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Under Further Review – Douglas Smith with Editor Bill Morphy. Special thanks to our regular contributors including Jordan Moss, Ian MacPhee, Dave Kittle, Ted Tait, Peter Hucul, Glen and Bill Myles and Howard Steiss. We are glad to be back after our Costa Rican adventure and come to you fully loaded with tons to stuff to unpack so let’s get right to it.

Where’s the Turmoil? – What’s going on here? Can you remember the last time things were so stable in Vancouver? Maybe never. Jim Rutherford and Patrik Allvin have just signed new three-year extensions. The front office is operating collaboratively. Ownership is staying in the background. This kind of stability must seem completely foreign to Canuck fans. Not sure we can handle it. We may start pining for the chaotic days of Jim Benning when there was always something to get us whipped up. The lack of noise and chaos is going to take some getting used to.

When the season began, even the most ardent Canucks observer would have thought the team’s best-case scenario was a playoff spot. Here we are in the middle of February and the Canucks are sitting atop the overall standings with legitimate Stanley Cup aspirations. Oh, how things have changed!

Good teams win games in a variety of ways and that’s what we are seeing. No longer is it just Thatcher Demko and a wing and a prayer. The Canucks are protecting leads, delivering five-on-five, producing consistent offense and it’s resulted in a league-best goal differential. This is what good teams do.

Why not go for it this season? The Canucks management team has run the table on player evaluations over the past year. Every player move has delivered positive results. Without a clear-cut Stanley Cup favourite, the window is wide open. With nine expiring contracts, there’s no better time than now. It’s without question why the front office struck early to acquire Elias Lindholm and why they may not be done leading up to the trade deadline.

In analyzing the Lindholm deal, the Canucks were smart to get their business done early. Having a player around for 30+ games instead of less than a dozen can make a huge difference. Don’t discount the fact the Flames took on the contract of Andrei Kuzmenko. Had he continued to flounder in Vancouver, it would have been next to impossible to unload his contract this summer. Without the Kuzmenko salary dump, the deal would have never happened.

With nine UFA’s on the roster, the Canucks will look a whole lot different next season. You may as well take your shot. Getting both Pettersson and Lindholm under contract will be very difficult. Could happen but the ripple-down effect will be painful. Filip Hronek continues to play lights out. Can you get his signature on paper at a number below defense partner Quinn Hughes who’s earning $7.85 million? There is a chance the Canucks just qualify Hronek as an RFA at $5.28 million which would set him up to be a UFA in 2025.

Including Lindholm, the Canucks now have 11 players with more than ten goals this season. No other NHL team has that kind of scoring depth. Among the lesser-lights, Dakota Joshua and Teddy Blueger are the likely UFA priorities up front. Joshua has posted career highs in goals and points in only 53 games and is second in the league in hits. If another team comes calling on July 1 and offers term, it will be difficult to retain him. Will there be room to bring back Ian Cole and Nikita Zadorov? You would like to think so but perhaps not. It points up the importance of player development and graduating players from the system. There will be jobs open for Aatu Raty, Vasily Podkolzin and maybe others. Continued success will largely depend on how many cost-efficient kids the team can graduate.

Ilya Mikheyev’s role on the Canucks has been diminishing. His ice time is down and his role on the penalty kill has been reduced. It just seems like he has not been able to capture top form since coming off last season’s knee surgery. He’s a guy to watch down the stretch because there’s still time for Mikheyev to make a larger impact.

The Athletic has released their annual NHL organizational prospect rankings. The Canucks are ranked 18th which is a positive jump from a year ago when the organization was ranked 28th. The Athletic ranking is very high on the top two Canuck prospects, forward Jonathan Lekkerimaki and defenseman Tom Willander. Canucks goaltending guru Ian Clark is working with a pair of massive goaltending projects in Abbotsford – Arturs Silovs and Nikita Tolopilo. It would be a huge boost if one of the two can establish themselves as a bonafide NHL netminder.

NHL Notebook – Is it just a coincidence or has William Nylander’s play slipped since signing the mega-extension? Before signing the $92 million dollar deal, he was scoring at a 46-goal, 120-point pace. Since then, big slippage. He’s scoring at a 20-goal pace and a point total that’s about half what it was prior to signing the contract.

