Under Further Review – Douglas Smith with Editor Bill Morphy and the usual cast of contributors including Jordan Moss, Ted Tait, Peter Hucul, Glen and Bill Myles, Rob Wagner, Dave Kittle and Ian MacPhee. It’s been an incredible summer here in beautiful Victoria. Hard to believe it’s been nearly six months since our last blog. Glad to be back. Lots to unpack so let’s get right to it.
Here We Go Again – For any Canuck observer – fan, pundit, whomever – you have seen this movie before. Short term thinking. It’s happened over multiple regime changes. The latest example is the trade of Tanner Pearson to Montreal for goalie Casey DeSmith and yes, a third-round draft pick. On the surface, it provides salary cap relief and a back-up goaltender who may be needed in the Canucks desperate chase for a playoff spot. That’s the micro view. Big picture, it only further ensures the team will continue the perpetual draft choice deficit they seem to have each and every year. Who needs second-and-third round picks? The pattern has gone on for literally decades. You can trace it back to the Brian Burke years.
The draining of draft picks has been necessary to fix the Canucks self-inflicted cap issues or to add bottom-of-the-lineup depth that was created by trading picks in the first place. To build roster depth and renovate the blueline, the new management group has now surrendered a first-round pick, (11th overall), two second-round picks, a third and a fifth. As Thomas Drance of The Athletic aptly put it “In the hard cap NHL, acting in this manner is death by a thousand cuts.” It’s indefensible for a team that’s been in the playoffs once in eight years.
Dear Prudence – At least over the summer the Canucks began to show some fiscal restraint. Making sensible value-adds without breaking the bank. That’s a change. I guess when you are backed up against a salary cap wall, you have no choice.
Credit Patrik ‘All-in’ Allvin for resisting the urge to hand out term during NHL free agency this summer. That may be the biggest takeaway from the annual July 1 feeding frenzy. NHL teams largely stayed away from offering long-term deals.
The Canucks made several prudent signings to upgrade the back end and the 3C spot. It remains to be seen whether the moves help improve the league’s worst penalty-killing unit. Some pretty decent work without creating more headaches down the road, something that has plagued multiple Canucks management groups.
NHL Notebook – NHL GM’s, for the most part, kept their chequebooks in their jacket pocket during free agency this summer. Years of a flat cap probably gave them no option. The smart teams always seem to find a way to add another the edges and make their team better. Case in point, the Colorado Avalanche who appear ready to take another serious run at the Stanley Cup this season. They dealt Alex Newhook, the former Victoria Grizzlies product, to the Montreal Canadiens for a first-round pick, one of two Avs first-round selections as they try to replenish their minor league system.
Joe Sakic brought in Ryan Johansen from Nashville with salary retained to fill the hole at center behind Nathan MacKinnon. They added some size up front with the signing of Miles Wood from New Jersey. By opening some cap space, the Avs were able to add Ross Colton from Tampa Bay. They even took a flyer on former Habs winner Jonathan Drouin who clearly needs a fresh start. You never know, maybe he can rekindle some magic with MacKinnon, his former junior teammate in Halifax. The Avs still have one of the best bluelines in the NHL so count on Colorado being back in the thick of the Cup race this season.
The Carolina Hurricanes are another model NHL franchise. They never overpay players and rarely offer term. The Canes landed defenseman Dmitri Orlov, the top D-man available in free agency. While the money is significant – $7.75 million – the term is only two years. That’s good business. Carolina also added wingers Michael Bunting and Jesper Fast along with re-signing veteran goalie Frederik Andersen. One of these years, the Canes are going to break through in the post-season.
If you are a Under Further Review regular, you will know we have reserved a lot of ink for former Leafs GM Kyle Dubas, often with tongue-in-cheek. However, it’s time to give him his due. Maybe the problems in Toronto were not all his doing. Dubas landed in Pittsburgh and has done everything he can to give the Penguins one more shot at glory.
