Under Further Review – September 28 Edition – Douglas Smith with Editor Bill Morphy and contributions from Jordan Moss, Bill Myles and Peter Hucul. This week – Hockey’s back, sharpen the blades. The Seahawks suck, change the channel. The Jays prepare for October baseball and Aaron Judge heads down Highway 61.
Canucks Notebook – As the Canucks prepare for the start of the regular season, diehard fans are wondering why the team didn’t do more to improve a defense corps that is in desperate need of an upgrade. You can thank Billy Bob Benning for that.
The new regime was left with eight defensemen under contract for this season with very limited cap space to make any kind of impact addition. In the off-season, the Canucks were clearly unwilling to pay the cost of opening up cap room. You know how that works. This is a team that was already without draft capital.
Improving the back end will have to wait for another day. Nearly every team in the league faces the same predicament. Why give up draft picks to clear cap space when you not exactly in a position to do so? The Canucks best option may be to continue building organizational depth up front in the hope you can flip a forward for two for a defenseman who can bolster the unit, particularly on the right side.
So, the Canucks did what they could. They ended up adding forward Ilya Mikheyev in free agency in an effort to improve team speed. They signed KHL recruit Andrei Kuzmenko to an entry level deal, and free agent forwards Curtis Lazar and Dakota Joshua for less than $1 million each. Smart additions with limited resources. Looks like the Canucks may have something in Kuzmenko, the 26-year-old rookie. Debuting him on a line with Mikheyev and Elias Pettersson provides Kuzmenko with every opportunity to shine.
When you look at the landscape in the Western Conference, you can see why the Canucks are claiming its “playoffs or bust” this season. The Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche have taken several hits to their roster. There are no teams in the conference without flaws. We see no reason why the Canucks won’t make the playoffs. One thing they have to avoid is another slow start. Of course, injuries can factor in and it looks already like the Canucks will be without Brock Boeser and Ilya Mikheyev for extended periods.
NHL Notebook – We had some immediate feedback to our comments last month about the Canadian Women’s national team and the Hockey Hall of Fame. Regular contributor Dave Kittle mentioned that the HHOF and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame both insist on selecting new members each year, unlike the Baseball Hall of Fame which, in some years, selects no new members if none are deemed worthy. This goes a long way in explaining why the likes of Kevin Lowe, Dave Andreychuk and others are in the Hockey Hall of Fame and why The Go Go’s, Joan Jett, Tom Waits, Patti Smith and Journey are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for no apparent reason. It seems the HHOF has decided to select at least one female hockey player to the Hall each year whether they need to or not.
Yes, P.K. Subban won a Norris Trophy during his NHL career but he is NOT a Hall of Famer.
We will do an NHL season preview in the next few weeks and key on the seven Canadian teams. In the meantime, keep an eye on the Carolina Hurricanes and the New York Rangers. Both teams are coming on strong and have the element that we think is most important and that’s DEPTH.
Hope you have had a chance to watch Summit ’72, the documentary on the storied Canada-Russia series currently airing on the CBC. Brings back so many memories. Can’t help but wonder how different things would have been had Bobby Orr not been injured and been able to play. Not to mention Bobby Hull and yes, Gordie Howe. Watching Don Awry and Rod Seiling on Canada’s blueline was painful. And what were Red Berenson, Vic Hadfield, J.P. Parise and Bill Goldsworthy doing on that team?
The Calder Race – The 2022-2023 NHL season promises to showcase a bevy of rambunctious young talent. Two terrific young defencemen stand out – Owen Power of the Buffalo Sabres and Jake Sanderson of the Ottawa Senators. Power was the number one pick in the 2021 draft. He joined the Sabres late last season and played in eight games, averaging 22:05 minutes per night. He doesn’t turn 20 until late in November. Mark him down as the prohibitive Calder favourite. Detroit defenseman Simon Edvinsson could also have an immediate impact.
