About P.K. Snub-ban…wife-beating Russians…playoff beards…John McEnroe…and Mike O’Shea has to watch another film

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

P.K. Subban didn't get the call.
P.K. Subban didn’t get the call.

Snub-a-dubba-do.

Corey Perry was snubbed. P.K. Subban was snubbed. Taylor Hall was snubbed. Phil Kessel was snubbed. Kris Letang was snubbed. Tyler Johnson was snubbed. Ilya Kovalchuk was snubbed. Nikolaj Ehlers was snubbed. Mikael Backlund was snubbed. Here a snub, there a snub, everywhere a snub-snub.

And you expected something different?

I mean, do the math. There are only 23 sweaters to fill per team for the World Cup of Hockey gala next September in the Republic of Tranna. It’s a given, therefore, that high-end skill will fail to make the final roll call, especially in a country with a talent-glut. Like Canada.

Oh woe is the man tasked with the chore of assembling a shinny side comprised of the ‘best’ Canada has available. He leaves himself exposed to second, third, fourth and fifth guessing from armchair general managers from sea to sea to sea, many of whom don’t know a puck from pasta. And it isn’t always a numbers game at play. Sometimes it’s in-house politicking. Other times, it’s just plain dumb.

Bob Clarke, for example, became a certified nutbar in 1998 when, in assembling our Olympic outfit, he insisted on making room for the legendary Rob Zamuner rather than grant a roster spot to Mark Messier. D’oh! At the 1991 Canada Cup, Steve Yzerman was out and Dirk Graham was in. Go figure.

Flash all the way back to the 1972 Summit Series between the Great White North and the Red Menace from the Soviet Union. Can you say Bobby Hull, Dave Keon, J.C. Tremblay, Gordie Howe and Gerry Cheevers, kids? All were all-stars. All were Stanley Cup champions. And all were on the outside looking in because they had the bad manners (according to the National Hockey League) to defect to the World Hockey Association or, in Howe’s case, had the bad manners to retire.

Here’s what Phil Esposito said about the selection process in ’72:

There were some guys that got there because they were (Alan) Eagleson’s clients, no doubt about it. I never thought that lineup was unbeatable at all. I felt that if we had Bobby Hull and Gordie Howe and Bobby Orr (injured) in that lineup, they wouldn’t have beat us one iota. I was disappointed by some selections.”

Now lend an ear to Peter Mahovlich, also a member of the ’72 side:

This wasn’t all of Team Canada. This was team NHL. Right off the bat, that excluded Bobby Hull, Dave Keon and Gerry Cheevers in net. If we had Bobby and Dave, I don’t see myself making the roster.”

So, P.K. Subban and others being snubbed? Nothing to see here, kids. Let’s move on.

Just wondering: If Team Canada bench boss Mike Babcock had coached Bobby Orr in his prime, would he have ordered him to play left defence because he shot left? Or would he have left the greatest player in the history of the game alone?

Interesting that Russia included wife-beating defenceman Slava Voynov on its WCH final roster. I’d say there’s about as much chance of Voynov joining the comrades in the Republic of Tranna as their is of Donald Trump choosing me as his presidential running mate.

Brad Marchand: We get to cheer for the rat for a month.
Brad Marchand: We get to cheer for the rat for a month.

Here’s the beauty of the Word Cup of Hockey: We all get to cheer for that little rat Brad Marchand while he’s wearing the Maple Leaf on his chest, then we resume regularly scheduled dissing once he’s adorned in Boston Bruins linen again.

Is it unCanadian of me if I really don’t care to talk about the World Cup of Hockey again until September? I don’t believe so. If, on the other hand, I still don’t wish to talk about it once the frost is on the pumpkin, feel free to take away my maple syrup, my back bacon and my Don Cherry voodoo doll.

Midway through this current NHL crusade, I sat in my local watering hold and advised the Lord of the Beer Pit that the Eastern Conference champs would win the Stanley Cup. I assumed that team would be the Washington Capitals. Instead, we have the Pittsburgh Penguins. I say Pitt in seven.

Joe Thornton: That beard is thicker than rough at the U.S. Open.
Joe Thornton: That beard is thicker than rough at the U.S. Open.

Once the Stanley Cup tournament is a matter for hockey historians to discuss and either the Penguins or San Jose Sharks are hailed as rulers of all they survey, players shall reach for their razor blades and perform some serious spring pruning of facial foliage. There is no truth to the rumor, however, that Professional Golf Association Tour officials will collect Brent Burns’s and Joe Thornton’s beards and use them for rough at the U.S. Open.

