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Under Further Review – Douglas Smith with Editor Bill Morphy and the usual cast of contributors including Jordan Moss, Ted Tait, Peter Hucul, Glen and Bill Myles, Rob Wagner, Dave Kittle and Ian MacPhee. This week, more maneuvering by the Canucks. The Seahawks fail a test in Dallas and show Shohei the money. 

Canucks Notebook – On January 26, it will be two years since Patrik Allvin assumed the GM role in Vancouver. In that time, Allvin has been one of the most active managers in hockey and has essentially turned over the Canucks roster. Only six players – Boeser, Hoglander, Pettersson, Miller, Hughes and Myers – remain from a 3-2 loss to the Oilers that night. The lineup has been turned upside down and the roster churn continued this week.

Allvin deftly cleared $4.15 million in cap space by shipping Anthony Beauvillier to Chicago which opened the door to acquiring defenceman Nikita Zadorov from the Calgary Flames.  In short order, the Canucks had filled a huge need on the back end. The moves are a clear signal the Canucks are not about to waste the best start in club history by cycling in minor league defencemen night after night. The Canucks have used 10 different defencemen so far this season.

Zadorov adds some much-needed bite to the Canucks blueline. Jumping the queue now, well ahead of the trade deadline, is just good business. As much as our distaste for dispensing with draft picks, the third-rounder sent to Calgary does not come due until 2026 so there’s plenty of time to recoup the selection. If Zadorov is not signed as a UFA this summer, then the Canucks still have his cap space to work with as they work out new deals for Pettersson and Hronek.

Once Carson Soucey returns from injury, the Canucks will be able to ice six solid D-men and Allvin may not be done yet. There’s a good chance he circles back on Ethan Bear who’s been rehabbing from off-season shoulder surgery. A pro-rated one-year contract may be affordable and Bear would certainly add important depth.

When you look at Allvin’s body of work as a whole, much of what he has touched has turned to gold. He’s mined several useful depth pieces including Sam Lafferty, Teddy Blueger, Pius Suter and Ian Cole. When you sort through the transactions, there’s not a lot to argue with especially when you consider the salary cap mess he inherited.

“Who are we to think we’re anybody?”

“A lot of people are waiting for us to fall apart.” 

“You know, playoff teams don’t do this sort of stuff.”

Quotes from Canucks coach Rick Tocchet

The Tocchet Effect – It comes down to accountability. Canucks coach Rick Tocchet has found the balance between positive reinforcement and the need to keep players slightly uncomfortable. He’s established a level of play in Vancouver and any dips in performance are addressed immediately. That’s accountability. If the leadership group on a team buys-in and reinforces what the coaching staff is preaching, then the foundation is in place. Ask Andrei Kuzmenko about the culture change. Kuzmenko pumped in 39 goals last season but recently sat out two consecutive games because his play had dipped. No one is safe and no one should be.

The multitude of changes around the Canucks over the past year have no doubt produced results. Moving from a rebuild to playoff contention status is the easiest step. The Canucks are about to find out just how difficult it is to move from playoff team to elite Stanley Cup contender. Lots of teams go through the rebuilding phase and reach playoff level. It’s the final step that’s the hardest.

Time to throw some love at Canucks forward Nils Hoglander. He started the season as the team’s extra forward and has earned a spot higher up in the lineup. Hoglander has chipped in with seven goals in 22 games and is plus-9. Last year’s stint in Abbotsford taught Hoglander what he needs to do to remain in the lineup.

NHL Notebook – When you get fired as an NHL head coach, does your name just get tossed into a hat? No league recycles head coaches like the NHL. As expected, the Minnesota Wild fired Dean Evason and named John Hynes as his replacement. Yes, the same guy who had jobs in Nashville and New Jersey. The other prerequisite may be that you have a bald head. How many head coaches in the NHL have bald heads? There’s Hynes, Tocchet and Jim Montgomery. Any others? Maybe you should consider shaving your head if you want to get a coaching job. In the NHL, it’s not what you can do, it’s who you know.

