Editor’s Note: Sorry for the delay! We had issues with the auto transmission of this week’s blog.
Douglas Smith with Co-Editor Bill Morphy. This week, the Canucks survive a bumpy road trip. We go around the NHL, check in on the MLB post-season and the Seahawks face life without Russ.
Canucks This Week – Starting the season with six straight on the road is never easy. Thankfully, the schedule-maker offered up several softies. However, it didn’t take long for the knives to come out after the loss in Buffalo. The Canucks fan base is so scarred, patience is justifiably thin. It’s hard to expect a lot of market confidence after last year’s disaster. The road trip ended with a 4-2 win Saturday night in Seattle where the Kraken christened refurbished Key, now, Climate Pledge Arena. The Canucks are 3-2-1 and come home to start a seven-game homestand.
Here’s a few takeaways from the early season road trip:
- Oliver Ekman-Larsson is off to a strong start. He’s fitting into the top four and playing a shutdown role with either Tyler Myers or Tucker Poolman. OEL has been physically engaged and is showing signs that he should give the team quality minutes for at least a few more years.
- Quinn Hughes looks ready to break out in his third season. Asking him to play 25+ minutes a night, however, is a mistake. Travis Green played him 23, 25 and 29 minutes in the first three games. Surprise, surprise, he had to miss the following game.
- The Canucks need to drop Tanner Pearson down to the third line and keep him there. What’s wrong with a third line of Pearson-Dickinson-Podkolzin? With Brock Boeser in the lineup, Hoglander-Horvat-Garland should play together.
- Travis Green, in his infinite wisdom, sat Vasily Podkolzin for the past two games. Gotta get Alex Chiasson in the lineup people!
- It’s anybody’s guess, if and when, Travis Hamonic will return to the team. Even if Hamonic does come back, it’s doubtful he will be anything more than a third-pairing defenceman. He will have missed training camp, the exhibition schedule plus at least a month of the season. That’s never a good thing.
- Elias Pettersson has been taking more draws and the early returns have not exactly been positive. Pettersson was just 5-for his first-20. J.T. Miller has taken most of the face-offs for Pettersson over the past few seasons. The Canucks are dead last in the NHL in faceoff percentage.
- Who says training camp isn’t important? Pettersson is off to a predictably slow start with just one goal and two assists in six games. Is he the superstar everyone says he is?
- We’ve been clamoring for a solid third-line centre for years. Looks like the Canucks have finally found one in Jason Dickinson. In his first 35 minutes of five-on-five ice time, opponents managed only 11 shots on goal.
- We predicted the Canucks penalty-kill would be an issue this season and so far, that’s been the case.
- Brandon Sutter has played 80+ games only five times in his 13-year NHL career and only once since the 2014-2015 season. In six seasons in Vancouver, Sutter has played 80+ games once. In the other five seasons with the Canucks, he’s played 20, 26, 43, 44 and 61 games. It looks like he may not play at all this season due to long-haul issues related to COVID-19. We predicted it would be a mistake to res-sign the veteran centre. Now we are seeing why.
NHL Notebook – When the Kraken were announced as the NHL’s 32nd franchise, our first thought was, this is great, it will be cheaper to head down to Seattle and catch a game. The tickets will be cheaper than Rogers Arena. Think again, Kraken breath! How about $400 seats? Yes, for a single ticket. Premium beers go for $16.50US. You can grab a bottle of water for $10US.
If there’s not yet panic in the streets in Montreal, they are waiting at the gate. Nothing has gone right. The Habs were outscored 19-4 in their first five games before breaking out against Detroit on Saturday night. Adding to the ignominy of the horrid start was offer-sheet boy Jesperi Kotkaniemi coming into town and scoring in his first appearance in Montreal as a member of the Carolina Hurricanes.
The excitement of reaching the Stanley Cup final last season is quickly evaporating. We forget that the Canadiens were a middling offensive team last season even in the woebegone Canadian Division. Their power-play was average. Everything came together in the playoffs on the back of Carey Price and a lockdown defence corps.
To say nothing has gone right would be an understatement. Price is yet to play a game after off-season knee surgery. It appears as though Shea Weber’s career is over thanks to lingering tendon issues in his ankle. Defenceman Joel Edmundson will be away from the team for an indeterminate amount of time as he deals with his father’s battle with lung cancer. We said it here, and we will repeat it, letting Phillip Danault go in free agency was a big mistake. His replacement, Jake Evans, has been a huge disappointment so far.
