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Under Further Review – Douglas Smith with Chief Editor Bill Morphy and contributors Jordan Moss, Peter Hucul, Howard Steiss and Bill Myles. This week, it’s the end of Bruce’s misery. Lots of speculation around the NHL. The NFL conference championships are set and Brooke wins again.

Editor’s Note:  Sorry for the delay. We have had some issues with the website. Hopefully you are receiving this email notification for our latest blog dated January 24.

Dead Man Walking – The long, public humiliation is over. Just another stain on the sordid history of the Vancouver Canucks. The clown show that left coach Bruce Boudreau twisting in the wind for months ended Sunday. There were apologies all around for the way Boudreau was treated but does it really matter? The image of Boudreau behind the bench in tears won’t wash away quickly.

Players take note of these things. Do you really think players will want to play here? It’s not a safe workplace when the boss is trashing the coach in the media on a regular basis. Rick Tocchet joins the fray as the third coach in just over 13 months. Another NHL retread. The Canucks are now spending over $7 million on three coaches still under contract.  Last time we checked, if you include overtime losses (and you should), Tocchet has never had a winning season in six years as an NHL coach in Tampa and Arizona. His winning percentage is .475. He’ll fit right in with the Canucks.

Bet on Tocchet – Back in 2007 when he was an assistant coach under Wayne Gretzky, Tocchet made a plea deal to avoid jail time after pleading guilty to gambling charges. Tocchet and two other men, including an Arizona State Trooper, were accused of taking bets totaling more than $1.7 million from a group of gamblers that included the Great One’s wife Janet. Tocchet and Janet were caught on a wiretap.

Tocchet claimed the group did not make any bets on hockey. Strange that the police dubbed the investigation “Operation Slapshot.” Tocchet took an indefinite leave of duty, resurfacing two years later, back in his position as a Coyotes associate coach. The NHL gave him a three-month slap-on-the-wrist suspension. Par for the course for the NHL.

Standing at the Crossroads – The Canucks remain completely adrift. The only question remaining is when to cue the exodus because you know it’s coming. Changes are imminent. This could be a much different looking team after the March 3 trade deadline.

How bad are they? The Canucks have blown eight multi-goal leads in half a season. The Canucks are 31st in the NHL in goals against at 3.96. Only Anaheim is worse. They are dead last in save percentage at .882. They are dead last on the penalty kill with a percentage of 65.9. No one else is even close.

How bad is it? According to The Athletic, the Canucks do not have a single player in the top 100 of Corey Pronman’s list of players and prospects under 23, and are ranked 28th in Scott Wheeler’s prospect rankings. Thomas Drance of The Athletic calls it a Decade of Darkness. Yes, that pretty much sums up the Vancouver Canucks over the past ten seasons. Not bad enough to tank. Not good enough to legitimately contend. As they say, caught in that murky middle. They may not have to tear it down to the studs but even a casual fan can see the need to transform the roster.

What bothers Canucks faithful is the continuing series of mystifying moves. When you are as bad defensively as the Canucks, how can you justify drafting a 5-11, 165-pound lightweight forward like Jonathan Lekkerimaki? Why swing for the fences on a high-volume shooter when you can plug in a solid, hardnosed contributor who’s going to make you harder to play against? Geez, maybe even someone who’s Canadian-born. The Canucks are not going to step forward until they become a lot bigger and tougher all the way down through their lineup.

Captain Bo Horvat, a solid soldier since arriving in Vancouver, is halfway out the door, a victim of the team’s salary cap negligence. Brock Boeser has been on the trade block all season without any takers. The team is considering a lucrative extension for 27-year-old for Andrei Kuzmenko, said to be in the $6 million dollar per season range. Considering the Canucks competitive window, does that make sense? Just what the Canucks need. A 30-year-old winger making $6 million.

The front office claims it wants young players aged 21-23 in any deals who may need a second chance. Pardon? Please, not Alexis Lafreniere or Kaapo Kakko? Apparently, Rutherford and company would gladly accept players who have failed in other markets rather than draft picks. Look at the Canucks current lineup – Myers, OEL, Bear, Garland, Lazar, Joshua, Miller, Mikheyev, Dermott. It’s littered with players acquired by the Canucks who have never won a Stanley Cup. How can you build culture and accountability if no one has won anything.

For Canuck faithful, Rutherford’s stated plan for a “retool” rather than a “rebuild” sounds awfully familiar. The approach has failed miserably for over ten years. Considering the collateral damage this season, we’re not sure you even sell hope in this market.