It’s mystifying how Brendan Shanahan has avoided any criticism in Toronto. He’s been party to the expensive contracts handed out to the Core Four and presumably has signed off on all the other ill-advised roster moves. Of course, in Toronto ownership is too busy counting all their money to notice.

Next season, the Leafs Core Four stands to earn around $46 million, close to half the total salary cap. The new deal signed by Auston Matthews will kick in at $13.5 million. John Tavaras will earn $11.6. Mitch Marner comes in close to $11 million and William Nylander’s new deal is projected to be $10+ million. For a guy set to become the NHL’s highest paid player next season, Matthews is not delivering. After a hot start, Matthews has tailed off big time. He’s currently 26th in league scoring.

Back in 2020, the Leafs acquired Jack Campbell and Kyle Clifford from the L.A. Kings in exchange for forward Trevor Moore and a pair of third-round picks. Campbell and Clifford are long gone. Meanwhile, Moore leads the Kings in goal-scoring with eleven and is part of a solid shutdown line with Phillip Danault. One of the third-round picks was used to select forward Alex Laferriere. He’s now a fixture in the Kings lineup and has done a great job filling in for the injured Viktor Arvidsson.

Ilya Samsonov is withering under the spotlight in Toronto. He has a save percentage of .878 and a 3.58 GAA. The Leafs would have been better off signing Jonathan Quick in the off-season. A lot of people thought his career was pretty much over. Quick signed with the New York Rangers and has a 1.99 GAA and .930 save percentage in eight appearances.

It took veteran Pittsburgh Penguins forward Jeff Carter until November 25 to record his first assist of the season. Just a wild suggestion Jeff. Have you considered retirement?

Do you think the Tampa Bay Lightning are happy to have goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy back between the pipes? Look for the Bolts to get their game in order with the league’s best goaltender back in nets.

Great to see Rick Bowness back behind the bench in Winnipeg. He’s been away from the team for several weeks after his wife, Judy, suffered a seizure. Bowness is one of the nicest people in the hockey business. He had to be happy with how the Jets performed in his absence. The Jets have been one of the NHL’s best stories at the quarter pole of the season.

Seahawks Central – Pete Carroll is 72 years old. It’s clear the Seahawks have done everything possible to try and build a winner before Carroll’s career comes to an end. I get it.  Expecting to magically capture a Super Bowl with the current roster is completely unrealistic.

The roster is still nowhere close to contending despite lavish spending and the truckload of draft picks courtesy of the Russell Wilson deal. The team remains wildly inconsistent. The offence finally delivered on Thursday night in Dallas but the defence failed miserably. Discipline was again lacking. The Seahawks were flagged 10 times for 130 yards.

It’s ridiculous how much money has been spent on the defense and it’s still nowhere good enough. The Seahawks used three recent second-round picks on edge rushers – Darrell Taylor, Boye Mafe and Derick Hall. They backed up the truck to sign free agent Dre’mont Jones. The defense includes a first-round pick in Jordyn Brooks and a top-five pick in cornerback Devon Witherspoon and the NFL’s most expensive safety duo in Jamal Adams and Quandre Diggs. Can you think of any team in the NFL who have expended so many resources into building a defense?

The Seahawks have been trying for years to get back into contention and it simply has not happened. The team is 15-15 since Wilson left town. Seems like every time they face a must-win game against a top opponent, they turtle. Well, the wolves are now at the door.

Jody Allen has owned the team since her brother Paul Allen died in 2018. The best thing that could happen is for Jody Allen to sell the team and allow a new owner to come in and decide on the future of Pete Carroll. The Seahawks have one playoff win in the last six years and that was against a back-up quarterback. Stop the nonsense. It’s time for a change.

Tepper Tantrum – Add David Tepper to the list of bad owners in pro sports. This guy makes Eugene Melnyk look rational. Tepper is the owner of the Carolina Panthers and fired head coach Frank Reich only months after handing him a four-year contract. Tepper is on the hook for $9 million for each of the next three years. Reich was the Panthers fifth different head coach (plus two interim coaches) since Tepper took over the team in 2018. The Panthers have started ten different quarterbacks during that time. The team’s record since Tepper took the reigns is 30-63. The hedge fund billionaire also owns the Major League Soccer team in Charlotte. He’s fired two coaches in the first two years of ownership.