Picking up Reilly Smith from Las Vegas for a third-round pick was a nice bit of business. Landing Norris Trophy defenseman Erik Karlsson in a three-way deal with San Jose and Montreal was a risk worth taking especially when you consider he unloaded the contracts of Mikeal Granlund and Jeff Petry in the process. With Karlsson and Kris Letang, the Penguins will now be able to one of them on the ice for pretty much the entire game.
Steve Stamkos is upset Lightning management have not offered him a new contract. He’s a free agent after the season. Stamkos is entering his 16th NHL season. Can’t blame the Lightning for thinking they can use the cap space in deepen the roster.
If you were laying odds on the first-coach-to-be-fired in the NHL this season, you probably should look no further than Ottawa’s D.J. Smith. With new ownership in place, there’s no shortage of pressure in the Nation’s Capital. The long rebuild is over and it’s time to challenge for a playoff spot. The Senators cannot afford another slow start. Does that sound familiar? Like the Canucks, the mulligans have been kind of been exhausted.
Hockey watchers need to reconsider calling Steve Yzerman one of the top general managers in the NHL. Sorry, but he’s failed to move the needle since returning to Detroit. Yzerman is finding out that you are only as good as your top-end talent and he’s failed miserably at the draft table since taking over the Red Wings. Moritz Seider was a huge win but the misses have far out-weighed the hits. Case in point – selecting Filip Zadina, sixth overall, one pick ahead of Michigan native Quinn Hughes in 2018. Case in point – selecting Lukas Raymond, fourth overall, one pick ahead of Jake Sanderson in 2020. You simply can’t make those kinds of mistakes. Yzerman’s free agent choices have not been any better. The Wings remain a long way from contention and that’s on Yzerman.
Good on Flames towering defenseman Nikita Zadorov for speaking out on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Zadorov says Russian players are divided into two camps, “the propaganda camp and sane camp.” It’s refreshing to see an NHL player actually speak his mind. Zadorov has not been back to Russia since the 2022 invasion.
Looks like it will be at least a month before Patrick Kane is ready to play after off-season hip surgery. It would be great to see Kane sign with his hometown Sabres. Buffalo certainly has the salary cap space to get something done.
The Maple Leafs may enjoy another charmed regular season but there’s zero chance they will rise up come playoff time with the makeup of their current defense corps. A real Cup contender does not include Morgan Rielly, TJ Brodie, John Klingberg, Jake McCabe, Timothy Liljegren, Mark Giordano and Conor Timmins on the blueline. They couldn’t move Tiny Tim from the front of the net.
Brian Burke, yes THAT Brian Burke, has been named executive director of the Players’ Association of the new Professional Women’s Hockey League. Apparently, Burke is unable to go quietly into the sunset. Burke’s desire for the spotlight is like Joey Chestnut’s appetite for a hotdog.
You can question all you want whether the Montreal Canadiens should have drafted defenseman Logan Mailloux in the first place. However, it’s time to give the kid a second chance and let him begin his NHL career. Mailloux certainly has the tools to be a future Habs blueline regular.
We may never know the real story behind the Mike Babcock fiasco in Columbus. There was something rather creepy about the whole sordid affair. The real question is why would the Blue Jackets even consider hiring Babcock in the first place? It’s no different that Lethbridge hiring Bill Peters? What were they possibly thinking? Hockey has no moral compass whatsoever. Was John Tortorella not available? Oh, my mistake. He’s actually still coaching in Philadelphia. I think you get the point.
Blue Jays Notebook – The only thing consistent about the Blue Jays season has been the inconsistency. A lack of clutch hitting has plagued the team all year and threatened to wash away what has been a strong season from the pitching staff. A late season surge has kept the Jays playoff hopes alive and it looks as though they may grab a wildcard spot. Pitching and defense wins in the post-season so anything is possible.
If the Jays do make the post-season, they need to get catcher Danny Jansen back in the lineup. He was one of the few Blue Jays putting together a good season. Jansen was third on the team in home runs when he broke a finger that required surgery.
