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Under Further Review – Douglas Smith with Contributing Editor Bill Morphy. We are football heavy this week with the baseball season ending and the NHL and NBA in hiatus. Enjoy the slim pickings because the sports world is suddenly short on news and targets to pick on. We may have to take a hiatus of our own in the coming weeks. 

The Impact of Escrow – Fans hear a lot about escrow when it comes to NHL player contracts but there’s little knowledge of the real impact. Herman Dayal of the Athletic wrote an excellent piece this week on escrow and how it is influencing the structure of contracts heading into what could be another pandemic-interrupted season.

The NHL CBA mandates that for every dollar made in hockey-related revenue, $0.50 should go to players and $0.50 should go to owners for an even split. To ensure owners around the league get their 50 percent share of the revenue pie, players are subject to escrow. Escrow is a portion of the players’ salaries that gets withheld from every paycheque to maintain an equal split of league revenue.

For example, if escrow for a given year is 10 percent, an NHL player with a listed salary of $6 million will actually only receive $5.4 million ($600,000 withheld) in total over the season before taxes.

With the pandemic’s expected hit on the NHL’s 2020-21 revenues, player escrow has to climb higher for next season to maintain that 50-50 split. Escrow is likely to bump up to 20 percent for 2020-21 which means players will net less money than they usually would as a consequence of the anticipated revenue decline. Teams will also be able to defer an additional 10 percent of salaries and pay them in smaller chunks in later years.

This is why many NHL contracts signed this offseason with term were backloaded so that more of the total salary is paid further down the line. (The Canucks did this with recent contracts given out to Braden Holtby and Jake Virtanen) It benefits owners because they’re spending less cash in a year where hockey revenue will be significantly hampered and the players benefit from backloaded deals because escrow will presumably be lower in the later years of their contracts — meaning they’ll net more of their salaries down the line.

NHL Notebook – There’s a good chance the Dallas Stars will take a step back next season. Goalie Ben Bishop and centre Tyler Sequin are both expected to be out five months after off-season surgeries. Bishop underwent knee surgery in late October while Seguin went under the knife to repair his right hip on November 2. It may be April before they are ready to return.

The Athletic published their projected rosters for the World Junior Hockey Championships this week. Three teams – Carolina, New Jersey and the L.A. Kings – had the most players listed. The Kings pipeline is stocked with talent. They are projected to have two draft picks, Quinton Byfield and Jordan Spence, on Team Canada. Arthur Kaliyev and Alex Turcotte are expected to be on the U.S. team. A pair of Kings defence prospects, Tobias Bjornfot and Helge Grans, are expected to play for Team Sweden while forward Kasper Simontaival is pegged for Team Finland. It’s just a matter of time before the Kings rise again in the Pacific Division.

Ode to Travis Roy – We were really pleased to see Peter King pay tribute to the late Travis Roy in his column this week. Travis died recently at just 45. You may remember Roy was only 11 seconds into a promising college hockey career at Boston University in 1995 when he was checked from behind and went head-first into the boards, leaving him paralyzed. He spent the next 25 years inspiring people, first by graduating from BU in four years, then becoming a motivational speaker, then by raising $12 million for paralysis research and equipment for those in need. In Travis Roy’s words:

“This is the challenge that chose me. For months, I laid in a hospital bed in Boston, looking up at white cork ceiling tiles. I wondered, ‘Is this what the rest of my life is going to be like?’ It’s a feeling we have at some points in each of our lives. We just can’t take any more. We don’t have an ounce of energy left to face another challenge, let alone overcome another obstacle. But we can. Each one of you, each one of us, we have this inner spirit that allows us to do things in life we never imagined. It’s a matter of sheer will. It’s a matter of determination. Yes, sometimes the challenges do choose us. That’s when it takes everything we’ve got to face them, to make the right choices and define who we are. The choices we make really say so much about who we are. Who you are at the core is what’s going to get you through life’s challenges. Having a passion can drive you to do great things. Having pride in everything you do can make most anything possible. Having a positive attitude will help you through some of the darkest days of your life.

“Once, a little boy broke open his piggy bank and gave [the Travis Roy Foundation] $7.23. An angel. Don’t think you can’t make a difference. All of you can make a difference. If I can encourage you to do one thing, when you come across a person with a disability, maybe they’re just a little bit different. Have compassion. Put a smile on your face. Say hello! That’s all I wanted—to have someone come up and say hi to me, to see that I was still the same Travis Roy. It’s what’s inside us that makes us who we are.

“What surprises me is how productive I’ve become. I had a chance to write a book, Eleven Seconds. Neat experience. Graduated from BU with a degree in communications. Did it in four years. I was pretty proud of that. I am able to make a living. Started the Travis Roy Foundation. It’s incredible what people with disabilities can do these days if they just have the right technology. We’ve raised $11, almost $12 million at the Travis Roy Foundation.

