Ive got to admit, when I heard Casey Janssen was going on the disabled list with a lower back strain, the first thought running through my mind was here we go again. It seemed just like the past two seasons, where an onslaught of injuries derailed both seasons. At least this time, the injury to the veteran closer doesnt appear to be that series and if there is any area the Blue Jays have depth in its the pen. For now, at least, Sergio Santos, whos had to deal with two injury-plagued seasons of his own since coming back to the Jays, will get the chance to close. I did a little digging and found out that only four of the 15 teams in the American League are starting the season with the same closer they had a year ago. That would be Boston with Koji Uehara, the Royals with Greg Holland, Minnesota with Glen Perkins and the Angels with Ernest Fieri. The Red Sox and the Blue Jays, once Janssen gets healthy, will have the same closers. The Yankees, thanks to the retirement of the great Mariano Rivera, have handed the reins over to right-hander David Robertson. Tampa Bay let Fernando Rodney walk as a free agent and then picked up former As closer Grant Balfour and another one-time closer in Heath Bell. Baltimore dealt their star closer Jimmie Johnson to Oakland and then decided to make veteran starter/reliever Tommy Hunter into their closer. For this year, at least, there is far greater closer stability. Only three of the 15 teams - St. Louis, Arizona and the Cubs - are starting with different closers than they had at the beginning of last season. The Reds would actually be a fourth, as Aroldis Chapman is on the disabled list after taking a line drive just above the eye in spring training but he will be back this season. Its no secret; if the Blue Jays are going to contend for a wild card spot at the very least, theyve got to put up a winning record against their own division. If you look at the last four years since Alex Anthopoulos took over as general manager, the Jays have only been above .500 versus the AL East once. They went 39-33 against their own division in 2010, Cito Gastons final year as skipper. That season, Tampa Bay was the only club that finished better without the division at 42-30. In 2011, they went 33-39, in 2012 they were 29-43, and last year they went 30-46, which was the worst of the five teams within the division. Over that four year span within the East, Tampa has had the best record, averaging 42 wins per season and never worse than second best in terms of wins within the division. The Blue Jays are actually tied with Baltimore for the fewest wins inside the division over the past four years at 131. I found another interesting stat surrounding the last four years - the Blue Jays less than stellar record against left handers. Three of those last four years they have the worst record in the division against southpaws. Only in 2011 were they above .500 versus lefties with a mark of 23-19. Their cumulative record against left-handers over the past four years is 76-93. So, if you cant win enough within your own division and you cant beat lefties consistently, youre not going to be a contender. One final note on the Jays and the American League East. From August 22 on this season, the Jays play 28 of their final 35 against their own division, including six against Boston, seven versus the Yankees, six against Baltimore and nine against Tampa Bay. The only respite is a three game series against the Cubs at home in early September and then a four game series at home; the final week of the season against Seattle. So this is the season the Jays just prove they can beat the East. Better luck against lefties wouldnt hurt either. This is one of the tougher seasons to try and call the American League East, but right now Tampa Bay looks like the class of the division followed by the Yankees (if Tanaka and Pineda are for real), Red Sox, Blue Jays and Orioles, though if those two flip-flopped it wouldnt surprise me either. Check me in October. I mentioned former Blue Jays catcher Yan Gomes in my last article. Cleveland obviously is impressed with the first Brazilian ever to make it to the Majors. They signed him to a six-year deal that included two option years worth $23 million. I cant ever remember a team trading two catchers as the Jays did in the same off-season - Gomes and Travis DArnaud - and have them both become number one catchers so quickly. Gino Cappelletti Jersey . Heather, the first Gaiter to win the award, set a Canadian Inter-university Sport record with 3,132 passing yards in eight league games, an average of 391.5 yards per game. That beat the mark of 3,047 set only one week earlier by Westerns Will Finch, a Hec Crighton finalist. Mike Haynes Jersey . The $145.7-million Tim Hortons Field was slated to open this month, a year before it was to host