Tepper reportedly screamed at Panther players in the locker room. He insisted the team trade up to draft quarterback Bryce Young. Reich wanted C.J. Stroud. The Panthers are 1-10 and have already traded what will likely be the top pick in next year’s draft. Why would any coach want to take the job?

NFL Notebook – The Buffalo Bills were a popular pre-season Super Bowl favourite. At 6-6, there’s a good chance they may not make the playoffs. The Bills still have the Chiefs, Cowboys and Dolphins on their schedule so they are certainly not home and cooled. Sean McDermott will not survive if the Bills miss the post-season.

Since Russell Wilson arrived in Seattle 12 years ago, the Seahawks have had two starting quarterbacks. During that time, the Cleveland Browns have had 21 different starting quarterbacks.

The NFL has to do something about MetLife Field, home to both the decrepit New York Giants and New York Jets. Not a game goes by without a major injury on that surface. The latest was a torn Achilles tendon suffered by Miami Dolphins linebacker Jaelan Phillips. It’s just the latest in a long string of injuries during NFL games played at the stadium. Miami safety and Coquitlam native Javon Holland calls the field “trash.” Something tells me Aaron Rodgers may agree.

DaRon Bland of the Dallas Cowboys was just named NFL Defensive Player of the Month after setting a record with five pick 6’s in a single season. In the first half vs. the Seahawks, Bland gave up five receptions in six targets for 137 yards and two touchdowns. So much for jumping routes.

Shohei Me the Money – The MLB winter meetings open on Sunday. The free agent dominos will start to fall. The Shohei Otani sweepstakes are hitting the crucial stage. Reports say negotiations have hit the serious stage with suitors expected to meet with Otani’s representatives this weekend in L.A. While the Dodgers remain the prohibitive favourite, several other teams are in the mix including the Cubs, Giants and yes, the Blue Jays. The Rangers, Red Sox and Mets are apparently out of the bidding. You wonder if Otani’s agents are not just using the Jays and other teams to up the ante on the Dodgers.

It seems unlikely the Jays are serious contenders. Stadium renovations cost $300 million over the past two off-seasons. Does ownership have an extra half billion kicking around to sign Otani? The currency gap in any Otani deal would also be significant. Still, the Jays need to do something to rekindle excitement because this year’s disappointing finish left a lot of fans very unhappy.

The team is currently selling new premium seating which demands a five-year commitment at over $10 thousand per seat. Would you lay down that kind of dough without knowing what next year’s lineup is doing to look like? It’s doubtful the team would consider moving Bo Bichette despite reports the Jays have been fielding calls. Why deal your best hitter when you are already looking to replace as many as four bats in your lineup?

Buyer Beware – With baseball’s silly season about to begin, you can be sure a ton of dollars will be wasted in free agency. More money has been misspent on pitchers than any other position. Last winter’s off-season was instructive. The Texas Rangers doled out $185 million on Mets free agent Jacob deGrom and got six starts before he underwent Tommy John surgery. The Yankees gave Carlos Rodon six years and $162 million despite his risky medical history. Rodon threw only 65 innings with a 6.85 ERA.

Go back and there’s plenty more. The Boston Red Sox signed Chris Sale a five-year deal for $145 million. He missed all of 2020 after having Tommy John surgery and then made only nine starts in 2021 and two starts in 2022. This year, Sale was healthy enough to make 20 starts but posted a so-so 4.30 ERA.

The Washington Nationals have been burned twice. They signed Stephen Strasburg for four years and $140 million and Patrick Corbin for six years and $140 million. Strasburg pitched only 31 innings over the next three years before his career ended due to injury. Corbin has pitched, just not very well, and the Nationals are stuck with an unmovable contract.

