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This week, Under Further Review looks at the NHL concussion settlement, the early season travails of NHL goalies and job security for NFL coaches.

Passengers or Fixtures – When you take a look at the Canucks current roster, you wonder which players are really part of the team’s future and which players are passengers. Who can you win with as the team gains traction and who will be cast aside?

If you eliminate veteran players who may be traded (Tanev, Edler, Sutter) and a few others on longer term contracts (Eriksson, Schaller, Roussel, Beagle), that leaves another group who are major question marks. Can you really count on Jacob Markstrom to be your #1 goaltender or is it absolutely essential that Thatcher Demko turns out? On defense, what about Hutton, Pouliot, Stecher and Gudbranson?  Will they be part of the core moving forward? Can any of them be part of a playoff team?  Up front, I would put Baertschi, Goldobin, Granlund, Leipsic and Motte into the questionable category. Baertschi being the most likely candidate to stick around if he can ever stay healthy.

That’s 10 players on the current roster who raise doubt. This is why I keep saying the Canucks are still in the talent accumulation phase of their rebuild.  There’s some heavy-lifting still to come before they are a legitimate playoff team. The one thing that stands out for me is the Canucks are going to need a big infusion of size if they are ever going to go deep into the playoffs against ‘heavy’ teams like the Winnipeg Jets. As currently constructed, the Canucks are too small and too easy to play against.

Stop Da Puck Already – If you look around the NHL, shoddy goaltending is threatening to derail the success of a whole host of teams, many of which had playoff aspirations this season.  The Bruins apparently weren’t paying attention when Turku Rask was ventilated by the Leafs and the Lightning in the playoffs last season. He can’t stop a beach-ball this year and was so unnerved, he left the team for a few days for unexplained reasons. Jaroslav Halak is now their number one goaltender after the Bruins let back-up Anton Khodobin leave for Dallas as a free agent.

It’s the same story around the league. Keith Kincaid is struggling in New Jersey after leading them to a playoff berth last season. Mike Smith looks like his career is over in Calgary and the Flames have all but handed the job to David Rittich. Carey Price continues to struggle in Montreal. Craig Anderson, at 37, is at the end of the line in Ottawa. The Flyers continue to have their issues in goal which has been a constant storyline in Philly since the days of Ron Hextall. Jake Allen is playing himself out of a job in St. Louis.  Braden Holtby is struggling in Washington one year after leading them to a Cup. Matt Murray has a 3.87 GAA in Pittsburgh with a .886 save percentage. Even Marc-Andre Fleury and Sergei Bobrovsky, two of the top goaltenders in the league, are having sub-par seasons.

Unless some of these goaltenders turn their seasons around in a hurry, a bunch of teams are going to be on the outside looking in come playoff time.

The Final Piece – Why do NHL general manager’s continually fall down the same rabbit hole in thinking they are ‘just one player’ away from winning it all?  Just ask the Ottawa Senators how that worked out when they fell an overtime goal away from making the Stanley Cup finals then deluded themselves into thinking the ill-fated Matt Duchene deal would suddenly get them over the top.

The Las Vegas Golden Knights reached the NHL Final last year in their inaugural season so George McPhee goes out and acquires Max Pacioretty from the Canadiens, figuring he could be the final missing piece.  How’s that working out?  Pacioretty is currently 13th in team scoring with 2 goals and 2 assists in 15 games and is a minus 5.  What’s more, he doesn’t play with the same pace as the Golden Knights demonstrated in their first season and all he’s doing is slowing down their top line.

The L.A. Kings convinced themselves that acquiring Ilya Kovalchuk for big money as a free agent would help them fight for a playoff spot this year. While he has 14 points, he’s minus 9 and the Kings season is already off the rails. If the Kings have any common sense, they will Free Willy and go out and sign Joel Quenneville and give him 3 years to get that team back to relevance. Can you explain to me what they were thinking when they signed Willie Desjardins to replace John Stevens?  Was Bill LaForge not available?