Sanderson was the Sens top pick in 2020, fifth overall. He had an injury-plagued season last year with the University of North Dakota and missed an opportunity to represent the U.S. in the Beijing Olympics. Expect Sanderson to earn a spot on the left side of the Senators blueline out of camp. Behind Thomas Chabot, Ottawa lines up Nick Holden and Eric Brannstrom. It’s not as though Sanderson is in tough. Expect him to be in the top four by Christmas, if not sooner.
The Seattle Kraken could break in a pair of highly-touted centremen in their second season. Matty Beniers was Seattle’s first ever draft pick, second overall in 2021. He should walk right into their lineup this season and play in their top six. The fact he plays a responsible 200-foot game will help him gain a foothold early on.
It remains to be seen of what can be expected of Shane Wright, this year’s number four overall pick. Wright was the consensus top choice until in-person interviews turned teams off including the Montreal Canadiens. The Kraken will certainly give Wright every opportunity to grab a roster spot. With little scoring up front, there’s no reason to think Wright won’t break into the lineup as an 18-year-old.
Elsewhere around the league, you have Mason McTavish in Anaheim. He has to be considered a Calder frontrunner. You’ve got Port Moody, BC native Kent Johnson in Columbus. Cole Perfetti in Winnipeg. Jack Quinn in Buffalo. Alexander Holtz in New Jersey. Lukas Reichel in Chicago. William Eklund in San Jose. Marco Rossi in Minnesota. Dylan Holloway in Edmonton. In Montreal, it looks as though number one overall pick Juraj Slafkovsky will crack the Canadiens lineup along with teammate Kaiden Guhle.
Seahawks Notebook – The current band of Seahawks looks oddly like previous iterations – and that’s a pop-gun offense coupled with a defense that can’t get off the field. Sound familiar?
Against a winless Atlanta Falcons team, the Seahawks surrendered 179 yards rushing. The pass defense is no better. The Seahawks have managed only one interception in three games. The Falcons completed seven explosive passing plays of 20+ yards. The bend-don’t-break defense is mostly break.
The offense has scored a grand total of six second-half points in the opening three games. Seattle is the only team in the NFL to fail to score a second-half touchdown. At one point, the Seahawks went six consecutive quarters without scoring a point.
Next up for the Seahawks is a road game in Detroit. That is no easy task. The Lions may be 1-2 but they are one of the most improved teams in the NFL and the Seahawks are about to find out.
NFL Notebook – Russell Wilson wanted out of Seattle. Wonder how he’s enjoying Denver? The 2-1 Broncos sit tied atop the AFC West but they could easily be 0-and-3. Offensively, Denver looks a lot like Seattle. Until scoring a late touchdown to beat the 49’ers, the Broncos had put up only two touchdowns in over 30 possessions in the opening three games.
Wilson is doing, or NOT doing, exactly what he did in Seattle and that’s failing to target the middle of the field. Yes, he is one of the best deep passers in the NFL but he hits the lowest percentage of throws, ten yards or more, inside the numbers of any quarterback in the league. Sound familiar? In the first two games of the season against two bad teams, Seattle and Texas, Wilson targeted the middle of the field only twice with throws of ten yards or more. The result? One incompletion and one interception. This is NOT a recipe for success.
The new Bronco coaching staff has been out to lunch. The mismanagement started with the oddball decision to try a 64-yard field goal in the final minute against Seattle. How about having to call a timeout because you didn’t have a player lined up to receive a punt? A league-high number of delay-of-game calls. The best weapon for the Broncos has been their punter. The poor guy had to punt ten times against the Niners.
Who would have thought there would be only two unbeaten teams after the opening three weeks of the season? One of the teams riding high is the 3-0 Miami Dolphins. Tua Tagovailoa is making people change their minds about his future as a starting quarterback. On defense, safety Jevon Holland is headed to a Pro Bowl season. The Coquitlam native has been playing like his hair is on fire. He had ten tackles and 1.5 sacks in the Dolphins upset of Buffalo. Holland was a second-round pick last year after playing at Oregon.
