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Under Further Review – Douglas Smith with Editor Bill Morphy and contributors Jordan Moss, Ted Tait, Peter Hucul, Glen and Bill Myles.  This week, we review the trade deadline deals, Geno gets a bag of cash and the Jays take aim at the Yankees.

Allvin and the Chipmunks – The NHL trade deadline has come and gone. It’s still a mystery how the Canucks front office plans to navigate toward real contention. Post deadline, the referendum among non-believers has only grown. Make no mistake. The problems in Vancouver are systemic.

Thomas Drance of The Athletic characterized the Canucks strategy as a gambler continuing to rack up debts. At some point, the debts become due. Here’s the fundamental problem with the Canucks. For over 50 years, making the playoffs has been considered a successful season in Vancouver. The goals are always short-term. Just as we predicted, the Canucks are going on their usual late-season tear to build optimism for next year.  This fall, the team will overpromise the gullible fan base. Trouble is, seldom is the promise to win a Stanley Cup.

The Canucks deadline moves were nothing short of baffling. They had every opportunity to load up for the future. The Canucks were sitting with seven picks in the first four rounds of the 2023 NHL Entry Draft, which would have constituted the most picks in that range ever for the Canucks.  For better or worse, that’s now out the door as the Canucks unleash their usual sprint to the finish line so they can end up picking 14th.

The team seemed to be coming to grips with the gravity of the situation until acquiring defenseman Filip Hronek from the Red Wings for first and second-round picks. In a vacuum, Hronek is useful addition. But it’s a move a contending team would make. What’s more, the Canucks recent moves have ADDED $12 million in cap commitments. The team now has $83.6 in contracts for next season, more than any other team in the league. How do they expect to improve the roster?

If you look at the Canucks moves as a whole, it’s mystifying. Essentially, they acquired Hronek, Anthony Beauvillier, Aatu Raty and a 2023 fourth-round pick for Bo Horvat, a 2023 first-round pick and a 2023 second-round pick.  Would you make that deal?

For perspective, Detroit GM Steve Yzerman was asked about the Red Wings rebuild. Yzerman responded, “Do I think we are good enough to make the playoffs?  Maybe. Do I think we are good enough to win the Stanley Cup?  No, definitely not.” That’s the mindset the Canucks front office should have and act accordingly.

Amidst all the noise of the Canucks season, the organization has to be very excited with the development of the team’s two prize possessions, Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes. In a season gone wrong, Pettersson has reached superstar status. His overall game has never been better. There have been times when he’s absolutely taken over games. Pettersson’s overall play at both ends of the ice is much improved. He has 76 blocked shots this season which ranks second in the NHL among forwards.

Hughes has elevated his play as well. He’s put up 60 points in 59 games and remarkably, he’s plus-11 on a team that’s at the bottom of the league in goals against and who, recently, had as many as eight players in the lineup who have played in the AHL this season. Hughes also just set a new NHL record as the fastest blueliner to reach the 200-assist mark.

NHL Trade Deadline – The run-up to the 2023 NHL trade deadline was absolutely bonkers. The NHL was actually under fire the past few years for the lack of trade activity at the deadline, largely due to the flat cap. That all changed this year with 39 trades leading up to the deadline (which has to be some kind of record) involving 78 players and 50 draft picks. On deadline day, there were 21 additional deals involving 34 players and 12 draft picks. If you are scoring at home, that 60 deals, 112 players and 72 draft picks.

Teams have learned how to more effectively off-load contracts. The formula for calculating the value of off-loaded contracts has made it easier to get deals to the finish line. One other factor that added to the activity this year is the fact Washington, St. Louis and Nashville all became sellers. Here’s a few thoughts on some of the trades we liked and some that did not impress:

The Ottawa Senators obtain Jakob Chychrun from Arizona for: 2023 first-round pick, conditional 2024 second-round pick (via Washington Capitals), 2026 second-round pick.

