Under Further Review – News Flash – Douglas Smith accuses former Peewee coach of failing to provide a Coke and a ‘Chien Chaud’ following 5-goal game. According to Smith, “missing out on that hotdog scarred me for life.”
Coach’s Cornered – L’Affaire Bill Peters ended as expected with his resignation as coach of the Flames. You have to wonder if this will be a watershed moment for the coaching profession.
Let’s get something straight right off the top. What Bill Peters said to Akim Aliu is indeed, as the NHL put it, repugnant and unacceptable. He deserved to be fired. No questions asked. But what this is turning out to be is an opportunity for every bitter former player, unhappy with how his career played out, to throw a former coach under the bus.
The fallout has been quick and deafening. A few weeks ago, Mike Babcock was considered one of the best coaches in the NHL. Now, he’s damaged goods. We didn’t need to be told by Dan Carcillo that Darryl Sutter is a crusty prick. We already knew that. Apparently, no one is safe. I would say – “man up”- because we have all had coaches who got in our face. You could make the case that a 10-year old accusation by a former player is a bit much, but in Peters’ case, it doesn’t matter how far back it goes. However, you would have to do a lot of convincing to get me to agree that Peters’ racist actions ruined Aliu’s NHL career. If Aliu was so good, he would have found a way to play more than a handful of games in the NHL.
In general, leagues need to deal with racism more harshly. There have been numerous incidents in junior hockey and the NHL where mindless fans threw bananas on the ice at black players. The punishment should have been far more severe. Any idiot who does that should have their face smeared across national TV, the front page of newspapers and on every social media platform. Yes, and a lifetime ban to any sporting event.
What’s also really important here is whether coaches throughout sports learn a valuable lesson. One thing is for sure – old-school coaches are a dying breed and any coach over 55 is going to find it increasingly difficult to get a job. The era of ‘coach as dictator’ is surely over.
Who’s Next? – In our continuing effort to make fun of anything and everything regardless of who we are offending, we have compiled a list of the top 10 coaches likely to be targeted next. You don’t think this is going to stop do you? Here’s who we think should run for cover. Although several are safe since they have gone to the big hockey barn in the sky.
Mike Keenan – Memo to Mike. Stay in Russia and don’t answer the phone.
John Tortorella – Torts is definitely not safe although we know he’s better at punching out opposing coaches as opposed to his own players.
Punch Imlach – Punch was notoriously hard on young players. Just ask Mike Walton whose hair was too long for Punch. Walton eventually left the team over what was later called mental-health issues developed from dealing with Imlach.
Conn Smythe – Obedience was absolute under the ‘Little Dictator.’ Smythe once banished two players to the minors for getting married without seeking his permission.
Mike Milbury – We are well aware of Mad Mike’s work as a GM. As coach of the Eastern Conference all-star team in 1991, he enraged players by selecting Chris Nilan over Canadiens teammate Guy Lafleur. Needless to say, the NHL Board of Governors immediately voted to change the all-star selection process.
Guy Boucher – Boucher makes the list for developing the most boring checking system in the history of hockey. Players hated playing for him because he stripped away any hope of offensive license which cost players at the bargaining table.
Fred Glover – Definitely the most eccentric coach of all-time. He would drive his player’s nuts by insisting on being on the ice for scrimmages. Players quickly caught on that if they let Glover score a goal, practice would immediately end.
Robbie Ftorek – Fired by Lou Lamoriello with nine games to go in the 2000 season after complaints from the players that he was too critical. Ftorek was choked when the Devils went on to win the Stanley Cup that year under Larry Robinson.
Ned Harkness – Detroit fans still remember this era as “Darkness with Harkness”. Ned the Dread alienated all the veteran Red Wing players, sending the Wings into one of the worst periods in franchise history.
Cooney Weiland – Cooney’s dead so he doesn’t have to worry. We just like to bring up his name whenever we can.
Pipeline Flowing – It is often said that if you can come away from a draft with two NHL-caliber players, you are doing well. It looks like the Canucks may be blowing that theory out of the water.
It’s a testament to a team’s drafting success whether they can uncover players outside of the first round. You will remember the Edmonton Oilers had a succession of #1 overall picks but still could not build a winner, largely because they could not draft anyone outside of the first round. At one point a few years ago, the Oilers did not have one player on their roster who had been drafted outside the first round over a ten-year period.
