Under Further Review – Douglas Smith with Editor Bill Morphy and regular contributor Jordan Moss. This week, the Canucks at an early season crossroads. Canada freezes out their opponents on the pitch. Eichel under the knife and the Lions go quietly into the night.
The Benning Method – The natives are restless. Very restless. Nothing about the team’s start inspires confidence. Following the 7-1 humiliation in Colorado, captain Bo Horvat said the team didn’t play “Canucks hockey.” Can someone explain what “Canucks hockey” is because that’s part of the problem? Maybe we should be arguing that the effort against the Avs WAS Canucks hockey!
You don’t want to overreact so early in the season but… After a flurry of all-in off-season moves and a wave of optimism in the marketplace, it seems inconceivable that the Canucks would be digging such a big hole for themselves by the middle of November. Three regulation wins in the first 15 games is an ominous sign. It’s been almost 25 years since the Canucks gave up touchdowns in back to back games.
Want to know why the Canucks are treading water? Slow starts. The Canucks gave up the first goal in nine consecutive games and in 12 of 15 overall. That’s just can’t happen. You end up chasing the game. The Canucks managed to rally back and force overtime in a couple of games during the recent homestand but that’s not something you can expect to do on a regular basis.
We’ve been on the penalty-killing file since before the season even started so it is not surprising that over a recent four-game stretch, the Canucks surrendered nine goals on 14 chances. The PK is operating at just under 63%, dead last in the NHL. When your special teams aren’t special, you have a big problem. Heading into Saturday night’s game, the Canucks had given up 16 goals on 43 chances. The Penguins, by comparison, have given up just two goals on the PK to this point.
It seems to unconscionable that, in eight years under Jim Benning, Horvat remains the only Canadian on the roster who was drafted and developed by the Canucks. And guess what? He was drafted by Mike Gillis and NOT the current regime. Do you blame the Canucks scouts who are responsible for scouting the Canadian junior leagues? Or does Swedish scout Thomas Gradin simply have a stronger voice in the decision-making. Does John Weisbrod, an American, have a heavier influence in the Canucks bevy of U.S.-born draft selections? Regardless, it’s simply unimaginable that in eight years your roster would include ZERO drafted Canadians.
Do the Math – Several NHL teams are in for a rude awakening next summer. It’s going to be interesting to watch how teams maneuver out of their individual salary cap problems. As of right now, the Canucks are projected to be over the 2022 cap by $5,109,653. You don’t have to be a capologist to know several bodies may have to be moved. The Vegas Golden Knights are in the worst shape (-$10,313,463). Next in line are the Montreal Canadiens (-$9,534,871). Marc Bergevin has put the Habs in a very difficult position. Tampa is another team in rough shape (-$9,070,782). As far as the other Canadian teams go, here’s where they stand. Winnipeg (-$5,004,457), Edmonton (-$5,820,085), Toronto (-$2,884,300), Calgary (+$283,913) and Ottawa (+$9,498,544).
NHL Notebook – What was supposed to be a breakout year for the Ottawa Senators has turned into a nightmare so far. A total of nine players have been placed in COVID protocol. The team has only five wins in 13 games. Second-year forward Tim Stutzle was expected to take a big step. He scored his first goal on Saturday night. The Sens have only two goals from their defencemen. With promising rookie Shane Pinto and Colin White both out of the lineup with injuries, the Senators have a big void down the middle.
Alex Ovechkin has caught Brett Hull for fourth place on the all-time NHL goal-scoring list. Ovie’s next target is Jaromir Jagr who sits third with 766. He needs 60 more goals to catch Gordie Howe for second spot with 801. Ovechkin still has a way to go to reach Wayne Gretzky’s record 894. But don’t rule it out. Ovie posted ten goals in the Capitals first ten games this season so it’s not as though he’s slowing down at 36. Three more 40-goal seasons after this one and what seemed impossible may just happen.
Jack Eichel has finally gone under the knife. He had artificial disc replacement surgery on Friday at Rocky Mountain Spine Clinic in Denver. It seems rather ridiculous that after almost a year of bickering over the nature of the surgery, the procedure was conducted in 45 minutes. Eichel is expected to stay in Colorado for about three weeks before moving to Vegas to continue his rehab and recovery. Considering the cap issues facing Vegas, don’t expect Eichel to join the Golden Knights until the playoffs, assuming they get there.