Leafs GM Brad Treliving is proving to be an easy mark when it comes to contract negotiations. He left Calgary with a massive contract anvil in Jonathan Huberdeau. In Toronto, last summer’s free agent signings of Tyler Bertuzzi and John Klingberg were major over-pays. Close to 11 million wasted. Bertuzzi just broke a 19-game goalless drought and has only two goals in his last 33. Treliving was seduced by Bertuzzi’s strong playoff showing in Boston but he apparently overlooked the fact Bertuzzi scored only eight times during the regular season with the Wings and Bruins.

Montreal Canadiens GM Kent Hughes has made off like a bandit when it comes to Sean Monahan. As Eric Engels of Sportsnet put it, it was a masterclass in asset management. Hughes picked up a first-round pick from the Calgary Flames for taking Monahan’s contract off the books. The Habs acquired first and third-round picks from the Jets when Monahan was dealt to Winnipeg. A tidy bit of business indeed.

Don’t know about you, but I have trouble with the idea of Alex Ovechkin passing Wayne Gretzky as the NHL’s all-time leading goal scorer. Slap me upside the head but I don’t like having a Russian holding that record. Ovechkin has come on somewhat of late but it’s been a season of decline for the Great Eight. He scored two goals in October, three in November, two in December and just one goal in January. Yogi Berra would probably say “he’s getting old early.”

So much for the coaching change bump on Long Island. The New York Islanders are 3-4-2 since Patrick Roy took over behind the bench. Nothing much has changed in Los Angeles either since the Kings made a coaching change. Maybe management should wake up and realize their teams are just not very good.

Delighted to see someone finally blast the situation in Arizona. NHLPA Executive Director Marty Walsh has vilified the Coyotes ownership for failing to meet numerous deadlines. Walsh has suggested the team should be moved to another location – Houston and Salt Lake City being the likeliest locations – should an arena deal not be in place by the end of the season.

How can you not admire Sidney Crosby? This is his 19th season in the NHL and he’s still playing at an MVP level. Sid already has three Stanley Cup rings and two Olympic gold medals and he’ll probably be around for a shot to make it three in Italy in 2026.

When you look at what’s been a season from hell in Ottawa, it is eerily similar to what happened last year in Vancouver. It was turmoil right from the get-go. That’s been the case in Ottawa this season despite the ownership change. Pierre Dorion left the Senators in the same kind of mess as Jim Benning in Vancouver. Big salary cap issues. A barren prospect pool. Several undesirable contracts. There’s a lot to clean up in the Nation’s Capital. Cementing a new arena deal seems like the least of their problems. So far, new owner Michael Andlauer has surrounded himself with people he is familiar with. It’s time they started being more creative in building up what’s been a skeletal organization, starting with the selection of a new head coach.

Our Canadian Women’s national team capped another remarkable comeback against the U.S. in their annual Rivalry Series. For the second year in a row, Canada came back from a 3-0 deficit to win the Rivalry Series against the United States four games to three. To do it twice in a row is truly remarkable.

Hockey Canada Scandal – More than anything, hockey culture is on trial now that five members of Canada’s gold-medal-winning 2018 World Junior team are facing sexual assault charges. Hockey Canada and the NHL have tried to move on and sweep the whole sordid mess under the rug but there’s no hiding now. The players have surrendered and been charged. The names are public knowledge. The allegations are out there.

The combined career NHL earnings of the five players accused is just over $33 million. The players can afford to lawyer up. They have retained some of Canada’s top attorneys. You can be sure they will draw this out to the point where a trial may never happen. It’s already been five plus years since the incident occurred. The woman involved settled a $3.55 million dollar lawsuit against Hockey Canada in 2022. Regardless of the outcome, will anything really change? More of these incidents have already occurred this season at the junior level. When hockey’s leadership hopes the problem will simply go away without confronting it head on, it suggests change is still nowhere on the horizon.

Super Bowl  Recap – Time to give the Kansas City Chiefs their due. They have to be considered an NFL dynasty after their second straight Super Bowl title. The Chiefs have been to four Super Bowls in six years and are now in position to be the first team in history to ‘three-peat.’ In this year’s playoffs, the Chiefs knocked out the Dolphins, Bills, Ravens and Niners who represented the NFL’s top offenses and top defenses. This was no fluke.

