Under Further Review – This week, we look at the renewal of the Seahawks/49’ers rivalry, wade in on Grapes sad exit and offer some quick hits from around the NHL, NFL and the NBA.
An Epic Tilt – The Monday night’er between the Seahawks and the 49’ers was one of the wackiest football games ever. It looked to be over several times before the Seahawks finally prevailed in overtime, ending the 49’ers unblemished season. The game was turnover-filled but it certainly rekindled a great rivalry.
It may have also exposed quarterback Jimmy (Jeanine) Garappolo as the 49’ers weak link. Garappolo fumbled twice and threw an interception that Seattle converted into 21 points. He was very fortunate that two other errant throws went right through the hands of K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner. He could have been picked 5 times. Garappolo was 3 for 15 on throws longer than 10 yards. Meantime, Russell Wilson continued his MVP season in orchestrating another come from behind victory – the 32nd fourth quarter or overtime comeback win of his career.
The Seahawks defensive line finally woke up, sacking Garappolo 5 times with 10 quarterback hits and two forced fumbles. Jadaveon Clowney had his best game as a Seahawk, terrorizing the 49’ers with a strip sack, 5 QB hits and a fumble recovery for a touchdown.
The two teams meet again in Seattle in week 17 which may very well decide the division. San Francisco plays Arizona this weekend while Seattle enjoys a bye week. The 49’ers will then have to run the gauntlet against Green Bay, Baltimore and New Orleans. Let’s see how they are doing then.
Whoa Nelly – No sooner did we start tooting the horn of the Canucks and a potential playoff berth than they proceeded to fall flat on their face. They broke a 4-game losing streak on Tuesday night against Nashville before bowing to Dallas on Thursday night. The Canucks are hoping to avoid the old bugaboo – lack of depth scoring. Injuries to Jay Beagle and the perennially injured Brandon Sutter has left the Canucks hurting down the middle. I still think they are another solid centre away from being a more legitimate contender. It’s definitely an opportunity for Adam Gaudette to show what he can do. With forwards Michael Ferland and Tyler Motte already out of the lineup with injuries, the Canucks depth up front is being severely challenged.
The Canucks offense is definitely up and down. They tossed away four points in two losses to the Devils this season, scoring exactly one goal. There’s no way they should be working on an 11-game losing streak to the New Jersey Devils.
The Don is Gone – His long run is seemingly over but somehow it feels like Don Cherry didn’t need to exit in disgrace. If you look at his latest diatribe and the subsequent firing, it seems to me that the whole episode could have been handled better. Why fire the guy on Remembrance Day, a day he holds so dear?
When you start a statement with “You Guys”, it’s usually not a good thing and sure enough, Cherry touched a nerve. He made the mistake of targeting immigrants for not wearing poppies instead of ALL Canadians. Many born and bred Canadians never bother to wear poppies. If he had done that, he would still be on the air. The fact is many Canadian immigrants fought alongside our troops in various foreign wars and many had to flee war-torn countries in order to come here.
Sportsnet had a chance to walk away last summer when Cherry’s contract was up. They chose to renew because he’s been HNIC’s cash cow for years and we know Sportsnet is feeling the weight of their NHL rights deal and low ratings. As a TV producer, I wonder why they didn’t do a more thorough rehearsal to ensure he didn’t go too far with his off-the-cuff ramblings. He could have made his point without targeting immigrants. To fire him on Remembrance Day is inexcusable.
Let’s get real. Don’s been making inflammatory comments since he began his long run on Hockey Night in Canada. If he wasn’t blistering Russian players, he was perpetuating the ‘Chicken Swede’ myth. Many of his comments were underlying racist and xenophobic. This isn’t something new.
In case you didn’t notice, it didn’t take long for Ron McLean to issue a mea culpa and throw his long-time meal ticket under the bus. Coach’s Corner has always been nothing more than a soapbox for Don Cherry and not a healthy exchange of opinion. McLean has been nothing more than Ed McMahon to Cherry’s Johnny Carson. He has never had the spine to stand up to Cherry when the moment called for it. We shouldn’t be surprised that he let the comments slide last Saturday night. Should we be surprised with Cherry’s rant? Of course not. The guy’s 85 years old and his filtering system was gone a long time ago. For McLean, there’s no excuse. He’s been riding Cherry’s coattails since time immemorial.
In my lifetime, there are only two shows that would bring everything to a halt at a party – Saturday Night Live during the early years and Coach’s Corner. People would gather around the television and listen to Grapes’ weekly sermon. However polarizing Don may have been, there’s no doubting he is the most iconic figure in Canadian broadcasting history. In these days of political correctness, he did stand for one thing – free speech.
The Shanny Plan – How’s that working out so far? The fact of the matter is the Maple Leafs eat their young. They move from one drama to the next. This is a team that had the ‘Sam Pollock’ of this era in their back pocket but chose to let him go. Look at what Lou Lamoriello has done since leaving the Leafs. He went out and hired the best coach in the game in Barry Trotz who’s made chicken salad out of chicken-bleep by bringing structure and team play to the Islanders. There’s no drama and no $11 million dollar prima donnas. Lamoriello was on course in Toronto to build a championship team. He went out and nabbed Mike Babcock. He traded for a top goaltender and had started to assemble a dynamic young team. Foolishly, the Leafs let Lou and Mark Hunter walk and it’s been all downhill from there. Babcock has been left to work with a roster without any bite, depth, backup goalie or cap flexibility to fix the problems. Any hockey watcher can see the problems lie directly in the lap of Dubas and Shanahan.
