Two Hens in the Hockey House: All about Sir Paul, the Rink Rat, Puck Finn, Twig Ehlers and how much the Winnipeg Jets will miss Paul Stastny

Let the games begin!

The Winnipeg Jets open their 2018-19 National Hockey League crusade tonight against the Blues in St. Louis, and they have a tough act to follow. After advancing to the Western Conference final last spring, it has to be Stanley Cup final or bust for the locals.

Do they have it in them to take that next step? The Two Hens in the Hockey House have the answer. Take it away, ladies…

Question Lady: Well, the quest is about to begin and I haven’t been this jacked up about anything since Paul McCartney stepped back on stage for a rousing encore the other night at the local hockey palace. How about you?

Answer Lady: You went to see Sir Paul in concert?

Question Lady: You bet your Beatles bubble gum cards I did. He’s been my main man since the lads first appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show. The guy’s a rock ‘n’ roll legend and can still get after it at 76 years of age. You don’t like Macca?

Answer Lady: Meh. His best post-Beatles work was Band On the Run. That was released in 1973. He’s been in a slump ever since. You know, kind of like the Jets since the World Hockey Association days.

WHA champion Jets, circa 1978-79.

Question Lady: Will you old farts ever let go of that Jets/WHA nonsense?

Answer Lady: Nonsense? You call it nonsense? Wash your mouth out with granny’s lye soap, girlfriend! Those were the glory days—three championships, five trips to the final in seven seasons, kicked the Russian Bear’s butt, best forward line in all of hockey…neither version of the NHL Jets has accomplished anything to compare. It’ll be 40 years next spring since the last victory parade rolled down Portage Avenue, and we haven’t had a whiff of glory since.

Question Lady: Which brings us to the current edition of the Jets. Plenty of buzz about these boys. They’re among the morning-line favorites to win le Coupe Stanley. Do you think the hype is warranted?

Answer Lady: Absolutely. All the ingredients seem to be in place. I believe they’ll romp through the regular season, maybe even win the President’s Trophy, and then, hopefully, they’ll borrow on the experience gained and lessons learned from last spring and get the job done next April, May and June.

Question Lady: Any chance of the Jets doing a face plant like the Edmonton McDavids performed last season?

Answer Lady: Sir Paul will be back in town with Ringo, John and George in tow before that happens, and since two of the Fab Four are pushing up daisies it ain’t gonna happen. There’s too much depth, too much talent. There aren’t any Looch’s in the Jets’ lineup to drag everybody else down. There’s no one like that anchor Milan Lucic in E-Town.

Question Lady: So this season will be a cake walk?

Answer Lady: Not at all. It’s not like the other outfits on this side of the continent have been twiddling their thumbs. The St. Louis Blues ought to be better. Ditto the Dallas Stars. San Jose Sharks upped their game with Erik Karlsson. The Nashville Predators are still nasty. But, ya, the Jets are the best of the bunch.

Bryan Little

Question Lady: Any weaknesses?

Answer Lady: Yup. Down the middle. Maybe. Rink Rat Scheifele is a legit No. 1 centre, but it’s iffy after that. I’ve long been a Bryan Little fan and I believe he’ll suitably fill the second slot. But what if his best-before date has already passed? Is Jack Roslovic a ready-for-prime-time centre? We don’t know. We can only guess. It could be a repeat of last season when general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff felt obliged to seek help from beyond. We might be looking at another Paul Stastny scenario.

Paul Stastny

Question Lady: What you’re saying is that this Jets team isn’t as good as the one that reached the Western Conference final last May?

Answer Lady: Do the math. Stastny gave the Jets 13 points in 19 regular-season games and, more significant, 15 points in the Stanley Cup tournament. Can either Little or Roslovic deliver that kind of production? From October through March? Sure. April-May-June I’m not convinced. And remember, it isn’t about the regular season for the Jets anymore. It’s about what goes down in the tournament. The playoffs, that’s their measuring stick. Everything else is window dressing.

Twig Ehlers

Question Lady: Any other misgivings?

Answer Lady: Twig Ehlers. The guy’s dynamic, but he’s a 35/40-goal scorer dressed up as a 25/29-goal scorer. His retreats into the twilight zone are mysterious and frustrating. Maybe it’s that whole PlayStation thing. Maybe the Vancouver Canucks are on to something by banning PlayStation and Fortnite on road trips.

Question Lady: Are you serious? You think Ehlers’ trips to la la land are linked to an obsession with video games? That’s crazy talk, girlfriend. Patrik Laine is one of those PlayStation goomers and he scored 44 goals last season.

Answer Lady: I’m just spitballing, girlfriend. If Puck Finn scores 44 goals every winter they’ll let him play Fortnite until his thumbs fall off. But there must be a reason why Twig vamooses for chunks of time for no apparent reason. I mean, four goals after March? Zero in 15 playoff games? And people thought Howard Hughes disappeared. Maybe that’s what I should call Ehlers instead of Twig—Howard.

Blake Wheeler

Question Lady: You’re being kind of hard on the kid, don’t you think?

Answer Lady: All I’m saying is he has 35-goal talent (or more) and his Invisible Man routine is beginning to wear thin. On the plus side, he’s young and can learn about the mental side of the game from a guy like captain Blake Wheeler.

Question Lady: Speaking of Wheeler, do you see another 91-point crusade out of him?

Answer Lady: I don’t see why not. Playing with Rink Rat Scheifele and Kyle Connor, he ought to get a point a game by accident. The guy’s a stud.

Question Lady: Any bold predictions?

Patrik Laine

Answer Lady: Yup. Puck Finn will win the Rocket Richard Trophy with 57 goals. The Rink Rat will reach the 100-point plateau and finish second to Connor McDavid in scoring. Connor Hellebuyck will win the Vezina Trophy. Paul Maurice will be a finalist for coach of the year.

Question Lady: What about the playoffs?

Answer Lady: Can’t say. Too much can change by then, and I expect it will. Chevy will do something at, or just before, the trade deadline. It’ll involve centres and defencemen.

Question Lady: Okay, gotta go. I’d say let’s do lunch, but I’m going home for a soak and to listen to the latest McCartney album. How about you?

Answer Lady: I think I’ll just watch old film of the Jets’ last WHA championship.

