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Under Further Review – Douglas Smith with Editor Bill Morphy and the usual suspects. This week, observations from here, there and everywhere. NHL hot seats. And you guessed it, Cheaters Prosper!

Canucks Notebook – Is this some kind of macabre nightmare? Up 3-0 after the first period. Lose 4-3 in a shootout. Who does this stuff? Oh yes, the Canucks!

When you look back at all the Canucks dysfunction over the years, the one thing that sticks out is the team never seems to build up the organizational depth required to be a sustainable contender. This year is a perfect example. When the Canucks ran into early-season injuries, they had to go outside of the organization to find replacements. It’s not as though they were going to stick with Guillaume Brisebois and Sheldon Dries for very long. In order to fill the holes, the Canucks acquired Riley Stillman, Jack Studnicka and Ethan Bear in separate deals. Maybe they work out. Maybe they don’t. The point is the Canucks did not have adequate replacements within the organization. The acquisition cost was fairly low in each case but the pattern has been going on for literally decades. A constant wave of draft picks out the door in return for short-term fixes. The Toronto Maple Leafs have used a similar handbook and look where it’s got them.

Thomas Drance of The Athletic obviously shares the opinion. Here’s his thoughts on the Canucks efforts to improve the blueline with the acquisitions of Travis Dermott, Riley Stillman and Ethan Bear.

If we consider just the three defenders aged 24-26 that Vancouver has gambled on over the past year — Dermott, Bear and Stillman — the club is now spending $4.75 million against the cap to roll the dice on players that, to this point, profile as third-pair calibre defenders. The upside of those bets is limited even further too, since Bear and Dermott are pending restricted free agents, poised to become more expensive rapidly if they hit.

To facilitate these deals the club dealt a second-round pick, a third-round pick and a fifth-round pick. Meaning the club is now running at a draft pick deficit through 2025, which seems like standard operating procedure for the Canucks, even in seasons when they’re far from assured of making the playoffs.

My concern isn’t just that this all feels far too familiar for those of us that have critically watched, with growing exasperation, this organization fumble about short-sightedly and predictably for a decade now. It’s also that these are the types of deals that — while seemingly modest individually — are substantive enough in total to remove cap space and asset capital bullets from Vancouver’s chamber.

If a deal doesn’t enhance the Canucks’ ability to make the needle-moving trades or signings that could more durably upgrade their blue line, it seems fair to wonder if it’s a deal the club should be making at all. You would hate to see this club continue to miss the forest for the trees.

Since taking over the reigns in Vancouver, Jimmy Rutherford has talked a lot about changing the Canucks ‘culture.’  When Kevin Bieksa suited up to officially retire as a Canuck, culture was the talking point when he addressed the team.

NHL Notebook Sportico has released its valuations of NHL teams. The Maple Leafs top the list with a value of $2.12 billion US. The Montreal Canadiens are the second-highest valued Canadian team at $1.7 billion. Edmonton comes in at $1.29 billion. The Canucks are valued at $1 billion. The Flames at $870 million. The Winnipeg Jets are at $805 million while the Ottawa Senators are at $655 million. The Sens actually enjoyed a 21 percent increase in franchise value from a year ago. Doesn’t require a genius to figure out why. Do you think perhaps it had a little to do with the passing of a certain owner?

Thank goodness Eugene Melnyk’s young daughters have had the sense to put the team on the market. The Sens announced they will be accepting bids and you can be sure the price tag will be higher, perhaps much higher, than the value estimated by Sportico. Start listening at $750 million is our guess. If the new arena project gets green-lit, then the price only goes up.

No NHL coach is on a more-fiery hot-seat than the Senators D.J. Smith. The Sens have dropped five in a row and can’t dam the floodgates. Look for something to happen in the Nation’s Capital any day now.

The knives are out in Toronto where the cheerleading media has suddenly changed its stripes. The rose-coloured glasses are a little foggy these days. The excuses are aplenty.  It’s the defense. It’s the power-play. The Core Four aren’t producing. What the hordes are finally starting to realize is the team is not built properly and the lack of detail and structure is getting exposed.

There’s been speculation already about a coaching change in Toronto. Leafs management should be looking in another direction. GM Kyle Dubas is the author of the mess. The Leafs are already paying Mike Babcock $5.8 million to sit at home in the final year of his eight-year deal. Not sure there is an appetite to pay another coach. Wouldn’t it make more sense to punt Doobie and let the next GM decide the fate of Sheldon Keefe?

