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The Morning Paper:  It’s kind of sad to see the near demise of the newspaper industry.  I don’t think I will ever stop enjoying reading a paper over morning coffee.  There’s just something special about it.  Reading off an IPAD or phone is just not the same.  Also, almost gone are the great sportswriters of the past half century. Giants like Jim Murray, Red Smith, Dave Anderson and so many others including Canadian sportswriters like Milt Dunnell, Trent Frayne and Red Fisher. They taught us how to look at sports differently and shined light on great human interest stories. It was great back then because they syndicated a lot of these writers and we could read their columns in our local papers.  There was no bravado and hyperbole like we see in so many commentators today.

No one did it better in my opinion than Jim Murray of the LA Times. He won national sports writer of the year an astounding 14 times. He had the best sense of humour and always had an amusing view of things.  Of course, he’s best known for the line he penned while covering the Indy 500.  He suggested they should start the race by saying “Gentlemen, start your coffins!”  Jim Murray wrote a column from Del Mar racetrack the day before he died at 78.

Can the Nucks:  So far, Jay Beagle and Tim Schaller are not setting the world on fire considering how much the Canucks had to spend to sign them.  Antoine Roussel will probably not move the needle a whole lot either once he returns from a concussion.  Just a theory, but have you noticed that workmanlike players always look way better on great teams and never as good on lousy teams?  Somehow they are never quite as effective.

Bob Horvat is finding out what it’s like to be a number one centre. He’s now facing the other team’s top lines on a regular basis and the going is tough. He’s no longer in the shadow of the Sedins and has heavy matchups every night. We are finding out that Jacob Markstrom is not a #1 goaltender.  He’s good for 50 games a season at best, not 65 like most #1 goalies.

As the season rolls along, we will learn that the Canucks biggest problem is their defense. It will be interesting to see what they do at the deadline and in the off-season since Edler and Del Zotto are unrestricted free agents and Hutton and Pouliot will be restricted. Edler is nearly 33 years old and playing 28 minutes a night. What does that say for your rebuild?

Great interview on TSN1040 this week with former Canucks President and GM Mike Gillis.  He said his biggest regret during his time in Vancouver was not changing the scouting staff.  Hello Mike – are you just realizing that now?  He should have cleaned house when they hired him.  Great track record of first rounders – Jordan Schroeder, Brendan Gaunce, Nicklas Jensen and Hunter Shinkaruk. It’s interesting to speculate on how things would have been different had Gillis remained as GM. He had recognized that the Canucks competitive window had closed and was ready to start a rebuild. The new regime refused to do that and we see the results now.  One of the guys he was prepared to deal was Ryan Kesler and had Kesler been traded earlier he would have landed a lot more in return than they ultimately received.

The Canucks free agent signings of 2017 are proving to be costly and utterly ill-advised. Sam Gagner was waived and is now toiling with the Toronto Marlies. The Canucks will now eat the final two years and 6+ million of his contract. The rest of the 2017 signings included Alex Burmistrov, Patrick Wiercioch, Thomas Vanek, Anders Nilsson, and Michael Del Zotto.  He and Nilsson are the only guys left and Del Zotto was a healthy scratch in Tampa.

How about this ditty from one of our followers!  Quinn Hughes will have Joe Cecconi as his D-partner this season at Michigan. The pair have been reunited after spending part of last season together and their coach thinks they can be the best pairing in the NCAA. Cecconi is a guy the Canucks should go after. He’s 6-2, 205 and was part of the U.S. gold medal team at the 2017 world juniors. A fifth round Dallas draft in 2015, he’s entering his senior season and still hasn’t signed with the Stars. If he’s still a free agent this spring, the Canucks should look hard at him. He sounds like a ‘defense first’ guy, but he had 27 points in 40 games last year. No idea how he skates but I’d imagine he’s at least decent if he was on a strong US junior team. He’s also a right shot defenseman which is always a good thing.