 

 

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About Jumbo Thornton’s chin whiskers…an expansion team in Seattle…and they’re buzzing about the Winnipeg Jets

Midweek musings on the edge of a fresh National Hockey League season…

Jumbo Joe Thornton and the here and after.

There was good news and bad news at the NHL’s roster cut-down deadline this week. The bad news is that Joe Thornton’s chin whiskers became a casualty. That’s right, the San Jose Sharks forward had his mountain-man beard hacked off. The good news is that they discovered Jimmy Hoffa, Amelia Earhart’s airplane and a golf ball that Tiger Woods lost at last summer’s U.S. Open under all that scruff.

Looks like Seattle will be awarded an expansion franchise for the 2020 NHL season. Reaction to the news in Ottawa was swift: “Can we get one, too?”

You know that tired lament about how no one notices the goings-on in Good Ol’ Hometown? About how anyone who works and plays in River City flies under the radar? About how life sucks because everyone in the eastern time zone is tucked snugly into bed by the time they drop the puck out in the colonies?

Well, you wanted recognition for the Winnipeg Jets? You’ve got it.

Les Jets de Winnipeg have been in more headlines this week than anyone not being considered for a seat on the United States Supreme Court. They’re getting buzz from one of our two national newspapers, the Globe and Mail. They’re getting buzz from Yahoo! Sports. The “insiders” at Sportsnet are buzzing about our local hockey heroes. ESPN is boffo on les Jets. NBC/NBCSN will feature les Jets five times on Wednesday nights. Online and sports books in Las Vegas are bullish on Winnipeg HC.

Cripes, man, there’s even Jets buzz on TSN, where they could be found on the main page of the website on Tuesday morning. In three different headlines.

When I saw that, I immediately called up the Weather Channel.

“Is it true?” I asked a young woman who answered the phone.

“Is what true?” she replied.

“Has Hell frozen over?”

“By Hell, do you mean Ottawa and the Senators?”

“No. I mean Hell as in Hell. You know…Satan, hissing, misery, suffering, eternal inferno. That wretched place.”

“Sounds like Ottawa and the Senators to me. But if you mean the biblical Hell, the usual warm front persists and remains parked over most of it. Why do you ask?”

“Because TSN has three mentions about the Winnipeg Jets on the main page of the website and there’s nada—bupkus!—about TSN’s favorite lousy quarterback, Johnny Manziel. They can’t possibly start a day without slobbering over Johnny Rotten, so I figure it can only be one of two things: 1) I overslept and it’s late November; 2) hell has frozen over.”

“No,” she assured me, “you didn’t sleep in and snowballs still don’t have a hope in Hell. Trust me, you and everyone else will know when Hell has frozen over.”

“How so?”

“There’ll be a Stanley Cup parade on Yonge Street in Toronto.”

Blake Wheeler

According to the pundits hither and yon, Winnipeg HC, while not everyone’s flavor of the month, figures to be a very prominent player in its eighth crusade since the Atlanta caravan rolled into River City in 2011.

Les Jets, who commence their 2018-19 journey vs. the Blues in St. Louis on Thursday night, are listed at No. 2 on the TSN power rankings, behind the Tampa Bay Lightning. (Those ratings, by the way, are determined by five talking heads—Ray Ferraro, O’Dog Jeff O’Neill, Craig Button, Jamie McLennan and Darren Dreger.) For its part, Yahoo! Sports ranks Winnipeg HC fifth, behind Tampa Bay, Nashville Predators, San Jose and the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals.

Over at Sportsnet, meanwhile, 16 “insiders” are gaga for les Jets.
* 9 pick them to win Stanley Cup;
* 10 pick them to win Western Division;
* 11 pick them as the Canadian outfit with highest points total;
* 1 (Kristina Rutherford) picks Blake Wheeler to win Hart Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable player;
* 5 pick Connor Hellebuyck to win the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goaltender.

Connor Hellebuyck

At The Athletic, 47 scribes/editors weighed in on the upcoming season and les Jets are the second favorite to cop the Cup; Puck Finn is the overwhelming pick to win the Rocket Richard Trophy; Connor Hellebuyck is the second choice for the Vezina; and even the head coach, Paul Maurice, is feeling the love as co-favorite to be named coach of the year (with Peter DeBoer of San Jose).

Not since the World Hockey Association have we witnessed such pre-season hype for Winnipeg HC. Those WHA outfits delivered the goods. We’ll know about these Jets in about nine months.

Rink Rat Scheifele

Interesting take on les Jets from Dave Shoalts of the Globe and Mail:

“Everybody has fallen in love with the Toronto Maple Leafs as the team to break Canada’s 25-year Stanley Cup drought. But it might just be the Winnipeg Jets who accomplish that. The Maple Leafs may be the darlings of the oddsmakers, but the Jets are big, fast, skilled and better than the team that went to last spring’s Western Conference final.

“With that experience under their belts, the Jets are now poised to take the next step. Their top line of centre Mark Scheifele and wingers Blake Wheeler and Kyle Connor is one of the best in the league. Goaltender Connor Hellebuyck played his way into the top tier of goaltenders with his work in the playoffs. At 25 years of age he, like his teammates, is only getting better.”

A couple things to peel away here:

Bryan Little

I’m not convinced this Jets outfit is “better than the team” that lost to the Vegas Golden Knights in the Western Conference final. The departure of Paul Stastny tells me it isn’t. Unless Bryan Little has a bounce-back season or Jack Roslovic is a revelation, Winnipeg HC is weaker at centre ice.

Hellebuyck, meantime, was terrific during a burdensome regular season and early in the playoffs. He did not, however, play admirably in the five-game ouster vs. Vegas. He was sketchy and Marc-André Fleury outperformed him by a wide margin, despite his repeated mantra that “luck” was Fleury’s greatest ally.

Hens in the Hockey House: Big deals on Wheels for the Winnipeg Jets

My two Hens in the Hockey House have surfaced from their summer hibernation, just in time to deliver some blah, blah, blah and yadda, yadda, yadda on the Blake Wheeler signing. The Winnipeg Jets captain has agreed to a five-year contract extension that will average $8.25 million per season, at which time he will be into his hockey dotage at age 37.

