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Under Further Review – September 15 Edition – Douglas Smith with Editor Bill Morphy and contributions from Jordan Moss, Ian MacPhee and Bill Myles. It’s time to catch up after a summer break. Football’s back. Hockey and basketball are on the horizon and October baseball is just around the corner.

WE’RE BACK! Special thanks to family and friends who helped make my long-awaited trip back east a special one. Yes, we have a ton to talk about. Plenty of activity since the last time we checked in so let’s get right to it.

The Return of Russell – Of course, he was going to get booed. Did you really think Russell Wilson would get a warm welcome from the 12’s on his return to Seattle? Even though he spent ten years with the Seahawks, Russ is the enemy now and you couldn’t get a better script to open the season.

Wilson did his part for the Broncos. Denver outgained the Seahawks 433-253. Seattle failed to score a single point in the second half yet hung on to win 17-16 thanks to an unfathomable decision by Broncos rookie head coach Nathaniel Hackett to try a 64-yard field goal in the final minute rather than gamble on fourth and five. There was a minute and 11 seconds left when the Broncos faced a third-and-14 at their own 45-yard line. They picked up nine yards on the next play and were then looking at a fourth-and-5 at the Seattle 46-yard line, still with three timeouts in their picket.

Think about that for a minute. You just traded three players and five draft picks, then signed Wilson to a $242.5 million dollar extension and you take the ball out of the guy’s hands? Talk about a head-scratcher! Did you actually think you could hit a 64-yard field goal in the dead, smoky air in Seattle?  It’s not like you were at Mile High Stadium.

The game should not have been close. The Broncos came away with only nine points on five trips to the red zone. A pair of goal-line fumbles were a huge factor. The Seahawks find themselves alone in first place in the NFC West. Who would have thunk it?

The break-up between Wilson and the Seahawks was several years in the making. Things had been brewing for some time.  In case you missed it, here’s some of the inside scoop from ESPN’s Brady Henderson on how the split came about.

If the Seattle Seahawks want to take a step forward on defense this season, it has to start with an improved pass rush. The Seahawks slipped to 23rd in sacks last season and it’s a stretch to think their pass rush is significantly improved. Seattle has switched to a 3-4 defense adding defensive tackle Shelby Harris in the Wilson deal plus former Seahawk Quinton Jefferson and former Charger Uchenna Nwosu in free agency. Defensive ends Boye Mafe and Tyreke Smith were drafted in the second and fifth rounds. Darrel Taylor is the most productive holdover. If the pass rush is going to improve, it will have to be by committee.

NFL Notebook Week One – Now you know why the NFL is so popular. Week One of the NFL season had everything – great matchups, great plays, great finishes and more than a few surprises! The schedule-maker should take a bow.

The Thursday Night opener featured a pair of powerhouses – the Buffalo Bills, who many are tabbing the Super Bowl favourite, and the defending champion L.A. Rams. The Bills look every bit the part despite turning the ball over four times. The Rams have big problems along the offensive line and in the defensive backfield. The playoffs are no sure thing.

Here’s a few other opening week takeaways:

  • Hope you have Colts running back Jonathan Taylor in your fantasy pool. There’s nobody better in the NFL. All he did was carry the freight 31 times for 161 yards in the Colts opener against the Texans.
  • The Dallas Cowboys are in big trouble and not just because they lost quarterback Dak Prescott for 6-8 weeks. The offensive line is a mess. Memo to Jerry Jones – it’s been 26 years since the Cowboys won a Super Bowl. Do you think maybe you are part of the problem?
  • The Baltimore Ravens will be happy they refused to commit big bucks to quarterback Lamar Jackson. I wouldn’t be backing up the truck for this guy. Kyler Murray just signed a new contract with Arizona that averages $46 million per season. Crazy money for a quarterback who’s won nothing. Same with Jackson who’s 1-3 in four playoff games.
  • Anybody thinking the Kansas City Chiefs are going to take a step back this year is delusional. The Chiefs had 11 first downs in the opening quarter against the besieged Cardinals. Six different receivers had at least three catches. Tyreek Who?
  • Now you know why top receivers are cashing in big time. Devante Adams, A.J. Brown, Tyreek Hill, Stefon Diggs and Justin Jefferson all had huge opening games.
  • Looks like the Bengals have not fixed their offensive line issues. Joe Burrow coughed up four interceptions and was sacked seven times in the overtime loss against the Steelers.
  • Is there a quarterback under a bigger microscope than the 49’ers Trey Lance? We will give him some rope after a rough outing in a quagmire at Soldier Field. He had better produce at home on Sunday vs. the Seahawks.