The Habs now embark on a four-game western road trip. Things may get worse before they get better.
St. Louis is emerging as the front-runner for the Sabres Jack Eichel. The saga has gone on long enough so you would think there’s some growing urgency to get a deal done. If I’m the Sabres, I would not take Vladimir Tarasenko off the Blues hands as part of any trade agreement.
Flyers veteran reporter Al Morganti revealed there have been talks between the Flyers and the Senators around Ottawa native Claude Giroux. Giroux is unsigned and will become a free agent next summer. The Sens are desperate for help down the middle but I don’t see where Giroux is the right fit.
Did you know that the Toronto Maple Leafs have sold out every game since the Second World War? Forbes now has the Leafs as the highest valued team in the NHL at two billion dollars. The Leafs value certainly has nothing to do with competitiveness. Last season, Leaf Nation was all giddy about the Leafs regular season success. We will remind you they played in a crappy Canadian division and had virtually no injuries. We will see how things work out this season when they have to travel and play in every NHL rink.
The early returns are not good. They gave up a touchdown in Pittsburgh on HNIC Saturday night. The giveaways were atrocious. Keep in mind, this was a Penguins team missing Crosby, Malkin, Carter and Letang. It sure looks like last spring’s monumental collapse has had a lasting impact on the mentally fragile Leafs.
The Leafs Mitch Marner will hold down the seventh highest cap hit in the NHL this season at close to $11 million. He has to be considered the most overpaid player in the league. Marner is the second highest paid winger in the league ahead of Patrick Kane, Ovechkin and Nikita Kucherov. He hasn’t scored a goal in 14 games. Marner has posted one measly assist in the Leafs first six games despite playing 22 minutes a night. He would be hard to trade. The Leafs, as a team, have scored only 12 goals in six games. What happened to the much ballyhooed offence?
The Edmonton Oilers are off to a fast start at 5-0 to start the season, Connor McDavid is on a 200+ point pace with 13 points in five games. The guy is a man on a mission. Zach Hyman was smart to hightail it out of Toronto. He already has five goals playing sidekick to McDavid. That’s more than Matthews, Marner, Nylander and Tavares combined. By the way, while everyone was quick to jump on the Oilers signing of Duncan Keith, we were on board. Keith’s been a big part of the Oilers quick start.
After losing at home to Anaheim, Flames dwarf Johnny Gaudreau said “We have to score more greasy goals.” They won’t be coming from him. He couldn’t find the front of the net with GPS.
The Canucks made a pitch in the off-season for free agent forward Danton Heinen from Langley, B.C. He signed instead with Pittsburgh and had goals in each of the Pens first three games.
Mike Sullivan is the winningest coach in Pittsburgh Penguins history. He needs to get more love as one of the best coaches in the NHL. No one gets more out of less.
Side bets that Chicago’s Jeremy Colliton is the first coach fired this season. The Blackhawks are off to a horrific start and Colliton is taking the heat. The Hawks were booed off the ice following their home opener. The Hawks opened up the vault in the off-season and acquired Seth Jones, Marc-Andre Fleury and Tyler Johnson and it’s had zero impact.
You have to like what’s going on in Florida. Getting stud centre Aleksander Barkov signed to a rich new contract is a massive step for the Panthers. They are a team to watch this season. Sam Reinhart is going to love playing with Barkov.
What’s up with Flyers goalie Carter Hart? He’s going to have to get his act together if he wants to get a call for Canada’s Olympic team. Hart posted an .877 save percentage last season and he’s looked shaky in his first few starts.
Red Wings forward Tyler Bertuzzi is reportedly the last NHL player yet to be vaccinated. What a proud accomplishment!
Kane Not Able – It was rather appropriate that Evander Kane was given a 21-game suspension by the NHL. It’s the perfect number considering how much money he’s lost playing blackjack. Kane will forfeit close to $1.7 million in salary after admitting he submitted a fake vaccination card to the Sharks. Did he think he was going to fool them?
Kane has been cleared of allegations made by his wife that he bet on NHL games and that she suffered domestic abuse. There’s still a big question mark whether he is persona non grata in his own dressing room. A lot of people think the NHL should have banned him from the league for good. Can the Sharks not break his contract because of a morals clause?
