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Under Further Review – Douglas Smith with Editor Bill Morphy. This week, the Canucks roll on. Yes, they are legit. We look at the coaching firing line, the Ohtani fallout and wonder if it’s time for Pete to go.

Editor’s Note: This is our final blog prior to Christmas. We will return early in the New Year. Wishing everyone a warm and wonderful holiday season!

Canucks Notebook – Losing can be a tremendous motivator. As we are finding out, talent wasn’t the problem in Vancouver. What was needed was accountability and structure and it walked in the door when Rick Tocchet arrived as head coach. The Canucks had star power. The timing was right because the core players were sick and tired of losing. As much as players may want personal success, the good ones are wired to win.

The one-year transformation in Vancouver has been remarkable. The numbers speak for themselves. The Canucks are the top scoring team in the NHL. They have the top goal differential. The stars are producing. J.T. Miller, Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes are among the top eight scorers in the NHL. Hughes is the top scoring defenseman. All three are headed for 100-point seasons. Brock Boeser is the second-leading goal scorer. Thatcher Demko holds the fifth best GAA among goaltenders. Star power indeed.

Once you have structure and a commitment to play the game the right way, everything else follows. Tocchet deserves a ton of credit for the turnaround defensively. So far this season, the Canucks are tops in the league at preventing odd-man rushes. The stars have learned that you don’t have to cheat to generate offense. The core has matured and there’s now an urgency to win. Players lower in the lineup are also flourishing. Nils Hoglander and Sam Lafferty have emerged in a big way. How do you explain the improved performance of defenseman Noah Juulsen? A year ago, he was considered nothing more than an AHL call-up. When you have structure, players like Juulsen can be insulated. Suddenly, with guarded minutes, Juulsen is no longer a liability. He’s even become one of the Canucks more important D-men on the penalty kill. It was a similar story with Jalen Chatfield. He wasn’t good enough to earn regular duty on a bad Vancouver team but he’s been a solid third-pairing defenseman ever since arriving in a more structured system in Carolina. Good teams can insulate players with guarded minutes.

All the so-called experts are predicting there will be regression. Maybe it’s time to start looking at the Canucks with a different lens. This is a very good hockey club and that’s not about to suddenly change.

NHL Notebook – Craig Berube is the latest coach to hit the firing line. The St. Louis Blues axed the Cup-winning bench boss with the team floundering outside the playoff bar in the Western Conference. General Manager Doug Armstrong brought in Drew Bannister from the Blues minor league team as an interim replacement. Yes, add Bannister to the All-Bald coaching list. (Our theory is gaining momentum)

Armstrong is widely considered one of the top GM’s in the NHL but he’s made his share of mistakes. At the top of the list was the deal with Detroit to acquire veteran defenseman Nick Leddy. Going the other way to the Red Wings was emerging blueliner Jake Walman, forward Oskar Lundqvist and a 2023 second-round pick which the Wings used to select 6-3” defenceman Andrew Gibson. Lundqvist was later dealt for a fourth-round pick. That’s potentially three useful pieces. The Blues have Leddy on the books for two more years at $4 million per season, part of a pricey St. Louis blueline that includes Justin Faulk, Torey Krug and Colton Parayko. All three are earning $6.5 million. Faulk and Krug have two more years on their bloated contracts. Parayko has three. The Blues biggest issue may be the sub-par performance being turned in by Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou. Both are making $8.125 million and are under contract for seven more years. Those are coach-killing deals as Berube just found out.

When are the Ottawa Senators going to wake up and fire coach D.J. Smith? There’s absolutely no reason the Sens should be at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. Smith is in his fifth season and the team has yet to make the playoffs. They have finished 7th, 6th, 7th, 6th in the division and currently sit 8th. As Bill Parcells is famous for saying, “you are what your record says you are.” The team is crying out for structure. We see a real comparison to the Canucks. Like Vancouver, the Senators have star power. Brady Tkachuk, Tim Stutzle and Josh Sanderson are first-rate players who are also sick of losing. Ottawa needs to find their Rick Tocchet and their fortunes could turn in a hurry.

Put the Carolina Hurricanes in the category of ‘most disappointing team’ in the NHL this season. The Canes were on many pre-season Cup contender lists. The Hurricanes are having all kinds of trouble putting the puck in the net. They’ve been budget-conscious for years and maybe it’s catching up to them. Carolina has four defensemen headed for unrestricted free agency next summer including Brett Pesce, Brady Skjei, Tony DeAngelo and former Canuck Jalen Chatfield. The Hurricanes have not been able to reach a new deal with Pesce who should draw major interest if he hits the open market. Skjei is vastly underrated and should be attractive as well.

