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Under Further Review – Douglas Smith with Editor Bill Morphy and the usual cast of contributors including Jordan Moss, Ted Tait, Peter Hucul, Glen and Bill Myles, Rob Wagner, Dave Kittle and Ian MacPhee. This week, we have plenty of takeaways from around the NHL. The Seahawks are getting bullied and can anyone catch the ball in Kansas City?

Canucks Notebook – Early this season, when the Canucks were fashioning the best start in club history, they put together solid 60-minute efforts. That hadn’t been the case lately. The team was playing well in spurts but the 60-minute efforts had not been there until Friday night in Seattle. Strong effort start-to-finish. How about call-up Nils Aman? Two assists and plus-3 in his first game of the season.

Based on his performance to date, Quinn Hughes may be the favourite to win both the Hart Trophy AND the Norris Trophy. That’s how dominant he has been. Hughes posted 234 assists in his first 300 NHL games. Only Bobby Orr (239) and Brian Leetch (238) put up more assists by a defenceman.

Being an occasional viewer, it was a wonderful surprise to learn that Ray Ferraro is now part of Canucks telecasts on Sportsnet. Due to contractual commitments with TSN, Ray will only be available for about 20 home games this season. He hopes to increase the number next year to 30. Ferraro and play-by-play John Shorthouse make an outstanding broadcast team.

Unfortunately, the rest of the time we have to suffer with Canucks colour analyst Dave Tomlinson who’s as dull as dishwater. Tomlinson has essentially replaced John Garrett and he’s sleep-inducing. Tomlinson says absolutely nothing of value other than stating the obvious. There’s no information, depth or colour. Does he do any preparation whatsoever? It doesn’t appear so. Just because you played in the NHL doesn’t mean you are equipped for the job. Makes you long for the days of Tom Larscheid.

Rogers Sportnet is now into year ten of the 12-year contract to telecast NHL games. Canadian hockey fans don’t need to be reminded that the coverage is God-awful. Memo to TSN – we beg you to bid on the contract when it comes up for renewal. ESPN and TNT have the U.S. rights and just one year into those deals, they are already doing a far better job than Sportsnet.

NHL Notebook – Connor McDavid is supposed to be the best player in the world. In a loss in Carolina this week, McDavid won only one of nine face-offs. Little things matter and it’s part of what’s killing the Oilers. Your best player needs to be more detailed in every aspect of the game.

When looking at potential trade destinations for the Flames Elias Lindholm, can you think of a better landing spot than Boston or Carolina? He would fit in perfectly with either team.

Vancouver has been mentioned as a potential trade partner with the Flames for Chris Tanev or Nikita Zadorov but does Calgary really want to deal with a divisional rival? Not sure that’s the case. From the Canucks perspective, why not just circle back on the pair when they hit free agency next summer?

Looks like the Toronto Maple Leafs are going to regret not putting more emphasis last summer on working out a contract extension for William Nylander. The cost has gone way up. Nylander is enjoying a career-best season and the price has sky-rocketed. We’re now talking about $10+ million per season.

Looks like the Leafs are kicking free agent bust John Klingberg to the curb. He’s been placed on LTIR which opens cap space for the Leafs to find a defenceman who can actually help them win games.

The Leafs lead the league in too-many-men on the ice penalties with seven. That’s the sign of a very undisciplined team.

Clock is ticking on the next coaching fire. Will it be Dean Evason in Minnesota or D.J. Smith in Ottawa?  Both teams are struggling to find consistency. One of the two will be gassed soon.

We questioned whether the New Jersey Devils goaltending would be good enough this season. The short answer is – it’s NOT! The Devils took a big risk relying on the tandem of Vitek Vanecek and Akira Schmid. They have not been very good although we also warned about the loss of two key defencemen in Ryan Graves and Damon Severson. The Devils are playing like a borderline playoff team.

Do you think Johnny Gaudreau is regretting signing a long-term deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets? In his final season in Calgary, Gaudreau had 40 goals and 75 assists for 115 points. So far this season in Columbus, Gaudreau has two goals and seven assists in 20 games. Didn’t Gaudreau claim he signed in Coumbus for ‘family reasons’? Sure, Johnny!

This was supposed to be a bounce-back year for the Blue Jackets. The team made a bunch of changes in the off-season including the hiring of Mike Babcock as head coach. You know how that went. Look for the Jackets to clean house at the end of the season and purge the entire front office and coaching staff.

Count us among the hockey watchers who were ready to write off Alexis Lafreniere and Quinton Byfield as draft busts. The top two picks in the 2020 NHL draft struggled big time to get their careers untracked but it looks like they have finally figured things out. Lafrenière has eight goals in 18 games, while Byfield has 16 points in 18 games. Both the Rangers and Kings must be breathing a big sigh of relief.

