In this week’s edition, Under Further Review has plenty of observations on what’s happening in the NHL plus observations from the NFL and more.
News & Notes – It’s starting to look like there are a whole lot of very average teams in the NHL this season and very few teams that have all the ingredients of a champion. Start going down the list of teams and there’s a lot of mediocrity – either poor defense, lack of scoring or crappy goaltending. Few teams seem complete.
The Canucks have surprised everyone at how competitive they have been but let’s see how they do with the injuries mounting and another tough road trip looming. I was happy to see Jake Virtanen finally produce his first 2-goal game in the NHL. Perhaps he’s starting to figure it out. For the life of me I don’t know why they don’t give the kid a chance to play in their top six. Give him a carrot and see how he responds! Put him on a line with Horvat and Baertschi and see how he performs. It’s time to take the training wheels off!
The Leafs and the Jets are the two best Canadian teams in the NHL and both are being hard hit by the realities of the salary cap. It’s great to have a bevy of young talent but when they move out of their entry-level contracts, it gets very hard to keep everyone happy. And you better not overpay along the way.
Case in point – Patrick Marleau. It may have seemed like a good idea at the time to sign the then 37-year-old future Hall of Famer to a 3-year deal at 6.25 million per. But a year later, it’s not looking so wise. He has no goals so far this season and through 11 games, Leaf left wingers had combined for zero goals. Where’s James Van Reimsdyk when you need him?
In Winnipeg, the Jets felt compelled to reward Bryan Little with a 6-year extension at 5.3 million per season that just kicked in this year. He’s no longer a productive second line centre and he’s got 5 more years on the deal after this season.
You see the point! When you are already facing issues managing the cap, you can’t afford to make mistakes especially on veteran players. Contracts like these become a huge albatross.
Yes, the Raptors are for real. How about the production they are getting from Serge Ibaka and Jonas Valanciunas at the 5 spot? Instead of trying to play the two players together in the same lineup, they are using Ibaka solely at centre and it’s working beautifully. They are averaging a combined 27 points and 16 rebounds per game.
The Vancouver Whitecaps season is over and the players couldn’t wait to sound off and point the fingers are each other. Classy! Who wants to pay to see these guys now that the wunderkind Alphonso Davis is off to Bayern, Munich?
Now that the Red Sox have wiped the floor with the Dodgers, the baseball off-season is officially on. Memo to the Red Sox – please don’t re-sign Craig Kimbrel. I am tired of looking at his Duck Dynasty beard. Did you hear he had to miss the World Series parade? He had to attend an Amish barn-raising!
The Blue Jays will definitely be fishing around for some starting pitching depth and some bargain arms for the bullpen. A couple of veteran starters I would be looking at are Gio Gonzales of the Brewers, Trevor Cahill of the A’s, Garrett Richards of the Angels and yes, J.A. Happ. Why not bring him back?
The Seahawks continue to show incredible growth and improvement week to week. They ran the ball over 40 times last Sunday in Detroit, completely controlling the line of scrimmage. Russell Wilson threw the ball only 17 times (including 3 TD passes) and had a perfect passer rating of 158.3. They have the youngest defense in the entire NFL and rank 5th overall in the league in total defense. 10 wins is now within range with 6 of their final 9 games at home. The defense is going to get a big test this weekend against the Chargers. They’ve got a bunch of big rangy receivers who are tough to defend.
It’s so important to understand when your competitive window is running out. Just ask the Canucks after losing in the final in 2011! They kept trying to reload for one last run at the Cup instead of blowing it up. The Seahawks tried for one more Super Bowl last year and it blew up in their face. They threw away 11.5 million signing twin busts Luke Joeckel and Eddie Lacey. They spent big on all the big name defensive stars and they all got injured.
This year, the Seahawks got rid of the loud voices in the locker room, did some bargain hunting in free agency, hit on a bunch of draft picks and all of a sudden, they are back on track with a young squad and money to spend this off-season in free agency. All because they understood their competitive window had closed on the guys that had helped them win a Super Bowl and that it was time to start fresh. That’s good management!
Why more teams don’t figure that out is beyond me. The LA Kings are a great example in the NHL. They have been trying to reload for 3 years now and where has it gotten them? They are old and slow and saddled with a ton of big money long-term deals with veterans whose best-before date has arrived. A smart organization would have seen it coming and pulled the trigger. Of course, it’s much easier to do in the NFL since the contracts are not fully guaranteed. Make a mistake on a contract in the NHL and there’s no way out.
A promising performance for Canadian golfer Corey Connors! The 26-year-old from Listowel, Ontario came close to winning his first PGA TOUR event last weekend, finishing second at the Sanderson Farms Open. Sure, it’s a B-list event but you have to start somewhere, right? It would have made for a Cinderella story because he just got married the week before.
What is must be like to be a Buffalo Bills fan. Bills quarterbacks have thrown 3 touchdown passes TOTAL so far this season. That’s worse than pathetic!