Take it away, ladies…

Question Lady: Well, girlfriend, what’s your take on the Deal on Wheels? Too much money? Too much term? Too little money? Too little term?

Answer Lady: The question isn’t whether or not the Jets gave Wheeler too much of this or too little of that. It’s this: When does the captain go into the inevitable decline?

Blake Wheeler

Question Lady: What makes you so sure his game’s heading south?

Answer Lady: Oh, honey, everything heads south. Just take a look at what gravity has done to our bodies. We know Wheeler’s skills will decay and no tummy tuck is going to change or fix that. As sure as there’s wind at Portage and Main, he’ll experience a drop in productivity. What we don’t know and can’t predict is when, and how rapid, the retreat will be.

Question Lady: We’re pretty confident that his game won’t take a detour south this winter, are we not?

Answer Lady: I’d say that’s a safe bet. I mean, it might not be another 91-point season, but as long as he has Rink Rat Scheifele, Kyle Connor, Big Buff, Twig Ehlers and Puck Finn as playmates he ought to deliver a point a game by accident. Here’s something we must keep in mind, though: Wheeler will be working on his existing contract in the 2018-19 National Hockey League season. At $5.6 million, he’s a bargain. Maybe the best bargain in the game. But he won’t be so much of a bargain if it’s 55 points and $8.25 million four years from now. Guaranteed the rabble will be bitching a blue streak about his contract being an anchor if that happens. I already hear grumbling about the term on this extension.

Question Lady: Are you surprised that the Jets gave a 32-year-old forward an extra five years?

Answer Lady: To be honest, two years ago I was convinced that Wheeler would play out his current contract then vamoose out of Dodge in pursuit of a championship. That changed last spring when the Jets advanced to the Western Conference final in the Stanley Cup runoff. But an additional five years? Ya, totally unexpected. I was thinking three tops.

Kevin Cheveldayoff

Question Lady: Do you think Wheeler left money on the table for general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff and the bean counters to divvy up between Puck Finn, Kyle Connor, Josh Morrissey and Jacob Trouba?

Answer Lady: Since I wasn’t invited to join Wheeler and Chevy for the cup of coffee that led to this deal, I can’t answer that. But I think an argument can be made that he’d have gotten more coin on the open market next summer. So, in those terms, ya, he sold himself short. But, hey, how much is enough? If a guy can’t get by on $8.25 million per annum, he’s got issues that we probably don’t want to know about.

Question Lady: Doesn’t Wheeler strike you as the kind of guy who would take one for the team, so to speak?

Answer Lady: Ya, he does. Never met him, but the guy’s a pro’s pro by all accounts. About the only negative thing I could say about the captain is that he is sometimes—too often—prickly with news snoops. But dealing with jock journos is part of the package when you wear the C, so get over it.

Question Lady: Best-case scenario, of course, is that Wheeler hoists the Stanley Cup next spring or the year after that. What’s the worst-case scenario?

Answer Lady: That he turns into the Looch—Milan Lucic, owner of the most-onerous contract in the NHL. I mean, the Edmonton McDavids are paying the Looch $6 million a year to lurch up and down the left wing like a guy dragging an ATM machine, and he’ll be on their books until 2023. He’ll be the world’s oldest 34-year-old by then, likely scoring five goals a season instead of the 10 he had last winter. How happy do you think they’ll be paying that ball-and-chain $1.2 million per goal? I don’t see that ever happening to Wheeler and the Jets, though. He still has plenty of game. At least three, perhaps four more years as a top-flight forward. But you asked me for the worst-case scenario and I can’t think of anything more grim than him morphing into a right-wing version of the Looch.

Question Lady: The Wheeler signing means much of the heavy lifting is done and, really, there’s only Morrissey without a contract. What’s the holdup there?

Answer Lady: It has to be term. I’m only spitballing, but Chevy’s track record suggests that length of service is the sticking point. He has some kind of cult-leader sway with these guys. He serves them the Kool-Aid and before you can say Pokey and the Bandit they’re locked in for six years or more at a team-friendly rate. It worked with Rink Rat Scheifele and Twig Ehlers and Hellebuyck, so it’s my guess that he’s attempting similar powers of persuasion with Morrissey.

Question Lady: And if Josh doesn’t swallow the Kool-Aid?

Answer Lady: Then he’ll do what Trouba did—sign for two years and carry on carrying on until such time as he’s in a more favorable bargaining position.

Question Lady: Let’s end it with a question about Trouba. What’s his shelf life with the Jets?

Answer Lady: Two years tops, then adios, amigos.

Question Lady: Okay, gotta go and enjoy what’s left of summer. Any plans for you?

Answer Lady: At my age, I don’t make plans or buy green bananas.

About the Gang Green joke book…honk if you like Knuckles…Pip-Pip to Johnny Rotten…Rink Rat Scheifele better than Blake Wheeler?…playing shirts-and-skins tennis…tsk-tsk and tut-tut to Serena’s tutu…gospel singing…and other things on my mind

A Sunday morning smorgasbord on a lazy Labor Day weekend

In advance of this afternoon’s Pile O’ Bones Bowl betwixt the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Winnipeg Blue Bombers at Mosaic Stadium in (rhymes with vagina), we share with you a few snippets from the official Gang Green Joke Book.

Q: How do you know when you’ve arrived in Regina?
A: The highway sign says “Paved Road Ends Here.”

  • The teacher couldn’t understand why Little Johnny wasn’t all geeked up about the Labor Day Classic between the Riders and Bombers.
    “It’s the biggest football game of the year,” she said. “Why aren’t you excited, Little Johnny?”
    “I’m not a football fan. My parents like curling, so I like curling, too,” Little Johnny replied.
    “That’s not a very good reason. What if your parents were morons?”
    “Then I’d definitely be a Roughriders fan.”

Q: What does a Riders fan call his tattered, old couch and living room chair?
A: Brand new lawn furniture.

  • Two Riders fans arrived at the big game and one said to the other, “I wish I’d brought my piano with me.”
    “Why would you bring a piano to the football game?” his friend asked.
    “Because that’s where I left the tickets.”

Q: What’s the biggest problem for Riders fans at a pie-eating contest?
A: The cows keep stepping on them.