Say what you want about John Tortorella, he’s doing an amazing job with the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers did a roster tear-down over the summer yet the team is playing surprisingly inspired hockey. Torts is extracting everything possible from that lineup when everyone thought they would be contending for the top pick in the draft next summer.

Regular readers of Under Further Review will know how much we think about the Hockey Hall of Fame. The selection process is a joke. I covered Mike Vernon for years and never once did I think I was covering a Hall of Fame goaltender. Pierre Turgeon was a talented hockey player but never won a thing yet Turgeon and Vernon just got voted in. Turgeon, Daniel Alfredsson, Dave Andreychuk and Mark Recchi are in the Hall yet Rod Brind’Amour, Jeremy Roenick, Henrik Zetterberg and Keith Tkachuk are not. Please explain. As long as Paul Henderson is not in the Hall, I have no interest in following the selection committee’s incestuous selections.

Viva Las Vegas – The F1 circus came to Vegas and it was an absolute spectacle in fitting Sin City fashion. According to reports, the Las Vegas Grand Prix drew more than 315,000 spectators and created an estimated economic impact of $1.2 billion dollars. How can you beat Max Verstappen racing down the famous strip with the Sphere in the background and SpongeBob looking down from the screen? Verstappen would capture his record-extending 18th victory of the F1 season.

The race was not without tons of controversy. During Friday’s practice session, Carlos Sainz drove over a loose drain cover and did extensive damage to his Ferrari. The session has to be cancelled at 1:30 a.m. on Friday morning after only eight minutes of action. F1 offered fans $200 merchandise vouchers after clearing the stands. A second session began at 2:30 and ran until 4 a.m. Fans have filed a class-action suit. Nice to know Vegas is living up to its billing as the city that never sleeps.

Seahawks Central – Blown out twice in the past three weeks on national television shows the Seahawks are true pretenders. Bullied on both sides of the ball by legit title contenders will do that. The 49’ers have now administered four straight beatdowns of the Seahawks over the past two seasons. It’s pretty damning when everything the team did in the off-season was aimed at challenging the 49’ers. Sorry but the gap is still wide.

The Seahawks offence had minus-3 yards passing and one first down in the first half against San Francisco on Thursday night. The offence is a joke. There’s no push up front so the team can’t run the ball against good teams. The play-calling is vanilla. Route concepts are basic despite having three play-making receivers. Geno seems to be regressing. Third down conversion? Red zone conversion? Forget it! The Seahawks are ranked 30th in third down conversions. They were 27th last year and 27th in 2020 so it’s not like the problem just surfaced.

The Seahawks have spent a ton of money building the defence yet they still get dominated up front. Christian McCaffrey ran for 116 yards in the first half. The 49’ers had six sacks on Thursday night and have dropped Geno 14 times in the past four meetings. Seattle has four sacks in those four games.

Go back to Sunday’s game against the L.A. Rams. What did we say about the Rams having the Seahawks number? Sean McVay is now 10-5 against Pete Carroll since taking over the Rams. The Rams swept the series again this year. Carroll has more loses again McVay than any other NFL coach and make no mistake, McVay has out-coached Pete time and again.

There was no excuse for the Seahawks performance. They were penalized 12 times for 130 yards against the Rams which is completely unacceptable. Guess who’s the most penalized team in the NFL?  Yes, it’s Seattle. In 11 games, they have been flagged 81 times. That’s on the coaching staff. Where’s the accountability? This is not unfamiliar territory for Carroll and the Seahawks. The 2013 and 2014 teams also led the NFL in penalties but at least both of those squads won NFC titles.

Sunday’s game may have been Carroll’s worst coaching performance ever. The Seahawks started the second half passing on 13 of 17 offensive snaps while ahead 16-7. What about the oft-mentioned commitment to the running game? Work the clock dammit! Drew Lock entered the game to replace the injured Geno Smith and what does Pete do?  Throw the ball some more. In the second half, the Seahawks threw the ball 23 times. They ran the ball six times. Why spend second-round picks in consecutive years on running backs when you are not going to run the ball? Unacceptable.

Any hope that the Seahawks would have a top-ranked offence this season seems like a pipe-dream now. Seattle has had one or fewer scoring drives in the second half in seven of the team’s eleven games. They have scored more than seven points in the second half against the Lions, Panthers, Giants and Commanders, none of which has a defence ranked higher than 14th. The Seahawks were supposed to be a team that would be among the league leaders in explosive plays. That has simply not happened. Geno Smith ranks 17th in yards per passing attempt.

Don’t you think it’s time for the Seahawks to give up on receiver Dee Eskridge? He’s appeared in four games this season and been targeted once. Eskridge can take his place alongside other Seahawk draft busts including Malik McDowell, Christine Michael, L.J. Collier and German Ifedi.

