Under Further Review – Douglas Smith with Contributing Editor Bill Morphy. This week, the NHL season kicks off. The Seahawks get kicked to the curb. Plus, Steve Nash and the circus in Brooklyn.
Late Breaking News: Nick Taylor, the product of Ledgeview Golf Club in Abbotsford, BC, posted a PGA career-best 62 in the second round to open a two-shot lead heading into the weekend at the SONY Open in Hawaii. Hopefully, he can make it stand up.
Every Second Night – The NHL season may well turn into a war of attrition. 56 games in 116 nights is cruel punishment. The Canucks are starting the season with eight games in 12 days. That’s one-seventh of the entire schedule in less than two weeks. Teams could pretty much determine their playoff fate with a quick or slow start right out of the gate. To make matters worse for the Canucks, they could be without J.T. Miller for the entire duration due to a mandatory 14-day quarantine for coming in contact with teammate Jordie Benn. Benn reportedly passed then failed a series of tests. It’s still not clear whether either one of them actually has the virus.
A few random observations from the opening two games. Jay Beagle needs to be phased out. He was matched up several times against McDavid and Draisaitl in the opening two games and it didn’t go well. The Canucks should limit his minutes. He cannot be trusted against top centres.
There are few real tough guys left in the NHL but it would help if the Canucks had more toughness in the lineup and that’s an understatement. Without Michael Ferland, they really don’t have anyone who can drop the gloves. If they did, he would have been sent out right after the Ryan Nugent-Hopkins cheap-shot on Brock Boeser on Thursday night. That crap needs to be answered and NOT by Quinn Hughes.
Not surprisingly, Loui Eriksson was placed on waivers as the Canucks trimmed the roster for the start of the season. It’s doubtful will we see Loui again. The Canucks will likely bury him in Utica and hope he refuses to report. His contract could then be terminated and the Canucks would be out from under the final two years of his deal. Eriksson failed to score more than 11 goals in any of his four seasons, the biggest black mark on Jim Benning’s tenure as Canucks GM.
NHL Notebook – If you are a Canucks fan, mark April 30 on your calendar. That’s when the KHL season ends and Vasily Podkolzin will be free to sign with Vancouver. The date can’t come soon enough. Podkolzin is paying the price for refusing to sign an extension with SKA St. Petersburg. He was a healthy scratch after returning from the World Juniors and you can be sure he will be getting the cold shoulder for the remainder of the KHL season.
Our new moniker for the Leafs media horde is the “Maple Minnions.’ They are touting Wayne Simmonds as the Leafs new ‘net-front presence.’ Somebody should remind them he will need a bus schedule to get there. Sportsnet (‘er LeafsNet) was so hard-pressed for programming that they carried a Leafs intra-squad game live. News Flash! The Leafs won! Does that mean they will make the playoffs? The network then followed with an online recap of the game that included what they termed “must-see moments.” Are you kidding me?
The Leafs and the Oilers are very similar. Both are heavily reliant on potent power-plays. They will live and die on their success with the man advantage. They will also gain valuable extra points in OT because of the high-end talent they can send over the boards in 3-on-3 overtime. Problem is, if they fail to score on the power-play, they are very beatable.
The Ottawa Senators proved that on Friday night with a surprisingly easy 5-3 win over the Maple Leafs. The Sens outscored the Leafs 4-to-1 while playing 5-on-5. Two of the three Leaf goals were scored on the power-play. Check the plus-minuses of some of the Leafs best players – Reilly (-4); Matthews (-3); Thornton (-3); Simmonds (-3), Brodie (-3). The top defensive pairing went (-7). Freddie Anderson has allowed 9 goals in two games. We predicted the Leafs would make the playoffs in the All-Canadian division. How about last place? The Maple Minnions are already panicking?
The Maple Leafs and the Ottawa Senators will meet nine times this season. It won’t be as easy as a lot of people think for those Leafs. Ottawa’s top six forward group is much-improved over last season with Brady Tkachuk, Josh Norris and Drake Batherson, along with Tim Stuetzle, Derek Stepan and Evgenii Dadonov. Against the Leafs on Friday night, the top six had 8 points and were plus 7.
Alarm bells are going off in San Jose after news broke that mercurial forward Evander (Black Jack) Kane has filed for bankruptcy. In the document filing, Kane listed $26.8 million in total liabilities and more than $10.2 million in assets comprised mostly of real estate. It was not shocking to learn that Kane also listed $1.5 million in gambling losses which may be grossly understated. The 29-year-old Vancouver native listed seven relatives as dependents living with him. Kane is also facing six pending lawsuits which may have triggered the bankruptcy filing. The largest suit has been filed by Centennial Bank which is seeking $8.36 million. Kane’s career earnings to date, according to CapFriendly, are $52,956,097. The winger signed a seven-year contract worth $49 million back in 2018.
If I’m an NHL general manager and my phone rings and the call is from Colorado general manager Joe Sakic, I’m not answering. Joe pulls the “aw shucks” routine but he’s been getting the better of his fellow GM’s on a regular basis. You would be best served to stay away from any transactions with Burnaby Joe. He’s lost the draft lottery twice and still came away with Cale Makar and Bowen Byram. How does this guy do it?
Seahawks Post-Mortem – The knives are out in Seattle after the Seahawks abrupt exit from the NFL playoffs. In passing out the blame, there is no shortage of candidates. Start with head coach Pete Carroll and work from there. In a rambling post-game news conference, Carroll had no answers for the Seahawks offensive ineptitude, perhaps because the Seahawks blueprint was no longer working. When the organization began a self-evaluation, a bright light went on.
It came as no surprise that the team immediately parted ways with offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. They went to the old standby when making the announcement, something about “philosophical differences.” The Seahawks kicked Schottenheimer to the curb because the Seahawks never got the ground game working. For the season, the Seahawks rushed ball on 40.2 percent of their snaps – 19th in the league. That’s not Seahawk football. Chris Carson missed four games and had 141 carries for 631 yards. Carlos Hyde had 81 carries for 356 yards and missed six games. That’s less than 1,000 yards between your two feature running backs. Sorry but it all starts with a punishing ground attack. That’s why Schottenheimer was axed. The Seahawks need to avoid the two-safety looks that short-circuited the offence in the second half of the season. It will open up the running game and make the passing game less predictable.
The Seahawks DNA has been to play violent, physical defense backed up by a power running game and a commitment to protect the football. Against the Rams, the Seahawks were over-powered at the point of attack on both sides of the ball. They gave up 169 yards rushing and turned it over twice. Beaten at their own game. You might say, Pete’s perpetual positivity purportedly popped. Anyone watching would agree than Pete Carroll was out-coached by Sean McVay and it’s not the first time.
The tentative fashion in which the Seahawks started the game set the tone and that’s on Pete and by extension, Schottenheimer. Saintly Seahawk Russell Wilson was 11 for 27 for 174 yards and was sacked five times. The pick six to Rams corner Darious Williams in the opening half had an emotional impact that loomed for the entire game. Did D.K. Metcalf’s diva act on the sideline indirectly lead to the pick-six? Sure looked like it. Metcalf should be more concerned about the 10 drops he had this season, third most in the NFL.
It was obvious throughout the second half of the season as the offence sputtered that teams were taking away the deep ball. The Seahawks failed to adapt and take what was there in the intermediate passing game, play action and check-downs. The Seahawks were held to a season-low 278 yards. The only times the Seahawks were held under 300 yards this season were the last three games of the year, against the 49ers and twice against the Rams. They simply did not adapt when it mattered most.
You wonder if Wilson’s lack of height hinders his ability to throw over the middle of the field. The Seahawks committed nine penalties against the Rams including a crucial time-clock violation on fourth and one in the fourth quarter and that’s inexcusable. They were a feeble 2 for 14 on third down. How can you get the running game going when you can’t convert on third down? The Seahawks led the league when facing third down and 11+ yard situations. It was a big reason why their third down conversion rate this season was so poor.
The Rams, meantime, hadn’t scored an offensive touchdown in the past three games and had turned it over at least once in all 16 games. Cam Akers punished the Seattle defense with 28 carries for 131 yards. Jared Goff, who had been under heavy criticism, played with three pins in his thump two weeks after having surgery. Credit to him. Aaron Donald missed most of the second half with a rib injury. Everything was stacked in the Seahawks favour yet they could not get the job done. The defense has failed to force a turnover in the last seven playoff games.
Pete Carroll made his reputation as a defensive coach. He’s never been able to install a sophisticated, multi-dimensional passing attack that’s needed to win in today’s NFL. The Seahawks have steadfastly refused to invest in the offensive line. Wilson was sacked 47 times this year, second most in the NFL. It was the 8th year in a row he has been sacked at least 40 times. He’s also been sacked 49 times in 16 career playoff games. The lack of a pass-catching third down back has been a missing piece for years. Remember C.J. Procisse? Phillip Dorsett was signed to be the Seahawks third receiver and he never played a game. David Moore is certainly not the answer. Tight end Greg Olsen signed for $6 million and was largely ineffective. A deeper receiving group would have helped.
