--My good friend Rob Vanstone ( he of the vanishing waistline) penned a column in Saturday's Leader-Post saying the heat is on following the team's successful bid to host the 2020 Grey Cup. This just in, it doesn't matter where the Grey Cup is for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, the heat is always on.
Like him or hate him, Chris Jones took this team to a level where you wanted it. He got his group to a second-place finish and a much-desired home playoff game that didn't have the desired results because the team's number one quarterback was on the shelf. