by Kent Morrison

As we slowly emerge from a long dark winter, fans everywhere have something too look forward to as the sports scene begins to heat up.  The NHL season is winding down and teams are jockeying for position in a playoff race that is bound to come down to the final day.  Spring has also brought the return of Major League Baseball and eyes are once again on the New York Yankees after they spent an unprecedented $425 million this off season in an attempt to reclaim their throne atop the baseball world. Universities and gamblers across America are preparing for the madness of March and yes, Tiger Woods is roaring again. However, not everything in the sports world is bright and cheery. Given all the recent action in the sports world, here is a list of those who are blossoming this spring and who have simply wilted in the sun.

The Bloomers

The Calgary Flames
Undoubtedly the Flames made the best moves at the NHL trade deadline, acquiring veteran forward Olli Jokinen from the Phoenix Coyotes as well as defenceman Jordan Leopold from the Colorado Avalanche. Since the joining the Flames Jokinen has scored 8 goals, including a hat trick against Toronto. The Flames are currently in third place in the Western Conference and look poised to have a long playoff run this spring.

Martin Brodeur
Since returning from a torn bicep injury that sidelined him for four months, Brodeur has started all eight of the Devils' games and won seven of them.  Of those seven wins, two have been shutouts. Of course, these numbers have been greatly overshadowed by the fact that Brodeur recently surpassed the immortal Patrick Roy on the all time wins list with 552.

The World Baseball Classic

Despite criticism from Major League Baseball coaches and owners, the '09 Classic has been a huge success.  The tournament has lived up to its billing, providing games with playoff-like intensity, shocking upsets (yes, I mean Italy over Canada), and a Cinderella story from the Netherlands that no one expected - all while showcasing the best baseball talents from across the world. The action has not been lost on the fans either with the turnstiles showing a 38 per cent increase in attendance since the last Classic in 2006.  Undoubtedly the tournament is making a big push to become the game's newest tradition.

March Madness
The brackets are nearly set and the biggest tournament in collegiate sports is poised for another big year. March Madness provides everything a sports fan needs: athletes putting everything they have on the line, not for big money contracts, but for the name of their school. Even a casual observer can't help but be caught up by the drama that unfolds each year.  There is no doubt this year's edition will provide all the action, upset and triumph that every sports fan looks forward to each spring. 

 

The Wilters 

The Montreal Canadiens
After finishing in first place in the East last year and jumping out to a very promising start this season, the Canadiens have virtually imploded since the All-Star break. The Habs made no moves at the trade deadline to bolster their lineup  - except to fire 2008 Jack Adams award nominee Guy Carbonneau  -  as they limp toward the playoffs. Though they currently sit in sixth place in the East, they lead the ninth place Florida Panthers by two points.

NHL GM Meetings
Last week the general managers held a meeting to discuss some of the issues that have been bogging down the game. Topics included fighting, a shorter schedule and NHL participation in the Olympics. While these issues all need to be resolved, the meeting was generally dysfunctional.  Canadiens forward Georges Laraque even went as far as to call the recommendations for stiffer fighting penalties the "stupidest thing ever" and "a joke."

Alex Rodriguez
What can't be said about A-Rod this spring?  First it was announced that he is seeking a divorce from his wife after months of speculation he was having an affair with Madonna. Next he was exposed for taking steroids during his MVP season of 2003 and was bashed by former manager Joe Torre in his book The Yankee Years.  Despite all this negative attention, A-Rod promised to carry on to bigger things this season. That was, of course, until he was sidelined with a hip injury that could see him out for 10 weeks.


The NBA
Contrary to their collegiate counterparts, the NBA has seen a steep decline in recent years. While stars like Lebron James and Kobe Bryant keep the fans entertained with their fabulous one-man performances, the game itself has become more about looking good and making money than winning baseball games. Half of the rule book has been thrown out the window and though the league keeps drawing a lot of fans, it has been at the expense of the game itself.