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Under Further Review – Douglas Smith with Chief Editor Bill Morphy. We’re coming at you with both guns blazing to start the New Year. Bedard lights up the World Juniors. The Canucks flounder. The Seahawks are still breathing and the Blue Jays swing for the fences.

Happy New Year Everyone! Hope you enjoyed the Christmas holidays. We hope 2023 brings you great joy and happiness.

Breaking News: At press time on Monday evening, there was no definitive word on the medial status of Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin who collapsed during the MNF game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Hamlin was administered CPR on the field and was taken by ambulance to a nearby medical centre where he is said to be in critical condition. The game was suspended after a delay of over an hour. We pray for Hamlin’s full recovery.

World Juniors – When the outcome is in doubt, cue the Connor Bedard Show. The North Vancouver wunderkind scored the overtime winner as Canada shaded Slovakia 4-3 to advance to the semifinals of the World Junior Championships in Halifax. Team Canada will now meet the U.S. in one semi-final while Sweden faces Czechia in the other.

Bedard’s OT winner was one of ten shots he fired on the net including five in the overtime session. He’s shattered every Canadian and tournament scoring record and he’s still may have two more games to go. With 16 goals, Bedard surpassed Jordan Eberle’s record of 14 career goals. He also had the assist record and set the Canadian single-tournament points mark, breaking the record owned by Dale McCourt and Brayden Schenn. Bedard also topped Eric Lindros’ mark of 31 career points that has stood since 1992.

We’ve all watched the game for a long time. No one has ever shot the puck like Bedard. The way he puts the puck on the tip of the blade, curls it back and releases it so the goalie can’t track the angle, is amazing to watch. Forget about anyone challenging Bedard as the number one overall pick in next summer’s NHL draft. That discussion is over.

Lost amidst the incredible feats being authored by Connor Bedard at this year’s World Juniors is the fact the North Van wunderkind is the youngest player in the tournament and won’t turn 18 until after next summer’s NHL draft. In fact, he would be eligible to play in two more tournaments but will surely be plying his other-worldly skills in the NHL.

Give Slovakia a ton of credit for the effort they put out on Monday night. They did not back down an inch. They had the size to stand up to Canada and matched them physically all night. Czechia did the same thing. NHL scouts should pay attention to what those two countries are doing to develop players because they have been very impressive.

Our early impressions of Canucks top 2022 draft pick, Swedish forward Jonathan Lekkerimaki (#15 overall), are not positive. Watching him in the World Junior tournament, the biggest concern is his overall skating stride. Lekkerimaki may have a lethal shot, the element of his game that attracted the Canucks, but he plays on the perimeter and rarely drives to the hard areas in front of the net. If Lekkerimaki’s skating does not improve, you have to wonder what kind of impact he will make at the NHL level. Meanwhile, the player we touted, right-shot defenseman Lian Bichsel (#18 overall by Dallas), is making his towering presence felt on the Swiss team. At 6-5, Bichsel is playing in all situations, making safe plays and adding some offense including an assist on the overtime winner in Switzerland’s upset of Finland.  Canucks couldn’t use him!

It seems like every time Canada has a disappointing result in a big international tournament, the focus is directly placed on the goaltending. Why does Canada continue to have such little success in developing goalies especially in comparison to the U.S., Russia and Europe.

Twenty years ago, Canadian goalies accounted for 60 percent of all NHL goaltenders. That number has now been cut in half to just 30 percent. European goalies account for 50 percent. It’s pretty reasonable to conclude that in any major upcoming international competition, Canada will be at a goaltending disadvantage.

Canucks Notebook – We are deep enough into the NHL season to get a good measure of the Canucks and what we see is not promising. This is NOT a playoff team. We have a pretty good sense of the overall talent level and it’s nowhere near good enough. How can you lose 5-1 on home ice on five different occasions before Christmas arrives?

The Canucks are hapless five-on-five and the numbers show it. Only Arizona, Chicago, Anaheim, Columbus and San Jose – all of them lottery-bound – have been outscored at a higher rate five-on-five than the Canucks. Nice company! The writing is on the proverbial wall. Tank, baby! Shed whatever contracts you can and try to reap the benefits in a talent-rich draft year.  In a league where half the teams make the playoffs, it’s such a low bar to aspire to reach the post-season. The bill is coming thanks to years of short-term thinking. The Canucks are backed into a cap corner with no cheap labour on the horizon coming through the system.