  • Two buddies were walking in downtown Regina when one spotted a pair of Roughriders season tickets nailed to a telephone pole.
    “I think I’ll have me some of that!” one said to the other.
    “I can’t believe your good fortune!” his friend said excitedly.
    “I’ll say…I’ve been looking for a nail just like this for months now.”

Q: What did the Roughriders fan say when his wife gave birth to twins?
A: “Okay, cousin Doreen, who’s the other father?”

  • Five things you’ll never hear a Riders fan say:
    “I’ll meet you at the library.”
    “I’ll take classic literature for $1,000, please Alex.”
    “I feel
    soooooo underdressed in this John Deere t-shirt and ball cap.”
    “Johnny Cash! Johnny Cash! Is that all you can play on that damned jukebox?”
    “No pork rinds for me, thanks. I’m watching my waist.”

Knuckles Irving

I must join the Atta Boy Chorus and present today’s Happy Honker Award (apologies to Cactus Jack Wells) to Bob (Knuckles) Irving, who celebrates 45 years with CJOB by calling the play-by-play for the Riders-Bombers skirmish. Not only is Knuckles unequaled among Canadian Football League broadcast voices, he’s a lovely lad. One of the finest people I met during 30 years in mainstream jock journalism.

The Montreal Alouettes have now won two successive matches with Antonio Pipkin at quarterback. Would they seriously consider sending him back to the sideline and trotting out Johnny Manziel when they return from a bye two weeks hence? Only if ownership sticks its snoot into head coach Mike Sherman’s business and orders it. If so, shame on them.

Mike O’Shea

Some terrific stuff, as always, on the CFL from Kirk Penton of The Athletic. Among the insider (coaches/general managers) comments was this gem: “I took my daughters to see the movie Dumb and Dumber. Felt like I was watching it again when the Bombers were down by 20 points, with one minute left, and they still had (Andrew) Harris and (Matt) Nichols in the game (vs. Ottawa). What were Mike (O’Shea) and Paul (LaPolice) thinking?” Short answer: They weren’t.

One of the coaches/GMs also gave the talking heads on TSN a slap: “We all hear the guys on the panel because we have games on in the office, but we tune them out. If we do say something about what they’ve said, it’s seldom positive. It’s surprising how little some of them know but present as fact.” I think he’s looking at you, Milt Stegall.

Rink Rat Scheifele

So, the gab guys and scribes at Sportsnet put their noggins together and compiled a list of the top 100 National Hockey League players heading into the 2018-19 crusade. They had our guy, Rink Rat Scheifele, slotted in at No. 13, which is an odd bit of business given that he isn’t even the best player with the Winnipeg Jets. That would be the captain, Blake Wheeler, who came in at No. 19. Other local lads to crack the Sportsnet 100 were Puck Finn, No. 27, Big Buff, No. 38, Connor Hellebuyck, No. 64, and Twig Ehlers, No. 84.

Captain Mark Giordano, Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau, Curtis Lazar and Sam Bennett of the Flames marched in the Calgary Pride parade on Saturday. Good on them.

Alizé Cornet

Sometimes you have to give your head a shake and wonder if this is 2018 or 1958. I mean, Alizé Cornet was assessed a code violation the other day at the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York, New York. Her heinous crime? Revealing an unrevealing sports bra. Oh, yes, after realizing she had put her top on backwards during a heat recess, Cornet stepped toward the shadows at the back of the court and, in two bats of an eyelash, she stripped the garment on and off. It took all of 10 seconds. If that. Chair umpire Christian Rask was having none of it. He slapped her with the code violation for unsportsmanlike conduct. Either he’s no fan of sports bras, or he didn’t get a good enough look. Whatever the case, he’s a fool. Male players peel off their shirts courtside as often as Genie Bouchard double faults, and nothing is said, even when they sit topless during the entirety of an end change. We have to get the fashion police off the tennis courts.

Genie Bouchard: No code violation, just plenty of money.

Alizé Cornet takes her top off at the U.S. Open and earns a reprimand. Genie Bouchard takes her clothes off for Sports Illustrated and earns thousands of dollars. Go figure.

Dumb headline of the week was found on the TSN website: “Bouchard is reviving her career.” Ya, Canada’s tennis diva Genie Bouchard made it all the way to the second round in Gotham, whereupon she bowed out to Marketa Vondrousova. Such a revival. Meanwhile, Mark Roe of TSN had a chin-wag with Sport Illustrated‘s Jon Wertheim, who informed us that “The tennis world, no question, is taking notice of her.” Basically, no one notices Bouchard unless she’s taking her clothing off for the SI swimsuit issue.

Serena Williams

I only have this to say about the tutu look that Serena Williams has been rocking at the U.S. Open—tut-tut and tsk-tsk. Sorry, the tutu is not my favorite look unless I’m at the Nutcracker or Swan Lake.

Let me see if I’ve got this straight: Larry Nassar sexually abused hundreds of female student athletes during 20 years as a doctor at Michigan State University, yet the NCAA has ruled that no one at MSU did anything wrong? There were zero violations? It gets a clean bill of health, so to speak? Ya, and Donald Trump has never told a fib.

Joe McCarthy

This why some jock journos should definitely stick to sports: Damien Cox of the Toronto Star/Sportsnet tweets, “This is an extraordinary time in US history. More than half a decade after McCarthyism, Russia controls the White House.” Half a decade? Try more than half a century. U.S. Senator Joe McCarthy went on his commie witch hunt in the 1950s and died in 1957, four years before Cox drew his first breath.

The results are in on amateur sports coverage in the Winnipeg Free Press and Winnipeg Sun for the month of August: Drab Slab 11.3 per cent of all articles were devoted to amateurs; Sun 1.5 per cent. Meanwhile, Drab Slab opinionist Paul Wiecek, who scribbled an essay in early July expressing his dismay and considerable umbrage over the nation’s unappreciation of amateur athletes vs. play-for-pay jocks, wrote 11 columns in 30 publishing days. The closest he came to acknowledging amateurs was a rant about rich parents. Combined in July and August, he penned 24 pieces in 59 sports sections. Zero were on amateur athletes or their teams. So I guess he’s right: Amateur athletes are unappreciated, especially by newspapers and sports scribes.

