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Under Further Review – Douglas Smith with Editor Bill Morphy and contributions from Jordan Moss and Bill Myles. This week, the Hockey Canada mess, a cross-Canada NHL check-up, the Jays collapse and other tidbits from a busy time in sports. 

Removing the Stench – The walls have finally crumbled around Hockey Canada. The CEO, interim chair and entire board of directors have stepped down. It was long overdue in the wake of sexual assault claims against two World Junior teams. The pressure has been ratcheting up for weeks.

Any credibility remaining went out the window long ago. Hockey Canada mishandled the mess from the get-go. After dropping their support, Bauer Hockey CEO Ed Kinally told the Globe & Mail he was unimpressed after meeting with Hockey Canada brass in late August.  “They came across as trying to convince us that there were going to be blue skies ahead, but they didn’t have anything concrete to demonstrate their willingness, let alone a strategy, that would change the current dynamic,” Kinnaly said.

Bauer vice-president of global marketing Mary-Kay Messier added, “It felt a lot more like a PR plan than an action plan. It seemed more like self-preservation versus serving the Canadian people. For us it was a complete disconnect in any openness to thinking about radical change.”

How’s this for a list of sponsors who have withdrawn their support: Bauer Hockey, Esso, Nike, Tim Hortons, Telus, BDO, Sobeys, Swiss Chalet, The Keg, Skip the Dishes, Canadian Tire and Scotiabank. Canadian Tire announced it has severed ties permanently.

TSN deserves a lot of credit for its investigative reporting around the Hockey Canada scandal. Rick Westhead, in particular, continues to do outstanding work. As the rights holder for the World Junior Hockey Championship, TSN stands to take a heavy financial hit as a result of the scandal. Many of the companies who have dropped their Hockey Canada sponsorships are also TSN advertisers and it’s hard to see a scenario where they will be airing spots on TSN during this year’s World Junior tournament.

NHL 2022-2023 Preview – Canadian Edition – Before we get into this, let’s make one thing clear, the Toronto Maple Leafs are going to win the Stanley Cup this year, guaranteed right? Isn’t that a foregone conclusion? Amnesiac Leaf lickers have had a chance to forget all about the team’s latest collapse and are now ready to ride a new wave to Fantasy Land. Let’s start out west and move east.

Vancouver Canucks – The Canucks head into their 52nd season and need no reminder they are still looking for the elusive first Stanley Cup.

All things considered it was a fairly quiet off-season for the Canucks. The dollar crunch all around the NHL prevented the front office from making any impact deals. Whether the Canucks can wheel back the same blueline and land a playoff spot is the million-dollar question.

Bruce Boudreau has already gone out on a limb and laid down the gauntlet by saying “Not making the playoffs would be a big disaster for us, as a team and individually.”  From the front office on down, it’s all about changing the culture and instilling accountability.

The biggest off-season move, and somewhat unexpected, was the signing of J.T. Miller to a rich, new seven-year contract. His 99-points last season was top ten in the league. It’s doubtful he will match that total this year. Defensively, there’s still warts in Miller’s game.

Elias Pettersson seems poised for a huge season. He turned things around once the coaching change was made last season. If he can stay healthy, Pettersson should start showing his full potential.

With the addition of Russians Andrei Kuzmenko and Ilya Mikheyev, the Canucks forward group is deeper and more potent. The fourth line with newcomers Dakota Joshua and Curtis Lazar should provide the size and jam missing last season. Internal growth from Vasily Podkolzin and Nils Hoglander would be hugely helpful. The penalty-killing unit, which was such a disaster early last season, has a chance to be much better this year.  It will have to be.

The Canucks fate will come down to the defense corps and the team’s ability to defend. There are injury concerns on the back end to start the season with Tyler Myers and Travis Dermott both missing. Nothing has been done to upgrade the right side of the defense which ranks among the worst in the league. Sorry, the Quinn Hughes experiment is not happening.  Overall team speed is still lacking. Can the Canucks match the pace of the NHL’s top teams?

It’s going to be a watershed year in Vancouver. Is the core that looked so promising a few years ago strong enough to carry the team to the playoffs? We’re about to find out. From our vantage point, the Canucks still look like a borderline playoff wager. They will probably ride on the back of Thatcher Demko to wildcard contention but fall just short again.

Calgary Flames – No team underwent more profound change in the off-season than the Calgary Flames. Are they better? We’re about to find out. Gone are two-thirds of what was arguably the most productive line in hockey. In comes Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar who were immediately awarded lavish new contracts. Toss in the free agent signing of Nazem Kadri and you have a fresh, new lineup with massive expectations.

All sounds good to the media hordes. When you look closer at the lineup, you wonder where the goals are going to come from. When Tyler Toffoli is your top right-winger, you have reason to pause. Both Kadri and incumbent top center Elias Lindholm will be working with brand new wingers. It may take some time for the chemistry to work.

