Monday, July 22, 2019

Something To "Mitch" About

--The Riders needed a win and they got it.  It was perhaps their best all-around game of the season.  There is no doubt the second half was their best half of the season.  Thanks to Montreal's win over Edmonton, the green-and-white got a little closer to Edmonton while taking a big step to perhaps burying a BC football team that is Mike Reilly and not much else.

Here are some thoughts on what transpired Saturday night on the Mosaic turf.

--Chalk one up for the "old guys"!  Charleston Hughes, Marcus Thigpen and Jon Ryan

  What can you say about Charleston Hughes that hasn't been said before.  A three sack night against what is a porous BC offensive line, but there are many tackles around the league who can't compete with #39 when his desire is to get to the quarterback.  You won't see many better defensive games than what Hughes had.  Once again, he leads the CFL in sacks. Some wonder if we will see a repeat of last year where his numbers tailed off, but I still say that was partially because of teams trying to combat him which allowed Willie Jefferson to have the monster second-half he did.  If that happens this year, it means AC Leonard should benefit.  Pick your poison.

  Thigpen's 104 yard kickoff return at the end of the first half got the /=S=/ back into the football game and gave them the momentum to have the second half they had.  There is still some speed in Thiggy's aging legs

 There is still some thunder in Jon Ryan's leg as well.  What a night kicking the football.  I am sure JR would sacrifice some yards on those boomers for field position, but he has shown he still has what it takes.  I wonder if the NFL has seen that.  If they have it's too late, because he's our guy now and I don't think he is heading back.   Still with JR, tell me that fake punt didn't remind you of what he did

--Cody Fajardo answered his bad game against Calgary with a big bounce-back game.  While he said the right things leading up to the game, Fajardo had to show that the first two games he had as the starter weren't an anomaly and that he could get up off the canvas after a rough outing against Calgary. He did!  What impressed me the most about Fajardo's game is that offensive co-ordinator Stephen McAdoo allowed Fajardo to use his legs as well as his arm.  He is a better quarterback when that happens as it keeps the opposition defence on its toes.  That young quarterback we have been looking for since Darian Durant may be here folks.

--Do you think Mike Reilly is regretting signing that big deal?  I actually feel sorry for him and what he has (or hasn't got) in front of him.

--The Shaq Evans criticism can stop.  I was one of those frustrated with Evans last year and at the start of this because of drops.  He is now a big part of the Riders offence.  His game has elevated from year one to year two.   A 1000 yard season if not more awaits.

--Dakoda Shepley was a beast!  He is living up to his first-round draft status last year.  One has to think his NFL aspirations aren't done, but again he's our guy now.  He is just going to get better and better and could be one of the league's best if not the best hoggie in the next few years.  Yeah, that's a big statement to make for someone who has only played a handful of games, but he has a lot of Brett Jones in him and we saw and are seeing the career Jones is having.

--The Riders are 2-3.  They have beaten the two teams that are the worst in the CFL and have been beaten by two of the top teams in Hamilton and Calgary.  Does that make you a glass half-full or glass half-empty type of person?  I won't sit here and tell you the Riders are in the upper 3 of the league because they're not, but I don't think they are one of the bottom three either.  We still have two-thirds of the season to go and I think now we are starting to see an identity for this team.  A loss next weekend puts them back at square one, but BC needs to do a lot for that to happen IMO.

--Local realtor Craig Adam was a little cranky on Twitter Sunday morning when he asked why on "Country Day" there was no Saskatchewan talent pumping over the speakers.  That's a valid point.  With the likes of the Hunter Brothers, Jess Moskaluke, Colter Wall and Tenille Arts, a lot of Saskatchewan country music could have been blasting through instead of what we heard---especially Cotton Eye Joe! (YEESH!!).  I had no problem with Emerson Drive doing their thing.  I actually like the fact that halftimes this year are concerts and not something else happening on the field like dog races or something else.

--I knew Khari Jones would succeed when he became a CFL head coach and he is.  After taking a couple of weeks to see what he had and getting his feet wet, Jones has led the Als to three straight wins with that third win coming over the Eskimos Saturday.  Vernon Adams Jr is certainly benefitting from Jones' tutelage.   The Als may be a tire-fire off the field, but they have gotten it together on the field and that is good news as new ownership looms.

