Team Canada Update – The real Team Canada finally showed up Friday night in their final pre-tournament game in Victoria against Slovakia. The team had struggled to find itself through the evaluation camp and previous exhibition games but that all changed Friday night in a smooth and clinical 6-1 win.
There was structure, pace and solid puck management. The formula for success was there. Get pucks in deep, use your speed and make it hard for teams to break out. The kingpin on offense is Cody Glass. Yes, the Cody Glass the Canucks almost took instead of Elias Pettersson. Maxime Comtois, the Anaheim first rounder, is a horse and I am surprised the Ducks sent him back to junior. He had 7 points in his short stay in Anaheim this season and he still has more points than Ryan Kesler. Comtois is the only returnee from last year’s gold medal winning team.
Noah Dobson and Evan Bouchard look really solid on defense but the rest of the group is very small. Team Canada kept only two left-shot defensemen and I still can’t understand why they didn’t invite 17 year old Bowen Byrum of the Vancouver Giants. He’s already better than the two guys they kept – Markus Phillips and Jared McIsaac. We’ll see how that works out.
In goal, Canuck fans want to see Michael DiPietro land the number one job. He looked shaky on Wednesday night against the Swiss, surrendering 3 goals on 18 shots. Leaf draft pick Ian Scott took over in goal on Friday night and looked exceptional. He’s having a standout season in Prince Albert and don’t be surprised if he takes away the number one job.
It was a hoot talking to Swiss coach, Christian Wohlwend, on Wednesday night. When asked how it felt to take on Canada, he said it’s the same as if Canada had to compete against Switzerland in yodeling. We wouldn’t have a chance. Hey, wait a minute! Have you not heard Bro Jake yodel? Canada is very competitive in yodeling. As Ian McIntyre of Sportsnet said, we just can’t match Switzerland in watch-making and international money laundering.
The LA Kings had four of their prospects invited to the Team Canada camp. Look out for Owen Tippett, who’s playing with Glass and Comtois. He’s a real sniper. I also like Jaret Anderson-Dolan, a smooth-skating centreman who’s just returned from a wrist injury.
NHL This Week – No earth-shattering news on the Canucks this week other than the fact they are now a threat to win each and every night. That in itself is a huge step in the right direction. They are competitive every night for the first time in a long while and no one can take them lightly. It’s the first step toward becoming a playoff team.
The NHL trade freeze is on over the Christmas holidays but look for things to get very active once we move into 2019. There are a lot of teams looking to unload players so we should see lots of activity. If I am the Canucks, I am looking for a buyer for Alex Edler. Hello Leafs? All they have to do is convince Edler to waive his no-trade deal. I would certainly hope the guy would want to end his career on a winner but you couldn’t criticize him for wanting to be a career Canuck.
New Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager Julien Brisebois has his work cut out for him. The Lightning have only 6.377 million in cap space for next season with just 14 players under contract and they still need to sign ascending star Brayden Point. Between now and next summer, they will have to find a taker for Ryan Callahan and Tyler Johnson, among others, and there’s no chance they will have the money to sign reliable 32 year old defenseman Anton Stralman who’s a UFA. Welcome to salary cap hell Julien!
It’s rather obvious the Chicago Black Hawks are in full tank mode and have become the early favorites in the ‘Lose for Hughes’ sweepstakes. They must be privately happy that goaltender Corey Crawford is back on injured reserve with yet another concussion. They have loaned 19 year old defenseman Henri Jokiharju to the Finnish Team for the World Juniors despite the fact he’s been playing 20 minutes a night on the number one pairing with Duncan Keith. Looks like a tank job to me.
Can we stop the Leafs Stanley Cup chatter? Who have they beat this season? Oh yes, Carolina, Florida, the Islanders. Every time they play a real team, they fall flat on their face. No team with the right side of their defense comprised of Nikita Zaitsev, Ron Hainsey and Igor Oziganov will be going deep into the playoffs. They better start talking to Santa Claus.
Suns Setting – Is there a worse owner in all of sports right now than Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver? He’s holding the City of Phoenix ransom for 230 million dollars in renovations to the building called Talking Stick Resort Arena. Who did that sponsorship deal? He’s threatening to move the team to Seattle or Vegas if he doesn’t get his way. Considering his act, Seattle should feel threatened!
Sarver has turned what once was one of the top franchises in the NBA into a pathetic mess. Tickets on StubHub are going for eight bucks. The team hasn’t made the playoffs since 2010 and is in the midst of a never-ending rebuild. The Suns passed on this year’s likely Rookie of the Year Luka Doncic to pick Deandre Ayton first overall in the 2018 draft. They chose Josh Jackson fourth overall in 2017, Dragan Bender fourth overall in 2016 and the forgettable Alex Len fifth overall in 2013. That’s four top 5 picks in a 6-year period and little to show for it. Good work!
Lion’s Den – Quarterback Mike Reilly recently had a workout with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He’s a CFL free agent and keeping his options open. Reilly is a native of Kennewick, Washington and makes his off-season home in Seattle. If the BC Lions don’t have him on speed dial, they are completely out to lunch. Reilly was the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player in 2017 and hands down, is the best QB in the league. He has an NFL caliber arm but at 33, may not draw a ton of interest south of the border. If I am the Lions, I am going all-in on this guy!
