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Under Further Review – This week, we Pray for Jay, applaud the twins, shop around the NHL with the trade deadline fast approaching and still find time to throw some dirt on the Astros for stealing away a World Series title. 

Pray for Jay – If you have played hockey as long as I have, you know the dangers. I have been witness to two near deaths where defibrillators saved the lives of players in cardiac arrest. I know of at least two other hockey playing buddies who I currently play with who have been revived. My great friend Brent is still playing after a near death experience on the ice and I couldn’t be more proud of him. Yes, two goals on Thursday must feel pretty good eh, Brent?

Which leads us to Jay Bouwmeester. The St. Louis Blues revealed on Friday that Bouwmeester had a successful Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator procedure to restore the heart’s normal rhythm. The procedure was performed in Anaheim in the wake of his collapse on the bench during a game against the Ducks on Tuesday night.  Medical personnel used a defibrillator to revive him before he was taken to hospital. The game was postponed shortly after the incident.  What the future holds for Jay is uncertain but you can be certain he has played his last NHL game.

We forget that Jay was one of the more heralded defense prospects in NHL history. Yes, there were comparisons to that fellow named Orr. He was the third pick of the 2002 NHL draft by the Florida Panthers behind Rick Nash and goaltender Kari Lehtonen. Everyone thought Bouwmeester was on his way to a Hall of Fame career. Sure, he didn’t become a generational talent but he’s still forged a very solid career. Jay currently sits in 9th place on the all-time NHL consecutive games played list with 737. You could count on him being in the lineup every night.

Bouwmeester has had a star-crossed NHL career. He didn’t play a single playoff game in his first 10 years in the league. He was bounced in the first round in his first three playoff series and had only 18 games of playoff experience after 13 seasons. It’s why winning the Stanley Cup last year with St. Louis must have meant so much to Jay. His health is most important now.  If he is forced to retire, he can hold his head high and know he had an outstanding NHL career and for my two cents, he’s still the best choice out of that 2002 draft. Best wishes Jay Bouwmeester!

Daniel & Henrik – It was great to see the Canucks sweater retirement ceremony for Daniel and Henrik Sedin. If you look back at their careers, one thing that stands out for me is how long it took fans and media to truly appreciation the greatness and uniqueness of the Sedin twins.  Perhaps it was a hangover from Don Cherry’s often repeated ‘Chicken Swede’ rants but there was no questioning their toughness. Daniel or Henrik hold every major Canucks record including games played, goals, assists, points and game winning goals. Henrik is currently sitting in 10th place on the all-time consecutive games played list with 679. They will go down as the greatest Canucks of all-time and it is certainly well-deserved.

Trevor Linden was interviewed between periods on Sportsnet during Monday night’s game against Nashville and if you read between the lines, his comments spoke volumes. When asked to talk about the Canucks development this season, Linden credited the coaching staff and Judd Brackett for the team’s recent draft success. There was no mention of General Manager Jim Benning or owner Francesco Aquilini.

After getting burned by the signing of Louie Eriksson during free agent frenzy in 2016, Linden was loathe to hand out more pricey contracts in the summer of 2018. When the Canucks insisted on signing Jay Beagle, Antoine Roussel, Tim Schaller among others that summer, the front office rift only grew and Linden ended up leaving the organization. As things turned out, Linden was right because the Canucks current cap mess is of their own doing. Linden’s managerial approach is similar to Joe Sakic in Colorado.  Slow and steady wins the race! The Avalanche are sitting with tons of cap space heading into this year’s trade deadline and with the long-term injury to Nazem Kadri are in great position to fill the void. That’s prudent management!

Dance Partners – With the NHL trade deadline a little over a week away, it’s time to look at potential moves by Canadian NHL teams. In the West, you have four teams that look like solid picks for the playoffs – St. Louis, Colorado, Dallas and Vancouver. One team among Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Arizona and Vegas is going to be on the sidelines come playoff time. The question becomes – what are the Oilers, Flames and Jets willing to do to boost their playoff chances? Let’s dive into it.

Edmonton – The loss of Connor McDavid for two to three weeks changes everything for the Oilers. The 7-game suspension to Zack Kassian on Friday didn’t exactly help matters. Just holding on and playing .500 hockey while McDavid is out may not be good enough. I don’t see Edmonton surrendering a first round pick to secure some scoring help up front but I do anticipate GM Ken Holland trying to do something. One likely target is Red Wings forward Andreas Athanasiou. His speed would play well with McDavid. Holland is familiar with Athanasiou but what are you willing to pay for a guy who’s minus 41 in 41 games this season and an RFA next summer expecting a raise? Ottawa’s Jean-Gabriel Pageau would be a nice fit in Edmonton but the Oilers may not be willing to surrender the assets needed to acquire him.

