Under Further Review – Douglas Smith with Chief Editor Bill Morphy and contributors Jordan Moss, Peter Hucul, Howard Steiss, Bill Myles and Glen Myles. This week, we weigh in on the Super Bowl. Bo goes to Brooklyn. Tocchet talks tough. And the Donald’s a true champ.
Super Bowl 57 – Did you really think Andy Reid was going to get out-coached by Nick Sirianni? Did you really think Pat Mahomes was going to be outplayed by Jalen Hurts? No chance. As soon as we saw Sirianni crying during the US national anthem, we knew it was all over for the Eagles.
The field was a disgrace. The head groundskeeper was the same guy who’s handled the job for every Super Bowl since 1967. He’s 93 years old. He was in charge of getting the field into top playing condition. God bless him but you might want to put this guy out to groom another pasture. The field conditions were atrocious and could have been the difference in the game.
Heading into Sunday, all we heard is how good the Eagles were and why they were the favourites. Their offensive line was the best in football. The defensive line had 77 sacks this season and would dominant the game. Well, the Eagles pass rush never got near Pat Mahomes. It was the Chiefs O-line that dominated the game. KC rushed for 158 yards. No one mentioned all week that the Eagles rush defense had been vulnerable all season.
With his second Super Bowl win in four years as a starter, Mahomes is building a resume that is sure to become one of the best in NFL history. No team in the league executes inside the 10-yard line like the Chiefs. The Eagles looked completely confused on two KC touchdowns that came inside the ten. Made it look easy. After getting dominated in time of possession in the first half, the Chiefs put up 24 second-half points to pull out the late comeback win.
Officiating continues to be a big problem for the NFL. The catch by Eagles receiver Devonta Smith in the first half should never have been overturned. The second half fumble by the Eagles that led to a second Chiefs defensive score should never have been ruled a non-catch. The guy caught the call, turned up field, got hit and dropped the ball. What evidence do you need?
Expect to see these two teams back in the Super Bowl again. The Eagles have two first-round picks in the 2023 NHL Draft. The Chiefs have 12 picks in the seven-round draft. These teams know what they are doing and they both should only be better next season.
Bo knows Brooklyn – On the surface, the return for captain Bob Horvat looks somewhat underwhelming. It was a deal that had to be made. Backed into a salary cap corner, the Canucks had no choice but to trade Horvat. The Canucks get three pieces including a first-round draft pick but the biggest win is they avoid another massive, long-term contract. After next season, the team will have some cap flexibility and that’s the most important factor.
The New York Islanders immediately signed Horvat to an eight-year, $8.5 million dollar per season extension. Isles GM Lou Lamoriello immediately quipped, “It’s too long and it’s too much money.” Lou’s right. You have to think that deal won’t age well. The contract would have absolutely handcuffed the Canucks.
The Canucks now have three first-round picks over the next two seasons. They would be wise to try and recoup the second-round pick they sent to Chicago when they unloaded Jason Dickinson. It’s time for the Canucks to get serious about significantly improving the team’s prospect pool. Restocking the blueline is going to be incredibly challenging. The misguided, impatient and wasteful approach has got to stop. Maybe the Horvat deal signals a turning point for the franchise. In the past, the team has shown little ability to learn from its mistakes.
This is a major renovation project. Anyone who thinks otherwise is sadly mistaken. With the season-ending ACL injury to Ilya Mikheyev, there’s no better time for the Canucks to pull the plug on the season. The Canucks rarely do anything creative. This is a team that’s never had the common sense to weaponize cap space. They have never taken advantage of the trade deadline and targeted contending teams anxious to make deadline additions at high prices. Draft picks are usually going out the door, not in. The Canucks AHL team has rarely been in contention where young prospects could be playing in high stakes games and learning how to win. The damage inflicted by Jim Benning in his eight years in Vancouver may be felt for a decade. He will sit beside Mike Milbury as the worst general manager in NHL history.
