Under Further Review – Douglas Smith with Co-Editor Bill Morphy and contributions from the Huckster, Jordan Moss, Bill Myles, Dave Kittle, Dr. Stinky and the Big E in Montreal. Well, well, well. How about those Leafs? Nice exit boys. You’ve made your fans proud. It’s your DNA. Own it!
Epic Collapse – Lots of teams lose. It’s the nature of the game. No one loses in catastrophic fashion like the Maple Leafs. It’s their culture. Toronto has to build itself up to being better than everyone else in the country. It’s the center of the universe. The Maple Leaf fart-catchers built the Leafs up to be the ’76 Montreal Canadiens. The Leafs couldn’t beat the Flying Fathers.
Here’s the hard evidence. The Leafs haven’t won a playoff round since 2004. They have lost seven straight playoff series. They have dropped eight straight series-clinching games, an all-time NHL record. Five times over the past three years, the Leafs have played in a winner-take-all contest. Five times, they have lost. They have been unceremoniously bounced from the first round for five straight years by four different teams. After taking a 3-1 series lead against the Canadiens, the Leafs never led at any point in any game after that. They have now tied the record for the longest Cup-drought in NHL history. You can’t erase these collapses from the history books. It’s there for everyone to see. It becomes your DNA.
We’ve been on this file all season long. How come we could forecast this outcome back in September? How could we see the warts on the roster and management couldn’t?
Comedian Bill Burr said it best – “The Maple Leafs are the only team that can make Cleveland Browns fans feel lucky.” We recommend that all Leaf fans and basement-dwelling Leaf sycophants stay away from sharp instruments for a while. The Leafs will have to live with this latest ignominy forever. The fact it happened against the Canadiens only makes it more schadenfreude.
Cause and Effect – The door to playoff success was wide open for the Leafs this season in a weak all-Canadian North Division. The road to the Final Four was supposed to be a smooth ride. Prior to the playoffs, the Maple Leaf Minions said Doogie Howser Dubas G.M. had constructed a Leafs roster that was built for a long playoff run. In what league? Are you sure this is the same team that Sportsnet had ranked second in their latest NHL Playoff Power Rankings?
If you watched game seven, ask yourself a question? Were the Canadiens ever really threatened? You knew as soon as the Habs scored the opening goal, it was over. The NHL playoffs have a way of exposing a team’s weaknesses. You can’t hide replacement-level players. Sooner or later they will screw up. Witness the gift-wrapped giveaways by Alex Galchenyuk and Travis Dermott in the overtime losses in games five and six.
It’s a given that you need great goaltending in the playoffs. Carey Price re-established his reputation in the series without a doubt. But there are two absolutes when it comes to the playoffs – you need forwards you can fight through checks and you need defensemen who can prevent the other team from going to the net with impunity. The Leafs lack both. Once the Canadiens top-four defense group established their physical dominance, the outcome was clear.
Five minutes after the series was over, TSN panelists were saying the Leafs lost because of injuries to John Tavares and Jake Muzzin. More excuses will follow. We should pitch the CBC with a new game show – “Name the Scape Goat!” How much of the pathetic navel-gazing do you think we can stomach? I may vomit on John Tavares’ Maple Leaf pajamas. Last season, Colorado was without starting goalie Philipp Grubauer and top-line forward Mikko Rantanen while all-world dynamo Nathan MacKinnon was playing on one leg. The Avs still took the eventual Stanley Cup finalist Dallas Stars to seven games. Should we remind everyone that the Leafs were playing a Montreal team that wouldn’t even have made the playoffs if the divisions were not altered this season due to the pandemic?
If you want a couple of whipping boys, here’s exhibits one and two. Auston Matthews had three points in game two and one point in the other six. Mitch Marner has now gone without a goal in 18 consecutive playoff games. Alex Kerfoot outscored both of them. The Big Two were plus-2 in 23 opportunities on the power-play vs. Montreal and were key cogs in a PP that went 12-for-110 after March 1. These are your leaders? Oh yes, how about all the great leadership that was assembled in that Maple Leaf locker room?
It sure wasn’t Joe Thornton who was minus-3 in the series in sheltered minutes. Didn’t the Leafs say they were going to win the series for Joe? In the off-season, the Leafs signed Thornton and he was declared to be just the leader they needed. Meanwhile, Montreal signed Corey Perry. How has that worked out? Was that the same Joe Thornton who was captain of the Bruins back in 2004 when the Bruins blew a 3-1 series lead against the Canadiens and lost in game seven? Jumbo Joe had no points in the seven games which prompted his departure from Beantown. Was it the same Joe who, in 2009, watched his San Jose Sharks get ousted in the first-round against Anaheim after winning the President’s Cup during the regular season? It may have been the same Joe that saw the Sharks blow a 3-0 series lead against the L.A. Kings the following year and bow out in game seven. Joe knows how to lose big games. He has lots of practice. Maybe he passed a few tips along to the Leafs.
