Under Further Review – May 9 Edition – Douglas Smith with Co-editor Bill Morphy and contributions from Bill Myles and Dave Kittle.
Editor’s Note: Due to the lack of happenings in the world of sports, Under Further Review has decided to take a hiatus until further notice. We will return when there is more concrete news to digest. In the meantime, stay safe, stay cool and enjoy the summer!
What Lies Ahead – Part of the rationale for taking a break is the whole prospect of returning pro sports to normal seems a practice in lunacy. Frankly, the discussions are getting tiresome. When will the NBA and the NHL start back up? When will the MLB season get underway? Will the NFL season begin on time?
Last time I checked there were more important things on tap for the Average Joe. After all, it really comes down to the level of hurt currently being felt by a bunch of billionaire owners. Sorry, I don’t have a whole lot of sympathy for you.
On Friday, the federal government announced they are pumping $72 million into supporting amateur sports in Canada. Yes, I can support that. It may help a few national sports federations hang in for a while. But let’s get real. The entire sports ecosystem is about to go through a massive upheaval. What will be left when the bodies wash ashore is anybody’s guess? You can’t tell me that every university sport will be spared or every pro or minor sports organization. The collateral damage may be greater than we might imagine. The rabid consumption of sports may also change. Who knows? All that sticks out for me is one word – contraction. There will be less and that may not be a bad thing.
Canuck Notebook – We mentioned some time ago that one Canuck prospect who may surprise is defenseman Jack Rathbone. He was selected in the fourth round of the 2017 draft and the Canucks are currently awaiting his decision on whether to turn pro or return to Harvard for another season.
If you are not up to speed on Rathbone, here’s an excerpt from a recent published report detailing Rathbone’s rise as a top prospect.
His ability to transition the puck from the defensive zone is exceptional. He is an elite skater, and his passes are both crisp and accurate. Rathbone completes long stretch-passes at a highly successful rate and possesses a hard point-shot. Similar to Rafferty, Rathbone needs work on his coverages in the defensive zone.
When the Canucks used the 95th overall selection in 2017 to select the Dexter-Southfield High School defenseman, most of us knew nothing about him. Rathbone attended the Canucks’ Summer Development Camp that season, and I remember reading about him and seeing a few clips and became intrigued. Rathbone returned to Dexter-Southfield for the 2017-2018 season rather than attending Harvard University, to remain with his younger brother Terry, who has autism. When I became aware that Hockey TV streamed U.S. high school hockey, and that some of Dexter-Southfield’s games were available, I quickly subscribed.
My first impression when I saw him play was, “Wow, can this kid ever skate.” Never having watched high school hockey before I wasn’t sure if it was just the level of competition or was he really as good as he appeared? I watched half a dozen or so of the 17 games he played that season, each time impressed and excited by what I witnessed. Rathbone registered 11 goals and 19 assists in those 17 games and named to the USHS All-USA Hockey Second Team.
When the high school hockey season had finished, Rathbone rejoined the Cape Cod Whalers midget team, for which he had previously played, in their bid for a national championship. Those games were also available on Hockey TV. The Whalers fell short, but Rathbone recorded four goals in the eight games played. His transition to the Harvard Crimson and NCAA hockey was smooth. Harvard coach Ted Donato knew precisely the type of player he was getting in Rathbone, as his brother Danny Donato is the coach at Dexter-Southfield.
Rathbone slid into the top pairing with Adam Fox for the 2018-2019 season, before Fox went on to sign with the New York Rangers. It was a bit of a role change for Rathbone, as he was now the stay-at-home defender in that pairing, although he managed to join the rush occasionally. In his first season at Harvard, Rathbone managed 7 goals and 22 points in 33 games earning NCAA (ECAC) All-Rookie Team honours.
His second season with the Crimson saw Rathbone play a more significant role. He helped the Crimson power play to a 31.2 percent success rate, which led the nation while being a fixture on the penalty kill as well. Rathbone produced at a 1.11 points-per-game clip recording seven goals and 31 points in 28 games played. He earned NCAA (All-USCHO) Second-Team, NCAA (ECAC) First-Team and NCAA All-Ivy League First Team recognition for his efforts.
