Select Page

Under Further Review – March 18 Edition – Douglas Smith with Editor Bill Morphy. Special thanks to our regular contributors including Jordan Moss, Ian MacPhee, Dave Kittle, Ted Tait, Peter Hucul, Glen and Bill Myles, Howard Steiss and Rob Wagner. This week, Demmer goes down. We have news from around the NHL, analysis from NFL free agency and a salute to Yogi. 

Canucks Notebook – You could argue that the injury to Thatcher Demko was a blessing in disguise. Yes, the Canucks will miss him while he recovers from a knee injury but it also gives Demko time to rest. His workload was among the highest in the league and a break may actually be beneficial in the lead-up to the playoffs. The only drawback is the Demko injury may prevent the Canucks from winning the Presidents Cup and the number one playoff seed. They should have little problem holding onto to the Pacific Division crown.

It’s hard not to wonder how advanced the trade discussions were between the Canucks and the Carolina Hurricanes surrounding Elias Pettersson. We can assume Martin Necas was a central part of the discussions. If the Canucks could have pried defenceman Alexander Nikishin from the Canes as part of the deal, then it gets very interesting. Nikishin is a future star. He’s 6-foot-4 and has been absolutely dominating the Russian League. Add in a first-round pick and it would be hard to turn down.

NHL Notebook – It remains to be seen if there will be fall-out from this year’s NHL trade deadline. As long as the rules remain the same, it’s hard to fault the Vegas Golden Knights from using every tool available. What needs to happen is a larger conversation around the salary cap and why it doesn’t apply in the playoffs. Why not institute a rule whereby, if any player is placed on LTIR after February 15, the player is no longer eligible to play in the post-season? It seems crazy that Mark Stone, for example, can’t play in game 82, but he’s suddenly OK to suit up a few days later. Why should one team’s lineup be at $82 million while the other ices a team worth $100 million? That’s like adding three All-star calibre players. You can be sure the issue will be front and centre in the next round of CBA negotiations.

With all the player movement around the trade deadline, getting packed up and moved to a new location can be a major headache for players, especially those with young families. Enter Annie Montoya and Lauren Ellerby who both know a little about the nomadic life of a hockey player. It’s why they’ve started up a business to help players make the move more easily and less stressful. Annie is the wife of former goalie Al Montoya who played with six NHL teams during his career, not to mention three other stops in the AHL. Lauren is the wife of Keaton Ellerby who played for the Florida Panthers, L.A. Kings and Winnipeg Jets. The two wives met when their husbands both played in Winnipeg. They’ve created a template that takes relocating out of the hands of the players so they can focus on hockey. Their first client was Zach Bogosian who was dealt in mid-season from Tampa to Minnesota.

You can understand the desperation diehard Maple Leaf fans must feel. Vegas adds Hanifan, Hertl and Mantha at the deadline. The Leafs add Lyubuchkin, Edmundson and some scrubeenie from the Minnesota Wild. Bottom line – the Leafs did little to fix their fundamental issues.

If the Leafs exit the playoffs quickly (of course they will), will this be the off-season when the suits at MLSE finally put down their cocktails and bounce Brendan Shanahan? Here’s a guy who thought Kyle Dubas could do a better job than Lou Lamoriello. Shanahan has sat back and watched the Leafs continual playoff failures, yet he’s somehow been Teflon. His big job prior to joining the Leafs was in the league office. He’s never been a GM.

Well, there’s a new sheriff in town. Keith Pelley, the one-time Rogers Media boss, has taken over as President & CEO of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment. Most recently, Pelley was President of the PGA European Tour. You would think Pelley is smart enough to view Shanahan’s performance through a different lens.

The last time the Leafs won the Cup The Monkees were taking the Last Train to Clarksville. The last time the Leafs won the Cup Billie Joe McAllister was jumping off the Tallahatchie Bridge.

We have always been a proponent of ‘draft and development’ when it comes to building a sustainable NHL winner. However, if you look at draft history, collecting picks doesn’t necessarily translate into success. Picks in the second half of the first round have a high failure rate. When you get to the second half of the second round, the percentages plummet. This is why we didn’t get very excited with the bevy of picks acquired by the Calgary Flames at the trade deadline. Sounds good on paper. Let’s see if Flames fans are celebrating in five years. Will a late first round pick end up being as good as Noah Hanifan or Elias Lindholm? Therein lies the danger.