The Queen of Soul

And, finally, this has nothing to do with sports, but I must say that they really got after the gospel music at the Aretha Franklin memorial on Friday in Detroit. Mmm, mmm, that was some kind of fiiiiine singing. Haven’t heard anything that uplifting since the Barack Obama inauguration, where the Queen of Soul sang My Country ‘Tis of Thee. Wept then, wept Friday.

About Public Enemy No. 1 in Winnipeg…Trouba’s gone…the Summer of Chevy…Johnny Rotten and Crescent Street in Montreal…Tiger, Tiger burning bright…and other things on my mind

Two eggs overeasy, toast and some leftover thoughts for a Monday morning breakfast

Kurt Overhardt

Tough to tell who’s Public Enemy No. 1 in Good Ol’ Hometown today, Jacob Trouba or his paid mouthpiece, Kurt Overhardt.

I do believe, however, that Overhardt is ahead by a nose.

Here’s a small sampling of what the rabble has been saying since a National Hockey League arbitrator advised the Winnipeg Jets that they must compensate Trouba to the tune of $5.5 million in their next crusade, a pay bump of $2.5 million.

With a different agent Trouba could have had a much happier outcome.”

“Trouba has an overinflated sense of self worth.”

“Mistake by Trouba. He is back to arbitration in one year. He could have gotten a big signing bonus plus long-term contract. His agent may need to be replaced.”

“He could have taken a (Matt) Dumba-type contract. Seems like he feels like he is worth more than he is.”

“Are we sure his known douchebag agent isn’t the problem?”

“Overhardt is overpricing him and giving him more bad advice.”

“He’s a bald-faced liar, a poor teammate, and not that great a player. Oh, and did I mention fragile?”

“Trouba has been wrongly directed by his controversial agent Overcharge.”

“Trouba has a fool for an agent and should have fired this doofus a long time ago.”

“He is not a Peg kind of guy.”

I’m quite uncertain what a “Peg kind of guy” is, except to suggest he likely has a cottage, shops wholesale, sucks on Slurpees and caves to the whims and desires of his employer. Apparently that ain’t Trouba.

Thus, the horse opera between the 24-year-old defenceman and les Jets continues, with guys in black hats and guys in white hats and no end in sight.

No palm trees here.

I must confess that I missed my guess on the Trouba-Jets dance. I thought they’d agree to a six-year partnership, then he’d ship out as an unrestricted free agent still at the peak of his powers. But I stand by what I wrote in early November 2016: “There’s as much chance of Jacob Trouba finishing his career in Jets livery as there is of palm trees sprouting at Portage and Main in January. He’s gone. It’s just a matter of when.”

Consider this, then cringe: It’s quite possible that les Jets will enter their 2018-19 crusade with a third defence pairing (Tyler Myers/Dmitry Kulikov) that earns more coin ($9.83 million) than its top pairing of Trouba/Josh Morrissey. This is good management of money how?

Paul Stastny

The Summer of Chevy has been hit-and-miss. Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff’s preference was to keep Paul Stastny in the fold, but he wasn’t willing to pay the veteran centre’s sticker price. He wanted to lock up Trouba long term, but he wasn’t willing to pay the sticker price. He did, however, manage to find the coin to keep goaltender Connor Hellebuyck, defenceman Tucker Poolman, press box squatter Marko Dano, and forwards Adam Lowry and Brandon Tanev happy. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have a happy Stastny and Trouba than Lowry and Poolman.

If you’re scoring at home, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive dozen surrendered just four points in a 38-20 romp over the Argonauts on Saturday in the Republic of Tranna. A week earlier, it was 20 points, which will win you 97 per cent of Canadian Football League matches. So, do we still want to fire defensive coordinator Richie Hall?

Mix some things together and they don’t always end well: Gasoline and fire; drinking and driving; Johnny Manziel and Crescent Street in Montreal. Not predicting that the Alouettes newly minted quarterback will go bonkers in Ville-Marie, but there’s great temptation in them thar streets, especially for a frat boy.

Since the CFL insists on allowing the woman-beating Johnny Rotten to play the three-down game, the ideal landing spot for the former Heisman Trophy winner would have been the Republic of Tranna, where the Argonauts need fans as desperately as Donald Trump needs approval. Only 10,844 sets of eyes were in BMO Field on Saturday to watch the Bombers rout the Boatmen, prompting this tweet from Troy Westwood of TSN 1290 in Pegtown: “Bombers 14, Attendance 12.” That’s funny.

While most followers of three-down football are still wondering if Johnny Rotten has what it takes to make a go of it in the CFL, at least one pundit, Dan Barnes of Postmedia Edmonton, has already given him the seal of approval. “In Johnny Football, Montreal gets a legit quarterback,” he writes, “the crucial piece of the puzzle that it hadn’t been unable to unearth in the wake of Anthony Calvillo’s retirement four years ago.” There’s zero evidence to support Barnes’s belief, but whatever.

Manziel has yet to take his first official snap on Canadian soil and already his first CFL jersey is a collector’s item. Saw one on ebay this morning for $129.99—or best offer.

Here are this week’s CFL power rankings…

1. Calgary (5-0): The juggernaut continues to roll.
2. Winnipeg (3-3): That’s more like it.
3. Edmonton (3-2): Took the week off, no damage done.
4. Saskatchewan (3-2): Brandon Bridge looking better at QB.
5. Ottawa (3-2): Hard to get a good read on these guys.
6. Hamilton (2-3): Suddenly, oh woe are the Tabbies.
7. B.C. (2-3): Tough way to go out for Wally Buono.
8. Toronto (1-4): Nothing without Ricky Ray.
9. Montreal (1-4): Still awful in either official language.

Tiger Woods

Quick takeaways from the Open Championship at Carnoustie in Scotland: I honestly thought I would never again see the name Tiger Woods atop the leaderboard of a golf major, but there it was on Sunday morning. Then came the 11th and 12th holes and reality for the 14-time Grand Slam winner. Too bad. A Tiger win would have been a terrific story. Mind you, he likely would have been a bit of a dink about it and whinged about all the naysayers who’ve written him off…Clearly, the one thing that helped power Woods during his heyday—intimidation—no longer exists. Nobody cowered once he took the lead…The champion, Francesco Molinari of Italy, has the kind of golf game we all should have—steady, risk-free. But, geez, it’s bloody boring…The Carnoustie course looks like a cow pasture with green spots…Is it my imagination, or was there an unsually large number of commercials during the broadcast? It seemed like there was 10 minutes of ads for every five minutes of golf…I no longer golf, but I can relate to something NBC gab guy Johnny Miller said during the final round Sunday: “Golf seduces you into trying things you have no business trying.”