The New Jersey Devils are another team who have not lived up to expectations. Goaltending has been a big issue. There are rumours the Devils are looking to land goalie John Gibson from the Anaheim Ducks. The asking price is a first-round pick plus prospects. Considering Gibson’s contract status, no chance I would do that. The Devils would be smart to take a flyer on veteran Canadiens goalie Chad Allen. He would also be a nice upgrade for the Edmonton Oilers. Expect Allen to be on the move at some point soon with the Habs ready to commit to Sam Montembeault and Cayden Primeau. Veteran defenseman David Savard is also back in the lineup after a lengthy injury. He should draw interest at the trade deadline.

Wondering why Alex Ovechkin is not scoring at his usual pace? You can point to the Washington Capitals anemic power-play. The Caps are scoring at a rate of only 2.8 goals per 60 with the man advantage. If the season ended today, that would be the lowest mark in NHL history.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have overtaken the New York Rangers and are now considered to be the NHL’s most valuable team according to Forbes. The Leafs are worth $2.8 billion. The Rangers are valued at $2.65 billion. The Montreal Canadiens are third at $2.3 billion. Very surprised that the Edmonton Oilers are the third most valuable Canadian team at $1.85 billion, ahead of the Canucks at $1.32 billion. The Calgary Flames are ranked 19th at $1.1 billion. The Senators are valued at $950 million while the Winnipeg Jets are valued at $780 million, 28th in NHL valuations.

The Big Deferral – To say Shohei Ohtani received a ton of money is more than correct. It’s been determined that if the $700 million he will receive from the L.A. Dodgers was bundled together in hundred-dollar bills, the money would weigh 7.72 tons. Yes. A ton of money indeed.

As it turns out, a vast majority of the 10-year, $70 million per season contract will be deferred to allow the Dodgers to add to their lineup and compete for a World Series title. Ohtani will be paid only $2 million per season until the contract is over. He will receive $68 million a year from 2034 until 2043. Bobby Bonilla, eat your heart out! It was an easy decision for Ohtani who’s reportedly earning over $50 million a year on endorsements and other business interests.

TSN’s Steve Phillips, a former MLB general manager, said he would not have entered the bidding. Far too risky. Ohtani may be the best hitter in baseball but it’s a lot to pay for a DH. It would be different if he was playing right-field on a regular basis. Then, there’s the injury history. Two Tommy John surgeries. He won’t pitch in 2024 and how dominating will he be when he returns to the mound? As Phillips pointed out, his body broke down pitching in a six-man rotation. It might be better to have him come out of the bullpen. Do you really think Ohtani will be pitching during the final five years of the contract?

It will be interesting to see how things play out. It’s not easy winning a World Series. No team has repeated since 2000. Sixteen different franchises have won a title in that time. The Angels failed to make the playoffs even once with Ohtani and Mike Trout in their lineup. No doubt the Dodgers will be formidable but let’s not hand them a pennant just yet. What’s certain is Ohtani’s contract deferral assures the Dodgerts are not finished throwing money around.

The Ohtani Fallout –Now that Ohtani has broken the bank and broken the hearts of Blue Jay fans, the team is left to pick up the pieces. There’s still plenty of holes to fill. At least the Jays can’t claim there’s no money to spend. Lots of names have been bandied about. Not sure it’s a good idea to bring back third baseman Mark Chapman. I would like to see the team do something more creative like acquiring Milwaukee shortstop Willy Adames and shift him to third. Add some bats who reduce the swing and miss and who are more reliable.

I agree with the notion that Ohtani was not just choosing the Blue Jays, he was choosing us. He was choosing Canada. That’s why playing bridesmaid is so difficult. It would have changed the sporting landscape in this country and would have changed the perception of the Jays franchise forever. Was it worth the shot? Of course. Does it reduce the pain? No.

Kevin Gausman just became our favourite Blue Jay. Reacting to comments made about Toronto during the unsuccessful Ohtani chase, the Jays pitcher fired back. “I hate seeing people talk s— about Toronto like they know it,” Gausman said on Twitter/X. “If you live in Toronto, you know how special a place it is and how passionate the people are.”

Loved the comment from TV personality Casey Pratt on the Ohtani deal, “I heard the Oakland A’s offered Ohtani $1 per year for 700 million years.”

Seahawks Central – It’s time for big change in Seattle. If Seahawks owner Jody Allen doesn’t have the heart to fire Pete Carroll, then sell the team and let the new owner deal with it. It’s starting to look like Pete has lost the room. The signs are there. Too many players on the roster are not performing. That falls on the coaching staff. Undisciplined play has been a constant all season. How long can you keep changing coordinators before the head coach has to go?

No one can look at the current roster and think the Seahawks are close to being a Super Bowl contender. A major roster purge is due once the season is over. The Seahawks need to realize it may be necessary to take one step back in order to move two steps forward. Carroll’s DNA calls for a strong running game, a stout defense, solid special teams and win the turnover battle. This is what happens when you can’t do any of the above. Kind of blows away his trusted formula.