Did anyone notice all the empty seats in Buffalo with the Leafs in town on Saturday night? The Sabres are averaging 7.600 fans per game, last in the NHL. Sad to see what’s happened to this once hockey-mad market. Eichel revealed, if the Sabres had let him have the surgery, he would have been willing to return to the lineup to re-establish his value. Makes you wonder if the Sabres might have been better off going that route.
The Winnipeg Jets may have the deepest forward group in the NHL. They’ve switched things up in the middle and now have Peter Stastny and Adam Lowry playing on the left wide. Andrew Copp has been moved to centre and his offence has picked up big time. Paul Maurice is now using these line combinations in his top nine: Kyle Connor-Pierre-Luc Dubois-Evgeny Svechnikov; Paul Stastny-Andrew Copp, Nik Ehlers; Adam Lowry-Mark Scheifele-Blake Wheeler. Fantastic depth and balance. Not too many NHL teams can roll out three lines that strong.
Expect the Seattle Kraken to be active at the trade deadline. It doesn’t look like they will be in the playoff race so you can be sure they will try and move some of the veterans in their lineup for future draft picks. The Kraken currently have only one extra pick, a fourth rounder, in the 2022 NHL draft. Three veteran forwards, Joonas Donskoi, Jordan Eberle and Jared McCann, would draw interest. Several cost-efficient Seattle defencemen including Carson Soucy, Jeremy Lauzon and Haydn Fleury have value. The big catch would be captain Mark Giordano who’s a pending UFA. Giordano is making $6.75 million in the final year of his contract and if he agrees to move, the interest would be huge.
Cold Reception – Over 48,000 turned out at Commonwealth Stadium on Friday night to watch Canada take another important step forward in World Cup qualifying. It was +1 Celsius at game time. The 1-0 victory over Costa Rica has Canada solidly in third place in qualifying. A win over Mexico on Tuesday night when it is expected to be -11 in Edmonton would vault Canada into second spot.
With so much on the line, the two games in Edmonton are arguably the two biggest games in Canadian soccer history. The country has certainly adopted the current squad and attention on the national program has never been greater. So, what are we presented with? Cost-conscious Sportsnet serves up some junior announcer to handle play-by-play duties who should be calling CIAU games. It’s pathetic. Can’t we have an experienced announcer who matches the enormity of the game?
Seahawks This Week – The Seahawks need three things to happen in the second half of the season if they want to turn things around.
- Offensively, they have to improve on third down. Seattle is second last in the NFL at 31.33%. Only Jacksonville is worse. It hurts in time of possession and keeps the defense on the field too long.
- Defensively, the pass rush has to start stepping up. The Seahawks have registered only 14 sacks in eight games. Seattle is tied for 29th in sacks per game at 1.8. Jamal Adams is yet to sack the quarterback. In fact, Adams does not even have a single quarterback hit.
- The Seahawks defense has to create more turnovers. Seattle is dead last in forcing turnovers with only four – two interceptions and two fumble recoveries. How do you win the turnover battle when you are rarely causing any turnovers? It’s not exactly an opportunistic defense.
Plain and simple. No sacks. No turnovers. No chance of making the playoffs. It looks like Russell Wilson will return from the finger injury Sunday in Green Bay. Rookie D’Wayne Eskridge also returns. Chris Carson remains out.
NFL Notebook – The NFL can be unpredictable at the best of times but Week 9 was downright goofy. How can you explain Denver going up 30-0 and romping past the Cowboys in Dallas? Who could have possibly seen Buffalo losing at Jacksonville 9-6? Atlanta rising up to beat New Orleans. Week 10 started with Miami upsetting Baltimore on Thursday night. When it comes to the NFL, nothing is certain.
We’ve been warning against anointing Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills as the next best thing. Losing in Jacksonville was inexcusable. The Bills ran the ball only 14 times against the Jags and five of the carries were by Allen. It’s hard to be a dominant team when you can’t run the football. The best Josh Allen on the field was Josh Allen of the Jags who had a sack, an interception and a fumble recovery.
Gotta start believing in the Arizona Cardinals! They put up 31 points and 437 yards of offense in beating San Francisco to move to 8-1. And the Cards did it without their two best offensive players in Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins. Colt McCoy went 22-for-26 and looked like the second coming of Joe Montana.
Jordan Love’s debut with the Green Bay Packers was anything but impressive. His accuracy was in question coming out of college and he did nothing to change that narrative. Aaron Rodgers wasn’t allowed to return to the Packers facility until Saturday but will play Sunday against the Seahawks without a single rep in practice.
