Thursday, May 21, 2015

This And That

Its time for the usual weekly thoughts running through my muddled mind, and as always, these come n no particular order

--Goodbye to Neal Hughes. The news he was retiring didn't come as a surprise, but it was still tough to see someone who has been a favourite of this blogger since his days with the Rams come to an end. I still remember vividly Hughes completely tearing apart the University of Alberta Golden Bears on a Saturday afternoon at then Taylor Field as he ran for almost 300 yards. My colour man at the time was Keith Colhoun and he saw me writing down as I kept the stats Hughes had 250 yards. We went to a break and Keith said "Are you sure he has 250 yards? Have you added that right? I quickly double-checked my numbers and then responded "Have you been watching the game?". I don't know if I have ever seen a better performance by a running back in that stadium in my life and that includes what Kory Sheets did on that oh so magical November night in 2013.  While I was in the room after that game talking to several Riders, the one guy I never got to see and congratulate when it was over was Hughsie. I don't know what happened to him and maybe he never ever came off the field as he soaked it in with everyone there, but I couldn't find him. I don't know what his future holds and he said on the Sportscage Wednesday afternoon that he doesn't know what he wants to do when he grows up, but whatever it is, he will be successful. That's just the way he is!

--Neal also answered a question for me when he was on the Cage Wednesday. What is it about fullbacks that play for the Riders that make them so popular? Neal might not have had the popularity Chris Szarka had, but there was some genuine love for the former Thom Trojan. He answered with this and I can not argue.
"It's a tough hard-nosed job and there are a lot of tough hard-nosed people in Saskatchewan. I think a lot of people say that guy isn't flashy, but he just gets the job done. There's a definite relation that's for sure!

--Does Roger Goodell go to Foxboro for the NFL season opener after what has happened between him and the Patriots? I am guessing he won't get a positive reception especially if number 12 is not on the field. He does have an obligation to be there, but perhaps there is a conflicting "family matter" that will prevent him from being in attendance.

--Congratulations to the Philadelphia Flyers! GM Ron Hextall went outside the box and didn't recycle an NHL coach or promote a current assistant. He went out and brought University of North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol to the world of professional hockey. Hakstol has been in charge of arguably the best Division 1 NCAA program and he has coached many NHL'ers like Jonathan Toews, Brock Nelson and T-J Oshie just to name a few. He will turn the Flyers around and leave North Dakota with a huge hole to fill even though assistant coach Brad Berry is taking over

--Is it just me or could Hakstol and Mike Babcock be brothers, You decide!

In the words of the immortal Stampede Wrestling manager J-R Foley---"Money Talks". I was shocked to see Mike Babcock leave Detroit for Toronto. I honestly thought he would stay in Detroit, but when the money comes callin, you answer it.  Its my belief Babcock saw the job Todd McLellan did with Team Canada at this year's Worlds and said to himself he wanted to be the coach of that team next year.  Good luck in Toronto'll need it! By the way, what the hell is with Saskatoon boy Babcock referring to the Leafs as "Canada's Team". All of us in Saskatchewan know who is "Canada's Team" and it sure the h-e double hockey sticks is not the Maple Leafs. Cmon Mike!!  Babcock also told George S on Thursday night that he listens to country radio so he doesn't have to listen to talk radio......I'm just going to leave that one alone.

--Canada wins gold at the World Hockey Championship and there was no one from the Toronto Maple Leafs on the roster. Coincidence?  Maybe Babs took the job because he wanted to be the coach of Canada's team at the Worlds next year and repeat what happened this year.

--Has Alexander Ovechkin ever beaten Sidney Crosby in an international game between Russia and Canada? Crosby's team beat Ovechkin's team at the World Juniors in Grand Forks, we know what happened at the Olympics in Vancouver and in Sochi, and now Sunday's win at the World Championship.

--I think its safe to say at this point, the Oilers have won the off-season with the ping-pong ball falling their way to get Connor MacDavid along with Peter Chiarelli and Todd McLellan and that Buffalo is the big loser with not getting MacDavid or Mike Babcock. Again, I have to think this is the hockey gods way of punishing them for tanking the final few weeks of the season. It looks good on them!

--I think its too bad MacDavid isn't getting the chance to go out with a Memorial Cup appearance. While a lot of us have seen MacDavid play some games this year, it would have been great to have a national audience watch his final week of junior hockey. That being said, I am sure the Memorial Cup won't suffer with four great teams going at it.

--The Prince Albert Raiders need a GM. Two names come to mind 1) Curtis Hunt 2) Chad Lang.

--How popular will Pats assistant coach Dave Struch be in the off-season when it comes to possible coaching gigs? There is no doubt John Paddock owes a lot to Struch for the success he had. QCSE might be wise to lock up Mr. Struch and perhaps be the successor to Paddock down the road if John has the desire to get off the bench. That being said, I don't think he does anytime soon,

--IF Montreal is successful in getting baseball back, what would it do to the Alouettes? I don't think there would be any desire to move into what would have to be a new stadium in Montreal as the Alouettes are fine in their cozy little locale, but a baseball team would take away from their fanbase I would think.