Make no mistake.  Huberdeau is not chopped liver. He had a career-high 115 points last season, the same as Johnny Gaudreau, in two fewer games. That total trailed only Connor McDavid. Huberdeau’s 85 assists led the league. Huberdeau is an elite talent. But is he a winning hockey player?

The defense pairings should be better with the addition of Weegar. A top four of Weegar, Noah Hanifan, Rasmus Andersson and Chris Tanev is very solid. The goaltending should be above average with Jacob Markstrom but it would help if he doesn’t have to play 60 games. Markstrom faded down the stretch last season and was shelled (.852 save percentage) in the playoff series loss to the arch-rival Edmonton Oilers. What should have been a strength turned into a liability.

Having Kadri as a number two center should help with the matchup against the Oilers. McDavid and Draisaitl had their way against the Flames in the playoffs. That must change for the Flames to have any hope of reaching the conference final. Credit Flames GM Brad Treliving for his off-season maneuvering. Not many teams can lose their top two players and still carry on.

Trouble is, Treliving’s work isn’t done. The Flames still need to somehow carve out additional cap space in order to add additional scoring on the right side. Otherwise, we don’t see the Flames advancing past the first round. One thing is for sure however, Darryl Sutter will get every ounce of energy out of this group.

Edmonton Oilers – There is much optimism in Edmonton and for good reason. The Oilers are finally starting to accumulate the kind of depth necessary for true contention. It helps when you have a juggernaut one-two punch like Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.

McDavid is in a stratosphere all his own. His 123 points last season led the league for the second year in a row and fourth time in the last six seasons. It looks as though the Oilers will start the season with McDavid, Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins centering separate lines. However, there will be times when McDavid and Draisaitl line up together especially when the Oilers trail.

For the Oilers, it will come down to defense and goaltending. The team was exposed in the conference final last season when the Oilers were swept away by the Colorado Avalanche. Jack Campbell arrives from Toronto to take over in goal. His underlining numbers are questionable so we will find out quickly if he’s the answer. The Oilers are paying $9 million dollars to Darnell Nurse to be a #1 defenseman. He made strides last year defensively but we question the value. The Oilers are counting on further development from Evan Bouchard.

Up front, the Oilers are starting to fill the gaps and create a much deeper forward group. It looks like rookie Dylan Holloway has earned a job in the top-six, shunting underachieving Jesse Puljujarvi down the lineup. The Oilers may now actually be able to roll out four decent lines.

The cast around the Oilers big pair needs to step up. In recent years, the support just hasn’t been there. If the pieces fit, the Oilers should have the opportunity to return to the conference final this season.

Winnipeg Jets – The Jets always seems to look good on paper but rarely deliver. It’s not as though there isn’t talent on this team. The core is decent but it never seems to translate into results. The Jets are the ultimate bubble team – caught in the middle – good enough to contend for the playoffs most years but with little hope of advancing past the first round.

If you were projecting where they will end up this season, mark them down for about 85-88 points and sixth place in the Central Division. It’s time the Jets took a serious look at where they’re at and where they are headed. We’ve been overestimating the Jets for what seems like forever. It’s time to stop pretending they are more than what they are. The Jets seem to be caught in some kind of middle-of-the-pack purgatory where they are just a little too good to land a top lottery pick.

The biggest question in Winnipeg surrounds the impact of new coach Rick Bowness. Can he bring some defensive structure to the Jets without completely supressing the offence? Bowness wasted no time shaking up the locker room. He stripped Blake Wheeler of the captaincy in an apparent wake-up call to veteran players.

What was once a young group is now an aging lineup and that may be part of the problem. Mark Scheifele will be 30 in March and there’s growing criticism about his overall 200-foot game. Pierre-Luc Dubois gives the Jets a nice one-two punch at center but it’s obvious he has no plans to stay in the Peg long-term.

Kyle Connor is one of the top snipers in the league. What’s lost is the fact he’s a nightmare defensively. Someone pegged him Phil Kessel 2.0 and they couldn’t be more correct. Nikolai Ehlers is the better all-around player as long as he can stay healthy.

Depth-wise, the Jets bottom six forward group has taken several hits. The loss of Andrew Copp at last year’s trade deadline was a major setback. The once plentiful farm system has dried up. Connor Hellebuyck is considered to be one of the top two or three goaltenders in the league but doesn’t always play like it.

If things are going to turn around this season, it starts with a greater commitment to defense. The Jets were atrocious last season 5-on-5. The challenge for Bowness is getting the team to buy into a tighter style of play. Like the Canucks, the best-case scenario for the Jets is to land one of the final playoff spots in the Western Conference.