Wasn’t this the year the Seahawks defense was supposed to finally come together? We’ve chronicled the amount of money and the bevy of high draft picks spent to build something special. Well, it hasn’t happened. In Sunday’s game in San Francisco, the 49’ers racked up 527 yards in total offense. Brock Purdy put up a career high in passing yardage. Forget about repairing the run defense. Christian McCaffrey, who would be my choice for NFL MVP, shredded the Seahawks. In total, the Niners rushed for 173 yards. It was one explosive play after another all afternoon. San Francisco ended the day averaging 9.9 yards per play.

There’s talent on defense but it’s not delivering. Bobby Wagner and Jamal Adams can’t cover. Riq Woolen can’t tackle. There were times when it looked like players were avoiding contact. Adams needs to go. The sooner the better.

The Seahawks have lost four in a row for the first time under Pete Carroll. They were 17-4 vs. the 49’ers with Russell Wilson at quarterback. Since the trade to Denver, they are 0-5. When you can’t beat the Rams and you can’t beat the 49’ers, how do you expect to ever win the division, let alone win a Super Bowl? The Philadelphia Eagles visit Lumen Field in Seattle on Monday night so the task doesn’t get any easier. In the meantime, the Seahawks playoff odds have sunk to just 19 percent.

NFL Notebook – The Kansas City Chiefs could be 10-3 right now if not for their receiving corps. They have combined for 32 dropped balls, tops in the NFL. Kadarious Toney single-handedly cost the Chiefs the opening game of the season against the Lions with repeated drops. Then, on Sunday, he lined up offside and negated a touchdown that cost a potential win against the Buffalo Bills. The Chiefs wide receiver room is going to look a whole lot different next season. There should be a prop bet during the next Chiefs game on which receiver will drop the ball first.

All of a sudden, the Chiefs are not a lock to win the AFC West. The Denver Donkeys are just one game back. KC has a soft schedule ahead. They face the Patriots, Raiders, Bengals and Chargers to close out the season so another division title is still likely.

How about former Washington Huskies quarterback Jake Browning? Since replacing Joe Burrow, Browning has led the Bengals to three straight victories. The OT win on Saturday against the Vikings moved Cincinnati to 8-6 and into a playoff spot. The race for wildcard spots in the AFC is going to be frantic. The Steelers are fading fast and like the Seahawks, you wonder if its time for a coaching change. The Steelers haven’t won a playoff game in seven years. Mike Tomlin is finding out what happens when you lose a franchise quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger. If the Steelers fall below .500, it would be Tomlin’s first losing season in 17 years as head coach.

You had to figure Sean Payton would clean things up in Denver. After a rocky start, he has the Broncos playing tough football. Russell Wilson has been reborn after a year and a half of turmoil. Russ is not lighting up the board statistically but he’s doing what Payton asks and it’s working.

The Los Angeles Chargers finally woke up and fired head coach Brandon Staley and general manager Tommy Telesco. The only surprising thing is that it didn’t happen sooner. The Chargers stuck with Staley far too long. This was the year the team was supposed to finally break through. They restructured the contracts of four veteran players in the off-season, pushing $40 million in cap charges into next season. They will also have to absorb nearly $21 million in dead money for cornerback C.J. Jackson, a disastrous free agent signing. The new coach and GM have a lot of work ahead of them to clean up the mess.

No NFL team has done a worse job drafting than the Las Vegas Raiders. Since 2016, the Raiders have had ten first-round draft picks in seven years. Here’s the sad result:

2016: Safety – Karl Joseph – Out of the NFL

2017: Cornerback Gareon Conley – Out of the NFL

2018: Tackle – Kolten Miller – Starter

2019: DE – Clelin Ferrell – Left as FA

2019: RB – Josh Jacobs – Starter

2019: Safety – Johnathan Abrams – Waived

2020: WR – Henry Ruggs III – Out of the NFL (Prison)

2020: CB – Damon Arnette – Out of the NFL

2021: OL – Alex Leatherwood – Waived

2023: DE – Tyree Wilson – Rookie

We’re not in the business of blowing our own horn but how many times did we urge the Seahawks to draft Will Levis? He lasted until the second pick of the second round in this year’s NFL draft. The Seahawks could easily have traded up in the second round or even traded back in the first round with the selection they used to select Jaxon Smith-Njigba. Would you rather have a franchise quarterback or a pint-sized receiver? Not saying Levis is the second coming of Tom Brady but Seattle is going to have to find a new QB and soon.

The Philadelphia Eagles have taken a huge step backward in the past few weeks. The Eagles no longer hold the top seed in the NFC. In the last three games, they have given up a total of 109 points. The Eagle defense has surrendered points in 19 of 30 possessions. After getting crushed by the Cowboys, a return to the Super Bowl is looking far less likely.