Under Further Review Job Posting:  Financial advisor to Robin Lehner. Must be able to get someone out of $50 million dollars in debt. The erstwhile Swedish netminder has career earnings of over $30 million but was forced into bankruptcy with dozens of creditors. Lehner’s debts include a collection of rare snakes purchased in 2017 for $1.2 million for a reptile farm in Plato, Missouri. We don’t want to pile on but Robin, what were you thinking? An exotic snake farm? How did you think that was going to be a shrewd investment? How about you start with a dairy farm? Work up to snakes.

The Bedard Sweepstakes – If the Canucks want to have a crack at Connor Bedard, they need to continue the free-fall and that’s not likely. The team is sure to get a bump from the coaching change and no team has an easier schedule. Half of the team’s remaining games are against weak opponents. Between now and the end of the season, the Canucks play Chicago and Anaheim three times each; Arizona, Detroit and St. Louis twice each; with single games against San Jose, Columbus, Philadelphia and Ottawa.

With the stakes for Bedard so high, we are bound to see some bad hockey down the stretch this season. The NHL Draft Lottery will give the bottom 16 teams in the standings different odds of picking first or second overall. You are only able to move up ten picks in the draft. If one of the better non-playoff teams (17-21) wins the lottery with their really small percentage, they will be allowed to move up only ten spots, not all the way to the first or second overall pick.

Here are the percentages based on the positions in the standings:

32 – 18.5%
31 – 13.5%
30 – 11.5%
29 – 9.5%
28 – 8.5%
27 – 7.5%
26 – 6.5%
25 – 6%
24 – 5%
23 – 3.5%
22 – 3%
21 – 2.5%
20 – 2%
19 – 1.5%
18 – .5%
17 – .5%

NHL Notebook Forget about the Canucks exercising a buy-out of Oliver Ekman-Larsson this summer. He has four years remaining on his contract with a $7.26 million dollar cap hit. A buyout would result in a dead cap hit until 2031. Although, if anyone is stupid enough to do it, it would be the Canucks.

How embarrassing it must be for Canuck fans to see the Seattle Kraken comfortably in a playoff spot in their second year in the league. On a goals-per-game basis, only Boston and Buffalo are scoring more than the Kraken.

When the Toronto Maple Leafs were making their protection list prior to the Seattle Kraken expansion draft, it came down to protecting one of two players, Alex Kerfoot or Jared McCann, who had just been acquired from Pittsburgh. The Leafs chose to keep Kerfoot.  Big mistake. McCann, a former Canucks first-round pick, is leading the Kraken in goal-scoring with 22.

If the Canucks wanted to give someone a second chance, they should have gone after Pavel Zacha at last year’s trade deadline. The Boston Bruins acquired Zacha in a deal with New Jersey for Eric Haula and six months later, they are so happy with his play, they have given Zacha a four-year, $19 million dollar extension. Do you think maybe it has to do with a seamless transition to a team with a strong culture?

Speaking of the Bruins, after 41 games, they were on pace for 136 points. That would break the all-time mark of 132, set by the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens, and you know how good they were.

The all-star goalies for the Western Conference will be rookie Logan Thompson of the Vegas Golden Knights and Stuart Skinner of the Edmonton Oilers. Excuse me?

The Detroit Red Wings made a flurry of moves in the off-season and they have barely moved the needle. Steve Yzerman is into year four of the Wings rebuild and you have to wonder if he is getting a little impatient. Yzerman is in a similar situation to the Canucks and Bo Horvat with pending UFA Dylan Larkin. Stevie Y would be wise to put Larkin on the market.

If you are looking for the most likely destination for Jakob Chychrun, it’s the L.A. Kings. The Kings have the pieces to get it done.

We have a question about the Arizona Coyotes new home. It’s called Mullett Arena. Does that mean it’s short on the sides and long on the back?

Now that Cole Caufield is on season-ending IR, the Montreal Canadiens can get serious about tanking. No doubt in our mind the two best destinations for Bedard would be Montreal or Chicago. Please, not Arizona!

The Edmonton Oilers are on a six-game winning streak. We’re not buying it. Nothing about that team says they are built to win a Cup. The goaltending is mediocre at best. They defense lacks push-back. There’s little depth up front. All the key components of a true contender are simply not there.

If there’s one team that should ‘load-up’ at the trade deadline, it’s the Winnipeg Jets. The Western Conference is wide open this season and the Jets are in position to make a run under Jack Adams Trophy favourite Rick Bowness. It’s time for Kevin Cheveldayoff to step up to the plate. We don’t need to remind Jet fans that the team has three playoff wins in 35 years. How about Winnipeg native Jonathan Toews in a Jets uniform?

Seahawks Notebook – What can you say about Pete Carroll? Guiding the Seahawks to the post-season in a year when most experts projected Seattle to win five or six games was an extraordinary feat. During his 13-year tenure, the Seahawks have made the playoffs ten times.