Toronto Maple Leafs – Of course hopes are high in Toronto. Collective amnesia will do that. The regular season is not the problem. Over the past two seasons, the Leafs posted the two best regular-season point percentages in club history.

In Toronto, it’s all about the Core Four. Auston Matthews popped in 60 goals and won the Hart Trophy. Mitch Marner put up a career-best 97 points. William Nylander had 34 goals and 80 points.

The Leafs rode a wide-open offense on most nights. They had the #1 power-play in the league. They had the highest goals-per-game rate (3.80). It added up to 115 points despite middle-of-the-pack goaltending. Jack Campbell and the Leafs back-up’s combined for an .887 save percentage which ranked 27th in the league. This probably accounts for why the Leafs chose to reshape their goaltending in the off-season. Whether it’s any better this season is open for debate.

In comes Matt Murray from Ottawa and Ilya Samsonov from Washington. The Leafs are banking on some kind of miracle resurrection from Murray who’s been in decline for years. He’s also been injury-prone. The chances of Murray playing 50+ games is unlikely. That leaves Samsonov to fill the gap and that’s a big ask.

When you dive deeper into the Leafs roster, the biggest missing piece is the lack of a true #1 defenseman. Every Cup winner has one and with apologies to Morgan Rielly, it’s the Leafs missing link. The right side of the Leafs blueline is nothing to write home about. Speed on the back end along with an inability to defend the front of the net continues to plague the team when it counts most.

The salary cap is a major headache in Toronto. The bottom-six forward group has been cobbled together with low-rent free agent signings. It’s worked to some extent but depth is a big concern. The Leafs have been injury-free over the past few seasons. If that changes, look out. John Tavares is clearly trending downward. If the Leafs had any center depth, Tavares would be better served moving to left wing.

The Leafs will always be overrated. That’s the nature of the beast in Toronto. The Leafs should breeze into the playoffs as one of the top seeds in the East, perhaps even avoiding a first-round matchup with Tampa Bay.

Remember last year when the Maple Leafs were featured in the Amazon documentary “All or Nothing?”  It suits them perfectly.  The All is the regular season. The Nothing is the playoffs.  Fifty-five years of futility is daunting in any market. In Toronto, it’s a burden too heavy to overcome.

Ottawa Senators – The rebuild is officially over in Ottawa. The Senators have moved into the contention phase and with it, expectations grow. General manager Pierre Dorion had a highly productive off-season. Winning the summer means nothing unless there’s progress on the ice in the fall.

The young core is certainly in place. In fact, the Senators can now roll out a top-six forward group that matches up with almost any team in the NHL. The trade for Blackhawks winger Alex DeBrincat brings 40-goal potential. At 34, Ottawa native Claude Giroux was a risky free agent signing but he should fit in with emerging star Tim Stutzle. The Sens are certainly counting on it. Mix in a top line of Josh Norris, Brady Tkachuk and Drake Batherson and there’s plenty to get excited about.

Coach D.J. Smith is under the microscope with expectations rising. The Senators have missed the playoffs for five straight seasons. We’re talking about a team that hasn’t cleared the 75-point barrier. If the Sens start slowly, Smith could be the first coach fired this season.

The goaltending figures to be around league average with Anton Forsberg and newly-acquired Cam Talbot. A potential third line of Alex Formenton, Shane Pinto and Mathieu Joseph could be sneaky good. The fourth line provides little offense and needs improvement.

There’s still plenty of room for improvement along the blueline behind the top pairing of Thomas Chabot and Artem Zub. The Senators are banking on a smooth transition from Jake Sanderson, the No. 5 pick in the 2020 draft. Expect Sanderson to solidify a spot in the top four by Christmas, if not sooner. He has the tools to be another core piece. The rest of the defense is replacement-level. No wonder there’s talk of the Sens trading for further help on the blueline.

Regardless, it’s going to be a fun season in the Nation’s Capital. The Senators are suddenly going to be a ‘tough out’ on most nights. With a little luck, they could be knocking on the playoff door as soon as this year.

Montreal Canadiens – Montreal fans should brace themselves for another really rough season. At least there’s a franchise-altering talent on the horizon in next summer’s draft in Connor Bedard. Oh, how lovely he would look in a Canadiens uniform! While it may be a struggle for the Habs, we don’t see them in the same woeful category as the Blackhawks and Coyotes.

Last season saw a catastrophic fall from Stanley Cup Final to last place overall. It’s going to be a long uphill climb back into contention with a roster cluttered with bloated contracts. The Canadiens would probably just love to move the clock ahead one year right now and get Paul Byron ($3.4M), Jonathan Drouin ($5.5M), Evgeni Dadonov ($5M) and Sean Monahan ($6.375M) off the ledger. That’s a hefty chunk of dead wood. Trouble is, there’s more. Mike Hoffman has two years remaining at $4.5M. Christian Dvorak has three years left at $4.45M. Joel Armia is signed for three more at $3.4M and worse yet, Josh Anderson ($5.5M) and Brandan Gallagher ($6.5M) both have five years left on their contracts. It’s not that these players are all bad but they certainly fall into the category of underperforming value.