--Why doesn't the CFL have an Instagram account? Is this not a good way to get the younger demographic involved in the game? The Riders have one, but the league should also have one IMO.

--The pictures of the new stadium that were put out by many individuals on Thursday has to get you excited, Construction is nearing the halfway mark. I can't wait to see how much progress will be made by the time the Labour Day game comes.  I think when that game hits, I will truly start to realize that games at the old Mosaic Stadium will be counting down to the last one. I don't know what gamut of emotions will run through yours truly on that afternoon and I think you can say the same about yourself. It will be a game to remember even if the Riders should lose by 40. How long will it take for everyone to leave?

--As the Foo Fighters played on Thursday night, the stark realization that something on my bucket list would not get accomplished occurred. David Letterman said goodbye with what was a great hour and 20 minute final show finished by the Foos. I didn't see Johnny Carson in his heyday, but I watched a lot of Letterman and enjoyed many laughs. I still think the suit of Alka-Seltzer was one of my favourites and after the horror of September 11, his monologue a few short nights later was just a sign that life could get back to normal after that terrible day in our history. I always wanted to see Letterman do his thing live and I guess I won't. Thank you Dave! To me, you are the king of late night television.

--NHL 16 will have a playoff beards feature. That is awesome! What will Crosby's look like? Can the game bring back Mike Commodore!

--That's all I got. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

RIcky Foley Takes One Shot After Another At Leafs and MLSE

Former Rider, current Argonaut Ricky Foley has never been one to keep his thoughts in check. When the Toronto Maple Leafs decided to name Mike Babcock as their head coach thus pushing the Argos sale to the backburner, Foley used his Twitter account to go off and go off is what he did as you will read in this article by Sportsnet's Mike Johnston

Neal Hughes Calls It A Career

The Saskatchewan Roughriders announced today national fullback Neal Hughes is retiring from the Canadian Football League.
Hughes is a veteran of eleven CFL seasons and played 140 career regular season games after making his Rider debut July 16, 2004. The Regina, SK native was originally signed as a free agent in April, 2004 after a standout career at the University of Regina. 
Spending the entirety of his career in Green and White, Hughes totaled 70 carries for 277 rushing yards and eight touchdowns while adding 46 catches for 505 receiving yards and six touchdowns. He also registered 18 kickoff returns for 246 yards, one punt return for 21 yards and is third all-time in Rider special teams tackles with 100.      

He is a two-time Grey Cup champion having won with the Roughriders in 2007 and again in 2013. 

Toronto Maple Leafs Win Babcock Sweepstakes

Brendan Shanahan, President and Alternate Governor of the Toronto Maple Leafs, announced today that Mike Babcock has been named the 30th head coach in the club’s history. Babcock, 52, joins the Leafs after serving as head coach of the Detroit Red Wings for the past 10 seasons.

Under his leadership in Detroit, Babcock posted a 458-223-105 regular season record as he became their franchise leader in games coached (786) and wins. In his time with the Red Wings, the club twice captured the Presidents’ Trophy as the NHL’s regular-season champion (2005-06 and 2007-08) and made the playoffs in each of his 10 seasons. In 2007-08, Babcock led the Red Wings to a Stanley Cup championship in just his third season with the team, securing his first NHL title and the 11th in team history. Babcock was named a finalist for the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s Coach of the Year in 2008 and 2014.

Prior to joining the Red Wings, Babcock spent two seasons with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim (2002-04), where in his first season as head coach he led the Ducks to their first appearance in the Stanley Cup Final. Throughout his tenure as an NHL head coach, Babcock has led his teams to the Stanley Cup Final three times and the Western Conference Finals four times.

Prior to stepping behind the bench in Anaheim, Babcock spent two seasons (2000-02) as head coach of the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks of the American Hockey League (AHL). He had moved to Cincinnati following a six-year run at the helm of the Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League (1994-95 through 1999-2000).

In international play, Babcock has also represented Canada at several competitions. Most notably, he became the only coach in hockey history to lead his country to gold in consecutive Olympic appearances after guiding Canada in Vancouver (2010) and Sochi, Russia (2014). In 2004, he led Team Canada to a gold medal at the World Championships. In 1997, he took part in his first international coaching experience at the World Junior Championships as Canada also captured gold. Babcock is the only coach in the ‘Triple Gold Club,’ an exclusive group of individuals who have captured the three most prestigious championships in hockey (a World Championship, an Olympic Gold Medal and a Stanley Cup).

(Toronto Maple Leafs)

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

NFL Changes Point After Rule

As expected, NFL owners on Tuesday voted 30-2 to approve a change in the rule governing extra points after touchdowns.
The owners considered three proposals, but ultimately approved a rule change endorsed by the competition committee. The new rule pushes the kick back to the 15-yard line and leaves the two-point conversion at the 2-yard line.

It also makes the play "live," meaning the defense could return a blocked kick or a turnover on a two-point play for two points.