--I am still shaking my head over the Milan Lucic-James Neal trade.  Ken Holland fleeced Brad Treliving and he "may" have found that 20 goal scorer he was looking for   Neal was a disaster in Calgary, and the questions surrounding his game are credible.  He was not a good fit in Calgary and he will have to rebound.  As for Lucic, Oiler fans know his game is on its last legs.  If Neal scores 15 goals for Edmonton, its a win if you ask me.  Calgary now has Lucic and Cam Talbot on their team. I thought the aim was to get better in the off-season.

--Ron Francis will do an outstanding job as GM in Seattle. That is a great hire!

--The website lists the all-time Vancouver Canucks team as they get ready for their 50th anniversary.  The top forward line are the Sedins and Alex Burrows.  Alex Burrows?!  HELLOOOOO!  I was never the biggest Pavel Bure fan, but you are going to put Burrows ahead of Bure.  You are going to put Burrows ahead of Thomas Gradin? Uh no!

--Roy Halladay got his day in Cooperstown, but sadly he wasn't there to see it.  The phrase "top-of-the-rotation workhorse" that is on his plaque is one that is so fitting.  As his wife said, this was not her speech to give but that of her late husband's.  It's too bad we will never know what those words would have been

--NBA Jam needs to come back! Remember that video game.  Imagine the duos you could have now

   --Curry and Thompson (GS)
   --Leonard and George (LAC)
   --Lebron and Anthony Davis (LAL)
   --Westbrook and Harden (DAL)
   --Durant and Irving (NJ)

That's just 5!

--Can I get Memphis Grizzlies NBA Summer League champs merchandise?

--If you have been to Toronto, chances are you have been to Wayne Gretzky's restaurant.  I try to get there every chance I get when in Toronto, but I may have made my last visit.  The restaurant, just a Vladdy Guerrero Junior homer from Skydome, is closing either late this year or early next.  I've had a few great nights with some outstanding friends in this place.  Great memories!

--When the mosquitoes are quiet, there is nothing like a Saskatchewan summer night.  Sunday was one of those nights--at least where I was.

That's all I got.  Have a great week!

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Baseball's Hall of Fame Grows

The great victories will be felt, as will one great loss.

In the vast field, there will be the tens of thousands of baseball fans braving the heat and the threat of rain. On the stage will be five men, the Class of 2019, whose realized dreams represent the evolution of the sport itself. And in the air, the spirit and the memories of one of the game’s most passionate pitchers will lend gravity to the grounds.

Baseball’s living legends convene for the annual National Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony at 1:30 p.m. ET outside the Clark Sports Center. MLB Network’s coverage of the 2019 Hall of Fame induction ceremony will begin at 11 a.m. ET and be streamed live on

This year the celebration is a toast to commanding closers Mariano Rivera and Lee Smith, distinguished designated hitters Edgar Martinez and Harold Baines and sabermetrically-supported starter Mike Mussina. But it will also bring tears for the late Roy Halladay, whose widow Brandy will deliver an acceptance speech on his behalf.

The emotions, like the humidity, will be high.

“You just think about how hard it is to get to Cooperstown,” Smith said, before a small chuckle. “It is hard to get to Cooperstown.”

The thought works in a literal sense for a central New York village blissfully set apart from the hustle and bustle, and, for the men being honored here, it works in a more metaphorical sense for the hours of batting practices and bullpen sessions that pave the way to a Cooperstown-worthy career.

In recent months, those hours have instead been devoted to the dreaded realm of speech preparation. Even Martinez, who is ordinarily a man of few words, had been shocked to discover his first draft came out to 20 printed pages. But after 18 seasons in the big leagues and 10 years on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot, he had plenty of time to build up material.

“This is a process that I’ve been going through, kind of taking all this in,” Martinez said. “I wonder how it’s going to feel Monday when I wake up? I think that’s probably when it’s going to set in.”