If anyone hit it ‘out of the park’, it’s the Senators. Pierre Dorion waited it out and picked up Chychrun for less than the sticker price. Chychrun solidifies Ottawa’s top four, comes on a team-friendly deal with two years still to run, and even has family roots in the area. Sens fans are going to love Chychrun’s toughness and booming shot from the point. Ottawa has the second-best record in the NHL since January 25, having picked up 25 of a possible 34 points. Go Sens!

The Edmonton Oilers obtain Mattias Ekholm and a 2024 sixth-round pick
from the Nashville Predators for: Tyson Barrie, Reid Schaefer, 2023 first-round pick, 2024 fourth-round pick.

The Oilers had to do something to bolster their back end but this was a big overpay for a defenseman who’s in his 14th season. Why not just go after Chychrun? Including last year’s top pick, Reid Schaefer, in the deal was a mistake. As much as Barrie is beaten down, the guy will be missed on the power-play. The Preds did an excellent job at the deadline in kick-starting their rebuild. Nashville will have 13 picks in the upcoming  NHL draft.

The Toronto Maple Leafs obtain Jake McCabe (CHI retains 50 per cent of salary), Sam Lafferty, conditional 2024 fifth-round pick, conditional 2025 fifth-round pick
from the Chicago Blackhawks for: Joey Anderson, Pavel Gogolev, conditional 2025 first-round pick, 2026 second-round pick.

This is a big price to pay for a middle-of-the-road defenseman and a forward who scored 11 goals in his first four years in the league. McCabe had a nice season in Chicago but he was often matched with Seth Jones. Let’s see how things go if he’s playing with Justin Holl or Timothy Liligren. Lafferty scored a career-high 10 goals with the Hawks this year because they had no one else to toss over the boards. Those picks in ’25 and ’26 could be very valuable when the Leafs are plummeting down the standings in the East.

The Buffalo Sabres obtain Jordan Greenway from the Minnesota Wild for: 2023 second-round pick, 2024 fifth-round pick.

Nice work by the Sabres to pick up another big body forward in the midst of a downer season. Greenway is one of the top forecheckers in the NHL and just what the Sabres needed. Buffalo has a plentiful prospect pool and excess picks so they could afford to surrender draft capital. Greenway is a player the Canucks should have targeted.

The Pittsburgh Penguins obtain Mikael Granlund from the Nashville Predators for: 2023 second-round pick.

Ron Hextall (seemingly with Brian Burke’s approval) is trying to become the new rendition of Jim Bob Benning. Massive overpay for a player who won’t move the needle a fraction. Apparently, the Pens are so desperate for one last playoff go-round that they would toss out a valuable draft picks on Granlund and journeymen Nick Bonino and Dmitry Kulikov. Hextall apparently took too many pucks to the head.

The Tampa Bay Lightning obtain Tanner Jeannot from the Nashville Predators for: Cal Foote, 2025 top-10 protected first-round pick, 2024 second-round pick, 2023 third-round pick, 2023 fourth-round pick, 2023 fifth-round pick.

Talk about an overpay. Five picks plus a promising defenseman in Cal Foote for a kid with five goals this season. Jeannot is a big body on a cost-efficient contract. We know how valuable that can be. The Lightning have done it with Barclay Goodrow, Blake Coleman and Brandon Hagel.  Jeannot is their latest target and who’s to say it won’t work out?  However, the Bolts are now without a first-round pick for the next three seasons and hold only three picks in the first three rounds over that stretch.

The New Jersey Devils obtain Timo Meier (SJ retains 50 per cent of salary), Scott Harrington, Timur Ibragimov, Santeri Hatakka, Zachary Emond, 2024 fifth-round pick from the San Jose Sharks for: Andreas Johnsson, Fabian Zetterlund, Shakir Mukhamadullin, Nikita Okhotiuk, conditional 2023 first-round pick, conditional 2024 second-round pick, 2024 seventh-round pick.