When you match up two of the best, if not THE best defenses in football, we should have expected a low-scoring, tight Super Bowl. For nearly three quarters, it produced a Stupor Bowl that was not exactly compelling viewing. Thankfully, we were provided an exciting finish which included a riveting overtime period. We are reminded to never bet against Andy Reid and Pat Mahomes. On the other sideline were Kyle Shanahan and Mr. Irrelevant, Brock Purdy. Big advantage Chiefs. Shanahan has now lost three Super Bowls – one as OC in Atlanta where the Falcons blew a 25-point lead against the Patriots, and two as HC of the 49’ers where they had 10-point leads in both Super Bowls vs. K.C.

Mahomes continues to build his resume as one of the all-time greats. Mahomes certainly stacks up nicely with Tom Brady when you compare their first six seasons as starters. Both had already earned three Super Bowl rings. Mahomes already has three Super Bowl MVP’s and has appeared in four Super Bowls, one more than Brady. Their records including playoffs are very similar. Brady was 70-26 after six seasons. Mahomes is 75-24. Brady’s playoff record was 12-2. Mahomes is 15-3.

Mahomes looked very ordinary for most of three quarters but when it counted, he was perfection. Mahomes went 8-for-8 in the Chiefs game-winning-drive in overtime. The next person who compares any other quarterback to Mahomes should be shipped to the Gulag. He stands alone among current NFL quarterbacks.

Can someone please explain how the 49’ers could have been as much as two-and-a-half point favourites coming into the game? Seems absurd. Guess these are the same people who have already installed the Baltimore Ravens as 2025 Super Bowl favourites.

Don’t you long for the days when kick-off returns actually factored into NFL games? Not anymore. All the kickoffs in the Super Bowl sailed through the endzone. Why even bother kicking off? Devin Hester wouldn’t be under consideration for the Hall of Fame if he played today. It’s an important, and exciting, phase of the game that’s been completely stripped away.

NFL Notebook – Well, we can now take a break from Taylor Swift. Her romance with the Chiefs Travis Kelce has taken up far too much oxygen. CBS cut to her 12 times during the Super Bowl coverage for a total of close to a minute. It certainly got the attention of ESPN’s Mike ‘Mad Dog’ Russo.

Several teams head into the NFL off-season with a roster far exceeding the 2024 salary cap. The Buffalo Bills enter the off-season $50 million over the cap. In their playoff loss to the Chiefs, the Bills did not produce a single explosive play of 20+ yards. K.C. had eight. The Bills longest play was an 18-yard run by Josh Allen. Want to know why? Buffalo has not drafted a wide receiver in the first three rounds in the past five years. Dumb and dumber. Footnote: After the game, some stooge shut off the hot water in the Chiefs locker-room. Totally bush.

Jim Harbaugh has his hands full in turning around the L.A. Chargers. The Chargers are $45.8 million over the cap. They have four players with absurd cap hits including receivers Mike Williams ($32.4 million) and Keenan Allen ($34.7 million) and defensive stars Khalil Mack ($38.5 million) and Joey Bosa ($36.6 million). Look for the axe to fall in L.A.

Considering the heavy price, it seems crazy for the Denver Donkeys to cut Russell Wilson loose but it appears that’s exactly what they are going to do. The Broncos will be hit with a total of $85 million in dead cap space even if Wilson is a post-June 1 release victim. Denver will carry a $35.4 million dead cap hit in 2024 and a $49.6 dead cap hit in 2025. Wilson will be laughing all the way to the bank because he will be able to sign with another team and collect a second pay cheque.

Seahawks Notebook – We are going to find out a whole lot about John Schneider’s personal team-building philosophy this off-season as he steps away from the large shadow cast by Pete Carroll. A year ago, we were urging the Seahawks to release their high paid safety duo, draft a young quarterback and focus on improving the trenches. Didn’t happen. Here we are 12 months later and it’s the same script. Seattle has $75 million tied up in Jamal Adams, Quandre Diggs and Tyler Lockett, three players whose best years are behind them. Does Schneider see things differently than Pete who seemed intent on winning now without taking a longer view?

