Under Further Review – Douglas Smith with Editor Bill Morphy and contributors Jordan Moss, Peter Hucul, and Bill & Glen Myles. This week, a hockey career in ruins, the Canucks fire blanks, No Wilson-No Chance and Pendrith seeks a Tour breakthrough.
Nightmare on Madison Street – Hockey culture. Here we go again. Sexual abuse. Racism. Concussions. The NHL is always out of step. The puckheads who run hockey haven’t changed and the Kyle Beach saga proves it. Hockey has barely evolved since the corruptive days of Alan Eagleson.
This is the story of a coordinated cover-up, plain and simple. It would have taken courage to bring the incident forward. Instead, Hawks management shamefully chose avoidance. To chase a Cup, they protected a predator. They put their own selfish interests ahead of the well-being of a young man whose life and hockey future would be ruined forever. His NHL dream taken away. Why should he now be toiling in a third division German League?
It’s sickening to think Beach was later the target of homophobic slurs in the dressing room and on the ice once word of the incident spread. Former Hawks Nick Boynton and Brent Sopel are both on record as saying everyone in the Hawks room was aware of the incident.
It’s inconceivable that Aldrich would have been allowed a day with the Stanley Cup. He reportedly took the Cup back to his hometown in Michigan and paraded it around at a local school. Can you believe that? The Blackhawks have requested that his name be removed from the Cup. How could that have even happened in the first place? The Hawks were so tone-deaf, Aldrich was presented with a Stanley Cup ring, attended the banner raising and walked away with a $15,000 severance.
Aldrich would go on to hold several positions in hockey including serving with USA Hockey and as President of Hockey Operations with Miami University. In October 2013, Aldrich was arrested and charged in Houghton, Mich., with third and fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct involving a minor. He pleaded guilty to fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct involving a minor two months later. In 2014, he was sentenced to serve nine months in jail and five years of probation. More victims. All thanks to the Blackhawks shameful inaction.
The fallout has been swift. Of the seven people in the meeting to discuss how to deal with the incident when it came to light, all are gone from the Blackhawks organization. GM Stan Bowman stepped aside knowing he would be fired. Joel Quenneville is out as coach of the Florida Panthers. Winnipeg GM Kevin Cheveldayoff was spared after a meeting with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. Have you heard a decent apology from any of them?
People forget that when the story broke earlier this year, the Blackhawks and the NHL both denied the report and claimed it was meritless. The NHL and the NHLPA both hoped the story would simply go away. NHLPA President Donald Fehr admitted the PA failed Beach. Geez, do you think so? Teflon Don should also be on the firing line. His way of dealing with things is – look the other way. This is systematic failure and it’s not the first time a player or players have been let down.
The NHL is and always has been an Old Boys Club. For decades, coaches and GM’s and front office personnel have been hired without proper background checks. When a GM or coach was hired, he would bring in an old teammate as part of the staff. No resume required. No references. We’re all one big family. Until there is more due diligence, nothing will change. It’s been 20 years since the Sheldon Kennedy sexual assault was revealed. Did anything change in the interim? The indifference tells you everything you need to know.
The Wirtz family will now try and settle the pending lawsuits filed against the team and put this sorry chapter to rest. Sadly, for Kyle Beach, the horrid memory can never be erased.
Canucks This Week – When the Canucks hit the ice at Rogers Arena on Wednesday night, it was their first game in front of the home fans in 595 days. Surprisingly, only eight players remain from the team that beat the New York Islanders in a shootout on March 10, 2020.
The Canucks top forwards continue to fire blanks. At the moment, the Canucks top-six forward group are generating five-on-five scoring chances and expected-goals at the worst rate in the league. Not a good sign! That HAS to change and soon!
Elias Pettersson is a ghost out there. He has only one even-strength point in eight games this season. His five-on-five production has fallen off a cliff. Overall, Pettersson has one goal and three assists on the season. His play looks awkward and his confidence is clearly in the tank. There was good effort on Saturday night against Edmonton but again, no results.
If the Canucks somehow land a playoff spot this season, it will be on the back of goaltender Thatcher Demko. He’s been a tower of strength in the early part of the season. Demko was absolutely lights out on Saturday night vs. the Oilers even though the Canucks dropped their third straight home game.
