About dumb stuff from “D’oh!” boys in the press box…Peter Chiarelli’s grey matter…this girl’s got game…Blue Bombers boss lady Dayna Spiring…Naomi Osaka gets to celebrate Aussie title…and other things on my mind

Another Sunday smorgas-bored…and I’m no all-star so I won’t be taking an all-star break…

This past week in jock journalism was brought to us by the word “D’oh!”

Seriously. News snoops must have been passing the Homer Simpson stupid pills around the press box and the newsroom, because much of what I read and heard was really, really dumb.

Examples:

Nazem Kadri

* The struggling Tranna Maple Leafs got the best of the struggling Washington Capitals on Wednesday night, winning 6-3. Nazem Kadri tallied three times and added an assist. His linemates, Willy Boy Nylander and Connor Brown, contributed three and two assists, respectively. That’s nine points total from that troika. Yet this was the main headline on the Leafs blog known as Sportsnet:

“Matthews-Marner combo pays immediate dividends for Maple Leafs.”

Say what? Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner contributed a goal apiece, one on the powerplay and one into an empty net. The “combo” collaborated on zero scores.

So that headline is really, really dumb.

* Mike McIntyre of the Drab Slab went off on Professional Hockey Writers Association midseason polling, whereby more than 125 scribes determined the top three leading candidates to collect National Hockey League year-end trinkets.

The freshly minted sports columnist described Winnipeg Jets capitano Blake Wheeler as the club’s “heart and soul,” which is fine. Also accurate. But wait. He then confessed that, if allowed to vote for more than three people in each category, he would have “given Mark Scheifele some Hart Trophy consideration as most valuable to his team.” So Wheeler is the “heart and soul” of les Jets, but his linemate Rink Rat Scheifele is more valuable?

That’s really, really dumb.

John Shannon

* John Shannon, the sometimes smug gab guy on Sportsnet, delivered what was labeled his Power 25—the top movers and shakers in the NHL—and he listed wet-eared Elias Pettersson of the Vancouver Canucks the sixth most-powerful person.

What Shannon failed to do was explain exactly what makes Pettersson more of a power broker than, say, Puck Pontiff Mark Chipman, co-bankroll and governor of les Jets and a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame selection committee. Perhaps Shannon will also tell us that a parish priest in Moose Jaw holds more sway with Catholics than the Pope. Or that Adam Sandler makes better movies than Steven Spielberg.

That’s really, really dumb.

* Luke Fox (Sportsnet seems to have an over-abundance of ”D’oh!” boys) wrote: “(Nikita) Kucherov is running away with the (NHL) scoring race.”

Hmmm. Last time I looked, Kucherov was four points ahead of Mikka Rantanen. Johnny Gaudreau and Connor McDavid are a mere five in arrears. Any one of those guys could erase that deficit in 20 minutes of hockey. That’s a runaway like Lady Gaga is a lumberjack.

So that’s really, really dumb.

Bobby Orr

* Apparently Ken Campbell was napping during Bobby Orr’s career. I say that because of this click-bait the senior writer at The Hockey News posted on Twitter:

“Former NHLer Mathieu Schneider, now with the NHLPA just referred to Nicklas Lidstrom ‘as the greatest defenceman of all time.’ Bold statement. And it’s a worthy debate.”

Sure, and maybe Campbell would also have us debate who’s taller, Zdeno Chara or Johnny Gaudreau. Or what’s whiter, freshly fallen snow or coal.

That’s really, really dumb.

Brian Burke

Okay, that’s enough dumbing down for one day. But staying on the subject of grey matter, best comment in the wake of Peter Chiarelli’s dismissal as general manager of the Edmonton Oilers was delivered by Brian Burke of Sportsnet: “He didn’t become terminally stupid overnight.” Actually, he did. Chiarelli went to bed one night, then woke up the next morning and signed Milan Lucic to a seven-year, $42-million contract.

