Under Further Review – Douglas Smith with Editor Bill Morphy and contributors Jordan Moss and Bill Myles. This week, we say goodbye to a special friend. Please do something, we’re sick and tired about talking about the Canucks. Plus, lots of NHL chatter and Tiger is headed out to pasture.
Ode to the Good Doctor – Before we begin this week, we wanted to take a moment to recognize a great friend who passed away on Sunday. Carl Bauer, the infamous Bro Jake sidekick Dr. Stinky, was one of a kind. He could tell a story like no one else. Our morning coffees at Laura’s Coffee Shop in White Rock were an event. Who could top the other with some bizarre story from the past usually involving drugs, alcohol and women, or all of the above? Golfing with Carl was an experience. The laughs just kept on coming. So, in Carl’s memory, we offer up this little poem.
His name was Carl. AKA Dr. Stinky.
He was not one to brag, even though he had a big Dinky. (That part is not true)
He would make you laugh. He would make you smile.
He was there to lend a hand, even if he had to walk a mile.
He had big plans. They didn’t always work.
One thing’s for sure. He was never a jerk.
We will miss him dearly, that’s no lie.
We can see him now, skating away on the big rink in the sky.
Death March – This is without a doubt one of the darkest periods in Canucks history and there’s been plenty of them. When a season is derailed by November, it’s time to do a true self-evaluation. If the Canucks looked through the proper prism, they would realize Vancouver is not a destination of choice for players, coaches or managers. We’re talking about a 51-year malaise. Forget about a winning culture. A lot of the Canucks current problems can be traced to the fact players don’t want to play here. It’s a black hole. Few players can handle the constant media scrutiny where every mistake is amplified. In free agency, the only way the Canucks can attract players to Vancouver is by tacking on additional years to the contract. Thus, four years for replacement-level players like Beagle, Roussel and Poolman. The Canucks have been unable to land top coaches, settling instead for first-timers like Desjardins and Green. Torts came to Vancouver, told the organization the unvarnished truth and was sent on his way. We’ve often wondered if the Canucks reached out to Ken Holland before he signed in Edmonton. Perhaps they did and Holland just wisely chose Daryl Katz over Francesco Aquilini.
So, on it goes. Canucks ownership now go courting some new sucker. Thomas Drance of The Athletic put it best this week – “Vetting candidates, it is said, is more difficult now, in an era where the real world is knocking on the door of a backward industry and basic standards of professionalism finally apply to the conduct of hockey operations executives. It is, of course, neither patient nor diligent nor becoming for an organization to be mired in such omnipresent turmoil.”
It’s often claimed the media spotlight in Vancouver is too bright and the criticism too harsh, yet, on the just-completed road trip, Drance was the only journalist traveling with the team. Some spotlight!
Does this man look like he has a clue and we’re talking about the guy on the right?
It’s Miller Time – J.T. Miller’s reported rift with captain Bob Horvat, real or imagined, is a by-product of the Canucks losing culture. When the team is winning, Miller’s energy is a definite positive. When things go bad, as they have been this season, his overt frustration is cancerous. When changes come, the new decision-makers need to decide if Miller is part of the solution. Would they be willing to re-sign him when his contract ends after next season? Given his age and the potential contract demands, does it make sense? If new management wants to take a step back and rebuild, and that’s certainly advisable, does Miller fit into their plans? Considering the state of the blueline and the team’s cap situation, a trade seems like the best option because this team is not going to contend for a Stanley Cup anytime soon.
NHL Notebook – Contrasting what’s happening in Vancouver – that would be nothing – at least the Montreal Canadiens have acted decisively. You had to know major changes were coming in Montreal. This is what happens when a flagship franchise has its worst start in the team’s proud 111-year history. Former Rangers GM Jeff “Pugsy” Gorton has been named executive vice present of hockey operations. Since Gorton doesn’t speak French, he will not be the face of the franchise. His face can actually scare little children. That job will go to the next general manager. Several names have surfaced. The most logical name to replace Marc Bergevin as GM is Daniel Briere. He was vice president of operations for the Maine Mariners, a Rangers affiliate, when Gorton was GM in New York. Briere also had a short stint in a Canadiens uniform in 2013-2014. Meanwhile, Canadiens faithful are already looking ahead to the 2022 NHL draft which, as it happens, will be held in Montreal.