Even at 71, Carroll’s enthusiasm never wavered. Nor did his belief that the Seahawks could be relevant in spite of the dour prognostications. It was apparent that Carroll and Russell Wilson could no longer co-exist and the team did something about it. Moving on from a franchise quarterback is not an easy decision. Pete had a steadfast belief in his core philosophies and it paid off. The system works if the personnel is in place to run it effectively. Who would have thought Geno Smith would outplay Wilson – and by a large margin?

But let’s not kid ourselves. The Seahawks defense is nowhere near Super Bowl calibre. The defense surrendered over 500 yards in offense in the wildcard loss at San Francisco. The 49’ers had 13 explosive plays. They ran the ball at will. There’s still a lot of work to do. It will start with four selections in the top 50 in the NFL Draft in April. The priority has to be improving the front seven on defense.

NFL Notebook – The NFL conference championship games are set and it’s safe to say, the four best teams remain standing. Cincinnati travels to Kansas City to meet the top-seeded Chiefs in the AFC Championship game. The San Francisco 49’ers head to Philadelphia to take on the top-seeded Eagles in the NFC Championship.

In the AFC, the Bengals out-classed the Bills in snow-blown Buffalo to book their ticket to K.C. The Chiefs held off a spirited Jacksonville squad. The big concern will be around the status of MVP quarterback Pat Mahomes who suffered a high ankle sprain in that game. He’s slated to undergo an MRI on Monday but vows to play next weekend.

In the NFC, the 49’ers defense proved too much for the Dallas Cowboys. It will be interesting to see if rookie QB Brock Purdy can continue to hold up against a very strong Eagles pass rush.

Our takeaway from NFL Wildcard weekend was the level of sloppy play. Dallas Cowboys kicker Brett Maher missed four point-after attempts. Jacksonville quarterback Trevor Lawrence threw four first-half interceptions against the L.A. Chargers before leading the Jaguars second-half comeback. The Seahawks were flagged three times for having an illegal man downfield.  That’s not playoff football.

Absolutely shocked that the Chargers didn’t axe head coach Brandon Staley after being upset by the Jags in the wildcard game. With Sean Peyton sitting out there, the Chargers still plan to return next season with Staley. Recipe for disaster.

Sorry Cowboy fans. We hate to break the news but Dak Prescott is not a franchise quarterback. From week eight to the end of the regular season, the erratic Dak had 15 turnovers. He added two more interceptions in Sunday’s playoff loss to the 49’ers. Prescott earned a base salary of $31 million this season while carrying a cap hit of over $49 million, part of a four-year, $160 million extension. Sorry, he’s not worth it.

No one turned it over more often this season than Indianapolis Colts quarterback Matt Ryan. In 12 games, he had 13 interceptions and 15 fumbles. That’s hard to do.

Lamar Jackson did not travel with the team when the Baltimore Ravens went to Cincinnati for their playoff matchup with the Bengals. He was also not around when the players cleaned out their lockers and headed home for the off-season. Jackson missed the final six games of the season with a knee injury that many said he could have played with. And this is the face of your franchise? The Ravens claim they want him back. How about showing him the door?

In an effort to chase down the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC West, the Donkeys, Raiders and Chargers spent a combined $595 million on free agents this past off-season. The three teams combined to go 0-6 vs. the Chiefs this year. Pat Mahomes is now 16-0 on the road in the AFC West in the regular season and playoffs since entering the league five years ago.

MLB Notebook – Vladdy Guerrero Jr. claims the Blue Jays have not started negotiations on a long-term contract. If that’s the case, what are the Blue Jays thinking? The cost is only going to go up. The Jays have not been able to reach an agreement with the team’s other key piece, shortstop Bo Bichette. He’s headed to arbitration for the second straight season and you can’t tell me that doesn’t create animosity. Time to get both those guys signed to rich extensions.

During baseball’s international signing period, the Jays inked outfielder Enmanuel Bonilla, the No. 7-ranked player on MLB’s Pipeline of International Prospects. Bonilla received a signing bonus of $4.1 million, the highest amount ever for a Jays prospect. He’s considered to be one of the top sluggers in this year’s class.

Guess who doled-out the most guaranteed money during baseball’s free agent frenzy this winter?  Yes, that would be the New York Yankees. The Yanks spent $573.5 million. That’s more than the aggregate of 18 teams. Something tells me a good portion of that money will end up being wasted.

