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Under Further Review – With Contributing Editors Bill Morphy and Dave Kittle.  This week, we rise from the depths of isolation to assess the fallout on the sports world from the Coronavirus, speculate on when we may return to normality, and give thanks that the NFL is still providing plenty of news. 

Editor’s Note – These are unprecedented times and talking sports seems frivolous. I suppose we can make the argument that it is a distraction from the stress and uncertainty we are feeling. Personally, I have never felt so unnerved on a daily basis. One thing we can be certain about – the world is never going to be quite the same. Hopefully, these weekly meanderings can take your mind off of the doom we are feeling.

NHL Notebook – The impact of the Covid-19 virus on NHL revenues is going to be substantial.  There are reports that up to one billion dollars in revenues could be at risk because of the suspension in play. What we do know is that the remaining 189 regular season games will be lost. NHL players were paid on March 15 and are scheduled to receive cheques on March 30 and April 15. With no revenues coming in, this has to hit owners hard. How’s the bank account Eugene?

May 1 had originally been targeted as a potential return date but that seems highly unlikely now. The NHL wanted the season to end by July 24 at the latest to avoid conflicting with the Tokyo Olympics. The prospect of playing playoff games in August and September is on the table but that too seems unlikely since it would impact the likelihood of playing a full 82-game schedule in 2020-2021.

You may recall the 2012-2013 NHL season was reduced to 48 games due to a lockout. Despite the massive reduction in revenues that season, the league and the NHLPA agreed to keep the salary cap at the same cap number as the previous year. Something tells me the NHL salary cap will remain at $81.5 million next season.  Otherwise, you would have major job loss.  If the cap were to be reduced, many teams would be forced to buy-out veteran players and replace them with rookies making the league minimum in order to be cap compliant. There’s a good chance the NHL is going to allow teams to buy-out up to two players at no charge against the cap.

It now seems likely that the Canucks will be a playoff team regardless of how the playoff format shakes out. It also means they will likely be surrendering their first round draft pick this season rather than next as a result of the J.T. Miller trade. The pick will now go to New Jersey.  Tampa Bay conveyed the pick to the Devils in the deal for Blake Coleman at the deadline.

One bright note for the Canucks is the stoppage will give several injured players a chance to heal. If play resumes, Jacob Markstrom should be ready to return in goal. Brock Boeser will be further healed from the rib damage. Chris Tanev will be ready to go after a LBI. Even Josh Leivo may be ready to return after a long absence.

On the down side, it’s certainly a drag that we couldn’t see the conclusion of what may have been a record-breaking rookie season for Quinn Hughes. He was certainly on his way to breaking every scoring record for Canucks defensemen.


  • Did you know that Leafs defenseman Morgan Reilly is dating Canadian figure skating icon Tessa Virtue. Nice to know Reilly made good use of his time while on IR for most of this season.
  • A couple of nice signings by the Flames as they landed two NCAA college free agents this week in defensemen Colton Poolman of North Dakota and Connor Mackey of the University of Minnesota Mankato. Poolman is the brother of Tucker Poolman of the Winnipeg Jets. It’s certainly worth a shot. Any time you can land an NHL caliber defenseman, you are ahead of the game.
  • The Canucks took care of some business this week in signing college free agent Marc Michaelis and winger William Lockwood, a 2016 draft choice who was finishing up his career at Michigan. Michaelis spent four years at the University of Minnesota Mankato. Already 24, he’s an intriguing prospect and may not be that far off from earning an NHL job. Michaelis is aware defensively and can kill penalties so a fourth line role may be in his future. Lockwood will likely start next season in Utica and projects to be a third or fourth line energy guy. The best thing about Michaelis and Lockwood is both captained their teams in college this season.
  • Canucks defense prospect Jack Rathbone has delayed a decision on whether he will turn pro after two seasons at Harvard. He’s already been described as Quinn Hughes ‘Light’. Should Rathbone decide to sign this summer, he would add to an appetizing prospect pool in Utica next winter that would include Rathbone, Lockwood, Michaelis and Calgary Hitmen graduates Carson Focht and Jett Woo. It could also include Swedish winger Nils Hoglander.
  • Louie Eriksson may have played his last game with the Canucks. He has two years left at $6 million per but that doesn’t tell the whole story. After the signing bonus is paid this July there is $5 million remaining on the contract of which $4 mil is salary. The Canucks can retain $2 mil of that amount so Eriksson could only cost $1.5 mil per year. That makes it a movable contract. However, I wouldn’t rule out the potential option of terminating the contract much like Buffalo did with Zach Bogosian. I don’t think Louie wants to sit in Utica for the next two seasons so he would be better off walking away and either playing in Europe or signing elsewhere in the NHL for around the league minimum.  One thing is for certain, that contract is going to get extracted from the books this summer, come hell or high water.

NFL Labour Peace – The NFL can be thankful the timing of the coronavirus may have minimal impact on the league. Off-season OTA’s may be impacted but training camps could still get going in July as planned.