Canucks Notebook – With the signing of J.T. Miller to a seven-year extension, it’s clear the new Canucks management team has no appetite for a “tear-it-down-to-the-studs” rebuild.  The retool-on-the-fly approach worked for Jimmy Rutherford in Pittsburgh and he’s chosen the same path here.

With a strong forward group and a franchise goaltender, was there any other option? The Penguins won a pair of Stanley Cups with a less-than-stellar group of defencemen. Canucks brass must think lightning can strike twice. If the Canucks extend captain Bo Horvat, they will be left with absolutely no cap space moving forward which would make improving the back end next to impossible.

The Canucks should just put the Tre Kronor on the front of their jerseys. It was predictable that the Canucks would pick a Swede with their first-round pick in this year’s NHL draft. Winger Jonathan Lekkerimaki is billed as a pure goal scorer. He will need time to build strength, improve his skating and work on the details in his game. He’s listed at 5-11” and 165 pounds. Lekkerimaki was one of the youngest players in the draft. He was still two weeks away from his 18th birthday at the time of the draft. The next two picks after the Canucks were also Swedes – center Noah Ostlund by Buffalo and Joakim Kemell by Nashville. It will be interesting to see which player turns out best.

NHL Notebook – The Calgary Flames were, without a doubt, the story of the summer in the NHL. What a pivot job by Flames GM Brad Treliving after the departure of Matthew Tkachuk and Johnny Gaudreau! Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar plus a conditional 2025 first-round pick for Tkachuk was solid business. Huberdeau has put up 254 points in the last three seasons. Only Draisaitl and the Clearasil Kid in Edmonton have more.

It remains to be seen if the Flames will be better but they sure are a study in how to make the best of a bad situation. Talk about a counter-punch!  Seven million is a good cap number for Nazem Kadri. Damn the term!  Worry about that later.

The maneuvering in Calgary overshadowed the positive work that took place in Ottawa this summer. Interest in the Senators is palpable in the Nation’s Capital after the wheeling and dealing conducted by Sens GM Pierre Dorion. The Sens now boast as good a top-six forward group as any team in hockey. Season ticket sales are up as a result. A new arena deal is on the horizon. Everyone in Ottawa is hoping this is the year the Senators young squad makes a serious playoff push.

More than a few GM’s around the league are concerned about the money and term being thrown at young players. Jordan Kyrou of the St. Louis Blues was just handed an eight-year extension worth $65 million. The deal is almost identical to the contract signed by teammate Robert Thomas in July. We’ve seen similar deals in Buffalo with Tage Thompson and in Ottawa with Tim Stutzle. It’s a huge gamble if the players don’t continue ascending.

You have to wonder about the wisdom of teams who choose to go ‘all-in’ in pursuit of a championship. Is it worth selling the future for today? Case in point – the Florida Panthers. Last season, they loaded up for a playoff run only to be bounced unceremoniously by the Tampa Lightning. This summer, they engineered the big deal with Calgary for Matthew Tkachuk. In order to obtain Tkachuk and 20 games of Ben Chiarot and Claude Giroux at last year’s trade deadline, the Panthers gave up Huberdeau and Weegar, three first-round draft picks, a third-rounder and two prospects. Florida is now without a first-round pick until 2026.

It happened with the Chicago Black Hawks and L.A. Kings and now it’s happening with the Colorado Avalanche. Win a Cup and watch the payroll skyrocket. Once new deals for Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar lock in, the Avs will be facing a massive cap crunch.

It sure looks like Jeff Gorton is working from the same playbook in Montreal as he used in building the Rangers in New York. Give the Habs a few years and look out!