Who can forget David Price? In 2016, the Red Sox signed Price for seven years and $217 million. In his first season in Boston, Price was fairly effective and won 17 games. Since then, he’s delivered next to nothing. In order to get out from under the contract, the Red Sox basically had to surrender Mookie Betts to the Dodgers. Betts was runner-up in MVP voting in the National League this season.

It’s safe to say the Toronto Blue Jays have blown as much money as any team chasing free agent pitchers. Since the start of the Shapiro/Atkins era, the Jays have doled out $55.3 million by our calculations on pitchers who have provided next to nothing. Here’s the ugly truth – Tanner Roark, 2 years, $24 million (2019); Jaime Garcia, 1 year, $10 million (2018); Tyler Chatwood, 1 year, $3 million (2021); Shun Yamaguchi, 2 years, $6.3 million (2019); Kirby Yates, 1 year, $5.5 million (2021); Matt Shoemaker, 1 year, $3.5 million (2018) and Clay Buchholz, 1 year, $3 million (2019). That’s a whole lot of nothing. Buyer beware indeed. You can be sure there will be more free agent disasters in the coming weeks.

Whole New Ballgame – The Athletic recently did a deep dive into the rule changes instituted in major league baseball this season and it’s safe to say it had a huge impact on the game. The pitch clock speeded up the game significantly. The stolen base returned. Outlawing the shift was a welcome move.

In 2022, only 13 games lasted 2 hours and 15 minutes or shorter. In 2023, the number went up to 170. In 2022, there were 84 nine-inning games that were two hours and 30 minutes or shorter. This year, there were 678. Not one game went longer than four hours. That’s an improvement from 2022 when there were 19 games that ran four hours plus.

Baseball enjoyed more action. There were over 1,600 more runs scored this year. There were more than 1,100 more hits thanks to the elimination of The Shift. There were nearly 1,500 more baserunners. Stolen base numbers went through the roof. Overall, there were over 1,300 more bases stolen this year. The stolen base success rate was 80.2 percent, the highest ever. Five teams stole at least 150 bases. 21 teams stole at least 100. National League MVP Ronald Acuna Jr. stole 73 bases, the highest number since 2007. 51 players stole more than 20. That’s the most since 1989.

The game is simply faster as a result of the rule changes. The fans love it and the game is better for it.

Unparalleled Feats – As a sports fan, we have witnessed many amazing feats over the years. Some leave you shaking your head. Bob Gibson and Barry Sanders are two athletes who personify greatness.

In June and July of 1968, St. Louis Cardinals righthander Bob Gibson made 12 starts. He had 12 complete games, 12 wins and 8 shutouts. In those 12 starts, he gave up six earned runs. From June 6 until the end of July, Gibson threw 99 innings and allowed three runs. Yes, you read that correct. Over that stretch, Gibson gave up one run every 33 innings or one run every 3.5 games. For the entire ’68 season, Gibson had an ERA of 1.12. I think we can assume that Gibson was not worried about pitch counts. Major league teams were so overwhelmed, the league lowered the mound for the ’69 season.

NFL Hall of Famer Barry Sanders has been described as the Picasso of running backs. He could easily have been a Broadway dancer for the way he spun out of tackles and eluded defenders. Nobody juked like Barry. As a sophomore at Oklahoma State, Sanders was a back-up to future Buffalo Bills great Thurman Thomas. Prior to the rivalry game with Oklahoma, Sooners head coach Barry Switzer told his players not to injure Thomas because if Sanders played “it will be over.”

Switzer was right because the following year in 1988, when Sanders became the starter, he rushed for nearly 2,900 yards and 42 touchdowns in only 12 games. It remains today the greatest college season ever.

Still, his NFL career was even better. Sanders played 10 years, all with the Detroit Lions, and it’s the best 10-year stretch for a running back in NFL history. Sanders was an All-Pro every year. His 14 consecutive games with at least 100 yards rushing is an NFL record. No one has touched his record of 25 games with at least 150 yards rushing and his 30 TD’s of at least 20 yards is also an NFL record.