After going winless in the exhibition schedule, it’s hard to think the Canadiens will improve more than 10-15 points on last year’s dreadful 55-point campaign even with the bump provided by the coaching of Martin St. Louis.

Nick Suzuki is the new offensive focal-point. Armed with the captaincy and a fat, new contract, expectations in Montreal will be high. The Canadiens are hopeful Suzuki can center a top line along with youngsters Cole Caufield and Juraj Slafkovsky, the reward for finishing dead last.

The Canadiens have been seeking a top center for what seems like time immemorial. Kirby Dach, picked up from Chicago in the off-season, should help. Dvorak was a huge disappointment in his first year in Montreal. Dvorak was another Marc Bergevin parting gift.

It’s gets worse. The blueline is a veritable disaster area. Shea Weber, Jeff Petry, Alex Romanov, Ben Chiarot and Brett Kulak are all gone from the Cup Final team. What’s left is shaky from the top down. It appears as though Joel Edmundson and David Savard will be the Canadiens shutdown pair. Don’t be surprised to see three or four rookie defensemen make appearances over the course of the season led by smooth-skating Kaiden Guhle. He’s a keeper and figures to be a big part of the Canadiens future. Carey Price remains on LTIR and is no longer around to steal points in goal. Instead, it’s Jake Allen and a prayer.

The key to the Canadiens season is to find a balance between developing the young talent on the roster while remaining bad enough to be in the Bedard sweepstakes. If they can pull that off, it will be a successful season.

Canucks Notebook – Here we go again. Another Jim Benning parting gift. You will remember the Canucks surrendered a third-round pick to acquire Jason Dickinson from the Dallas Stars with the idea they would turn him into a third-line checking center. We know how that worked out. He couldn’t check. He couldn’t kill penalties. He couldn’t score. Yes, he couldn’t do much of anything. Now, the new regime has coughed up a second-round pick to dump Dickinson’s contract on Chicago. The Canucks receive defenseman Riley Stillman as part of the deal. We’ll see how that works out. Can’t say I like a defenseman named Still-Man.

Let’s review. Thanks to Jim Bob’s frivolous ways, the Canucks were without first and second-round picks in the 2020 draft. They were missing a first, third and fourth in 2021, and in 2022, they were without a second-round pick. Need we remind and Canuck fan that Thatcher Demko and Nils Hoglander were second-round picks?

It would be much easier to stomach this deal if the Canucks had a strong prospect pool. They don’t. Elite Prospects recently rated the Canucks system 28th overall in the league. That’s the result of years of trading draft picks. At some point, the bill comes due.

Had the Canucks retained Dickinson, and perhaps even sent him to the minors, they would have been on the hook for close to $6 million over the next two seasons. The deal saves Francesco Aquilini $3.25 million in cash. Buying Dickinson out next summer would only have saved $1 million in real dollars. Stillman will cost the Canucks $2.7 million over the next two years. While the trade helps carve out $1.3 million in cap space this year and next, the real reason the deal was completed is it removes a good chunk of money off Francesco’s bottom line.

There’s probably a path for the Canucks to re-up Bo Horvat but you have to wonder if it’s in the plans. The Ferland contract and the Holtby-Virtanen buyouts will be off the books next summer, opening up an additional $5.9 million in cap space. If something isn’t announced before the start of the season, the Canucks may be heading in a different direction with their captain.

NHL Notebook Have you noticed the lineups that were thrown on the ice for NHL pre-season games? Talk about a pile of garbage. Some of the split-squad lineups were brutal. Imagine being a season-ticket holder and having to pay for this crap? If Gary Bettman had a spine, he would force teams to ice a better product. 

The number of top-notch veteran players who may be out with injuries to start the NHL season is astounding. Check the names – Charlie McAvoy, Brad Marchand and Matt Grzelcyk of the Bruins, John Tavares, Sean Couturier, Max Pacioretty, Anthony Cirelli, Nick Backstrom, Tom Wilson and Anthony Duclair.

Word from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman that the NHL could see a sharp increase in the salary cap over the next few seasons as the league recovers from the economic impact brought on by the pandemic. According to sources, the cap could jump to $88 million as early as 2024-25 and to $92 million the following year.  GM’s must be tipping a glass in celebration.