In the Brendan Shanahan era, the Tampa Bay Lightning have played 155 playoff games. The Leafs have played 39 and have been bounced in the opening round six straight years. So much for the Shanaplan.

For the life of me, I cannot understand why the Edmonton Oilers would sign Kailer Yamamoto to a new, two-year, $6.2 million dollar contract. They also signed underachieving forward Jesse Puljujarvi to a new deal at $3 million.  Why not walk away from both players and open up more than $6 million in cap space and go find two players who can actually help you? Yamamoto scored 20 goals last season playing with Connor McDavid. How many of those were tap-ins? You’d have to be a complete slug not to score 20 goals playing with McDavid. Warren Young once scored 48 goals playing shotgun to Mario Lemieux.

Here’s a stat that’s absolutely mind-boggling. During the 80’s, Wayne Gretzky had more five-or-more point nights (85) than he had zero-point games (74). Can you believe that?

Did You Know?  Before Jean Beliveau came along, penalties in hockey lasted the full duration. That is to say, a two-minute minor had to be served the full two minutes even if the other team scored multiple goals.  In 1955. Beliveau scored three goals in 44 seconds during one penalty.  The next year the rule was changed.

Looks like Hockey Canada’s strategy is to wait out the current scandal and hope it just blows over. The federal government should just hold back any funding until Scott Smith and the entire board of directors resign. Force them all out. Time to clean house.

Another Gold Medal – No one has the nerve to put it out there so we will. Women’s hockey at the highest level is a joke. At the recent World Championships in Denmark, the semi-final games provided a pair of lopsided scores – USA 10, Czechia 1 and Canada 8, Switzerland 1. There are simply two teams who can compete and the rest are fodder.

What good is a silver medal in women’s hockey? Who do you actually have to beat to win a silver?  If a women’s hurdler wins a gold medal in the Olympics, that means something. Not so in women’s hockey. We put so much attention on the Canadian women’s hockey team, which is great, but facing the US in the final of every competition no longer has any impact. Hey, we love the Canadian gals but let’s keep their success in some degree of perspective. And please, let’s not get started with putting women into the Hockey Hall of Fame ahead of Paul Henderson. Sorry, but we had to put that out there because no one else will.

Blue Jays Notebook – We were over-the-top delighted when the Blue Jays dumped Charlie Montoyo as manager. Too much of a soft touch and no idea of how to handle a bullpen. The results under John Schneider speak for themselves.

Regardless of how the Blue Jays fare in the playoffs, and it looks like they will reach the post-season, the front office absolutely needs to fix the imbalance on the team. There’s no impact lefthand bat in the entire lineup to break things up between Vladdy, Bo and Teoscar Hernandez. The Jays have been struggling against righthanded pitching all season long, particularly against guys with good off-speed stuff.

Nor did the Jays do anything at the trade deadline to address the lack of left-hand pitching in the bullpen.  Remember in 2015 when Brett Cecil got hurt and the Jays were left without a lefthander in the pen?  Same thing happened this year when Tim Mayza dislocated his right shoulder. No excuse for allowing that to happen. Opposing managers don’t even need to go to their bench against the Jays because they know Schneider has no alternatives. GM Ross Atkins needs to make some tough decisions. One of the righthanded bats in the lineup needs to be moved out in order to balance the lineup. The status quo is not an option if the Jays want to contend for a World Series.

Nate Pearson – thanks for coming!  Pearson has thrown a total of 56 innings over the past three seasons. The Jays should have dealt Pearson last winter for a lefthanded bat.

Memo to Yusei Kikuchi – YOU ARE STEALING MONEY!

Ted Rogers purchased the Blue Jays and the SkyDome for $165 million.  The estimated value today is $3.2 BILLION.  That’s what you call an investment!

Big Changes Coming – It’s about time Major League Baseball stepped up to the plate. MLB’s Competition Committee has approved several rule changes that are going to have a big impact on the game next season. The changes are aimed at improving the pace of play and strike a blow to the analytics that have been ruining the game.