Sanders best season came in ’97 at age 29. In the first two games, he had a total of only 53 yards. But then, over the next 14 games, he rushed for over 2,000. When he retired a year later, he would end his career with over 15,200 yards. That’s greatness.

You know an athlete or team is dominant when the league makes a rule change just to deal with it. MLB responded to Gibson’s greatness. The NHL stopped allowing teams to play the entire two-minute penalty with an extra man because the Montreal Canadiens power-play was so dominant they were crushing teams. In the NFL, cornerback Mel Blount of the Pittsburgh Steelers completely outmuscled receivers coming off the line of scrimmage. It forced the NFL to institute the five-yard rule allowing defensive backs to make contact only within the first five yards.  You know you are good when they legislate against you.

The Name Game Continued – We’ve had a lot of reaction to our Name Game segment when we offer-up goofy sports name. We figured it’s time to provide our all-time Top Ten list. There’s a ton to choose from here’s our personal Top Ten.

  1. Coco Crisp
  2. Dick Trickle
  3. God Shammgod
  4. Stubby Clapp
  5. Fair Hooker
  6. I.M. Hipp
  7. Napoleon Outlaw
  8. Razor Shines
  9. Per Djoos
  10. Wonderful Terrific Monds Jr. (Wonder Monds)

Honourable Mention: Ben Gay, Tommy Gunn

Not to be forgotten are the many sports names with a sexual connotation. We have put together the ultimate list and yes, Dick Trickle must be included.

  1. Chubby Cox (Basketball)
  2. Dick Pole (Baseball)
  3. Misty Hyman (Swimming)
  4. Rusty Kuntz (Baseball)
  5. Dewanna Bonner (WNBA)
  6. Ivana Mandic (Basketball)
  7. Destinee Hooker (Volleyball)
  8. Andrei Arshavin (Soccer)
  9. Yoshie Takeshita (Volleyball)
  10. Dick Felt (Football)
  11. Dick Trickle (Auto Racing)
  12. Dong Dong (Gymnast)
  13. Wang Liqin (Ping Pong)
  14. Gregor Fucka (Basketball)
  15. Dean Windass (Soccer)

Honourable Mention: Ron Tugnutt (Hockey), Corey Pecker (Hockey), Harry Colon (Football)

Stealing Your Thunder – The Oklahoma City Thunder have managed to assemble a treasure trove of NBA draft picks. It’s an astonishing stash that will set the team up for the next decade. Over the next four years alone, the Thunder hold 14 first-round picks and 9 second-round picks. Here’s the complete summary of upcoming picks all the way up to 2030.

  • 2024: 4 first-round picks and 1 second-round pick
  • 2025: 4 first-round picks and 3 second-round picks
  • 2026: 3 first-round picks and 3 second-round picks
  • 2027: 3 first-round picks and 2 second-round picks
  • 2028: 1 first-round pick and 3 second-round picks
  • 2029: 2 first-round picks and 6 second-round picks
  • 2030: 1 first-round pick and 3 second-round picks

Over the next seven years, the Thunder hold a total of 18 first-round picks and 21 second-round picks. While owners like Steve Balmer throw money around on big name talent, the Thunder stick to their organizational ethos and its starting to pay big dividends. As their contention window opens, the biggest challenge the Thunder will face is convincing players to stick around an outpost like OKC.

Who Can You Trust? – In these times where kids are getting their information from Facebook, Instagram and Tik Tok, you can’t help but wonder about the state of journalism. Why do we watch 60 Minutes on Sunday night? Presumably, because we have faith in what they are reporting. Trouble is, there are so few places to turn in order to get trusted news. Journalism has never been more under fire.

Now, there’s the case of Fox Sports sideline reporter Charissa Thompson who recently admitted that on more than one occasion, she simply made-up halftime reports when she was unable to speak to coaches coming off or back onto the field. Some may say – “no big deal.” She’s just a sideline reporter.

Sorry, but that denigrates the many outstanding reporters who fleshed out storylines and made sports-watching great. The late Craig Sager was a personal favourite. There have been many fine reporters including Jim Gray, Lesley Visser, Andrea Kremer and many others. It took those reporters years to establish a reputation and build a career. Thompson has singlehandedly set the industry back.