Of course, with the injury to Mitch Marner, the Leafs now have a built-in excuse. They will claim that injuries have prevented them from properly accessing the team since they have been without key player’s right from the start of the season. Marner is certainly going to be missed on the power-play. Everything goes through him stationed on the half wall. We’re going to quickly find out what the Leafs are made of. They are in the midst of a November stretch where they play eight of nine games on the road. Good luck! The sojourn began with losses in Chicago to the toothless Hawks and against Lou’s Islanders.
Let’s Not Make a Deal – Trades in the NHL are becoming increasingly difficult to make. Right now, 19 teams have $2.5 million or less in cap space which is about two-thirds of the league. Thirteen teams have players on LTIR. It’s simply hard to make deals when it almost needs to be ‘dollar-in, dollar-out.’ Plus, many other teams, who don’t spend to the cap, are at the top end of their budget and are not about to start taking on big contracts.
NHL Quick Hits – Taylor Hall of the Devils will be the premier free agent on the market next summer if he chooses to leave New Jersey. Think maybe he’s feeling the pressure? Hall has two goals so far this season and considering the money he is going to demand, could be a risky bet. His agent is known for letting his clients go to market so don’t expect Hall to sign anytime soon.
Another free agent-to-be is Leafs defenseman Tyson Barrie. The offensive-minded Barrie had posted no goals and only five assists through 20 games and appears to be completely out of sorts in the Toronto spotlight. With the Leafs power-play struggling, it’s confusing why the Leafs don’t employ Barrie on their #1 power-play unit. If you watched him perform for Colorado in last year’s playoffs, you would have seen how gifted he is offensively.
Canuck fans may be touting quicksilver D-man Quinn Hughes for rookie of the year but the hands down Calder favourite right now is Colorado defenseman Cale Makar. He’s second on the team in scoring with 5 goals and 18 points in 18 games. The Avalanche are outscoring opponents 11-5 with Makar on the ice at five-on-five and 14-5 overall. He’s going to look good in a Team Canada uniform someday.
For bargains in free agency, look no further than Colorado’s Joonas Donskoi. The Flying Finn is second on the Avs with 9 goals and will certainly shatter his career high this season. Now you know why I was pushing the Canucks to sign him. Donskoi inked a four-year, $3.9 million dollar per season deal with the Avs last summer and it’s already looking like a steal. Donskoi would have cost the Canucks only $400 thousand more than they paid Antoine Roussel and Jay Beagle.
Speaking of bargains, can you believe what diminutive centre Jean-Gabriel Pageau is doing in Ottawa? He’s somehow found the back of the net 11 times in 18 games and is a mind-boggling +18 on a team that is dead last in the league in plus-minus. Can you believe that? Teammate Tyler Ennis is -10. The Senators would be wise to step up and get Pageau signed since he’s headed for free agency next summer.
We should not be surprised that Alain Vigneault is starting to put his stamp on the Flyers. Coach V has them playing with pace and the Flyers are far more aggressive on the forecheck, two Vigneault staples. You have to figure he will find a way to get the Flyers back into the playoffs.
The Flames need to figure things out and soon. They are wildly inconsistent and part of the reason is they lead the league in penalties taken. It helps when your penalty-killing is ranked third in the league but it’s not a good stat to be leading when you are not a particularly ‘heavy’ team. Goaltender David Rittich has been doing a decent job but he’s on a 66-game pace and that’s too heavy a workload.
Vegas needs to figure out how to win in overtime. The Golden Knights are 0-and-7 in games decided in overtime going back to January 12. If they want to secure home ice advantage through the playoffs, they need to start winning some of those games. They also need to go out and find themselves another impact defenseman.
Yes, we have been critical of Kawhi Leonard and the whole ‘load management’ routine in the NBA but it would not be a bad idea for teams in the NHL to look at something similar, perhaps just not to that extent. Veteran players in their 30’s with a ton of mileage on their bodies could really benefit from sitting out now and then. Don’t forget, hockey is way more grueling than basketball and you also have to take into consideration the impact of the playoffs which is all-out war. Veterans like Alex Edler and Brent Seabrook could really benefit from sitting out on the back end of back to backs.
What can you say about Sidney Crosby? He’s been carrying the Penguins on his back and recently showed he also has a big heart off the ice. Sid the Kid won a new car from Honda for being selected MVP at the 2019 NHL All-Star Game and decided to turn it over to a young, single mother who serves in the US military in Pittsburgh. Madeline Malizio received the red Honda CR-V from Crosby after a Penguins practice last week. She’s attending the Community College of Allegheny County while raising her 3 and a half year old son. To get to class, she has had to beg for a ride or take the bus. Class act!