Pitchers will be allowed 15 seconds between pitches with no one on base and 20 seconds with runners on base. We attended a minor league game in Vancouver this summer at Nat Bailey Stadium and the pitch clock seemed to work really well. Major league games average over three hours right now. Expect that to be reduced by at least 15 minutes next season.

The so-called Shift will be outlawed next year. No more putting two infielders on either side of second based and no more aligning four players in the outfield. Defensive alignments based on analytics have resulted in the lowest batting average, (.243) since the Year of the Pitcher in 1968.

Reality Check – The CFL has to come to grips with who they are. The league has not been able to capture the imagination of football fans in the three largest markets. There’s a ton entertainment options in Toronto and Montreal. Who wants to go indoors in the summer in Vancouver when there’s so much to do outside?

Check the ticket prices for a game at BC Place Stadium.  Tickets range from $75 to $99 for one seat in the lower bowl between the 20-yard lines. You can’t be serious! Who are they trying to kid?

The CFL cannot compete with Major League Baseball, the NHL or the NBA. They need to compete with movie night.  Make it affordable for a family of four to go to a game.  Just like a night out at the movie theatre. Create new fans.

The Lions were certainly dealt a death blow to the 2022 season with the severe foot injury to quarterback Nathan Rourke. The young QB was on a record-setting pace. At the time of the injury. Rourke was leading the CFL in completions, yardage and touchdowns. He was completing almost 80% of his passes. Let’s hope he makes a full recovery.

LIV the Life – Looks like the PGA Tour had Better Call Saul when it comes to the ongoing pissing match with upstart LIV Golf. It’s getting messier by the day. To date, no Canadians have jumped to the fledgling tour.

Canada’s Adam Hadwin had some incisive comments when asked about the current state of golf. “We’ve never had this kind of situation in golf ever where there’s been a choice. Money talks and players are responding. Not that it’s an easy way out but you go from competing against the best in the world and earning your paycheque each and every week, teeing it up to compete – to guaranteed money, playing in a shotgun tournament and what amounts to nothing more than an exhibition. Professionally, you have to go through someone’s mind to think that’s going to be a better option than a 72-hole competition against the best players in the world.  What’s we’ve seen so far is people have a price. I don’t think this is going to go away anytime soon especially when you are dealing with unlimited funds.”

When you look at the cast of characters that have defected to the LIV Tour, it’s a bit of a Who’s Who of misfits. You have Phil “Black Jack” Mickelson. Brooks “Pumpy” Koepka. Patrick “Watch Your Wallet” Reed. Bryson “Thurston Howell III” DeChambeau. Dustin “Jethro Bodine” Johnson.

The ever-annoying Reed, who’s dealt with cheating allegations throughout his career, has launched a $750 million dollar defamation lawsuit against Golf Channel and announcer Brandel Chamblee. Back in 2019, Reed was caught on camera moving sand from behind his ball at the Hero World Challenge. During the coverage, Chamblee mused, “This is going to follow him around like the video of Nixon saying ‘I’m not a crook.’” Good luck collecting a dime Patrick!

U.S. Open Notebook – What an incredible ascension for Spain’s tennis wunderkind Carlos Alcaraz.  The 19-year-old became the youngest U.S. Open champion since Pete Sampras back in 1990. He’s also now the youngest world #1 in history. Alcaraz took out Norway’s Casper Ruud to win the Open final.

Among his obstacles along the way was a five hour and 15 minute, 5-set marathon against Jannik Sinner that ended at 2:50 a.m., the latest finish in the history of the US Open.

Watching Canada’s Denis Shapovalov in the US Open makes you wonder if he has the mental toughness to win a tennis major. He could learn a thing or two from the younger Alcaraz. With Shapovalov, it’s fist pumps one minute and frustration the next. Brooding, fits of emotion, up and down mentally. At that level, you need to be steady and level at all times.

Shapovalov seems to want to produce the ‘kill’ shot on nearly every point which only serves to create far too many unforced errors. There’s more to top level tennis than a big serve and crowd-pleasing passing shots. Is Shapo going to find another level or has he reached his apex as a player?

Meantime, if you are looking for big talents and emotional midgets, the poster boy is Nick Kyrgios. The Australian Nutcase is renowned for his epic outbursts and racquet smashing. Kyrgios has a ton of talent – he reached the Wimbledon Final this year – but he’s yet to control his anger and immature petulance.