Rookie forward Vasily Podkolzin has been a healthy scratch on several occasions so far this season. It might not be a bad idea to give him a stint in Abbotsford. He could use more ice time. Still, you can’t tell me he’s not good enough to play on the Canucks fourth line.
The agent for rookie forward Danila Klimovich has given Quebec League teams permission to explore a trade for his playing rights. Klimovich has been playing in Abbotsford. He has not looked out of place in the AHL and may be better off remaining there considering all the resources available to him.
If you thought the prices were high at Rogers Arena, check out the F & B prices at Seattle’s new $1.15 billion dollar Climate Pledge Arena. The top priced item is the prime beef dip, which costs $24 USD (nearly $30 in Canadian dollars). A Starbucks coffee? That’s $10. Tea is $8. The cheapest beer available is $13. Local craft beer is $16.50. Even the water is expensive. Aquafina is $7. Something called “Life Water” runs you $9.
NHL Notebook – Look for the Florida Panthers to hire John Tortorella to replace Joel Quenneville. Tortorella has ties to Panther GM Bill Zito when both were with the Columbus Blue Jackets. The move makes total sense. The best move the Blackhawks could make is bringing Eddie Olczyk into the front office. His beloved in Chicago.
The Maple Leafs have signed Morgan Reilly to an eight-year, $60 million dollar extension. Just what they needed. Another bloated contract! This is a classic double-down, borne out of the Leafs lack of organizational depth along the blueline. Sorry, we’re not buying into the premise that Reilly would have cost more as a UFA next summer. How many teams would be willing to buck up $8 million on a player with serious defensive shortcomings?
Take it to the bank. This deal will not age well. All Dubas has done is make the job of his replacement a whole lot tougher. Toronto has already committed $75.3 million to 15 players for 2022-23. That leaves a little over $7 million to fill out the roster and that’s not including goaltender Jack Campbell who will be seeking a new deal. Good luck!
Bill Parcells was right when he said “you are what you’re record says you are.” That’s how we view the Leafs right now. Their hyped-up high-octane offence is 29th in the NHL at 1.86 goals per game. The powerplay is ranked 28th. The Leafs alleged shutdown defence pair, Justin Holl and Jake Muzzin, are a combined minus-15. In fact, every player on the team is a minus save for Reilly and Travis Dermott. The Leafs claim to be a speed team yet they sending out a plodding fourth line of Nick Ritchie, Jason Spezza and Wayne Simmonds. Beating Chicago and Detroit is no great feat. Let’s talk after they face Vegas, Tampa and Boston in the next week.
Have you noticed that the Maple Leafs have also failed miserably in developing goaltending in their system? How can you not prioritize that position in the draft? James Reimer is the last decent homegrown goalie they have drafted and that was back in 2006 and Reimer is certainly not top-tier. Since 2006, the Leafs have drafted seven goaltenders. Collectively, they have played a grand total of 38 games, 36 of them by long-forgotten Garret Sparks. In the off-season, the Leafs showed no interest in re-signing Frederik Andersen. He’s 6-0 with Carolina with a 1.50 GAA and a .956 save percentage. His back-up is Reimer and together they lead the NHL in GAA. Meantime, Petr Mrazek, who was signed to replace Andersen, has spent most of his time on injured reserve.
St. Louis has emerged as the front-runner in the Jack Eichel Sweepstakes. If a deal isn’t struck soon, it looks as though Eichel will submit a grievance with the Player’s Association in order to go ahead with disc replacement surgery in his neck. In order to make the numbers work, the Sabres will have to take a sizeable contract as part of any deal. Vladimir Tarasenko or Brayden Schenn will need to be included. Buffalo is sure to want a couple of young players off the roster and from the Blues system. Jordan Kyrou or Robert Thomas for sure. The Blues top prospects are Quebec League forward Zach Bolduc and Russian winger Ivan Vorobyov. Their top defence prospect is AHL blueliner Scott Perunovich who’s a strong puck mover but very small in stature. No sure any of that excites me!
