A FUNNY COINCIDENCE?
Ukraine and P.E.I. are not jurisdictions that are usually compared in any way, but there is now a commonality. Volodymyr Zelensky recently became the president-elect of Ukraine, and last Tuesday progressive conservative leader Dennis King became the premier-elect of P.E.I. Not only are they both newcomers to the political scene, but they are both professional comedians.
NHL REFEREES FURLATT AND O’HALLORAN MAKE HISTORY
The assessment of a major penalty on Las Vegas Knights’ Cody Eakin by Dan O’Halloran and Eric Furlatt in the seventh game of the Vegas/San Jose series was the most egregious call in NHL history.
Proof of the call’s egregiousness is three-fold. First, it’s very likely the reason Vegas was eliminated. Next, one of the referees told Vegas coach Gerard Gallant that Eakin had cross-checked Pavelski in the face, which was patently untrue. And finally, the NHL subsequently admitted the call was wrong and formally apologized to Las Vegas.
At least this time the league disciplined (sort of) the referees by not assigning them to officiate any games in the second round of the playoffs. They actually shouldn’t be seen on the ice again until next season, and then only after undergoing some kind of remedial training.
When the five minute three-on-three overtime period was introduced it produced scintillating hockey. But then, as often happens, coaches found a way to ruin it. Now teams spend as much time as they can ragging the puck in their own end until they get the match-up they need to launch an advantageous attack. The result is that most of the overtime is now as boring as I suspect a debate between Jagmeet Singh and Andrew Scheer would be.
Brian Burke has suggested that a thirty-second shot clock be introduced. (Gary Bettman, a basketball guy at heart, would love this.) Ottawa Senator defenceman Dylan DeMelo has suggested that once a team has possession of the puck on the opponent’s side of the red line that they not be allowed to bring it back to their side. The problem with both these suggestions is coming up with a suitable punishment for an infraction. A face-off in the offending team’s end won’t work because that’s where they wanted the puck to be anyway. My preferred solution would be to do away with Bettman’s odious shoot-out and either play three-on-three until someone scores or call a tie a tie.
No matter how you cut it, the shoot-out is just a gimmick that, although acceptable in a skills exhibition, has no place in deciding the winner of a game.
Because no defending skater is pressuring the shooter, the assertion that it’s the same as a breakaway is nonsense. The argument that it’s like a penalty shot is literally correct, but penalty shots are punishment for infractions. Who decided a tie game was an infraction? Some former basketball guy?
BRENDAN SHANAHAN’S DILEMMA
It’s clear to even moderately knowledgeable observers that Maple Leaf president Brendan Shanahan has a major problem. Mike Babcock, the coach that he personally made a multi-millionaire with an eyebrow-raising contract (both in terms of money and length) seems to to have a different philosophy than the general manager that Shanahan hand-picked (the as yet unproven Kyle Dubas) and doesn’t get along with Shanahan’s highest profile first round draft pick, Auston Matthews.
Given that two of the horns of this dilemma can be lopped off by firing Babcock, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if Shanahan convinces the team’s board of directors to eat the rest of Babcock’s contract, especially since rumour has it that it was front-end loaded.
While analyzing the Maple Leaf’s season, and particularly their first-round playoff elimination, Brian Burke apportioned the blame between Dubas and Babcock; Babcock for his stubbornness and Dubas for not addressing roster shortcomings in a timely manner. No argument there. But doesn’t Dubas’ inaction indicate that he may be as stubborn as Babcock? The knock that many hockey people have levelled at Dubas is that, like Justin Trudeau, he just wasn’t ready.
As a keen observer of the Toronto sports scene for almost seven decades, I don’t recall such fervent anticipation and coverage of any event like that accorded the debut of the Blue Jays vaunted prospect, Vladimir Guerrero, which finally took place last night at Rogers Center.
Going 1 for 4 at the plate (a double in the ninth) and making a couple of good plays at third base, he didn’t exactly disappoint — unless of course you compare it to Auston Matthews’ NHL debut in which he scored four goals.
As the season progresses we all need to remember that Guerrero just recently turned twenty years old.