Can You Fix It? – The short answer is no. Let’s try and explain but before we do, we have to go back to how we got here. The Leafs have never had the patience to conduct a rebuild the proper way by building from the goaltender out. Brian Burke tried to speed the process by trading two first-round draft picks to archrival Boston for what turned out to be Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton. Nice work Brian! This version of the Leafs sped things along by signing John Tavares to a foolish mega-deal and then declared themselves ready to contend before they had built a blueline that could stand up in the playoffs. Frederik Andersen and Jack Campbell are not frontline goalies. Morgan Reilly is not a number one defenseman. It starts back there and the Leafs are simply not sturdy enough.
The question becomes – what to do about it? If you want to conduct an autopsy on this carcass, it must begin with accountability and that’s where the problems begin. Maple Leaf President Brendan Shanahan has been at the helm for seven years without a second round appearance. His head should roll. When the Leafs foolishly let Lou Lamoriello walk away three years ago, Shanahan said the team needed to make the move because “We couldn’t risk losing Kyle Dubas.” Unless we are missing something, can you tell us who had any interest in hiring Boy Wonder? What Shanahan failed to take into account is Lou Lamoriello doesn’t just build a roster, he builds a culture. It’s obvious which managerial style is working best.
You can’t have four players at the top of the food chain who are paid like Kings and treated like Rock Stars while the rest are interchangeable parts that can be disposed of with utter disregard. All that’s been accomplished is building a hierarchy that’s destined for failure. This apparently is the Leafs blueprint for roster-building.
The Leafs have already pissed away a bucket-load of draft picks in a futile attempt to ‘load up’ for the playoffs. They have only six selections in the next two drafts. Montreal has 18 picks. Giving up a first and two-fourth’s for Nick Foligno was sheer lunacy. Who pre-scouted Foligno? Johnny Bower? Foligno went scoreless in eleven games in a Leafs uniform.
Where do the Leafs go from here? Well, one thing is for certain. They don’t have the testicles or the willingness to do an extreme makeover. Our first call would be to Arizona to find out whether they would be interested in homeboy Matthews. Give me Jeff Chychryn and an unprotected first-round pick and you have a deal! Marner would be next on my list of one-way tickets out of town but at $10+ million per season, good luck moving that anchor contract. Marner is the Leafs version of the Flames Johnny Gaudreau. Nylander would be on the trade list as well. Reilly would be gone as soon as I could find a taker because there’s no way I would sign him to an extension with UFA status looming a year from now. The ink-stained wretches in Toronto already have Reilly halfway out of town. From all indications, the Leafs plan to keep the Core Four together. Perhaps they should call the league office and beg for another divisional realignment.
The hubris and arrogance surrounding the Leafs is central to the issue. You don’t think other organizations are aware of it? Dubas comes off as the ‘smartest guy in the room’ with his data-driven approach. When will they wake up and realize you can’t commit 49.7 percent of your cap space to four forwards in a flat-cap NHL.
Leafs management has always spent too much time listening to the noise. Stop fooling yourself! Forget about the fans! Quit listening to the media! You may have noticed the Toronto media has already started outlining how to fix the Leafs roster.
If you love the Leafs, you need to know you were sold a bogus bill of goods. We also know the same ridiculously optimistic nonsense will start up again in September. Cycle. Rinse. Repeat. But in an ever-improving Atlantic Division, the Leafs may be two years away from missing the playoffs altogether.
NHL Playoff Notebook – Only one of the top-17 highest paid players in the NHL is still alive in the playoffs. That’s Carey Price of the Canadiens. Yes folks, it’s still a team game. The New York Islanders did not have a single player ranked among the top 40 in scoring this season. No one makes more than the $7 million the Islanders are paying Matt Barzal. Yet, the Islanders have won four playoff rounds in the past three years since Lou Lamoriello took charge.
Since 2004, the Winnipeg Jets have won three more playoff series than the Maple Leafs. The Jets didn’t exist until 2011.
While the four-game suspension to Winnipeg’s Mark Scheifele was totally warranted, it’s a tough blow to the Jets and a player who had only 12 penalty minutes all season long.
The Cup dreams of the Colorado Avalanche went out the window last season when goaltender Philipp Grubauer was knocked out with a season-ending injury. Heading into Friday night’s game against Vegas, Grubauer was 6-0 in this year’s playoffs with a 1.66 GAA and a .943 save percentage.