I had big doubts about Cavan Biggio. Despite major league lineage, Biggio had yet to make his mark as a Blue Jay. Since the All-Star break, Biggio has been a different player and his bat from the left side has been crucial to the Jays late season playoff push. Biggio has been so good, he’s been a lineup fixture regardless of where he’s been placed in the field.
Alek Manoah is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, to use the phrase coined by Sir Winston Churchill. Manoah’s season is over and his career is very much in doubt. A year go, he went to the All-Star game and was a Cy Young candidate. A year later and he’s on the Ricky Romero ‘road to nowhere.’ You have to wonder if Manoah can rebuild his confidence and get back into the Blue Jays plans.
MLB Notebook – You can’t help but wonder where the Blue Jays would be today had they retained Alex Anthopoulos. The Atlanta Braves were the first team to clinch a post-season berth and have already topped 100 wins. Ronald Acuna is the National League MVP favourite. He’s the first player in MLB history to go over 40 home runs and 60 stolen bases in a season. Matt Olson has over 50 home runs. As a team, the Braves have set a new National League record for home runs in a season. Anthopoulos has created a juggernaut in Atlanta. He’s not afraid of making gutsy moves unlike the Jays front office who seem to be risk averse.
Big changes should be coming in New York where the Yankees could be headed to their first losing season in three decades. Last place in the AL East may be where they reside for a while.
The Yankees are the oldest team in baseball. They are hitting just over .200 this season against breaking pitches. Take a look at some of the regulars who have been in the lineup this season – Anthony Rizzo, 33; Giancarlo Stanton, 33; Aaron Hicks, 33; Kyle Higashioka, 33; DJ LeMahieu, 34; and Josh Donaldson, 37. The starting pitching has fallen apart. This is what happens when you rely on aging players. The Yankees have had more than $70 million on the injury list this season, accounting for more than 1,500 games. This ain’t no quick fix.
The California Angels made a massive mistake in holding onto Shohei Otani at the trade deadline. No chance he re-signs with the Angels. Would you? 77-year-old owner Arte Moreno probably doesn’t care. He’s likely to sell the team. They haven’t won a playoff game in 13 seasons. The farm system is barren. Anthony Rendon has played one-third of the team’s games since signing a huge free agent deal. He’s still owned $114 million over the next three years. Mike Trout hasn’t played a full season since 2016 and is signed through 2030. Can we stop calling him the best player in baseball?
Back in late May, when the San Diego Padres went into New York, they were four games under .500 at 23-27. Yet, after hitting home runs, Fernando Tatis and Juan Soto did theatrical bat-flips and acted like they had just won the World Series. It said all you need to know about what’s wrong with that team and what’s wrong in baseball. Win something and then you earn the right to act that way. The Padres are a perfect example of a rotisserie-style approach to team building. Sign players for no apparent reason and hope like hell it works. In this case, it’s a dog’s breakfast.
A few weeks ago, New York Mets rookie Ronny Mauricio pulled the same act when he hit his first major league home run. Mauricio made Jose Bautista’s bat flip look amateurish. He then proceeded to romp around the bases like he had just won the World Series. Guess what? Next time up, I would have thrown at his head. Gone are the days when that crap had repercussions. Today, it’s acceptable even for a rookie.
Then there’s the case of George Kirby of the Seattle Mariners who had the audacity to call out his manager after giving up a pair of seventh inning runs. Kirby claimed Scott Servais should have pulled him from the game because “I had thrown over 100 pitches.” What? Kirby walked it back the next day after Roger Clemens, among others, blasted the righthander.
Kirby needs a little history lesson. There was a time when pitchers actually threw complete games. Who can forget the epic battle between Warren Spahn and Juan Marichal? Willie Mays ended the marathon dual in the bottom of the 16th inning. Marichal had thrown 227 pitches. Spahn had thrown 201. It was the third time in Spahn’s career that he had pitched at least 15 innings in a game.
