 way through a season given years of failure?

At the same time, while trades are good for the media business, what happened to the objective caution of never having enough youth in a salary cap world?

Put another way, given the Leafs’ inability to advance in the playoffs since, forever shouldn’t we be a little bit concerned about throwing all the chips into the middle?

Do people think that we are one player away from a championship?

I will answer that by saying not the realists I know.

It’s interesting to me that certain MSMers who appear to have their Dubas pom-poms out do so in the era where every word, written, spoken or typed is memorialized forever on the internet. Now, more than ever media are held accountable but the limited audience they have.

I guess a long-winded way of saying I don’t recall a time when the media was as supportive of a Maple Leafs GM going all in as some appear to be now.

The topic of success is also interesting. Yes, the Leafs haven’t had much playoff success in years. In fact, should they advance beyond the Canadian-only division it will be as far as they have gone in YEARS. Curious, would winning two series this year be a successful season for you? Is it enough for them to win not one (their Achilles heel) but two series that would satiate you? Or is a “watered down” Canadian only division a mirage and it is finals or bust that will determine your evaluation?

Personally, I don’t think the team is as good as they’ve looked in their winning streaks or as bad as they’ve appeared in their losing streaks. Therefore, IMHO if the conclusion is they need to go all-in now as it’s this roster’s best chance to win EVER then this roster as constructed is flawed and trading key assets or draft picks should be heavily weighed with the upside.

Prior to last night’s win vs. Calgary, they were approaching the Brian Burke 18 wheeler record territory…

All that makes for fun fodder as we head to the deadline. Fun time regardless to be a fan.

I was down in Tampa Bay this week for a few days. It was really funny to see We The North banners everywhere. Tickets were selling online for as little as $23.

So, should the Raptors sell-off?

Once again, I will reiterate what I have been told. Masai doesn’t want his deal (and the size thereof) to be a thing during the season and during the pandemic. I hear that the framework and parameters of an extension are complete and that a deal can be done when he is ready. I am also told that the only real issue was the term and again that as it relates to NBA-related jobs, the Raptors gig is the only one he wants right now. Outside of the NBA? TBD. If he wants to stay in the NBA it will, I have been told be with the Raptors.

Should Kyle Lowry be traded?

Kudos to Tim Micallef for professing his love of the CFL despite the network that cuts his paycheck.

““Please don’t get this twisted, I’m Canadian. I love football. So yes, I love the NFL. And yes — even here at Rogers — I love the CFL,” he said.

“I’ve covered the game on both sides of the border. Multiple Super Bowls, multiple Grey Cups. If you don’t know, now you know, and I firmly believe that the Canadian game is better than the American game. In fact, I don’t even think it’s debatable. No fair catches, the motion, the one yard off the ball, how even the rouge forces actual game play, and most folks who study this thing for a living agree.” that via 3downnation.

Driving around in Florida this week I heard a lot of MLB radio. The talk down there on the Blue Jays? They are going to have to put 10 runs a game given their pitching staff. I will say this, I tried to get 1 ticket to a game while I was down there. Completely sold out.

Finally, on the topic of Blue Jays radio. You can love Dan Shulman and still loathe the idea of a simulcasted broadcast.

Mike says this all the time, the beauty of our arrangement is that we are free to opine on issues and have vastly different opinions. Case in point. Mike recently wrote: ” TSN is giving more space to its viral project Bardown in an effort to capture people who like that sort of thing.” To wit I’d say, given the world we live in Bar Down is a refreshing vehicle that speaks to the younger generation that ingests it’s content in bite-sized bits. I think it’s refreshing and quite brilliant. MY son here in Seattle is a huge fan AND his USA counterparts all subscribe.

The Score, TSN, and others are all going to be coming for your money. Your gambling money. The Score appears to be the clubhouse leader at the moment given their USA presence and their mobile app success. Can you imagine the irony if the former Score team currently running Rogers Medis did the smart thing and embraced Cabbie Richards as the frontman for Rogers Media sports betting. Cabbie is doing a killer job in the gambling vertical in États-Unis and while bringing him north full time would likely be a pipe dream, I can’t think of a better person to lead such an initiative.

I was asked to rank my 4 favorite Toronto Sports radio co-hosts this week. My list was McCown/Hunt, Shulman/ Hunt, Marek/Watters and Marsden/Derrringer. An industry insider in response opined, every successful radio due in Canada has featured an older guy and a younger guy. I wonder if the younger older combo could be reinvented. Who were your favorite radio combos?

Radio numbers or ratings are always the dog’s breakfast and those are the ones we look at in a collective book. The daily numbers are even harder to justify given the idiocy over at Numeris. However, they are what they are and I can report the following via an ad exec: In the days since the new Spring Book started the numbers are trending in ways, we have never seen before. The one hour of the Blair show vs. OverDrive is getting obliterated in all the key demographics. The only exception is the over 60 demographic that no one really tracks. If you look at the rest of the afternoon drive show it goes from bad to worse for the Rogers’ owned station. How bad? There are days in the 18+ male demo where they are not actually generating a number. FWIW, based on some loose reporting, I am told that McCown/Shannon show is outdrawing the Fan in a few segments!

The rest of the day? The only conclusion is that the only time meaningful people listen to sports radio right now is on the afternoon drive home.

Finally, I had the pleasure of spending some time with Natasha Staniszewski, the former TSN host. Smart, witty with apparently a reputation for being quiet, Natasha was an amazing guest on my podcast. Certainly not lazy, Natasha worked her way up the broadcast chain, very determined to earn her stripes in broadcasting all the way to a lead role at TSN where she landed for over 10 years. While the outlook for highlight shows is not great, I am certain that the cream does in fact rise to the top and Natasha will land meaningful work, whatever that means to her soon.

It is rare that I speak to people in the business so grounded in reality with the proper perspective on life especially after being let go from a gig. I think if you are a regular reader here you will love the podcast. Tune in as always below:

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    That interview with Natasha affirmed my belief that she was just as she conveyed on air, and proved why she is my favourite female broadcaster. A sweet, genuine, homely, girl next door type who doesn’t let her extreme beauty get to her head. Nor has this aura about her like Kate Beirness, who Natasha even admitted has this over-the-top like schtick to her.

    I enjoyed her honesty that she didn’t know a lot about some of the sports, but nor should necessarily be expected to when reading a teleprompter. Again, others let that seem-to know-it-all vibe creep into their job, and you can sense it. Also, being of similar age as her, I could not agree more with her about highlight packages being something that will never truly go away. Continue to change? Sure. Be of no use? Don’t see it. When she said she can’t watch sports on her phone, my head screamed, “THANK YOU!”

    Great interview, and I hope she lands another job soon. She’s one of the rare good ones, and the industry is better with her in it than on the sidelines.

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    Rogers mismanagement of The Fan has been so bad the past couple years really makes you wonder if they’ve given up. I sincerely wonder if the station will be around in 5 years. Same with 1050. As someone who grew up with The Fan it’s sad to see. Makes me wish there was more independent media in this country.
    It would be hilarious is Bob can outpace 590 from his tiny Mississauga signal just airing his podcast. I’m enjoying his show, it started with some rough tech issues, and I think it took Bob a while to get comfortable but it’s becoming quite good. The older host/younger host thing is a great point. I actually think if you could pair Bob with a strong young host who could keep him on track that could be a great show. Basically Bob in the old Shakey role.

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    Big fan of Jonah’s interviews. Has a voice similar to Butt-head from the tv show Beavis and Butt-head though. Keep bringing the great guests.

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    Pete’s cringe first paragraph is a good example of why it’s harder for women broadcasters to be taken seriously. I’ll bet he’s never evaluated James Duthie on his beauty or aura.

    Also learn the meaning of the word homely.

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    With friends like Donnovan Bennett, Ken Reid, Arash Madani etc. I’m not surprised that Tim and friends is bombing.

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    Not JD Bunkis1 month ago

    I’m still a pretty regular listener to the fan590 through the day although I don’t listen end to end (who does;?). A few observations:
    Morning Show – I like Scotty Mac he could do a variety of time slots as a “generalist” in terms of sports knowledge etc. I want to like Ziggy, but the experiment needs to be halted. Even in hockey topics he has little insight and struggles to be coherent.

    Good Show – probably the one i listen to the most. I think they are finding their groove although JD especially dives WAAY to deep into the weeds (i.e. talking about no-name bench players from out of market NBA teams).

    Hockey Central @ noon – I really like Justin Bourne’s perspectives but have really got sick of Marek’s “schtick”.

    Writer’s bloc – very hit or miss I wish it was Brunt & Deitsch somehow. Can’t stand Blair’s rambling questions although he has gotten every so slightly better. I don’t think the radio talent gets much coaching per se and he probably isn’t very open to it either lol.

    Tim & Friends – garbage and i feel for Tim. I hate scripted radio and the format has evolved little since Sid leaving. As mentioned the ‘friends’ are a rotation of seasonal pours that you could find at a local no frills if they offered beer.

    Lastly, it’s absolutely appalling they aren’t doing a Blue Jays dedicated radio broadcast. How much would it cost to do considering their investment in the on-field product.

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    Pete’s cringe first paragraph is a good example of why it’s harder for women broadcasters to be taken seriously. I’ll bet he’s never evaluated James Duthie on his beauty or aura.

    Oh please. I think Natasha is attractive. Whoopty do. Anyone who thinks attractive females aren’t put in place to attract attention is a fool. We know it happens all the time. Such a stupid narrative. The fact that Natasha is a no b.s., go about her business type of person is what makes her a good one.

    Why would I care to evaluate James Duthie’s beauty? He’s not my type. As for his aura (schitck) — I evaluate him every time I see him and think he is a big dork.

    It’s a huge problem in general that broadcasters these days have to play up their personality. How many genuine people are there really in the industry?

    Also learn the meaning of the word homely.

    I was referring to her girl next door personality. Had no clue it meant unattractive as well – learn something new every day.

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    Original Mitch1 month ago


    I disagree. It’s a visual medium so looks or at least presentation is a big part of it. Otherwise the talent wouldn’t spend hours in the makeup room and the companies wouldn’t spend thousands on their attire. If you think calling a woman broadcaster a beautiful lady, then you are totally forgetting what medium they are part of. How many times did we mention how ridiculous Elliot Friedman looked with his stupid long beard? Exact same thing. Natasha wants to be attractive on air, as does every other single broadcaster ever, be they men or women. It’s not a sin to comment on their looks.

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    Original Mitch, nobody made it sound like they beat off about Friedman’s beard. Massive difference.

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    Original Mitch1 month ago


    Gees I did not get the impression he was “beating off” to her when he said she’s very attractive.
    I think the bridge too far when it comes to critique look of tv personalities is talking about their bodies. That’s when it crosses a line into useless/misogynistic territory. But saying a tv personality is attractive is a genuine compliment to that person.

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    Pete calls women “females”…. that’s all you need to know about what he thinks of them.

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    This thread shows why the woke are often dismissed as Stalinist thought police.

    Showbiz is a popularity contest. Straight guys and gay women will always be attuned to physical appearance of a woman in TV or film. Straight women and gay men will always be attuned to the physical appearance of a man in TV or film. There’s nothing wrong with it and, btw, the woke people who complain about it are doing it too.

    If you’re someone’s employer or colleague, there are questions of appropriateness for what you say in public about this stuff. As a fan? Zero. This is like policing whether you’re allowed to be attracted to a pop music star. It’s weird and phony and ironically not progressive.

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    Zebb, I think you’re wrong about that. Women express strong opinions on the physical attractiveness of guys on TV and guys on the field of play all the time.

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    All those words wasted on the Leafs and you missed by far the most important point:

    This year provides by far the easiest path to the Finals that they have had with this core, and the odds are likely they won’t have such an easy path over the next 5 years.

    That alone makes being a buyer at the deadline worth it.

    Sometimes it’s just basic math – if you’re going to go into your first 2 series as at least a 60/40 favourite and then after that you’re going to play better teams with no crowds (basically neutral ice) you have to press your advantage in this league.

    Or they can just keep stacking those chips for when the route is harder ….