Elias Pettersson, the team’s only apparent untouchable, is on a fast track to free agency. Why would Petey want to re-sign in Vancouver where dysfunction is the norm? If the Canucks fail to reach an extension with Pettersson this summer, he can sign a qualifying offer estimated to be $8 million which would conclude his three-year bridge deal. Then, the clock starts ticking toward UFA status after the 2023-24 season. You can bet another major distraction looms next season. Would you stick around if you were Pettersson? Once this tumultuous season is over, he will have made the playoffs once in five years. All he’s known is losing.

We’ve been consistent in our analysis of the Canucks. If anything, they are trending downward. It’s almost an affront to the fans now not to admit the team needs to rebuild in a significant manner. A rebuild is coming whether the organization wants to admit it or not. Can we stop talking about retool-on-the-fly? It’s going to take a series of bold moves. The Canucks need a boatload of young assets, draft picks and cap space before the needle is going to move. Get on with it!

NHL Notebook Can someone in the Vancouver media please have the courage to call out J.T. Miller? The guy is an egotistical A-Hole. Showing up goaltender Collin Delia was just latest his petulant act. Extending Miller was a monumental mistake by the new management team. He’s a cancer in the room and they should have known that. You couldn’t trade this jerk if you ate half his salary.

How many teams have made the mistake of mortgaging the future for a wild crack at the Stanley Cup? The Florida Panthers dealt an unprotected 2023 first-round pick to the Montreal Canadiens last spring for 30 games of veteran defenseman Ben Chiarot. How’s that looking now with the Panthers unlikely to qualify for the playoffs? Florida is without first picks in ’23, ’24 and ’25 as well as their ’24 second-round pick and their ’23 third-round selection. The Panthers are looking at a barren cupboard for years to come at a time when cheap labour is at a premium.

After another tepid start to the season, the Ottawa Senators are starting to show real progress. Rookie defenseman Jake Sanderson is a budding star and adds another foundational piece to the Sens young lineup. Imagine what the roster will look like when forwards Ridley Grieg, Tyler Boucher and Zach Ostapchuk make their way onto the team. All are former first-round picks and could ultimately form a cost-efficient third line.

Do you think the Buffalo Sabres would like to have Linus Ullmark back? He’s 20-1-and-1 with the Boston Bruins this season with a 1.90 GAA and a .938 save percentage. The Bruins signed Ullmark as a free agent and there’s no way they could have anticipated this kind of performance. Speaking of the Bruins, Patrice Bergeron has been on the ice for nine goals against while playing five-on-five so far this season. Yes, you read that right. Bergeron is the straw that stirs that drink!

Philly Fun House – Like the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Philadelphia Flyers see themselves as an iconic franchise with a glorious history even though they haven’t won diddly in more than 25 years. The Flyers still hold the two Cup wins in the 70’s in unjustified reverence when their ‘goonery’ set the game back dramatically. 2023 will mark the seventh time the Flyers have missed the playoffs in the past eleven years.

The organization is simply out of touch with the modern-day game. The Flyers are so top heavy they have four Senior Advisors including former players Bobby Clarke, Bill Barber and Paul Holmgren and former Kings GM Dean Lombardi. No team in the NHL does nepotism better than the Flyers. Dave Brown, the goon of all goons, is the team’s head scout. Bob “Battleship” Kelly is in the Community Relations department. If you don’t buy season’s tickets, Kelly will punch your lights out. The scouting and player development staff is littered with ex-players. Kyle Shero is listed as a college scout. Jody Clarke is listed as Executive Assistant to Hockey Operations. Relatives of Flyers past one would expect? Is there anyone in their front office under 50?

Not every ex-NHL player makes a good scout. You can’t just hand them jobs as some kind of thank you for services rendered. Scouting has become highly technical and players who played the game 40 years ago are not necessarily in-step with today’s game. Most of the top scouts in the NHL never suited up for an NHL game.

Take a look at the Flyers draft record. Over the past decade, Flyer first-round picks have included Scott Laughton, German Rubtsov, Nolan Patrick, Morgan Frost, Joel Farabee, Jay O’Brien, Cam York and Tyson Foerster. Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim and Travis Konecny have worked out OK. In 2017, the Flyers western bias caused them to select Brandon’s Nolan Patrick second overall. The next three picks were Miro Heiskanen, Cale Makar and Elias Pettersson. In 2016, the Flyers selected Rubtsov over Tage Thompson. In 2016, they took Provorov over Zach Werenski and Mikko Rantanen.