Bobby Wagner is a Seahawks icon. No doubt he will be honoured by the team once his career is over. He may also end up with a bust in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But right now, Wagner is a huge liability in the passing game. He continues to be targeted and is a big reason why the Seahawks have allowed so many yards after the catch. The Seahawks have been getting burned by screen plays and Wagner is part of the problem. Against Washington, running backs Brian Robinson and Antonio Gibson combined for 11 catches for 161 yards and two touchdowns. Teams are exploiting the weakness in coverage with great success. The 49’ers targeted Wagner repeatedly.

The Seahawks travel to Dallas for a date with the Cowboys next Thursday night. They go to San Francisco the following week before a home date against Philadelphia. The Seahawks may be 6-8 by then. The 12’s have to know it’s time for meaningful change in Seattle from the top down.

Memo to the Seahawks – Burn the lime green uniforms. No explanation necessary. They are hideous.

NFL Notebook – Monday night’s Super Bowl rematch between the Chiefs and the Eagles further exposed Kansas City’s issues on offence. The Chiefs receiving corps has suffered from a case of the ‘dropsies’ all season. Kansas City leads the NFL in drops with 26. The Chiefs are 7-3 but could be unbeaten because drops played a pivotal role in every loss. Marquez Valdes-Scantling dropped what should have been the winning touchdown in the final minute on Monday night.

Chiefs quarterback Pat Mahomes threw 44 deep touchdown passes in his first four years in the league. Those are considered touchdowns of 20+ yards past the line of scrimmage. Since the departure of Tyreek Hill, Mahomes has thrown two deep TD’s in 26 games. Mahomes has to be pissed.

The Cincinnati Bengals are a classic example of a team wasting the gift of a franchise quarterback. Joe Burrow is done for the season with a wrist injury, just the latest in a series of injuries that threaten to derail his promising career. He’s now missed 15 games in four years. The injuries include major knee surgery, dislocated finger, knee strain, calf strain and torn wrist ligaments. If you land a franchise quarterback like Burrow, it might be a good idea to build an offensive line to protect him. The Bengals have not done that and they are paying a huge price.

Baltimore took a huge hit with the loss of All-Pro tight end Mark Andrews for the season. Andrews is a key cog in the Ravens attack. Can’t see the Ravens advancing to the Super Bowl without him.

How about Dallas Cowboys cornerback DaRon Bland? He’s been asked to replace All-Pro teammate Trevon Diggs who went down with a season-ending injury. Bland has returned five interceptions for touchdowns this season, a new NFL all-time record. Diggs and Bland are two of the best at jumping routes.

Hats off to Tom Brady for calling out the quality of play in the NFL. He says he’s seen a huge drop-off from when he entered the league. Brady said “there’s a lot of mediocrity out there” and you would have to agree. He criticized the quality of coaching, schemes and rule changes protecting players from injury. Brady also knocked player development in college football, saying players are not nearly as prepared for the NFL as 20 years ago.

MLB Notebook – Two Canadian-born pitchers were recently dealt as roster moves begin around major league baseball. The Atlanta Braves opened roster space by sending five players to the Chicago White Sox including righthander Mike Soroka. Cal Quantrill was dealt to Colorado by the Cleveland Guardians. It’s disappointing the Blue Jays didn’t get involved in those deals and give the two Canadian pitchers an opportunity to kickstart their careers back home.

Does any MLB team have the cajónes to trade for the Angels Mike Trout? Once baseball’s modern-day answer to Mickey Mantle, Trout has been in rapid decline. He’s averaged only 79 games over the past three seasons. Trout is entering his age 32 season and coming off a year in which he hit only .263. What’s worse, he’s signed through 2030 so the acquiring team would be taking a massive risk.

NBA Notebook – The Oklahoma Thunder have been one of the surprise teams in the NBA so far this season. They have reeled off six wins in a row and are sitting in second place in the West at 11-4. Hamilton, Ontario native Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is leading the way. He’s averaging 30.4 points per game, 6.1 rebounds and 6.3 assists. He should be in the MVP conversation.

Have you seen some of the outlandishly painted floors that have been created for the NBA’s In-Season Tournament? They’ve not only made watching the games almost unbearable but the players claim they are unsafe and dangerously slippery. The floor in Toronto was one of the courts criticized.

Loved this story. Charlotte Hornets star LaMelo Ball is now having to cover up one of his tattoos in order to avoid being fined by the NBA. Seems LaMelo has to cover up the “LF” tattoo below his left ear because it violates the NBA rule against exposing commercial logos on players’ bodies. The tattoo references Ball’s middle name LaFrance which also happens to be the name of his clothing line. Personally, I can’t wait for the arrival of the next Ball brother – LaLoose.