Now that Kane has been suspended for 21 games, he’ll have time to hit the casino. Trouble is, he’ll only be able to afford the ten cent slots.
MLB Post-Season – It will be Atlanta and Houston in the World Series. How can you not be cheering for Alex Anthopolous and the Braves? The cheating Houston Astros are off to the Fall Classic for the third time in five years. They got there thanks to some unexpectedly good pitching from a pair of rookies in ousting the Red Sox in six games. Luis Garcia and Framber Valdez along with Jose Urquidy helped silence the Red Sox in the final three games. Yordan Alvarez was named ALCS MVP. He had 12 hits in the series and simply wore the Red Sox out. Everything changed for the Red Sox when the umpire missed the call on a third strike in game four. The floodgates opened and the series took a dramatic shift.
Atlanta is heading to its first World Series since 1999. The Braves deserve full marks for knocking off the resigning World Series champion Dodgers. The NLCS has been a coming-out party for Austin Riley and Ozzie Albies among others. The World Series starts Tuesday night in Houston. We like the Braves in six in the World Series. Karma Baby!
Here’s some trivia for you. When Victoria’s Nick Pivetta started for the Red Sox in this year’s post-season, he became the eighth Canadian-born pitcher to start a major league playoff game. The others are Jeff Francis, Rich Harden, Kirk McCaskill, Ryan Dempster, Reggie Cleveland, James Paxton and Jameson Taillon.
Seahawks This Week – The much-maligned Seahawk defense showed signs of improvement in the loss at Pittsburgh. The Hawks D gave up an average of more than 450 yards in their first five games. Against the Steelers, they surrendered 345 yards. The good news is Pittsburgh passed for only 229 yards. Rookie Tre Brown replaced Sidney Jones at cornerback after Jones went down with an injury. Brown held up well and could be a long-term solution. The rookie corner was a fourth-round pick this year from Oklahoma.
At 2-4 and facing New Orleans at home on Monday night, you would think the Seahawks are toast. Maybe not. There are only six teams in the entire NFC with winning records. You could easily see playoff teams this year with nine wins.
Pete Carroll confirmed the Seahawks reached out to Cam Newton after Russell Wilson went down with the hand injury. Really? I thought the Seahawks had more commonsense than that. Apparently not. I wouldn’t let that nitwit near my locker room.
NFL Notebook – Washington owner Dan Snyder should have been banned from the NFL long ago. The misogynistic atmosphere around the organization has been well-documented. In the 23 years before he became owner, the team was 50 games over .500 in the regular season and won three Super Bowls in a 10-year span. In the 23 years of Snyder’s reign, Washington is 55 games under .500 and have only two wild-card wins in the playoffs.
The idea of gambling on fourth down when you can put points on the board doesn’t make sense. The Buffalo Bills could have kicked a field goal and forced overtime on Monday night against Tennessee. Instead, they go for it on fourth and one, get stopped, and lose the game. Dumb! Mike McCarthy is also under fire in Dallas for his decisions on fourth down.
Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen is the first player in NFL history to post 50+ touchdown passes and 25+ rushing touchdowns in his first 50 games. As good as those numbers are, he still need to prove he can win games when it counts the most.
The Seahawks found out first-hand about the greatness of T.J. Watt. The Steelers end was the difference-maker in overtime with a sack on the Seahawks first possession and a strip-sack on their second which resulted in the game-winning field goal. The guy’s a stud! How did he ever fall to 30th in the 2017 draft?
Speaking of difference-makers. How about cornerback Trevon Diggs of the Dallas Cowboys? He’s had seven interceptions in the Cowboys first six games, two of them for touchdowns. Diggs was a second-round steal in the 2020 NFL draft.
Rumours of a deal between Houston and Miami surrounding quarterback Deshaun Watson have surfaced again. The Texans would be crazy to center the deal around Tua Tagovailoa. The guy’s a bust. Watson can play and despite the baggage, he’ll get back at some point. He faces 22 civil suits and 10 criminal complaints stemming from multiple sexual assault allegations at Houston area massage clinics.
If the Cleveland Browns think they are going anywhere with Baker Mayfield at quarterback, they are sadly mistaken. Mayfield went first overall in 2018. If you were redoing that draft, there’s no doubt Josh Allen would be the number one pick. Mayfield’s teammate, Odell Beckham, is turning into another overblown bust. Has there ever been a player to garner more attention yet do so little? Beckham had 35 touchdowns in his first three seasons in the league. In his last five seasons, he’s had 16. What is it with these prima donna receivers in the NFL?
