In this edition, Under Further Review looks at the state of the Post Sedin Canucks plus a look at the Blue Jays search for a new manager.
Canucks Unshackled – Is it just me or are the Canucks suddenly a different team without the Sedins? If you watch the team this season it’s almost as if they have been liberated and now find themselves unshackled and playing more freely. This is not a put-down of the Sedins, it’s just that it’s allowed players to come out of the shadows. It’s also freed up about 40+ minutes a game of playing time for younger players including a significant amount of power-play time.
The Canucks look like they are playing faster and it’s opened the door for younger guys to take charge of the bench and the dressing room. Even Alexander Edler, who was playing uninspired hockey the past few seasons, is like a new man. He leads the league in blocked shots and has been very effective in the early going. It makes you wonder what they might be able to get for him at the trading deadline should he agree to waive his no-trade. Edler is unrestricted next summer so he should at least consider waiving his no-trade and moving to a Stanley Cup contender. Trouble is it looks like he may be out again long-term with an injured knee. He’s undergoing an MRI today in Vancouver.
I was mentioning last week that Derek Pouliot was playing his best hockey since joining the Canucks after being given an opportunity to play every night. Whoops! I apparently spoke too soon after his gaffes each of the past 2 games cost the Canucks goals. We are also seeing an improved edition of the much-maligned Ben Hutton this season as well.
Nikolay Goldobin has definitely taken a step forward. He looks like a completely new player. He’s more confident holding onto the puck and making plays. Goldobin is actually sticking his nose in there on occasion as well and making a much better effort in the checking department. He may actually win me over yet! Of course, it’s early and a lot of things can change but the early signs are good and the Canucks definitely appear to be liberated from the formidable shadow cast by the Sedins.
You have to second-guess the Canucks for letting top goalie prospect Thatcher Demko travel with the Utica Comets after suffering from a concussion. Reports say he took a flight with the team the night he was struck in the mask by a shot. Any concussion expert will tell you someone should not get on a flight after suffering a concussion. He’s hasn’t played since and it’s been a month since the concussion occurred. There’s also no time frame for his return to action.
What’s more, all-world rookie Elias Pettersson also travelled with the team from Florida to Pittsburgh after suffering his concussion. Makes no sense at all. Pettersson also reportedly travelled with the team from Pittsburgh to Winnipeg. Why not have him stay in sunny Florida for a week to make sure everything is OK, then have him travel directly back to Vancouver? Not the way you want to handle your best prospect since Pavel Bure.
Early Season NHL Notes – What’s up with St. Louis? They added to their forward group over the off-season and have some excellent rookies ready to contribute. Jake Allen seems to take the brunt of the criticism but the Blues are one of the slower teams in the league and that may be their biggest issue. I would not be surprised, however, to see them go after a goaltender. Sergei Bobrovsky are you listening?
Who will be the first head coach to be fired? Could be Mike Yeo of the Blues. Could it be John Stevens of the LA Kings? This is another slow-footed team that’s aging fast. They have tried to introduce some young players into the mix but they are not impact players. What’s the use of going young when the players are just middling prospects? Rob Blake needs to be realistic. It’s time for a rebuild in LA.
The Maple Leafs started the season like a house on fire, scoring like the Oilers of the 80’s. Now reality has hit home, just like we predicted, and we are seeing lots of evidence that they are not a good defensive team. I agree that a Nylander to Carolina deal makes all the sense in the world. The Hurricanes are stacked along the blueline with 5 solid defensemen. Brent Pesce is the likely target. He just started a 6-year deal at just over 4 million so that would fit into the Leafs long-term plans perfectly.
My sense is that if Nylander was willing to accept a 7-year deal at under 7 million per, they could get the deal done soon.
You know how I love to point out bad contracts in every sport. Check the link below to some beauties in the NHL.