Golf Notes – It’s taken all of six months for Swedish sensation Ludvig Aberg to become one of the top golfers in the game. Since leaving Texas Tech in June, Aberg has helped Europe win the Ryder Cup, won on the DP World Tour and has now added a PGA Tour win at the RSM Classic. He did it with a pair of 61’s on the weekend and a winning score of 29-under which tied the all-time PGA Tour scoring record. Aberg will make his major championship debut at the Masters in April and it would not be surprising to see him in contention.

Aberg’s performance left Canada’s Mackenzie Hughes shaking his head. Hughes finished solo second despite weekend rounds of 60 and 63. Defending champion Adam Svensson continued his ascension. The Surrey native had a final round 62 to grab a tie for fifth. If the scoring seems ridiculously low, it is. England’s Matthew Wallace birdied every single hole on the back nine during the third round of the European Tour’s season-ending Tour Championship. Yes, these guys are GOOD!

Leftovers – Back in February, the Montreal Alouettes were in dire straits. The league had to take over the franchise before Quebec business giant Pierre Peladeau stepped in and purchased the team. That’s in the rear-view mirror now. The Alouettes are CFL champions for the first time since 2010 after their upset win over the favoured Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the 110th Grey Cup. For the Bombers, it was their second straight heart-breaking loss after being upset 24-23 last year by the Toronto Argonauts. The Als deserve a ton of credit. They were stuffed at the Bombers goal-line to end the first half and had to overcome a 17-7 halftime deficit.

It continues to be one-step forward and two-steps back for Canada on the world soccer stage. A shocking 3-2 defeat against Jamaica in Toronto was a kick in the teeth in crucial 2023-24 Concacaf Nations League qualifying. It’s just another setback for the program that should be gaining momentum following a berth in the World Cup. Canada now needs to focus on clinching a Copa America berth which would provide an opportunity to play top South American teams including Argentina and Brazil. It’s the kind of quality opponent Canada needs in order to grow the program.

Redemption for Italy. Delighted to see the Azzuri quality for next year’s European Championship thanks to a 0-0 draw against Ukraine. Italy will now avoid the dreaded playoffs. It’s been a struggle for Italy on the world stage in recent years. The Italians failed to quality for the past two World Cups.

The charming metropolis of Oakland now has the unique distinction of losing a team in all four major North American sports leagues. Oakland has lost the NHL Seals, the NBA Golden State Warriors, the NFL Raiders and will soon see the MLB A’s depart for Vegas. The citizens of Oakland must feel so proud to live there.

Spotify Tracks of the Week – We’ve become big fans of the Australian band the Teskey Brothers. We found a great track that’s not listed in their Spotify discography. Check out Get Me Outta The Rain from the movie Soundtrack Palm Beach.

Juno Award nominees the Julian Taylor Band are a Canadian outfit getting attention. Have a listen to the track Sweeter from their release Avalanche.

As a tribute to the terrible fires in Maui this summer, the Doobie Brothers have penned a song called Lahaina. The track features Mick Fleetwood. It can be downloaded off of Spotify.

Remember Dickie Betts from the Allman Brothers? His son Duane has a fledgling music career in his own right. His new album is called Wild & Precious Life. We recommend Cold Dark World featuring Marcus King. It goes without saying that Duane was named after legendary Allman Brothers guitarist Duane Allman.

Speaking of great guitar players, there’s few better than Robben Ford. We found a track from a 2007 live album called Live at Rockpalast in Leverkusen, Germany. Listen to Robben reprise the song Lovin’ Cup.

Seems like a lot of the best talent in the music industry is now based in Austin, Texas. 33-year-old Jackie Venson is an Austin native who graduated from the Berklee College of Music. She has an amazing voice and is also a very adept guitar slinger. Check her out performing the tune Rollin’ On.

There’s no doubt Ry Cooder is one of the most influential artists in modern American music. His legacy will last for decades. For more on his amazing career journey, check out this YouTube documentary.

Carlos Santana and Ry Cooder played a big part in the popular success enjoyed by John Lee Hooker late in his career. Both appeared on the seminal recording ‘The Healer’ and penned the title track. They appeared together at a benefit in California several years ago and performed an instrumental version of the song. Make sure to listen to the following song in the video as well which features Steve Miller performing All Your Lovin’.  Great stuff!

We also dug up another amazing video showcasing Ry Cooder’s guitar mastery. After Katrina, he appeared at the Concert for New Orleans along with Buckwheat Zydeco and Lenny Kravitz. Ry was in fine form.

When Ry released the album Get Rhythm, they produced a black and white video to promote the album. Check out acting great Harry Dean Stanton. He’s an absolute hoot!

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