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Under Further Review – 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. Coming up this week, crunch time in Vancouver. A Final Four berth to be decided and a scoring frenzy at the PGA.

You Do or You Die – Welcome to Game Seven at Rogers Arena. Could all the casual Canuck fans please be in your seats by puck drop? We have a game to play.

If you are a fatalist and believe the Canucks are cursed, news that Brock Boeser will miss game seven only fuels the long-held belief. Boeser is dealing with a blood-clotting issue and although it’s not life-threatening, he won’t be in the lineup on Monday night. The absence of the Canucks leading playoff scorer leaves a huge hole.

It will be a showdown between two teams who haven’t won anything in forever. Trying to figure out who will show up is impossible. The Canucks were a complete no-show in game six in Edmonton. Nine shots on goal after two periods? 15 in total. Are you kidding?

The Canucks should be embarrassed with their effort in game six in Edmonton. J.T. Miller became an instant folk hero after scoring the winner in game five. He was minus-3 in game six. There’s no margin for error now. It’s heady territory for Vancouver who haven’t advanced this far since 2011. The Oilers history of recent playoff disappointments is well-documented. The Canucks should be battle tested. Up until game six, they had played in nine straight one-goal games, winning six of them.

Leon Draisaitl is an incredible hockey player. No argument. He’s deadly on the power-play. But please don’t compare him to Alexander Barkov or Anze Kopitar in his prime. Draisaitl is not a reliable 200-foot player and it often costs the Oilers at key times. In game four, he had two points but was minus-1. In game five, he had a point but was minus-2. Problem for Edmonton is Connor McDavid is no better when it comes to defending. The Canucks gave Draisaitl all kinds of room on Saturday night and guess what? He had a comfortable evening. That needs to change in game seven.

It’s obvious to hockey watchers across Canada that the Oilers know the only way they can have success is to deliver on the power-play. The whole team will do whatever they can to get calls. In game six, Janmark embellished a hit and drew a call. Hyman flops and draws a penalty. McDavid dives and gets the call. It’s sad to watch. It starts with McDavid and Draisaitl and it permeates the whole team.

Blame Ken Holland for the Oilers inability to advance to the Cup final with the two big stars in the lineup. He’s done a horse-bleep job of building out the roster. Holland’s best work was the acquisition of veteran defenceman Mattias Ekholm. Other than that, what has he done? Holland waited too long at this year’s deadline before going to work. Adam Henrique for a first-round pick looks like a disaster now. The blueline is slow. The bottom six is toothless. The goaltending puzzle has never been solved. Do you really have confidence that Stu Skinner will come up big in game seven?

You sure find out a lot about your team in the playoffs. The Canucks have had their share of disappointments. Ilya Mikheyev played his way into the press box. Zero points in the playoffs and one goal in 60 games will do that. Nils Hoglander was goalless before being benched. Ian Cole has worked his butt off but can’t stop putting the puck in his own net. He was on the ice for seven of the first 14 goals scored by the Oilers in the series. Filip Hronek was done himself no favours in contract negotiations. He has registered only one point in 12 playoff games. Maybe Steve Yzerman knew what he was doing when he shipped Hronek to Vancouver. Perhaps he got tired of watching Hronek get turnstiled.

On the positive side, Nikita Zadorov has been a tower of strength. Please get this guy signed in the off-season. Evander Kane’s worst nightmare. Arturs Silovs has been a saviour. The playoffs have been a redemption story for Elias Lindholm.

Saddle up. Should be fun to watch on Monday night.

The Petey Principle – Call it the Petey Puzzle. It seems like the prevailing storyline throughout these playoffs has been “what’s wrong with Elias Pettersson?” Everyone’s watching and what we have seen for the most part is not good – at all. The eleven-million-dollar man has been looking like the eleven-million-dollar mistake.