Look out Canucks but you have company!  Any team with Tod Leiweke at the helm is going to be a well-run operation to say the least.  The ownership group in Seattle just announced plans for a 70 million dollar training facility to be built near the newly redeveloped Northgate Mall.  It will be a short walk from the new light-rail system set to open in a few years. There’s going to be 3 rinks in the facility and it will serve as the team’s headquarters and practise facility. Give this team a few years and they will be a great rival for the Canucks.  I see no reason why they won’t be successful in Seattle with such a strong management group.

 The Kids are Alright:  The start of the NHL season is always fun because there are lots of new faces to check out now that the league is trending so young.  Check the link below to an article on documenting some of the top rookies in the NHL this year.

Watched Hurricanes rookie Warren Foegele play against the Canucks.  He looked outstanding. The Canes picked him in the third round of the 2014 draft from St. Andrews, Ontario High School.  He went to the University of New Hampshire, then left and played in the OHL with Kingston and Erie before apprenticing for a year in the AHL.  He’s 6’2”, 190 pounds and is a definite net-front presence. It says a lot for letting guys develop at their own pace.

NHL Notes:  You knew there was going to be a lot of hype around the Maple Leafs this season but this is ridiculous.  All 5 columnists highlighted on the website last Sunday afternoon were featuring stories about the Leafs. Can we spare the boosterism until they actually win something?  This season is going to be hard to stomach with the constant hype around this team.  It’s downright nauseating!

It’s looking more and more likely that the Leafs will have to work a sign and trade with holdout Michael Nylander. They won’t give him more than 6.5 million per season and he wants at least 8 per season. No way they go that high because it will screw negotiations with Matthews and Marner. The salary cap won’t allow you to carry four forwards all making above 8 million a year. It may make sense for them to move Nylander and pick up a young defenseman because we know their defense is not good enough as currently constructed to win a Cup.

I almost fell down laughing when the Senators Thomas Chabot completely undressed the Leafs rookie defenseman Igor Ozhiganov and scored a highlight-reel goal.  I have a better name for him now – Iggy ‘Oh-my jock’s-off’.  How do you like the NHL so far Igor?

The mighty Leafs further showed off their defensive brilliance on Sunday night against the Black Hawks, surrendering 2 goals in the final 1:38. In case you missed it, Auston Matthews hammed it up after scoring what HE thought would be the clinching goal.  Trouble is Hawks came right back to tie the game and force OT.  Good teams don’t give up 2 goals in the final 90 seconds. Patrick Kane tied it and then mimicked Matthews’ celebration.  Nice to know the Leafs haven’t lost their touch.  You’ll remember they blew a 5-2 third period lead against the Bruins in game 7 of their playoff series 4 years ago.

The more things change, the more things stay the game.  The NHL season is off and running…..AND….the Oilers give up 5 goals in their opening game over in Europe, the Flames Mike Smith can’t stop a puck, Tom Wilson gets suspended and Brad Marchand jumps a defenseless Swede.  Nothing much changes apparently.

Baseball Post-Season:  The Major League baseball post-season always produces plenty of drama and this year should be no exception.  Needless to say, I will be cheering for the small market Milwaukee Brewers.  I caught a bit of the Yankees/Red Sox series and something tells me the Red Sox bullpen is not good enough to get them into the World Series.  We shall see.  What’s with Boston’s Craig Kimbrel?  He’s another guy that looks like he was a reject from Duck Dynasty.  And how about his pre-pitch routine?  He looks like a tarantula out on the mound. Weird!

It’s funny how guys can have great seasons and then wilt in the playoffs. How about David Price of the Red Sox? He owns a stellar 0-and-10 record in the post-season. Luis Severino is lights out for most of the year for the Yankees then craps the bed in the post-season. Playoff ERA – 18.00. A real bulldog when it counts the most!

What’s with the sudden trend to start relievers? Tampa Bay did it on numerous occasions during the season and then Oakland did it in the post-season, starting the legendary former Jay Liam Hendricks in their wildcard playoff game against the Yankees.  Predictably, it didn’t work out so well as Hendricks was shelled and the A’s made a hasty exit.