Pierre-Luc Dubois is starting to take off with the Jets. He’s put up nine points in Winnipeg’s first seven games. Dubois is clicking with winger Kyle Connor, giving the Jets two dynamic scoring pairs up front with Mark Schiefele and Nik Ehlers.
It’s been a struggle so far for the Vegas Golden Knights. Injuries throughout the lineup have hampered the team. Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty are both out. Alex Tuch is on long-term IR. Defencemen Alex Martinez and Zach Whitecloud have both missed time. You can be sure Vegas will also take a run at Eichel.
Did you know that the Seattle Kraken’s COO is none other than Victor de Bonis? Yes, another example of the Canucks inability to hold onto talented front office personnel. De Bonis held the same position with the Canucks. Kraken CEO Tod Leiweke worked for the Canucks as well in the late 90’s.
In case you haven’t noticed, the Colorado Avalanche forward group is significantly thinned-out from last season and it’s doubtful the Avs will run away with the division again. Look for the Jets, Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues to challenge Colorado for the Central Division crown.
Braves on the Brink – The Atlanta Braves are just a win away from a World Series title. They erased a 2-0 deficit with back-to-back home runs in the seventh inning last night and escaped with a 3-2 victory and a 3-1 series lead. Game five is Sunday night in Atlanta and you can be sure the Braves don’t want to head back to Houston. Framber Valdez, who lost game one, will start for the Astros. The Braves will use a bullpen starter for the second consecutive game.
After Ronald Acuna Jr. tore his knee up in July and went down for the season, Braves President Alex Anthopolous went about remaking the Atlanta outfield and the results have paved the way for the Braves post-season success. The Braves acquired four outfielders in separate deals – Jorge Soler, Joc Pederson, Eddie Rosario and Adam Duvall. What’s amazing is Anthopolous gave up very little prospect capital in any of the transactions. The acquisitions were pivotal in helping the Braves reach the World Series for the first time since ’99. It reminds you of AA’s frenetic deadline work in 2015 with the Blue Jays when he acquired Troy Tulowitzki, LaTroy Hawkins, David Price, Mark Lowe and Ben Revere and helped the Jays end a 21-year post-season drought.
Soon-to-be former Blue Jays second baseman Marcus Semien has hired super-agent Scott Boras to negotiate his next contract. The suitors are already lining up. As the prize free agent, Semien may land the biggest deal of this off-season.
Seahawks This Week – No Wilson. No Carson. No Chance. Can things get any worse for the Seahawks? They are winless in three home games following Monday night’s loss to New Orleans. It’s the Hawks first 0-3 start since ’92 when the team won two games all season.
Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith did his best Russell Wilson imitation and that’s holding onto the ball too long. The Saints came into the game with only eight sacks in the first five games yet put Geno on the ground five times. Take away the 84-yard touchdown to D.K. Metcalf and Smith had only 83 yards passing.
So much for the Seahawks attempts to run the football. Alex Collins, Rashaad Penny and Travis Homer combined for 58 yards on 23 carries. They had one run of over ten yards. Penny is clearly another Seahawk draft bust. He has missed nearly as many games (26) as he’s played (28) in his career.
Pete Carroll refuses to adjust the game plan to fit the opponent. Why stick to the run game against a Saints defense that came into the game ranked fifth in the NFL against the run? At what point do you say this isn’t working and make adjustments? It shows a total lack of creativity, something we thought we would see from new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron. The tight ends were targeted only three times on Monday night.
The Seahawk defense is completely unable to stop screen plays. Saints running back Alvin Kamara shredded them for 128 yards on ten catches. Good teams don’t continue to take bonehead penalties week after week. Penalties to Marquise Blair and Al Woods on the Saints final drive allowed New Orleans to kick the winning field goal.
The Seahawks pass rush remains anemic. Seattle re-signed Carlos Dunlap and Benson Mayowa this offseason and added Kerry Hyder Jr. to the mix. That trio has combined for just two sacks. Star safety Jamal Adams, the highest-paid safety in football, has no sacks after leading the Seahawks with 9.5 a year ago.