No wonder the Flyers find themselves at the bottom of the league. You cannot continually strike out on franchise players at the draft table and hope to build a winning hockey club. Chuck Fletcher is on his last legs as general manager. The Flyers were so desperate they brought in John Tortorella as a last stab at mediocrity. Say what you want about Torts. He will take the temperature of the dressing room and make things very uncomfortable for those not drinking the Kool-aid. When Torts was in Vancouver, he gave Canucks management the unvarnished goods and it wasn’t pretty. It was the Canucks mistake not to listen.

The Flyers are headed to one of their worst seasons in club history. They need to take a grenade to the front office. The highlight of the season is sure to be Ed Van Impe Night.

Seahawks Notebook – After losing four of five, it looked as though the Seahawks playoff chances were out the window. A couple of strong, back-to-back efforts have the Hawks at 8-8 with an outside chance of making the post-season. That, in itself, is a huge accomplishment based on pre-season prospects. To qualify, Seattle will need to win at home next weekend against the L.A. Rams and hope Green Bay loses at Lambeau against the Detroit Lions.

In extinguishing the New York Jets playoff hopes on Sunday, the Seahawks had 194 yards rushing, finally playing to their identity. Darrell Taylor had two and a half sacks and a forced fumble, giving hope that he may yet be an impact player on defense. The best news is the Seahawks may be the first team in over two decades to make the playoffs and still have one of the top three picks in the NFL draft.

Dead Donkeys – The Denver Donkeys finally pulled the plug on first-year head coach Nathaniel Hackett. They would have been better off hiring Buddy Hackett. Their offense is as exciting as watching Zamfir play the pan flute. Congratulations to Bart Scott who predicted the Broncos would win the AFC West this season. Nice call!

The Donkeys new ownership group is reportedly committed to sticking with Russell Wilson next season. They had better hope they can lure Sean Peyton to Denver because a turnaround is unlikely unless they can land a competent head coach.

Loved the comments from Fox commentator and former Broncos offensive lineman Mark Schlereth on the state of the team.  “Anybody who’s ever played this game understands (that) it is impossible to win if your organizational structure isn’t right, and there’s a big difference between hiring a coach and empowering a coach,” Schlereth said. “Nathaniel Hackett came into a situation which, frankly, they never truly empowered him; they empowered Russell Wilson. That is a formula for disaster.”

Wilson was given his own office in the Broncos facility. Who does that? Schlereth said they can’t continue to let Wilson have the same amount of say as he’s had in 2022. “If that structure isn’t changed and the next coach doesn’t come in here with some gravitas and basically say, ‘This the way it is, Russ, and you either get to play by my rules or you don’t play,’ and unless a guy’s got that kind of authority, they will never win here. Ever.”

Wilson will never admit to his own shortcomings. Schlereth agrees. “He holds onto the ball too long. I bet you over a third of the sacks given up in Seattle over the last 10 years were directly attributed to Russell, and it’s the way it is,” Schlereth said. “That dude needs to throw… I don’t care how many times you pat (the football), it’s not going to burp, the thing’s not a baby. Throw the freaking thing.”

Schlereth hasn’t heard Wilson take ownership for taking so many sacks, and it doesn’t quite sit right with him. “As an offensive lineman, you’re never gonna say anything (about a quarterback being responsible for taking sacks). You’re just going to eat it and take it, and you expect the quarterback to come up and say it,” he said. “But I’ve never heard Russ one time get up on the podium and go, ‘Hey man, I held the ball too long. Those sacks are all on me. My offensive line is playing great.”

NFL Notebook – The Kansas City Chiefs had five 12-win seasons in 58 years prior to the arrival of Patrick Mahomes. Since Mahomes took over behind center, the Chiefs have had five straight 12-win seasons. The NFL MVP conversation is not even open to discussion.

No NFL team has made a dog’s breakfast out of the quarterback position more than the Indianapolis Colts. The decision to acquire Carson Wentz and Matt Ryan in consecutive off-seasons will set the Colts back for years. Wentz was acquired from the Philadelphia Eagles for a 2021 third-round pick and 2022 conditional first-round pick. After several moves, the Eagles ended up landing All-Pro receiver A.J. Brown with the first-rounder.

It cost the Colts a third-round pick to acquire Ryan from Atlanta. The price wasn’t so bad – the cost was. Ryan made $24.7 million this season and was benched after six games. If he plays for the Colts next season, he will earn $29.2 million. If the Colts release Ryan before March 17 when guarantees kick in, he will count $18 million in dead money against next year’s salary cap. Ryan will be 38 next season. Do the Colts have any other option than to cut him loose and take their medicine?