And then there’s Erik Karlsson. The Sens superstar was going to be the final piece for the Sharks and just the ingredient needed to get San Jose to the Promised Land.  Well, Erik the Not So Great is currently 10th in team scoring. He has no goals and 10 assists in 20 games so far and is a team worst minus 9. By comparison, Brent Burns leads the team in scoring with 22 points in 20 games and is a plus 2. The Sharks may have wanted to do a little more due diligence on his ankle because it looks like Karlsson is playing on one leg.

The message is clear. Teams are seldom just one player away from a championship.  It takes a team and the chemistry is different every year.  You can’t always expect every player to be just as good as they were the previous year.  Some guys have career years and fall off. GM’s who give up a bundle to acquire veteran players with diminishing assets are playing a fool’s game.

Some Settlement – Reports indicate the class action concussion lawsuit brought on by former players against the NHL is close to a settlement.  The report says the deal is for 18.9 million dollars and the law firm representing the players is recommending they accept it.

There’s roughly 140 players who have filed lawsuits against the NHL including former players Bernie Nicholls and Joe Murphy. 150 other players have hired lawyers and are ready to file a case. Given the fact the litigation has been before the courts for 5 years now, it appears the money on the table may be too much for the players to pass up.

However, the 18.9 million figure may ultimately equate to as little as 22 thousand per player according to reports which, to any observer, is ridiculously low. Don’t forget, the NFL agreed to pay over one billion dollars to settle their concussion case.  NHL players, in comparison, are settling for peanuts.

In the NFL case, there were 4 thousand plaintiffs.  In the NHL, just a fraction of the players got behind the case because many were apparently afraid to be blacklisted by the league if they challenged the NHL in court.  It also didn’t help that the league’s biggest stars, who could have lent their support, chose to stay silent instead.

Some players plan to opt out of any settlement and pursue a lawsuit on their own.  Dan Carcillo and Mike Peluso both say they want their day in court.  The family for Steve Montadour may also proceed with a court filing.  You will recall that Montadour suffered 11 documented concussions in the NHL including 4 in a 3 month span in 2012, yet he was still cleared to play by team doctors.

So even with an apparent settlement pending, the story is definitely not going away.

Wally’s World – Well, that was a nice swan song for Wally Buono!  Thanks for showing up guys and giving your coach a decent send-off.  Pathetic!

Could this be the off-season when a new ownership group emerges and buys the Lions from the Neanderthal David Braley?  Only in the CFL could one guy own two teams. Of course, this is a league that had two teams with the same name!

I would not be surprised if Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini stepped forward and made a bid for the team. It certainly would add another significant piece to his local sports empire. Somebody needs to emerge who is serious about winning.  This team has floundered long enough.  The local fans deserve better.

If a new ownership group was in place, can you think of a better way to show the fans you are serious about winning that signing Eskimo quarterback Mike Reilly as a free agent?  That would make a great splash right off the hop.

Seahawks vs. Rams – The Seahawks scored 31 points in each of their 2 games against the Rams this season and lost both. It doesn’t help when your defense gives up 467 yards to Goff and company.

I still can’t figure out why the Seahawks tried an onside kick with over 5 minutes to go in the game. Sebastian Janikowski was 0 for his last 25 in onside attempts so as my buddy Glen said, “I guess they figured the odds were in their favour.” Pete Carroll does like to do the unconventional.

On the bright side, the running game racked up a stunning 273 yards rushing including 108 on 12 attempts by rookie Rashaad Penny who became the third Seahawk running back to have a 100 yard game this season.  It definitely speaks to the improvement in the offensive line. According to reports, no NFL team has ever rushed for over 250 yards in a single game and lost!

The Seahawks seem so intent on running the ball that their passing game has suffered.  Russell Wilson only attempted 6 passes in the opening half and didn’t really find any rhythm throwing the ball until the 4th quarter. From my vantage point, the Seahawks late game offensive execution has been very poor so far this season and Wilson has just not been good enough with the game on the line.

