Under Further Review – This week, a quick peak at the surging Canucks, a few tidbits from around the NHL and the NFL, and a look back at the Washington Nationals path to the World Series. And oh yes, a little slap at the Leafs of course.
Who Are These Guys? – As October turns into November, life is good for the Vancouver Canucks especially when you are putting up a 5-spot nearly every game. The game on Wednesday night in Los Angeles was a signal of what’s in store for the future. Elias Pettersson had a goal and 3 assists. Brock Boeser has 3 goals and an assist and rookie defenseman Quinn Hughes chipped in with 3 assists.
The power-play went 4 for 6 against the Kings and has looked unstoppable since Hughes was promoted to the first unit on October 20. The Canucks power-play is humming along at 38% since then.
J.T. Miller has been everything as advertised. His size and net-front presence has been a big factor. Yes, it’s early but you have to love the early returns. Barring major injuries, it looks like the Canucks will be a factor in the Western Conference playoff race.
Around the NHL – Something is amiss in Tampa Bay where the Lightning can’t keep the puck out of their own net. The Bolts are having all kinds of defensive issues and look nothing like the juggernaut that ripped through the NHL regular season last year. They have lost some size off of last year’s team and they seem to be getting pushed around in their own end. Cap issues have also taken a bite out of their depth.
Didn’t you used to be Alex Chaisson? The Oilers forward had 22 goals last season running interference for Connor McDavid. Did the Oilers actually think he could replicate that performance playing elsewhere in their lineup? Chaisson did not register a goal in the Oilers first 10 games.
That was a triumphant homecoming for Erik Karlsson on his return to Ottawa! He was on the ice for all 5 goals in a 5-2 Sharks defeat at the hands of the lowly Senators. Karlsson’s 8-year, $92 million dollar contract may prove to be the worst deal in NHL history. His game has regressed to the point where his defensive play is so bad that’s he’s being exposed on a nightly basis and can’t be trusted in key situations.
Karlsson (he could have gone out as Ponce Deleon on Halloween and not had to dress up) is minus 11 to match his 11 million dollar contract. Doug Wilson must be up at night questioning what possessed him to be so generous. The Sharks have collected only 9 of a possible 24 points to start the season and it looks like they are ready to bottom out. Ottawa fans are cheering for a San Jose collapse this season because they hold the Sharks first round pick next summer thanks to the Karlsson deal.
In that game, the Senators parked their two highest paid players in the press box – Bobby Ryan ($7.25 million) and Mikkel Boedker ($4 million) – as healthy scratches. If you add injured players, LITR and buy-outs to the equation, the Senators had a total of $37.3 million on the sidelines. The on-ice payroll for the 20-man roster dressed vs. the Sharks was $37.7 million.
You don’t think Maple Leafs brass is concerned about the team’s defensive play? The Leafs are 24th in the league in goals against. That is not in keeping with a top caliber hockey team. Frederik Andersen is 40th in save percentage and 36th out of 50 goalies in GAA. His side-kick, Michael Hutchinson is 49th in save percentage and dead last in GAA. The crazy thing about it is goaltending is the least of the Leafs problems. The numbers don’t lie. Dating back to last season, the Leafs are playing at an 88-point pace over their last 82 games which would not be enough to make the playoffs this season if they continue to play at that rate.
The Maple Leafs made some grave miscalculations last summer when they were scrambling to open cap space in order to sign Mitch Marner to a huge extension. They were hell-bent to move the contract of defensive Nikita Zaitsev which still had 5 years to run at $4.5 million per season. They found a taker in Ottawa and agreed to take back Cody ‘AC-DC’ Ceci who’s got only this year left on his $4.5 million dollar deal. Problem is, Zaisev is serviceable. Ceci is not. The Leafs have been playing him in their top four and he’s been exposed big-time on the back end. What were the Leafs thinking? Ceci may be a little distracted because he and his partner Jamie Thompson are facing a $6.8 million dollar lawsuit as the result of a backyard incident in 2018 lodged by Hana Engel, who was burned and left permanently scarred while at a dinner party at Ceci’s Stittsville home.
Engel’s initial lawsuit claims both Thompson and Ceci were “intoxicated and unable to appreciate the danger…and ought not to have used dangerous or ignitable objects such as the fireplace.”The lawsuit alleges Thompson didn’t know how to properly operate the fireplace, ignored warning labels on the bottle, failed to take safety precautions and “knew or ought to have known that the fireplace and ethanol were serious and recognized hazards.” It claims Ceci “failed to inform himself and Thompson of the hazards,” failed to warn the invited guests and “failed to keep his premises safe.”
Off topic, could someone tell Auston Matthews to ditch the 70’s porn moustache? And Jake Muzzin looks like he should be running a corn still somewhere deep in the Smokey Mountains.
The St. Louis Blues depth is going to be tested now that their top sniper Vladimir Tarasenko is gone for five months with shoulder surgery. Somebody is going to have to step up.
A Classic Fall Classic – Fifty years after they were born in Montreal as the Expos, the Washington Nationals have won the World Series. It was a long journey to be sure.
Who could have imagined a World Series where the road team won every game? Talk about an oddity. The Nationals were certainly a team of destiny. They were 5-and-0 when facing elimination in the post-season and trailed in every one of those games. They came from behind to win the wildcard game by scoring 3 runs in the bottom of the 8th inning. After opening the World Series with two straight wins, the Nationals proceeded to drop 3 straight at home and appeared to be dead in the water. But a heroic game 6 performance by Stephen Strasburg opened the door for more drama in game 7. It was kind of fitting that former Blue Jay Daniel Hudson recorded the final 3 outs.