If you’re keeping score at home, it took Mike O’Shea exactly one practice to deliver his first “I’ll have to watch the film” sound bite of the Canadian Football League season. After observing his troops on Sunday, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach said, “They flew around pretty well. I’ll have to watch the film and count the number of errors, but I thought it was a very clean practice…” Las Vegas bookies have listed the over/under on O’Shea’s “film” quotes this season at 3,492.

John McEnroe: Waaa, waaa, waaa, waaa.
John McEnroe: Waaa, waaa, waaa, waaa.

Wonderful start to the Milos Raonic-John McEnroe partnership. McEnroe is hired as a grass-courts consultant for Raonic, he shows up for one practice session, and the Canadian is promptly ousted from the French Open by 55th-ranked Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain the very next day. Clearly, McEnroe has yet to work his magic with Raonic. Not to worry, though, the Mouth that Roared guarantees us that Raonic will have perfected the fine art of the tennis temper tantrum by the time they arrive at Wimbledon.

 

Patti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for 45 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 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 in 2015.

 

About conspiracy theories…calling out Paul Maurice…Evander being Evander…and other things on my mind

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

Let’s suppose the conspiracy theorists on Planet Paranoia are correct when they posit that National Hockey League gendarmes are overly zealous in meting out punishment to the Winnipeg Jets.

I mean, we’ve witnessed Dustin Byfuglien being banished to the sin bin simply for being big, have we not? Meanwhile, the skunk shirts look the other way when Anton Stralman of the Tampa Bay Lightning derails smurf-like Nikolaj Ehlers with a knee-on-knee hit and, scant seconds later, he renders a vulnerable Bryan Little loopy with a wallop to the head.

Dirty, rotten refs have it in for the Jets, right?

Paul Maurice
Paul Maurice

But let’s back it up for a moment. If it’s true that the Jets are getting the short end of the judicial staff, they have only themselves and their head coach, Paul Maurice, to blame.

I direct your attention to remarks made by coach PoMo and the aforementioned Little last season, at a time when the Jets were rapidly developing a reputation as an in-your-face band of ruffians and spending more time in stir than any other outfit in the NHL.

You play an aggressive, tight-gap game, you have more confrontations on the ice,” an unapologetic Maurice told news scavengers. “The concern is when you get the reputation of being the highest-penalized team, you lose the benefit of the doubt. It’s, ‘It must be a penalty, it’s Winnipeg.’ We talk about it…I don’t want to lose any of that other piece…if the byproduct being we’re taking more penalties, then we have to do that, because playing a different game won’t be to our strength.”

Here’s centre Little providing the backup vocals:

We like to play on the edge a bit. We like to make things hard on the other team. We’ve got some big guys, some fast guys that play physical. Sometimes that’s going to happen, we’re going to take penalties playing that way.”

Thus, you call the penalty parade a conspiracy, I call it the cost of doing business the Jets way. And when you cannot kill penalties, the Jets way doesn’t work.

I realize that referee Francois St. Laurent has become Public Enemy No. 1 in Jets Nation, first for turning a blind eye to Stralman’s misdeeds the other night in Winnipeg’s 6-5 loss to the Lightning in Tampa and, second, for giving Maurice the heave-ho after two periods. Let’s keep one thing in mind, though: There were two men wearing arm bands that night, the other being Dan O’Rourke. He could have ticketed Stralman for either the hit on Ehlers or Little.

Much has been made of St. Laurent being caught on camera laughing after he’d dismissed Maurice. It surely was, from a league standpoint, not a good optic. But, hey, watching a grown man lose his mind can be humorous.

After Maurice came completely unglued and was given the night off by St. Laurent, Paul Wiecek of the Winnipeg Free Press called out the Jets coach. In non-subtle language, Wiecek suggested that Maurice is very much a part of the problem in his club’s current crusade, which has turned into a total tire fire. For this, the Freep scribe has been tarred and feathered. It’s as if he has attacked motherhood. Well, I applaud Wiecek for having the gonads to take an unpopular position. Why should Maurice be a sacred cow? It’s not like he’s the second coming of Scotty Bowman. He’s been coaching in the NHL for 18 years. His clubs have made the playoffs five times in those 18 seasons. Whatever he’s been selling, not many have been buying.