We’ve often alluded to the Dallas Stars remarkable 2017 draft haul when they landed Miro Heiskanen, Jake Oettinger and Jason Robertson. The Stars must be doing something right because in 2021 they hit paydirt again with Wyatt Johnston in the first round and Logan Stankoven in the second round.

What’s happening to the free-falling Detroit Red Wings? They finally broke a seven-game skid that followed an injury to Dylan Larkin. It temporarily dropped the Wings out of a playoff spot that seemed all but assured. Steve Yzerman can’t be happy.

TSN conducted a mock NHL Lottery during their trade deadline coverage complete with all the ping pong balls. The Ottawa Senators ended up with the second overall pick. I’m sure they would be happy with that come draft day. Both the Sens and the Montreal Canadiens will have a chance to nab an impact player. Obviously, it would be great if either team won the lottery and landed Macklin Celebrini but short of that, there will be some good consolation prizes. Ivan Demidov is a dynamic Russian forward who some scouts believe may be better than Matvei Michkov who went sixth overall last year to the Flyers. Both teams could use a big centre. Cayden Lindstrom is 6-foot-4 and has put up big numbers this season in Medicine Hat.

The 2023 draft class was short on quality defencemen. Only three D-men were picked in the top 16. This year, we could see as many as six or seven go in the top ten. The group is led by Michigan State blueliner Artyom Levshunov who’s been a force as a freshman, scoring near a point-per-game. His numbers are better than Owen Power who went first overall to the Buffalo Sabres.

The other defensive prodigy is Russian Anton Silayev who checks in at 6-foot-7. He’s played the entire season in the KHL at only 17 and has not looked out of place. Some scouts are already calling Silayev a “unicorn” because of his combination of size and skill. If any of these guys land in Montreal or Ottawa, both teams would come away very happy.

Oilers wunderkind Connor McDavid leads the NHL with 81 assists. If McDavid reaches the 100-assist mark, he would join some very elite company. Only three players in NHL history have recorded 100 assists in a season – Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Bobby Orr. The Great One did it eleven times.

There have been several major disappointments in the NHL this season, none bigger than Pierre-Luc Dubois of the Los Angeles Kings. The Kings gave up a ton to get him from the Winnipeg Jets and Dubois is yet to make an impact. He’s centering the Kings third line and has only 15 goals all season. Worse yet, the Kings awarded him with an eight-year extension with an $8.5 million AAV. Can’t see that contract aging well.

The Edmonton Oilers gambled on Connor Brown and it’s backfired. Brown agreed to a one-year deal with a minimum $775,000 salary. Trouble is, it came with a bonus structure based on playing 10 games. The majority of his $3.225 million performance bonus will roll over into next year’s cap as dead money. A lot of money for a guy who finally scored his first goal last week.

St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong has been named general manager of Team Canada for the next round of international competitions including the next Olympics. It’s a formality that Armstrong will name Jon Cooper of the Tampa Bay Lightning as head coach.

Who is Matt Rempe? – New York Rangers rookie Matt Rempe is quickly developing a reputation as a complete menace. He’s 6-foot-7 and 241 pounds and apparently brain-dead. Rempe was called up by the Rangers less than a month ago and has already been suspended four games for a vicious elbow to the head of Devils defenceman Jonas Siegenthaler. The 21-year-old goon-wannabe should have been suspended earlier for a head shot on Devils forward Nate Bastian that resulted in a match penalty. And we thought these types of players were out of the game?

Rempe accomplished this in ten NHL games. He recorded 54 minutes in penalties in 56 minutes of ice time. He’s had four fights which is more than any other Ranger has managed all season. Rempe’s debut came at the outdoor game in late February at MetLife Stadium between the Rangers and the Islanders. His first NHL fight against Matt Martin came a minute and a half into the game. Instant folk hero in bloodthirsty New York. It took Rempe all of 13 seconds of ice-time to sideline Bastian in his third game. It’s nonsense because Rempe is playing five minutes a game at best.

What Rempe is doing is reckless endangerment.

Seahawks Notebook – Beware the pitfalls of NFL free agency. How many times do teams have to get burned before they figure it out? Judging by their work in free agency, it appears as though the Seahawks have learned a few lessons.