Canucks Notebook – You could kind of figure the Canucks would get a bump following the latest coaching change. The narrative around the team is all about building structure and creating accountability. Sounds good but getting the current roster of Canucks to play with more structure, which presumably means playing better defense, is akin to putting a square peg in a round hole. It took Rick Tocchet all of two days before calling the team ‘soft’. How can a team using borderline NHL goalies, borderline NHL defensemen and a bunch of offense-first forwards suddenly play lock-down defense? Not happening! Unless there’s a miraculous turnaround, do you really think the fans will embrace the new coach?
This is a team without an identity, plain and simple. Tocchet saw the fundamental issues immediately. “When you wear a Canuck jersey, what team are they?” Tocchet told assembled media. “What’s the identity? That’s my big thing: when you play the Canucks, what type of team are they? Hard team to play against? Smart team? Selfless team? Those are the attributes you want, that I want to find for the Canuck logo. That’s something we’ve got to find here.”
Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin weighed in with the same tenor addressing the team’s identity and culture. “To be honest, identity has been missing on our team,” said Allvin. “It’s hard to kind of predict night in and night out what you’re going to get from our group and, moving forward, that’s something we’ve got to set a stamp on here. Again, we’re 27th in the league. We’re not playing well. There is a lot of things that we need to correct here. Part of it is . . . finding an identity and finding out what kind of group we have.”
Team speed is a major issue. All you had to do is watch the Canucks face their expansion cousins in Seattle just prior to the all-star break to witness how far the team has to go before playing at the kind of pace necessary to handle the NHL’s top teams.
NHL Notebook – No team has made greater strides in the NHL this season than the Buffalo Sabres. They will likely miss the playoffs for the 12th straight season but there’s no denying the progress. Sabres GM Kevyn Adams says he doesn’t want to jeopardize the long-term plan for the organization by going big at this year’s trade deadline. The Sabres have a ton of cap space and could dangle any of three second-round picks in this year’s NHL draft if they wish to add.
The Vegas Golden Knights need to figure out a way to get Jack Eichel going. He came out of the gate this season with 25 points in the team’s first 22 games but had only five points in all of January and three came in one game. This is what happens when Mark Stone is injured and your linemates are Paul Cotter and Michael Amadio. Do you think the Golden Knights regret giving up the farm for Eichel? Five Sabres – Tage Thompson, Rasmus Dahlin, Jeff Skinner, Dylan Cozens and Alex Tuch (who went to Buffalo in the Eichel deal) – have more points this season than Eichel.
While it’s been a season from hell for the Canucks, the Seattle Kraken have been the surprise of the Pacific Division and unexpectedly, very competitive. The story has been balanced scoring. The Kraken don’t have a single player with more than 40 points, but they have 14 players between 20 and 40. Ten players have 10 goals or more.
Who would have thought the Boston Bruins would be so dominant this season with the same core that lifted the Stanley Cup twelve years ago? Try keeping Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Krecji together for that long with today’s tight salary cap. It’s unheard of in today’s game and will likely never be repeated. Every hockey pundit, including UFR, predicted the Bruins would have to get on with a full rebuild. The Bruins front office deserves a ton of credit. Landing David Pastrnak and Charlie McAvoy with late first-round picks allowed the Bruins to keep the program rolling. Yes, you can ‘retool’ on the fly but you need to land difference-makers in the draft. You know – players like Olli Juolevi and Jake Virtanen. By the way, the Bruins goal differential this season is +81. That’s +37 better than every other team in the NHL.
All three of Ottawa’s first-round picks from the 2020 NHL draft, Jake Sanderson, Tim Stutzle and Ridley Greig, are now in the Senators lineup. What a haul! This is how you get a rebuilding team turned around. Are you paying attention Canucks?