Meantime, the NFL has labour peace with the signing of a new collective bargaining agreement that runs through 2030. As part of the deal, the NFL will move to a 17-game season starting in 2021 with a reduction in the number of exhibition games from four to three.

The Seahawks should benefit from the addition of two more roster spots to 55 and the agreement to enlarge practice squads. The NFL is expected to add two more playoff teams starting this year. They will also take a more lenient position on marijuana use.

It’s definitely a case of the rich getting richer. The NFL can now start negotiating new TV and digital contracts with their broadcast partners which will dictate the eventual salary cap number. One thing is for certain, NFL revenues will continue to sky-rocket.

The Arms Race – With no sports on TV to watch, special attention is being paid to NFL free agency. You need a program to follow all the movement among NFL quarterbacks. It’s incredible how many QB’s have been on the market. Let’s review: Tom Brady from New England to Tampa Bay, Phillip Rivers from the Chargers to Indianapolis, Nick Foles from Jacksonville to the Chicago Bears, Teddy Bridgewater from New Orleans to Carolina and Marcus Mariota from Tennessee to Vegas.  Joe Flacco, Andy Dalton, Jacoby Brissett, Jameis Winston and Cam Newton are just some of the bigger names still looking for a new address. It’s a veritable quarterback carousel.  Have I missed anybody?

Seahawks Watch – With money to spend, the Seattle Seahawks have plenty of options. Trouble is – they also have a lot of holes to fill especially on defense. Everything hinges on whether or not the Seahawks sign defensive end Jadeveon Clowney to a lucrative free agent deal. The market has shifted quickly and it looks like Clowney may return to the Seahawks on a one-year deal and test the waters again next year. Bottom line, the Seahawks need to get serious about fixing their pass rush.  One option still out there that may be worth exploring is New York Giants defense end Markus Golden. He had a very productive season and would be a good pick-up to team with Clowney on the other side of the D line.

The other key Seahawk free agent, defensive tackle Jarran Reed, resigned with the team of two years and $23 million. It’s probably more than the Seahawks wanted to pay but that’s the price of admission in free agency if you want to maintain any continuity. The free agent pool was very deep along the inside of the defensive line with a ton (literally) of good options but most are already off the market. The Seahawks may try and pick someone up late in free agency when the cost drops but will also be looking to the draft for help.

Seattle could open up more cap space by releasing veteran linebacker K.J. Wright, centre Justin Britt or safety Bradley McDougald. It looks now like Britt is the most likely candidate.  The Seahawks signed three offensive linemen in free agency including one potential centre candidate so he may be cut as early as this weekend. The other area of need for the Seahawks is cornerback and slot cornerback. Seattle should try and find a young corner early in the draft.  They could have filled the need in the slot with several free agent candidates but so far has opted not to be active on that front either. I like Logan Ryan of Tennessee but again, the cost looks to be prohibitive.

Offensively, the Seahawks are losing some bodies along the offensive line. One guy The New York Jets signed George Fant to a three-year, $30 million dollar pact which only further points out the absurdity of the free agent period. Fant is a back-up at best and the Jets apparently have no idea that he is actually not a starting caliber tackle.

The Seahawks need to prioritize finding a veteran receiver in free agency. They got little production from the third receiver role last season and need an upgrade there for sure. Finding a third option behind Tyler Lockett and D.J. Metcalf will be important.  Late season injuries to Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny also opens the door to a free agent signing at running back.

The NFL Draft is expected to go ahead in April regardless of what’s happening with the Covid-19 virus. It may have to be conducted by video conference call. The Seahawks have three picks in the first two rounds including the 27th pick overall. They will probably be trolling for an edge rusher in the opening round.  Yetur Gross-Matos of Penn State fits the bill but if he is off the board, look for the Seahawks to trade down and add additional picks. The priorities are defensive end, defensive tackle, cornerback, offensive line, receiver and running back, probably in that order. The draft is rich in receivers. The Seahawks would be smart to grab a receiver with one of their two second round picks. Denzel Mims of Baylor is one of those under-the-radar potential stars in the receiver rich draft class but some draft analysts now have him going in the first round.  If he’s on the board when the Seahawks select in the second round, I would jump. I also really like Auburn defensive tackle Marlon Davidson.

Elsewhere around the NFL this week – How does Bill O’Brien keep his job as Head Coach and General Manager of the Houston Texans?  In the course of a calendar year, he has traded away All Pros Jadeveon Clowney and DeAndre Hopkins and failed to receive so much as a first round pick for either of them. How do you think franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson thinks right about now?

O’Brien sent DeAndre Hopkins, a three-time Pro Bowler, and a 2020 fourth-round pick to the Arizona Cardinals in exchange for running back David Johnson, a 2020 second-round pick and a 2021 fourth-round pick. Johnson is damaged goods and carries a $10 million dollar cap hit.  The fourth-round picks wash each other out so the Texans basically dealt Hopkins for a second rounder. To replace Hopkins, O’Brien then overspent in free agency in signing former Packer Randall Cobb to a nonsensical three-year, $27 million dollar contract. If the Texans ownership had any common sense, they would take O’Brien’s hands off the wheel before he does any more damage.