As I have written, it’s the Tao of Freddy Shero that makes Paul Maurice and, by extension, his players do some of the things they do. I think of this every time I see coach PoMo dispatch Anthony Peluso over the boards, at times in tandem with the regretable Chris Thorburn. There are only two reasons why Peluso is a member of the Jets: His left fist and his right fist. Actually, there’s a third reason: The head coach believes his is a better club with the first two reasons on the roster. That, of course, is horribly misguided thinking, but it’s the Jets way.

Why do so many people assume that NHL officials aren’t disciplined for shoddy work? I harbor little doubt that someone in the league hiearchy will have a fireside chat with Francois St. Laurent. We just won’t hear about it, that’s all.

Steve Yzerman
Steve Yzerman

Is it just moi, or do others find it interesting that Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman ended rampant speculation about Steven Stamkos by advising the world that he would not be dealing his captain prior to the Feb. 29 NHL trade deadline? Speculation ceased. Similarly, GM Marc Bergevin of the Montreal Canadiens publicly squashed any notion that he’s about to move P.K. Subban. Yet in River City, mum’s the word from GM Mark Chipman and his puppet Kevin Cheveldayoff. They continue to let captain Andrew Ladd twist in the wind. It’s the Jets way, I guess.

Jennifer Jones is skipping a Manitoba team wearing Canada’s colors at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Grande Prairie, Alta. Kerri Einarson and her gal pals from the East St. Paul Curling Club are wearing the Manitoba buffalo on their backs. Manitoba-bred Chelsea Carey is skipping the rep from the host Wild Rose Country. All this made-in-Manitoba flavor and the Winnipeg Sun does not have a scribe on the scene. Shame, that. Blame it on the madness that prevails at Postmedia.

Buffalo, meet the real Evander Kane. Yup, he’s a wild and crazy guy who marches to his own drummer, and if that means swanning off to the Republic of Tranna for the National Basketball Asssociation all-star hijinks and missing practice, then that’s what he’ll do. Damn the consequences, which, in this case, was a one-game sit-down. Get used to it, Buffalo. There’s more to follow.

Pro boxers are a swell bunch, aren’t they? The heavyweight champion of all the world’s fist-fighters, Tyson Fury, is an admitted mysoginist and homophobe. Multi-division champion and now-retired (supposedly) champ Floyd Mayweather Jr. is a serial woman-beater who has spent time behind bars for whacking his children’s mother about the head. And now we have Manny Pacquiao going off on an anti-gay rant. If you missed it, Manny asks, “Do you see animals mating with the same sex?” (Actually, Manny, same-sex behaviour is quite common in the animal world.) He adds, “Animals are better because they can distingush male from female. If men mate with men and women mate with women, they are worse than animals.” Yo! Manny! Bite me.

Patti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for 45 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 in 2015.

Mike O’Shea: He has no flair for fashion, but does he have to be such a jerk?

Tweets that grew up to be too big for Twitter…

So, let’s see if I’ve got this straight: When the Winnipeg Blue Bombers lose a football game, Mike O’Shea cannot supply news scavengers with a definitive answer without first having to “see the film.” He’s Coach Copout. You get more insight from Mount Rushmore.

o'shea2
Coach Copout

Yet, when the Bombers rack up a W, as was the case against the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Saturday night in the Banjo Bowl, the head coach flaps his gums for six minutes and 40 seconds without once insisting he must “see the film” before delivering the goods. That despite the fact many bad things happened in the Bombers’ 22-7 victory, developments that surely would have had him defaulting to film-speak had they led to a loss.

O’Shea is a reminder of what I disliked most about being in the sports media—dealing with jerks.

Why are so many people hung up on O’Shea’s shoddy taste in fashion? So he’s into T-shirts and hoodies and won’t make the cover of GQ. Big deal. Bill Belichick dresses like some guy who sleeps beside a dumpster, and all he does is take his New England Patriots to the playoffs every year and win more Super Bowl games than any living National Football League coach.