Really sorry I didn’t get to see any of the Raiders-Vikings game that ended with Minnesota winning the game 3-0 on a late field goal. That must have been one stirring matchup. It’s even crazier when you consider the game was played indoors in perfect conditions.

The Cleveland Browns have won games this season with four different quarterbacks – Deshaun Watson, PJ Walker, Dorian Thompson-Robinson and Joe Flacco – under center. That’s remarkable. Shows you how solid that Browns roster is. Can you imagine how much better they would be if Nick Chubb had not been injured and lost for the season?

Thanks to our great old friend Frank Sullivan for submitting another iconic sports name to the recent list we posted. How can we forget Y.A. Tittle, the former New York Giants quarterback? Full name is Yelberton Abraham Tittle Jr.  Thanks Mom and Dad for the nice handle. Yelberton, come to dinner!

Our favourite new NFL name belongs to San Francisco 49’ers cornerback Deommodore Lenoir. Deommodore, take out the garbage!

The All-Colour Team – Many common surnames are based on colours. Irv White is one of my best friends. Everyone has a friend named Brown or Black or Green. Brown is the sixth most common surname in the U.S. So, we figured it was time to put together a complete MLB lineup of players with a colour in their surname.

C: Gene Green

1B: Bill White

2B: Frank White

SS: Pumpsie Green

3B: Pete Rose

LF: Chet Lemon

CF: Devon White

RF: Shawn Green

DH: Daryl Strawberry

Pitchers: Whitey Ford, Kevin Brown, Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown, Bud Black, Blue Moon Odom, Vida Blue, Sonny Gray, Joe Black, Chad Green

Bench: Buster Brown (1905-1913), Charlie Brown (1897)

Manager: Red Schoendienst, Whitey Herzog, Dallas Green

Broadcaster: Red Barber

Leftovers – What’s the big deal with Gradey Dick? The Raptors 2023 first-round pick is languishing with Toronto 905, the Raptors G League team, yet he’s in at least three commercials on TV. What has he done to deserve the celebrity treatment? Dick wore a wide-shouldered sequined suit jacket at this year’s NBA draft and it grabbed all kinds of headlines. What happened to actually accomplishing something before you land endorsement deals?

The NBA has some dreadfully bad teams. The Detroit Pistons are working on a 22-game losing streak. The San Antonio Spurs just ended an 18-game freefall. The all-time NBA losing streak is 26 games shared by the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Philadelphia 76’ers. The Vancouver Grizzlies lost 23 in a row during the 1995-96 season.

Still don’t understand what was the big deal about the NBA’s In-Season Tournament. Watching Lebron lift the trophy and pop champagne while wearing goggles was laugh inducing. You won what and you’re going to raise a banner? Nobody did a better job of showing their disgust than ESPN’s Mike “Mad Dog” Russo.  It’s hysterical.

It’s about time the NBA did something about Golden State whack-job Draymond Green. He’s been suspended indefinitely for his latest antics. We’re told Green will be getting counselling. That sounds like a good start because the guy is out of control.

According to the Wall Street Journal, former major leaguer Johnny Damon is seeking $30 million for his Orlando home. The 30,000-square-foot mansion features a hair salon with two chairs, a two-lane bowling alley, a cigar lounge, two gyms, a saltwater pool with a swim-up bar and grill, a zip line, a music loft and three guest apartments. Better call my realtor Glen Myles, it’s exactly what I’m looking for.

Spotify Tracks of the Week – It’s only appropriate that we lay down a few Christmas tunes for you. It can only help you impress your loved ones. None of that old-fashioned, run-of-the-mill Christmas schlock. This is real music. You can play it during Christmas dinner and not be embarrassed. Trust me.

Let’s start with Nils Landgren and ‘Comin’ Home for Christmas’ from the release Christmas with My Friends III.

You can’t go wrong with Eva Cassidy, the amazing songbird. Check out her wonderful rendition of ‘Oh Come All Ye Faithful.’

Lauren Henderson is another outstanding songstress. We recommend her version of ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.’

Let’s not forget Canadian jazz icon Molly Johnson. Have a listen to Molly singing ‘You Know It’s Christmas.’

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss combine to perform ‘The Light of Christmas Day.’ Can’t go wrong there.

B.B. King released an album called ‘A Christmas Celebration of Hope.’ It’s a fine holiday release. Check out ‘Please Come Home for Christmas.’

How can you not love Nora Jones? She checks in with a lovely rendition of ‘White Christmas.’

Have a wonderful Christmas everyone! Hope you have the opportunity to spend it with family and loved ones.

Special thanks to all the regular contributors to this blog including Jordan Moss, Ian MacPhee, Dave Kittle, Ted Tait, Howard Steiss, Peter Hucul, Glen and Bill Myles and Rob Wagner.

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