Love him or hate him, you can’t deny what Tom Brady has done with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this season. The Bucs will make the post-season after being pretty much left for dead. You can never sell the guy short.

Thanks to the dramatic spike in TV money, it’s expected the NFL salary cap will rise by $78 million between 2023-2029. In the meantime, the NHL salary cap will probably still be rising by a million a year.

The recent death of Franco Harris brought back memories of the great Steelers-Cowboys rivalry back in the late 70’s. Someone pointed out the number of Hall of Fame players that squared off in those games.

Steelers—Mel Blount, Terry Bradshaw, Joe Greene, Jack Ham, Franco, Jack Lambert, Donnie Shell, John Stallworth, Lynn Swann, Mike Webster.

Cowboys—Cliff Harris, Drew Pearson, Jackie Smith, Mel Renfro, Randy White, Rayfield Wright, Roger Staubach, Tony Dorsett. Plus, both coaches, Chuck Noll and Tom Landry. Pittsburgh owner Art Rooney and Dallas GM Tex Schramm.

Jays Go Bold – The Toronto Blue Jays needed to do something transformative this off-season and we got our wish. The swap of #1 prospect Gabriel Moreno and outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. to Arizona for left-handed hitting outfielder Daulton Varsho signalled the future is definitely now. Toronto’s depth at catcher allowed them to move Moreno but you cringe at what that may mean down the road. Moreno has all the tools to be the next Yadier Molina.

What it also signals is a shift to a more business-like attitude in the clubhouse. Forget the nonsense. Let’s get to work. Gurriel was about as emotionally grown-up as an 11-year-old. The dancing in the dugout and the water-dumping with Teoscar Hernandez was getting old. The team is in win-now mode and needs to quit the antics and get serious about winning championships. They add the son of another former major leaguer in Gary Varsho who should bring much-needed professionalism. The fact that he is under team control for four more years is massive. It’s another core piece with a degree of cost certainty.

MLB Notebook – Now that former Blue Jay Fred McGriff has been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, we need to make a case for another Jays first baseman. Carlos Delgado posted career numbers that are almost identical to McGriff. In 17 seasons, Delgado had a .280 career batting average, 473 home runs, 1,512 RBI’s and an OPS of .940. McGriff hit .284 with 494 home runs, 1550 RBI’s with an OPS of .886. Like McGriff, Delgado was an outstanding defensive first baseman with a .992 fielding percentage. Delgado has more home runs and RBI’s and a better OPS than Duke Snider and Andrew Dawson.  He had more home runs and RBI’s than Larry Walker. Still, Delgado will probably never make it into the Hall and that’s a shame.

The New York Mets payroll tab has reached an absurd level. After signing Carlos Correa, the Mets free agent goofiness adds up to more than $800 million. Their 2023 payroll projects to be $495 million. Owner Steve Cohen, baseball’s version of Imelda Marcos, is facing a luxury tax penalty of $110 million.  With the Phillies and Braves, the NL East figures to be a battle royale. Here’s hoping the Mets fail to make the post-season.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Boston Red Sox are now acting like paupers. No top free agents want to go to Boston with the team in complete disarray. The Sox watched shortstop Xander Bogaerts depart for San Diego. Third baseman Rafael Devers is a year away from free agency and shows no signs of wanting to re-sign. The big signing was a massive overpay for Japanese outfielder Masataka Yoshida. Signing 38-year-old Justin Turner was a complete head-scratcher. How the Sox think they are improved is a mystery. Since Chaim Bloom took over the Sox front office, Boston has dealt Mookie Betts, David Price, Andrew Benintendi, Hunter Renfroe, Mitch Moreland, Brandon Workman, Health Hembree and Christian Vasquez. To this point, those deals have yielded Alex Verdugo, a backup catcher, and a back-of-the-rotation starter in Victoria’s Nick Pivetta. One of the key pieces in the Betts deal, Jeter Downs, was recently designated for assignment. No wonder the shine is off the Bloom.

Beckham’s Windfall – It was 2007 and David Beckham was one of the most famous athletes in the world. He had spent the past 15 years as soccer royalty with Manchester United and Real Madrid. Everyone thought he was nuts when he shocked the world and signed with Major League Soccer’s L.A. Galaxy. Turns out Becks was no fool. A unique clause in David Beckham’s MLS contract ended up earning him hundreds of millions of dollars.

Beckham actually took a 70 percent pay cut from $20 million down to $6.5 million. But Beckham convinced the Galaxy to give him 20 percent of all team revenue including merchandise, sponsorships and ticket sales. He ended up earning over $250 million during his five years in L.A.