Sorry, but Serena Williams is not the GOAT of women’s tennis. Serena may have won Wimbledon seven times but we remind you, Martina Navratilova won it nine times. Serena’s long goodbye at the US Open was excruciating.

Leftovers – Why bother with the balloting? Julio Rodriguez of the Seattle Mariners is the hands-down rookie-of-the-year in the American League. He’s already joined the 25-25 club, only the third rookie to do so. He’s a special talent.

We lost some greats in the world of sports over the summer. Basketball giant Bill Russell died at the age of 88. Russell’s record on the court was nothing short of incredible. As a player and a coach, he played in 22 elimination games and won all of them. Russell won 9 NCAA tournament games. He won two Olympic gold medals, 10 Game 7’s in the NBA and one Game 5 victory in a best-of-five playoff series. Russell also had the courage to stand up for civil rights when other athletes stood by and did nothing.

Vin Scully, the beloved voice of the Dodgers for 67 years, passed away at the age of 94. Scully was without peer as a play-by-play man. Vin first started calling Dodger games in 1950. It was also Connie Mack’s final season managing the Philadelphia Athletics. Mack was born in 1862 during the Civil War.  Vin was the soundtrack for the Boys of Summer and was there when Jackie Robinson broke the colour barrier in baseball. He was there for the perfect game thrown by Sandy Koufax. He was at the mic when the ball went through Bill Buckner’s legs. No one will ever match the grace and eloquence of Vin Scully.

Major league baseball teams may want to think long and hard about offering mega contracts with 10+ years of term. None have worked out so far. Fernando Tatis Jr. has been a major disappointment in San Diego after signing a 14-year deal with the Padres. Long-term deals for Bryce Harper and Giancarlo Stanton, among others, have been a disaster.

The NBA has come down hard on Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver. He’s been suspended for one year and fined $10 million following an investigation into allegations he fostered a hostile work environment. Now, will the NFL please do something about Daniel Snyder?

When the Boston Celtics made it to the NBA Final, we took note of the wide gap between Toronto’s three major sports franchises and Boston’s teams. Since the Jays won the World Series in 1993, Toronto has played in one championship round. Thankfully, the Raptors won a title. In that same time span, Boston teams have been to 19 championship finals.

The Ottawa RedBlacks may want to go shopping for a new head coach at the end of the season. Paul LaPolice is 6-20 since taking over in Ottawa following a 16-28 record in Winnipeg. Career CFL coaching record of 22-48. Frank Clair must be turning over in his grave.

Remember the name Elijah Fisher. He’s a five-star recruit from Oshawa, Ontario who’s committed to Texas Tech next season. He’s considered Canada’s top basketball prospect. The 18-year-old is a 6-7 guard who set an Ontario scholastic record this season by scoring 75 points in a game for Crestwood Prep. We may see a lot of Fisher. Texas Tech made the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament last season.

For a guy who just bought a new driver, it’s good to know that, by age, you may not be as short off the tee as you think.  Check out this chart outlining how far you should be hitting your drives based on age and handicap.

We leave you with classic video from one of the great boxers of all-time, comedian Jerry Lewis.  Apparently, this is where The Greatest got the Ali Shuffle.

Spotify Picks of the Month – The Tedeschi Trucks Band has released an amazing new album entitled I Am the Moon.  It contains 24 tracks and runs two hours and 10 minutes. Have a listen.  We are sure you will enjoy it.  We recommend adding four tracks to your playlist – Fall In, Somehow, Yes We Will and Gravity.

From the completely obscure file – check out Malford Milligan & the Southern Aces. The album is called Life Will Humble You. Listen to the track All This Love.

Derek Hoke has a new release entitled Electric Mountain. Check out Let Go of My Heart.

Lake Street Dive is back with Fun Machine: The Sequel. They do a nice cover of the Bonnie Raitt hit Nick of Time.

Back in 1999, Roy Rogers and Shana Morrison released an album called Everybody’s Angel. Have a listen to the cut Lovers Moon.

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