“I still have my goals. I get to spend a lot of time with my family, my friends. Maybe I can’t do the physical things I used to. But I can still laugh, I can still cry, I can still enjoy the people around me. You tell me: What’s more important than that? I’m still the same Travis Roy I’ve always been, except now I’m rolling through life instead of skating through it.”

Seahawks This Week – What a terrific bounce-back game for the Seahawks! All their warts were exposed in the overtime loss to Arizona but they responded with what may have been their best overall effort of the season in disposing of the division rival 49’ers.

After serving up three interceptions against the Cardinals, Russell Wilson was back to MVP form, throwing four touchdown passes as Seattle ran its record to 6-and-1.  He now has 26 in seven games and is on pace to break Tom Brady’s all-time single-season record of 55. Wilson is now 32-and-8 following an in-season loss which is tops among any quarterback dating back to the 1970 merger. He has already tied Peyton Manning for the most wins – 92 – in the first nine seasons of a career so he will shatter that record for sure.

DK Metcalf was an unstoppable brute. He had 12 catches for 161 yards, both career highs, and a pair of touchdowns. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett have now combined for 14 touchdowns on the season, easily tops in the NFL among receiver tandems.

The Seattle defense hemorrhaged in the fourth quarter but overall there were some positive signs. The Seahawks held the 49’ers to only 108 yards in the first half and one yard of total offense in the third quarter. They held the 49’ers to only 52 yards rushing one week after the Niners had shredded New England for over 200 yards rushing. Considering all the injuries, the Seahawks defense had perhaps its best effort of the season.

Bobby Wagner must have caught wind of media criticism prior to Sunday’s game. He was centered out for the Seahawks defensive struggles including comments that he was not earning his $18 million dollar salary.  Well, Wagner took it personally because he filled up the stat sheet against the 49’ers with 11 tackles, 2 sacks and 4 QB pressures.

The Seahawks are in Buffalo to meet the 6-and-2 Bills on Sunday. Carlos Dunlap will make his debut in a Seattle uniform and should give the D-line a much-needed spark. The Seahawks will also get a boost with the return of Jamal Adams and Rasheem Green off the injury list. Let’s see how the defense performs when the cavalry returns. As bad as the defense has been to this point in the season, the Seahawks are among the league leaders in turnover differential and that is always a key to overall success. Perhaps the best is yet to come.

It will be interesting to see how the Seahawks control Bills quarterback Josh Allen. One month into the season, Allen was being tabbed as a potential MVP candidate. Over the past four weeks, Allen has slipped considerably. During the first month, he faced mostly man-to-man coverage. Since then, teams have shown Allen a lot of zone and he has struggled mightily with his progressions. Look for the Hawks to intercept Allen at least once.

NFL Notebook – What do the following NFL receivers have in common? Marquise Brown – Ravens, N’Keal Harry – Patriots, Deebo Samuel – 49’ers, A.J. Brown – Titans, Mecole Hardman – Chiefs, JJ Arcega-Whiteside – Eagles, Parris Campbell – Colts and Andy Isabella – Cardinals.  The eight receivers were all selected before the Seahawks landed DK Metcalf at the end of the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft. If the draft were conducted again, not one of them would be selected before Metcalf and it’s not even close. NFL scouts claimed Metcalf couldn’t run the full route tree and one scout said his team was reluctant to draft Metcalf because of his score in the 3-cone drill at the NFL combine. Wonder what they are saying now?

After watching 49’er quarterback Jimmy Garappolo against the Seahawks, it’s clear the Niners will never win anything with this guy behind center. Yes, I know Garappolo is fighting an ankle injury but he is not an elite NFL quarterback. You would be better off with Kenny Gee than Jimmy G. People criticized Bill Belichick for dealing Garappolo for only a second round pick. In retrospect, maybe the best coach in NFL history knew what he was doing. Expect the 49’ers to cut ties with Garappolo in the off-season. He has two years and an unguaranteed $51 million left on his contract so they can walk away if they cut him before June 1. The 49ers structured his five-year, $137.5 million extension with a huge roster bonus in its first year (2018) to create more flexibility in the later years of the deal. They will free up $24.1 million in cap space by letting him go.  Trouble is the Niners would then have to find another QB and that’s not so easy.

You think Jimmy G has been disappointing?  How about the Eagles Carson Wentz? He had four turnovers last weekend to run his season total to 16 in eight games which includes 12 interceptions and 4 fumbles.

In contrast, the Chiefs Pat Mahomes continues his surgeon-like precision. Yes, it was against the Jets but all Mahomes did was go 31-of-42 for 416 yards and five touchdowns to four different receivers. The guy is uncanny.  Mahomes has 21 TD passes this season and only one interception.

It’s amazing how many teams over-analyzed Chargers rookie QB Justin Herbert prior to this year’s draft.  Many draft pundits questioned the Chargers for selecting him sixth overall this year. He was criticized for throwing almost exclusively out of the shotgun during his college career at Oregon.  How is that his fault? Herbert has quickly established himself in his rookie season and has 13 touchdown passes in his last four games.