The Las Vegas Raiders are in complete turmoil. First, it was Henry Ruggs. Now, the Raiders have waived second-year cornerback Damon Arnette after video surfaced showing him making death threats while brandishing a firearm. Arnette was already facing lawsuits stemming from a car accident last October that left a woman injured. NFL Network reported that Arnette crashed four rental cars in roughly one month during his rookie season. The Raiders surprised many they selected Arnette with the 19th pick in the 2020 draft out of Ohio State. The Raiders have only one player left from last year’s draft. None of the five picks they made in the first three rounds remain.
The Seahawks missed the boat on Cooper Kupp. He’s an in-state product from Yakima who played at Eastern Washington University. The L.A. Rams selected him in the third round of the 2018 NFL draft. All he’s done this year is put up 74 catches for 1,019 yards and 10 touchdowns. The Seahawks had a bucketload of third-round picks that year – four altogether – which netted them Shaquille Griffin, Lano Hill, Nazair Jones and Amara Darboh. None are still with the team.
Baltimore kicker Justin Tucker is money. He’s 17 for 17 on game-winning kicks in the final minute of regulation and overtime in his career. Talk about clutch!
Now that Jon Gruden is out of a job in Las Vegas, he’s decided to take on the NFL. Good luck! The former Raiders head coach is suing Commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL, alleging a “malicious and orchestrated campaign” to ruin his career. The suit claims the league deliberately leaked offensive emails. Doubtful this gets to court. Raiders owner Mark Davis has already reached a settlement with Gruden over the final six-plus years of his ten-year deal.
A Wing and a Prayer – New B.C. Lions owner Amar Doman has a tall task in trying to return the team to prominence. Attendance has dropped more than 30 percent over the past decade and in the post-COVID marketplace, there’s no telling how difficult it will be to return the Lions to relevance.
Doman is a native of Victoria and now lives in West Vancouver. “There is absolutely nothing else on my mind except getting fans back in the building, creating excitement and I’m going to provide that,” Doman said. “I don’t think the issue is with the fanbase, it’s with us not promoting. We have to get out and do our job, get people in, make things affordable.”
Doman is right about poor promotion. The Lions have been almost invisible in the marketplace. The Lions have had difficulty filling the lower bowl at B.C. Place Stadium, let alone filling the stadium to its 54,500-seat capacity. It’s a tall order. Doman says the Lions are looking at various ways of getting fans back into the stands. At the top of the list are plans for tailgating parties prior to games with live bands. Sounds nice but is it really the answer?
Until the Lions and the CFL as a league figure out how to connect with a new generation of fans, any significant bump in attendance is highly unlikely. It starts with the product on the field. According to TSN’s Dave Naylor, fully one-third of the players on opening-week rosters this season had never played a CFL game. No wonder scoring is down an average of six points per game from 2019 and nearly 10 points per game from 2017. The product has to improve.
While attendance across the league is down, TV ratings have remained fairly strong. If the TV numbers indicate there’s still interest in the league, then as Naylor points out, the trick is converting them into ticket buyers.
Canadian Content – It wasn’t that long ago that the Canadian contingent in the NBA amounted to Cory Joseph and Kelly Olynyk and not much else. Man, how things have changed. Canada is now the second-most represented nation in the NBA with 25 Canadians currently on NBA rosters. Will the Toronto Raptors continue to target Canadian-born players as they build out their roster? They have three Canadians contributing to their early season success – Khem Birch, Chris Boucher and rookie Dalano Banton. The Raptors may want to keep an eye on a pair of Canadians on the Memphis Grizzlies. Vancouver native Brandon Clarke and Mississauga native Dillon Brooks are pending free agents who may be interested in returning home next summer if the opportunity arises.
What’s most impressive is the harvest of talent from north of the border shows no signs of slowing. Mark down the name Shaedon Sharpe. The 6’5” shooting guard from London, Ontario is the number one recruit in the nation – no, not Canada – we’re talking the U.S. Sharpe attends Dream City Christian High School in Arizona and he’s moved up to the No. 1 spot in the 2022 recruiting class. Sharpe dominated the summer circuit and has just announced he will be enrolling early at Kentucky. He will be allowed to work out and practice with the Wildcats but he won’t suit up for any games until the 2022-2023 season. When he does suit up for John Calipari, Sharpe will be part of Kentucky’s number one-rated recruiting class.