Hey, the Oilers have finally found someone who can keep up with Connor McDavid—Kendall Coyne Schofield, the young lass who dropped jaws with her dash in the fastest skater segment of the NHL all-star skills competition in San Jose. There is, however, no truth to the rumor that Kendell will replace Lucic in the Oil lineup.

Kendall Coyne Schofield

Coyne Schofield was a revelation. Her long, blonde ponytail flapping and her short legs (she’s 5-feet-2) churning like pistons, she finished her lap in 14.346 seconds, a heartbeat behind McDavid’s winning lickety-split of 13.378 and a blink-of-an-eye better than Clayton Keller of the Arizona Coyotes. It was the “wow” moment of the all-star hijinx, and here’s what I’m wondering: Will people (read: media/men) now view women’s hockey in a more favorable light? I doubt it. It’ll be same old, same old. News snoops will continue to ignore the women except in Olympic years.

Leave it to smarmy Damien Cox of the Toronto Star to make an ass-clown comment about Coyne Schofield’s performance. “The only surprise is so many men didn’t realize female hockey players are great skaters. Geez, people, it’s 2019,” he tweeted. Apparently Cox believes he’s the only penis person on the planet who has the skinny on women’s shinny. He saw this coming, don’t you know. The rest of you guys, including the NHL all-stars who were totally gobsmacked by Kendall’s giddyup? Ignorant louts. Cox truly is a doofus.

Boys being oinkers, do you think the boys will let Keller forget about the night he “got beat by a girl?” No. Not ever, ever, ever.

Dayna Spiring

On the subject of women doing wonderful things, Dayna Spiring is the freshly minted chair of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers board of directors, and it seems to me that both the Winnipeg Sun and the Drab Slab were out to lunch on her story. Becoming the first female chair in the club’s 89-year history is worth more than a few paragraphs that read like a boring club press release. I’d like to know Dayna’s thoughts on Winnipeg FC. On the Canadian Football League. On Commish Randy. On breaking into the old boys’ club. Is it too much to ask a news snoop at either of the River City rags to pick up a phone and have a chat with the Bombers boss lady?

Will someone please give me a wakeup call when men’s tennis becomes interesting again? I mean, where are all those hot-shot, Next Gen players who were supposed to shove Novak Djokovic, Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer to the curb? MIA. All of them. Mind you, Nadal was also MIA in the Australian Open championship match vs. Djokovic on Sunday. Can you say complete dud, kids?

Naomi Osaka

The best part of Naomi Osaka’s win in the women’s singles final Down Under? Poor sport Serena Williams wasn’t there to soil the moment with her brattish behavior. Osaka seems like a delightful, humble young woman who, at age 21, is already halfway to a career Grand Slam. Now the world No. 1, her emergence speaks favorably for the quality and intrigue of the women’s game, which has produced eight different champions in the past nine Grand Slam events. On the men’s side, there hasn’t been a Slam winner not named Nadal, Federer or Djokovic since 2016.

I don’t know what you make of the PHWA midseason NHL awards polling, but it seems to me that it’s very self-serving. That is, news snoops give themselves something to write and gab about during the all-star lull, but in reality it’s a non-story. It doesn’t even tell us which way the wind is blowing, because last year half of the midway leaders failed to pick up a trinket at the awards gala in June. So, I’m sorry, but I fail to see the purpose of the exercise.

And, finally, I think if I was a kid today, my favorite NHL player would be Mitch Marner. Always liked the small, zippity-do-da, water bug guys.

Advertisements

About Rink Rat Scheifele and the Hart Trophy…Lites out for Dallas Stars…Humpty Harold Ballard’s harrumphing…Fergy hurling B. Hull under the bus…firing the coach mid-game…dumb Canadians and dumber Americans…and wrinkles in the broadcast booth

The final Sunday smorgas-bored of the year…and congratulations to all you men out there who began your Christmas shopping at 3 p.m. on Christmas eve and managed to finish before closing time at the mall. You are a credit to your species, such as it is…

Rink Rat Scheifele

It is with more than a smidgen of skepticism that I note the well-meaning boys on the beat have begun to pump Rink Rat Scheifele’s tires.

Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun describes him as “a bona fide Hart Trophy candidate.”

Jason Bell of the Winnipeg Free Press writes: “If the Jets maintain their altitude in the NHL standings, the 26-year-old from Kitchener, Ont., simply must be in the Hart Trophy conversation as the most valuable player.”

Bell’s accomplice at the Drab Slab, Mike McIntyre, joins the hallelujah chorus by scribbling, “No doubt Scheifele is a contender right now for the most coveted trophy in the sport.”

Connor McDavid

Yes, it’s all rah-rah-rah and sis-boom-bah for the Good Ol’ Hometown hero.

Trouble is, I have yet to hear the “Mark Scheifele for MVP” rallying cry from beyond Manitoba’s boundaries. Mostly, the Winnipeg Jets centre is mentioned in passing while scribes and broadcasters deliver gobsmacking praise for the work of Mikko Rantanen, Nathan MacKinnon, Ovie, Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, Mitch Marner, John Gibson, Johnny Gaudreau and, of course, Connor McDavid.

I’m not saying the Rink Rat doesn’t belong in the conversation, understand. I’m just saying he isn’t feeling the love hither and yon.

Mmmmmm, fast food.

Frankly, the Hart Trophy ought not be a talking point these days, but I suppose news snoops and opinionists were looking for something to write and gab about during the Christmas lull and before we embark on the dog days of the National Hockey League season. So, okay, let’s have at it. The most valuable player is McDavid. I mean, remove McMagnifique from the Edmonton Oilers lineup and the Oil would disappear faster than a Big Mac and a bucket of KFC on Air Force One. The same can’t be said about any of the other “candidates,” including Scheifele.

Jamie Benn, Jim Lites, Tyler Seguin

That wasn’t just a bus that Jim Lites hurled Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin under the other day. It was the entire Greyhound fleet. If you missed it, here’s what the Dallas Stars CEO had to say about his two top-salaried players (reader advisory: includes harsh language): “They are fucking horse shit, I don’t know how else to put it. We are a stars-driven league, and our stars aren’t getting it done. These guys are not good enough. They’re not good enough for me, they’re not good enough for the owner, and they’re certainly not good enough for the general manager.” That, be advised, was after a win. Good grief, what does the guy do after a loss? Pluck the wings off house flies? Kick small dogs? Force his players to listen to Celine Dion albums?

Humpty Harold

The thing that surprised me about the Lites rant was the reaction from hockey pundits (hello Nick Kypreos) who can’t recall anyone in NHL management/ownership going off on a player.

What, they’ve already forgotten about Humpty Harold Ballard?

Not much pleased Humpty Harold, the cranky and cartoonish crook who once bankrolled the Tranna Maple Leafs. He harbored a particularly strong distaste for female reporters (“If they want to take their clothes off and talk to the players, fine. But I warn them they’ll have a lot more trouble getting out than they did getting in.”), and he had no patience for timid hockey players. He lashed out at his workers as frequently as a priest prays, and Humpty Harold’s harrumphing always was on public record.

Of Inge Hammarstrom, Ballard once said the slick Swedish forward “could go into the corner with a dozen eggs in his pocket and not break any of them.” Laurie Boschman, one of the nicest kids you could meet, was “soft” because he had “too much religion.” It didn’t matter to Humpty Harold that young Laurie had been laid low with mononucleosis and blood poisoning. Bosch, he reasoned, was a known Bible thumper, ergo a wimp. Not surprisingly, neither Hammarstrom or Boschman lasted long in the Republic of Tranna.

Bobby Hull and John Ferguson

Closer to home, John Bowie Ferguson hurled Bobby Hull under the Greyhound early in the 1979-80 season, the Jets first in the NHL.

Hull, then 40, had come in from the cattle farm to end his retirement, and he struggled mightily due to rust and a wonky left shoulder. His personal numbers were modest (four goals, six assists in 18 starts) and the club functioned better without the Golden Jet in the lineup (6-7-1) than with him (5-10-3). So I called Fergy at home one night to get his take on Hull. Turns out it was a hot take.