The eye test has been terrible. The coach has called him out. The stats are not there. Pettersson has one goal in his last 28 games. Five points in eleven playoff games. Did you see his feeble effort to take out Dylan Holloway on the opening goal on Saturday night?

Where’s the fire? Pettersson has often looked to be avoiding contact. It would help if he stayed on his feet. Pettersson falls at the slightest sign of contact. Rarely does he win a puck battle. No one is expecting a banger but c’mon? 55% of playoff goals are scored from the high traffic area in front of the net. Pettersson has yet to record a high danger shot in the playoffs. Everything has come from the perimeter.

Pettersson insists he’s not injured. It would explain a lot if he is indeed playing hurt. How many times have you seen a player underperform in the playoffs only to learn later that he was playing with a major injury? Maybe he has iron-poor tired blood. We suggest Carter Little Liver pills. Sure-fire cure. Hey, show up in game seven and all is forgotten. Well, temporarily at least.

Stars-Avalanche: The Dallas Stars are moving on to the Western Conference Final for the third time in five years and it does seem like just desserts. If anyone can explain the NHL’s goaltender interference rule, good luck. It was rather fortuitous that Matt Duchene scored the ultimate winner after being at the center of the controversy. It appeared like the NHL didn’t want the series decided by the Situation Room in Toronto 1,300 miles away so it was easy to let the call on the ice stand. Trouble is – it was the wrong call! Had the call been overturned, it would have been a messy way to end a great series.

The Stars looked like the more complete team. It’s hard to find a weakness. They go four lines deep. Plenty of speed. Three solid defence pairs and Jake Oettinger in net. No doubt they will be the favourite in the Western Conference final.

Was there a better deadline pickup than the Stars Chris Tanev? The guy’s a warrior. After losing more teeth against the Avs, you wonder how many he has left. Canuck fans will remember when Tanev lost six teeth in 2018 after taking a shot to the face. Even at 34, Tanev will be in demand as a free agent on July 1. Wouldn’t you love to see a reunion in Vancouver? Not likely to happen considering the Canucks cap situation. But you can always hope.

Like the Leafs, the Avalanche are looking very top heavy. If Gabriel Landeskog returns next season, there will be very little money to improve the roster. It didn’t help that Valery Nichushkin was suspended for six months following another violation of the NHL’s Player Assistance Program. He was an absolute monster in this year’s playoffs.

Eastern Conference Notes – Did it not seem like Florida and New York were on a collision course? The Bruins always empty the tank but they were no match for the Panthers. Florida won it with great special teams, scoring six power-play goals in the series and adding one short-handed.

What’s fair is fair according to The Rat. After getting knocked out of the series by Sam Bennett, Brad Marchand revealed he has always tried to injure players in the playoffs in order to give his team an advantage. Now there’s a big revelation. As if we didn’t already know that Marchand was collecting bodies.

Have you noticed how important the 3C spot is in the playoffs? It’s often the deciding factor in a series. Take a look at the remaining playoff teams. Duchene is the Stars third-line centre. He’s been a huge contributor after Roope Hintz was sidelined. You have Anton Lundell in the 3C spot in Florida. Elias Lindholm in Vancouver. Alex Wennberg in New York. Meanwhile, Ryan McLeod has been a non-factor in Edmonton. Colorado used Ross Colton as their third-line centre. Boston used Trent Frederic. Jack Drury was the Hurricanes 3C. For the Leafs, it was Pontus Holmberg. You can see why some teams are moving on and others have hit the golf course.

No NHL GM has done a better job than the Panthers Bill Zito. He stole Matthew Tkachuk and Sam Bennett from the Calgary Flames. He pilfered Sam Reinhart and Brandon Montour from the Buffalo Sabres. His best move, by far, was picking up defenceman Gustav Forsling off waivers from Carolina in 2019. (Canuck fans will never forgive Jim Benning for trading Forsling to the Chicago Blackhawks.) The Panthers are a series away from another trip to the Stanley Cup Final and Zito is the reason why.