Rathbone is both an elite skater and passer, which makes for an exceptional transition game. His ability to execute tape-to-tape stretch passes makes for high-quality zone exits. This aspect of his game is already better than any current Canuck defender not named Quinn Hughes. When he does finally sign, the team will have added another young player to excite the fans.
The Canucks are reportedly one of the teams attempting to sign Swedish forward Mathias Brome. The 25-year-old winger finished sixth in scoring in the SHL last season with 17 goals and 43 points in 52 games. He is said to have narrowed his choices to either the Canucks or the Detroit Red Wings. Brome is an exceptional skater with creative offensive instincts. He’s also fairly detailed in the defensive zone as well. His ability to play up and down the lineup may give him an advantage over Nils Hoglander, the Canucks 2019 second round pick, when it comes to trying to earn a roster spot next season.
If signed, Brome is likely to compete for a spot in the Canucks bottom-six. Regardless if he makes the team or not, he could be a cost-effective depth piece.
Capped Out – We like to take swipes at the Maple Leafs, mainly because of all the bluster around the team. They were pegged as a sure-fire Stanley Cup winner long before they proved anything. When you look at the Leafs now and how it’s been constructed, it’s easy to see a team in regression. Read this article and tell me if you see the Leafs being on the right track.
The Leafs made a good signing this week when they inked Finnish defenseman Mikko Lehtonen to a one-year deal for the league minimum. The 26 year old he scored 17 goals and 32 assists in 52 games for Jokerit, making him the top point-getter among all KHL defenders and the sixth-highest scorer overall. He’s a guy I thought the Canucks should look at signing. However, he’s probably doesn’t fit the profile of what either team needs right now since he’s only 5’11”, 195 pounds and may not be able to defend the front of the net. For the Leafs, the price is right. We will see if he can earn a spot next season.
The Next Connor – Remember the name Connor Bedard! He’s the latest “Next One” when it comes to rising hockey stars. Bedard was just selected first overall by the Regina Pats in the Western Hockey League’s midget draft. The 14 year old from North Van becomes only the seventh player ever granted exceptional status in the CHL, and the first one to be given that designation in the WHL.
Bedard played above his age group this year with the West Van Academy Midget prep team, dominating the sport school league with 84 points in 36 games. He’s a right-shot centreman with a highly developed shot, good character and dynamite hockey awareness. It will be interesting to see how he develops. Let’s check back in a few years and see how he’s handling the hype.
Reach for the Stars – When you compare how well NFL teams scout players to how CFL teams scout prospects, the difference is night and day. You may recall, the CFL is a league where the Ottawa Rough Riders drafted a player who was dead. His name was Derrell Robertson. It happened during the expansion draft in 1994. After playing college at Mississippi State, Robertson signed with one of the CFL’s erstwhile calamity franchises, the Las Vegas Posse. Robertson was killed in a car crash in December 1994 but was still drafted by the Rough Riders in a dispersal draft after the Posse folded.
After the end of the 1994 season, the Posse folded, and its players were made available to the other CFL teams through a dispersal draft. A list of potential draftees, including Robertson, was distributed by the league to the teams. With their fourth round pick, the Rough Riders selected Robertson. Rough Riders football operations head Garney Henley had previously consulted with former Posse coach Ron Meyer and had also spoken with offensive coordinator Ron Smeltzer. Both of them spoke well of Robertson, and were apparently unaware of his death. According to Ottawa coach Jim Gilstrap, the league had been unaware of Robertson’s death, as had the team—until they tried and failed to find him.
We decided to do a little research on the B.C. Lions draft record over the past 20 years and we were astonished at the sheer ineptitude. It is astonishing how poorly they have drafted. Here’s a list of their first round picks since 1998. Only a few players in that period of over two decades has made even a modest impact.
Which brings us to today. Last week, the Lions traded up a few spots with the Edmonton Eskimos in order to land the first overall pick in this year’s draft. Their choice was Jordan Williams, a linebacker from East Carolina. Following his college career, Williams failed to catch on with the 49’ers before landing on Ottawa’s practice roster last year. Turns out he inadvertently told a Riders assistant coach that his mother was from Toronto.