It should be noted, however, that teams with lights-out bullpens like Milwaukee, Oakland and the Yankees are having great success. We have seen this for several years now. The Blue Jays need to follow suit and get some hard-throwing, electric arms in their bullpen.  Only Ken Giles throws hard right now and they are likely to deal him at some point soon while his value is high.

Thanks to the Colorado Rockies for showing up for the post-season.  All they could muster in the 3 games against Milwaukee was 2 runs and 14 hits – TOTAL!  Of the 28 innings played in the series, the Rockies scored in only one of them.

How about the Yankees CC Sabathia?  He tips the scales at about 320 lbs. and due to his own stupidity, he lost out on a half million dollar bonus for innings pitched.  He had thrown 5 innings in his final start of the season to bring his season total to 153, two innings shy of collecting the bonus. Instead, he gets tossed from the game for throwing at a batter and misses the bonus by two innings. Way to go dude!  You might want to pay better attention. Perhaps he wanted to get to the buffet table early!

Nice work by umpire Angel Hernandez in the Yankees-Red Sox series!  How this guy was working a playoff game is beyond me!  Five of his calls in one game were reviewed and four of them were overturned. But really, what was Hernandez doing behind the plate in an AL post-season game? Could it have had anything to do with the lawsuit he has against MLB for what he believes to be previous snubs?

Only in the CFL:  Great story from my good friend Howard who took his two sons to a Lions game against Hamilton a few weeks ago. The game had a wild finish – back and forth.  The Ticats had the ball and an 8 point lead in the last-minute so fans, including Howard, started heading for the exits.  Instead of trying a field goal that would have put the game out of reach, the Ticats ended up punting and the Lions got the ball back with just over 30 seconds to go.  Well, needless to say, they quickly drove the ball down the field and scored a touchdown plus a two-point conversion to force overtime.  Meanwhile, several thousand fans had exited the stadium.  Some tried to get back in but security doesn’t allow fans to reenter.  What happens?  Hundreds of fans scurry down the street and head for local bars, some watching the OT and the big Lions comeback through the window while huddled on the street. Apparently, it was quite the scene. Only in the CFL!

The Kicker:  How about Lewis Ward, the 5’ 7”placekicker for the Ottawa RedBlacks from Kingston, Ontario?  The rookie kicker has hit 40 straight field goals this season and has been money whenever called upon. The Seahawks have been using 40-year-old Sebastian Janikowski this season. They should think about signing Ward this off-season because you know NFL teams are going to come calling.

Rushing to Judgement:  Nice to see the Seahawks finding their identity. They now have gone three straight games with a 100-yard rusher after not having one all of last season. They ran for 190 yards against the Rams on Sunday and their beleaguered offensive line is actually starting to move some bodies. Chris Carson looked like Jimmy Brown and it appears as though they have found someone to carry the mail. It’s been a cast of nobodies since Beast Mode.

NFL Notes:                                                                                                                     

I always talk about bad owners.  How about Terry Pegula in Buffalo?  He’s owns the Sabres and the Bills and is the second coming of Harold Ballard. Seems the Bills have 50 million dollars in dead money this season, meaning almost one-third of their salary cap is eaten up by players who aren’t even on their team. Now that’s management!

Did you hear about the 83-year-old Buffalo Bills fan who recently passed away?  In his final request, he asked his family if they could have 6 Bills players lower his casket into the ground so the Bills could let him down one final time.

I was never on the 49’ers bandwagon this season.  A lot of pundits had them pushing for a playoff spot this year but I didn’t see it.  There was so much hysteria over Jimmy Garoppolo and now that he’s out for the season with a torn knee, the 49’ers are toast.  This is not a good football team, with or without him.

Could someone tell Odell Beckham to shut up!!!!

The Beautiful Game:  Here’s why I don’t watch soccer! Manchester City and Liverpool, both unbeaten, meet over the weekend in the biggest game of the Premier League season to date and yes, they played to a 0-0 draw.