Under Further Review – Douglas Smith with Co-Editor Bill Morphy and contributions from Jordan Moss. This week, a major step forward for Mackenzie Hughes, upsets in the making in the NHL playoffs, the Jays bullpen flounders and bye-bye to Kyrie and the Nets.
Mac Attack – Talk about coming out of nowhere! Heading into this week’s U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in San Diego, Canada’s Mackenzie Hughes had five consecutive missed cuts. Hughes fired a 3-under 68 in Saturday’s third round which featured a 60-foot eagle putt on 13 and a sweet up-and-down birdie out of the bunker on the par-5 18th. He sits at minus-5 and in a three-way tie for the lead with South African Louis Oosthuizen and American Russell Henley heading into Sunday’s final round. Hughes has missed the cut six times in his eight major appearances. His best finish in a major is a T-40 at this year’s Masters. No Canadian has ever won a U.S. Open. Good luck on Sunday Mac!
I was definitely cheering for Englishman Richard Bland who had a share of the lead heading into the weekend before falling back with a six-over 77 on Saturday. The 48-year-old won this year’s British Masters in order to qualify. It was his first victory after 476 starts on a 20-year European Tour odyssey. He became the oldest 36-hole leader/co-leader in U.S. Open history. Bland is the ultimate journeyman.
Watching the U.S. Open this week it finally occurred to me why I find Bryson DeChambeau so annoying. It’s because he loves to talk about himself. It immediately brings to mind the famous quote from actress Zsa Zsa Gabor: “That’s enough about me. Now it’s time for you to talk about me.”
A Plea to Francesco – Speculation surfaced this week that the Canucks may be considering a trade for Buffalo Sabres winger Sam Reinhart, the North Vancouver native. The cost would be the Canucks first-round pick in the upcoming NHL draft, ninth overall. The 25-year old had 25 goals this season on a bad Sabres team. He also saw some time at center after the injury to Jack Eichel. Reinhart is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights and is coming off an expiring $5.2 million dollar cap hit. Why even consider the trade when Reinhart is going to be asking for $7+ million per season? I wouldn’t touch that deal with a barge pole! If it does happen, it will be because Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini is listening to his buddies again.
According to Canucks GM Jim Benning, “We’re going to look at everything. We’re going to call other teams and I know we’re going to get a real good player at No. 9. We’re going to have to get a young player who we feel is worth trading the pick. We’re going to keep all our options open.”
Instead of spending time on players like Reinhart from losing cultures, the Canucks need to identify players they can move forward with and they don’t need to be star-quality. They need to be competitive guys that put the team first.
NHL Playoff Notebook – In case you didn’t notice, the Montreal Canadiens are 9-1 since falling behind the Leafs 3-1 in the opening round. Good on Nos Glorieux!
As the Canucks go about filling out the bottom half of their roster, they should take note of Paul Byron. He was waived three times this season. He wasn’t claimed simply because his salary was a little too rich. In the playoffs, Byron has been at the center of three massive goals that was closed out huge Montreal wins.
Every goalie gives up a bad goal every now and then. The key is not giving up the gift goal at the wrong time. If you have a good memory, you will recall the softie Marc-Andre Fleury surrendered that cost Canada a gold medal at the World Junior Championships. The goal against Montreal with less than two minutes remaining in game three was inexcusable and opened the door for the Canadiens dramatic overtime win. We will see if it becomes the turning point in the series. Sometimes bad goals can end up characterizing the outcome of an entire series.
Have you noticed the common denominator between the final four teams? All have fine goaltending, big, sturdy defence corps, and they play a connected TEAM game.
The Carolina Hurricanes have given Dougie Hamilton’s representatives permission to speak with other clubs in advance of the start of free agency. It opens the door to a potential sign-and-trade as well as adding a potential eighth year to the term of his new deal. It’s pretty obvious the Hurricanes are not going to get into a bidding war for Hamilton’s services. The message to Hamilton is clear: go out and find out what the market is for your services. Carolina is guessing it’s not as high as Hamilton thinks it is. Who wants to give an eight-year contract to a 28-year old defenceman who will be playing for his fourth team in nine years? Hey, maybe the Leafs will want him?
We won’t waste the effort documenting everything that has gone wrong in Toronto since Lou Lamoriello departed three years ago although it would be fun. What is thoroughly enjoyable is watching the increasing angst in Leafville as Lou’s Islanders continue marching onward in this year’s playoffs. Can you imagine the meltdown if the Islanders were to win the Cup? Leaf fans would be apoplectic. Looking back, do you really think loveable Lou would have let William Nylander hold MLSE ransom, then succumb and hand the girlish Swede a $7 million per year contract? Lou would have told Nylander to enjoy wintering back home in Sweden.
Fans forget that the Leafs signed John Tavares to a seven-year, $77 million dollar contract because they believed at the time the salary cap would continue to rise at an accelerated rate. According to sources, the Leafs forecast the 2021-2022 cap would be between $88 and $90 million. Whoops!