The Seahawks are due for a roster purge. There’s no scenario where Jamal Adams returns next season. He’s played in only 34 of 67 regular-season games since the ill-advised trade with the Jets in 2020. He carries a cap hit next season of $26.9 million. If he’s designated as a post-June 1 release, it will trigger a dead-money charge of $10.4 million in each of the next two seasons. At this point, it’s just the price of doing business.

Without a second-round pick thanks to the Leonard Williams trade, it would seem likely the Seahawks will be looking to trade down from the 16th pick in the opening round. The 2024 NFL draft reportedly goes about four rounds deep so it would seem advisable to accumulate as many picks as you can in the top 100. If Schneider really wants to put his stamp on the team, he would release Adams, Diggs, Lockett, Will Dissly and Geno Smith. It would open up a huge amount of cap space and the opportunity to reshape the roster.

This is definitely the year to draft a quarterback. There could be as many as six quarterbacks selected in the first two rounds of the NFL draft in April. The top-six includes Caleb Williams, Drake Maye, Jayden Daniel, Bo Nix, Michael Penix and JJ McCarthy. The Seahawks would be wise to jump in and grab a development QB, even if it’s in the later rounds, because the 2025 quarterback class is not shaping up to be particularly impressive.

Keep May 2 in mind when it comes to the Seahawks. Under a stipulation with the state of Washington in connection with the funding of Lumen Field, if the Seahawks were sold before May 2, the state would receive 10 percent of the sale. If you compare the sale of the Washington Commanders who were just sold for $6.03 billion, ten percent would be $605 million. After May 2, Jody Allen is free to sell the team and keep 100 percent of the sale price. Not saying it’s going to happen but it certainly opens the door.

Blue Jays Notebook – The Athletic recently did a fan survey and the response to the Blue Jays off-season was unanimously negative. Fans feel the Jays off-season work was totally unimaginative. That pretty much sums it up. After the failed pursuit of Shohei Otani, there’s been little to get excited about. The confidence level among fans has dropped significantly from a year ago. What can you expect when you can’t win a playoff game?

The American League East figures to be ultra-competitive again this season. After landing ace starter Corbin Burnes in an off-season deal with Milwaukee, the Baltimore Orioles figure to be the division front-runner. The New York Yankees are improved. The Jays had better hope Tampa and Boston falter because last place may be more plausible than winning the division. MLB teams have slow-played the free agent market. Two very good starting pitchers in Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery are still out there. If either of them land with the Yankees or Orioles, it could tip the scales in the division.

The Blue Jays bread and butter is the pitching staff which figures to be very strong again. The Jays are hoping for a bounce-back season from starter Alek Manoah. He reported to camp this week trimmed down and ready to redeem himself. His brother Erik is a personal trainer who owns a gym in Miami. That’s where Manoah spent much of the off-season working on strength and conditioning. It also helps that his new wife is a certified nutritionist who’s helped Manoah improve his eating habits. We will see if it produces better results.

Golf Notebook – Canadians are all over the leaderboard at the Genesis Invitational in Los Angeles. Four Canadians sit in the top ten heading into Sunday’s final round. Having a Canadian in contention is becoming commonplace on tour and that’s never going to get old.

Tiger Woods made a brief 2024 PGA Tour debut this week at the Genesis. He was headed to another missed cut before withdrawing due to illness. According to Woods, he’s going to try and play at least once a month including all the majors. With a fused ankle and a fused back, it remains to be seen whether he can remain competitive. In his last six tour starts, Tiger has withdrawn three times, missed a cut, finished T45, and 47th at last year’s Masters. Makes you wonder why they follow his every shot. Meanwhile, Woods announced the end of his long-running relationship with Nike. He’s partnered with TaylorMade on a new clothing and footwear brand called Sun Day Red. The clothing will be available online in Canada starting on May 1.

Abbotsford’s Nick Taylor is earning a reputation as Mr. Clutch. He followed up his dramatic extra hole victory at the Canadian Open with another clutch putting display at the WM Phoenix Open. Taylor birdied five of his last six holes, including the 18th hole three times in a row, to snatch victory on the second-playoff hole against journeyman Charley Hoffman. (If you look up ‘journeyman’ in the dictionary, you will find a picture of Hoffman) It was Taylor’s fourth PGA Tour win and moves him to 26th on the Official World Golf Ranking. It also sets Taylor up to represent Canada at the Paris Olympics this summer and to be part of the International Team at the Presidents Cup in Montreal in September.