And, finally, it’s about those fans who stood and cheered at Miller Park in Milwaukee when Brewers relief pitcher Josh Hader took the mound: Seriously? A standing O for a guy exposed as a racist, a bigot, misogynist and homophobic just days earlier? I won’t get into the gory details because the things Hader tweeted six years ago are vile, but saluting him as some sort of conquering hero is every bit as disgusting. It’s a bad look, Milwaukee.

About the real villains in the Jacob Trouba-Winnipeg Jets saga…Marcus Stroman bashing in the media…fancy skaters winning a hockey trophy…T.O. to T.O.?…the CFL’s violence against women policy…a perfect choice for the Arthur Ashe Courage Award…and is Neymar still rolling?

I cannot survive in a 140- or 280-character world, so here are more tweets that grew up to be too big for Twitter…

Jacob Trouba

So, if I’m reading the rabble accurately, here’s the lay of the land for the Winnipeg Jets:

Connor Hellebuyck is an aw shucks, gosh-darn good guy because, like Rink Rat Scheifele and Twig Ehlers before him, he re-upped with no muss, no fuss.

Ditto Adam Lowry and Brandon Tanev.

Josh Morrissey is also every inch and ounce a gosh-darn good guy because, without the arbitration option, he will eagerly accept whatever coin the National Hockey League club tosses his way and utter nary a discouraging word. Again, no muss, no fuss.

And, of course, there’s ownership/management. They’re a bunch of swell dudes, too, because they’ve refused to cow to Jacob Trouba’s ridiculous salary demands and his trade ask of two years ago. Doesn’t matter that they lowballed him with a slap-in-the-face number ($4 million) ahead of their arbitration hearing on Friday in the Republic of Tranna. That’s just business.

Jacob Trouba…now there’s your resident villain.

Josh Morrissey

The Jets defenceman thinks he’s worth $7 million. The cheeky sod. Doesn’t he realize that les Jets are staring at a salary cap crunch? He’s thinking only of himself again, not the team. He’s arrogant, ignorant and selfish right? Run his Sad Sack heinie out of Dodge!

Except I don’t see it that way.

I mean, okay, once upon a time Trouba asked for a trade and temporarily withdrew his services. He filed for salary arbitration this summer and someone in an expensive suit stated his case on Friday morning. Last time I looked, none of that was included in our criminal code. He’s guilty of no wrong-doing.

Look, I could understand the scorn and hostility heaped upon Trouba had he been playing like a pylon and flitting about the countryside, acting like a dipstick of the Evander Kane ilk. Or if he’d said Good Ol’ Hometown is dark, cold and in dire need of a WiFi upgrade. But no. So, why is it that so many among the rabble think Trouba isn’t worth a roll of butt wipe, let alone the Jets’ shameful arbitration gambit of $4 million?

I just don’t get it.

Kevin Cheveldayoff

Frankly, I’m inclined to paint Jets management/ownership as the villain in the Trouba saga. I mean, if Puck Pontiff Mark Chipman and general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff truly want him on board for the duration, they have a peculiar way of pitching woo. Seriously. An opening bid of $4 million? Hey, I understand negotiations. Been there, done that, don’t wear the t-shirt. But in offering Trouba $4M, here’s what they’re telling their top-pairing D-man: “Love you loads, Jake, and it’s damn straight that we’ll keep sending you over the boards to shut down the other team’s best players, but we don’t believe you’re worth as much coin as Dmitry Kulikov, our third-pairing D-man. But, hey, don’t take it personal.” Of course Trouba will take it personal, then get out of Dodge five seconds after he becomes an unrestricted free agent two years hence.

For the record, here’s what Trouba said in May when interrogated by news snoops who sought insight re his thoughts on remaining in River City: “You get the sense there’s a little unfinished business with this team. We all have such good relationships on this team, it’s fun to be a part of. Ya, it’s a special team, you wanna play for a contender, and that’s what we have here. I haven’t put a whole ton of thought into it yet, the season just ended, but I’m sure in the next week or two, couple days, I’ll meet with my agent and we’ll go over stuff and we’ll see where it goes from there, let him talk to Chevy and I’m sure something will be worked out. Quicker the better.” So, was he sincere or were his pants on fire? Since neither you or I live or visit inside Trouba’s head, we don’t know. It’s total guess work, and the fact that his agent, Kurt Overhardt, and Cheveldayoff arrived at a contract impasse doesn’t mean Trouba lied.

Patrick Roy

Let’s say, for the sake of discussion, Trouba desires a new postal/zip code and is slumming in Good Ol’ Hometown until such time as les Jets peddle him or he’s a UFA. That makes him unique how? Apparently John Tavares wanted off Long Island (or out of Brooklyn). Scott Niedermayer and Zach Parise wanted out of Jersey (who doesn’t?). Zdeno Chara wanted out of Ottawa. Scott Stevens wanted out of Washington. Patrick Roy wanted out of Montreal. LeBron James wanted out of Cleveland. Twice. Shaq wanted out of Orlando. Roger Clemens wanted out of Beantown. Barry Bonds wanted out of Pittsburgh. Reggie White wanted out of Philly. Deion Sanders wanted out of Atlanta and San Francisco. A-Rod wanted out of Seattle. Reggie Jackson wanted out of Baltimore so he could become Mr. October in Gotham. David Beckam and Wayne Rooney wanted out of England. Need I continue? Suffice to say, athletes seeking a change in locale has been an every-day occurrence in hockey and every other professional sports league since the first skate blade touched a frozen pond.

Oddest comment on the Trouba situation was delivered, not surprisingly, by Paul Wiecek, the Winnipeg Free Press sports columnist whose obsessive hate-on for the Jets defender shows no indication of ebbing. The way Wiecek tells it, Trouba had the bad manners to “drag his employer to a salary arbitration hearing.” Oh, those poor, put-upon Winnipeg Jets. As if. It’s actually quite simple: If the Jets deploy Trouba as a top-pairing defenceman—which they do—they should pay him like one. Then he might not feel obliged to “drag” the poor dears to arbitration.