He then sat out a year to maintain his eligibility as a national but his story didn’t end there. Williams was rated outside the first round on most boards when he arrived at the draft combine in Toronto on Thursday, Mar. 12. He then proceeded to wow the scouts by running a 4.48 in the 40 with a 39-inch vertical jump before the combine was shut down the next day.
We will see how Williams turns out but based on the Lions track record at the draft table, I wouldn’t hold my breath. The Lions scouting staff is batting below the Mendoza line when it comes to first round picks over the past 25 years. We did a check and the list of names is a wasteland of has-been’s and never were’s. Since 1998, the Lions have basically whiffed on no less than nine offensive linemen taken in round one of the CFL draft. Remember Dean Valli? How about Justin Sorensen? Or Danny Watkins, the fireman from Kelowna who was also a first round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles. Flop after flop after flop. More recently, Kirby Fabien and Hunter Steward were going to be the answer to the Lions offensive line woes. But hey, their drafting ineptitude was not limited to one position. There’s a long list of players who made no mark whatsoever – Greg Lotysz, Ian Williams, Paul Cheng, Oshiomogho Atogwe, Alexis Bwenge, Jamall Lee, Matt Carter, James Yurichuk and Esa Mrabure-Ajufo.
The only first round picks in over two decades to have any impact are fullback Lyle Green, slotback Jason Clermont, receiver Paris Jackson and linebacker Ricky Foley. More recently, Marco Iannuzzi and Jabar Westerman have made modest contributions.
How a team can draft so poorly for so long is incredible. You could put names on a board and throw a dart and have better success. It certainly explains why the Lions have fallen to the bottom of the league in recent seasons. Why have the Calgary Stampeders dominated the CFL for so long? The Stamps hoard draft picks and John Hufnagel can identify players better than anyone else in the league.
COVID Stories – One of the more uplifting stories we have followed during the COVID-19 lockdown is the courageous comeback of Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith. The battle to save his leg and his life after a compound leg fracture suffered in an NFL game is truly inspiring. The story of his ordeal, as documented by his wife, illustrates how close he was to having his leg amputated.
This off-season, Canada’s Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, the Kansas City Chiefs offensive guard, would have been considering a residency as the final step toward becoming a physician. Instead, the coronavirus pandemic has changed his plans. Duvernay-Tardif is now working as an orderly as his way of giving back and doing his part during the crisis.
Seahawk Takeaways – We mentioned last week how the so-called NFL draft experts often get it wrong in criticizing Seahawk draft choices. It was interesting to hear comments from ESPN analyst Jim Nagy following this year’s draft. Nagy is a longtime NFL scout and former SEC scout for the Seahawks.
For Nagy, there are no “winners and losers” in the draft – it’s the difference in the way the media and analysts see the picks, compared to how teams research them.
“People just don’t appreciate how much work these scouting staffs put into the draft process,” Nagy said. “It’s really a 12-month process. There’s way too much that goes into it and the public doesn’t have nearly enough information – whether it be on the mental side of things or medical – to sit back and call any team a loser after draft day is foolish. I always hate that.”
New Exec on the Block – Meet Marc Eversley. You may not have heard the name before but you will. He’s a native of Toronto and has just been named the new general manager of the Chicago Bulls. Eversley rose through the ranks of Nike Canada before joining the Toronto Raptors where he earned his spurs under Bryan Colangelo and Masai Ujiri.
Eversley was hired by new Bulls Executive VP of Basketball Operations Arturas Karnisovas, whom like Masai Ujiri, built his career with the Denver Nuggets. Karnisovas is from Lithuania and came to America on the recommendation of countryman and former NBA star Sarunas Marciulionis to play for P.J. Carlesimo at Seton Hall. Following his playing career, he worked in the NBA office and helped with Lithuania’s Olympic basketball program before joining the Nuggets front office.
It’s progress when you see a Lithuanian and a Canadian guiding the fortunes of one of the NBA’s premier franchises. Something tells me that if an American had been given Karnisovas’ job, he wouldn’t have hired Eversley as his GM.
Running on Empty – Years ago, I remember telling friends that Tiger Woods was playing with fire by doing regular 30K runs with caddy Steve Williams. I could not understand why he would risk the long-term damage to his knees by running so much.