Let’s look at what the Canucks have done outside of round one in each of the past three drafts. In 2017, the Canucks nabbed goaltender Michael DiPietro in the third round and defenseman Jack Rathbone in the fourth round. DiPietro is currently establishing himself in Utica, posting a 2.26 goals-against-average and a .923 save percentage. According to Assistant Director of Player Development Chris Higgins, Rathbone could run Utica’s power-play right now. The 20 year-old Rathbone is a sophomore at Harvard. He was overlooked in the draft because of his size but may be turning out to be a prototypical modern-day, puck-moving NHL defenseman.
In 2018, the Canucks selected defenseman Jett Woo in the second round and forward Tyler Madden in the third round. Woo is unlikely to be a member of Canada’s World Junior team at Christmas but he still should be a factor after some seasoning in the AHL. Madden is playing at Northeastern and is currently tied for the NCAA lead in goal scoring with 11. He’s lightning quick and is on track to be a Canuck within a year. Madden’s offensive growth has been incredible. A recent poll of scouts by Hockey News indicated Madden would be a first round pick if that 2018 draft was re-done today.
The Canucks may have hit the motherlode in the 2019 draft. In addition to selecting Russian star Vasily Podkolzin in the first round, the Canucks hit on Swedish winger Nils Hoglander in the second round. He’s been scoring highlight-reel goals in Sweden and will be a fixture on their World Junior team. The Canucks were without a third round pick in 2019 but may have hit on two other late round selections – centre Carson Focht in round five and winger Aidan McDonough in round seven. Focht is playing with Jett Woo in Calgary and already has 12 goals in 12 games including four game-winners. McDonough is playing on the same line at Northeastern as Madden and may prove to be an absolute steal.
TSN recently published a list of NHL teams with the best ‘core’ group of players 24 years of age and under. The Oilers were rated #1 with Toronto third and the Canucks fourth. If you labelled it the ‘Core 8’, the Leafs would definitely drop down and the Canucks would undoubtedly move up. Check it out for yourself!
The Mighty Quinn – Quinn Hughes may not win the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year but his impact is undeniable. Hughes and Colorado defenseman Cale Makar are putting together a season for the ages. Here’s why! No first year NHL defenseman has put up 50 points since 2000. The closest to do it was Dion Phaneuf of the Flames who posted 49 points in the 2005-2006 season.
Hughes has burst onto the scene with 21 points in 25 games. Makar has been even quicker out of the gate with 25 points in 24 games. You have to go back to the early 90’s to find rookie defensemen who topped the 50-point mark. Nick Lidstrom had 60 points in 80 games in his rookie season in 1991-1992. Vladimir Malakhov put up 52 points in 64 games with the Islanders in 92-93 but he came over from Russia when he was 24 years old.
It will be interesting to see if Makar and the Mighty Quinn can maintain their pace but it’s pretty obvious they are both headed for 50+ point seasons.
NHL Notebook – The Trade of the Year from last year’s NHL trade deadline is the ‘under the radar’ deal between the Ottawa Senators and the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Sens sent winger Ryan Dzingel to the Blue Jackets for Anthony Duclair and TWO second round picks. Columbus got all of six weeks out of Dzingel while Duclair has been one of Ottawa’s better players so far this season. It looks like at 24, he has finally started to mature. DJ Smith has done an outstanding job getting Duclair to play to his potential. Duclair has always had the wheels and has grit that Dzingel never displayed. The deal doesn’t even account for what Ottawa may reap from the pair of second rounder’s. This deal could end up being an absolute steal. The way Columbus is playing, those two picks would be top 40 selections. Ottawa could also package them up for an additional first rounder.
The Erik Karlsson deal with San Jose is the deal that keeps on giving. The Sens have the Sharks first rounder in 2020 and their second rounder in 2021 plus four players who will be part of Ottawa’s roster going forward – Dylan Demelo, Josh Norris, Rudolfs Balcers and Chris Tierney. Thanks Erik! DJ Smith, by the way, is my choice so far for NHL coach of the year.
Desperate for more than a decade to find a big, #1 centreman, the Montreal Canadiens went off the board and selected Finnish centre Jesperi Kotkaniemi third overall in last year’s NHL draft. They were so hard-pressed to make it work they put him right into the lineup as an 18 year-old. Well, guess what? He’s in a major funk with only 3 goals and 5 points in 18 games. The Habs should really think about sending him to their AHL team in Laval. Meantime, Ottawa was more than happy to take Brady Tkachuk with the very next selection and he is proving to be an absolute stud. Reminds me of the Canucks passing on Matthew Tkachuk to take Olli Juolevi. Just another case of a team drafting for need instead of taking the best player available.