“No, I don’t think Bobby has helped our hockey club at all,” the Jets general manager said with the bluntness of a sledge hammer. “Something is missing. He really is a very undisciplined hockey player and I don’t know if he can adapt. That freewheeling style would be fine if it was getting results. But it’s not.”

Hull never pulled on Jets linen again.

I recall one other public flogging, in the Western Canada Hockey League. Gerry Brisson, president and general manager of the Winnipeg Clubs, removed head coach George Dorman from behind the bench during the middle of a game! True story. It was November 1975. The Flin Flon Bombers were laying a licking on the Clubs, leading 4-1 through 40 minutes, and Brisson had seen enough. He therefore instructed Dorman to observe the final period from the pews in the old barn on Maroons Road, replacing him with the team trainer, Adam Tarnowski, who knew as much about coaching hockey as a cow knows about climbing trees. “I did it for shock value,” Brisson said after the fact. Didn’t work. His Clubs lost 5-2. More shocking than Dorman getting yanked in-game? He kept his job. That is correct. Brisson embarrassed the hell out of Dorman by forcing him to sit among the rabble, but he didn’t fire his coach. Go figure.

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir

I believe we have arrived at the end of the annual, year-end trinket giveaway for Jocks and Jills in the True North Strong and Free, and the best of our best during the past 12 months—as decreed by news snoops from the left to right flank of the land—are golfer Brooke Henderson, fancy skaters Tessa Virtue/Scott Moir and moguls skier Mikael Kingsbury. Any arguments? You bet. The girls and boys at The Canadian Press got it right by naming Henderson and Kingsbury the top female and male athletes and Virtue/Moir the best team, but those who voted for the Lou Marsh Trophy coughed up a hair ball. Henderson, not Kingsbury, should have won.

Brooke Henderson

Here’s why we shouldn’t take the Lou Marsh Trophy seriously: It’s a total clown act. I mean, consider Cathal Kelly of the Globe and Mail. He stumped for tennis player Daniel Nestor, who went 0-for-2018 and quit. Kelly’s boss, sports editor Shawna Richer, had a hissy fit when she couldn’t vote for a team (Virtue/Moir) as the winner of an individual award, so she left her ballot blank.

Then there’s Steve Simmons of Postmedia Tranna. He squawked in support of Connor McDavid, Kingsbury and Marc-Andre Fleury (really?), and pooh-poohed any notion that Henderson should be declared our top athlete. Why? Because lady golfers just don’t rate.

“The LPGA Tour is primarily a one-country pursuit,” he said on TSN radio. “You look at the leaderboards every single week and it’s the same country and it’s the same golfers and it’s the same five or six women. It is so Korean dominated there’s not even any other country that competes, compares.”

This is a guy who clearly does not have a clue, yet he has a vote. Here are some numbers from the LPGA Tour in 2018:

Wins by country: U.S.A., 9; South Korea 9; Thailand, 5; Canada, Japan 2 each; Australia, New Zealand, U.K., Sweden, Mexico 1 each.

Winners: 26 different champions in 32 events.

Multiple winners: 4 (Canadian, Japanese, Thai, South Korean).

Money leaders: Top 20—7 Americans, 5 South Koreans, 2 Thai, 2 Australian, 1 Canadian, Japanese, Spanish, English; Top 50—19 Americans, 10 Koreans; Top 100—34 Americans, 18 Koreans.

Clearly Henderson competes in a sport that is far more global than moguls skiing, and it is dominated by Americans moreso than South Koreans. These facts aren’t difficult to dig up, but Simmons has never been one to let facts get in the way of a misguided rant.

Oh, let’s not forget that the Postmedia chain of bare-bones sports departments anointed Henderson and soccer player Alphonso Davies as the top jocks in the land. Please give Postmedia CEO and noted skinflint Paul Godfrey a quarter and tell him to call someone who cares.