Colorado’s Mikko Rantanen is one of the greatest players nobody talks about. Only five others have put together a longer playoff point streak than the 16-gamer currently being strung together by the Avalanche winger. Bryan Trottier has the record with a 27-game streak. Gordie Howe (22), Al MacInnis (19), Phil Esposito (18), and Wayne Gretzky (18 three times) are the others.
Quick update on our Olympic team rosters. We made a big error. Delete Mitch Marner from Team Canada. We somehow lost our marbles is making that selection. We knew we shouldn’t have drank the Kool-Aid. We will keep Auston Matthews on the U.S. team only because that will help Team Canada’s chances.
Credit to GM Roberto Luongo and head coach Gerard Gallant for the job they have done to get Team Canada into Sunday’s final against Finland at the World Hockey Championships in Latvia. Canada lost its first three games but they have somehow righted the ship.
It seems absolutely unconscionable that the Vegas Golden Knights are exempt from exposing any players in this summer’s expansion draft. Who made that decision?
Luck of the Draw – The NHL Draft Lottery has not been kind to the Vancouver Canucks. In 2016, they dropped down two spots. In 2017, same thing. In 2018, they fell one spot. Same thing in 2019. This year the Canucks remained right where they began and that’s in ninth spot. Call it a victory!
From all reports, there are nine players who stand out in this year’s draft so the Canucks should get one of them. The consensus top five includes projected number one overall selection Owen Power of the University of Michigan. He’s currently playing a strong role with Team Canada at the World Championships. Wolverines’ teammate Matthew Beniers may go second overall to the expansion Seattle Kraken. Three defensemen – Luke Hughes, Brandt Clarke and Swede Simon Edvinsson – are also projected to go in the top five. After that, it’s a group of forwards that include another Michigan product and B.C. native Kent Johnson, Sweden’s William Eklund, Dylan Guenther of the Edmonton Oil Kings and center Mason McTavish. For the Canucks, it may come down to a choice between Johnson and McTavish.
Blue Jays This Week – If the Blue Jays miss the playoffs by one game this season, you can look back to last Sunday’s doubleheader in Cleveland. Charlie Montoyo’s managing cost the Jays the second game. We will spare you the gory details but suffice to say, Montoyo makes former Expos manager Jim Fanning look like Walter Alston. The guy has no concept of how to handle a pitching staff. Buck Martinez could walk out of the broadcast booth and do a better job as manager.
Blue Jays second baseman Marcus Semien was named the American League’s player of the month for May. Semien was red-hot in May, posting a MLB-high 2.3 WAR in 28 games. The 30-year-old hit .368/.429/.702 during the month with eight home runs and 22 RBIs. So far, he’s more than living up to the one-year, $18-million deal he signed in the off-season. As a team, the bats came alive in May. The Jays hit .279 during the month, tops in the majors. Their .474 slugging percentage was first. Their .813 OPS was fist and they led MLB in home runs with 42.
Left-hander Robbie Ray has put together a solid season to date with a 3.57 ERA. He has been prone to giving up home runs however. Ray has surrendered 14 homers so far which leads the majors. He gave up at least one home run in seven straight starts before stopping the streak this week against Miami.
It’s hard to imagine how tough this season must be on the Blue Jays and their families. They may end up having to coordinate accommodations in three different locations. They started the season in Dunedin before moving to Buffalo and may end up returning to Toronto at some point later this summer. It must be a challenge trying to set up short-term leases. For families choosing to stay in hotels, it’s got to be tough if you have kids. Sure, the players make great money but still, it has to be stressful.
MLB Notebook – The New York Yankees are 15-20 vs. the American League East so far this season. In case you haven’t noticed, the Yankees are smelly and won’t make the playoffs despite all the pre-season hype. Let’s pencil them in for fourth place. So sad. They are turning into the Maple Leafs of MLB.
Washington Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg has been placed on the disabled list with a neck strain. It’s the 14th time in his career that he’s hit the IL. Strasburg is in just the second year of a seven-year, $245 million deal. The Nationals took a huge risk signing the 31-year-old to a long term contract. It appears as though it will be another mega-deal that goes sour.
The Colorado Rockies are a pathetic mess. They are 4-22 on the road this season. They have been shutout in opposing ballparks seven times in the last 24 days, twice in St. Louis, twice in San Diego, in both games of a twinbill in Pittsburgh and once in New York against the Mets. They should be relegated to Triple-A.
Slugger Ralph Kiner was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1975. It was his 13th and final year of eligibility. He made it by one vote.