all 32 mens and womens soccer competitions. The delay has forced the Hamilton Tiger-Cats football team to use a smaller facility for the first two home games of the season. https://www.patriotsjerseysale.com/. The first baseman hit a two-run homer in the top of the ninth inning to lead the Mets to a thrilling come-from-behind 3-2 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers. Julian Edelman Jersey . Born in Berkeley and raised in Oakland, where he later pitched for the As, Ross beat the Giants for the first time in six career appearances by throwing eight scoreless innings to lead the San Diego Padres to a 2-1 victory Friday night. JaWhaun Bentley Jersey . A Swiss Federal Tribunal ruling published Friday said that FIFAs disputes panel and the Court of Arbitration for Sport correctly imposed the sanction for Nantes enticing Guinea forward Ismael Bangoura to break his contract with Dubai club Al Nasr in January 2012.TORONTO – When Maple Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle first coached James van Riemsdyk last season, he was met initially with a hardheadedness that reminded him of someone very familiar. "Maybe I looked in the mirror," Carlyle said, chuckling as he walked off. Blossoming into something special for the Leafs, van Riemsdyk set a new career-high Tuesday night with his 41st point this season, also equaling a career mark with his 21st goal of the year, the game-winner in a 3-2 edging of the Lightning. All the 24-year-old desired when he was traded from Philadelphia to Toronto in the summer of 2012 was an opportunity to prove himself on a grander stage and, with that opportunity, he has most certainly flourished. In addition to goals and points, van Riemsdyk has also set new career-highs in power-play goals (8), shots (186), shorthanded goals (1) and power play points (14), already having matched a career-high in assists with 20 on the season – all this in just 53 games. He is also fetching nearly 21 minutes per game – by far the highest of a five-year career – teaming with Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak on whats become an offensively dominant top line. "That was the key for me is the opportunity," said van Riemsdyk, who feigned no surprise when he was traded for Luke Schenn in a long-rumoured deal on June 23, 2012. "I was always confident in myself as far I think I proved it in Philly. I showed when I had the opportunity to play a lot, play in those key situations, that I was able to be a productive player. Ive been able to get more of those opportunities since coming here. "For me personally, I think it was good to start somewhere else, go to a place where I was going to get a chance to show what I can do." Before being dealt, van Riemsdyk was maybe most known for a seven-goal explosion in the 2011 playoffs as a member of the Flyers, a foreshadowing in many ways of what was coming down the line. Last spring, during his first campaign with the Leafs, he offered another tantalizing glimpse of where his career might be headed in the very near future, a force with seven points during a memorable seven-game first round series with Boston. "I think JVR has picked up a lot of where he was in the playoffs last year," Carlyle said prior to Tuesdays game, which snapped a mini two-game slide for the Leafs. "He seemed to be able to take that next step. Hes more confident." "I just want to try to keep getting better and better every single year," van Riemsdyk said. "Ive been given an opportunity here to play in some key situations and play some big minutes. Im definitely happy about that." Five Points 1. More van Riemsdyk Carlyle indicated that van Riemsdyk often proved stubborn early in his Toronto tenure, but with time has grown more receptive to the prodding of the coaching staff. "He used to be a guy yeah, but [or] but if," Carlyle said of van Riemsdyks response to coaching. "But hes not that [anymore]. Now hes more receptive to [it] … Theres a difference between coaching and criticism. Sometimes they all become the same to players. Thats the difficult part is when to use it, when not to use it as a coach." It was only days into the 2013 campaign that Carlyle first publicly prodded van Riemsdyk. "Hes got to go into the dirty areas a little bit more and thats one of the things were going to ask of him," said Carlyle before an early season game against Pittsburgh. "Hes a big man, who can go to the front of the net. Hes got soft hands around the net. We want to see him drive that puck to that area..." Improvements in those areas have notably helped the New Jersey native blossom into an offensive force, specifically his willingness to camp out in the difficult areas around the net. 2. Shouldering a Heavy Burden With 40 stops on Tuesday, Jonathan Bernier improved to 7-1-2 this season when facing 40 or more shots this