For the Class of ’19, the magnitude of the moment might hit earlier. Not necessarily when they see the fans sprawled out in front of them, because they’ve all performed in front of large audiences before. Rather, it’s usually the much smaller crowd that will be seated behind them -- and this year a record gathering of 54 previous inductees is expected -- that usually conveys what it means to be a member of baseball’s most fastidious fraternity.

Rivera joins that company in a class all his own as the first unanimous selection from the BBWAA ballot.

But even he knows his place here.

“I’m a rookie in this thing, and [the previous inductees] are way ahead of me,” Rivera said. “I could never mention myself with any of them. I’m just happy I’m here.”

That Rivera appeared on all 425 submitted ballots says a lot about the progression of the BBWAA’s attitude toward the relief role, because even as clear a candidate as Rivera is, he likely would have had trouble batting 1.000 in earlier decades. Smith would know, having been held out of the Hall after 15 years on the ballot, before the smaller Today’s Game Era committee selected him last December and turned him into, in his words, “a 61-year-old rookie.”

Martinez didn’t wait quite that long, but, at 56, he waited long enough. And for he and Baines to go in together is a victory in the battle against those who don’t view the DH as a “real” position.

Meanwhile, Mussina’s induction is a testament to the advanced stats, like ERA+, that put a career that took place entirely in the AL East and predominantly in the so-called “steroid era” into proper context.

All of the above is part of the broader discussion of BBWAA voting practices, small-committee politics and the usual stuff we argue about each winter when the games aren’t being played.

But this weekend -- and especially Sunday’s salute -- is ordinarily just simple celebration, something those fortunate few who have their names called by the Hall get to share with their families.

“I had my fun as a player,” Baines said. “I want my family to enjoy this, because they didn’t see all the things that I saw. So this is all about family for me.”

For the Halladay family, this celebration is conflicting, difficult and certainly bittersweet. But the entire baseball world -- not just those gathered on the dais -- will be behind Brandy Halladay as she gives the speech the man known as “Doc” didn’t live to voice himself but earned with his indefatigable approach to his craft.

“I wish he could be here,” Rivera said. “He earned it, and he deserved it, and he gave us a lot of great memories. He’s a guy that was always giving his best.”

The Class of ’19 will give its best Sunday, basking in the crowd’s adoration, backed by a congregation of baseball greatness and blessed, we like to think, by the spirit of a member gone far too soon.

Strong Second Half Leads Riders To Victory

 Fresh legs and a fresh perspective from the Saskatchewan Roughriders prolonged a stale taste in the mouths of the B.C. Lions.

Marcus Thigpen's 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown just before halftime provided a spark the Riders needed in their 38-25 victory over a reeling Lions squad.

B.C. had just taken a 16-10 lead thanks to a one-yard touchdown plunge from Mike Reilly. Thigpen took the ensuing kickoff to the end zone and the Riders assumed a 17-16 edge at the half. They outscored B.C. 21-9 in the second half, including a 20-0 run that put the game out of reach.

“I kind of set up the outside and made a cut up the middle and made a couple guys miss and just saw open field in front of me. Then my speed just kicked in,” Thigpen said of his game-changing return.

“That’s what I’ve been doing my whole career — trying to give my team a spark. We had that going into the half and came out in the second half and just kept going.”

The victory improves the Riders’ record to 2-3. The Lions fell to 1-5, the first time they have started a season with five losses in six game since 2011.

“I think everybody knows where (our frustration level) is at. If people can't figure that out when you’re 1-5 then…” Reilly said.

“This is very frustrating for all of us,” echoed Lions head coach DeVone Claybrooks. “We have to continue to stay together. As long as we continue to stay together then eventually we’re going to get through this. But it’s a process.”

The Riders got a solid bounce-back effort from quarterback Cody Fajardo, especially in the second half. He threw for one touchdown — a 50-yard strike to Shaq Evans — and ran for another. His three-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter pushed the Riders ahead 25-19, a lead they wouldn't relinquish.

William Powell added an insurance score with a three-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter before Evans chipped in with his touchdown grab.

Fajardo finished the night completing 17-of- 23 pass attempts for 278 yards and two touchdowns. Evans was his favourite target with five catches for 158 yards. Fajardo also rushed for a team-high 53 yards.