Seahawks This Week – The Seahawks come out of the bye week with a road game in beautiful Detroit. They are suddenly getting healthy with K.J. Wright, Nick Vannett, Ed Dickson, Rasheem Green and J.D. McKissic all expected to return within the next few weeks. I said before the season that this team is going to be better as the season goes along and that’s exactly how things look right now. The problem is – can they overcome a tough schedule and get to 10 wins, which in the NFC, will be good enough to make the playoffs.
The Seahawks have definitely rediscovered their DNA. They have rushed for over 150 yards each of the past 3 games. They are plus 7 in turnover differential and have turned the ball over only once in their past 4 games. After being so pathetic in the red zone last year, the Seahawks have turned 73.3 percent of their red zone trips into touchdowns this year, tops in the NFL. A big part of that has been the outstanding play of their offensive line – yes – the offensive line that we’ve been crapping on for the past two seasons. The Seahawks should be able to run the ball against Detroit. The Lions sit 29th in the league against the run which explains why they went out and acquired run-stopping 350 pound defensive tackle Damon ‘Snacks’ Harrison from the NY Giants this week.
You have to be impressed with the Seahawks young secondary. The team has transitioned from the Legion of Boom quickly and seamlessly. They will have another good test against Matt Stafford and the Lions this week in Detroit.
NFL Notes – What can you say about Drew Brees? The Saints QB just keeps on keepin’ on. He’s completing almost 80% of his passes and quarterbacking like it’s a video game.
He recently became the NFL’s all-time leader in passing yardage, surpassing Peyton Manning and just threw the 500th touchdown pass of his career against the Ravens. It couldn’t happen to a better guy. Brees has done so much in the New Orleans community in the years after Katrina. He’s a shining example of what a pro athlete can achieve if his head is in the right place.
You have to wonder what may have happened last year if the Saints rookie safety Marcus Williams had tackled Stefon Diggs and not allowed the Vikings to come back and win the NFC playoff game. The Saints would have advanced to play the Eagles and you never know, they may have won that game. Brees might even have had a chance to knock off Brady as well and win his second Super Bowl.
Looking back, I wonder if the Chargers ever regret trading Brees and keeping Phillip Rivers, as good as Rivers is. It’s a tough call because both are headed to the Hall of Fame. Brees, however, will be a first ballot HOF’er for sure.
On the subject of great quarterbacking, how about Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs. He’s thrown 22 touchdown passes in their first 7 games of the season and has made the game look easy. As I mentioned in an earlier edition, Mahomes spent last year sitting and learning from Alex Smith and the apprenticeship is paying off. Why teams throw young quarterbacks to the wolves in their rookie seasons, often behind porous offensive lines, makes no sense at all. You have so much invested in these guys, why not take the time to develop them properly.
Everyone is firing bullets at Jon Gruden and the Oakland Raiders for strip-mining the team down to the studs. It’s not hard to see why. They traded away a future Hall of Famer in Khalil Mack and this week dealt receiver Amari Cooper to the Cowboys for a first-rounder. Cooper was selected 4th overall just two years ago in the 2016 draft.
Foolhardy or not, Gruden did not view the team in the same light as many fans and so-called experts. He saw a flawed team that lacked depth at all positions and did not want to try and ‘Band-Aid’ the situation. Their draft record from 2013-to-2017 is pathetic with very few players from those drafts remaining on the team.
He’s now sitting with 3 first round picks in 2019 and 2 in 2020. Clearly, the Raiders don’t give two-hoots for the fans in Oakland, it’s all about building a nucleus for when they move into their new stadium in Vegas. I would not be surprised if they try to peddle Derek Carr in the off-season.
The plan may sound good but it will only work if Gruden strikes it rich with the draft choices and considering the Raiders recent draft record, I wouldn’t hold my breathe.
The Big Search – So the Blue Jays have a new manager following their exhaustive search which included a number of excellent candidates who chose to take jobs with other teams rather than the Jays. It seems to me they were left at the altar in settling for Tampa Bay coach Charlie Montoyo. He’s 53 years old. So what happened to their big plans to hire someone younger that can work with all the young talent in the system? So much for that! It seems counterintuitive to what they were saying publicly. Montoyo has a 3-year deal and it’s going to be 3 years before the Jays can build things back up to relevance again so basically he’s going to be nothing more than a place holder.