Pat Mahomes needs to stop trying to be Superman. The Kansas City Chiefs quarterback has thrown eight interceptions in six games. He threw a pair last Sunday against Washington. Both came inside the Chiefs 20-yard line. Against a better team, it could have cost the Chiefs the game.
It still seems inconceivable that Mark Davis and the Las Vegas Raiders would pay Jon Gruden $10 million per season and give him 10 years. In his last 10 seasons as a head coach, he had zero playoff wins.
Give New York Giants coach Joe Judge credit for accepting the blame for the team’s 1-5 start. Said Judge, “It’s my responsibility, point blank. Every player on this field, every position group, the execution, it all comes down to me. The fish stinks from the head down.” It’s sad what’s happened to that once-proud franchise.
Leftovers – The Toronto Raptors opened the NBA season on Wednesday night, playing their first home game in 19 months.They laid an egg against the Washington Wizards before rebounding in Boston with a 32-point beat down of the Celtics. It looks like the Raptors, on most nights, are going to be fun to watch. They forced the Celtics into 25 turnovers with some exceptional defense. The Raptors had 23 second-chance points to only 4 for Boston.
How can you watch Scottie Barnes and not come away thinking the Raptors have a superstar-in-the-making? He had 25 points and 13 rebounds against Boston despite not having a single play called for him. Can you say rookie-of-the-year?
Kitchener’s Jamal Murray will start the NBA season on the injury list. He’s still recovering from off-season surgery to repair a torn left ACL. You have to wonder how far the Denver Nuggets would have gone last season had Murray not been injured.
The Oklahoma City Thunder have banked 36 total draft choices over the next seven drafts including 18 in the first round and 18 in the second. They have ONE solid building block and that’s Canada’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the sublime point guard. He’s an absolute star. I would be trying to pry him out of there.
Charles Barkley is the best analyst on television today and that includes every sport. Loved his take on the Kyrie Irving situation in Brooklyn. Regarding Irving’s refusal to get vaccinated, Charles had this to say. “First of all, you don’t get the vaccine for yourself, you get it for other people,” he said. “I got vaccinated, I can’t wait to get the booster. You get vaccinated for your family first, you get vaccinated for your teammates second. That’s what bothers me about this whole thing.”
The CFL should award the Grey Cup to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers right now. Why bother playing the remainder of the season? The Bombers are head and shoulders ahead of every other team. The B.C. Lions got a first-hand lesson Saturday in Winnipeg. Final score: Bombers 45 Lions 0. It was men vs. boys.
When are we going to see the Atlantic Schooners in the CFL? They’re like a unicorn. We’ve heard about them but never actually seen one. It seems like the idea of CFL expansion to the Maritimes has been going on since the 70’s. Will they ever raise enough money to afford a franchise? Can’t they do a bottle drive or something? They’ve also never been able to build a stadium to accommodate a team. Maybe they can renovate a stadium in Antigonish. However, the fans will be required to leave their headlights on in the parking lot for night games.
The soccer world is still buzzing over the brilliance of Alphonso Davies and his incredible goal against Panama during World Cup qualifying. In case you missed it, here’s a recap of the goal which breaks down his amazing effort perfectly.
Good on Washington State University for taking a stand. The University terminated the contract of head football coach Nick Rolovich and four of his assistants for their refusal to be vaccinated. The state has a mandate that all public employees must receive a COVID-19 vaccination. Rolovich refused so he and his assistants were shown the door.
Spotify Songs of the Week – Here’s a few random selections from the Spotify vault for this week. Check out the Foo Fighters with guest Nora Jones performing “Virginia Moon” from their album In Your Honor.
From the remastered Mark Knopfler album Cannibal, check out “Tall Order Baby.”
Keb’ Mo’ has a new release entitled Good To Be. Have a listen to the track “Good Strong Woman featuring Darius Rucker.
Tri-Continental is a great blues-roots triumverate featurning Pender Island’s Lester Quitzau, Edmonton’s Bill Bourne and Toronto’s Madagascar Slim. Their latest is called Dust Dance. Check out their version of ”Stackerlee.”
And finally, some jazz from ‘The Very Best of Chris Botti. Edie Brickell delights on vocals on ”Like I Do Now.”
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