Serena Williams

Staying with the dumb and dumber theme, The Associated Press voters totally lost the plot in selecting Serena Williams and LeBron James as 2018 top jocks in Trumpland. Seriously. Exactly what did Williams do in 2018? Well, she put on a catsuit at the French Open and, a few months later, staged one of the most demonstrative, appalling, pathetic pity party’s in the history of professional sports. When not busy putting a horrible damper on Naomi Osaka’s U.S. Open victory, Williams won zero tournaments and was 18-6 overall. Meanwhile, gymnast Simone Biles won gold (four), silver (1) and bronze (1) medals at the world championships. Like Williams, King James won zip, yet still got the nod over Mookie Betts of the Boston Red Sox. The Mookster was the American League batting champion, the AL most valuable player, a Gold Glove winner, a Silver Slugger winner, and a World Series champion. That’s the baseball version of a royal flush. But, sorry Mookie, that just doesn’t cut it. And I thought our jock journos had dumbed down.

Doris Burke

And, finally, I’ll end the final Sunday smorgas-bored of the year with a quote from ESPN hoops broadcaster Doris Burke: “I promise you I’m not having plastic surgery. I’m 52. I’ve earned every wrinkle on my face. I actually like my wrinkles. And guess what? There are a lotta 60-year-old men who have wrinkles, no hair, glasses, and nobody gives a damn. It’s about time that woman my age or above, if she chooses to go into her 60s as an announcer, she should be allowed to do just that.”

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.

Winnipeg Jets: Someone has some explaining to do

What is it that I don’t understand about last place? About a bottom-feeder? About doing the Auston Matthews jig?

I mean, when last seen, the Winnipeg Jets were rolling in the deep, wearing 50 shades of gawd awful in pursuit of a repeat of their one and only, albeit brief, entry into the Stanley Cup tournament last spring. They’re feeding from the bottom of the National Hockey League’s most treacherous waters, the Central Division, and only the unexpected free fall of the Disney Ducks and the usual buffoonery from the Edmonton McDavids has prevented the Jets from claiming sole squatter’s rights to the Western Conference cellar.

But, hey, everything is cool. That sub-.500 record? Not an accurate measurement of their true mettle. Just ask them.

Paul Maurice
Paul Maurice

“I think we’re in a lot better shape than the standings look,” insists Paul Maurice, the head coach and president of the Anthony Peluso fan club. “I like the way our game is being played. We’ve been in some games and have had some tough defeats lately, but we’ve played right and played hard.”

What say you, Bryan Little?

“I feel like we are better than a .500 team and you haven’t seen the best of us yet,” says the veteran centre. “I think we have a better team in this room than our record shows.”

Earth to Jets! Earth to Jets! Put away the rose-tinted glasses. You are what your record says you are, a last-place club with apparent designs on first call in next June’s NHL entry draft, whereupon the name Auston Matthews shall be shouted out and one lucky outfit lands a potential game-changer.

Trouble is, that fortunate outfit is supposed to be named something other than Jets.

I think.

I mean, I don’t believe there was intent to tank from the get-go of the 2015-16 crusade, but now that we’ve arrived at the Christmas break and the Jets are a mere two points clear of last place in the Western Conference and eight removed from the playoff line, what’s the plan? Unload Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd for youth and make an unveiled bid to better the chances of winning the draft lottery? Hope kids like Nikolaj Ehlers, Andrew Copp, Adam Lowry, Connor Hellebuyk, Mark Scheifele and Jacob Trouba grow up fast? Like, real fast?  ‘Fess up to the fawning faithful, advising them to prepare for the pain and frustration that accompanies the flaws and foibles of freshly scrubbed greenhorns?

The Jets won’t say, of course, because they don’t have to say anything. Their Little Hockey House on the Prairie is sold out every game and their merchandise shops are doing boffo business, so, at best, they’ll continue to drone on about their draft-and-develop strategy and hope that their prospects are superior to the other guys’.