Masters Disaster – As we mentioned last week, Augusta National Golf Club traditionally closes in late May and reopens in late October. It’s essentially a ‘winter golf club’ due to the extreme heat in Georgia during the summer months. The primary turf on the golf course is Bermuda but the entire course is over-seeded with perennial ryegrass in the fall. This helps give the course its pristine look during the Masters.

The big question on the minds of every golf fan is ‘when will the tournament be played?’ The earliest date would probably be sometime in May but that would conflict with the PGA Championship which is scheduled for Harding Park in San Francisco May 14-17. The more likely scenario is moving the Masters to September or October, perhaps even after the Ryder Cup is contested Sept. 25-27.

Since the Masters is an invitational tournament with a limited field, it will be interesting to how they resolve the ‘invitation’ criteria. It may be a case where the Masters picks a new top-50 cut-off date prior to the new scheduled tournament date. One thing is for sure, once we learn when the Masters is being held, if at all, the anticipation will be unbelievable in light of what’s happened this year.

One other golf note worth mentioning – The PGA Tour confirmed that 50% of the Players Championship prize fund, $7.5 million, will be paid out equally to all competitors which means 18 holes at Sawgrass, therefore, earned every player around $52,000 each. That’s great news for the five Canadians who were playing in the tournament.

Combat Wombat – Can UFC President Dana White be any more tone deaf? While the rest of the sports world was shutting down operations due to the coronavirus, UFC went ahead and held a fight card in Brazil last Saturday night without spectators.

“Unless there’s a total shutdown of the country, where people can’t leave their houses, these fights will happen,” White told ESPN. “We’re working to find new locations but the fights will go on. They will continue. We’re not stopping. We will keep finding a way to put these fights on,” added White.

By Tuesday, the despicable White had changed his tune. White announced the next three UFC events have been postponed and all offices, including the headquarters in Vegas, will be closed at least through the end of the month. Apparently White came to the conclusion the fights could not be staged due to the restrictions on travel. There was already a ban on combat sports events in Nevada in place until March 25.

White (the Combat Wombat) seemingly had no concern about the welfare of his fighters or his employees as he continued to try and maintain business as usual. Class act!

The Joe Schultz Sports Quote of the Week – Fathering out-of-wedlock kids has become commonplace among athletes, many of whom seem oblivious to the legal, emotional and financial consequences. The all-time leader in this category is former Seattle Sonic Shawn Kemp who reportedly has 15 children although he may have lost track.  This prompted our quote of the week from former San Francisco Giant second baseman Tito Fuentes. While complaining to baseball writers about pitchers throwing at him, Fuentes proclaimed “They shouldn’t throw at me. I’m the father of five or six kids.”

Music Video of the Week – Growing up in a small town with very little to keep ourselves amused, the big distraction was music. Right off the bat, I had an affinity for slide guitar players. First and foremost, it was Duane Allman and Ry Cooder. So many followed right up until today and the great Derek Trucks.

There may be no more chameleon-like performer than Ry Cooder.  Name a North American musical style and chances are Cooder has used his virtuosity to help broaden our listening horizons. He’s an unofficial American cultural ambassador. Early on, it was Tex-Mex music with Flaco Jimenez. Later, it was Hawaiian, Dixieland jazz, gospel and African stylings with Ali Farka Toure.

It was Cooder who brought together the Cuban musicians who later became known as the Buena Vista Social Club. The resulting album was a platinum-selling international blockbuster that made stars of Ibrahim Ferrer, Compay Segundo and Ruben Gonzalez and earned Ry another Grammy Award, one of six among multiple nominations.

Born in L.A. in 1947, Cooder was ranked eighth on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of “The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All-Time.”

Over his amazing career, Cooder has been a much sought-after session player. He sat in on various recording sessions with the Stones in 1968 and 1969 including playing mandolin on “Love in Vain” from Let It Bleed and slide on “Sister Morphine” from Sticky Fingers. He played slide on “Willin’” with Lowell George and Little Feat and on “Full Force Gale” with Van Morrison. Suffice to say, the list of Cooder’s session work would take days to catalogue.

During the 80’s and 90’s, Cooder was a celebrated film composer, scoring a lengthy string of movies including The Long Riders; Paris, Texas; The Border; Crossroads; Cocktail; Johnny Handsome; and Steel Magnolias.

Cooder made his solo debut in 1970.  In 1974, he produced what is generally considered his finest album, Paradise and Lunch.  The album Bop Till You Drop in 1979 was the first album ever to be digitally recorded. Yes, he was always innovative.

Ry was revered by fellow musicians.  He was very close to John Lee Hooker so we would be remiss in not offering up a memorable live performance of “Boogie Chillun” with Ry, John Lee and a few others who may just recognize.

In case you are not familiar with Ry’s work with the Buena Vista Social Club, check out this session from 1997 recorded by the BBC.

Ry Cooder is still alive and kicking. He appeared at an awards show in London in 2017 performing “Jesus on the Mainline” and while his voice may be slipping, his slide work is still rock solid.