Calgary – The Flames have been unable to find any traction of late and are in desperate need of help if they want to make the playoffs. The injury to Mark Giordano has compounded their problems because they now need to add a depth defenseman in addition to scoring punch up front. Flames GM Brad Treliving desperately wants to find a dance partner. His problem is the Flames prospect pool is very thin and the Flames don’t have a lot to offer outside of draft picks. Do you really want to expend a 2020 first rounder when it could end up being in this year’s lottery?

Winnipeg – The Jets will have some room to manoeuver when Dustin Byfuglien’s contract comes off the books. It is remarkable that the Jets are even in the playoff race. Paul Maurice has done a fantastic job keeping the team afloat when you consider they have lost the entire right side of their defense from this time last year. The Jets will be shopping for a solid defenseman with term left on his contract and will be willing to offer some of their excess talent up front. Don‘t be surprised if the Jets move young forward Jack Roslovic in order to get some help on the back end. There’s no way the Jets give up a first round pick for the third straight year.

There has been talk that the Jets may be willing to part with winger Kyle Connor. To me, that’s just talk.  No chance I would trade that kid. He’s a keeper.  The Jets are reportedly in on Kings defenseman Alex Martinez but again, the cost may be prohibitive. Nice player, but the price at the deadline is usually way above what the guy is really worth.

Vancouver – Canucks GM Jim Benning has stated publicly that he is very pleased with the growth of his team this year and it would not be surprising if the Canucks stand pat at the deadline. They have little cap space so anything they do would have to be ‘money in and money out.’ The Canucks would be wise to try and shed some salary at the deadline to help alleviate some of the cap issues they are going to face this summer.

If you look at the Canucks roster, they might be able to do something with depth defensemen Jordie Benn and Troy Stecher but do you really want to monkey with the roster?  Sutter and Eriksson are unmovable. Injuries to Josh Leivo, Tyler Motte and Michael Ferland has severely limited the Canucks forward depth. Since returning from knee surgery, Antoine Roussel’s play has been largely uninspiring so the Canucks have been banking on a return to health for Ferland. However, there was late word on Friday night that he was taken out of his first rehab game in Utica with concussion-like symptoms so we can probably rule out Ferland for the remainder of the season. Talk that the Canucks may be eyeing Wayne Simmonds of the New Jersey Devils makes me nervous. I wouldn’t touch Simmonds. He can’t handle the pace and his best-before-date has definitely passed. I would rather see the Canucks sign draft prospect Tyler Madden at the end of his college season and put him into the lineup. I also like Josh Anderson of Columbus. He would be an outstanding addition for a playoff run.

One defenseman who might make some sense for the Canucks is New Westminster native Brenden Dillon of the San Jose Sharks.  He would add some bite to their backline. However, it looks like his stock is rising as we get closer to the deadline so the cost may be prohibitive. Please explain to me how Dillon is only minus one on that train wreck in San Jose while Brett Burns is minus 23. Senators veteran D-man Ron Hainsey would also make sense. If the Canucks want to shop around for some depth at center, I would take a look at Ottawa’s Chris Tierney. He’s got playoff experience and could be a nice depth piece for the right price. Every move the Canucks make needs to be weighed against future salary cap implications. The Athletic did a nice job this week of documenting the Canucks cap issues.

Toronto – The Maple Leafs have made such a goulash out of the salary cap that there’s little they can do at the deadline. They are desperate for help on the blueline and at this point, almost anything would help. One move that might also be worth considering for the Leafs is reacquiring veteran defenseman Ron Hainsey from the Senators. It may not seem like much but right now, the Leafs need to stabilize things and Hainsey is solid if unspectacular and he’s still an outstanding penalty killer.

The Leaf-loving Toronto media have the Leafs in on every player that’s on the trade market. We need to start a new weekly feature called Leaf Laughs so we can capture all the nonsensical rumours surrounding the Leafs. One rumour has the Leafs acquiring Wild defenseman Matt Dumba. The report claims the Wild could select any two forwards from among Alex Kerfoot, Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson. What they fail to mention is Minnesota GM Bill Guerin has already made it known that he wants a #1 center in return for Dumba or a solid #2 center and a first round draft choice.  As if a couple of pedestrian wingers is going to get it done.