Prior to the start of NHL free agency last summer, we listed several cost-efficient, under-the-radar players we felt the Canucks should target. The only player on our list who was actually signed by the Canucks was defenceman Tucker Poolman. We had him pegged as a potential third-pairing blueliner who could add some size and bite. The analytics on Poolman were not particularly good since puck management is not his #1 attribute. Trouble is, to get him, the Canucks overpaid in both dollar value ($2.5 million per) and term (four years). The Canucks found out quickly he cannot play in the top four. His early season stint with Quinn Hughes was a disaster.
Lacking depth down the middle, we begged the Canucks to target Blackhawks centre David Kampf. At 6-2, 197 pounds, Kampf has good size. At 26, he’s still young. Where he really excels is in the faceoff circle and on the penalty kill. He can be used as a shutdown centre to provide the coaching staff with more favourable matchups. Kampf signed with the Maple Leafs and he’s taken over as the Leafs 3-C. Kampf is not going to give you a ton of offence but he’s exactly what the Canucks needed. Instead, they surrendered a third-round pick to acquire Jason Dickinson and he’s been a bust in the faceoff circle and on the PK. How the hell can we make these calls from our couch and the Canucks, repeatedly, get it wrong?
We haven’t dissed the Leafs in a couple of weeks. Must be dereliction of duty. What’s wrong with us? Chief Leaf gobbler Mark Masters of TSN says the Leafs found their “Road Warrior Mentality” on their recent west coast road trip. We thought the Leafs had a “Fold Like a Cheap Suit Mentality.” We must be mistaken. Getting excited about winning games in California in November is a little over the top.
Meantime, in an Olympic preview, Sportsnet’s Rory Boylen had three Leafs on his Team Canada roster when he pencilled in potential line combinations and defensive pairings. Sorry, Mitch Marner, John Tavares and Morgan Reilly don’t make our team. The idolization of the Leafs never stops.
Why doesn’t Coyotes defenceman Jeff Chychrun get more love as a potential member of Team Canada? The kid is a stud. I’d be choosing him ahead of several other names including Morgan Reilly.
At the start of the season, goaltending remained a big question mark in Edmonton. Once Mike Smith was placed on LTIR, the concern only mounted. Fortunately for the Oilers, Mikko Koskinen has stepped up and is enjoying a major bounce-back season. Koskinen is 11-2 with a 2.88 GAA and a .912 save percentage. Backup Stuart Skinner has also held up well. He’s 2-3 with a 2.44 GAA and a .928 save percentage.
Prediction: Next coach to be fired in the NHL – Philadelphia Flyers Alain Vigneault. No way he lasts the season. Vigneault may beat Travis Green to the exits.
We’ve been big boosters of the Winnipeg Jets for several years now. Perhaps it’s the result of being influenced by all my buddies in Vancouver who are Winnipeg ex-pats. Watching the Jets this season, you get the feeling there is something still missing. Overall team speed seems to be an issue. Despite a couple of major additions to the blueline, zone exits can be an adventure. The power-play should be a major weapon and it’s running 18th in the league. The penalty kill is a disaster. It’s currently 30th. Pretty hard to be consistent when your special teams are that poor.
Los Angeles Kings forward Brendan Lemieux was slapped with a five-game suspension for biting the hand of Senators forward Brady Tkachuk. Yes, Lemieux is the son of former Canadiens mental midget Claude Lemieux. The kumquat doesn’t fall far from the tree. Being a little shit apparently runs in the family.
Speaking of scumbags, Chief Rat Brad Marchand was hit with a three-game suspension for slew-footing the Canucks Oliver Ekman-Larsson. When is this weasel going to get his due?
Speaking of pea-brains, we should not be surprised Red Wings forward Tyler Bertuzzi was placed in COVID-10 protocol. Bertuzzi is the NHL’s only unvaccinated player. He’s going to miss at least five games. I wonder how his teammates feel about that? Due to his unvaccinated status, Bertuzzi has been unable to travel across the border and play any games in Canada.
The New Jersey Devils gifted Jack Hughes a new eight-year, $64 million dollar extension. It’s quite the bounty for a kid who’s put up 55 points in 119 games and is coming off a dislocated shoulder. Doesn’t seem like a sound investment. We will see.