Seahawks vs. Packers – Despite coughing up a fumble on the opening play of the game and then falling behind 14-3, the Seahawks rallied back to beat the Packers 27-24 and even their record at 5-5. They rang up another 173 yards rushing, the 7th straight game with over 150 yards on the ground, a new franchise record. The Seahawks own the #1 rushing attack in the NFL and it showed when they were able to hold onto the ball with 4 minutes to go and run out the clock.

It was a game they absolutely had to win to have any hope of making the playoffs. With a win, they now have a 40% chance of making the playoffs.  With a loss, that percentage would have dropped to 14%.  Doug Baldwin finally looks healthy and looked more like himself. Jimmy Graham, the much-injured former Seahawk, left the game early with an injured thumb.  The Seahawks were very smart not to re-sign Graham.

The schedule now suddenly looks very favourable.  Seattle goes to Carolina one week from Sunday, are home to the 49’ers and Vikings, on the road at San Francisco, then close out the season at home against the Chiefs and Cardinals. They could get to 10 wins and a playoff spot by winning 5 of 6.

Around the NFL – Job security for NFL coaches is tenuous at best. At least 10 NFL coaches are on the hot-seat and could be gone soon or by the end of the season.

The list includes Todd Bowles of the Jets, John Harbaugh of the Ravens, Adam Gase of the Dolphins, Marvin Lewis of the Bengals, Jason Garrett of the Cowboys, Vance Joseph of the Broncos, Doug Marrone of the Jaguars, Mike McCarthy of the Packers, Dirk Koetter of the Bucs and interim head coach Gregg Williams of the Browns.

Whoever is representing Le’Veon Bell should be decertified as a player agent. The Steelers running back is passing up 14.5 million by sitting out the entire season. Thanks to the sterling advice he has received from his agent, Bell turned down a 5-year, 70 million dollar offer with 47 million guaranteed.

Do they not realize that running backs are simply not coveted in the NFL to the same extent as quarterbacks?  Running backs are a dime a dozen.  His replacement James Connor along with the Chiefs Kareem Hunt and the Saints Alvin Kamara were all selected in the third round two years ago.

How do you beat the Patriots?  Don’t turn the ball over, don’t take penalties and out-rush them 150-40 like the Titans did on Sunday.

The Drought – The Seattle Mariners own the longest current playoff drought in all of professional sports.  They haven’t been in the post-season since 1997 so it should come as no surprise that they are looking to finally blow it up and start fresh.  One of their prize trading chips is Ladner’s James Paxton who could fetch a bundle of young prospects. The Mariners should be calling Alex Anthopolous in Atlanta, king of the winter trade market. The Braves are looking for a front-of-the-rotation starter and are flush with young talent.

It’s going to be a long road back for the M’s because they have one of the worst minor league systems in all of baseball with few blue-chip prospects. Ownership had better be patient because it’s going to take several years to build it back up.  At least the Jays are far more advanced in their rebuild.

Masai Magic – How about the emergence of the Raptors Pascal Siakam?  He was just named Eastern Conference player of the week and has been a big part of the Raptors early season success. Along with O.G. Anunoby and Kawhi Leonard, Siakam gives the Raptors three elite and interchangeable defenders who can guard multiple positions.  It’s a big reason why they have suddenly become a much better defensive team.

Masai Ujiri stole Siakam 27th overall in the 2016 NBA draft and if you re-did that draft today, Siakam would probably be among the top 5 selections.  He’s the Raptors answer to Golden State’s Draymond Green. The Raps also stole Anunoby a year later in the 2017 draft, selecting him 23rd overall.  Good management goes a long way in constructing championship-caliber teams, doesn’t it?

Note:  I will be joining the Bro Jake Show on TSN 1040 Vancouver on Saturday at 11:45am for our regular weekly gabfest!  Tune in if you get a chance! It’s always fun joining Jake and Gene Valaitis.