Everyone in Toronto seems to think that it’s a slam dunk that Auston Matthews will sign a contract extension with the Maple Leafs. He’s set to become an unrestricted free agent after the 2023-24 season. With the way things are going, Matthews may want to bolt before the team slides right out of contention.

If you follow Under Further Review on a regular basis, you know we have questioned Matthews’ character on more than one occasion. His immaturity has been a big red flag. Check out the comments from former New Jersey Devil-turned broadcaster Mike Rupp following a recent game against the Flyers.

The Montreal Canadiens have a glut of forwards but we doubt whether they will find any takers. Evgenii Dadonov, Jonathan Drouin, Sean Monahan and Mike Hoffman are all readily available. Try moving those contracts.

The Nashville Predators made the playoffs last season and were hoping to build on the success. So far this season, things haven’t exactly gone as planned. The development of several young players has stalled. Cody Glass, Eeli Tolvanen and Dante Fabbro have all be healthy scratched. Philip Tomasino has been shipped to the AHL.

You have to wonder if it’s time for the St. Louis Blues to re-set their roster. Nothing is going right for the Blues and the Stanley Cup title seems like a distant memory. Doug Armstrong has some tough decisions ahead. The Blues can’t score (they are dead last in goals per game) and they can’t defend (they are 28th in goals against). That’s a bad combination. Time for a rebuild in St. Louis?

Talk about things getting stale.  How about the Pittsburgh Penguins? The Pens have lost seven in a row and the best-before date expired a long time ago. Brian Burke may want to consider a makeover – and not just for himself.

Don’t rule out Adam Fantilli as a potential number one overall pick in next summer’s NHL draft. Yes, Connor Bedard is the presumptive top choice but Fantilli, a freshman at the University of Michigan, is coming on fast. Fantilli has scored eight goals and 10 assists in only eight games so far this season. He’s got size – 6-2”, 195 pounds, and he can fly. The great thing about him is he’s not a shoot-first guy like a lot of young players coming up through the ranks right now. Fantilli can shoot it but he’s also an excellent playmaker. To top it off, he’s got a high compete level. Fantilli is from the Toronto area but shunned the junior route to play in the USHL before moving on to the college ranks at talent-laden Michigan.

The Boston Bruins recorded their best 10-game start to a season and so far, look anything but long in the tooth. It looks like the Bruins will get top defender Charlie McAvoy back sooner than expected. He underwent complicated shoulder surgery during the off-season and wasn’t due back until December. McAvoy is already practising and could return in the next two weeks.

It’s been a year since the blockbuster deal between Vegas and Buffalo involving Jack Eichel. Both teams appear satisfied. Eichel is back healthy and has been a big part of the Golden Knights quick start. The Sabres may end up with four building blocks out of the deal. Alex Tuch and Peyton Krebs are making big contributions already. The first-rounder acquired in the trade, Swedish centre Noah Ostlund, is playing in the AHL and Vegas still owes the Sabres a second-round pick next summer.

World Series Notebook – You kind of knew it might come to this. The drum-beating, sign-cheating Houston Astros win the World Series, proving once again that cheaters DO prosper. Sorry, but every player on that team who was part of the cheating scandal will have to retire before the stench is removed. Yes, Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve, Yuri Gurriel and all the rest.

The Houston Astros pitching staff is the envy of all of baseball. It’s the gold standard and the main reason the Astros have been to six consecutive American League Championship Series. It certainly points up how far the Blue Jays have to go to put together the kind of staff required to win a World Series. The Astros bullpen was basically unhittable throughout the playoffs. Heading into the clinching game six, the Astros bullpen had thrown 51.1 innings and surrendered only five earned runs. The collective earned run average was under 1.00.  Houston relievers struck out 61 batters in 51 innings pitched. The Phillies had no answer.

How the hell can Vladdy Guerrero win a Gold Glove and Matt Chapman be snubbed? Who’s the better defensive player?  Ask anyone and you know what the answer will be. Vladdy was just named a Gold Glove winner at first base but Chapman was snubbed as the top defensive third baseman in the American League. Go figure. We loved the Tweet from Jays pitcher Ross Stripling “I’m open to all analytics and metrics in our game. Besides the ones that say Matt Chapman isn’t the best 3B in the American League. Those metrics can eat my shorts.”