Ottawa – The Senators need to be careful with a continued sell-off because you can’t strip your team of veterans completely.  Someone has to stick around to show the way. The problem in Ottawa is they are showing little interest in extending the contracts of some impending UFA’s. The Sens already have a bevy of extra picks in the upcoming NHL draft including two lottery picks. They also have a first place AHL team in Belleville that is filled with young prospects. It may make sense for the Senators to try and add a solid veteran or two at the deadline in exchange for UFA-to-be Jean-Gabriel Pageau.

Montreal – I maintain the Canadiens need to do a wholesale housecleaning but no one seems to be listening. The loss of Shea Weber to a long-term injury has snuffed out any faint hopes of a playoff spot so the Canadiens need to be looking long term. I would be very hesitant to deal Jeff Petry. Rock solid right-shot defensemen are the most coveted commodity in the NHL and so to even consider a trade for Petry, the Canadiens would have to be absolutely bowled over. That being said, I would sell high on Tomas Tatar and would even consider a deal for Brendan Gallagher. At some point, the Canadiens are going to have to get serious about a rebuild and it is going to have to come with some pain. Their long run of poor drafts is coming back to haunt them.

NHL Notebook – The NHL trade deadline is always a very risky proposition. History shows that deadline deals seldom pay dividends for the eventual Stanley Cup champion. When you add players late in the season, you have to be very careful with the ‘fit’. Top six forwards, for instance, very often have little impact and can actually disrupt the power-play if they are inserted into the lineup this late in the season. Be careful what you wish for! Good general managers are very cognizant of this fact and need to be very selective when making deadline deals.

What fans fail to remember is trades this late in the season can be very disruptive for any player. Families are often left behind because it’s difficult to take kids out of school.  Players sometimes end up living in a hotel room for the remainder of the season and that’s not easy. That may not see their wives for weeks or longer. It’s not so bad for young, single players but for veteran players with families it can be very difficult and their play can suffer.

If you look around the league and run down the list of players who are reportedly on the market, you have to question why some of these teams would even be shopping them. The Minnesota Wild are apparently listening to offers for defensemen Matt Dumba and Jonas Brodin. Dumba is only 25 and Brodin is just 26.  Both are outstanding players and it seems crazy to even consider trading either one of them. When you have solid defensemen, you don’t move them. Same with the New York Rangers.  Why trade Chris Kreider?  The guy is a really solid player. I would be looking to extend Kreider, not deal him.

Teams are circling around the New Jersey Devils hoping to steal away a couple of highly productive forwards for a few cents on the dollar. Kyle Palmieri and Blake Coleman both have 21 goals and better yet, both have one more year on very reasonable contracts. Palmieri earns $4.65 million while Coleman is an absolute bargain at $1.8 million. If you want to acquire either one of them, you had better come calling with a decent offer.

The ankle injury to defenseman Seth Jones is a massive gut punch for the Columbus Blue Jackets. The team has over-achieved this season and while they currently hold a wildcard playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, it will be tough to hold onto it without Jones in the lineup. Any GM will tell you that losing your #1 center, #1 defenseman or #1 goalie is very hard to overcome. John Tortorella has done has done an incredible job in Columbus and should be the leading Coach of the Year candidate. No one had the Jackets making the playoffs this year.

It’s been a tough year for bald-headed NHL coaches. John Hynes and Jim Montgomery have both been fired so if any coach is considering shaving his noggin’, it might not be advisable.

To point out how difficult it is for young players to find traction in the NHL, just look at the Anaheim Ducks.  The Ducks had high hopes this season for break-out years from three young forwards – Troy Terry, Sam Steel and Max Jones. Terry and Steel have four goals each while Jones has three. Fans and media get all riled up over young prospects but the path to success is not always linear.

Likewise, ask the Philadelphia Flyers how hard it is for young D-men to establish themselves as NHL regulars.  Robert Hagg, Samuel Morin, Philippe Myers, Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim were all born between ‘95 and ‘97 and all are still in the process of becoming solid, reliable, everyday defensemen.

The Chicago Black Hawks made several off-season deals to bolster their lineup and make a playoff push this season. Deals with Montreal for Andrew Shaw and with Buffalo for Alex Nylander have proven disastrous. The Nylander deal netted Buffalo young defenseman Henri Jokiharju and he’s been a huge positive in an otherwise depressing year for the Sabres.