NFL Notebook – After watching Kyler Murray on Thursday night, he falls into the category of quarterbacks who still have something to prove. Add Murray to the list that includes Josh Allen of the Bills and Lamar Jackson of the Ravens. Murray is incredibly talented but let’s see if he can win big games when it counts the most. The media is great at anointing players before they’ve won a single playoff game. Watching the Packers and Cardinals shows once again the gap between quarterbacks like Murray and a future Hall of Famer like Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers was without his top receiver Devante Adams and it didn’t make a difference.
From the Told-You-So department – the Cardinals announced that J.J. Watt is headed for shoulder surgery and is done for the season. This was SO predictable. Over the past six seasons, Watt has had years where he’s played 4, 5, 7 and 8 games. The Cardinals were brain-dead to sign Watt to a two-year, $28 million dollar deal in the off-season, of which $23 million is guaranteed.
It’s time to start giving the Cincinnati Bengals some love. The Bengals are 5-2 and could easily be 6-1, save for the game they gifted to the Packers. The 41-17 beatdown of the Ravens on Sunday in Baltimore was impressive. The Cincinnati defense is top five. They sacked Lamar Jackson five times on Sunday. Receiver Ja’Marr Chase is the runaway AFC rookie of the year to this point. He torched the Ravens for eight catches for 201 yards and a touchdown. Chase is averaging 21.5 yards per reception this season. He has more yards after seven games, 754, than any rookie receiver in NFL history. By the way, since Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow led the team to the national championship, LSU is 9-9.
The Kansas City Chiefs lead the NFL in turnovers. They’ve coughed up the ball 17 times including three more last Sunday vs. the Titans. Quarterback Pat Mahomes threw only five picks in 2019. He tossed six interceptions in 2020. He’s thrown nine in seven games this season. The Chiefs defense can’t stop anyone. K.C. has given up an average of 32.8 points in losses to four AFC rivals, the Chargers, Titans, Bills and Ravens. The Chiefs are dead last in defensive EPA at minus-9.2 per game. According to Peter King, that means their defense, both in the field position it yields and the actual points it allows, puts the team in a nine-point hole relative to how a typical defense performs, every week on average. Over the past decade, only the 2015 Saints (minus-10.8) and 2020 Detroit Lions (-10.5) have been worse defensively. This is not a quick fix.
Can we now stop any talk that Sam Darnold is the answer at quarterback for the Carolina Panthers? The Panthers have dropped four straight after a 3-0 start. Darnold has thrown eight picks. He’s averaging only 4.4 yards per attempt. Brutal!
Tom Brady is the first quarterback in NFL history to pass for 600 touchdowns. At 602, he’s 182 ahead of Dan Marino who held the record for most TD passes for 22 years. Brady has more than twice as many touchdown passes as John Elway. Hard to fathom.
The Denver Broncos are not officially for sale but… Pat Bowlen’s seven kids are bickering and there’s no succession plan. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos says he’s not interested in purchasing the team. The $2 billion dollar cost would barely put a dent in his fortune. Look for Bezos to step up once the Broncos are for sale.
On the subject of succession plans, are the Broncos EVER going to find a quarterback who can actually play? Teddy Bridgewater is the current placeholder. The Broncos have dragged out Drew Lock, Joe Flacco, Case Keenum, Paxton Lynch, Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler, Tim Tebow, Kyle Orton and Jay Cutler. Peyton Manning was a stop-gap and helped them to the Super Bowl. The rest have been garbage. Denver can only hope Aaron Rodgers wants out of Green Bay this off-season.
The NFL trade deadline is Tuesday. Traditionally, it has not been that active. It will be interesting to see if any of the top contending teams choose to make a deal. The Seahawks should think long and hard about unloading some veterans before the deadline. It’s time they started recouping some draft picks.
CFL Notebook – The quality of play in the CFL is at an all-time low. At 10-1, the Winnipeg Blue bombers are head and shoulders above every other team in the league and it’s not even close. Winnipeg is so dominant they have allowed only six, yes, six points in the fourth quarter all season. The Bombers have a +178-point differential. That’s +135 better than the next-best team. No other CFL club has a record better than 6-4. Three teams – B.C., Ottawa and Edmonton – are absolute bottom-feeders. Six of the nine teams are scoring less than 23 points per game. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect on player procurement. The league, as a whole, needs to do a better job this off-season in attracting quality players to the CFL.