Houston fans have to be questioning manager A.J. Hinch. Zack Greinke gave the Astros six shutout innings but Hinch insisted on keeping him in to start the 7th inning. Greinke immediately served up a home run to Anthony Rendon to get the Nationals on the board. Hinch then gave Greinke the heave-ho, bringing in Joe Harris who served up a two-run dinger to Howie Kendrick which gave Washington the lead. After the game, Hinch claimed he only wanted to bring in ace starter Gerrit Cole if he could start an inning and planned on bringing him on to start the 9th. Well, we all know what happened. The Nationals broke the game open and Hinch never used his ace. In retrospect, Hinch should have been satisfied with 6 shutout innings from Greinke and used Cole to start the 7th.
On the flipside, the Nationals ended up going 10-and-0 in games started by Strasburg and Max Scherzer. They are the only starting pitching duo in MLB playoff history to do that.
The Nationals bring a World Series title to Washington for the first time since the Senators title in 1924 when Walter ‘Big Train’ Johnson was dominating the game. They become the first team in history to capture all four road games.
How can you not be happy for manager Davey Martinez, the former Expo who was nearly fired earlier in the season when the team was struggling? The Nationals were 19-and-31 at one point back in May but somehow climbed back into the race and secured a wildcard playoff spot.
The Nationals certainly erase the days when the Senators were the laughingstock of baseball. The Senators finished dead last in their division for 11 straight years from 1961 to 1971. They were so bad they prompted the famous line – “First in war, first in peace and last in the American League.” Good on them and yes, even though the separation from Montreal has been 15 years now, there’s still a small sense of joy for the many long-time Expo sufferers, myself included.
One final note to the Blue Jays – can you find a young outfielder like the Nationals Victor Robles and Juan Soto? Wow! Those guys are good and still have their whole careers ahead of them.
Case for the Defense – The Seahawks need to wake up and admit their defense is not good enough to win a championship and may not be good enough to squeak into the playoffs. How do you account for surrendering 418 yards in passing to Andy Dalton and 460 yards to 38 year old Matt Shaub? The Seahawk defense is giving up 6.2 yards per play. Only two teams in the entire league are worse – Cincinnati and Miami – and both are winless. That speaks volumes.
Next up, Tampa Bay at home, then a visit to the 49’ers the following Monday night. The schedule gets really tough as the 49’er game begins a 5-game stretch that also includes the Eagles, Vikings, Rams and Panthers, a stretch that will determine whether Seattle is a playoff team or not. The game in San Francisco on November 11 is shaping up as monstrous. The Seahawks have two weeks to sort out their defensive shortcomings. One bright spot has been the play of rookie safety Marquis Blair. This kid can hit!
The Seahawks are taking a flyer on mercurial receiver Josh Gordon, he of the multiple suspensions. Seattle wouldn’t be doing it if they were completely satisfied with the play of depth receivers Jaron Brown and David Moore. They were both targeted in recent games against the Ravens and the Falcons, and despite one and one coverage, neither of them could create any separation and get open. Gordon had reportedly been showing up late for meetings in New England and needless to say, that won’t last long on a Bill Belichek coached team.
Paging Cody Parkey – Will the Chicago Bears ever find a kicker? Their fate was sealed again last Sunday when kicker Eddy Pineiro pulled a 41-yard field goal as time expired, handing the Chargers a 17-16 win. Pineiro doinked one off the goalpost earlier in the game, doing his best Cody Parkey imitation. Where did they find Pineiro – driving cab in Acapulco?
The Bears are 3-and-4 and it’s obvious their draft gamble on Mitch Trubisky is turning into a massive disaster. The Bears will have to go shopping for a quarterback once they own up to the Trubisky gambit. They might want to find a kicker as well. Bears fans, or what’s left of them, are apoplectic.
Many Happy Regrets – The L.A. Clippers will live to regret the trade of Canadian guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to the OK Thunder in the deal for Paul George. Gilgeous-Alexander is tough and versatile and like a lot of Canadian players – mature. He’s also willing to play defense and in that league, that means something. If his shot continues to develop, he could be an elite player sooner rather than later.
Meantime, after trading Paul George to the Clips and Chris Paul to Houston, the Thunder now own a treasure trove of draft choices: as many as 15 first round picks in the next 6 years. General Manager Sam Presti, who like Masai Ujiri, learned the ropes in San Antonio, is now positioned to rebuild the team in a slow, methodical and patient manner.
Tiger Still Purring – Like him or not, Tiger Woods milestone victory in Japan was spectacular to watch. I’m not sure if you caught any of the tournament but his putting at the Zozo Championships was other-worldly. He reached 82 career wins to match Sam Snead for the most PGA TOUR wins all-time. However, do you really think the fields Snead faced were anywhere near as deep or difficult? Sorry, winning a Greater Greensboro Open is not a big deal.
Tiger has always played a modified schedule and didn’t pile up wins in second-rate events. It will be interesting to see if Captain Tiger picks himself to play in the upcoming President’ Cup. International team captain Ernie Els will make his 4 captain’s picks for the team on November 4. Canadians Adam Hadwin and Corey Conners will be among the players Els will be watching closely. Conner finished 6th in Japan.
Leftovers – The San Diego Padres just announced Jayce Tingler as their new manager. I thought a Jayce Tingler was a sex toy?
Blind Faith – One of my all-time favourite songs is the Blind Faith tune ‘Can’t Find My Way Home.’ Lots of people have done great covers of the song over the years including Joe Cocker. Here’s an excellent version from a young singer named Rachael Price. Enjoy!