Don’t sleep on these Devils.  If you are looking for a first-round upset, how about New Jersey over the New York Rangers? Could happen. Meier is one of the most underrated players in the NHL and should fit seamlessly with countryman Nico Heischer. If the Devils can get Meier signed to an extension, it will prove to be one of the year’s best deadline deals. San Jose got quantity in this deal but will it end up being fair value? Not likely.

The Winnipeg Jets obtain Nino Niederreiter from the Nashville Predators for: 2024 second-round pick.

Nice message from Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff to the team, “I really, really, sort of, believe in you guys.” No team needed a boost more than the struggling Jets and Chevy obtains, well, a Chevy when what the team needed was a Chychrun or a Meier. The Jets need more speed up front and another reliable puck-moving defenseman and they got neither.

The Boston Bruins obtain Dmitry Orlov (WSH retains 50 per cent of salary; MIN retains 25 per cent), Garnet Hathaway from the Washington Capitals for: Craig Smith, Andrei Svetlakov, 2023 first-round pick, 2025 second-round pick, 2024 third-round pick. Minnesota Wild receive: 2023 fifth-round pick.

This was some serious good work by Bruins GM Don Sweeney. Orlov put up eight points in his first four games with the Bruins, proving once again that some players are just itching for a new start. Hathaway will be loved by Bruins fans. The pieces are all in place in Boston. Adding winger Tyler Bertuzzi from Detroit was icing on the cake especially in wake of injuries to Taylor Hall and Nick Foligno.

Dubas or Dumb Ass – In the wake of all the deadline moves by the Toronto Maple Leafs, we finally have someone in Toronto who sees the Leafs through the same lens as we do. Howard Berger, a long-time Toronto newspaper reporter, penned an article on his “Between the Posts” blog entitled Leafs Have Gone Over the Edge. It’s a must-read. We’ve only been ranting about this for the past three years. Check it out.

The question becomes – at one point do you tinker too much?  After their flurry of trades, the Leafs acquired six players in total. That’s a lot of bodies to integrate into your lineup this late in the season. The Leafs now have nine defensemen on the roster and are shuffling bodies in and out of the lineup every night. With the playoffs a month away, you may want to settle on your defense pairings and get on with it.

Until dealing Rasmus Sandin to Washington and Pierre Engvall to the Islanders, the Leafs were left with only three top-96 picks in the next three drafts. For all the people who think there’s no danger in trading draft picks, here’s another example of why it’s a dangerous game. In 2006, the Leafs were desperate to try and make a playoff run in the Eastern Conference. They acquired veteran centre Yanic Perreault from the Arizona Coyotes for defenseman Brendan Bell and a 2008 second-round pick. The pick ended up in the hands of the Nashville Predators who used it to draft future Norris Trophy winner and future Hall of Famer Roman Josi. Whoops!

The Leaf lap-dogs are all giddy now. Let’s see how it plays out. Don’t know how you can be optimistic when you haven’t won a playoff series in 19 years. One thing is certain – they had better start warming up the K-Tel Excuse-O-Matic because the Leafs are going to need it when they do another faceplant.

How to Build a Cup Winner – Have you noticed many of the young teams who are emerging out of a long and painful rebuild all have one thing in common. They have paid close attention to their back end and have focused on drafting big, strong, top-four defensemen. It kind of reminds you of the Predators when they were assembling an incredible group of defensemen that would allow them to contend for close to two decades. The assembly line included Josi, Ryan Suter, Shea Weber, Dan Hamhuis, Seth Jones, Mattias Ekholm, Ryan Ellis, Cody Franson and Ryan McDonagh. It’s how you sustain success.

Tampa Bay won two Cups with a tremendous blueline. Colorado is looking to defend this year after managing to retain all their defenseman from last year’s Cup championship team. Look around the league. New Jersey has Luke Hughes and Simon Nemec on the way. Buffalo is building around Rasmus Dahlin and Owen Power. Detroit is excited about Moritz Seider and Simon Edvinsson. The Senators have Jake Sanderson, Thomas Chabot, Artem Zub and Jakob Chychrun as they move into a contention window. Building from the goalie out is still the best formula. Drafting centremen over wingers is the other organizational policy many teams have adopted. As they say, you can always move a centre to the wing but you can’t move a winger to the middle.