Well, we all know the result. When asked recently what he might change if he could go back in time, Tiger said “to not run so much. Running over 30 miles a week for probably my first five, six years on Tour pretty much destroyed my body and my knees.” According to published reports, Woods used to start his day off with a four-mile run. He’d then lift at the gym, golf for two-to-three hours, then work on his short game. He’d cap his day off with another four-mile run, then possibly some basketball or tennis.
Tiger won 13 of his 15 career major championships prior to the age of 33 before his body began to betray him. He’s had four knee surgeries – three between 2002 and 2008 – and underwent four back surgeries in a span of three years, including a spinal fusion in 2017.
Slugger Trump – I guess we should not be surprised that Donald Trump tied his ass off when discussing his legendary high school baseball career. Someone found the old box scores and it doesn’t paint a good picture of the Donald’s baseball prowess.
Meanwhile, U.S. soccer prima donna Megan Rapinoe says Joe Biden should select her to be his running mate. Rapinoe, whose ego is as big as her mouth, is quoted as saying “I don’t want to put you on the spot — I think I could still play soccer and do this. But if you need a vice president, I’m just saying I’m available for an interview. We can talk logistics and the details. Put it on your list.”
Rapinoe is the captain of the U.S. Women’s Soccer team who just lost their fight for equal pay in a U.S. courtroom.
The Joe Schultz Sports Quote of the Week – Since everyone enjoyed last week’s quote from former MLB manager Casey Stengel, let’s go back to old Casey again this week. When talking about the philandering ways of major league ballplayers, Stengel quipped “Being with a woman all night never hurt no professional baseball player. It’s staying up all night looking for a woman that does him in.”
Music Video of the Week – One of the most original and influential bands in rock history is Chicago, best known for popularizing the big horn section. The band was originally formed in the Windy City as The Big Thing who described themselves as a rock band with horns. They would relocate to Los Angeles in 1968 and signed a record deal with Columbia.
To tell the story of Chicago, you really have to tell the story of the evolution of the double album. These days, much more music can be crammed onto a CD than was the case with the vinyl LP, which could only house around 23 to 25 minutes per side. This led to a bit of a problem back in the day when many artists began to flex their creative muscles and sometimes wanted to express themselves with a bit more material than the then standard record could accommodate. The result was the double (or the occasional triple or quadruple) album, with Bob Dylan’s 1966 masterpiece “Blonde on Blonde” generally regarded as the first of these to appear on the scene.
Over the next 20 years, many more great double albums would be released from “Electric Ladyland” to “The Beatles” (White album), to “Exile on Main Street” to “Eat a Peach” to “Tommy” to “The Wall” to “Physical Graffiti” to “Layla” to “The River” and the list goes on and on. Now the one thing that double albums generally had in common was that the act in question had to have some sort of cache or clout before their record company would agree to let them put out an expanded package since these multi-LP sets were usually more expensive to make and therefore more risky to sell.
By the time Chicago was signed to a record deal with Columbia, they had stock-piled so much material that they wanted to release a double album right off the hop. Columbia balked at first because the band had no track record and double albums tended to be the domain of big stars only.
Executives at Columbia, however, relented and gave the band the green light only after they agreed to take a royalty cut. Although their first album was not an immediate hit, “Chicago Transit Authority” slowly built a following, thanks in part to FM radio airplay and the success of the group’s second album released the following year (also a double effort), after they had shortened their name (the result of a threatened lawsuit from the real transit authority in the city of Chicago) and by the end of 1970 it had sold over a million copies.
As we all know now, Chicago has become, over the course of their 50-year career, one of the most innovative and successful bands in history, with a well-deserved induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2016. Here’s Chicago from back in 1969 performing “I’m a Man” off their first album.
Here’s a complete concert from 1970 recorded at Tanglewood, the music venue in the towns of Lenox and Stockbridge in the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts. It’s been the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra since 1937. Billy Graham booked the band after two different headliners, Joe Cocker and Jimi Hendrix, both cancelled. It is generally considered the pinnacle concert of their career and shows off the band’s full range of talents including great songwriting and brilliant vocals.