The Philadelphia Eagles are for real. They should run away and hide in the always-mediocre NFC East. Eagles GM Howie Roseman is one of the top personnel men in football. In the off-season, he stole standout receiver A. J. Brown from the Tennessee Titans, then added Haason Reddick and corner James Bradberry in free agency. The Eagles are also sitting on two first-round picks in next year’s draft. If Jalen Hurts continues to excel behind center, look out for the Eagles.
Robert Sarver came to his senses and is selling the Phoenix Suns. Daniel Snyder should do the same. The Washington Commanders are a dumpster fire. Who in their right mind would give up two third-round picks and a fourth-rounder for Carson Wentz. The statuesque Wentz was sacked nine times by the Eagles on Sunday.
Pity poor Joe Burrow. The Cincinnati quarterback has been pressured on 32.9 percent of his pass attempts. Despite pulling out their first win of the season on Sunday vs. the Jets, Burrow was pressured on 15 of his 38 dropbacks. When you have a franchise quarterback that good, you would think the team would invest more in the guys protecting him.
From Peter King’s Football Morning in America – In 2021, in an attempt to bolster their anemic passing game, the New York Giants spent lavishly to sign free agent receiver Kenny Golladay before using a first-round pick on Kadarius Toney. Two weeks ago, against Carolina, Golladay played two snaps. Toney caught two passes for zero yards. Since joining the Giants, the pair have combined for zero touchdowns in 20 games. They will have cost the Giants $45,281,438.
Blue Jays Notebook – Where would the Blue Jays be without Alek Manoah. The guy is a beast on the mound. How can he not be in the top three in American League Cy Young voting along with Justin Verlander and Shohei Otani? Manoah has thrown a career-high 190.2 innings. He’s 15-7 on the season with a 2.31 ERA, third-best in the AL. He’s walked only 49 batters and has a 1.002 WHIP. The guy is a bulldog competitor. Give him the ball in the post-season and watch him perform.
We were on board when the Blue Jays signed pitcher Jose Berrios to a seven-year, $131 million dollar extension in the off-season. The deal looks a little frightening now. Berrios has had a season from hell. His ERA is 5.27, worst in all of baseball for pitchers with 20 or more starts. He’s given up the second most home runs in the American League and the worst batting average against. His stats on the road are scary. We’re not sure if you would even consider starting him in the post-season especially considering how Ross Stripling has pitched since joining the starting staff. Maybe you start him in Toronto but definitely not on the road.
MLB Notebook – Everyone is watching closely as Aaron Judge chases down home run No. 61, the all-time single-season home run mark in the American League. What is lost in his incredible season is the fact Judge could end up winning the Triple Crown. He is currently second in batting average while leading the league in home runs and runs batted in.
Glad to see Albert Pujols hit the 700-home run mark before his retirement this off-season. Like a lot of people, we thought his career was over a few years ago. How about this stat? Pujols has never struck out more than 95 times in any of his 22 seasons in the majors. Giancarlo Stanton of the Yankees, by comparison, has struck out more than 95 times in 11 of his 13 seasons.
What can you say about the St. Louis Cardinals? This is the Cards 14th straight winning season. The sixth time over 90 wins. When young players get drafted by St. Louis, they are given a small red handbook entitled The Cardinal Way. It details every position and outlines how to play the game. This is an organization that does everything the right way.
C’mon Mariners! You had a chance to lock down a playoff spot for the first time in what seems like forever (not since 2001) and you crap the bed. No excuse for losing seven of ten on the road against the Angels, A’s and Royals, doormats all.
Chasing Arch (Texas Style) – The Manning’s are the first family of football. Archie is the patriarch. Archie was the second overall pick in the 1971 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints. In those days, that was a kiss of death. Archie played ten seasons with the Saints and retired without notching a winning record or having played a single playoff game. Sad because Archie was an excellent quarterback.
His greatest gift was producing three football playing sons. We all know about the brilliant exploits of Peyton and Eli but Archie’s oldest son Cooper was also destined to play in the NFL until spinal stenosis ended his football career while still in high school.