While the middle-class has been squeezed, top-end players are still making out pretty well. You have to wonder how much longer it will take for an NHL player to hit the $15 million dollar mark in annual salary. For this season, the top earner is Tyler Seguin of the Dallas Stars who’s set to make $13 million. According to the way contracts are structured, here’s the NHL’s Top 10 highest paid for this year:

  1. Tyler Seguin – $14M
  2. Artemi Panarin – 12.5M
  3. Alexander Barkov – $12M
  4. Sergei Bobrovsky – $12M
  5. Erik Karlsson – $12M
  6. Connor McDavid – $12M
  7. Darnell Nurse – $12M
  8. Drew Doughty – $11M
  9. Adam Fox – $11M
  10. Andrei Vasileveskiy – $11M

The federal government has warned Canadian hockey players that playing in Russia this season comes at great risk. No kidding! Some 48 Canadians are currently playing in the KHL.  Canada has pumped almost a billion dollars into military and humanitarian support of the Ukraine war effort and you can be sure that Putin and his henchmen have taken notice. In a government statement, Global Affairs Canada said, “If they are in Russian or Belarus, they should leave now. Our ability to provide consular services may become extremely limited.” Don’t know about you but I would be high-tailing it out of there.

No Ondrej Palat. No Jan Rutta. No Ryan McDonagh. Anthony Cirelli is out until December. How long can the Tampa Bay Lightning keep taking roster hits before their competitive window finally closes? I guess as long as you have Stamkos, Kucherov, Point, Hedman and Vasilevskiy, you will always be in the mix.

The Florida Panthers also lost a boatload of talent in the off-season. Huberdeau, Giroux, Weegar, Chiarot, Marchment have all excited the Sunshine State. Duclair is out until the New Year. We have a hard time believing the Panthers will be better this season even with the addition of Matthew Tkachuk.

The Seattle Kraken have a chance to be much-improved this season. Matty Beniers and Shane Wright should inject some life into the offence. The off-season addition of Andre Burakovsky and Oliver Bjorkstrand along with the return to health of Brandon Tanev should add additional punch. If Philipp Grubauer can rebound and provide decent goaltending, the Kraken should be a lot more competitive.

Look out for the New York Rangers. If they can get continued improvement from the kids in their lineup – Alexis Lafreniere, Kaapo Kakko and Filip Chytil – this is going to be a very difficult team to unseat. Vincent Trocheck was a nice, under-the-radar add in the off-season. It also helps to have Vezina Trophy winner Igor Shesterkin between the pipes.

So much attention was paid to the Ottawa Senators and the Calgary Flames here in Canada during the off-season and for good reason. Both teams accomplished some great things. But how about Steve Yzerman in Detroit? Stevie Y managed to surround his young core with several solid veterans including David Perron, Andrew Copp, Ville Husso, Ben Chiarot, Olli Maata and Dominik Kubalik. It will be interesting to see if the Wings can progress.

If I were the agent for Conor Bedard, I would pull an Eric Lindros and refuse to report if picked first overall next summer by the Arizona Coyotes. No way I would let Bedard play for that horse-bleep organization. Can you imagine having to waste the first three or four years of your career playing in a 5,000-seat college arena for an organization that barely spends enough money to get to the salary cap floor?  F*#K THAT!

The other big dumpster fire underway is in Philadelphia where the once-proud Flyers are a laughingstock. Like ‘em or not, they used to be a model franchise. No team in the NHL is in greater need of a full-scale makeover. The Flyers are a salary cap mess with numerous, underachieving players on bloated, long-term contracts. I would be backing up the truck in Philly and tearing it down to the studs.

Expect Torts to toss things upside down.

Ottawa Senator fans are clamoring for the team to make a deal with Arizona for Coyotes defenceman Jeff Chychrun, figuring he’s the missing piece needed on the Sens blueline. Not sure that would be a great idea considering his injury history. Chychrun is yet to play a full season in his first six years in the league. He’s had wrist and shoulder surgeries, two knee surgeries including a torn ACL as well as bone spurs removed from his ankle. At 24, Chychrun is damaged goods and that may be the biggest reason the Coyotes have yet to receive a decent offer.

We’re not buying stock in the New Jersey Devils just yet. Yes, they are starting to put together some nice pieces but don’t expect the Devils to make a big jump in the standings with Vitek Vanecek and MacKenzie Blackwood in goal. You can put Buffalo and Detroit in the same category. Show us playoff-calibre goaltending and then we can talk.

The NHL needs to think twice about having Conn Smythe’s name on the trophy awarded to the playoff MVP. Smythe famously refused to sign Herb Carnegie because he was black. The Maple Leafs owner claimed he would give someone $10,000 if they could “turn Carnegie white.” Not a fan of the whole ‘Woke’ movement but the Wayne Gretzky Trophy sounds better to me.

Media covering the Maple Leafs must live in some alternate universe. Sportsnet was reporting the Leafs were seeking a trade for veteran Wayne Simmonds who ended up on waivers. The Leafs would have a better chance of getting something for Richard Simmons than Wayne Simmonds.