Kudos to Dallas coach Rick Bowness who coached game 2,500 this week. That’s more than any other coach in NHL history. Bowness is one of the true ‘nice guys’ in sports.
In case you missed it, Architectural Digest featured Connor McDavid’s Edmonton home in a recent issue. The sterile, antiseptic three-story enclave was designed by McDavid’s live-in girlfriend Lauren Kyle. We suspect the lovely Lauren craved the attention and recognition of the magazine spread. Frankly, living in Deadmonton is a fate worse than death regardless of the surroundings. Tone deaf Connor and Miss Kyle should work on their timing. They might want to check out the lineups at the Edmonton Food Bank with the Alberta economy in a shambles. I’m sure all of those unfortunate people didn’t want to see McDavid flaunting his tony abode. We only hope Connor has a prenup.
Hapless in Seattle – After a decade of providing highly entertaining football, the Seahawks are almost unwatchable. They were averaging a league-low 55 offensive snaps per game and then had only 47 against Washington. There’s no reason to tune in.
With the Seahawks season in the dumpster, the team needs to start charting the path forward. Seattle has only six selections in the 2022 NFL draft. The cupboard needs stocking. The Seahawks are in great shape under the salary cap with a projected $55 million in space to fill several gaping holes on the roster. Under Pete Carroll and John Schneider, the team has been reluctant to spend big in free agency but this may be the off-season where it changes. Sitting out the first wave of free agency, normally a certainty, may not be a luxury the Seahawks can afford. Without a 2022 first-round pick, the Seahawks may have no choice.
Seattle has a number of notable starters on expiring contracts including both offensive tackles, Duane Brown and Brandon Shell. The list also includes a pair of running backs, Alex Collins and Rashaad Penny, and a pair of tight ends, Gerald Everett and Will Dissly. On defense, there’s D.J. Reed, Rasheem Green, Quandre Diggs, Al Woods, Ryan Neal and Bryan Mone. When you look at the Seahawk position groups, the Seahawks have a big-time need at cornerback and left tackle, two premium positions that are not exactly easy to fill. If Russell Wilson forces a trade, the task just gets much more difficult. The window of contention is closed in Seattle. Time to clean house and start the rebuild in earnest.
NFL Notebook – Can someone please explain how the Baltimore Ravens can beat the Cleveland Browns when Lamar Jackson throws four interceptions? How about the Calgary Stampeders? The Saskatchewan Roughriders turn it over four times yet still knock off the Stamps in last weekend’s CFL West playoff game. That stuff should never happen!
Reason #999 that you don’t invest premium draft capital in a running back. New York Giants Saquon Barkley has played a grand total of nine games since the opening of the 2020 season. He’s averaged 32.4 yards rushing per game. Barkley was the second overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft out of Penn State.
No sooner had we thrown a bouquet Cam Newton’s way than he craps the bed. Cam the Sham turned in a disastrous performance for Carolina in a game at Miami last Sunday. He completed 5 of 21 with a pair of interceptions during the second quarter alone. It was the most inaccurate day by a quarterback since 2004. When you are grading out along side Joey Harrington of the Detroit Lions, you’ve hit rock bottom.
Is there a worse organization in football than the New York Jets? They refused to bring in a veteran quarterback in the off-season and instead, threw top draft pick Zach Wilson into the fire. After Wilson was predictably hurt, the Jets went out and acquired retread Joe Flacco. The Jets were apparently unaware that Flacco was unvaccinated. He’s basically been unavailable to play since the trade. Standard operating procedure for the Jets.
The NFL rarely makes the right call when it comes to discipline. Regardless of how anyone feels about vaccine mandates, the three-game slap on the wrist to Bucs serial offender Antonio Brown for submitting a fake vaccination card is a complete joke. Falsifying a vaccine document is a felony in some states yet the NFL treats it like a misdemeanour. It’s callous but this is the NFL. The league should be reviewing every player’s vax card to determine how widespread this may be. The NFL doesn’t care about health and safety. Never did. Never will.
Drunken Sailors – Major League Baseball, at least the teams with a savings account, went on another unprecedented free agent spending spree. The frenzy continued unabated until midnight Wednesday when MLB owners invoked a lockout as the current collective bargaining agreement with the players came to a close. Based on history, it’s anyone’s guess when a new agreement will be reached and if the 2022 season will even start on time.