Someone, however, should be answering for what has transpired this season. For example:

  • Chris Thorburn has more goals than Mathieu Perreault. How is it that a player with fourth-line skill has lit the lamp more often than a second-line forward who enjoys time on the powerplay? Explain, please.
  • Is this what the Jets expected of rookie Ehlers? One goal in 25 games? No doubt the Dane has NHL speed and skills, but does he have an NHL game? Explain, please.
  • The Jets summoned Joel Armia from the farm in November, then sat him in the press box for three weeks before reassigning him back to the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League. What was up with that? Someone—anyone—explain, please.
  • Much was made of the Jets moving the Moose from Newfy Land to across the hall at the Little Hockey House on the Prairie, because it made for swifter and more economic movement of players from the farm to the big club. But what is the point of having the Moose so close at hand if Grand Master Kevin Cheveldayoff is going to stock his AHL roster with players who, when called up to the Jets, can fill a uniform but not a void? Explain, please.
  • Anthony Peluso. Explain, please, Paul Maurice.
  • We all know that Alexander Burmistrov is no Michael Frolik, but he isn’t even a reasonable facsimile of the departed all-purpose forward. Actually, the second coming of Burmistrov has been a failed experiment. Explain, please, GM Chevy.
  • Jacob Trouba once was thought to be “all that” on defence. Now we’re wondering what “all that” is. Explain, please.
  • Captain Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien remain unsigned, untraded and headed for unrestricted free agency. Explain, please.
  • The Jets have long been goalie blind. That is, they’ve been convinced that Ondrej Pavelec was a legitimate No. 1 NHL goaltender, even though the rest of the hockey world knew otherwise. Since Pavelec went on the shelf with an owie last month, neither Michael Hutchinson nor Connor Hellebuyck has done much to convince me they’ve got what it takes to be numero uno. Explain, please.
  • Five years in, we’re still wondering why the Jets are so thin in the bottom six up front. Explain, please.
  • Last season, the Jets were fast, hard on the puck and heavy on their foes. This year I see Mark Scheifele make a one-handed wave of his stick while the smurf-like Johnny Gaudreau out-hustles and out-finesses him to a puck that finds its way to the back of the Jets goal. Explain, please.
  • The Jets are bankrolled, in part, by the wealthiest man in Canada, David Thomson, but they spend like Scrooge, with the lowest payroll in the NHL. Explain, please.

rooftop riting biz card back sidePatti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for more than 40 years, longer than any living being. Do not, however, assume that to mean she harbors a wealth of sports knowledge or that she’s a jock journalist of award-winning loft. It simply means she is old and comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she apparently doesn’t know when to quit. Or she can’t quit.
She is most proud of her Q Award, presented to her in 2012 for her scribblings about the LGBT community in Victoria, B.C., and her induction into the Manitoba Sportswriters & Sportscasters Association Media Roll of Honour.

 

Winnipeg Jets: It’s not who you give up in a trade, it’s who you receive in return

A little bit of this, a little bit of that and a whole lot of opinion in a weekend wrap…

Okay, as Howie (Squeaker) Meeker was wont to say, “Hold it! Stop it right there!”

All you people who keep pointing to Tyler Seguin as the poster boy for trades gone bad, you’re either forgetting or ignoring one very significant factor. To wit: The Boston Bruins, who had their fill of the youthful-but-seemingly troubled Seguin, are in a playoff position, tenuous as it might be. The Dallas Stars, with whom Seguin has blossomed into an elite scorer, are not.

Thus, the fact that Seguin is joint leader of the National Hockey League scoring derby heading into Tuesday night’s matches does not support the notion that the Bruins erred horribly when they sent him packing to the Lone Star State, lock, stock and bad attitude.

Let’s ignore what might have been, because there is no way of measuring where Seguin would be today had the Bruins exercised greater patience and allowed their maturity-challenged forward to clean up his act. (I think, however, it’s reasonable to suggest he would not be atop the NHL scoring tables were he still with the Bs.) Based purely on the numbers, two of the players Boston accepted in barter for Seguin—Louie Eriksson and Reilly Smith—have matched his points output. Seguin is 29-30-59, Eriksson and Smith are a combined 22-36-58.