Woman beater and professional fist-fighter Floyd Mayweather roughed up some tomato can on Saturday night to run his career ring record to 49-0, and now he’s leaving boxing. Yup, he insists this was the last time he’ll use his fists to give someone a fat lip. Unless, of course, he decides to punch out a few more women. My guess is that with all the extra time on his hands, Floyd will be heading to a jail to be named later.

oj
O.J. Jailbird

Speaking of jocks in jail, I see where O.J. Simpson lost an appeal for a new trial on the kidnapping and armed robbery raps that earned him nine to 33 years behind bars, so he’ll remain in a Nevada lockup until 2017, at the earliest. No word on whether or not the Juice will resume his search for the real killers if paroled at age 70.

Prior to her ouster at the U.S. Open, a number of pundits were touting Serena Williams as the best athlete on the third rock from the sun. Not just the best tennis player, understand. The best athlete. Man or woman. That is, of course, utter nonsense. How can she be the top jock when she isn’t even the top tennis player? And in the ongoing discussion about Williams’ place in tennis history, distaff division, I’ll still take Steffi Graf and Martina Navratilova every time.

That Peter Chiarelli is some kind of kidder. The Edmonton McDavids general manager sat down for a gum-flap with TSN’s Bob McKenzie and suggested fab frosh Connor McDavid will top out at 20 goals and 40 points as a National Hockey League rookie. Ya, and it will only snow once in Edmonton this winter. If McDavid isn’t at least a 60-point guy in his first go-round, we’ll need a federal inquiry.

Apparently, the PGA Tour playoffs are underway. Is anyone aware of this? Is anyone watching? Does anyone actually understand the format? And does it really happen if Tiger Woods isn’t there?

I really wish Steve Yzerman would hurry up and sign Steven Stamkos to a contract extension so scribes in the Republic of Tranna (hello, Damien Cox) could stop writing speculative pieces about the star centre/winger bolting the Tampa Bay Lightning to join the Maple Leafs and achieving “hockey immortality” with a place on Legends Row.

bannister shoesThe track shoes worn by Roger Bannister in May of 1954 when he became the first man to run a sub-four-minute mile have been sold at a Christie’s auction for $412,062.30. It’s believe they are the most expensive pair of shoes not in Caitlyn Jenner’s closet.

It occurs to me that The Reporters on TSN would be a much more entertaining chin-wag if the gab guys weren’t given a heads up on subject matter. Too much of what Bruce Arthur, Michael Farber and Steve Simmons have to say seems scripted. There’s seldom an invigorating thrust-and-parry. Sparks never fly. They’re afraid to offend one another. Hey, I’m not looking for a verbal donnybrook, but some sizzle would be boffo. As it is, they have time to research the topics on host Dave Hodge’s menu, which makes for rather bland banter. Make ’em do it off-the-cuff. Simmons, by the way, has sprounted scruffy chin and upper-lip whiskers, so he no longer looks like a hamster with nerdy glasses. He now looks like a hamster with nerdy glasses and scruffy chin whiskers.

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: Is it bye-bye Citizen Kane?

Evander Kane reminds me of Kent Nilsson. Not on a skill level, understand. Nor aesthetically.

Nilsson was smooth, refined, elegant, full of luster. His pure talent was jaw-dropping. Gasp-inducing. Other-wordly. He was spell-binding in his brilliance. In the mood, the slick Swede was da Vinci. Michelangelo. Rembrandt. He made hockey look easy, like Brando or Streep on the big screen, or Streisand and Bocelli in concert. Mere child’s play.

Kane, on the other hand, is coarse, edgy, brusk, scratchy. His game is brash, brawn and bravado, not painting pretty pictures or singing sweet songs. If he has a soundtrack, it’s hip-hop or rap. Angry rap.

The two are as dissimilar as satin and sandpaper. Kane is the bull to Nilsson’s china shop. Yet, there exists a frustrating, sometimes infuriating, commonality.

Nilsson, you see, was a tease. He almost always left us insatiated. We were convinced (still are) that he was cheating us, if not himself. That he should have been putting up Gretzkyan numbers, not those of a mere mortal. We hungered for more, even on nights when he’d light it up. More, more, more. Give us more, Kenta, was the mantra.

It doesn’t matter that Nilsson’s points-per-game number is top-10 in National Hockey League history. Any discussion about him usually includes the words, “if only.” If only he had applied himself. If only he had the same motor as Wayne Gretzky or Mark Messier or Steve Yzerman. If only he wasn’t so soft. If only he cared more.

So now we have Kane, who seems to have the complete tool kit. He is big, raw-boned, strong and moves about the freeze lickety-split. He will shy away from no foe and willingly contests the nasty areas. Alas, he is delivering, yet again, what appears to be a sub-20-goal season for the Winnipeg Jets.