It’s a yearly tradition at the trade deadline. Every player on the trade list is destined for Toronto at some point. The Leafs should be targeting size and toughness. Otherwise, they are destined to make another early playoff exit. The Leafs should be looking at Joel Edmundson of the Canadiens, Vladislav Gavrikov of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Lawson Crouse of the Arizona Coyotes. That’s the type of player needed. When the referees put away the whistles, you have to be able to push back. Regardless of what happens, you can be sure whoever the Leafs acquire, he will have played for Kyle Dubas in the Sault.
From the “We Warned You” Department comes word that Leafs goalie Matt “The Mutt” Murray is out long-term with an ankle injury. That’s a real bulletin! You couldn’t find a single GM (save for Dubas) who would have touched this guy last summer. Everyone knew he was damaged goods. How did Murray pass the Leafs medical? He’s on the books for another year at $4.687 million. Sens GM Pierre Dorion must have done backflips when the Leafs agreed to take him off their hands, even with about $1.5 million in salary retention. Dubas is justifiably on the hotseat. The decision to acquire ‘Tin Man’ Murray is a fireable offense on its own.
We’ve said it before and we will say it again – no team in pro sports has a higher opinion of themselves, yet has done so little, as the Toronto Maple Leafs. No other NHL team wants to help them which explains why they continue to get fleeced every time they make a deal. In 2020, the Leafs drafted Russian forward Rodion Amirov with the 15th overall pick in the first round. No other team had him rated nearly that high. The Leafs – being the ‘smartest guy in the room’ – chose Amirov anyway. The next four picks, in order, were Kaiden Guhle by Montreal, Luka Reichel by Chicago, Dawson Mercer by New Jersey and Braden Schneider by the New York Rangers. All four players are tracking to have outstanding NHL careers. Tragically, Amirov will likely never play a game in the NHL. He continues to deal with a brain tumour that has acquired ongoing treatments.
Here come the defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche. They won seven of eight heading into the NHL All-Star break. The Avs have been banged up all season. Defensemen Josh Manson and Bowen Byram are back skating. Captain Gabriel Landeskog is expected back in early March. Look out for the Avs if they can add a solid second-line centreman at the deadline because all the key pieces are still there.
Unless the Avs do some serious business at the trade deadline, you could argue that there may be five teams in the Eastern Conference better than any team in the West. Don’t sleep on those Rangers! After acquiring Vladimir Tarasenko from the St. Louis Blues, the Rangers may just have the best group of top-nine forwards in the league. They’ve got an outstanding group of defensemen led by Adam Fox and Jacob Trouba and arguably, the top goaltender in the league in Igor Shesterkin.
Timo Meier is now the top forward available on the market. He’s only 25 and headed to another 30-goal season. Meier would be a great pickup for a team like the New Jersey Devils with the cap space to sign him to a long-term extension.
The Turd Jersey – This weekend, the Montreal Canadiens won for the first time wearing their powder blue Reverse Retro jerseys. They were 0-6-1 to that point and the hockey gods were clearing sending a message. Can you imagine the Rocket prancing around the Forum in the Canadiens baby blue third jerseys? What an absolute disgrace that would be. Talk about demeaning a once-proud organization. It’s no surprise the Habs had failed to win while wearing these god-awful unis. It’s called Karma. The fans don’t like them. The players don’t like them. What evidence do you need? Get rid of them. Burn them at the corner of St. Catherines and Atwater. Can you imagine the New York Yankees wearing a third jersey? It’s like the Yankees turning up one afternoon in pink uniforms. It’s another NHL money-grab and the Canadiens should have been smart enough to say no. They didn’t and it’s caused the organization nothing but grief. Deservedly so.
The Gamblification of Canada – CBC’s The Fifth Estate, the network’s flagship news magazine, recently aired a documentary on the state of the gambling industry in Canada entitled The Gamblification of Canada. You can watch the full episode by clicking on the link below.
Since online betting was legalized in Canada, it’s become a $12 billion dollar a year industry. That’s expected to grow to $28 billion within five years. More than $80 billion dollars was wagered in the U.S. last year. We’ve seen a rapid proliferation of betting sites. In Ontario alone, there are 67 gaming operations. The number of legal gambling sites registered in Canada has created an advertising tsunami. The immersive dangers of sports betting are inescapable for vulnerable sports fans.