Call the Doctor – This may be remembered as the Year of the Injury in Major League Baseball. It’s an epidemic and it’s not just the Blue Jays. TSN Baseball Insider Steve Phillips documented some of the freak injuries in baseball this season. Cleveland pitcher Zach Plesac broke his thumb by aggressively taking off his jersey after getting lit up in a game. Atlanta Braves rookie pitcher Huascar Ynoa broke his pitching hand punching the bench after a bad outing. Athletics pitcher Jesus Luzardo broke the pinkie on his throwing hand while playing a video game. Last season Jose Quintana and Shawn Kelley cut their pitching hands while doing the dishes. In 2019, Carlos Correa suffered a broken rib while getting a massage. Former Mets outfielder Yeonis Cespedes wrenched his ankle in 2019 when attacked by a wild boar at his ranch. In 2016, Trevor Bauer cut his finger trying to repair a homemade drone. Former Detroit Tigers reliever Joel Zumaya wasn’t available in the playoffs because he irritated his right wrist and thumb while playing the video game “Guitar Hero.” Baltimore Orioles outfielder Marty Cordova once couldn’t play because he fell asleep in a tanning booth and burned his face.
We found a few more gems. Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte tore his MCL while catching a teenage fan who tried to jump into his arms. Former Chicago Cubs outfielder Sammy Sosa sneezed so violently that the slugger sprained a ligament in his back. Outfielder Kevin Mitchell allegedly needed emergency dental work on a tooth that was damaged when he tried to eat a microwaved chocolate donut.
During spring training in 1994, pitcher Steve Sparks attempted to rip a phone book in half. The only tearing accomplished was cartilage damage in his arm. Utility infielder Chris Coghlan attempted to ‘pie’ a teammate as part of a post-game celebration. He twisted his knee, fearing his meniscus. You may remember the time Angels slugger Kendrys Morales jumped into the air to stomp down onto home plate after a game-winning home run. He landed awkwardly and broke his left ankle. In 2005, Clint Barmes of the Colorado Rockies was on his way to being named N.L. Rookie of the Year before teammate Todd Helton convinced him to carry a bag of venison down a flight of stairs. Barmes fell and broke his collarbone.
It gets worse. In 1999, Cleveland Browns right tackle Orlando Brown was whistled for a false start in a December game. Referee Jeff Triplette threw a penalty flag on the play. The yellow bean bag went straight through Brown’s facemask, striking him in the right eye. The incident resulted in a major lawsuit. Brown was legally blind in the eye for several years. Three full seasons passed before he was medically cleared to return to action, during which time he sued the NFL and settled for more than $15 million.
Washington Redskins quarterback Gus Frerotte once celebrated a touchdown so enthusiastically that he slammed his head on the wall in the endzone. He spent the second half of the game in the hospital with a concussion.
On July 4, 2015, New York Giants star Jason Pierre-Paul was celebrating Independence Day with friends and family when one of the fireworks he was setting off exploded near his right hand. His index finger had to be amputated, his thumb was broken and his palm required multiple skin grafts.
NFL Notebook – Since Pete Carroll arrived in Seattle, only one other team has won more games than the Seahawks and that’s the New England Patriots. Yet, year after year, fans and media question his approach and his coaching style. Gimme a break! Pete has two Super Bowl appearances including one win and he has kept the Seahawks constantly competitive. In the NFL, that is a phenomenal achievement.
Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa struggled in his first year with the Dolphins. Apparently, his understanding of the playbook was not all that good. He was recently quoted as saying – “I didn’t actually know the playbook necessarily, really, really, good, and that’s no one’s fault but mine.” He’s being paid $7,568,860 per year on a four-year deal. Guess he couldn’t find the time to study.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is 37 wins away from breaking Don Shula’s all-time record for coaching wins with 347. You have to wonder if Belichick will stick around long enough to break that mark. It could take three to five years.
In the five seasons following age 42, Adam Vinatieri converted 89.2 percent of his field goals (134 of 150). He is a lock to be the third kicker in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Cornerback Charles Woodson played 16-game seasons for the Raiders from age 37 to 39. In 2009, at the age of 33, he was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year. That year, Woodson had an NFL-high nine interceptions (three were returned for touchdowns), four forced fumbles, two sacks and nine tackles behind the line of scrimmage. What a player!
Pound for Pound – There are always arguments about the greatest fighter, pound for pound, in boxing history. There shouldn’t be. It’s Walker Smith Jr. – AKA Sugar Ray Robinson. Sugar Ray was a dominant amateur although his exact record is unknown. It is generally listed as 85-0 with 69 knockouts, 40 in the first round.