The Eastern Conference Final starts Wednesday night. Expect a long series. We’ll go with Florida.

The Oxygen Suckers – Can the Toronto Maple Leafs not just go away quietly? In the week after being dispatched by the Boston Bruins, the Leafs were still hogging the headlines and sucking the oxygen out of the hockey industry. All it accomplished is taking the spotlight away from some great hockey being played on the ice. First, the firing of Sheldon Keefe. The search for a new scapegoat begins anew! Then came the big summit meeting between the corporate hierarchy, only to announce nothing. Oh, Brendan Shanahan is safe to continue carrying out his big plan. Talk about self-preservation. In Shanahan’s words, “The ultimate responsibility is on me. The accountability is on me.” Then how come everyone around you gets canned and you survive the fallout?

Does it not occur to anyone that the fundamental problem in Toronto is too much NOISE! It never stops and most of it is aimed at glorifying the players on the ice. Mitch Marner was right about something. The players are “treated like gods” in Toronto and rarely is there anything but an endless stream of praise. The Toronto lemmings make Bobby McMann out to be a life-saver. It’s been five years since they hailed Nick Robertson to be the next scoring star. How has that worked out?

The sad truth is the Leafs are a punchline, or in the case of Under Further Review, a punching bag. The sites are filled with jokes, videos and ridicule. This is what happens when you haven’t won a thing in 57 years.

What happens now? The Maple Leafs have started papering over the cracks and will try and convince the faithful all is great in the centre of the universe. It won’t change a thing. The pieces don’t fit. The foundation needed to win in the playoffs is just not there.

Treliving can share in the blame. Within two weeks of taking the job as GM last summer, Treliving made three signings that doomed the Leafs chances this season. He signed David Kampf to a four-year contract worth $2.4 million per season. He gifted Ryan Reaves a three-year deal with a cap hit of $1.35 million, then misspent another $4.15 million on defenceman John Klingberg. That’s a total of $7.9 million of wasted cap space. None provided anything in the playoffs.

Get ready for more bluster this summer. Every move will be applauded. The optimism will build. The Excusinator is oiled up and ready. By the time we reach September, the mighty Leafs will be Stanley Cup favourites again. The script never changes and certainly not the ending.

NHL Playoff Notebook – The NHL trade deadline is apparently not all it’s cracked up to be. The Vegas Golden Knights got all the headlines but what good did it do them? Anthony Mantha was a dismal failure in the series against Dallas. By the final game, he was a healthy scratch. Tomas Hertl scored one goal against the Stars. His line was outscored 5-0 at five-on-five. Noah Hanifan had five points in seven games but his five-on-five numbers were poor as well. It’ll be an interesting summer for Vegas. If they want to continue among the elite teams in the west, they need to add more speed at the top of the lineup.

It’s no mystery that Macklin Celebrini will be the first pick in this summer’s NHL draft. The San Jose Sharks won the NHL Draft Lottery and Celebrini is sure to be the prize. He already has some marketing profile within the community. Celebrini came up through the Junior Sharks program while his dad was working for the Golden State Warriors.

If the Sharks have an ounce of brains, they will leave Celebrini to play another year at Boston University. It can’t hurt his development. He would get to play with Cole Eiserman who’s committed to join BU. Eiserman and Celebrini played together at Shattuck-St. Mary’s prep school.

You worry about rushing players and the risk of injury. Celebrini has the talent to play in the NHL next season but is he physically ready? The top three picks in last year’s draft, Connor Bedard, Leo Carlsson and Adam Fantilli, all missed time in their rookie season due to injury. Is that a coincidence? Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was a number one overall pick. He was rushed into the Oilers lineup, separated his shoulder, and has never really reached the heights expected of a number one pick.

Former Toronto Maple Leaf Zach Hyman had seven goals in the Oilers first-round beat-down of the Los Angeles Kings. Matthews, Marner, Nylander and Tavares combined to score six.

