Coach PoMo morphs into Coach Claude…the God squad…Bo knows quarterbacking…and Ronda Rousey isn’t so tough after all

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

Okay, who stole Paul Maurice and why have you replaced him with Claude Noel?

Claude Noel
Claude Noel

Seriously.

That 7-0 wedgie the Nashville Predators delivered to the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday night in Twangtown, Tenn., was 50 shades of gawdawful and conjured up flashbacks from the gory days, when most games seemed to be equal parts Keystone Kops and Chinese fire drill. It was slapstick shinny. Helter-skelter hockey.

That was circa Noel, the yuk-a-minute yet bewildered head coach who, when asked by news scavengers to explain the woeful ways of his workers, would reply, “I can’t give you the answers as to why.”

So there was Maurice post-paddywhacking in Music City on Saturday, parroting his predecessor.

“I don’t have an answer for you yet,” is how the Jets coach began his scrum with scribes and other gatherers of sound bites, then later adding, “we have to keep searching for answers.”

It’s one thing for Maurice to sound like Noel. Coaching like him is a more disturbing matter.

In that tire fire in Nashville, the Jets were scrubs on skates, an outfit in utter disarray and one that cannot possibly harbor any hope of qualifying for the playoffs in the National Hockey League’s most-challenging precinct, the Central Division. To be blunt, they looked poorly coached. You know, just like when the players stopped listening to Noel.

I agree with all those advocating an increase in the size of NHL nets. Why, with larger nets there’s no way the Predators would have shut out the Jets 7-0. It would have been more like 14-1.

It might feel like the sky is falling in Jets Nation because the hockey heroes are one-for-November, but losing four straight games and six of seven assignments is not cause for alarm. So says the team captain, Andrew Ladd, who assures us it is just “a little funk.” Yes, and Don Cherry’s clothing is “just” a little loud.

American Pharoah
American Pharoah

When I look at the list of finalists for Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year, I don’t see any man, woman or animal who had a better 2015 than American Pharoah, the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years of horses making left turns at North American race tracks, and first to the wire in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. But wait. If the great Secretariat didn’t win the award in 1973 (it went to fast car driver Jackie Stewart), American Pharoah cannot possibly get the nod. Unless, of course, horses are given a vote. Then he’s a shoo-in.

So, how are we to summarize the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ season? Try this: Paul Wiecek, in the Winnipeg Free Press, writes about them “laughing, joking and horsing around” during their final workout of yet another Canadian Football League crusade gone horribly wrong; defensive back Maurice Leggett believes there is a shortage of “mean jerks” in the changing room; and they have a placekicker, Sergio Castillo, who is convinced an invisible God has already predetermined which of his kicks shall sail off course. Apparently, the invisible God decided that Castillo would misfire on two of his five field goal attempts in the 21-11 season-ending loss to the Argonauts in Toronto. “I didn’t have the game I wanted to, but I enjoyed it,” he said. Who knew screwing up could be so much fun? Makes you want to rush out and purchase 2016 season tickets, doesn’t it?

Quarterback Henry Burris is certain to be named most outstanding player in the CFL, but I’m guessing that if you were to quiz the league’s nine head coaches, asking who they’d prefer behind centre, they’d all answer Bo Levi Mitchell of the Calgary Stampeders before Burris, the Ottawa RedBlacks greybeard QB.

Am I the only one who finds that Scotiabank Fifth Season commercial featuring the girl with all the Marie Osmond teeth painfully irritating? I mean, she’s a cute kid and I’m sure she’s lovely, but, geez Louise, did they have to make her out to be such a nerdy girl? Oh, it’s more than just annoying, Miss Woods.

Take that, Ronda Rousey.
Take that, Ronda Rousey.

I think Holly Holm did every fight fan a favor when she boxed Ronda Rousey’s ears and put the boots to her in their Ultimate Fighting Championship women’s bantamweight title bout. Perhaps now people will stop making senseless noise about Rousey whupping convicted woman-beater and world boxing champion Floyd Mayweather. She isn’t even the toughest girl on the block, let alone the baddest ass in all of mixed martial arts fighting.