So where to the Seahawks go from here? It figures to be an off-season of major change with 24 players becoming unrestricted free agents. The list includes K.J. Wright, Chris Carson, Shaquill Griffin, David Moore, Ethan Pocic, Jacob Hollister, Mike Iupati, Greg Olsen, Benson Mayowa, Bruce Irvin and Carlos Hyde. Jarran Reed and Carlos Dunlap are both scheduled to make over $11 million. Can the Seahawks afford to keep both? Probably not. Look for them to try and restructure those deals.
The Seahawks mortgaged the future to acquire All-Pro safety Jamal Adams and are without a first round pick this year and in 2022. They head into this year’s draft with only four picks. The Seahawks have less than $20 million in cap space and the cap may drop by that amount due to the economic impact of the pandemic. Adams has one year to go on his contract and is facing at least two surgeries in the off-season, on a torn labrum in his left shoulder and on two broken fingers. The Rams said they were motivated by watching Adams smoke a cigar in celebration after Seattle knocked off the Rams and clinched the division title. Adams needs to learn to save that stuff for winning championships, not division titles! He also needs to stop the constant chirping every time he makes a tackle. When you look at the other team’s bench and start trash-talking, it can only stir them up. Ditto for Metcalf as well.
In the ultra-competitive NFC East, it’s easy to go from first to last in one season. Just ask the 49’ers. When the season ends so suddenly, it opens up a lot of questions. There was, at least, some good news this week with the announcement that general manager John Schneider had signed a contract extension that will keep him in Seattle through the 2027 draft. He has his work cut out for him this off-season.
Who to Hire – You have to wonder who will take the job as offensive coordinator in Seattle. There are many candidates out there who would be good ‘hires’ but will they be given the latitude they may want? That’s questionable!
At the top of the list are Packers OC Nathaniel Hackett and Cleveland Browns OC Alex Van Pelt. Neither handle the play-calling duties so there’s a chance they might want to make a move. Pep Hamilton, OC with the Colts, would be a good choice. Recently fired Chargers HC Anthony Lynn is an option but he has never handled play-calling duties in the NFL. The Seahawks might be better off looking at a couple of younger coaches. Mike McDaniel and Mike LaFleur are the running and passing game coordinators with the 49’ers. LaFleur is the younger brother of Packers HC Matt LaFleur. Another potential candidate is Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliot.
NFL Notebook – Have you ever witnessed a late-season implosion anywhere close to what happened to the Pittsburgh Steelers? They were 11-and-0 before losing four of their last five games. The Steelers ‘Keystone Cop’ routine in the opening half against the Browns was as bad as it gets. Cleveland became the first road team ever to score 35 points in the first half of a playoff game. The Steelers need to decide if Ben Roethlisberger has played his last game in a Pittsburgh uniform.
The Buffalo Bills posted their first playoff win since 1995. They are slight favourites in their divisional round matchup with the Baltimore Ravens. The Colts had every opportunity to stage an upset. Indy had the ball with over two minutes to go trailing by only three points. If the Colts had more playmakers on offense and a more sophisticated passing attack, they could have stated the upset and advanced.
Baltimore moved on by taking out Tennessee. The Ravens danced all over the Titans logo late in the game, a shameful act that will no doubt come back to haunt them. Don’t think teams don’t take notice.
Glad to hear John Elway is stepping away from his GM role with the Denver Broncos. Outside of bringing in Peyton Manning for a two-year Super Bowl fling, Elway has batted .000 in his never-ending quarterback search. Check this list of QB’s who have been drafted by the Broncos since 2000: Jarious Jackson (2000); (was Tito not available?) Matt Mauck (2004); Jay Cutler (2006); Tom Brandstater (2009); Tim Tebow (2010; Brock Osweiler (2012); Zac Dysert (2013); Trevor Simien (2015); Paxton Lynch (2016); Chad Kelly (2017); Drew Lock (2019). That’s a whole lot of draft capital for a whole lot of nothing.