Fast forward to today and Cooper’s son Arch is the top-rated college prospect for the class of 2023. On June 23, Arch announced he had committed to play for the University of Texas Longhorns next season.
Why are we telling you this? Well, it has to do with the cost of recruiting in US college football. On June 17, the Manning family made their official visit to Austin which allowed the university to roll out the proverbial red carpet for Arch and eight other recruits. We’re talking luxury, five-star hotel, food, booze and 48-hours of first-class treatment for the recruits, parents and other family members. All paid for out of the school’s substantial recruiting budget.
Total cost: $280,000.
Four of the nine recruits, including Manning, have committed to play for the Longhorns. The following weekend, the Longhorns hosted 14 more recruits. The total tab for both weekends was nearly $630,000. That’s big-time US college football where winning is everything and where the big football programs get to do whatever they want at whatever the cost. Don’t you love higher learning?
Thanks for Showing Up – Credit the Internationals for stepping up after looking like roadkill following the opening day of the Presidents Cup. The result was predictable as the Americans won 17.5 to 12.5 but the Internationals can still take away some positives. All 12 American players were ranked in the top 25 in the world. The Internationals had 8 rookies, including Canadians Corey Conners and Taylor Pendrith, and were missing several top players who recently bolted for LIV Golf.
The Canadians looked nervous from day one and never got untracked. Both Conners and Pendrith finished 0-and-4 earning the moniker The Bagel Brothers! The unlikely star for the Internationals was 20-year-old Tom Kim of South Korea. He has a big future.
The 2024 Presidents Cup is slated for Royal Montreal Golf Club. Canada’s Mike Weir is the likely choice as International Team caption.
Leftovers – Special thanks to the organizers of the BC +55 Senior Games in Victoria. It was a little embarrassing to accept a bronze medal in our hockey division when only three teams competed and we lost all three games. If I show anyone the medal, the less said the better.
Much like the Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup in golf, tennis serves up the Laver Cup which pits Europe against the rest of the world. The competition was put together by Roger Federer’s management team. Until this year, there had been four editions of the Laver Cup with Europe winning all of them.
Enter Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime. Felix took out Novak Djokovic as the World Team rallied back to win the Cup in dramatic fashion. Since bombing out in the first round of the U.S. Open, Auger-Aliassime has also knocked off world #1 Carlos Alcaraz of Spain in Davis Cup play. Without question, Felix is Canada’s best hope at winning a tennis major. Incidentally, the 2023 Laver Cup is scheduled to be played in Vancouver.
It’s pretty clear the Toronto Raptors have chosen to stay the course. They are sticking with the young core and hoping for more internal improvements. Masai Ujiri kicked the tires on several big names during the off-season – Kevin Durant, Deandre Ayton, Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert – but decided it wasn’t exactly the best time to toss his chips into the middle of the table. The Raptors return 13 players from the 2021-2022 roster. That accounts for 92 per cent of last season’s minutes. The top addition is Otto Porter Jr. from the NBA champion Golden State Warriors.
You would have to think the biggest name on the Raptors radar has to be Toronto-born point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander of the Oklahoma Thunder. All he’s done since joining the Thunder is lose and the immediate prospects are not exactly encouraging. The kid just spent the summer playing for Raptors coach Nick Nurse with the Canadian national team. It’s not as though the Raptors aren’t fully aware of his talents.
Our Canadian boys fell 2-0 to Uruguay in the second to last friendly before the World Cup of Soccer in Qatar. Canada was certainly not out-classed by the 13th-ranked Uruguayans, outshooting their opponents and dominating possession. The Canadians will now face Japan in the final tune-up match on November 17 before the start of the World Cup on November 23. Can’t wait!
YouTube Feature Video of the Month – Few artists today do covers like Britain’s lovely Joss Stone. Here’s Midnight Train to Georgia from 2016.
Check out People Get Ready from 2007, live at Ronnie Scott’s in London with the great Jeff Beck.
And from 2021, here’s I Put a Spell on You.
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