Dre’Mont Jones was the Seahawks big prize last year. How did that work out? Jones was supposed to impact the pass rush and barely made a ripple. Go back further and the free agent landscape is riddled with mistakes. Who can forget Luke Joeckel? He was going to be the answer at left tackle and was an $8 million dollar squander. How about tight end Greg Olsen? He signed a one-year deal for $7 million, played 11 games and had one touchdown. In the past two years, the Seahawks have swung and missed on not one, but two centers, Austin Blythe and Evan Brown. Remember running back Eddie Lacy? He was not the next Marshawn Lynch. Eddie came over from the Packers, started three games and averaged 2.6 yards per carry, before being kicked to the curb.

Even though the Seahawks opened up cap space with a series of cuts and  contract restructuring, it made no sense to start splurging. Why make things worse? The Seahawks will already be paying $31 million next season in dead money for Jamal Adams and Quandre Diggs. They played the secondary market and it looks as though they unearthed a few good value-adds.

Jerome Baker and Tyrel Dodson will replace Bobby Wagner and Jordyn Brooks at linebacker and both should be an upgrade in coverage. Save for left guard, most of the starting positions have been accounted for.

We’re not overly excited about the acquisition of quarterback Sam Howell from the Washington Commanders. The Seahawks parted with more draft capital. They will drop down 24 picks in round three and 27 in round five for a guy who led the NFL in interceptions last season with 21. Not to mention he was sacked 65 times. It all but assures the Seahawks will trade down in the first round in order to grab additional picks. Don’t be surprised if they trade down twice. In the bigger picture, the Seahawks still don’t have a long-term answer at quarterback. Until that happens, expect more 9-8 seasons (at best) which is never a good place to be.

NFL Free Agency – When it comes to NFL free agency, fans want the splashy news alert signings but the matches are often not made in heaven. Team-building begins and ends with the draft. You are not going to find all the answers in free agency. Rarely will you find a difference-maker in free agency at one of the key positions – quarterback, protection, pass rush – unless you are ready to grossly overpay. Find those players at the draft table and use free agency to augment your roster with cost-efficient, competitive guys who love football.

If you are looking for a Super Bowl favorite from the NFC next season, look no further than the Green Bay Packers. The Pack are the youngest team in the NFL and hold five picks in the top-100 in this year’s draft. Don’t forget, they almost upset the 49’ers to reach the Super Bowl last season. Adding running back Josh Jacobs and safety Xavier McKinney in free agency filled two positions of need.

Want to know why the Carolina Panthers are the worst franchise in the NFL? In 2022, they reportedly turned down a trade with the Los Angeles Rams that would have netted two first-round draft picks (2024 and 2025) plus additional draft capital for pass rush star Brian Burns. Unwilling to meet the cost of re-signing a premier pass rusher, the Panthers just dealt Burns to the New York Giants for second and fifth-round picks. But the Panthers had the money to dish out $63 million for an offensive guard. Duh!

The money thrown at offensive guards in the opening week of free agency was jaw-dropping. Eight interior linemen landed deals in excess of eight figures. The Rams signed Kevin Dotson and Jonah Jackson to combined deals worth $30 million and will field an offensive line next season that averages nearly 330 pounds. The Seahawks, meanwhile, need to replace all three starters from the middle of their offensive line.

The five highest cap hits in the NFL next season will belong to quarterbacks. No real surprise there. Who they are WILL surprise you! Deshaun Watson of the Cleveland Browns leads the list at $63,977,000. Dak Prescott, who can’t win a playoff game to save his life, is next at $59,455,000 following by Kyler Murray of the Cardinals at $51,407,000, Matt Stafford of the Rams at $49,500,000 and Daniel Jones of the Giants at $47,105,000. Can you believe the Giants playing Jones over $47 million? What a waste!

The L.A. Chargers led the way with four players on the top-12 highest-paid list – Khalil Mack, Josey Bosa, Keenan Allen and Mike Williams.  The Chargers had no choice but to cut, trade or restructure all four. The Chargers are going to look a lot difference under Jim Harbaugh.

As expected, Russell Wilson landed in Pittsburgh. It was a bit of a no-brainer for the Steelers who get Wilson on a minimum contract. The Steelers also added Justin Fields from the Chicago Bears. You would have to think the Steelers are in better shape at quarterback than last season when they had Kenny Pickett and Mason Rudolph behind center.