Shooting low on tour is becoming routine. Taylor had a round of 60 in Phoenix. Cristobal Del Solar recently became the first player in men’s professional golf to shoot a 57. It happened on the Korn Ferry Tour where he posted a 13-under par score on the Par 70 Country Club de Bogota in Bogota, Colombia. Previously, there had been six rounds of 58 posted on various tours including Jim Furyk (PGA Tour, 2016), Bryson DeChambeau (LIV Golf, 2023), Stephen Jaeger (Korn Ferry, 2016), Alejandro del Rey (Challenge, 2021), Kim Seong-hyeon (Japan, 2021) and Ryo Ishikawa (Japan, 2010).

Leftovers – From the ‘How Stupid Can You Possibly Be Department’ comes word that the Quebec Government plans to spend $870 million to replace the decaying roof of Montreal’s Olympic Stadium. The current roof is reportedly torn in more than 20 thousand places and facing permanent closure within two years. Currently, the Big Owe only hosts about 30 events a year and events inside the building are cancelled if more than three centimetres of snow are forecast. We’re told the stadium will have to close for up to four years in order to replace the roof. Sports economists say there is no justification to continue pouring money into the antiquated stadium but try telling that to mindless politicians who have no issue spending taxpayer dollars.

Former LSU wide receiver Kayshon Boutte, now a member of the New England Patriots, is the latest athlete caught up in gambling. He’s been arrested and charged with making illegal wagers between April of 2022 and May of 2023. During that time, Boutte is believed to have made more than 8,900 wagers including 17 on college football and at least six on LSU games. According to the affidavit, Boutte bet $450,000 in 2022 and lost $65,000. In 2023, he bet $186,000 and lost $16,000. When the case is completed, he’s likely to face a lengthy NFL suspension.

Spotify Tracks of the Week – Lots to recommend this time around. Glen Campbell is a music icon. Not only did he have a stellar solo career, he was also the guitar player in the legendary L.A. session band called The Wrecking Crew. Campbell died at 81 in 2017 but there’s a new album about to be released called Glen Campbell Duets – Ghost of the Canvas Sessions.  Only one track is available so far – ‘Nothing but the Whole Wide World’, a duet with Eric Clapton. Looking forward to have a listen once all the tracks are released.

We have featured rock legend Dion DiMucci in previous posts. He’s still going strong at 84. In recent years, he’s released several albums with an impressive group of guest artists including the 2021 release entitled Stomping Ground. Have a listen to ‘If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll’ featuring Eric Clapton, ‘Dancing Girl’ with Mark Knopfler, ‘I’ve Got To Get To You’ with Boz Scaggs and ‘That’s What The Doctor Said’, an ode to Dr. John. Stay tuned for the March 8 release of his new album Dion’s Girl Friends which will feature Rory Block, Debbie Davies, Shemekia Copeland, Susan Tedeschi and Canada’s own Sue Foley. So far, they have released one track off that album, ‘I Aim to Please’ featuring Danielle Nicole.

Speaking of Knopfler, he has a new upcoming release called One Deep River. Spotify has released one track to date entitled ‘Ahead of the Game.’ Definitely worth a listen.

A few other gems to pass along. Check out the title track from Carl Verheyen’s new album Riverboat Sky. Verheyen is an outstanding guitar player. Also, we recommend the song ‘The Sun Don’t Shine’ from singer Eric Lindell’s 2018 release Revolution in Your Heart.

From our Female Vocals Playlist, have a listen to Pieta Brown. She has a great voice. We recommend ‘I’m Gone’ from the album Mercury.

Elles Bailey is emerging as a top female artist. She has over 250,000 monthly listeners on Spotify. Her latest EP is entitled ‘The Night Owl and the Lark.’ We like two tracks – ‘Nothing Without You’ and ‘Bring It On’.

And finally, they’ve released one track off Sheryl Crow’s latest album called Revolution. Have a listen to ‘Do It Again.’

YouTube Video Spotlight – Our resident musicologist Ted Tait has brought an outstanding young guitar virtuoso to our attention. His name is Matteo Mancuso. Many are already calling the 27-year-old from Palermo, Sicily the finest guitar player in the world. Check out the young guitar phenom performing the classic hit “You Really Got Me.”

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