You know things are bad in Nashville when Nick Bonino is out-playing and out-scoring the Predators top two centers Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen. Bonino has 17 goals and 32 points in 55 games and is plus 15.  Duchene and Johansen each have 11 goals. Duchene is minus 2 while Johansen is minus 4.

The situation in Detroit is a complete nightmare. Ken Holland could not have exited quickly enough. The Red Wings would love to make a few deals for futures at the deadline but very few of their players have any value. Valtteri Filppula has 4 goals in 57 games and is minus 38. Frans Neilsen has 3 goals and 7 points in 47 games. He was one of the many free agent busts that were signed in July of 2016. The Red Wings gave him 6 years and $31.5 million. Neilsen has two more years at $5.25 million per season.  He’s Detroit’s answer to Louie Eriksson.

Some amazing numbers from junior hockey from my intrepid co-conspirator in Ottawa. The 67’s are an astounding 27-and-1 in their last 28 games.  They are 41-and-8 overall.  They lead the league by 9 points and the Eastern Conference by 17 points. The Senators should hire the entire 67’s front office.

Prospects Pool – The Athletic has completed its rankings of the NHL’s Top Prospects.  The L.A. Kings have the #1 rated prospect pool in the league according to their evaluations. The Montreal Canadiens have the second best list of prospects. But while the Habs prospect pool is deep, it lacks what I would term ‘high impact players.’ Check it out for yourself. 

The Ottawa Senators have the 7th rated prospect pool. Like the Canadiens, the Sens may not have as many high impact prospects as some teams. But they also have one of the deepest with as many as a dozen strong looking young prospects in their system.

Shake That Thing – So no sooner than spring training opens for the Blue Jays than back-up catcher Reese McGuire gets taken into custody by Dunedin Police for allegedly exposing himself. Turns out that he was masturbating in his SUV in plain view. I say, give the kid a break. He was probably just trying to figure out a way to develop some new signs and confuse the Astros. You know, one shake is a fastball, two is a curve, and three is a slider. Could give a whole new meaning to the term shaking off a sign!

The Black Hole – As we have pointed out several times, centerfield is a huge positional need for the Blue Jays. If you look around major league baseball, more often than not, the top centerfielders are home-grown. What’s very disconcerting is the Blue Jays may have had a couple of potential candidate’s right in their own organization but foolishly chose to deal them away.

At the time, I questioned the trade in January, 2018 that sent young centerfield prospect Edward Olivares to the San Diego Padres for veteran reserve infielder Yangervis Solarte. The Jays got all of three decent months out of Solarte before he was sent packing. Meantime, the Padres appear to believe that Olivares is a legit prospect because he’s been added to their 40-man roster after slugging 18 homers and stealing 35 bases last season at Double-A.

In July 2017, the Jays traded outfielder Lane Thomas to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for international bonus pool money. According to Baseball America, Thomas “runs down balls in every direction and is a borderline plus defender with an above-average arm.” Sounds OK with me!  Thomas hit .316 in 34 big league games last season during his first call-up. There’s a chance he could be a fixture in the Cards outfield this season.

Of course, it will be a while yet before we know whether either player will be a solid, productive long-term fixture in centerfield, but it illustrates just how careful you must be in evaluating players in your own system and the patience required as they progress up the ladder.

The Jays plan to open the season with Lourdes Gurriel Jr. in feft, Randal Grichuk in center and Teoscar Hernandez in right.  This could be the worst defensive outfield in MLB history.

A Sincere Mea Culpa – Major League Baseball has been damaged beyond repair by the sign-stealing scandal.  The ramifications will linger for literally decades. The mea culpa’s by Houston Astro players upon arrival at spring training were utterly pathetic. The players were made available for interviews and the apologies were almost all identical.  The usual refrain was “I wish I had done more to stop it,” or “the players needed stronger leadership to make it stop.”  Blah, Blah, Blah! Houston owner Jim Crane was also interviewed and his acting job was better than Bob Crane of Hogan’s Heroes.  Crane offered the opinion that the sign-stealing didn’t actually affect the outcome of any games. Sure, Jim! Footnote – Jose Altuve in the 2017 playoffs: OPS was 1.541 at home, 0.497 on the road. Major League Baseball should strip the Astros of the 2017 World Series and put an asterisk in the record books to explain what happened.

Meanwhile, it looks like MLB is considering a revamp of the playoff format and the merits of adding two more wild-card teams in each league. The proposal may fly but I doubt the idea of teams selecting their opponent will have a lot of buy-in.