The New England Patriots proposed snapping the ball from the 15 for a one-point kick, or placing the ball at the 2-yard line for a 2-point try. According to the Patriots' proposal, a team's choice was not final and was subject to change following a timeout or penalty.

The Philadelphia Eagles proposed snapping from the 15 for the kick, but moving the ball to the 1 for a 2-point conversion. The Eagles also wanted the defense to be able to score points if it returned a turnover on the 2-point conversion to the other end zone.

Houston Texans general manager Rick Smith pointed to the high rate of success of extra points as a reason for the change.

The vote was 30-2. Washington and Oakland voted no. The rule change will be reviewed after one year.

NFL place-kickers have converted at least 98 percent of their extra points since 2000. That figure has hovered above 99 percent since 2010, providing little incentive to go for two-point plays. Coaches attempted them after just 4.9 percent of touchdowns last season; they were converted at a rate of 47.5 percent

There were 41 field goal-attempts last season from 33 yards. Only two were missed. The conversion rate for 33-yard field goals over the past five seasons is 92.8 percent (154-of-166). Extra-point kicks are currently from the 2-yard line.

Bombers Sign Jordan Yantz

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers announce today the club has signed former University of Manitoba quarterback Jordan Yantz.
Yantz (6-1, 213ManitobaMay 10, 1990 in Regina, SKhas spent the past two seasons with the University of Manitoba Bisons, where in 2014 he played in six games, completed 111 of 197 passes for 1,619 yards and ten touchdowns. Yantz also rushed for six touchdowns and 242 yards on 35 carries. He played for Team West in the CIS East-West Bowl.
“Jordan is going to come in and compete for a spot on our roster at quarterback,” said General Manager Kyle Walters. “We feel he has shown all the tools needed to play this position at the professional level, and we look forward to watching him compete in camp.”
The 2013 season saw Yantz finish first in the CIS with 25 touchdown passes, while tossing for 2,474 yards, good for fourth in the CIS.
Yantz participated in training camp with the Blue Bombers in 2014, before returning to the Bisons following camp.

Edmonton Oilers Officially Announce Todd McLellan As New Head Coach

The Edmonton Oilers announced today, they have appointed Todd McLellan as the club’s new Head Coach. McLellan becomes the 14th Head Coach in Oilers franchise history.

Most recently, McLellan was the Head Coach of Team Canada at the 2015 World Hockey Championship, leading Canada to their first gold medal since 2007 with an undefeated record of 10-0 and an impressive 6-1 win over Team Russia in the gold medal final.

McLellan, 47, has spent the past seven seasons as Head Coach of the San Jose Sharks, posting a record of 311-163-66 in 540 games as the Sharks bench boss. During that span, McLellan led the Sharks to six playoff appearances, four 40-plus win seasons, three 100-point seasons, captured the Presidents’ Trophy (2009), three Pacific Division titles and made back-to-back appearances in the Western Conference Final (2010, 2011). No Head Coach in NHL history has won more games in their first four seasons behind the bench than the 195 collected by Todd McLellan.

Oilers President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Peter Chiarelli says, "We are extremely happy to introduce Todd as our new head coach. He is a high energy person and a high level thinker who will work well and demand the most from our group. Todd has had success at many levels and we are looking forward to him leading our team next season."

In, 2010, the Melville, Saskatchewan native became just the third coach in National Hockey League history to record 50-plus wins in his first two seasons as Head Coach. McLellan was named a finalist for the NHL’s Jack Adams Trophy in 2008-09 and became just the sixth NHL coach (first since 1990) to lead his team to the Presidents’ Trophy, posting a record of 53-18-11 in his first season as a Head Coach.

Prior to joining San Jose, McLellan spent three seasons as an Assistant Coach with the Detroit Red Wings. One of McLellan’s key responsibilities was Detroit’s power play, which finished first in the NHL in 2005-06 (22.1) and third in 2007-08 (20.7). McLellan won a Stanley Cup in 2008 with the Red Wings, as well as two Presidents’ Trophies (2006,’08).

Before entering the NHL coaching ranks, McLellan spent four seasons as a Head Coach with the American Hockey League’s Houston Aeros, capturing the 2003 Calder Cup Championship. Under his guidance, McLellan led the Aeros to a 154-111-37-18 mark and was named the 2003 Minor Coach of the Year by The Hockey News. He was also selected to coach two AHL All-Star Games during his tenure in Houston. McLellan also spent the 2000-01 season as Head Coach of the Cleveland Lumberjacks of the International Hockey League.

McLellan spent six seasons in junior hockey as Head Coach with the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League, where he also served as the General Manager in his final four seasons. He was named the WHL Executive of the year in 1997 and WHL Coach of the Year in 2000. The Broncos also captured division titles in 1996 and 2000 under McLellan.

McLellan played his junior hockey in the WHL with the Saskatoon Blades and was drafted by the New York Islanders in the fifth round (106th overall) in the 1986 NHL Draft. He played parts of two seasons with Springfield in the AHL and played in five games with the Islanders in 1987-88, posting two points (1G, 1A) before a shoulder injury ended his career.

(Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club)