The NFL, NBA and MLB do not allow active players to appear in commercials promoting sports betting. Yet, here in Canada, active NHL players have taken up the highest profile in ads across all media. Wayne Gretzky and Connor McDavid are front and centre in ads for BetMGM, one of the most popular betting sites. Say what you want, it’s hard to argue that being a gambling pitchman hasn’t cheapened the Great One’s legacy.
Former HNIC host Dave Hodge says the ads on NHL games, “are prostitution of what should be valuable time.” BetMGM reported 70 million transactions in the first month of operations in Canada. In Great Britain, where there are a reported 1,400 gambling addicts, the government has recently banned sports betting ads that use sports or entertainment celebrities.
The impact of legalized betting is undeniable. There are an estimated 400 annual gambling addict suicides each year in the U.S. How can we not expect anything different here in Canada?
Seahawks Notebook – The NFL free agent season will come quickly now that the Super Bowl is over. The salary cap is going up by $16 million to a record $224.8 million. The Seahawks have the seventh-most cap space ($31 million). They could create more by cutting veteran defensive tackle Shelby Harris ($12.2 million) and guard Gabe Jackson ($11.2 million).
It’s time for the Seahawks to Go Big or Go Home when it comes to signing free agents. No more Kerry Hyder’s. Their list of free agent busts is long. The team is much better off spending big on one impact player. Think DeRon Payne of the Washington Dependers ‘er Commanders. If he’s not franchised, then the Seahawks should be ready to jump in. Payne will be costly but he would have a huge impact in the middle of their defensive line which is a big area of need.
If Payne is not available, then the Hawks should look to trade for DeForest Buckner of the Indianapolis Colts. He has two years remaining on his contact at close to $20 million per season but the guy is super disruptive. Buckner is 6-7 and 300 pounds. No more stop gaps. Find someone who going to be a difference maker. Couple Payne or Buckner with a top pass rusher selected from this year’s draft and the defensive line is changed overnight. An area of weakness becomes an area of strength. Add in a high motor linebacker in the second round and the front seven is much improved.
NFL Notebook – The dumbest franchise in the NFL has to be the Chicago Bears. Prior to the 2017 NFL Draft, the Bears told Pat Mahomes’ Dad that they would selecting his son with the third overall pick. Mahomes had a great meeting with Bears staff and came away believing he would be a Chicago Bear. In one of the most unfathomable moves in NFL history, the Bears reversed field and, inexplicably, gave up a small fortune to move up one spot and select Mitch Trubisky second overall. The Bears have been in a freefall ever since. You can’t even quantify that kind of stupidity.
Mahomes now has ten post-season wins in five seasons. The Jacksonville Jaguars have won eight playoff games in 28 seasons. The Cleveland Browns have won seven in 54 seasons. The Cards have won six in 57 years. The Houston Texans have four wins in 21 seasons. The Detroit Lions have one post-season win in 57 seasons.
Is there any doubt that Joe Burrow-Pat Mahomes is the new Tom Brady-Peyton Manning quarterback rivalry in the NFL? Watching Burrow and Mahomes is pure entertainment. Both are master craftsmen and completely unflappable.
If there’s a stat that predicts quarterback success in the NFL, it’s quick-passing rate. That’s defined as throws in under 2.5 seconds. Sort of the opposite of Russell Wilson. In the Bills-Bengals playoff game, Joe Burrow averaged 2.50 seconds on his throws and faced a QB pressure rate of 21.6 percent. Josh Allen, on the other hand, took an average of 3.2 seconds to get the ball out. His pressure rate was nearly 40 percent. See the difference? According to NextGen, Burrow had the second-best rate this season of quick successful throws (199) behind only Tom Brady (225).