Shouldn’t the Winnipeg Free Press have hired a sports columnist to replace Gary (La La) Lawless by now? A sports section without a columnist is like a pub without pints or a church without prayer. I need someone to pick on.

Speaking of needing a scribe to pick on, there’s always Steve Simmons, thin-skinned columnist with the Toronto Sun. In making the case for Darryl Sutter to be considered for a coaching post in the World Cup of Hockey next September, Little Stevie Blunder advises us that the mumbling bench boss “has won three Stanley Cups with the Los Angeles Kings.” Really? Three? I demand a recount. No surprise he’d have it wrong, though. Facts are too often a casualty in today’s sports writing, which is a pet peeve of mine.

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: Hee haw! Bring on Nashville for a first-round foe in the NHL playoffs

Why the continued angst? Why the hand-wringing? Why the gnashing of teeth? Why so many fretsome furrows on so many foreheads?

Oh ye of little faith.

It is no longer a matter of “will” the Winnipeg Jets qualify for the Stanley Cup tournament. It has become an issue of “who.” As in: Who will serve as their first-round foe?

Yes, I realize there remains some heavy lifting before the curtain drops on the National Hockey League’s regular-season exercises and the Jets are officially invited to the big dance, but, as I scribbled on March 3, “You can make book that meaningful matches shall be staged at the Little Hockey House on the Prairie post-April 11.”

To refresh:

Surely, the Jets will finish no worse than fifth in the Central Division,” I wrote. “That will qualify them for the tournament, because it would take too much smoke and too many mirrors for either the Calgary Flames or San Jose Sharks to overhaul good, ol’ Home Team for a Western Conference wild-card spot.

The Flames, of course, have been a feel-good story this season, but it’s been hockey hocus pocus. An illusion. Reality is about to bite. The Sharks, meanwhile…they’re chronic underachievers.

The Jets are in. Trust me.”

The focus of discussion, therefore, should shift to their foe and, at this precise moment in time, the likelihood is that the Jets shall face off versus one of three outfits: The Disney Ducks of Anaheim, the St. Louis Blues or the Nashville Predators.

Pick your poison, right? Not necessarily.

I would submit that a first-round throw-down with the Blues is to be avoided at all costs. Not that Team St. Loo can’t be beaten. It’s just that the Blues are a playoff-hardened outfit that comes at you with a punishing, relentless, unflinching merger of talent and resolve. Taking them out in a seven-game series would be a highly taxing and burdensome bit of business. A Herculean task, if you will.

A date with the Blues surely would carry the greatest risk of a dash-away, one-and-done special for the Jets.

Not so with the Ducks or Predators.

Were the stars to align favorably for the Winnipegs, they would commence playoff proceedings in Kornfield Kounty, otherwise known as Music City or, officially, Nashville, where a song don’t mean a thang if it ain’t got that twang. Can you say “Hee Haw!” kids?

Although the Predators have hit the century mark and enter weekend activity as the No. 2 seed for all NHL points west of the Grand Ole Opry, I’m not convinced of their bona fides. Certainly they have a stud backliner in Shea Weber, a stud goaltender in Pekka Rinne and a fab freshman in Filip Forsberg. That’s considerable oomph down the middle. The Jets have no one to match Weber or Rinne, but, by the same token, the Predators have no match for the hybrid beast that Dustin Byfuglien has become. And surely Bryan Little is a superior centre-ice man to Forsberg.

Goaltender is, and always will be, the X factor for the Jets. If Ondrej Pavelec can replicate in mid-to-late April what he’s produced in March, the Jets move on. If not…fore!

The same would apply in a joust with the Disney Ducks.

The point is, I can see the locals getting past the Ducks or Predators in an opening-round skirmish, but I believe the Blues to be of too-tall timber.

Thus, if you’re a card-carrying member of Jets Nation, hope for either Nashville or Anaheim, but buckle up for a real rough ride if it’s St. Louis.

 

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.