Watching the CBC documentary Summit ’72 on the iconic Canada-Soviet hockey series, we were reminded that there was a 16-day break between the games played in Canada and the Soviet Union. It gave Team Canada pause to catch their breath, improve conditioning and take advantage of a pair of exhibition games in Sweden.

Canada would lose Game 5 in Moscow before rallying back to win the final three games with Paul Henderson scoring the winning goal in each of them. People also forget Canada trailed Game 8 by a score of 5-3 entering the third period. Fifty years on, the series is still indelibly etched in Canada’s collective soul.

The Blew Jays Sad Farewell – Talk about losing in spectacular fashion. Kind of reminds you of the Leafs, and yes, the Canucks. The Blue Jays wildcard exit against the Seattle Mariners was a gut-punch for the ages. Good teams simply don’t blow 8-1 leads in playoff games. The seven-run lead was the largest blown-lead by a home team in major league post-season history.

What did we say about the Jays bullpen?  Can’t say we didn’t warn you! The bullpen put up a 4.34 ERA over the last 30 games of the season including the playoffs, allowing nearly 30% of baserunners to score. Mark Shapiro (The Smartest Guy in the Room) and Ross Atkins (The Second-Smartest Guy in the Room) chose to play it safe at the trade deadline and look where it got them. They refused to ante up for Reds ace Luis Castillo. The Mariners opened the prospect vault for Castillo who  set the stage for the upset with a shutout in game one.

The Jays, in turn, tried to shore up a woeful bullpen by doddling around at the bargain bin. Trade deadline pick-up Anthony Bass failed to record an out in game two. Tim Mayza, the only leftie in the pen, ruined an outstanding start by Kevin Gausman by surrendering a three-run homer that turned game two on its head. Memo to John Schneider – you don’t pull $100 million dollar pitchers with an 8-1 lead. Mitch White, another deadline arm, looked like he was throwing batting practise.

The bullpen has been a thorn in the Blue Jays side for years now. If you have an Achilles heel, you can be sure it will be exposed against good teams in the playoffs. That’s exactly what happened and it was entirely predictable. Don’t blame the bullpen. Don’t blame Schneider. Blame the suits in the front office.

Losing is one thing. Watching two teams – the Yankees and the Mariners – dance on the field and pop champagne in the clubhouse in YOUR building, is a pill too bitter to swallow. After missing the playoffs by one game last season, Vladdy Guerrero said “last year was just the trailer, this season will be the movie.” We didn’t know it would be Nightmare on Elm Street.

Blue Jays Notebook – One of the issues surrounding the Blue Jays under Charlie Montoyo was discipline. He was too soft. Mental errors often went unchecked. Good on Jays manager John Schneider for calling out Bo and Vladdy, franchise cornerstones, for baserunning blunders in a critical late-season series against the Yankees. Schneider called the gaffes “inexcusable” and he was dead on. Schneider told reporters, “We’re at the point in the season where every 90 feet matters.”  The message was clear and measured. Good for him. Not something you would have seen from Montoyo and reason enough to bring him back next season.

How would you like to be the poor stiff who missed out catching Aaron Judge’s 61st home run ball?  Word is the ball could have fetched at least one million bucks. Two guys actually had a chance at landing the ball as it sailed over the left field wall at Rogers Centre in Toronto. Turns out one of the disappointed fans was a Toronto restauranteur named Frankie Lasagna.

MLB Notebook – Watching the Blue Jays collapse you can’t help but think about where the team would be if they had held onto Alex Anthopoulos as general manager. All he’s done since landing in Atlanta is win a World Series with the Braves set to make another run in this year’s post-season. You don’t think Anthopoulos could have overseen a rebuild?  It’s a bitter taste for Blue Jays fans knowing you could still have a Canadian running the front office.

Good luck to the Seattle Mariners as they move on to meet the Houston Astros in a best-of-five AL divisional series. Two good reasons to get on the Mariners bandwagon – pitcher Matt Brash is from Kingston, Ontario and utility infielder Abraham Toro is from Montreal.

You may have a different opinion but personally, I don’t acknowledge Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire or Sammy Sosa as home run kings. They are all confirmed PED users. Bonds hit 73 home runs in 2001. McGwire hit 70 in 1998 and 65 in 1999.  Sosa hit 66 dingers in 98’, 63 in ’99 and 64 in 2001.

TSN’s Steve Phillips had some interesting comments on what Aaron Judge has accomplished this season in setting a new American League home run mark with 62.  Phillips noted that former HR king Babe Ruth played in an era without black or Latin players.  Roger Maris faced only 110 different pitchers when he set the AL mark in 1961.  By contrast, Judge faced more than 240 pitchers this year at a time when starting pitchers rarely go through the order three times. I doubt whether MLB will erase Bonds and McGwire and Sosa from the record books but make no mistake, Judge is the legit record holder.