The San Diego Padres were clearly ‘all-in’ as they continue pursuit of their first-ever World Series title. The Padres were very active in the free agent market. Among their value signings was inking veteran DH Nelson Cruz to a one-year, $1 million-dollar deal. Cruz is absolutely ageless. Despite not receiving full-time at-bats until his age-28 season, Cruz has hit 459 home runs, driven in 1,302 runs and slashed .274/.344/.515 over his 18-year career. Those are Hall of Fame numbers. Cruz has made six all-star teams since turning 32. He’s also a great ‘clubhouse’ guy.

Reports say the electronic strike zone will be used in all Triple-A ballparks this season. It’s another significant step toward the implementation of the technology at the big-league level. The automatic balls and strikes system will be used in half of all Triple-A games this season. In the other half, the ABS will be used as a challenge system with each team getting three challenges per game.

NBA Trade Deadline – The Toronto Raptors could hold the key if they wish to give up the post-season chase and become sellers at the upcoming NBA trade deadline. Fred VanVleet is a prime candidate to be moved. He’s about to turn 29 and is in a season-long shooting slump. VanVleet is on an expiring contract and should draw big interest among contending teams.

If the Raps decide to make O.G. Anunoby available, he would be a major prize. At only 25, Anunoby has developed into a top defender. In fact, he’s likely to be named to the NBA’s All-Defensive Team this season. He’s also much-improved on the offensive end, averaging 18 points per game, shooting 47 percent from the field and 37 percent from 3. The price tag would be at least two draft picks and a player.

Ten Questions for Dustin Johnson – This may be the start of a new regular feature. We pose ten questions for golfer Dustin Johnson who rose from the backwoods of South Carolina to golf superstardom and a high profile, glitzy marriage with Paulina Gretzky. Here’s our ten questions for Dustin.

  1. If you weren’t playing golf, what do you think you would be doing? Perhaps working at the fillin’ station down the road?
  2. Have you ever been seriously injured by a flying golf ball? Just asking.
  3. Do you see the resemblance between you and Jethro Bodine from the Beverley Hillbillies? He was also a deep thinker.
  4. Where does your Uncle Jed keep the whiskey still?
  5. In South Carolina, do they teach you to squeal like a pig in school?
  6. Now, a couple of questions about your wife Paulina Gretzky. Were you attracted to Paulina by her charm and intelligence or did it have anything to do with any part of her anatomy?
  7. If you combined the IQ’s of you and Paulina, do you think it would top 100?
  8. Have you and Paulina considered applying to appear on Celebrity Jeopardy?
  9. If we started up a GoFundMe page, how much money would it take to have Paulina disappear from social media forever, never to be seen again?
  10. How long can Paulina go without appearing scantily-clad in an online video?

Leftovers – It was a perfect start to the golf season for Brooke Henderson. She was a wire-to-wire winner at the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions in Lake Nona, Florida. It was her 13th career victory, the most ever in Canadian golf history. Brooke is reportedly free of back issues. She switched to TaylorMade equipment in the off-season and everything seems to be clicking.

LIV Golf has announced a TV broadcast deal with The CW Network, an over-the-air cable network with no other sports properties. The network plans to air 14 events this year. The lead analyst will be none other than David Feherty who remarked “I hear, ‘Well, it’s to grow the game.’ Bullshit. They paid me a lot of money.”

Canada’s Bianca Andreescu was quickly knocked out of the Australian Open. She has now played in eight Grand Slam tournaments since winning the U.S. Open in 2019, losing twice in the first round, four times in the second round, and never making it past the round of 16. Andreescu is still only 22 but it’s time to get her game, and her head, straightened out.

Zion Williams is doing everything he can to join the pantheon of ‘biggest NBA busts ever.’ Think Greg Oden and Sam Bowie. The New Orleans Pelicans would-be superstar is out of the lineup again – for up to three weeks – with a hamstring pull. It’s just the latest in a long list of injuries that have plagued him since entering the league as the top selection in the 2019 draft. Williamson missed the entire 2021-22 season with a foot issue. He played only 24 games the following season due to a torn meniscus. Since then, he’s had a multitude of injuries including hip and lower back problems. Calling him a superstar is a joke.

Goodbye Jeff Beck – Since our last post, we lost one of the most acclaimed guitarists in rock and roll history. Jeff Beck died at 78 after contracting bacterial meningitis. Beck’s name is etched in 60’s rock history. He replaced Eric Clapton in the legendary British rock group The Yardbirds. He then formed The Jeff Beck Group with the very young Rod Stewart. However, unlike his contemporaries, Beck failed to make his name in one band like Jimmy Page with Led Zeppelin and Peter Townshend with The Who. Beck would be associated with a variety of bands and configurations throughout his career, always at the vanguard of contemporary music. Here’s a look back at his career.

For a peak at his guitar brilliance, here’s ‘Beck’s Bolero’ performed at the Hollywood Bowl in 2016.

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