The Leafs have a nasty habit of letting players slip away. Hulking forward Justin Brazeau went undrafted before signing with the Leafs. He spent two years in their system. At 26, he’s caught on with the hated Bruins and was a nice surprise in these playoffs.

The New York Islanders are an odd mix. They have nine players on the roster making $5 million or more.

The toughest job in hockey may be selecting a goaltender for the next U.S. Olympic team. It’s an embarrassment of riches. You would think that Vezina Trophy favourite Conner Hellebuyck would be the hands-down front-runner but hold on. Jeremy Swayman, Thatcher Demko and Jake Oettinger are all legitimate contenders for the job. It will be interesting to see who emerges when the Olympics roll around.

Green Day – The National Hockey League continues to mystify when it comes to management decision-making. Where’s the creative-thinking? How do you explain the Ottawa Senators choosing Travis Green as their new head coach? He’s never won anything. His career winning percentage is .473 which is worse than another former Canuck coach, Willie Desjardins, and you know where he is now – on the unemployment line.

The Senators took months to make a coaching decision and this is what they came up with? Why not Lorne Green? He was born in Ottawa. Among the candidates in the current coaching cycle, Green had to be well down the list. He took over in New Jersey on an interim basis and went 8-and-13. The Devils showed no interest in bringing him back. What does that tell you? To hand him a four-year contract is completely mind-boggling. Who were you competing with?  The Utica Comets?

Ottawa fans thought they had it bad with Eugene Melnyk. New Senators owner Michael Andlauer may have gained controlling interest in the franchise but apparently has no money left to build the hockey operations department. He hired his pal Steve Staios as club president. Staios was tasked with finding a new GM and he hired himself. Now there’s a cost-saving. Craig Berube was reportedly willing to join the Senators but they wouldn’t meet his asking price. What happens then? Berube joins your arch-rival.

The Sens may see some modest improvement under Green but then what? The players will stop having any fun. They will tune him out and he will eventually lose the room. That was the story in Vancouver. Who can forget Green’s penchant for bag-skating players during training camp.

The hiring has been met with nothing but anger in Ottawa. In the corporate world, you don’t get second chances. In the National Hockey League, you just get tossed into the spin cycle and churned out again and again.

PGA at Valhalla – The PGA has a reputation for being the least difficult of the four golf majors. This year’s PGA at Valhalla in Louisville, Kentucky is a very tough golf course but it put up very little defence. How do you explain Xander Schauffele’s nine-under 62 in the opening round and record-breaking minus-21 winning score? It’s as though the PGA of America is afraid to embarrass the club pros who are allowed to complete in the tournament. You can try and set up the course tougher but will it make any difference? Today’s players simply overpower the golf course. Bryson DeChambeau hit an eight-iron from 212 yards on the 16th hole to three feet. Who does that? On the other hand, the refusal to allow lift-clean-and-place on Friday was a ridiculous mistake. It resulted in all kinds of errant shots on muddied balls that were sitting in the fairway. Here’s a few other takeaways.

  • The arrest of Scottie Scheffler at 6:00am should never have happened. Only in America. The overzealous cop was working the PGA and didn’t know who Scheffler was? Did he really need to be dragged into jail and have his mug shot all over social media? It’s amazing how well he ended up playing. Scheffler did his warm-up stretching before round two in the jail cell. It caught up to him in round three. Otherwise, he probably would have won the tournament.
  • Jon Rahm has gone missing since leaving the PGA Tour and joining LIV Golf. He finished T45 at the Masters and missed the cut at the PGA. Like Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka, he’s just lost his competitive edge.
  • Tiger Woods is nothing more than a sideshow. It’s pretty sad when he’s getting lapped by PGA club professionals. Tiger had a pair of triple bogies early in the second round and finished plus-7 with another missed cut at a major.
  • Corey Conners was top Canadian, finishing at minus-9 and T26. Adam Svensson was T43. Adam Hadwin was T60. Mackenzie Hughes, Taylor Pendrith and Nick Taylor all missed the cut.