Meanwhile, the likelihood is that Eriksson and Smith will still be playing hockey after April 11, which marks the close of the NHL’s regular season business. Barring a remarkable surge in fortunes, Seguin and the Stars will be golfing or fishing. So you tell me who wins the trade.

Which brings me to Evander Kane and the Winnipeg Jets.

Because Kevin Cheveldayoff, aka GM Groundhog, has never arranged an NHL player-for-NHL player transaction, there is a fear that a) he will be fleeced and b) Kane will move on and, like Seguin, develop into an elite scorer.

Sorry, but no risk, no reward.

Most likely, Kane will be the largest talent in any deal Cheveldayoff concocts. That doesn’t mean he loses the trade. It isn’t so much what you surrender as what you receive in return. If, in barter, he acquires bodies that enhance the Jets and positions them as a perennial playoff participant, what does it matter how Kane performs in Buffalo or Pittsburgh or New Jersey of Vancouver? He isn’t doing it here. Period.

Let’s put it another way: The mistake wasn’t the original Jets dealing away a 24-year-old David Babych. The blunder (arguably the biggest is Jets 1.0 history) was accepting Ray Neufeld in the exchange.

The same lesson is to be learned from the Tyler Seguin saga. It isn’t so much about giving up on a young talent too soon, it’s about the return. It’s about the end game. It tells me that it’s okay to unload Evander Kane, who’ll be 24 the next time he pulls on an NHL jersey. Just don’t give him away for a song.

I’m not convinced GM Groundhog is the right man for that job, but if I can figure it out I’m sure he can, too.

TELLY TALK: My, my my. That was an epic rant Don Cherry unloaded from his Bully Pulpit on Curmudgeon’s Corner this past weekend. We heard all about “savages” and “barbarians” like Ron MacLean who eat seal meat, hockey goons who got a raw deal and should still be working in the NHL, and Evander Kane is a “jerk” who ought to be “ashamed” of himself. I’d hate to think what the Lord of Loud would say if he discovered that Kane had a baby seal burger for lunch…Caught a bit of the press conference for the Gordie Howe gathering in Saskatoon on Sportsnet. It included Wayne Gretzky, two of the Howe boys, Mark and Marty, and Brett and Bobby Hull. I’m sorry, but whenever I see Bobby Hull now I think spousal abuse…What a shame that Mathieu Perreault of the Winnipeg Jets shaved his facial foliage. That was a killer beard. The good news is they found Jimmy Hoffa when they cut the thing off…Would it be too much to ask of Hockey Night in Canada host George Stromboloupouloupoloupolous to wear a sports jacket that actually fits? The thing he squeezed himself into Saturday night would have looked tight on a chihuahua or something of a similarly small stature. Like Johnny Gaudreau…The gab guys on TSN’s The Reporters with Dave Hodge gave the Jets some talk time this past Sabbath morning. Bruce Arthur of the Toronto Star advised us “this is the year the Winnipeg Jets got interesting.” Actually, Bruce, there are those of us living in the colonies who’ve found the Jets interesting ever since they arrived in Winnipeg. Arthur also advised us that Evander Kane is “a 25-to-30 goal scorer.” He said it twice. Fact is, Kane is nothing of the sort. He has scored plus-20 goals exactly once in half a dozen NHL seasons…The sartorially challenged P.J. Stock wore a track suit instead of his off-the-Wallmart-rack business suit for his Stock Exchange gig on HNIC. It was a dig at the Jets and Kane. It think it was supposed to be funny. It wasn’t.

LAST CALL: This from Little Stevie Blunder Simmons of the Toronto Sun/Sun Media on The Reporters, speaking about the Winnipeg Jets and Evander Kane:

“This has been a dressing room or a team without leadership for the past couple of years, inside that room. There’s a leadership issue inside that room.”