Warren Spahn threw 22 complete games at the age of 42. Will there even be 22 complete games total in the majors this season? And let’s not forget. Spahn was the most decorated major leaguer in World War II.
Former Blue Jay and Yankees pitcher David Wells slammed the state of major league baseball when invited back to Yankee Stadium for Old-Timer’s Day. He ripped into Nike and Bud Light for being “woke”. Wells wore a piece of medical tape over the Nike swoosh on the chest of his uniform. He claimed that companies dabble too much in social issues and politics in a lame effort to look socially conscious. He referenced Bud Light, which used the transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney in a social media promotion earlier this year, causing some conservatives to call for a boycott of the beer.
Seahawks Central – The Seahawks have bounced back nicely after an embarrassing opening week loss against the Los Angeles Rams. That setback exposed all the same ills from last season – run defense, time of possession and third down conversion. We will see if the defense holds up when the schedule toughens.
Sunday’s win fit the description of Pete Carroll’s core disciplines – run the football and control the clock. Problem is, the Seahawks still stink on third down and remain one of the worst teams in the Red Zone. Until that changes, Seattle will let teams hang around.
Injuries are starting to mount so its hard to gauge if the team has taken steps forward. The offensive line has been decimated. It will be interesting to see how good this offense can be once everyone is healthy.
We’re still not sold on the defense. Jamal Adams should make his return next Monday night against the New York Giants. Riq Woolen may be back which would give the defense a big boost. Don’t forget, this is a young team with 25 first and second-year players. That’s nearly half the roster. You would have to think the team will only get better as the season progresses.
NFL Notebook – How’s that move to Denver working out for you Russell Wilson? The Denver debacle has derailed what appeared to be a sure-fire Hall of Fame career. The Donkey’s were completely embarrassed by the Miami Dolphins on Sunday 70-20. It was the most points surrendered in an NFL game since 1966. The Dolphins were in position to kick a field goal which would have made it the highest scoring game in NFL history but they chose instead to take a knee and run out the clock. When the dust settled, Miami had scored 10 touchdowns and produced 726 yards of offense. The Broncos are 0-3 and can cuddle up to the Chicago Bears as the most dysfunctional team in the NFL.
Reminder: Miami plays at Buffalo on Sunday. Should be a barn-burner!
The Bears are a dumpster fire. In 2021, they selected quarterback Justin Fields with the eleventh overall pick. He was going to be their saviour. Skip two years forward and Fields looks like the second coming of JaMarcus Russell. Come to think of it, I’d rather have Sally Fields.
Can we slow the Dallas Cowboys hype-train? ESPN was calling the Cowboys the best team in football after the opening two games. Did they not notice that the wins were against the Giants and the Jets? Losing at Arizona should not happen if you are a top team. I have zero trust in Dak Prescott to win when it counts.
Is there a more overrated quarterback in the NFL than Buffalo’s Josh Allen? Please stop mentioning him in the same breath as Pat Mahomes and Joe Burrow. Allen is a turnover machine. Since 2018, Allen has 85 turnovers, more than any other NFL quarterback. In the last 20 games, he has 38 combined fumbles and interceptions. Yes, almost two per game. He’s more Carson Wentz than Pat Mahomes.
It seems like we talk about this every year. Highly drafted quarterbacks come into the league with huge hype only to fall flat on their face. Why hand them starting jobs before they are ready? Why turn over the reins when you have a horse-bleep offensive line? Guess what? Bryce Young and Anthony Richardson are both already injured and out of the lineup. Rushing them makes zero sense.
How does Brandon Staley keep his job? He did it again on Sunday against the Vikings – gambling on fourth-and-one from his own 24 with less than two minutes to go. The Chargers got stuffed and handed the Vikings a golden opportunity to win the game. The inept Vikes failed to take advantage but that doesn’t absolve the Staley stupidity. Guaranteed Staley gets kicked to the curb by the end of the season. The Chargers should have gassed him on the off-season after blowing a 24-point lead against Jacksonville in last year’s playoffs.