Tough blow for the Baltimore Ravens losing All-Pro tackle Ronnie Stanley for the season with a serious ankle injury. It happened in his first game after signing at 5-year, $100 million dollar contract extension which made him the second-highest paid offensive tackle in football. It looks now like the Ravens will have to win three playoff road games to reach the Super Bowl. Don’t count on that happening.

You think the Seahawks have a poor pass rush, how about the Tennessee Titans who have a grand total of seven sacks after seven games? Free agents signees Jadeveon Clowney and Vic Beasley Jr. have zero sacks between the two of them. Clowney is earning $12 million. Beasley signed a one-year deal for a $9.5 million guarantee and the Titans cut him this week.

One thing to keep in mind, sack totals are way down in the NFL this season. The number of sacks has decreased by 12.5% across the league. One of the reasons is holding penalties are also way down and don’t forget, there are a lot more mobile quarterbacks than ever before.

It’s nice to know that CFL players are keeping busy during the shutdown. Linebacker Jeff Knox Jr. of the Toronto Argonauts has been charged with two counts of attempted homicide plus multiple other charges in his hometown of Pittsburgh. Know has played five seasons in the NFL with Ottawa, Saskatchewan and Toronto. Too bad he couldn’t have just stayed in Canada and collected the CERB.

MLB Notebook – As much as we have poked fun at Vladdy Guerrero for his weight issues, we are delighted to hear he has dropped 32 pounds including 12 so far this off-season. Even more important is the fact he’s taken accountability for showing up at spring training weighing a whopping 282 pounds. He reportedly apologized to his teammates before the re-start to the season and promised to never let it happen again. Don’t think for a moment there isn’t some peer pressure happening here. Vladdy was badly outperformed by other fast-rising Dominican stars including Juan Soto and Fernando Tatis Jr., as well as Venezuelan star Ronald Acuna Jr.

Guerrero has raised the possibility of returning to third base if he can get his weight down to around 235 pounds. Late last season, you could see a big difference in Guerrero’s bat speed as his conditioning started to improve. The real test will come once spring training opens next year but the signs are certainly encouraging.

The Blue Jays could have as much as $50 million to spend this off-season if their payroll is around $120 million as expected. They kicked things off this weekend by bringing back free agent lefthander Robbie Ray on a one-year deal for $8 million. With austerity the key word around baseball right now, the Blue Jays should be very active. For the first time ever, the baseball Winter Meetings will be held virtually but that doesn’t mean there won’t be plenty of action.

We predicted that Major League Baseball would fail to take any action against Justin Turner. It was not a shock when Commissioner Rob Manfred announced Turner will not be disciplined for returning to the field to celebrate the Dodgers World Series victory after testing positive for COVID-19. The Dodgers will not face any further punishment either. It’s a terrible precedent to set. How can Manfred fine or suspend any player next season even if it’s completely warranted? The announcement comes as Los Angeles health authorities revealed that five members of the Dodgers organization plus one family member have tested positive. Yet Turner goes Scott-free!

NBA Notebook – NBA players are expected to approve a December 22 start date for the 2020-2021 season. The NBA Draft is coming up in the next few weeks. Considering the shaky economics facing many teams, don’t be surprised if some teams consider trading away draft picks in the second round for cash. You may also see team’s trade late first round picks for near equivalent picks in future years just to save money now.

Expect a ton of player movement between now and the start of the season. There is no shortage of players on the trade block. Rudy Gobert, Victor Oladipo, Chris Paul, Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday are just a few of the names who could be on the move. You also have to wonder if Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks will sign a five-year supermax extension. It’s valued at between $220 million and $250 million depending on where the cap is set. If Antetokounmpo doesn’t sign and decides to head to free agency next summer, the Bucks are apparently prepared to play out the season with him.

Golf Notebook – A couple of fringe Canadian pros had promising finishes at the PGA Tour’s Bermuda Championship. David Hearn earned a rare Top 10 with a 6-under final round to finish T8.  Michael Gligic went 5-under on Sunday to finish T11. Merritt’s Roger Sloan finished at 8-under for the tournament and T16.

Music Videos of the Week – Melody Gardot is a 35-year old American jazz singer, born in New Jersey in 1985. She’s speaks fluent French and is a huge star in France and other parts of Europe. At the age of 19, Gardot was involved in a bicycle accident and sustained a serious head injury. During her time in the hospital she learned how to play the guitar and began writing songs. Music played a critical role in her recovery. She became an advocate of music therapy, often visiting hospitals and universities to discuss its benefits. Given her oversensitivity to sound, she chose quieter music. It’s also one of the reasons she always wears sunglasses. Here she is  with Sting performing her new hit “A Little Something” on The One Show on the BBC.

Here she is in concert performing “Morning Sun.”

And finally, the official music video for the song “C’est Magnifique featuring Antonio Zambujo.

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