Who’s Watching – As this year’s Grey Cup approaches, you have to wonder about the long-term health of the CFL. Both attendance and TV ratings have been on the decline. There are reports TSN is ready to renew their television deal which will continue to be the CFL’s salvation.
It looks like we are going to see some new teams in the Grey Cup this year which is great. Glad the Stampeders dominance is over for now.
The BC Lions missed the boat when they hired DaVone Claybrooks instead of Khari Jones. Jones went to Montreal and did an outstanding job with the Alouettes.
The Legend of Ernie Davis – Ernie Davis is the greatest player NEVER to play in the NFL. Davis was a sensational running back at Syracuse University who won the Heisman Trophy in 1961, the first African-American to win the award. He had previously led Syracuse to an unbeaten season and the national championship in 1959. Following his senior season, Davis would immediately become the first pick in the 1962 NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins.
Davis didn’t stay long in Washington where the Redskins were owned by George Preston Marshall, an avowed racist who kept the Redskins entirely white long after other teams had integrated. Marshall openly admitted that his unwillingness to sign a black player was an effort to appeal to his mostly Southern fan base. At the time, the Redskins were the southernmost team in the NFL. The drafting of Davis came only after government officials issued Marshall an ultimatum: sign a black player by the start of the 1962 season, or they would revoke the Redskins’ 30-year lease on the publicly owned stadium.
Davis refused to play for the Redskins and demanded a trade. The Redskins sent the rights to Davis to the Cleveland Browns for running back Bobby Mitchell and first-round draft pick. Davis joined the Browns where his classmate John Brown would be his roommate and Syracuse alum Jim Brown, whom he admired, was already playing. Davis had worn the same number as Brown – 44 – while at Syracuse, a number later worn by Floyd Little as well.
Unfortunately, the Browns’ dream of pairing Davis with Jim Brown took a tragic turn when Davis was diagnosed with leukemia. He would pass away at the age of 23 before ever playing a down in the NFL. Davis’ tragic life was depicted in a 2008 motion picture entitled “The Express: The Ernie Davis Story.” A lot of the movie was apparently fictionalized Hollywood crap.
Here Try This – This may be a first in pro sports. The Miami Heat have suspended Dion Waiters for 10 games because of conduct detrimental to the team. The suspension came after Waiters received medical treatment on the team’s charter. Waiters reportedly experienced a ‘panic attack’ during the flight after consuming a THC-infused edible. A teammate reportedly gave Waiters the “gummy,” but the guard has not said who it was because he’s been reluctant to spill the (gummy) beans.
It was a costly chew for Waiters. The suspension will end up costing him more than $2 million – $830K in salary and another $1.2 million in bonus money which would have been earned if he played 70 games.
Proud Champs – Everyone, including myself, figured the Raptors would take a big step back this season without Kawhi Leonard. Well, think again. How can you not be impressed with the Raptors performance on their west-coast road swing? They have been without Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, OG Anunoby and Patrick McCaw and have still been able to stay afloat. Pascal Siakam is playing like an MVP candidate. Fred VanVleet is playing like an all-star and it looks like the Raptors have found a few more gems off the scrap-heap including Terence Davis, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Canadian string bean Chris Boucher.
Kawhi was smothered by the Raptors when the two teams met for the first time this year in L.A. Leonard went 2-for-11 against the Raps with a career-high 9 turnovers. They doubled him all night and he struggled. Wouldn’t it be amazing to see them get back to the NBA Finals this season without Leonard?
A Sunday Drive – On August 2nd, Bugatti became the first car maker to top 300 mph. A Bugatti Chiron, driven by Andy Wallace, broke the barrier and reached 304.77 mph on Volkswagen’s Ehra-Lessien test track in Germany. See for yourself – it’s absolutely amazing!
Stronger, Faster & Definitely Higher – Dutch Olympian Madiea Ghafoor has been sentenced to eight and a half years in a German prison for drug smuggling. She was busted at the German border with 50 kilograms of methamphetamine and ecstasy worth around $2 million Euros in the boot of her car. She was also carrying about $10 thousand Euros in cash. The 26-year-old competed in the 4×400 relay at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Let’s Pound Some Bud – We have decided to introduce a new feature each week in honour of former Seattle Pilots manager Joe Schultz. Each week, we will include a funny quote from someone in sports and we are naming it after Joe, who gained cult fame for his ability to turn a phrase in Jim Bouton’s famous baseball book Ball Four.
One of Schultz’ most memorable exchanges took place during a visit to the mound with pitcher John Gelnar, as described by Bouton in this excerpt:
There were a couple of guys on and [the Tigers] Tom Matchick was up. “Any particular way you want me to pitch him, Joe?” Gelnar asked. “Nah, bleep him,” Joe said. “Give him some low smoke and we’ll go and pound some Budweiser.”
YouTube Video of the Week – I mentioned that ‘Can’t Find My Way Home’ by Steve Winwood/Blind Faith is one of my favourite tunes of all time. Well, it would be remiss if we didn’t pass along a couple of versions from Winwood himself who originally wrote the song. One is solo acoustic and the other is with Tom Petty. Enjoy!