Reilly didn't hang this loss on the defence. Sergio Castillo’s four field goals on Saturday helped, but Reilly would have preferred to end those drives with different results.

“We have to be better in the red zone,” he said. “If we came away with touchdowns then I'm not saying it’s a different outcome, but it’s certainly a closer score and you never know what happens.

“The second half we folded like cheap tents in all three phases. The defence was playing great in the first half and then (Saskatchewan) was able to march down and put some touchdown drives together. Offensively, we moved the ball well the entire game. We just didn't finish in the red zone. That was obviously the difference. Way too many field goals.”

Reilly completed 31-of-40 attempts for 346 yards and one touchdown. Bryan Burnham caught eight passes for 106 yards.

Reilly was sacked four times by the Riders, including three from Charleston Hughes. Reilly has been sacked a CFL-high 21 times this season.

Entering the game, B.C. posted a CFL-worst 307 yards per game and ranked eighth in the league averaging 17.6 points per game.

“We have to make Mike uncomfortable,” said Riders linebacker Solomon Elimimian, a former Lions star. “We have to put hits in the quarterback or affect the quarterback, and maybe you’re not just hitting him, maybe you’re batting balls down. All of those things add to their frustrations, which we saw tonight.

“We have to keep them frustrated. Right now, they’re searching for answers and it’s a critical time in our season too. We’d like to get to .500 and we’d like to win the season series with these guys.”

Hughes had 10 tackles to go along with his three sacks.

The same two teams will conclude the home-and-home series next Saturday in Vancouver.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Riders Depth Chart/Game Day Tidbits


 --The Lions are 1-4 thus far and have not started a season at 1-5 since both the 2011 and 2010 seasons. 

-- Manny Arceneaux has caught a pass in his last 101 games.  He needs 73 yards reach the all-time Top 40 in CFL history. He has 8,169 with Darrell K. Smith at 8,242. 

--William Powell is on pace to be the Riders' first 1,000-yard rusher since Kory Sheets in 2013. Powell is on pace for 1,242 yards. 

--Charleston Hughes has a 3-game streak with at least one QB Sack and leads the CFL with 5. 

--This season CFL games have averaged 55.3 points per game - the highest total scoring since 2008
(56.2 ppg). There are four clubs averaging over 30 points per game led by Hamilton at 37.4

Friday, July 19, 2019

Lucic Goes to Calgary

Image result for milan lucic

The Edmonton Oilers have traded forward Milan Lucic to the Calgary Flames in exchange for James Neal.

The all-Alberta trade includes a conditional draft pick going from Edmonton to Calgary, with the Oilers also retaining some of Lucic’s salary.

Lucic, 31, has four seasons remaining on the seven-year, $42-million deal he signed with the Oilers in 2016.

Neal, also 31, joined the Flames in July 2018 and was expected to add an offensive punch in Calgary but struggled to find his scoring stride to match his $5.75-million cap hit. He, too, is signed through 2022-23.

New Arena For The Flames?

Image result for saddledome

A tentative deal has been reached between the city and the Calgary Flames for a new arena to replace the Saddledome.

City council members will discuss the proposed agreement at 3:45 p.m. Monday behind closed doors, Postmedia has learned.

Negotiations between the two camps were recently described as “productive” by Coun. Jeff Davison, chair of council’s event centre committee.

“Discussions are productive but they’re not complete,” Davison said earlier this month. “We can’t give an exact date as to when we’ll be back with any information (but) I’m confident if we do bring a plan back, that the public will support it.”

The city’s negotiating team includes acting city manager Glenda Cole, Barry Munro with Ernst & Young and Michael Brown with the Calgary Municipal Land Corp. (CMLC). The group has met regularly with Calgary Sport and Entertainment Corp. for the past three months.

Cole told council members previously that any deal reached with the Flames will be made public. No deal can be finalized until it is voted on by city council.

A new arena is projected to cost between $550 million and $600 million, according to estimates provided by CMLC. The projections are based on an 18,000-seat arena with retail space, a community rink and 40,000 square feet of underground parking.

Council will be discussing the deal on the first day of what is expected to be at least a two-day council meeting where elected officials are expected to vote on a $60-million cut to municipal budgets.