Hailey’s Comet – The USGA and the LPGA have to reexamine their policies toward transgender golfers. It’s just a matter of time before the issue becomes a major hornet’s nest. Transgender golfer Hailey Davidson just missed qualifying for this year’s U.S. Women’s Open during a 36-hole qualifier in Florida. Davidson emerged as the first alternate so there’s still a chance, she may end up playing in the Open.

Davidson is a native of Scotland who earned a scholarship to play on the men’s team at Division II Wilmington University. Davidson began transitioning in 2015 and underwent gender assignment surgery in 2021, a requirement under both the USGA and LPGA policies required for eligibility to compete.

This year, Davidson has been competing on the NXXT Tour, a mini-tour based in Florida. She won three times. However, in March, the tour changed its policy and now requires all players to be a biological female at birth in order to participate. Time for the LPGA to rethink their policy. Otherwise, it’s only a matter of time before there’s a major furore.

Blue Jays Notebook – The frustration level among Blue Jay fans is growing by the day. Did you happen to catch Jeff Blair sounding off on the Jays on a recent Blair and Barker Show on Sportsnet? Jeff pretty much summed up how everyone is feeling and clearly put Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins on the hot seat.

The Jays offensive woes are well chronicled. On Friday night, they made struggling Rays lefthander Tyler Alexander look like Sandy Koufax. Alexander was perfect through seven and a third innings before the Jays finally registered a bloop single. The Jays popgun lineup is averaging 3.6 runs per game. That’s 29th in baseball.

George Springer was finally taken out of the leadoff spot with his average hovering below .200. He has two more years on his contract at $25 million per. You knew that deal wasn’t going to age well. Only costing the Jays $150 grand per game.

The Jays are nearing a decision point. The post-2016 rebuild has been a big flop. Three wild-card berths and no post-season wins just doesn’t cut it. But as Jeff Blair noted, do you want Ross Atkins in charge of the decision-making that clearly needs to happen.

Random Leftovers – Baseball’s newest pitching sensation is Paul Skenes of the Pittsburgh Pirates. In his first MLB start, Skenes threw 17 pitches 100 mph or more. He’s a 6-foot-6, 235-pound right-hander who was the top selection in the 2023 MLB draft out of LSU. The 21-year-old struck out seven in his debut and eleven in his second start. You hope he can avoid the arm trouble that has plagued so many hard-throwing young pitchers.

Just a thought but can we contribute the fall of the Houston Astros to the fact that Dusty Baker is no longer manager? Baker won wherever he went and now suddenly the Astros are collapsing without him.

As we continue to review the Seahawks off-season, it becomes more and more apparent the team needed a facelift. Pete Carroll is out as head coach. Clint Hurtt is out as defensive coordinator. Gone are Bobby Wagner, Jamal Adams and Quandre Diggs. Who could argue against any of those moves? Change was necessary and that was a pretty good place to start.

Canada has a superstar in the pool in Summer McIntosh. She trimmed over a second off her world-record time at the Olympic Trials in the 400-metre individual medley. The 17-year-old is the two-time defending world champion in the 400 IM. She’s a strong favourite for gold at this summer’s games in Paris.

The world’s biggest soccer star, Kylian Mbappe, is leaving Paris Saint-Germain. Where will he land? Mbappe will reportedly join Real Madrid, which is no surprise. Get ready for staggering contract numbers. PSG turned down a massive transfer bid from Real Madrid in 2021 said to be worth $180 million Euros. That would be a bargain now.