Seahawks Notebook – Stand up if you thought the Seahawks would be 5-3 after what is essentially the first half of the NFL season?  No one standing up? Exactly. Stand up if you thought Geno Smith would be an adequate replacement for Russell Wilson? Still no one standing? Yep. No way anyone expected things to go the way they have for the Seahawks. What’s the biggest takeaway? The fact the Seahawks are fun to watch again and nobody would have predicted that based on even the most positive outlook.

Once you park your biases about what the Seahawks accomplished with Russell Wilson under center, you can make the argument that this year’s offense is the best in club history. Are we joking? Absolutely not. The offense under Geno has been dynamic. Rookie Kenneth Walker III looks like the second coming of Adrian Peterson. Geno is leading the NFL in passing accuracy and is spreading the ball around to nine or ten receivers every week. The offensive line has held up, helping make the Seattle attack one of the highest scoring units in the league.

In similar fashion to the early going last season, the Seahawks defense has undergone a sudden transformation. The defense has gone from porous to stout in a matter of a few weeks.

NFL Notebook – It looks like the NFL has finally booted Washington owner Dan Snyder out of the fraternity. Push finally came to shove. The Commanders have announced they are now exploring “potential transactions.”  It’s the first indication Snyder is considering selling the controversy-riddled team. The Commanders are reportedly worth $5.6 billion according to Forbes. That’s sixth highest in the NFL. Walmart heir Rob Walton paid $4.65 billion for the Denver Donkeys earlier this year. From our view, any new owner should cut all ties with Snyder including the name Commanders.

The noose has certainly tightened on Snyder. The U.S. attorney’s office has opened a criminal investigation into allegations the Commanders engaged in financial improprieties including withholding ticket revenue from visiting teams and refundable deposits from fans.

Meantime, there’s word that Amazon founder and chief money-bag Jeff Bezos may be interested in bidding on the Commanders. He’s reportedly exploring a joint bid with Jay-Z.

In the midst of all the dysfunction in Washington, how about the poor schmuck who won $14 grand in a 50/50 contest. According to reports, the cheque he received as payment bounced. A Commanders spokesperson responded by saying:  “We reached out to the fan and sent an electronic payment directly to his account.” Things cannot possibly get any worse.

Christian McCaffrey is paying immediate dividends for the San Francisco 49’ers. Against the rival L.A. Rams, McCaffrey caught a touchdown, rushed for a touchdown and threw for a touchdown – a rare feat in the NFL. LaDainian Tomlinson of the San Diego Chargers was the last player to accomplish the feat and that was back in 2005. Only four players have done it since 1970.

The NFC is littered with bad football clubs. The New York Giants, who somehow got off to a 6-1 start, had 46 yards in total offense in the first half against the Seahawks including an inconceivable 17 yards passing. The Eagles are far and away the best team in the conference.

You have to like how the Miami Dolphins have used the three first-rounders acquired from the 49’ers in the draft day deal that allowed the Niners to trade up and select quarterback Trey Lance. The Dolphins used all three picks in trades. The ’21 pick was used to trade up and select receiver Jaylen Waddle. He’s a keeper. The ’22 pick was sent to the Kansas City Chiefs in order to acquire game-breaking Tyreek Hill.  The ’23 first-rounder was sent to the Denver Donkeys for pass-rusher Bradley Chubb. Some nice work by the Dolphins.

What were the Tennessee Titans thinking when they traded receiver A.J. Brown to the Philadelphia Eagles in the off-season? The Titans offense has gone into the crapper without Brown.  On Sunday vs. the Steelers, Brown went off for 156 yards and three touchdowns.

The one thing the Titans still have going for them is Derrick Henry. The guy is an  absolute beast, He tied the NFL record for career regular season 200-yard games with six. O.J. Simpson and Adrian Peterson are the only other rushers to have six 200-yard games. Henry has to be considered one of the most punishing running backs in history.

Selecting a so-called franchise quarterback has to be the most inexact science in all of sports. Five quarterbacks from the 2021 draft class have taken on prominent roles – the list includes Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, Mac Jones and Davis Mills – and none have exactly blossomed. The Seahawks should take note when they try to find a long-term replacement for Russell Wilson.

LIV the Life – The inaugural LIV Golf season is over. Please, try to hold your disappointment. The upstart golf league won’t return until February. So far, there’s nothing to miss. They played eight tournaments this year and made zero impact on golf fans. Can you remember who won the tournaments? Were there any resounding moments? Incredible shot-making?