Kyle Dubas turned 34 on Friday. He might want to buy himself a backup goaltender for his birthday. Michael Hutchinson is 0 for the season and has given up 30 goals in his six starts. He hasn’t let in less than 4 goals in any game. Acquiring a backup goalie has to be a major priority for the Leafs. Their playoff fate could depend on it.
The Drought is Over – So happy to see the Winnipeg Blue Bombers win the 107th Grey Cup last Sunday in Calgary. Yes, they put the WIN back in Winnipeg! It was the Bombers first Grey Cup victory in 29 years, ending the longest current drought in the CFL. Strangely enough, the longest drought now belongs to the Hamilton Ti-Cats who haven’t won a Cup since 1999.
The Bombers rolled all over the Ti-Cats 33-12 behind 132 yards rushing and 2 TD’s from Andrew Harris. Harris became the first player ever to win both the Most Outstanding Player and Most Outstanding Canadian awards in the Grey Cup. He also becomes the first Canadian to win Grey Cup MVP since Russ Jackson of the Ottawa Rough Riders back in 1969.
The Ti-Cats ran up a 15-and-3 record during the regular season but imploded under the Bombers pressure in the Grey Cup, turning the ball over 7 times and looking completely overwhelmed.
Penny from Heaven – It’s about time Russell Wilson started getting his due. Perhaps it’s because the Seahawks are up in the Pacific Northwest but Wilson certainly does not get the national attention afforded other top NFL quarterbacks.
Last Sunday, he became the first quarterback in the 100 year history of the NFL to post a winning season in each of his first 8 years in the league. That’s pretty darned impressive. Wilson helped move the Seahawks to 9-and-2 and a perfect 6-and-0 on the road, a new franchise record. By comparison, Tom Brady has the record with 86 wins in his first eight seasons. However, Wilson now has 84 with five games remaining.
The Seahawks were also helped by a career day from running back Rashaad Penny who ran for 129 yards on only 14 carries. Penny hasn’t been worth a dime for much of his two seasons in Seattle but proved he’s more than just a backup to starter Chris Carson. Carson is a beast but has suddenly gained a penchant for fumbling. He leads the NFL this season with 8 fumbles.
Meantime, the Seahawks defense continues to improve. They forced the Eagles into 5 turnovers even though star defensive end Jadaveon Clowney sat out with an injury. With 5 games remaining, Seattle has only two road games left with visits to Carolina and L.A. It certainly looks like the division could come down to a Week 17 matchup with the 49’ers in Seattle.
We were right about the L.A. Rams competitive window closing quickly. They are facing big-time cap issues heading into the off-season.
Heisman Hopeful – Something is wrong when Canadian-born running back Chuba Hubbard of Oklahoma State gets little Heisman attention. The kid leads the nation in rushing but probably won’t even get invited to New York for the ceremony. Heisman voting has become quarterback centric and highly productive backs like Hubbard are just not receiving the respect they deserve.
Making Canada Proud – Sometimes the shoe just fits. What Canada accomplished at the Davis Cup Tennis Championships in Madrid, Spain is a modern-day Cinderella story. To reach the finals against favoured Spain without Milos Raonic and with an ailing Felix Auger-Aliassime is nothing short of a miracle. Absolutely one of the feel-good stories of the year.
The Great Unwanted – It’s amazing how the Toronto Raptors keep unearthing talent that was overlooked in the NBA Draft. They continue to find undrafted free agents who add quality and depth to their roster. Last year’s championship team was assembled without one lottery pick in the entire lineup. Incredible! Here’s a good read on the next group of ‘diamonds in the rough.’
Really happy to see all the early commitments from Canadian NBA players for the final Olympic qualifying tournament to be held in Victoria next June. Hopefully we win the tournament and capture the lone spot remaining, then make something amazing happen in Tokyo.
Super Canine – By now, everyone’s seen the photo of “Conan”—the hero military working dog who took down ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. With her bright eyes and perfect posture, it’s impossible not to see the beauty of the Belgian Malinois. Papers gushed over the heroic canine, splashing her photo on the covers, with headlines that heaped the most deserved adulation. The dog’s strength and agility is incredible.
The Joe Schultz Quote of the Week – From former Toronto Argonaut and Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann – “Nobody in football should be called a genius. A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein.”
Music Video of the Week – One of my favourite female vocalists out there right now is Beth Hart. She has a new album featuring the song ‘Bad Woman Blues.’ Have a listen. This gal can wail!
Beth struggled for years with drug addiction and bi-polar disorder but over time has taken control of her life and medical issues through religion and practicing transcendental meditation. She is well-known for collaborations with guitarist Joe Bonamassa who calls Hart ‘the new Janis Joplin.’