It seems like almost every quarterback in the league has played on multiple teams. The quarterbacks move around like chess pieces. Argos QB Nick Arbuckle was traded to Edmonton this week, his third team in four years. Trevor Harris has made stops in Toronto, Ottawa, Edmonton and now Montreal. Even Winnipeg’s Zach Collares has bounced around to four different teams. Nothing lasts long in the CFL and that’s a big part of the problem.
Leftovers – Marriage seems to be suiting PGA Tour rookie Taylor Pendrith from Richmond Hill, Ontario. On Friday, Pendrith fired a career-low 10-under par 61 at the Butterfield Bermuda Championship just two weeks after getting married. He followed it up with a 6-under 65 on Saturday and will carry a three-stroke lead into Sunday’s final round as he seeks his first Tour victory in just his fourth start. It would be worth $1.17 million. It would also give Pendrith a two-year exemption and a trip to the Masters. Surrey’s Adam Svensson is in line for his best finish. He’s posted three straight rounds of 68 and is tied for 10th spot.
In case you missed it, in its wisdom the PGA Tour has instituted a newly created Player Impact Program (PIP), which allocates $40 million annually to the top-10 performers in “Impact Score,” a rating that measures players’ social media and internet visibility. With 6.5 million followers on Twitter and another 2.7 million on Instagram, Tiger Woods started with the equivalent of a three-shot lead heading to the back nine on a Sunday afternoon.
Sports Illustrated projects the PGA Tour will be cutting Woods a cheque for $7.97 million even though he hasn’t participated in a tournament since November of 2020 as a result of the single-car crash in February that left Woods with multiple foot and ankle injuries. Tiger will end up raking in more dough than Jon Rahm who led the Tour in prize money with earnings of $7,705,933. That just doesn’t sit well!
The Toronto Star reported this week that Edward Rogers made a concerted back-door effort to fight the new contract given to Raptors President Masai Ujiri. Rogers is chairman of the company that bears his name. Rogers argued that Ujiri was not worth the top-of-the-market deal he negotiated to remain with the team. Ultimately, Ujiri stayed thanks to his strong relationship with several members of the MLSE board including Raptors Governor Larry Tanenbaum. Rogers reportedly went so far as to appeal to the NBA to try and stop the deal. He also called Ujiri to tell him he wasn’t worth the money he was seeking. Class act!
It’s looking more and more like Ujiri and the Raptors made the right move in drafting Scottie Barnes. Many expected the Raps to draft Jalen Suggs with the fourth overall pick. Instead, they selected Barnes. Suggs went one pick later to Orlando. So far, Barnes is outplaying Suggs by a wide margin. He’s averaging 17 PPG. Suggs is averaging only 11.6. He’s out-rebounding Suggs 8.2 to 3.6. There’s a big gap in field-goal percentage – 53.7% to 28.6%. In their first face-to-face meeting on Friday night, Barnes finished with a career-best 21 points and nine rebounds on 9-of-14 shooting. Barnes reminds me of Scottie Pippen, only taller and just as explosive. He’s quickly established himself as a crowd favourite. Five years from now, we may be saying Barnes is not only better than Suggs, he’s the best player from the entire 2021 NBA draft.
In our present-day world of political correctness, it’s important to have people out there who still tell it like it is. Take Ben Shapiro for example. He took to the airwaves to carve up the WNBA’s championship parade which was witnessed by a precious few.
Spotify Songs of the Week – We have a few off-the-cuff suggestions this week. We got a kick out of a tune by Elizabeth Cook entitled El Camino. It’s worth a quick listen.
Adia Victoria is an interesting artist worth checking out. We recommend the song South Gotta Change and Different Kind of Love from the release Silences.
We always have to throw in a little blues. How about Alabama Bound by Mick Clarke. We also suggest the title track from an album from Gene Harris and Jack McDuff called Down Home Blues.
Have a listen to No One Above You by Marcus King and Eric Krasno from an album entitled Highway Butterfly.
Also, Just Lucky I Guess from a band called Delta Moon.
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