No wonder journalism is under such relentless attack. It’s regularly mentioned as one of the least trusted professions. The suits at Fox Sports have done nothing in the wake of Thompson’s admission. At the very least, she should have been suspended. Instead, she continues to host NFL games on Fox and Amazon Prime. Hey, who needs credibility as long as you are easy on the eyes?

Leftovers – The CFL is coming to Victoria. The B.C. Lions will host the Ottawa Redblacks at Royal Athletic Park on Saturday, August 31 in a regular-season CFL game. I’m sure Victorians can hardly wait to witness those Redblacks firsthand. The league says the stadium will be expanded to accommodate up to 14,000 fans. I’d hate to be a homeowner across the street. A missed field goal may knock out a window.  It’s all part of the CFL’s effort to grow the game across Canada. How are those Atlantic Schooners doing?

Winnipeg Blue Bomber fans have to be wondering how the team lost to an inferior opponent for the second year in a row in the Grey Cup. Point the finger at head coach Mike O’Shea. The Bombers could be sitting with four straight Grey Cup victories. The Bombers have found ways to lose and O’Shea should bear the brunt of criticism.

Close but no cigar for the UBC Thunderbirds. The T-Birds fell to the Montreal Carabins 16-9 in the Vanier Cup game played in Kingston, Ontario. Now Kingston is a lovely town but why are they playing the national final in a small Ontario town? Can they not create enough interest to have the game played in a larger venue in ideal conditions?

For the third straight year, the Michigan Wolverines knocked off No. 2 Ohio State in the latest renewal of one of U.S. college football’s greatest rivalries. Michigan is now just a victory away from a third consecutive College Football Playoff appearance. Buckeyes coach Ryan Day is 1-3 against Michigan and may soon be looking for work.

Did you catch where Andre Dawson has petitioned the Baseball Hall of Fame to change the cap on his plaque from the Montreal Expos to the Chicago Cubs? The decision on what cap to use is actually made by the Hall not the player. It was changed in 2002 following a report that the Tampa Rays offered to compensate Wade Boggs if his plaque bore a Devil Rays logo. Boggs was inducted in 2005 and he is wearing a Red Sox cap.

There’s absolutely no reason why Dawson should be wearing anything other than an Expos hat. Hawk played 11 seasons with the Expos and only six with the Cubs. Of his 2,774 career hits, 1,575 were with the Expos. Six of his eight Gold Glove awards came while playing in Montreal. As an Expo, he was National League Rookie of the Year in 1977. To change the cap on his plaque is ridiculous. Dawson just lost any fans he had in Montreal.

Smart move by the European team to bring back captain Luke Donald for the next Ryder Cup competition in 2025 at Bethpage Black in New York. Donald guided Europe to a Ryder Cup victory this year in Rome and the continuity can only help when the rivalry resumes in two years.

Classic YouTube Videos – Sonny Boy Williamson is a long-forgotten blues legend. We unearthed a memorable performance in Europe with Memphis Slim. Sonny Boy’s entrance is reminiscent of Jake and Elwood of Blues Brothers fame. Think maybe they stole his schtick? Check out Sonny Boy’s harmonica playing. Very cool.

John Mayall is often called the Godfather of British Blues. Click on the link below for a biography on the career of John Mayall entitled ‘Turning Point.’ Definitely worth checking out.

Legendary blues artist Taj Mahal just finished up his annual stint at Jazz Alley in Seattle. A few years ago, Taj and Keb’ Mo’ performed at the Philadelphia Folk Festival. The performance was filmed in high definition. It’s outstanding.

Editor’s Note – Thanks to contributor Ian MacPhee for providing some trivia following our feature on Ry Cooder last week. Actor Harry Dean Stanton starred in the iconic film Paris, Texas by renowned director Wim Wenders. The movie had a fabulous soundtrack by the one and only Ry Cooder. Paris, Texas is one of 17 movie soundtracks composed by Ry.

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