season, an impressive mark under the strain of a heavy workload. Bernier made a number of key saves throughout the evening, but none more brilliant than a stop on Martin St. Louis with just over three minutes to go in regulation. Sliding to his left, in rhythm with a Hedman cross-ice feed, the 25-year-old used his left pad to turn aside the surefire game-tying goal. "Great save, game-saving save," Kadri said. "We almost expect him to make those type of saves now because hes done it so often. Hes a great goaltender, uup with the best, and he definitely showed it there.dddddddddddd" 3. Kadri Brushes Off Speculation Nazem Kadri scored for the fifth and sixth time in the past four games against Ben Bishop, the NHLs save percentage leader and six-foot-seven Tampa netminder. The first saw the 23-year-old employ six-foot-six Lightning defender Victor Hedman as a screen in transition, the second a sure Highlight of the Night candidate that saw Kadri dance around Hedman before slipping a backhand beyond the grasp of Bishop. Boasting 35 points on the year, Kadri has quickly quieted trade speculation that always seems to bubble in Toronto. "Im just ignoring that," he said. "I dont think I use it as motivation or as a concern – it doesnt discourage me. I just try and focus on what I have to do and what I can bring to the team. I know I can help this team, its just a matter of when." "The thing about him is he doesnt let anything bother him," van Riemsdyk added of Kadri, who is up to 14 goals this season. "Its definitely impressive to see. I think hes probably used to it maybe growing up in the spotlight here." 4. Adjustments for Kadri Sliding out from a slump that lingered for the better part of a month, Kadri has now posted points in six of the past seven games. "Our request [for him] is to play more north-south versus east-west, specifically through the neutral ice," said Carlyle. "When hes not playing well you see him, he gets caught from behind on the back-side pressure. And when hes playing well, he seems to be able to create space in that area." Carlyle also observed that Kadri was playing more physically in recent weeks, adding that his acumen in the faceoff circle had improved. A real source of concern earlier in the year – he was amongst the worst in the league – Kadri has won just under 50 per cent in the past 10 games, victorious on 10 of 16 draws against the Lightning. 5. Gleason Effect Tim Gleason has been paired with Cody Franson for all but two of his 12 games with the Leafs and hes proven a stabilizing force in that span. "Hes a very solid, aggressive, and physical style player," Franson said of Gleason. "For me, hes very easy to read off of. I know hes going in there to try to be aggressive as the first guy. When you have guys like that where you dont have to think too much, it makes it easier. You can react quicker and it makes the plays a little easier to read." Franson, who leads the Toronto defence with 25 points, has benefited from the meat and potatoes style of the longtime Hurricane defender, similar in some ways to the effect Mark Fraser had on the 26-year-old last season. "Mark would always be aggressive trying to get hits and staple guys to the wall and allow our defensive zone coverage to take place," Franson said. "Gleas is the same way. He has a physical mindset and goes in there and tries to get people in tough positions to make plays and allow us to break out of the zone a little easier." Gleason battled through a difficult night against the Lightning. The 30-year-old blocked a shot in one uncomfortable area, received a pass in the face and was then hammered into the end-boards in the final two minutes by Teddy Purcell. He was forced to leave the game with a shoulder injury, one that Carlyle didnt believe to be serious. Stats Pack 10-5-2 – Leafs record against the Atlantic division. 7-1-2 – Record for Jonathan Bernier this season when facing 40 shots or more. 2 – Multi-goal games for Nazem Kadri this season. 41 – Points for James van Riemsdyk this season, a new career-high. 49.7% - Success rate for Kadri on the draw in the past 10 games. 7 – Phil Kessel shot attempts that were blocked by the Lightning. 75% - Leafs success rate on defensive zone faceoffs against Tampa. 21-6-3 – Leafs record this season when scoring first. Special Teams Capsule PP: 0-3Season: 22% (4th) PK: 3-3Season: 77.1% (29th) Quote of the Night "They thought Ive been playing excellent over this last nine, 10-game stretch. Kudos to them for sticking with me. I know theyre a patient bunch as well and they understand what I can bring to the team. Ive been very coachable and theyve given me some great pointers that Ive listened to and just tried to get better." -Nazem Kadri on the patience of the Toronto coaching staff. Up Next The Leafs host the Panthers on Thursday night. ' ' '