One question: You know this how, Toronto Boy? Please enlighten us. If this information comes from your many visits to Winnipeg and the Jets’ boudoir, tell us. If it comes from reliable informants in the Jets’ boudoir, tell us. If not, stick to skewering the Maple Leafs.

rooftop riting biz card back sidePatti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for more than 40 years, longer than any living being. Do not, however, assume that to mean she harbors a wealth of sports knowledge or that she’s a jock journalist of award-winning loft. It simply means she is old and comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she apparently doesn’t know when to quit. Or she can’t quit.
She is most proud of her Q Award, presented to her in 2012 for her scribblings about the LGBT community in Victoria, B.C., and her induction into the Manitoba Sportswriters & Sportscasters Association Media Roll of Honour.

Winnipeg Jets: In the playoffs by the hair of their chinny, chin, chins?

Okay, kids, I believe some mindful breathing exercises would do us all some good right about now.

Breathing in, say, “Wild card playoff spot.”

Breathing out, say, “It could be worse; I could be a member of Leafs Nation.”

Breathing in: “Wild card playoff spot.”

Beathing out: “It could be worse; I could be a member of Leafs Nation.”

Very good, grasshoppers. We now can proceed with the remainder of the National Hockey League season, which still harbors much hope that meaningful matches will be played in the Little Hockey House on the Prairie post-April 11.

Yes, the Winnipeg Jets are in swoon, having been on the short side of the scoreboard in each of their past four assignments, but it will take considerable calamity and a faceplant of epic, Maple Leafian level for them to fail to qualify for the Stanley Cup tournament. They still see the Dallas Stars, Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild in the rear-view mirror, and there is no cautionary sticker advising them that “objects behind may be closer than they actually appear.”

While it’s true the Stars have provided a slight hint that they are about to awaken from a season-long funk, that could be as much of a blip as the Jets’ current skid.

So what am I saying? That the Jets are home and cooled?

Odds are, yes.

Dallas and Colorado are seven points in arrears of the Jets. The Wild are eight. Since the 2005-06 season, only two outfits have clambered out of such a deep hole this deep into the season to secure a spot in the spring tournament: The 2005-06 San Jose Sharks (minus-7) and the 2008-09 St. Louis Blues (minus-9). The Jets, of course, would also have to keep an eye peeled for the Los Angeles Kings, who are six points back and, were they to overhaul Winnipeg, would bring the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames into the fray.

Still, recent history dictates that clubs facing such deficits do not play hockey once the regular season is put to bed.

That having been said, I recognize that there remains much grunt work ahead. The job assumes a much more intense hue once the all-star shenanigans are hindsight, and slackers need not apply. The thing is, the Jets are already into playoff hockey. Although not yet dressed up in post-season finery, was not the Stars-Jets joust on Saturday night a de facto playoff game? Back in the day, we would have called it a four-pointer.

So get in playoff mode. Totally. And how do the Jets do that?

I say they ought to take the lead of Mathieu Perreault and sprout chin whiskers. Yes, I realize that facial fur is best reserved for that moment when you actually secure a playoff berth. Mid-April and beyond is when it’s trendy. Not in February.

Why wait for spring, though? Do it now. Grow playoff beards. Everybody. Perreault has set the standard. You could hide Johnny Gaudreau of the Calgary Flames in that fab foliage of his. Be like “Matty.”

This, of course, might meet with the resistence of some wives/girlfriends, but when advised how many new pair of shoes a playoff bonus could provide I’m certain they would play along. (Before anyone accuses me of sexist stereotyping, it’s a fact: We like shoes. Lots of them. I have at least two dozen pair. So there.)

So put away the Gillettes, Jets. You’re already into playoff hockey.

rooftop riting biz card back sidePatti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for more than 40 years, longer than any living being. Do not, however, assume that to mean she harbors a wealth of sports knowledge or that she’s a jock journalist of award-winning loft. It simply means she is old and comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she apparently doesn’t know when to quit. Or she can’t quit.
She is most proud of her Q Award, presented to her in 2012 for her scribblings about the LGBT community in Victoria, B.C., and her induction into the Manitoba Sportswriters & Sportscasters Association Media Roll of Honour.