We’ve chronicled the dangers of long-term contracts in all sports, baseball in particular. The Boston Red Sox are paying a hefty price for signing Chris Sale to a long-term deal. The big leftie missed 340 out of 384 regular season games from 2020-2022. Mega-deals are great for the player. Not so good for the team.

One of the funniest things you will ever see at a ball game happened in a minor league ball game in Memphis. Delvin Perez of the Memphis Redbirds hit what he thought was a home run and proudly started jogging around the bases. Trouble is, the ball was knocked down by a heavy wind and didn’t leave the ballpark.  Have a look at poor Delvin.  Talk about embarrassing.

Seahawks Notebook – It’s going to be a long season in Seattle. The Seahawks defense ranks near the bottom of the league in almost every category. It’s shocking to see a Pete Carroll-coached team this bad on defense. They can’t defend the run. The Saints torched them for 252 yards rushing on Sunday, the highest total ever against a Seattle defense.  Seattle is giving up 30.8 points per game, second worst in the NFL, ahead of only Detroit.

The decision to cut ties with veterans Bobby Wagner, DJ Reed and Carlos Dunlap has left a huge hole. The Seahawks are also feeling the effect of losing Pro Bowler Jamal Adams for the year with a torn quad.

On the subject of Adams, the Seahawks are facing a major financial headache in the off-season when it comes to the veteran safety. He’s the elephant in the room. Adams not only suffered his second season-ending injury since the trade, he’s a salary cap nightmare. If the Seahawks try to cut him loose following the season, they are looking at a $24 million dollar cap hit next season. Very painful when you consider the Hawks are swallowing $26 million this year as a result of the trade of Russell Wilson. The trade for Adams will go down in Seahawk annals are perhaps the worst in club history.

Who would have thought that Geno Smith would be outplaying Russell Wilson at this point? Geno hit on 77.3 percent of this throws through the first four games, setting a new NFL record to start a season. Top running back Rashaad Penny is done for the season with a broken fibula. There’s goes Geno’s meal ticket on offense.

We’ve been touting Kentucky’s Will Levis as a potential answer at quarterback for the Seahawks. Well, it seems others are starting to take notice.  Here’s highlights and comments on Levis from TSN’s Farhan Lalji and Dave Naylor.

NFL Notebook – NFL Thursday Night Football has a long history of producing clunkers. The matchup between the Indianapolis Colts and the Denver Broncos was a complete abomination. Amazon must be questioning what possessed them to ante up a billion dollars for the rights to Thursday night.

The acquisition of Russell Wilson is looking more and more like a $245 million dollar boondoggle. The Broncos have scored a grand total of three red-zone touchdowns in five games. They’ve surpassed 20 points once in five games and are second to last in scoring in the NFL, ahead of only the equally-inept Colts. Wilson demanded more control than he had in Seattle. Let Russ Cook? How about Let Russ Rot!

Matt Rhule became the first coach fired in the NFL season, let go on Monday by the Carolina Panthers. Rhule was just five games into the third year of a seven-year, $62 million dollar contract. He departs with a record of 11-27. Another college coach (Baylor) who couldn’t make the transition to the NFL.

More than a few football pundits were touting the Los Angeles Chargers as a potential Super Bowl contender. So much for that. First, quarterback Justin Herbert gets banged up with busted ribs. Second year offensive tackle Rashawn Slater is out for the season with a torn biceps and All-Pro end Joey Bosa is down for an extended period with a torn groin. Bye-bye Chargers!

Is there a more incompetent union than the NFL Players’ Association? How Tua Tagovailova was ever cleared to return to play against the Buffalo Bills is beyond comprehension. And then to allow him to start the following Thursday night against Cincinnati? The NFL promises to tighten their concussion protocols. As if they care? The Miami Dolphins medical staff should be shown the door immediately.

Do NFL officials have some kind of love affair with little Tommy Brady? Check the roughing the passer call from Sunday’s game between Tampa Bay and Atlanta. Even Giselle wouldn’t have approved. Just so the officials know – it’s called a SACK! Just a slight overreaction to the Tua concussion, don’t you think?

Golf Notebook – Mackenzie Hughes was disappointed not to be named to this year’s Presidents Cup team especially since it was being played at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, North Carolina where he now calls home. The 31-year-old Hamilton native used it as motivation in winning the Sanderson Farms Championship, his second PGA Tour win and first in six years. It ended a long drought for Canadians on Tour.