Howie Roseman of the Philadelphia Eagles may be the best general manager in the NFL. Roseman absolutely stiffed the New Orleans Saints prior to last year’s NFL draft. The Saints were hot and heavy to have multiple picks in the top 20. The Eagles sent the 16th and 19th picks to New Orleans who then traded up from 16 to 11 to draft Ohio State wide receiver Chris Olave. Here’s the haul the Eagles ended up landing:
2022: The Eagles retained the 13th overall pick and selected Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis. The Eagles also had the 18th pick and dealt it to Tennessee for wideout A.J. Brown, who was the impact player the Eagles needed to pair with DeVonta Smith. Brown was signed to a long-term deal, then delivered 1,496 receiving yards, fourth in the league.
2023: This year, Philadelphia will have the 10th pick overall (thanks Saints) and their own late first-rounder between 28th and 31st overall.
2024: The Eagles will have three picks in the first two rounds, their own plus the Saints’ choice in round two. To come up with all of that plus A.J. Brown is amazing work.
We don’t often talk about place-kickers but how about Robbie Gould of the 49’ers? In his playoff career, Gould has made all 67 placekicks he has attempted. Not one miss – field goals and extra points. That’s remarkable.
There’s a new sheriff in town in Denver. Sean Payton will reportedly receive $18 million per season for the next five years to take over the moribund Donkeys. Step aside Russ! You are no longer running the show. Wilson had better toe the line because Payton is no nonsense. There’s no question who’s now in charge.
Remember former Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson? He earned close to $50 million during his NFL career. He claims to have saved about 83 percent of his career earnings by being frugal. Johnson says he regularly bought fake jewelry instead of blowing millions on the real bling.
Smart NFL team don’t spend big money on running backs. This year, the franchise tag on running backs is just over $10 million. That the least expensive number for any position group in football, save for special teams. Expect the Raiders and Giants to tag Josh Jacobs and Saquon Barkley rather than offering rich extensions. You can also expect the Raiders to cut quarterback Derek Carr this week. Otherwise, they will have to guarantee him $40.4 million for next season.
The Name Game – We never get tired of the colourful names that pop up in professional sports. In honour of Craphonso Thorpe, a one-time Kansas City Chiefs draft pick, here’s our list of favourites names that are likely draft picks in the upcoming NFL Draft in April: Hendon Hooker, Dontayvion Wicks, Olu Oluwatimi, Gervon Dexter Sr. (shouldn’t you be Jr.?), Henry To’o To’o, DeMarvion Overshown, SirVocea Dennis, Anfernee Orji, Kyu Blu Kelly, Puka Nacua, Juice Scruggs, Sidy Sow, YaYa Diaby, Habakkuk Baldonado, Micah Baskerville and Gervarrious Owens. There’s an Arquon, Roschon, Kayschon and Tashawn. There’s a Tre’Vius, Jartavius and a Gervarrius. It’s every announcer’s dream.
MLB Notebook – Happy to see Bo Bichette and the Blue Jays avoid salary arbitration for the second straight year. Bichette signed for three seasons and a total of $33.6 million. Would have liked to see a much longer deal that would have taken Bichette past free agency. Something tells me Bo is as good as gone when the new deal concludes.
The World Series champion Houston Astros made a very sharp decision in hiring Dana Brown as general manager. Brown began his rise to prominence in 2002 when he was named scouting director of the Montreal Expos. It was Brown who gave Alex Anthopoulos his first job in baseball when he hired Anthopoulos as an intern scouting coordinator with the Expos. Anthopoulos would twice return the favour. He hired Brown in 2009 when he was named Blue Jays GM. When Anthopoulos joined the Atlanta Braves in 2018, it wasn’t long before Brown joined him there. Brown becomes baseball’s only black general manager, a travesty in itself.
NBA Trade Deadline – Surprised to see the Raptors play it so conservative at the NBA trade deadline. Jakob Poeltl was a nice pickup to fill the massive void in the middle but most fans were expecting more. Masai Ujiri has always considered the trade deadline to be a joker’s paradise, choosing instead to do the heavy lifting in the summer. However, with Poeltl, Fred VanVleet and Gary Trent Jr. all heading to free agency, the Raptors are sitting in a very vulnerable position if they choose to walk.