Surprisingly, it was a robust free agent market for running backs. The position has been largely devalued for several years. There was an excellent crop of free agent running backs available this year and they cashed in. Saquon Barkley went to the Eagles. Derrick Henry to the Baltimore Ravens. Jacobs to the Pack. Many teams may have acted fast because this year’s NFL draft is very shy on quality running backs.

Aaron Donald announced his retirement after ten seasons with the Los Angeles Rams. What a career! Donald is just the second NFL player to play ten seasons and make the Pro Bowl every year. The other?  Barry Sanders of the Detroit Lions.

Spring Training Notebook – How can you not be skeptical about the Blue Jays signing of Joey Votto? The front office swung and missed on Shohei Otani, Cody Bellinger and Matt Chapman in a completely lackluster off-season. Guess they felt they had to do something to garner some attention. Hey, are you not excited about Daniel Vogelbach? Just what the Jays need. Another base-clogger.

Votto may be 40 but he had 14 homers and hit .283 with runners in scoring position last season in limited playing time. Can’t tell me he won’t be a fan favorite returning home to Toronto.

The Blue Jays have a major glut of infielders. Ernie Clement has been one of the training camp surprises and is pushing hard to make the opening day roster. Isiah Kiner-Falefa was one of the Jays key off-season signings and is likely to get most of the playing time at third. Add in Davis Schneider, Cavan Biggio, Santiago Espinal and prospects Leo Jiminez, Addison Barger and Orelvis Martinez and you have a traffic jam in the infield. You would think Espinal’s days in Toronto are numbered.

Injuries have been the story in American League East this spring. The Yankees loss of Cy Young winner Gerrit Cole for up to three months was a major blow. The Red Sox Lucas Giolito is gone for the season after arm surgery. Jays pitchers Kevin Gausman and Alek Manoah may start the season on the DL. The Orioles are the clear favorite in the division. The Jays best hope is to grab second place.

The Jackson Three – Fantasy baseball players may want to tuck some names away for future reference. There are several young ballplayers, three with the first name Jackson, who are close to being MLB-ready and when they arrive, they should make an immediate impact.

We suspect Baltimore Orioles phenom Jackson Holliday has already been added to many Fantasy teams. Holliday was the number one overall pick in the 2022 MLB draft by the Orioles and is the consensus #1 MLB prospect. Holliday is a shortstop who may ultimately shift last year’s AL Rookie-of-the-Year Gunnar Henderson to third permanently. Holliday is another kid with good bloodlines. He’s the son of former major leaguer Matt Holliday.

If he hasn’t already been frozen by someone, jump on outfielder Jackson Chourio of the Milwaukee Brewers. Chourio just turned 20 a few days ago and has already signed the richest contract in baseball history for a player without any MLB service time. Chourio signed an eight-year, $82 million dollar deal in December. He’s ready to take over in center and should be a consistent 30-homer guy once he matures.

The San Diego Padres have moved Jackson Merrill to left field in order to get his bat into the lineup. Merrill was a first-round pick in 2021 as a shortstop but he finds himself behind starters Ha-Seong Kim and Xander Bogaerts. He’s only 20 but already showing tons of raw power.

It’s just a matter of time for Washington Nationals outfielder James Wood. The 21-year-old slugger is a future middle-of-the-order bat. At 6-foot-6, 234 pounds, he’s got formidable power. They are already touting Wood as a “superstar in the making.”

Canadian Owen Caissie came over from the Padres in the Yu Darvish deal and the Chicago Cubs think they have something special. The 21-year-old from Burlington, Ontario may break camp with the Cubs and land one of the corner outfield spots. He’s a coveted lefthanded bat who put up 22 home runs last year in Double A.

The Boston Red Sox need an injection of youth and it’s going to come from shortstop Marcelo Mayer. He was the top-rated prospect heading into the 2021 draft but dropped to the Red Sox at fourth overall. Boston signed Mayer to a franchise-record $6.6 million dollar contract. Injuries derailed him last year but expect Mayer to should join the Sox at some point this season.

Eury Perez is a 6-foot-8, 220-pound righthander who is turning heads in the Miami Marlins camp. The 20-year-old is already being compared to Sandy Alcantara. In his first outing, every pitch was above 98 mph.