Hawks Off-Season Plans – This is going to be a critical off-season for the Seattle Seahawks. They have some major issues on defense that need to be addressed if they want to make a deeper playoff run. The main focus in the draft and free agency has to be the defensive line. The Seahawks are in desperate need of a pass rush and the situation is made worse by the fact three key defensive linemen – Jarran Reed, Quinton Jefferson and Jadeveon Clowney – are free agents and could sign elsewhere.

One other area I would like to see improved is tight end. Will Dissly will hopefully return strong after another season-ending injury but there’s a major need to add depth. Greg Olson of Carolina has visited Seattle already.  Hunter Henry of the L.A. Chargers is another strong possibility. It would give Russell Wilson two reliable targets at tight end. Here’s a look at some of the free agents the Seahawks could be targeting.

Give Em‘ Some Love – It looks like the Toronto Raptors are finally receiving some national attention in the United States. The Raptors record winning streak was just ended at 15 and they could be on their way to their first ever 60-win season. ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption was effusive in its praise for what the Raptors have accomplished this season.

After Kawhi Leonard walked away in the off-season, some pundits predicted the Raptors wouldn’t even make the playoffs. They have to be considered the feel-good story of the year. Don’t forget, the Raptors were 17-and-5 last year in games that Leonard missed so we should have seen this coming. One other note – if I am the Raptors I am prioritizing re-signing Fred Van Vleet in the off-season. It would cost $100+ million but he’s a perfect fit in their system and you don’t want to let him get away.

The Wunderkind – How about the reports out of Germany on Canadian soccer wunderkind Alphonso Davies!  Phonzie’s development at Bayern Munich is moving as quickly as his feet. After a move to left back earlier this season, the 19-year-old phenom is now considered among the best at the position in Europe. Bayern fans voted him player of the month for December ahead of guys like Philippe Coutinho and Robert Lewandowski. Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic said this earlier in the year: “We signed Alphonso Davies a year ago because we saw him as one of the best players of his generation. We are delighted that this is now being confirmed with every game he plays.” Wow! I am now pulling for Bayern and for Davies to lead Canada into the World Cup.

FIG JAM – I was so happy to see Abbotsford’s Nick Taylor earn his second career PGA TOUR win last weekend at Pebble Beach.  And to do it by staring down Phil Mickelson made it even sweeter. Taylor earned a healthy pay cheque but more importantly, earned a tw0-year TOUR exemption and his first visit to the Masters in Augusta.

I have never been a big Phil Mickelson fan. His nickname on TOUR pretty much tells you all you need to know about Phil.  His nickname is FIG JAM.  “F*#k I’m Good.  Just Ask Me.”

The Joe Schultz Quote of the Week – This week, we take you to Ottawa and the venerable, long-time coach of the Ottawa 67’s Brian Kilrea. Frustrated with former 67’s forward Shean Donovan, Kilrea remarked “I’m not sure if you are playing right wing for us or left wing for them.”

Music Video of the Week – One of the absolute collector’s items in any old record collection is the album “Alone Together” by Dave Mason. It was one of the first albums ever to be released on colored vinyl, in this case a swirled mixture of pink, brown and beige, which made it look like a slab of marble. I had a copy and it was treasured. The cover opened up and the record slid into a sleeve which was cool. More importantly, it was a great disc featuring the hit “Only You Know and I Know” and several other solid tunes.

Mason had a somewhat disjointed career with Traffic, a band he formed with Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi and Chris Wood in 1967.  He was involved in the first two Traffic albums before leaving the band for good. but departed after the recording of their debut album only to re-join during sessions for their next LP the following year after which he left againMason was also involved in several well-known projects in the later part of the decade including Jimi Hendrix’s “Electric Ladyland” album, in which he played guitar on “All Along the Watchtower” and sang backing vocals on “Crosstown Traffic.” Mason also appeared on The Rolling Stones “Beggars Banquet” and George Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass” LP’s. He was also an early member of Derek and the Dominos, playing second guitar to Eric Clapton.

All in all, a pretty impressive resume leading up to his first solo release “Alone Together” which came out in June 1970. Many of Mason’s friends helped out on the album, including Leon Russell, Rita Coolidge and Jim Keltner. Mason wrote the hit song “Feeling Alright”, originally done by Traffic on their second album and later covered by a number of others, the quintessential version by Joe Cocker. Here’s Dave six years ago doing “Feeling Alright”, a tune that has lived on in commercials and movies for decades.