Previous attempts to reach a deal to replace the Saddledome have all ended in failure.

In 2016, council rejected the proposed CalgaryNEXT pitch for an arena on creosote-contaminated land in the West Village.

Talks fell apart again in the lead up to the politically charged 2017 municipal election with with president Ken King calling discussions “spectacularly unproductive.”

(Meghan Potkins/Calgary Herald)

This and That

--Welcome to Friday and the usual thoughts running through my muddled mind.  As always, they come in no particular order

--Could the Saskatchewan Roughriders basically clinch themselves no worse than a crossover spot with a pair of wins over the next two weeks?  It may be a little premature to say that, but there is no reason to think the green-and-white should not be able to sweep the BC Lions and maybe put that team to bed at the one-third mark of the season.

With Edmonton having already won the season series and it being doubtful as if B.C can catch Calgary or Winnipeg, a pair of wins starting Saturday would leave the Riders two games up on their Western foes with the tiebreaker.   The Lions are the biggest disappointment in the league to this blogger.  They seemingly have forgotten they need to protect their biggest asset having allowed Mike Reilly to be sacked 17 times.  The optimists will tell you 12 of those 17 have come against the Eskimos.  The Riders have been asked about the Lions o-line this week, but they aren't biting for fear of bulletin board material.  If that o-line doesn't have the Riders in a feasting mood, I don't know what would.

--While he is back with the team, we know Zach Collaros won't be playing until he can come off the six-game injured list.  Rob Vanstone asked the question this week I have been asking since the end of last season when Collaros was concussed.  That question is when is it enough.  Rob believes the Riders should just tell Zach his time with them is over because of his concussion history.  I can't disagree.  While the Riders would still have to pay Collaros, it is time for the quarterback to say enough is enough.  We got into it pretty good on the Sportscage Thursday as Rob, I and Derek Taylor argued it back and forth with Arash Madani also chiming in  I see both sides of the argument, but at the end of the day for his own safety and future, I don't know if Collaros should take another CFL snap.

--How will Duron Carter be treated by Rider Nation Saturday night?

--What is happening in Montreal?  The firing of Kavis Reed as general manager was one that many expected, but not under the circumstances we are now hearing.  What was Kavis up to? It sounds as if it was a lot of no good.  Word is the CFL had had enough and told the Alouettes to make the move, but one has to think Kavis wasn't the only one involved and that others had to know.

President and CEO Patrick Boivin is staying tight-lipped, but you have to think he knows more than he says.  How couldn't he?  Whatever it is, one has to think new ownership wants a clean slate before they sign the papers.  In the meantime, Montreal Alouettes football flounders in the wind.

--The CFL wants to say it protects quarterbacks, but officials pick up a flag after Cordarro Law hits McLeod Bethel-Thompson who had clearly given himself up.  You simply can't do that.  You may not like it, but when the rule says you can't hit a QB who has given himself up, you can't hit him. Law does and gets away with it.  ?????

--What is Corey Chamblin's record as a CFL head coach since the 2014 Banjo Bowl when Darian Durant got hurt?

--Ken Campbell of the Hockey News is disgusted with the St. Louis Blues and what they are doing to the Stanley Cup.  Campbell says the Cup is not a dog bowl and should be treated with respect seeing it is the hardest trophy in pro sports to win with every player having a day with it.   This just in Ken----lighten up!!

If Robby Fabbri wants to have his dog eat spaghetti and meatballs with it, if Molly Bozak wants a Stanley Cup margarita or if any player wants to do with it what he chooses it is up to him because he worked hard to get his day with the Cup and his name on it.  The league has no guidelines so why worry Ken!  It begs the question, what would you do with the Stanley Cup if you had it for a day.  The answers are endless.

--How about the collection of head coaches in the WHL's Eastern Division.  Brandon's Dave Lowry joins PA's Marc Habscheid, Regina's Dave Struch, Moose Jaw's Tim Hunter, Saskatoon's Mitch Love and Dean Brockman in Swift Current.  That's an impressive group of gentlemen behind the benches.

--How much longer until the Rams and Thunder get going?

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