In Praise of Yogi – It’s time we gave Yogi Berra his due. We have often chronicled the exploits of latter-day superstars but none are as overlooked as Yogi. Is it because he was portrayed as some kind of comic book figure? Perhaps, because in later life Berra became known more for his malapropisms, better known as Yogi-isms. But make no mistake, Yogi could play.

Berra was born in St. Louis and signed with the New York Yankees in 1943 before heading off to serve in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He was part of the Normandy landings where he was wounded in the left hand. Yogi declined to fill out of the paperwork to receive the Purple Heart because he didn’t want to worry his mother if she was sent a telegram informing her of his injury.

Yogi is considered one of the best clutch hitters of all-time. He had incredible bat control. No one could hit bad pitches like Yogi. One manager once called Yogi “the toughest hitter in the league in the last three innings.” The statistical proof is overwhelming.

  • 15-time All-Star
  • 3-time American League MVP
  • 10-time World Series Champion, most in MLB history
  • 14 American League pennants, most in MLB history
  • 3-time World Series Champion as a coach
  • 358 home runs, .285 lifetime batting average
  • In the 1950 season, Berra hit .322 with 28 HR’s, 124 RBI’s and only 20 strikeouts
  • Played in 19 seasons. His highest strikeout total was 38. 8,364 plate appearances and only 414 total strikeouts
  • Caught a record 173 shutouts including Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series
  • From 1949-1955, on a team with Mantle and DiMaggio, Berra led the Yankees in RBI’s for seven consecutive seasons
  • Set numerous MLB catching records including 148 consecutive games without an error. He often caught both ends of a doubleheader and is one of only four catchers ever to field 1.000 in a season. Yogi had 88 errorless games in the ’58 season

If you get a chance, check out the Netflix documentary, “It Ain’t Over”, chronicling his colourful life. Yogi died in 2015 at the age of 90. When you look up ‘winner’ in the dictionary, there should be a picture of Yogi Berra.

Leftovers – Scottie Scheffler has solidified his position as the top golfer in the world. A near-perfect final round 64 helped Scheffler win the Players Championship for the second straight year, the first golfer ever to go back-to-back at the Players.

Disappointing weekend for the Canadians. Saturday was moving day – the wrong way – for Canadians Nick Taylor and Corey Conners. Taylor started the day T2 and in the final group with Wyndham Clark. A 76 killed his chances for contention. Conners posted a one-over 73 and dropped from ninth to 24th. However, it seems like Canadians are hovering in the top ten and in contention nearly ever week which is great to see.

The Edmonton Elks are planning to transition to private ownership. The team has been under non-profit community stewardship for 75 years. The Elks have been bleeding money the past few seasons. They started last season 0-9 and set a North American sports record by losing 21 home games in a row. Success for the new owner will likely hinge on the ability to land a new or refurbished stadium. Commonwealth Stadium is now over 50 years old. It was built for the 1976 Commonwealth Games. It’s funny how things have gone into the dumpster since the ill-advised decision to change the name of the team from the Eskimos. Appeasing the ‘woke’ crowd was a massive mistake that alienated many long-time fans.

The NCAA college hoops tournament better known as March Madness is set to get underway. Defending champion UConn earned the top seed in the tournament. The Huskies will be joined by Houston, Purdue and North Carolina as number one seeds even though all three teams lost in their conference finals. Purdue is led by Canada’s Zach Edey, the reigning national player of the year. No team has more to prove than the Boilermakers who can’t buy a win when it counts.

The joker who bilked the Jacksonville Jaguars out of $22 million has been sentenced to six and a half years in prison. The judge in the case said the Jags ran their organization like a ‘mom-and-pop operation.’ More details of Amit Patel’s spending were revealed during the trial. Patel spent more than $200,000 on golf memorabilia including $47 grand on a Scotty Cameron putter used by Tiger Woods to win the ’96 U.S. Amateur. Apparently, the judge was not impressed to learn that Patel purchased a $2,200 game-issued Trevor Lawrence jersey on eBay one week before pleading guilty to the charges.

YouTube Tributes – We had great response to the music video posted last week featuring Glen Campbell and Leon Russell from the vintage CHCH TV Hamilton music series In Session. Here’s Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughn – In Session, from December, 1983.

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 and encourage them to subscribe at no cost.