But that’s not all. Here’s the best part. Beckham’s contract included the right to buy an MLS franchise at any time in the future for a set price of $25 million. Beckham would exercise that option nearly a decade later by purchasing expansion Inter Miami CF. At the time, MLS expansion franchises were costing $150 million. A cool $125 million discount for Beckham. The Miami franchise is now estimated to be worth $600 million.

Leftovers – Soccer god Cristiano Ronaldo has taken the money and run. He’s signed the richest contract in sports history with Saudi club Al Nassr said to be worth $200 million per season. It’s another example of oil money ‘sportwashing.’ Forget about Ronaldo ever playing at a high level again. The 37-year-old took the cash rather than sticking around to break more records.

Real Madrid is reportedly hot on the trail of two of the top young talents in the Bundesliga.  The transfer fee from Borussia Dortmund for 19-year-old English star Jude Bellingham is said to be $100 million pounds. Real Madrid is also eyeing Canadian star Alphonso Davies with a fee pegged at $70 million pounds.

In case you missed the College Football Playoffs, the two semifinals produced a combined 179 points. How about the Horned Frogs of TCU who shocked Michigan 51-45? Top-ranked Georgia overcame Ohio State 42-41 setting up a TCU-Georgia national title game.

The NCAA Bowl season is a farce. College players on scholarships are walking out on their teams and skipping bowl game appearances. Top-rated quarterback Will Levis of Kentucky refused to play, choosing instead to prepare for the NFL Combine. The Canadian twins playing at Illinois, Chase Brown and Sydney Brown, also opted out of playing in the Illini’s bowl game against Mississippi State. The university hands you a free ride scholarship yet you bolt when the team needs you. That’s gratitude.

Remember how Canucks management was seduced by the team’s encouraging finish last season? The new front office figured the Canucks would build off the positive steps and be in the mix for a playoff spot this year. Hasn’t happened. Well, the story is similar in Toronto where the Raptors rolled to a 25-11 record to finish last season with 47 wins while securing the fifth playoff seed in the East. This season was supposed to produce more of the same. Hasn’t happened. Injuries have been a factor but Masai Ujiri and company must be wondering if the foundation is there for a championship calibre team. The Raptors have taken a big step backyard and it may be time to pivot in a new direction.

Something doesn’t sit right when Robert Sarver, disgraced owner of the Phoenix Suns, can sell the team for $4 billion dollars and walk away basically unscathed. What’s a $10 million dollar fine to him? Sarver bought the Suns for $400 million, yet, despite the litany of accusations of racism and sexism, the NBA refuses to step in and do something impactful. It will be the same with Dan Snyder once the NFL finally tackles him to the ground for good. Snyder will likely get off Scott-free while banking over $6 billion once the Washington Commanders are sold.

You probably missed it but Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks had 60 points, 21 rebounds and 10 assists in a game recently, then followed it up with a 51-point performance against the Spurs. In a five-game span, Doncic had 250 points, 50 rebounds and 50 assists. No one in NBA history has ever done that. He’s the most under-the-radar superstar in any sport right now.

Spotify Playlist Tracks – Sorry we screwed up with the Spotify 2022 Playlist of the Year. The link we provided didn’t work. We can only assume Spotify does not want you sharing these lists.

Here’s a few tracks we came across over the past few weeks.

You have probably never heard of an American actor-musician named Stephen Bruton. He passed away in 2009 of throat cancer at the age of 60. He worked with numerous artists during his career including T Bone Burnett, Bonnie Raitt, Glen Clark, Elvis Costello and Delbert McClinton. We recommend checking out the song Bigger Wheel from the album From the Five and That’s Love from the release Nothing But the Truth.

We came across an artist named Arnold McCuller. Check out the track All Good featuring David Hidalgo from Los Lobos from the album Soon As I Get Paid.

They’ve released the title track off Paul Carrack’s new upcoming album with the SWR Big Band entitled Trust in Me. Worth having a listen.

We discovered an amazing German singer named Jessica Born. She performs with a German guitar player named Georg Crostewitz. They have released two albums together. We recommend the title track and Drivin’ to You off the album Reset and This World is Beautiful from the album Chilled. You will agree her voice is outstanding.

Check out a female artist named Kris Delmhorst. Listen to the song Wasted Word from the album Songs for a Hurricane.

Another gal worth checking out is Nicki Bluhm. Check out Friends (How To Do it) from the release Avondale Drive.

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