Bo Levi Mitchell of the Stampeders also worked out with the Jaguars. I guess when Blake Bortles is your starting quarterback you will look at anybody. Where’s Bernie Faloney when you need him? Jacksonville is one of eight teams Mitchell plans to visit.
Home Sweet Dunedin – Blue Jay fans have to be delighted to hear that the team has finally come to an agreement to build a new 80 million dollar training facility in Dunedin, Florida. It’s taken several years to work out an agreement with three levels of government. The Jays had to kick in 20 million to get the deal done. The bottom line is they will have a state-of-the-art, year-round training and injury rehab facility by the time training camp starts in 2020. The good news is many players will make their off-season home in Dunedin and train together in the new facility.
What were the Blue Jays thinking when they plucked 18 year old pitcher Elvis Luciano in the Rule 5 Draft last week in Las Vegas? I know the name Elvis is legendary in Vegas but it was a very curious move. He doesn’t turn 19 until February 15 and if he doesn’t make the opening day roster and stick with the team all year, he has to be offered back to Kansas City for half the $100,000 fee. I guess the Jays front office think they are going to be so bad next season they can stash a 19 year old in their bullpen for the entire season. Sorry but the last 19 year old to play in the majors and have an impact was Ken Griffey Jr. and he’s in the Hall of Fame.
If you hate the Evil Empire known as the New York Yankees, you must cringe at the thought they sign free agent shortstop Manny Machado. However, I think the Dodgers found out he’s not a winner and not a guy you want around your clubhouse. The Yankees can have him and hopefully rue the day they signed him.
Flag Fest – Nice work by the zebras in the Seahawks overtime loss in San Francisco. The Seahawks were flagged for 14 penalties for 148 yards? Sorry, but that’s just bad refereeing. You can lament their blown opportunity all you want but no team should be penalized that much in any game. Put away the whistles and let them play! When the officials take over a game to that extent, the game becomes unwatchable. Now you know why NFL television ratings have been falling in recent years.
I couldn’t keep track of how many penalties were taken by the Seahawks offensive line. It’s almost like they were being flagged on reputation. Do the referees not know how much the line has improved this year? Ethan Pocic entered the game to replace the injured Jordan Simmons and took two back-breaking holding penalties that prevented the Seahawks from driving for the winning field goal both in regulation and overtime. I guess we now know why he lost his starting job this season to J.R. Sweezy.
Seahawks-Chiefs Preview – Everyone figures the Seahawks will be in tough this Sunday against Pat Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. Can you believe his numbers so far this season? He’s headed for 50+ touchdown passes, over 5,000 yards and he already has 68 – 20+ yard completions. Off the charts!
It will probably be a high-scoring affair because I don’t see the Seahawks shutting down the Chiefs passing game, especially the crossing routes that have been killing them. That being said, the Chiefs offence has not been the same since losing Kareem Hunt and Sammy Watkins and Tyreek Hill is banged up.
Where Kansas City can be exploited is on defense. They are dead last in the NFL in passing defense and among the worst in run defense. Their one saving grace is their pass rush is second in the league in sacks.
The Seahawks will be looking to run the ball and control the clock but if Bradley McDougall and Jarran Reed are unable to play due to injuries, all bets are off.
The NFL is so unpredictable, the Seahawks will probably come up with their best effort of the season, win the game and clinch a playoff spot. The one thing to remember – it’s tough to win on the road in the NFL. Just ask the New England Patriots who closed out their road schedule with a loss at Pittsburgh, going 3-5 away from home this season!
NFL Notes – When are the Carolina Panthers going to wake up and realize that Cam Newton will never lead them to a Super Bowl? They just shut him down for the season this week with a bum shoulder but the bigger problem is he’s not a leader. This guy’s body language is pathetic. Have you seen his act when things go wrong? He acts like a spoiled child. You don’t win with guys like that. Period, full stop!
So the Patriots found out they couldn’t rehabilitate Josh Gordon. What a surprise! The erstwhile trouble child got suspended yet again by the NFL for testing positive and may have played his last game in the NFL. The Patriots apparently thought they could do what the Brown couldn’t and found out they are not better baby-sitters. Of course, the Patriots think they are better than every other team and could somehow get him straightened out. All they had to do is check the ledger. The Browns held onto him for six years despite the fact he played only 41 games during that span. Don’t count on the Patriots making it to their eighth straight AFC title game.
Feherty Unplugged – Let’s close things out with some quotes from NBC/Golf Channel Announcer David Feherty:
“It would be easier to pick a broken nose, than a winner in that group.”
“Fortunately, Rory is 22 years old so his right wrist should be the strongest muscle in his body.”
“That ball is so far left, Lassie couldn’t find it if it was wrapped in bacon.”
“I am sorry Nick Faldo couldn’t be here this week. He is attending the birth of his next wife.”
Jim Furyk’s swing “looks like an octopus falling out of a tree.”
Describing VJ Singh’s prodigious practice regime – “VJ hits more balls than Elton John’s chin.”
“That’s a great shot with that swing.”
“It’s OK – the bunker stopped it.”
At Augusta 2011 – “It’s just a glorious day. The only way to ruin a day like this would be to play golf on it.”
“That was a great shot – if they’d have put the pin there today.”
“Watching Phil Mickelson play golf is like watching a drunk chasing a balloon near the edge of a cliff.”
“That green appears smaller than a Pygmie’s nipple”.