Friday, May 18, 2018
This And That
Welcome to Friday. Here are the usual weekly thoughts running through my muddled mind. As always, they come in no particular order.
The time has come! It is time to drop the puck at the Mastercard Memorial Cup. Are you ready? More importantly are the host Regina Pats ready? We will find out at 8 o'clock tonight when they begin the tournament against a Hamilton Bulldogs team that eliminated the number 1 ranked Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in the Ontario League final.
Are the Bulldogs favoured tonight? Absolutely they are, why wouldn't they? Say what you will about the Pats but they enter as the host----they will be a competitive host and they are right there with the Broncos, Bulldogs and Titan. Will we see a repeat of last year when Windsor won on home ice after having 40 days off.? We'll find out in a week.
What I do know about the Pats (at least I think I do) is that they will be ready. The reason for that is the trio of John Paddock, Dave Struch and Brad Herauf. This coaching staff knows how to challenge their players, how to motivate them and how to stay positive and they have done that over the last 40 plus days. The same can be said for Swift Current bench boss Manny Viveiros. It is what puts those teams ahead of Moose Jaw because hockey people told me last year that players there weren't challenged and it showed come playoff time when the Warriors were a team that didn't have the confidence they had in the regular season. It is one of the reasons I picked the Broncos to win the league title once the dust had settled at the trade deadline.
At the end of the day, I think we are in for a great tournament. The presence of the Broncos means Highway 1 will be full of Swift Current supporters heading to the Brandt Center with cowbells in tow which will make for a great game-day environment. Will Regina fans allow Broncos fans to take over? Regina fans are known to sit on their hands at the Brandt Centre so let us see what happens. Would I dare take a Swift Current-Regina final? At the end of the day, I think the Eastern teams will have something to say about that, but I will say it will be a week to remember.
--With the Memorial Cup now on, I have to ask one question and it's one that I could have asked right from the opening drop of the puck this season. Why there were not pictures of Sam Steel and Josh Mahura plastered throughout this city on billboards, windows, the side of the SaskTel building on Saskatchewan Drive baffles me. As one person said to me around Christmas, you wouldn't know the Memorial Cup was coming if you weren't at the rink. I would have had pictures of the Pats marquee players all over the place in this city from Harbour Landing to the East end, from the Southland to Rochdale Boulevard. You had two guys that you knew you weren't going anywhere so everywhere you looked you should have seen their likenesses. That being said, I am confident enough people will be in their seats tonight for Game 1 and beyond.
--Oh yeah, Riders training camp starts this weekend. 2018 is officially here! I don't think the questions I have about this team are any different than the ones you have. Who will be the left tackle? Can Zach Collaros be the quarterback he once was until injuries hit? Will Sam Eguavoen be the starting MLB and what Canadian will be a starting outside linebacker? What impact will Jerome Messam and Charleston Hughes have? We find out starting Sunday. Many put out their pre-season power rankings a while ago and as camp hits, here are mine and yes, they could change between now and the start of the regular season
1. EDMONTON -- On paper, they have the best team and they got better over the winter by adding the likes of Alex Bazzie, having Aaron Grymes around for a full season helps as well and oh yeah, they've got the league's best player in Mike Reilly
2. TORONTO -- Marc Trestman and Jim Popp have had an off-season to mold their team---a team that won the Grey Cup!
3. SASKATCHEWAN -- The pieces are in place to get that home playoff game, but that home playoff game won't be the Western Final as many would like.
4. CALGARY -- At some point they have to drop off. I'm still not convinced Bo Levi is 100 percent. They have lost Hughes, Messam, Finch and others. They are still a contender, but they are no longer the powerhouse they once were
5. OTTAWA -- There is a gap between first and second in the East and second and third. Ottawa takes advantage of that
6. WINNIPEG --- Did they get better or older in the off-season? I guess we will find out. They still have enough talent to be the crossover team unless Nichols goes down. If that happens, all bets are off.
7. BC- Ed Hervey will have this team relevant again, but Wally's last season will end without his team in the playoffs especially if Jonathan Jennings doesn't rebound from a sub-par 2017
8. HAMILTON - The Ti-Cats had a better 2nd half of the season under June Jones, but I think there is still a long ways to go when it comes to the rebuild
9. MONTREAL -- Do I have to explain?
--Under the "things I did not know" category. 1) I had no clue the late Clare Drake was born in Yorkton. I thought he was born, raised and did his thing in Edmonton. The impact he had on the game can't be measured. Many coaches like Mike Babcock and Ken Hitchcock say Drake's approaches and techniques were revolutionary in their day and had a profound impact on what they do saying he was their mentor. 2) I had no idea former Stampeders kicker --now Regina Rams special teams coach --Mark McLoughlin was the deputy minister for advanced education in the Saskatchewan government and that he has been in Regina since September. Having McLoughlin around to work with a kicking game that has not been stellar should be a huge improvement to that area
--Is it safe to say Joey Votto won't be playing internationally for Canada anymore and that he won't be helping get MLB back to Montreal? Thanks Joey! Thanks for nothing! Yeah, you apologized for your comments on Canadian baseball the day after once you realized what kind of heat you were taking. It's a little too late now though for some.
--Is it just me or have we seen very few overtime games in the Stanley Cup playoffs? Fewer than the past few years I would say. The playoffs have been better as a whole in my mind this year than what we've seen in previous years, but it would be nice to see some more OT.
--Mother Nature definitely ruined the atmosphere for the Eagles concert as the cold conditions kept people away. It instantly had people saying "if only they had domed it". Rewind 48 hours when it was 32 degrees and people would have been bitching about the fact it was so hot outside and they couldn't enjoy it because of the dome. It's like I always say. The province should replace the provincial slogan and make it "What are we going to bitch about today?"
--Let's be completely honest. When you saw what happened at the Tim Hortons store in Langley, BC, you thought it had happened here before finding out it was in BC. Talk about homemade crullers. Ewwww!
--Two thumbs up to Shaun Semple. Not only did the Brandt Group of Companies----a group that he is the CEO of donate $100,000 to support the families of the Humboldt Broncos that were killed or injured in that horrific bus crash last month, but Semple also got 74 family members to Regina for the opening ceremonies of the Memorial Cup by footing the bill whether it be airfare or gas and provided them with hotels as well so they could enjoy the night and see what I understand was a very moving tribute by Jack Semple and the Regina Symphony Orchestra.
--If you are a Montreal Canadiens fan, you may want to be at Regina City Hall at noon today when Guy Lafleur is on hand for a ceremony as Canada Post releases a 100th Memorial Cup stamp. Pats royalty will also be there as Dennis Sobchuk and Ed Staniowski will be on hand. With all apologies to Lafleur, I'm more excited to see Sobchuk! He was the man when I started watching Pats hockey. It's great to see Staniowski as well but it's been a long time since Sobchuk was in these parts. I'm going to take a wild stab in the dark and say one or both will be involved in the ceremonial opening faceoff before the Pats-Hamilton game gets underway.
--That's all I got. Have a fantastic long weekend! I'm sure I'll see many of you at the rink!