Finding Jim Benning – We definitely need to start a new regular blog entry called Where Are They Now?  Our first candidate would be Jim Benning. Kind of like the documentary Finding Bryant Reeves. They tracked Big Country to his farm in Oklahoma and chronicled the early days of the Vancouver Grizzlies.

Unfortunately, Benning has made himself very scarce since leaving the Canucks. We wish someone would track him down and get the real scoop on his long list of horrendous deals. We suspect he’s working in a group home, operating the weekly shuffleboard tournaments with Mike Milbury. When asked to comment, Jim said “I’m an important part of our group – home.”

NFL Draft Combine – For better or worse, the Seahawks are committing to Geno Smith. They avoided using the franchise tag and handed Geno a three-year extension that could be worth up to $105 million. It’s front-loaded with $52 million in year one which suggests they could  move away from the deal quickly. According to reports, Smith will get $40 million guaranteed upon signing plus $12 million next season. There’s no guaranteed money after two seasons.

The big question hanging over the franchise now?  Is drafting Geno’s eventual replacement with the fifth overall pick in April’s NFL Draft now unlikely? Seahawks General Manager John Schneider and Head Coach Pete Carroll have never had a top-five pick in their 13 years together.  Four quarterbacks are regarded as first-round talents: Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud, Will Levis and Anthony Richardson. The order is up for debate. Do you pull the trigger on a quarterback in this year’s draft since the Hawks are unlikely to be drafting this high again anytime soon.

Assuming at least two of the four quarterback prospects are off the board when the Seahawks select, it’s going to leave them with a tough decision. After watching Stroud, Levis and Richardson throw the ball at the NFL Combine, the Seahawks should still be thinking quarterback. They would be crazy to let this opportunity pass. Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, the consensus #1 quarterback available on many draft boards, measured 5-10 inches at the NFL Draft Combine. Would you invest the number one pick on a quarterback that size? No chance from our perspective. Still not convinced Young will be the first QB off the board.

Redshirting a young quarterback for a season is never a bad idea. It kind of worked out for the Chiefs with Pat Mahomes, don’t you think?  The timing is right because the Seahawks have a very tough 2023 schedule. The NFC West slate is always difficult plus Seattle must face the NFC East which sent three teams to the playoffs last season in addition to matchups with the Ravens, Bengals, Steelers and Detroit Lions. Making the playoffs next season is going to be really tough.

No doubt reaching for quarterbacks has become an annual turkey shoot in the NFL. Since 2011, six teams have traded into the top five picks of the first round, or higher in the top five, for a quarterback. How’s that worked out you ask? On every occasion, the acquiring team vastly overpaid.  Here’s a look at the sad list of transactions:

2012: Robert Griffin III, second overall to Washington

2016: Jared Goff, first overall to the Rams

2016: Carson Wentzsecond overall to Philadelphia

2017: Mitchell Trubisky, second overall to Chicago

2018: Sam Darnoldthird overall to the Jets

2021: Trey Lancethird overall to San Francisco

From Wentz He Came – Erstwhile quarterback Carson Wentz has been kicked to the curb and at 30, is already on his last legs as an NFL starter. In his seven-year NFL career, Wentz has earned $128.7 million dollars. His record is 46-46-1. He has zero playoff wins. The Eagles paid Wentz (His Pants) $79.1 million for five seasons. Indianapolis paid Wentz $21.3 million for one season. Washington paid Wentz $28.3 million for one season. To acquire Wentz, the Eagles, Colts and Commanders squandered three first-round picks, a second, four third-round picks and one fourth-round pick. Nine picks altogether, all in the top 100 including the 8th, 12th  and 17th overall picks in three different drafts. What a monumental waste of money and draft capital.