Gotta Get Kraken – The Vegas Golden Knights have certainly set a very high bar for the expansion Seattle Kraken. In another month, the Kraken will actually have players with the expansion draft set for July 23. With the NHL set to put down a stake in Washington State, let’s rundown a few of the developments.
- Seattle paid a record $650 million dollar expansion fee. The co-majority owners are David Bonderman and Hollywood mogul Jerry Bruckheimer.
- Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos purchased the rights to rename KeyArena. It will now be called Climate Pledge Arena and it promises to be the ‘greenest’ building in the NHL. The ice will be formed using rainwater and the arena will be the first to ban single-use plastics.
- The Kraken hired world-renowned sustainability architect Jason McLennan to handle the redevelopment. They saved the roof and reduced the amount of materials needed for construction. The arena has been built below ground which allows for a vertical seating plan similar to old stadiums like the Boston Garden, Montreal Forum and Chicago Stadium. Seating capacity will be 17,000.
- To create the best possible fan experience, the Kraken have hired Jonny Greco, the Golden Knights’ former vice-president of events and entertainment to be their senior vice-president of live entertainment and game presentation.
- The two Seattle Center Monorail stations will be fully updated in time for the start of the inaugural season. They are directly adjacent to the arena so you will not need a car and parking in order to attend a game.
- The Kraken will have by far the most diverse staff in the NHL. Women make up 45 percent of all staff. Members of the BIPOC community account for another 26 percent. It’s clear the franchise is going to be incredibly progressive.
- With the NHL salary cap remaining flat at $81.5 million, it gives the Kraken an excellent opportunity to take advantage of teams desperate to unload money. In addition, Seattle figures to be a very attractive free agent destination.
Seattle GM Ron Francis was at the helm in Carolina when the Hurricanes began a long, slow rebuild. He knows the value of building from the net out. The Hurricanes have put an emphasis on drafting defencemen. Expect Francis to do the same in Seattle. Everyone is mocking center Matthew Beniers to the Kraken with the second overall pick. Don’t be surprised if Francis opts for a defenceman instead.
Expect the Kraken to be open for business and prepared to ‘eat money’ in return for draft pick sweeteners. Example: the Lightning want to unload Washington State native Tyler Johnson’s $5 million dollar contract which has one year remaining. Example: Milan Lucic has already told the Flames he is willing to waive his no-movement clause. Will Calgary be willing to toss in a draft pick to entice Seattle to select Lucic in the expansion draft? One thing is certain. The Kraken will be looking to draft players with limited term, especially those on expiring contracts, so they can be dealt at next year’s trade deadline.
Table Scraps – When you review the expansion rules for Vegas and Seattle, you can’t help but go back and compare the difference when the Ottawa Senators entered the league back in 1991-1992. The NHL gave the Senators a pile of goose dung. Vegas and Seattle basically got to pick either the fourth-best defenceman, eighth-best forward or back-up goalie from every NHL team. The Senators got table scraps. In their first season, the Senators road record was 1-41. Meanwhile, Vegas became an instant contender and reached the Stanley Cup final in its first season.
The Senators defence in their first season included Brad Shaw, Norm Maciver, Chris Luongo and Ken Hammond. They were a combined minus-180 led by Shaw and Luongo who were both minus-47. Our favourite player from that first Senators team is Lonnie Loach.
Trader Mike – There is no debate – Mike Milbury is the worst general manager in NHL history. It’s not even close. The list of bad trades, bad contracts and bad draft picks compiled by Milbury during his stint as the New York Islanders GM is comical.
Here’s the All-Traded by Mike All-Star Team. It’s jaw-dropping!
Trevor Linden, Jason Spezza, Mike Peca, Olli Jokinen
Wendel Clark, Steve Thomas, J.P. Dumont, Tim Connolly
Todd Bertuzzi, Zigmund Palffy, Mariusz Czerkawski, Robert Reichel
Wade Redden, Bryan McCabe, Eric Brewer
Zdeno Chara, Bryan Berard, Janne Niinimaa
Roberto Luongo, Chris Osgood
Blue Jays This Week – Charlie Montoyo is not the man to lead the Blue Jays to a World Series title. Nice guy, yes. Top drawer manager, no. The Toronto media are finally starting to figure it out. The Jays have slipped to 10th place overall in the American league. Only the doormat Baltimore Orioles are worse in the AL East. Toronto now trails five teams in the wildcard race so a playoff berth is very unlikely. Yes, it’s not all on Montoyo but the fundamental mistakes keep happening and the bullpen is a mess largely because of early season overuse. It’s also on GM Ross Atkins for putting together this grab bag of bullpen rag arms.
The Blue Jays have used 26 pitchers so far this season. The number is sure to rise as the team searches for solutions. The bullpen has blown ten leads from the seventh inning on, tops in MLB. To this point, they have tried to find internal answers but it’s rather obvious they are going to have to go outside the organization. In all likelihood, the answers won’t come until the off-season.
In their deflating three-game meltdown against the Yankees this week, the Jays carried a lead into the seventh inning in all three games. The much-maligned bullpen threw 11 and one-third innings in the series and came away with a 6.35 ERA. Free passes have been a big issue for the bullpen. Jays relievers have been walking 5.5 batters per nine innings, which is by far the worst mark in baseball.
MLB Notebook – Major League Baseball has no integrity. The commissioner is Rob Man-fraud. The Players Association out-maneuvered the league for two decades in contract negotiations. What did the owners do? They colluded, got sued and had to pay back a princely sum. Players were taking steroids for years and everyone knew it. Baseball turned a blind eye because ‘roided-up’ hitters were blasting home runs and the fans loved it. Now, after a media uproar, the suits on Park Avenue have decided to invoke a rule that’s been in the books for over a hundred years in order to stop pitchers from doctoring baseballs. It was OK until it wasn’t. Any pitcher caught using a foreign substance will now be suspended for ten games. Please, don’t talk about baseball and integrity in the same sentence.
To sum up the mentality in baseball, look no further than pitcher Tyler Glasnow of the Tampa Rays. Glasnow claims he has a partially torn elbow ligament because he tried to throw pitches without any grip enhancer. Here’s a Kleenex Tyler! I’m full of sympathy.
For more comedic relief, you have to see Milwaukee Brewers behemoth Daniel Vogelbach running the bases. You would think a professional athlete would take more pride in his body. If the Brewers want him to run faster, they should put a cheeseburger on every base or maybe a pork chop.
The Arizona Diamondbacks have taken their place in the history books. The D-Backs have lost 23 straight road games, an MLB record. The mark had been shared by the ’63 New York Mets and the 1943 Philadelphia Athletics.
NFL Notebook – The Seahawks held a mandatory minicamp this week. The big takeaway is the increase in tempo by the offence which should play to Russell Wilson’s strengths. New OC Shane Waldron brings a fresh offensive approach to Seattle so we should see a lot more urgency when Seattle has the ball.
If the Seahawks want to take the leap into the top echelon of Super Bowl contenders, they should try and cut a deal for disgruntled Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore. He was a no-show when New England opened their minicamp this week. The four-time Pro Bowler and 2019 Defensive Player of the Year is in the final year of a five-year contract. Gilmore’s base salary is a very workable $7 million. The Seahawks have a huge hole at cornerback with the free agent departure of Shaquill Griffin. Gilmore is 6’1” so he has the length that Pete Carroll likes. With a pair of Pro Bowl safeties, the addition of Gilmore would give the Seahawks one of the NFL’s best secondaries.
How can the Raiders even think of holding training camp in Las Vegas in August? The Raiders used to hold camp in Napa which is hot enough. They will have to hold scrimmages very early in the morning or very late in the evening. They are asking for trouble training in mid-40’s C temperatures.
Police in Galveston, Texas have arrested the son of former NFL defensive lineman Vince Wilfork. Seems he made off with more than $300,000 worth of his father’s jewelry including two New England Patriot Super Bowl rings. Wilfork’s son, 23 year-old D’Aundre Holmes-Wilfork, sold the rings and other jewelry after stealing them. Thanks son!
Leftovers – Mark it down on your calendars! The CFL Board of Governors has approved a 14-game schedule that starts on August 5. Wait, let me grab my credit card. The CFL did not play in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and no one noticed. The Grey Cup in Hamilton has been pushed back from Nov. 21 to Dec. 12. Call John Facenda so we can reprise the Frozen Tundra script.
It’s been 25 years but Canada has advanced to the final round of World Cup qualifying. Canada dispatched Haiti on Tuesday night and will now move onto the eight-country CONCACAF final round which will include Mexico, the U.S., Jamaica, Costa Rica and Honduras who are all ranked ahead of Canada.
How can anyone cheer for Sweden at Euro 2020? I wouldn’t cheer for Sweden if I was Swedish. They play soccer the same way they play hockey. Can they be more vanilla? They seem to think a 0-0 draw is a success. Try attacking once in a while! The Swedes beat Croatia 1-nil and will likely reach the round of 16 by scoring a single goal.
Who invited North Macedonia to the party? Can someone please explain? South Macedonia must be pissed!
Karma came calling on Saturday night as the Brooklyn Nets fell to Milwaukee in overtime in game seven of their Eastern Conference semi-final. You can be sure the TV networks wanted the star-laden Nets to advance. How often have we seen players become so annoying that we want to cheer against them? Case in point: Kyrie Irving. When he wasn’t trying to stop world hunger or finding a solution to Middle East peace, he was begging out of the Nets lineup with some undetermined injury. Here’s a suggestion: Just shut up and play! Kryie missed the deciding game against the Bucks with a sore ankle. Somehow I don’t think Michael Jordan would miss a deciding game seven. RIP Brooklyn!
If the L.A. Clippers and the Phoenix Suns meet in the NBA Western Conference final, it will pit two teams that have never won an NBA title. One of them will be assured of reaching the final and maybe, winning their first championship.
Spotify Song of the Week – Check out Chris Botti’s version of “What a Wonderful World” with Mark Knopfler on vocals and guitar.
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