We want more. We expect more. No doubt Kane does, too, otherwise he wouldn’t have beaked off during the pre-season about lighting the lamp 50 times this winter.

To many, of course, those were the bleatings of a cocky kid who never passes a mirror without giving it a second glance. The Natural, indeed. At the same time, however, even Kane’s harshest critic would concede that, yes, it might be doable. If not 50, certainly 30 or 40 goals. Well, good luck with that.

The Jets are almost certain to have four 20-goal scorers this crusade, but, should he maintain the pace established during his NHL career, not one of them will be named Evander Kane. For the fifth time in six seasons.

Thus, we wait…and we wait…and we wait. For something that might never happen.

Contemplating the merits of Kane makes me think of the Miss Peggy Lee classic Is That All There Is?, because, really, is that all there is? His high-water mark is the 30 goals he scored in his third season, the low being 14 as an NHL freshman in 2009-10. He has never suited up for an 82-game season, due to an assortment of owies, wrong-doing both on and off the ice, and one lockout-abbreviated campaign. Through it all, Kane has averaged one goal per 3.3 assignments, or 25 per 82 games.

If only he could deliver those 25 goals in an 82-game season.

There are those words again: “If only.” They applied to Kent Nilsson and now they apply to Evander Kane.

But perhaps we should reassess how we view Kane. Lower our expectations.

That is to say, look at his 30-goal season as an anomoly. A one-off, if you will. No more talk of 40- and 50-goal campaigns. Rather than gush over all that unrealized potential and allow visions of grandeur to cloud our sightlines, perhaps it’s time to see Kane for what he is: An injury-prone, power forward capable of rag-dolling a game but one who has a penchant for losing the plot, both on and off the ice, and one who is more likely to mix in with the crowd and hopefully deliver 20-25 goals per season. Anything more is a bonus.

Is that so bad? Not if he actually does it. But he’s only done it once and isn’t doing it now.

And now he’s once again in head coach Paul Maurice’s pooch palace, a healthy scratch Tuesday night in Vancouver, where the Jets’ losing skid reached five games with a 3-2 setback against the Canucks.

Rumors abound, naturally, with speculation suggesting the benching was a punitive measure for yet another off-ice misdeed. If true, it isn’t the first such incident and will, no doubt, lead to heightened rumor and gossip about Kane’s shelf life in Winnipeg, especially with the NHL trade deadline dead ahead on March 2. Whereas the Jets’ focus should be squarely on their playoff pursuit, the three-ring circus will return to town with the spotlight placed directly on the enigmatic left winger. Do the Jets deal him, finally, or do they continue to put up with his shenanigans?

The sticker price for Kane last summer was said to include a first-round draft pick and live bodies, and we don’t know how close general manager Kevin (The Possum) Cheveldayoff came to pulling the trigger. This latest development might inspire The Possum to action and place phone calls to Edmonton or Buffalo, or perhaps Philadelphia, where the Flyers are said to have a keen interest in Kane. I’d be surprised if Cheveldayoff hasn’t already been on the phone to one or all of those outfits.

Oops. Check that. We’re dealing with The Possum, who doesn’t make NHL player-for-player trades. Silly me. Cancel those phone calls.

Sarcasm aside, dealing Kane would be a bold, risky move, but better players have been moved.

The aforementioned Nilsson, for example, was dispatched to the Minnesota North Stars by the Calgary Flames on the heels of a 99-point season. In barter, Flames GM Cliff Fletcher accepted two second-round draft choices. That’s it. No live bodies. Fletcher used the first of those two picks to pluck Joe Nieuwendyk from the player pool at the NHL entry draft and we scoffed. Kent Nilsson for some Ivy League college kid? It was a joke, right? I was writing for the Calgary Sun at the time and our main headline read: Joe Who? I referred to him as Joe Whowendyk. All he did, though, was win the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top freshman, help the Flames win the Stanley Cup and is now in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

That’s not so say Cheveldayoff should ship Kane out for a string of beads, but somehow I believe the Jets would survive without their 10-goal scorer.

THE CITIZEN KANE FILE

                                            GP G A P
2009-10                              66 14 12 26
2010-11                              73 19 24 43
2011-12                              74 30 27 57
2012-13                              48 17 16 33
2013-14                              63 19 22 41
2014-15                              37 10 12 22