You have to believe that Montoyo was a fall back candidate. If you were going to pluck someone from the Tampa Bay organization, Rocco Baldelli would have been the choice. Once he took the manager’s job with the Twins, the Jays wasted no time naming Montoyo their new manager. He speaks Spanish which is great but he certainly won’t move the needle in terms of the fan base. I will give him two years – tops.
It seems his main calling card is the fact he speaks Spanish. Montoyo has connections to the Expos system going back to the 90’s. He coached Vladimir Guerrero in Double A Harrisburg and served as interpreter/coach/mentor according to a report from Jeff Blair. Sounds like Montoyo will now be doing the same with Vladdy Jr. Dad Vlad never did learn to speak English with the Expos. At least the Jays have been making sure Vlad Jr. has been taking English lessons while coming up through the minor league system.
The Jays didn’t seem to give any love to Canadian Stubby Clapp, 2-time Manager of the Year in the Pacific Coast League. My friend just texted me and said he had Stubby Clapp once but he cleared it up with antibiotics.
Dodgers Blue – We could be in for a short World Series. With the Red Sox up 2-0 heading to Chavez Ravine, the heat is on the Dodgers to win tonight. If they don’t, we could be looking at a sweep. Dave Roberts has done a horse-bleep job managing the first two games of the series. His top 3 left-hand bats had only 10 at-bats in the first 2 games with Sale and Price on the mound so the Dodgers essentially forfeited 3 guys who hit a combined 100 home runs during the season.
Got to love Mookie Betts! After the second game, he was seen serving food to the homeless in Boston. He’s not one of those self-aggrandizing athletes either. Betts did not give any notice that he was doing it, nor did he try and bring any attention to himself.
To illustrate just how far off the Blue Jays are from the Red Sox – not one of the Jays outfielders could make the current Boston roster. The Sox led the American League in stolen bases and all 3 outfielders are outstanding defensively. The Jays finished 35 games back of the Red Sox this season so the climb back to the top of the division is going to be a slow crawl.
Raptors For Real – The Raptors are off to their best start in club history and finally, people around the NBA are starting to take notice. Check the link below to a story on the ESPN website!
About the only weakness you can identify on this Raptors team so far is defensive rebounding. The Celtics pose the biggest threat to the Raptors and early on they have not clicked offensively at all. However, the Celts have the next 6 months to figure things out.
Canada First – Andrew Wiggins hasn’t suited up for Canada in 3 years but claims his absence is not a permanent thing. He says he still wants to play for Canada in future international competitions including the Summer Olympics, if and when Canada qualifies. Apparently Wiggins was too busy with ‘personal matters’ this summer and chose not to suit up as Canada continued with FIBA zone qualifying.
The one time Wiggins actually did play for Canada was the pre-Olympic qualifying tournament in Mexico a year before the Rio Olympics. And guess what? He demanded to be paid. Basketball Canada, which has a shoe-string budget, somehow came up with enough dough to convince Wiggins to play. Can you imagine Sidney Crosby demanding money to play for Team Canada?
Memo to his Wiggyness! We don’t need you! The way you play defense in the NBA you can just stay home. Find guys who genuinely want to represent their country and will put their egos and personal agendas aside. There’s so much young Canadian talent coming up through the ranks that he won’t be missed. R.J. Barrett is already better than Wiggins and can play the same position.
Raptor fans can rejoice that the team didn’t ‘tank’ a few years ago in order to try and win the lottery and draft Wiggins who has gained a reputation for not putting out a full effort night in and night out.
SCTV Revisited – Since I like to make pop culture references to the old Second City comedy series, I am wondering, with all the municipal elections taking place across Canada recently, whether Mayor Tommy Shanks won re-election in Melonville? I bet he was acclaimed for another term!