There was certainly lots of action before the lockout began. The good news for Blue Jay fans is they won’t have to look at Robbie Ray in the skin-tight pants for the next five years. Seattle Mariner fans will have that honour. The Jays said goodbye to all three of their premium free agents. Ray, Steven Matz and Marcus Semien signed for a combined $334 million. Too rich for my taste! The trio made $31.3 million combined last season. They will earn $59 million next season. Semien’s seven-year, $175 million dollar deal with the Texas Rangers was a head-shaker. It’s the most money paid to a player 31+ years old along with the 10-year deal given to Robinson Cano and we know how that worked out. The Jays said a flat-out NO to the seven-year term and we can’t blame them.
The Texas Rangers have spent $561.2 million in the off-season so far including deals for Semien and Dodgers shortstop Cory Seager. Odd for a team that is so far from contention.
After losing Matz and concerned about potentially losing Ray, the Blue Jays pivoted quickly and reached an agreement with Giants starter Kevin Gausman on a five-year, $110 million dollar contract. Gausman indicated he was willing to sign before the looming lockout date while Ray said he was willing to wait. The Jays didn’t want to get left holding the bag. If they passed on Gausman and Ray went in another direction, the Jays would be left without a frontline starter. At that point, the decision was clear. Their comparables are almost identical. Ray and Gausman are both 30. Ray’s ERA last season was 2.84. Gausman’s was 2.81. Both had a 1.04 WHIP. Gausman has developed a filthy splitter to go with a fastball that plays up in the zone. Our bet is Gausman will end up being the better signing.
From the Blue Jays standpoint, the best thing about MLB free agency season to date is none of the prized free agents have signed with the Yankees or the Red Sox. From the Jays perspective, that’s great news.
Max Scherzer inked a ridiculous three-year, $130 million dollar pact with the New York Mets. Scherzer will earn $43.3 million next season which is more than the projected rosters of the Pittsburgh Pirates ($40.2) and the Baltimore Orioles ($37.0). By the time the Oakland A’s get finished shedding salary, the deal will also likely be higher than the A’s payroll as well.
Tiger in the Tank – It looks as though we have reached the epilogue for Tiger Woods. He admitted as much in his first news conference since his February car accident. When Tiger says he cannot see himself ever being a full-time golfer again, we need to take his word for it. He’s 45 now and has gone through five back and five knee surgeries.
It’s definitely the end of an era. Sure, he may play again. He’s got a standing appointment every April at Augusta National. But forget about the PGA Tour. When you almost have your leg amputated, you don’t just jump back into tournament golf. Tiger has fashioned some of the most amazing comebacks in history. Don’t expect another one.
The Joe Schultz Quote of the Week – Early in his career with the New York Rangers, goalie Lorne “Gump” Worsley, regularly faced 40-50 shots a night. The Rangers were terrible. The Gumper was asked: “Which team gives you the most trouble?” His reply? “The New York Rangers.”
Accused by Rangers coach Phil Watson of having a beer belly, Gump relied “Just goes to show you what he knows. I only drink Johnny Walker Red.”
Leftovers – The Edmonton Elks cleaned house as soon as the season ended. They’ve brought in former BC Lions boss Wally Buono on a short-term contract to help clean up the mess. Wally is a legend in the CFL but he didn’t exactly leave the Lions in great shape.
YouTube Feature Artist – If the name Carl Verheyen sounds familiar, you may know him as the lead guitarist for the British rock group Supertramp. He got discovered by the band during a recording session in L.A. in 1985. Verheyen is 67 now and well-know in the Los Angeles area as a first-rate session guitarist. In fact, Verheyen has been one of L.A.’s top “first-call” session players for nearly 40 years.
In 2017, Verheyen released an outstanding album called Essential Blues. Here’s some great behind the scenes video of the recording of that album.
From Essential Blues, have a listen to Verheyen’s version of Someday After a While.
Check out this fantastic version of You Don’t Love Me recorded in 2018. There’s no accompanying video but turn up the volume, the guitar and piano work is brilliant. Definitely one of the best tunes we’ve come across this year.
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