Raptors Notebook – We all have a tendency to get carried away when an electrifying talent bursts on the scene. Sometimes the production fails to match the hype. In the case of the Raptors Scottie Barnes, you can’t deny there’s the potential for a very high ceiling. Think Giannis, who averaged only 6.5 points as a rookie. Another good comparison is Scottie Pippen, the former Chicago Bull, if you want a throw-back, all-around difference-maker. You could certainly add Kawhi Leonard to the conversation. Barnes has already been tasked with guarding nearly every position on the floor. He’s handled KD, Jayson Tatum and Bradley Beal. Put it this way, if Barnes can develop a consistent jumper – out to three-point range – then the sky is the limit.
We love Charles Barkley and guess who he thinks is going to be the NBA rookie of the year?
The Raptors draft record is amazing. They rarely make a mistake. This year, the Raps drafted 6’9” guard Dalano Banton with the 46th overall pick in the second round. Only 60 players get drafted into the NBA each season. Even though the season is young, if you were to re-do the 2021 NBA draft, Banton would be a sure-fire first rounder. He might even end up in the lottery. The Raptors just do it better than everybody else. Check the character box first, draft for length, and let your development staff do the rest. The rapid progress of Scottie Barnes, coupled with the emergence of Banton, has no doubt accelerated the Raptors rebuild.
We are going to find out this year whether Pascal Siakam is comfortable, and capable, of being the Raptors number one offensive option. How comfortable will he be with the ball in his hands on a majority of the possessions? Can he be THE guy? As a max player, this is what is expected. You must be the primary option.
Baseball G.M. Meetings – Baseball G.M.’s met in Carlsbad, California this week. This is where the groundwork for future deals is usually laid. The Blue Jays extended $18.4-million-dollar qualifying offers to pending free agents Marcus Semien and Robbie Ray. Both are expected to reject the offers. It doesn’t necessarily signal they won’t return. By offering both players qualifying offers, the Blue Jays simply ensured they’ll receive draft-pick compensation should they sign elsewhere.
It was great to see San Francisco Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi recognized by his peers. He was named Major League Baseball’s executive of the year. Zaida was born in Sudbury, Ontario and raised in the Philippines.
It appears as though Edward Rogers has wrested control of Rogers Communications. In a B.C. Supreme Court ruling, it was determined Rogers has the authority to replace board members through a written resolution. Rogers is the Blue Jays chair and a prime advocate for the team. Meantime, it’s interesting to note that Jake Kerr, owner and managing partner of the Vancouver Canadians, has been added to the new Rogers corporate board. It won’t hurt to have his baseball experience in the boardroom.
Get ready for another work stoppage in baseball. The current collective bargaining agreement expires on December 1. One agent said he would bet everything that there’s a work stoppage. If history repeats itself, this could get ugly. Expect a lockout by the owners.
Leftovers – We haven’t heard a peep from Tiger Woods in quite some time. He’s been seen watching his son’s junior golf tournaments and his daughter’s soccer games. There’s been no updates on his status since the February car crash that left him with major damage to his right leg. Tiger’s charity tournament, the Hero World Challenge, is next month in the Bahamas. It will be interesting to see if he makes his first public appearance since the accident.
Now that the Canada-U.S. border is open again, a lot of snowbirds are returning to the U.S. for the winter months. For golfers, we can finally start planning a trip south for a week or two. Here’s a few recommendations from Golf Digest for Scottsdale, Vegas and Palm Springs.
Spotify Songs of the Week – Many different artists have covered Tony Joe White’s legendary tune Rainy Night in Georgia including Brooke Benton who made it a huge hit. We recommend checking out the version from Sam Moore and Conway Twitty.
Check out the track Day in the Sun with Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks from a compilation album called Highway Butterfly – The Songs of Neal Casal.
For a little blues, Gov’t Mule has a new release entitled Heavy Load Blues. We recommend a couple of tracks – Blues Before Sunrise and the old Junior Wells/Buddy Guy tune Snatch It Back and Hold It.
For a little jazz, acoustic guitarist supreme Andre Razzauti pairs with Patti Austin on the track Not Just Another Love from the album Front Street.
YouTube Feature Artist – In searching around Spotify this week, we came across an artist named Derek Hoke. He’s from Brunswick, Georgia. The title track from his release Southern Moon is excellent. I was able to find it on YouTube. Have a listen. We think you will enjoy it.
If you enjoyed that track, here’s Derek performing a new self-penned tune entitled So Tired with the band Los Colognes.
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