Marcus Stroman

Some really strange stuff from news snoops in the past week. Let’s start with Sportsnet gab guy Jeff Blair, who went off on Tranna Blue Jays temperamental pitcher Marcus Stroman:

“He’s got this idea that the Toronto media’s against him, yet the people who cover the team on a day-to-day basis—the people who have, frankly, the greatest reason to not like him—voted him pitcher of the year. He has this sort of make-believe grudge against a bunch of people who don’t have a grudge against him. The only thing I ever heard anybody say about him in this city that could possibly annoy him was that we don’t know if he’s good enough to be an ace. Well, we say that about everybody. There’s enough serious stuff going on in everybody’s lives right now that you don’t need a guy who kind of makes stuff up. At some point you wanna ask him, ‘Hey, that might have worked your rookie year. Well, grow up, stop it, be a pro, go about your business. Try to be a little real. Don’t try to create all these make-believe enemies. We don’t need it. Nobody needs that at this point. Maybe it’s time Marcus Stroman stopped being such a narcissist and, uh, you know, take a look around.”

Actually, maybe it’s time that Blair paid attention.

Steve Simmons of Postmedia Tranna has called Stroman a “jerk” and “an annoying kid who needs to grow up just a little.” Meanwhile, disgraced baseball broadcaster Gregg Zaun lashed out at Stroman for his animated antics following a Tranna win over the Los Angeles Angels in April 2017, saying, “Some of the behaviour rubs people the wrong way. I’m one of them. There’s no reason for it. It’s an unsportsmanlike way to behave. You just dominated somebody. Just high five your teammates and go back in the clubhouse and celebrate. I don’t understand why the flashing, the showboating, the rubbing it in people’s face. It ruins a perfectly good day. For people like me, it ruins a perfectly good day. There’s a way to behave on a Major League Baseball field and there’s ways not to do it. Maybe it’s this new generation. Everybody’s gotta have that dig-me moment.”

Those are just two examples of Stroman bashing. I’d say he has a legit reason for not cozying up to news snoops.

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir

I’m not sure what la-la zone the aforementioned Simmons was in when he wrote this gem: “Don’t know if a skating pair can qualify for the Conn Smythe Trophy (sic), but just passed (sic) the halfway point of the year, would anyone have a better case for athlete of the year than Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir?” Sigh. Canada’s top jock(s) receives the Lou Marsh Award, not the Conn Smythe Trophy, which goes to the most valuable player in the Stanley Cup tournament. And pairs fancy skaters have already won the Lou Marsh trinket twice: 2001 Jamie Salé and David Pelletier; 1959 Barbara Wagner and Bob Paul. Just the facts, ma’am. They aren’t hard to find.

I note the Edmonton Eskimos have dropped Terrell Owens from their negotiation list, which means the 44-year-old receiver is free to join any Canadian Football League outfit. A good landing spot would be the Republic of Tranna, where his presence might bump up Argonauts ticket sales. The head count for Saturday’s matinee vs. the Winnipeg Blue Bombers was 10,844, prompting Simmons to scribble this: “If you haven’t been to BMO Field for a football game, you’re missing something. The stadium is the star of this show.” What a truly stupid thing to write.

Really enjoyed The Beaches’ two-tune gig during down time of the Saskatchewan Roughriders-Hamilton Tiger-Cats joust on Thursday night at Timbits Field in the Hammer. You can’t go wrong with girls and guitars, and The Beaches really got after it with Money and T-Shirt. Good stuff.

So, Euclid Cummings is charged with sexual assault and his contract with the B.C. Lions is voided. Teague Sherman is charged with sexual assault and his contract with the Ottawa RedBlacks is voided. Johnny Manziel beats the hell out of his (former) girlfriend and he’s allowed to join the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and now the Montreal Alouettes. What part of its own policy on violence against women does the CFL not understand?

Truly wonderful choice for the Arthur Ashe Courage Award this year—the many victims and survivors of the horrible Larry Nassar and his decades-long campaign of sexual abuse. Seeing the women standing on stage, many of them hand-in-hand, at the ESPY Awards was powerful, moving stuff, and it brought to mind recent winners of the Ashe honor:

2018—the Nassar survivors.
2017—Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founder of Special Olympics.
2016—Zaevion Dobson, high school football player gunned down and killed while shielding two neighborhood girls during a drive-by shooting in Knoxville, Tenn.
2015—Caitlyn Jenner, filthy rich and famous reality TV diva who put on a wig, a gown and showed the world a pair of store-bought boobs.

Reminds me of the Sesame Street game: Which of these things doesn’t belong?

And, finally, just wondering: Did human tumbleweed Neymar fly home from the World Cup with his Brazil teammates, or did he roll home?

Two Hens in the Hockey House: It’s about humble pie…the plum tuckered out Winnipeg Jets…Connor Hellebuyck’s delusional take on goaltending…backing up the Brinks truck for Jacob Trouba and Josh Morrissey…re-upping Blake Wheeler…and dining on Kentucky Fried Crow

Meaningful hockey in the merry month of May? At the Little Hockey House On The Prairie? Who’d have thought? Not many. So, while there were long faces when the Winnipeg Jets’ Stanley Cup crusade ground to a halt on Sunday afternoon with a 2-1 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights, there was also a feel-good vibe among the rabble. My Two Hens in the Hockey House are here to discuss what went wrong in the Western Conference final vs. Vegas, what went right and what lies ahead for les Jets.

Take it away, ladies…

Question Lady: Well, what was on the breakfast menu for you this morning, girlfriend? Humble pie or bowl of crow?

Answer Lady: Neither. I just had two slices of toast.

Question Lady: Toast. How appropriate. The Jets are toast, too. Can’t say I’m surprised, but I know you are. As I recall, you picked them to take out the Golden Knights in six games, then win the Stanley Cup. You said something about the Jets being too fast, too quick, too deep, too tough, too every blah, blah, blah thing. Turns out it was just the opposite. Did you underestimate the Golden Knights or oversell the Jets?