He turned pro at 19 and proceeded to run up a professional record of 128-1-2 with 84 knockouts. Yes, that is correct! One loss in 131 fights. From 1943 to 1951, Robinson went on a 91-fight unbeaten streak, the third-longest in boxing history. His one loss came in an outdoor bout in 110 degree heat when Robinson became severely dehydrated.
Today’s ranked fighters rarely fight more than three times a year. Robinson averaged ten fights per year for nine years. He held both the welterweight and middleweight crowns during that run. Historian Bert Sugar ranked Robinson as the greatest fighter of all-time and in 2002, Robinson was also ranked number one by Ring Magazine in their list of the “80 Best Fighters of the Last 80 Years.” Sugar Ray was simply the best in what was the golden age of boxing.
Leftovers – It’s official. The Edmonton Eskimos are now the Edmonton Elks. Can we please stop with the political correctness? It’s out of hand. Let’s just merge with the XFL. That will fix everything. Yes. we’re joking. It’s sad because the CFL used to actually mean something.
Canada’s Brooke Henderson failed to capitalize on a great start at the U.S. Women’s Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco. She opened with a brilliant 3-under 68 in the opening round on Thursday before ballooning to a 78 on Friday. Henderson was able to advance to the weekend right on the cutline. She plummeted from T3 to T36. Henderson rebounded with a solid 69 on Saturday that rocketed her all the way up to T12. Lexi Thompson, Brooke’s playing partner in the first two rounds, is tied for the lead heading into Sunday’s final round.
A bizarre set of circumstances at Jack’s tournament – The Memorial at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio. Spaniard Jon Rahm tested positive for COVID-19 and was forced to withdraw with a 6-shot lead. At the conclusion of his round on Saturday, Rahm shared the 54-hole scoring record. He was on the verge of repeating as champion. Rahm had a hole-in-one in the morning in completing his second round, then followed it up with an 8-under 64. Rahm had been informed at the start of the week that he had come in close contact with a person who was COVID positive. He was allowed to play but was ordered to test daily. Every test since Monday had come back negative until the latest test on Saturday morning. Rahm had no choice but to withdraw.
Assuming Masai Ujiri returns as president of the Toronto Raptors, is it out of the realm of possibility that he will try to convince Kawai Leonard to return to Toronto next season? Things have not exactly worked out for Kawai in Los Angeles. He’s a free agent again this summer so cue the speculation.
The province of B.C. has a four-stage plan underway that targets July 1st for “increased capacity for indoor and outdoor gatherings.” It’s going to be interesting to see if we will have crowds for the Olympic Qualifying Tournament at Save-on-Foods Arena beginning on June 29th. The six-team event features Greece, Turkey, China, Czech Republic, Uruguay and Canada. Only the winner advances to the Olympics in Tokyo. Is it possible that the City of Victoria and the British Columbia government would deem it safe to allow some fans? It would be great to have some fan support for Canada’s opener against Greece on July 29th in a tournament where every game matters.
The United States recorded at least 200 mass shootings in the first 132 days of this year, according to a report by the Gun Violence Archive, a non-profit research group. In the U.S., owning a gun is everyone’s right under the First Amendment. It just costs a few lives every week.
Joe Schultz Sports Quote of the Week – New Zealand rugby legend Murray Mexted was considered a brilliant ball-winner and strong defender when he played the game. As a commentator, well, he had some issues. Knowing that ‘hooker’ is a position in the game of rugby, Mexted’s comment during a broadcast was priceless. “You don’t like to see hookers going down on players like that.”
Spotify Songs of the Week – Let’s pay tribute this week to some talented female vocalists. We’ve compiled some great tunes for you.
Remember Christine McVie from Fleetwood Mac? Check out “I’m On My Way” from the release “The Legendary Christine Perfect Album.”
Imelda May and Jools Holland do an outstanding job with “When It’s My Time” from the album “Life. Love. Flesh. Blood.”
Have a listen to Bonnie Bishop performing “Mercy” from her release “Ain’t Who I Was.”
Janiva Magness teams with Taj Mahal for “Don’t You Wish It Was True” off her album “Change in the Weather.”
Kandace Springs joins Chris Potter for “Solitude” from her offering “The Women Who Raised Me.”
Last but certainly not least, we offer up Shakura S’Aida and “Outskirts of Memphis” from her release “Brown Sugar.” ENJOY!!!!
We hope you are enjoying Under Further Review. If you have friends or family members who enjoy sports, please take a moment and direct them to the website at https://underfurtherreview.ca/ and encourage them to subscribe.