The Official World Golf Ranking has announced it won’t be awarding points to LIV Golf events this year. Cut off from playing PGA Tour events, LIV golfers are now falling rapidly in the World Cup rankings. Patrick “Watch Your Wallet” Reed has fallen out of the top 50. Bryson DeChambeau is 48th and could soon be out of the Top 50 as well. Dustin Johnson has dropped to 23rd, his lowest point level since 2015. Phil “Black Jack” Mickelson has fallen off the map to 134th. Ian Poulter (129), Lee Westwood (103) and Sergio Garcia (81) are now going to find it increasing difficult to qualify for majors. Players who fall out of the top 50 by the end of the year, will have no path to play in the Masters and would have to go through qualifying for two of the other majors.

LIV Golf announced Dustin Johnson is the new tour’s season-long individual champion. Johnson made six appearances and had a win and five top-ten finishes. For that, he earns an additional $18 million. Not bad for four months work. Johnson had already made nearly $10 million individually from those six finishes plus an additional $3 million for team competitions. Add in the $18 million bonus, and that’s more than $30 million in prize money. What a joke!

The Laws of Golf – The Laws of Golf from my good friend Mike Todd, golf buddy and frequent left winger.

LAW 1: No matter how bad your last shot was, the worst is yet to come. This law does not expire on the 18th hole, since it has the supernatural tendency to extend over the course of a tournament, a summer and, eventually, a lifetime.

LAW 2: Your best round of golf will be followed almost immediately by your worst round ever. The probability of the latter increases with the number of people you tell about the former.

LAW 3: Brand new golf balls are water-magnetic. Though this cannot be proven in the lab, it is a known fact that the more expensive the golf ball, the greater its attraction to water.

LAW 4: Golf balls never bounce off of trees back into play. If one does, the tree is breaking a law of the universe and should be cut down.

LAW 5: No matter what causes a golfer to muff a shot, all his playing partners must solemnly chant “You looked up,” or invoke the wrath of the universe.

LAW 6: The higher a golfer’s handicap, the more qualified he deems himself as an instructor.

LAW 7: Every par-three hole in the world has a secret desire to humiliate golfers. The shorter the hole, the greater its desire.

LAW 8: Topping a 3-iron is the most painful torture known to man.

LAW 9: Palm trees eat golf balls.

LAW 10: Sand is alive. If it isn’t, how do you explain the way it works against you?

LAW 11: Golf carts always run out of juice at the farthest point from the clubhouse.

LAW 12: A golfer hitting into your group will always be bigger than anyone in your group. Likewise, a group you accidentally hit into will consist of a football player, a professional wrestler, a convicted murderer and an IRS agent — or some similar combination.

LAW 13: All 3-woods are demon-possessed.

LAW 14: Golf balls from the same “sleeve” tend to follow one another, particularly out of bounds or into the water (See Law three).

LAW 15: A severe slice is a thing of awesome power and beauty.

LAW 16: “Nice lag” can usually be translated to “lousy putt.” Similarly, “tough break” can usually be translated “way to miss an easy one, sucker.”

LAW 17: The person you would most hate to lose to will always be the one who beats you.

LAW 18: The last three holes of a round will automatically adjust your score to what it really should be.

LAW 19: Golf should be given up at least twice per month.

LAW 20: All vows taken on a golf course shall be valid only until the sunset.

Leftovers – NEWS FLASH – The Vancouver Whitecaps have missed the playoffs – AGAIN. These guys are the Washington Generals of MLS.

If you haven’t heard the name Victor Wembanyama, mark it down because the 7-4” Frenchman is the next-big-thing on the hardcourt. NBA teams will be falling all over themselves to get a crack at him in next summer’s NBA draft. He’s already the presumptive number one overall pick and you can be sure teams will be tanking to try and win the lottery. Some scouts are already saying he’s the best prospect since Lew Alcindor.  At a recent two-game Hoop Summit in Vegas, Wenbanyama put up 73 points with 9 blocked shots, drew 28 fouls and shot 9 of 18 from outside the arc.

Like the NHL, the NBA has flattened out the odds for landing the top pick. The teams with the three worst records each have the same odds of getting the top pick, at just 14 percent. The teams with the fifth and sixth-worst records come in at 9 percent.

The Toronto Raptors seem to have cornered the market on switchable, similar-sized players who can run the floor and defend the perimeter. The Raptors are likely to have nine players on their opening season roster who stand either 6-8 or 6-9. Add in OG Anunoby, who’s 6-7 and that makes ten. The only player taller than 6-9 is rookie center Christian Koloko, who, by the way, looks like he could be another draft gem.

Not so long ago, the Edmonton Eskimos were a model CFL franchise. Today, they are a laughingstock. The now Edmonton Elks have established a new CFL record for most consecutive home losses with 15 in a row. The Elks have not won a home game at Commonwealth Stadium since October 12, 2019.  Everything has gone into the dumpster since the team’s ill-advised decision to change their team name from the Eskimos to the Elks. The decision still seems knee-jerk.

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