The Toronto Raptors are paying the price for doubling down at the 2023 NBA trade deadline. They will be sending their first-round draft pick, eighth overall, to the San Antonio Spurs as a result of the deal that brought centre Jakob Poeltl to Toronto. The Raptors also own the Indiana Pacers first-round pick via the Pascal Siakam trade along with Detroit’s second-round selection. Sounds great but this year’s draft is considered very weak so don’t hold your breath. It would not be surprising to see the Raptors back in the lottery next year.

LeBron James. Coach-killer! Lebron has played for nine coaches in his 21-year career now that Darvin Ham has been fired by the Los Angeles Lakers. It will be ten in 22 years next season if Lebron decides to play.

The Brooklyn Nets plan on retiring Vince Carter’s number 15. They must be hard up for occasions to celebrate. Carter played four and a half seasons in Brooklyn and you retire his number?

We’re all for free speech but then there’s kicker Harrison Butker of the Kansas City Chiefs. Butker went off the rails during a commencement speech at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. At one point, Butker addressed the women in the audience and argued their “most important title” should be that of “homemaker.” Shocked the NFL has not responded more strongly.

The tone-deaf Toronto Argonauts finally woke up and forced quarterback Chad Kelly to withdraw from training camp. The CFL’s Most Outstanding Player had been slapped with a nine-game suspension for violating the CFL’s gender-based policy but there he was attending the team’s rookie camp at the University of Guelph. Just a bad look for the Argos and the CFL. In case you were wondering, Kelly is the nephew of NFL Hall of Famer Jim Kelly, the long-time Buffalo Bills QB.

The New York Giants could be a good landing spot for Canadian quarterback Nathan Rourke. Starter Daniel Jones is coming off major knee surgery. The current back-up is former Seahawk Drew Lock. It’s not exactly a Mount Rushmore of quarterbacks. Problem is, teams have been unwilling to give Rourke a proper look.

Bet you just can’t wait for Tom Brady to make his network debut as an NFL analyst. Brady will begin his broadcasting career on September 1 when Cleveland hosts Dallas. He’ll work alongside Fox play-by-play man Kevin Burkhardt. Fox is paying Brady a ton of money. Do you really think he will be worth it?

Goodbye David and Dutchy – It was difficult to digest the loss of two industry greats this week. TSN said goodbye to long-time SportsCentre anchor Darren Dutchyshen. The music world lost legendary sax player David Sanborn. Both died after long battles with prostate cancer.

Dutchy was only 57. He was known for his boundless enthusiasm and magnetic energy. No one in Canada handled highlight packages like Dutchy.

Sanborn crossed all genres over his incredibly influential career. Few people are aware he was part of the Paul Butterfield Band that played at Woodstock. Sanborn would go on to forge a remarkable solo career in jazz with eight gold albums and six Grammy’s. He toured with Stevie Wonder and David Bowie and collaborated with scores of artists including the Stones, Clapton, Paul Simon and James Taylor.

For a taste of David Sanborn’s musical genius, listen to Comin’ Home Baby off his release ’Time Again.’

The Hot List – Here’s a killer Top Ten for this week with tracks that randomly popped up on our playlists.

  • Nathan East – ‘Can’t Find My Way Home’ featuring Eric Clapton
  • JJ Cale – ‘Call Me the Breeze’ from JJ Cale Live
  • Justin Townes Earle – ‘Flint City Shake It’ from the album Saint of Lost Causes
  • Chuck Prophet – ‘Summertime Thing’ from No Other Love
  • Blackie & The Rodeo Kings – ‘Trust Yourself’ from King of This Town
  • Eric Lindell – ‘Sunny Daze’ from Change in the Weather
  • Ben Sidran – ‘Back Nine’ from Don’t Cry for No Hipster. (Golf lovers will enjoy this one)
  • Anders Osborne – ‘The One I Love’ from Buddha and the Blues
  • The Meltdown – ‘Hard Time Letting Go’ from It’s a Long Road
  • Garrett LeBeau – ‘Rise to the Ground’ – title track from an album of the same name

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