Jays Spring Training Notes – The news from Dunedin could not be better for the Toronto Blue Jays. They came into camp with major questions in the starting rotation and so far, the results are very positive. You know what you are going to get from Alek Manoah and Kevin Gausman. New addition Chris Bassitt looks very comfortable and should be an innings-eater. Jose Berrios was a big question mark after a disappointing season and he looks like a bounce-back candidate. Berrios has been working on improving fastball location and getting more downward movement on his slider. The most promising performance so far has been turned in by Yusei Kikuchi who tossed three no-hit innings against the Pirates in his latest spring start. Look out if all five starters can get off to strong starts.  

The lineup looks far more balanced this year with the addition of several lefthanded bats including Kevin Kiermaier, Brandon Belt and Daulton Varsho. Cavan Biggio is poised for a career year. Looks for the Jays to run a lot more this season with the new rules in place. With much-improved outfield defense and more speed throughout the lineup, the Jays should be able to play ‘small-ball’ rather than relying on the ‘long-ball’ to win games. Pitching will ultimately decide if the Jays can overtake the Yankees and win the division. It promises to be a fun season for Jays fans.

Leftovers – Sportsnet has cheapened-out again. They have removed Arash Madani from the Blue Jays broadcasts. Seems he may have asked questions that were too tough. The network (and the organization which is also owned by Rogers) would rather have someone who can lob softball questions. They’ve brought in Arden (The Aardvark) Swelling to be one of the dugout reporters this season. He’s about as exciting as Saturday night with the folks watching Lawrence Welk. Can’t wait for his stirring repartee!

It’s beyond comprehension how Lamar Jackson could be demanding over $40 million per season from the Baltimore Ravens. He’s missed 34 percent of the team’s snaps over the past two seasons with a series of injuries. Jackson is 1-3 in the post-season with a 68.3 playoff passer rating. And you want to be paid like Pat Mahomes?  Dream on!

The Philadelphia Eagles have issued an official request to use the number zero on a uniform next season, a move many believe should have happened long ago.  Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers wears the number. Looks kinda cool. Remember Gilbert Arenas?  He used to wear 0. It will be interesting to see if the usually-staid NFL approves the Eagles request.

Goodbye Wayne – We lost two fantastic artists from the music industry recently – pioneering jazz saxophonist Wayne Shorter and multi-instrumentalist David Lindley, a fixture in the L.A. recording scene.

Shorter was a foundational member of two of the most seminal jazz groups: Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and the Miles Davis Quintet.  In the 70’s, Shorter was a founding member of the iconic fusion band Weather Report. As a band leader, Shorter released more than 25 albums. He won 11 Grammy awards and in 2015 was given a lifetime achievement Grammy.  Here’s a report from CBS News in New York.

Shorter appeared on 10 Joni Mitchell albums and often toured with her as well.  Here’s rare footage of Joni performing Hejira at a concert in Japan with Shorter providing his stellar accompaniment on soprano sax.

Several years ago, Blue Note Records brought together some of the giants of jazz for a 75th anniversary concert at the Lincoln Centre in New York. Among those featured was the Wayne Shorter Quartet.

Goodbye David – David Lindley died last Friday at the age of 78. He was a sought-after session player best-known for his work with Jackson Browne.

Lindley came to the forefront on the 1977 multiplatinum album “Running on Empty,” playing an indelible lap steel solo on the album’s title track. His tenure with Browne includes all of Browne’s seminal works from 1973-80. Lindley also had a series of collaborations with Ry Cooder as well as Linda Ronstadt, Warren Zevon, David Crosby and many others.

As a kid, Lindley started out playing the banjo. He would become a brilliant mandolin player as well. Here’s Call It a Loan from a performance with Jackson Browne seven years ago.

As a solo artist, Lindley is best-known for the album El Rayo X.  Check out his slide guitar work on his hit song Mercury Blues.

Lindley was a true original as an artist. Have a listen to Bon Temps Rouler from a TV appearance in 1989.

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