Circus Comes to Town – You have to pity poor Steve Nash. He’s the ringleader of a three-ring circus in Brooklyn. How many balls are the Nets going to need with Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and James Harden in the lineup? The Nets gave up a war chest of draft picks plus talented young guard Chris LaVert in order to acquire Harden. Problem is, all of the Nets depth is now gone. It’s a shell of a team after the big three. Brooklyn has now traded away every first round pick until 2027. The situation reminds me of the Boston Celtics when they had a triumvirate of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Deron Williams and failed to win a thing. Irving left the Nets for several days last week for “personal reasons” because he was reportedly upset about events in Washington. He’s making $34 million this season and is flakier than Grandma’s pie crust. If you are keeping score, between the three of them, Irving, Harden and Durant are making over $113 million combined. Good luck Steve, you are going to need it. The Nets are going to need a fulltime phycologist on staff.
Is it just me or are you getting tired of athletes spewing off constantly whether it be social issues, politics or situations on their own team? The list of players who can shut their traps anytime is growing and already includes Kyrie Irving, Marcus Stroman, Lebron James and J.T. Watt.
Canadian content – If you follow NCAA basketball, there are a number of Canadians playing Division 1. The most high profile player is Andrew Nembhard, the fine point guard who’s currently playing a reserve role with the #1-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs. Montreal-born Chris Duarte is a senior guard with the Oregon Ducks and leads the team in scoring. Oregon’s second leading scorer is Eugene Omoruyi who hails from Rexdale, Ontario. A.J. Lawson is a junior guard at South Carolina. He leads the Gamecocks in scoring and recently had a 30-point game against Texas A&M. Marcus Carr is another Toronto kid playing with the Minnesota Golden Gophers. He leads the team in scoring, assists and steals. Senior guard Jahvon Blair, from Brampton, Ontario, is leading Georgetown in scoring.
Short Strokes – Former NFL punter turned media personality Pat McAfee has been quoted as saying “it’s dead, but the CFL was awesome.” McAfee also called the CFL “state fair football” but claimed he meant it as a compliment. The CFL promises to return in 2021 but is this now the perception? That the league is essentially dead? The road back for the CFL is going to be very difficult.
It’s becoming pretty obvious that major league teams are using the Blue Jays to ‘up the ante’ in free agent negotiations. The Jays were reportedly in on Liam Hendricks and DJ LaMahieu before they signed big money deals with the White Sox and Yankees. In the final analysis however, while the dollar amount on those contracts was OK, the term was not. Unless Trevor Bauer or George Springer suddenly sign with the Jays, it’s looking more and more like they will strike out on the big free agents available. I understand that the Jays have valuations on players and don’t want to go past a certain point in money or term, but they need to understand, it’s the cost of doing business. If the Jays refuse to veer off script, they will never hit on any of their targets.
Jays President Mark Shapiro has a new five-year contract and the runway to bring the Blue Jays back to prominence. It was a rocky beginning for Shapiro but his successes in player development, analytics and the renovation of the Jays facilities in Dunedin has shown his big-picture leadership.
Wrap your head around these numbers! In three Olympic Games, Usain Bolt won eight gold medals. Total time on the track: 115 seconds. His reported earnings from competitions and endorsements is estimated at $119 million dollars. That’s more than a million dollars for every second on the track. Bolt, who’s also an 11-time world champion, holds the world record in the 100 meters at 9.58 seconds, and 200 meters at 19.19, both set at the 2009 Berlin World Athletics Championships. Doubt whether those records will ever be broken. Certainly not the 100 meter record.
The PGA of America has announced it will no longer hold the 2022 PGA Championship at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey. The Board of Directors voted to exercise the right to terminate the agreement as a result of the events in Washington that saw the Capitol attacked by an angry pro-Trump mob. Trump National Golf Club was awarded the 2022 tournament by the PGA of America in October 2014.
Music Artist of the Week – One of my absolute favourite guitar players is Buddy Miller. He’s known more for his session and production work than for his own solo career or recordings with his wife Julie Miller. Miller has worked as a multi-instrumentalist or vocalist on records by Johnny Cash, Levon Helm, Lee Ann Womack, Patty Griffin, Emmylou Harris, Shawn Colvin, Bobby Bare, John Fogerty, the Chieftains, Rodney Crowell, Jimmie Dale Gilmour, the Dixie Chicks, Elvis Costello, Alison Krauss and Robert Plant, among others.
Here’s Buddy with an all-star band at the 2012 Americana Music Awards performing “Gasoline and Matches.” Yes, that’s Greg Leisz on lap slide, Don Was on bass (who’s produced many artists including Bonnie Raitt) plus the great Jim Lauderdale.
Buddy toured with Robert Plant & the Band of Joy and is featured prominently in this great rendition of “Ramble On.”
Buddy has a house full of unique guitars. Check out this YouTube video as Buddy shows off some of the many amazing guitars in his collection.
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