Is there a bigger loony-tune in sports than Kyrie Irving? Somebody needs to give this guy some meds. He had the audacity of calling out the Brooklyn Nets and demand a trade after sitting on his butt during Covid because he refused to get vaccinated. He only plays when the spirit moves him. It’s Dallas’ problem now.
If anyone can make sense of the NBA trade deadline, you are bordering on genius. NBA GM’s throw draft picks around like gummy bears. Some of the deals at this year’s deadline included 2029 first-round draft picks. Can you believe it? The value of a second-round pick is almost worthless.
Surprised the Miami Heat did not unload Kyle Lowry at the deadline. Lowry’s value is at an all-time low. In his last ten games, Lowry has averaged less than seven points a game. He’s shot under 30 percent. It’s been a rapid fall.
With the deadline passing, you would have to think the Phoenix Suns are the clear-cut favourite in the Western Conference. Adding Kevin Durant to the nucleus of Deandre Ayton, Chris Paul and Devin Booker makes the Suns very formidable.
The Paulina Chronicles – Well, it was a good excuse to get all dressed up. Or all undressed-up. Paulina Gretzky recently threw a birthday party for her famous Dad. The Great One must be proud. The New York Post is more than happy to give Paulina a platform as long as she provides them with the naughty goods.
Leftovers – Huge week for a couple of Canadians on the PGA Tour. Nick Taylor and Adam Hadwin both had strong performances at the WM Phoenix Open. Taylor did not look out of place playing in the final group with Scottie Scheffler and Jon Rahm, the number two and number three-ranked players in the world. Taylor shot a final round six-under 65 to finish alone in second spot, two shots behind Scheffler. With the win, Scheffler moved ahead of Rory McIlroy and back to World #1. The runner-up finish earned Taylor $2.1 million. Hadwin finished in tenth spot, his third top 10 finish of the season.
It’s a miracle! Donald Trump has won the club championship at his home course at Trump International in Florida. He somehow seized the title despite missing the opening round while attending an event in North Carolina. Seems Donald just decided to record a round he shot earlier in the week as his first day’s score. It immediately put him into a 5-point lead.
Trump has long maintained that he has never cheated at golf and that he has come by his many club championships honestly. In 2019, golf writer Rick Reilly disputed the then-president’s claims, saying “This guy cheats like a mafia accountant.” According to Trump, he’s won 20 club championships. Reilly says “that’s 100 percent a lie. Whenever he opens a new golf course, because he owns 14 and operates five more, he plays the first club champion by himself and declares that the club championship and puts his name on the wall.” By his own humble admission, Trump says he’s “always been the best at sports.” Spoken like a true leader.
Spotify Tracks of the Week – Check out a band called Dustbowl Revival. We recommend a couple of tracks off their self-title album – Leaving Time and Honey I Love You featuring Keb’ Mo’.
John Illsley is a former member of Dire Straits. Have a listen to Double Time from his solo release Coming Up for Air.
British musician Ian Hunter is best known for fronting the rock band Mott the Hoople and as a sideman and arranger for David Bowie during the Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and Spiders from Mars period. Check out his album Defiance Part 1. We recommend the track Bed of Roses featuring Ringo Starr.
If you are a fan of Willie Nelson, we love his new release Busted off the album Don’t Know a Thing About Love.
There’s a collaboration out featuring Jim Garrett, Claudio Citarella and Oreste Sbarra. Have a listen to the song Baby I Love You. It’s a keeper.
The complete Paul Carrack & The SWR Swing Band album Don’t Wait Too Long is now out on the market. Check out Cryin’ Won’t Help You, Trust In Me and Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying.
The beautiful jazz songstress Kari Kirkland has a new single out. Have a listen to I Can’t Help It.
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