Therein, lies the problem. LIV Golf made headlines by dishing out a reported $1 billion dollars to lure top players away but made little impact on golf fans for the actual golf being played. There was no network TV deal so watching was next to impossible.

Dustin (Jethro) Johnson made off like a bandit. He pocketed a reported $125 million for jumping from the PGA Tour, then added another $35 million in on-course earnings. Johnson played 14 years on Tour and made $75 million. No wonder he thinks the new circuit is the Cat’s Pyjamas.

TSN Golf Analyst Bob Weeks said it best, “there’s no doubt LIV Golf has shaken the game to its very foundation.”  We will see if, next season, they can become known for more than just Saudi money and courtroom threats.

Leftovers – We love to poke fun at the Canadian Football League but we would like nothing more than to see more than 30,000 at Sunday’s Western Final between the Lions and the Calgary Stampeders. Count on it happening. It’s not just because the Lions have a chance to advance to the Western Final. It’s because fans actually have a reason to attend the game. The reason is quarterback Nathan Rourke. He may be Canadian but he gives Lions fans legitimate HOPE.

Hold your breath! Great Canadian prodigy Alphonso Davies went off with an apparent hamstring injury while playing for Bayern Munich on Saturday just two weeks before the start of the World Cup of Soccer in Qatar. If that’s not bad enough, world-class goaltender Maxime Crepeau was carted off the field with a leg injury during the MLS Final between the L.A. Galaxy and the Philadelphia Union. Who knows if either player will be available for the World Cup? What a gut-punch!

Steve Nash didn’t have a chance in Brooklyn. What are you supposed to do when you have a roster of nut-jobs? You’ve got Durant the Diva. Kyrie the Cuckoo and No-Show Ben Simmons who only plays when the urge moves him. Nash coached the Nets for 161 games and had to roll out 83 different starting lineups.  The on-court and off-court dysfunction was constant. The Nets are dead last in the NBA in defensive efficiency. No need to feel sorry for Steve however. He signed a $45 million dollar contract to coach the Nets. He’ll receive every dime of it.

Former Raptors diva Kawhi Leonard is at it again. The NBA season was less than two weeks old when Leonard needed time off for load management. He played two games to open the season and hasn’t played since. Load management is alive and well. The L.A. Clipper will make $40 million this season. For what?

Felix Auger-Aliassime appears to be on a breakneck path to become the top tennis player in the world. The 22-year-old from Montreal won three straight ATP tournaments has a 15-match winning streak that includes twice toppling current world #1 Carlos Alcaraz of Spain. Auger-Aliassime  is the first Canadian to qualify for the ATP Finals since Milos Raonic in 2016. If you have watched Felix lately, it looks like he has put every phase of his game together including ground strokes, serve, return of serve and net play. His next big goal has to be winning a major.

Our Canadian gals keep punching above their weight class on the international sporting scene. Canada took it to the U.S. 32-11 to gain a semi-final berth in the Women’s Rugby World Cup in Auckland. Although Canada bowed out to No. 1 England, the Canadians will now have a chance to take home a medal when they meet France for the bronze next week.

Spotify Playlist Tracks of the Week – Some out of nowhere stuff for this week. Check out Bill Carter’s acoustic version of the Stevie Ray Vaugh classic “Crossfire.”

Steve Bruton does a fantastic job with “Bigger Wheel” off the album entitled From the Five.  Worth a listen!

Curtis Stigers does a nice take on the Dylan classic “Things Have Changed” from his release Let’s Go Out Tonight.

Big fan of Harry Manx, the pride of Salt Spring Island. Check out Mr. Lucky from the album Strictly Whatever with Kevin Breit.

After stumbling onto the music of multi-instrumental session player Randall Bramblett, we decided to dive further into his catalogue.  We have a few more recommendations from his discography including Even the Sunlight from his latest recording Pine Needle Fire, Driving to Montgomery from the 2010 release The Meantime, and Let’s Go from the 2008 release Now It’s Tomorrow.

Bob Jensen is a long-time Canadian booking agent based in Charlottetown, PEI. I have booked artists through Bob over the years. He specializes in booking touring world music artists. Several months ago, Bob gathered some of the finest folk and roots artists from around the world (16 in total from 6 different countries) to record the 1931 union anthem “Which Side Are You On.” The idea was to release a song that would address the rise of far-right politics while shining the light on women’s rights, the proliferation of hate groups and the erosion of democracy around the world. Have a listen.

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