Answer Lady: I don’t think I considered the fatigue factor. The Jets didn’t have the usual zippity-do-da in their stride at the end. They lost their lickety-split. Their oomph. At times they were skating with hunched shoulders against the wind. The Nashville Predators took more out of them in the second round than I thought. They were plum tuckered out.

Question Lady: Really? Fatigue did them in?

Answer Lady: It just seemed to me that their usual split-second sharpness deserted them, both physically and mentally. At this level, even a nanosecond of hesitation means your shot is redirected by a stick, or the puck is in the back of your net. Especially against the Golden Knights. Those boys are cobra quick. They pounce on mistakes faster than CNN can poke holes in a Donald Trump tweet.

Connor Hellebuyck

Question Lady: Speaking of holes, a lot of the pundits are saying this series was decided in the blue paint. Marc-André Fleury did boffo work in goal for Vegas and Connor Hellebuyck was leaking oil at the other end of the rink. Agree?

Answer Lady: To a point. It’s not like Hellebuyck was Ondrej Pavelec bad, but he had too many iffy moments that were extremely damaging. At no time was he gobsmackingly good. Fleury was gobsmackingly good most of the time.

Question Lady: Hellebuyck kept talking about ‘luck’ as if there was nothing more to Fleury’s game than rabbit’s feet, horse shoes and four-leaf clovers. A bit of a sore loser, wouldn’t you say?

Answer Lady: He sounded like a teenage punk who’d light up a smoke at the dinner table. The kind of nogoodnik that no parent wants their daughter dating. Totally disrespectful. Anyone who knows a puck from petunias will tell you Fleury was the superior ‘tender. If Hellebuyck doesn’t want to throw himself under the bus, fine. But sometimes you just have to accept that the other guy was better. Given enough time for sober second thought, Hellebuyck might agree. Probably not, though. He’ll continue to be a doorknob about it.

Question Lady: Kind of harsh, don’t you think?

Answer Lady: Not really. Just kind of the truth. Hey, I like it when athletes speak out of turn, but Hellebuyck is delusional and his disrespect is most objectionable.

Question Lady: Do we agree that the Jets have a legitimate No. 1 goaltender?

Answer Lady: Based on Hellebuyck’s entire body of work this season, for sure. But it would help if they had a backup ‘tender who can go more than two minutes without visiting the repair shop. Steve Mason is as fragile as a sports writer’s ego. Who made his body, Royal Doulton? He’s brittle like the burnt toast I ate this morning. They’re paying him what, $4 million to be an innocent bystander? Nice gig.

Question Lady: Why such emphasis on a capable caddy for Hellebuyck?

Answer Lady: Again, the fatigue factor. Hellebuyck played 67 games in the National Hockey League regular season and another 17 in the Stanley Cup tournament. That’s 84 games. He played 56 games total last year. He’s never carried this demanding a workload. By way of comparison, Fleury was in the blue paint for 46 and 15 games. That’s a whole lot less wear and tear. Which of the two looked the most spry and alert to you by the end of Game 5?

Jacob Trouba

Question Lady: What are the Jets other pressing needs?

Answer Lady: I’ll parrot exactly what I said in April 2017—convincing Jacob Trouba that Winnipeg is where he wants to play his hockey. That ought to be priority uno. He and Josh Morrissey are cornerstone defencemen.

Question Lady: I wonder if there’s still residue from the Trouba-Jets contract stare-down of two years ago. Remember, he wanted out of Dodge. On the surface, everything’s cool now, but that might be window dressing. What happens if there’s still a bit of bitterness bubbling beneath the surface?

Answer Lady: I guess we’ll find out shortly. Trouba’s a restricted free agent. Either he signs another one of those piddly, two-year deals, or he’s in it for the long haul, which is to say six or more years.

Question Lady: What’s it going to cost the Jets to re-sign him?

Twig Ehlers

Answer Lady: Back up the Brinks truck, girlfriend. The Trouba camp might try to hardball the Jets. He’s been playing at a bargain-basement rate for the past two seasons, so they might be looking for payback. And he’s arbitration eligible. We’re not talking lunch money or the spare change David Thomson finds under the cushions on his sofa. Trouba won’t become the highest-paid Jet, but it’ll be obscene if he’s making a dime less than the $6 million Twig Ehlers is due. Actually, it’s an obscenity that Ehlers will be earning more coin than Blake Wheeler next season. That simply does not compute.

Question Lady: No kidding. Like, what exactly did Ehlers accomplish in these playoffs?

Blake Wheeler

Answer Lady: Squat. He did diddly. He does diddly faster than most players, but it’s still diddly. I’m not really a fan anymore. His flash-and-dash game is built for the regular season. Or Ice Capades. Wheeler, on the other hand…complete pro, except when he’s barking and snarling at news snoops. Seriously, it’s criminal that he’ll be making less money than Twig next season. I think they ought to re-up Wheeler. Add a couple years to the one he has left.

Josh Morrissey

Question Lady: A few of the lads are due raises, no?

Answer Lady: Yup, and Josh Morrissey is among them. He and Trouba became the Jets top defensive pairing, and there probably wasn’t a better blueline bargain in the NHL. Combined they earned less than $4 million. That total is going to more than double. And if the Jets want to lock them in long term, it’ll take some serious gymnastics by the bean counters to keep Trouba-Morrissey under $10 million.

Question Lady: Any chance Paul Stastny will stick around?

Paul Stastny

Answer Lady: Age tells me no if he’s looking long term, and who isn’t? Stastny’s 33 in December. The Jets already have Bryan Little tied up for six years. Unless you’re convinced you can win the Stanley Cup right now, you don’t want two 30something centres clogging up development down the middle for the next five/six years.

Question Lady: It’s going to be an interesting summer for general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff. Think he’ll have anything interesting to say at his exit presser?

Answer Lady: Oh, it’ll all be Chevy-speak, but this time it won’t come across as a phony bill of goods. The Jets were the real deal this season. It was a fun ride.

Question Lady: Okay, gotta go. Let’s stay home tonight. Maybe watch a replay of the royal wedding. Instead of cooking dinner, we can order in. Maybe a bucket of Kentucky Fried Crow for madame?

Answer Lady: Funny girl.