Golf Notebook – Remember the name Ludvig Aberg. The 23-year-old Swede could play a big part in the outcome of this week’s Ryder Cup in Rome. Aberg was a surprise pick by European captain Luke Donald when the teams were announced recently, despite turning pro just four months ago. He was the top-ranked amateur after being named U.S. college player of the year for a second straight year at Texas Tech.
Aberg was one of six selections by Donald as Europe prepares to turn the tables after being routed by the U.S. at Whistling Straits in 2021. Aberg posted four top-25 finishes in his first two months on the PGA Tour before winning the European Masters.
There is nothing sweeter in sports than watching the U.S. get beaten in the Ryder Cup? It never gets old. Go Europe!
Leftovers – How can Shai Gilgeous-Alexander not be Canada’s male athlete of the year? The Oklahoma City Thunder star was fourth in the NBA in scoring last season with 31.4 PPG. He was Canada’s rock at the FIBA World Championships, leading Canada to a bronze medal. There were many other great performances this year, like Nick Taylor winning the Canadian Open, but SGA did it over a full season and on the world stage.
Whatever happened to Bianca Andreescu? Since winning the 2019 U.S. Open, she’s played in nine Grand Slam tournaments and won a grand total of 11 matches. Talk about a one-hit wonder!
James Harden has jumped to the top of the list of annoying athletes. Let’s review. He forced his way out of OKC. Same thing in Houston. Same thing in Brooklyn where the Big Three hype with Kevin Jurant and Kyrie Irvine didn’t quite work out. Now he’s demanding a move out of Philadelphia. Who would want this guy? Sit his ass!
That’s it for now. Time to run along. We have to go and check out Mike Babcock’s cellphone.
Spotify Tracks of the Month – We’ve come across lots of great music since our last blog was posted.
In 2005, guitar legend Les Paul released an album called Les Paul and Friends. It included a Who’s Who of guitar slingers including Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, Jeff Beck, Steve Miller and Keith Richard. The entire album is outstanding. We recommend a few tracks including ‘Good News’ featuring Jeff Beck and Sam Cooke and ‘Love Sneakin’ Up on You ‘ featuring Joss Stone and Sting.
Australia continues to produce an endless stream of outstanding artists. We love the Teskey Brothers. We also recommend listening to The Meltdown, a soulful outfit fronted by Simon Burke. Check out ‘Hard Time Letting Go’ from the album It’s a Long Road.
British-born singer-keyboardist Jon Cleary will be performing at Jazz Alley in Seattle from October 12-15. Worth a road trip. Cleary is based in New Orleans and carries on the tradition of syncopated piano with the second line beat. Check out ‘Poor Boy’ from his latest release So Swell.
Pete York and the Spencer Davis Group recorded the song ‘Keep on Running’ in 1965. York is still alive and kicking and back reprising the tune with Torsten Goods. Worth checking out.
The tragic fires in Maui were heartbreaking this summer. The main drag in Lahaina was devastated including the loss of Mick Fleetwood’s iconic bar on Front Street. Spent a fun-filled night there with my wife. Mick was in the house that evening and sat in with the house blues band and during a session with Fleetwood Mac guitarist Rick Vito. Have a listen to ‘Who Were You Thinking Of?’ off of Vito’s solo album Mojo on My Side.
Joy Oladokun is an emerging young singer. She is joined by the great Chris Stapleton on the song ‘Sweet Symphony.’
Bettye LaVette is finally being recognized for her talents. She has a new album out entitled LaVette! Have a listen to the track ‘Don’t Get Me Started’ with Stevie Winwood on keyboards.
And finally, for those who missed Allison Russell’s performance at the Blues and Roots Festival in Victoria this summer, here’s ‘Nightflyer’ from Russell’s album Outside Child.
We hope you are enjoying Under Further Review. If you have friends or family members who enjoy sports, please take a moment and direct them to the website at https://underfurtherreview.ca/ and encourage them to subscribe.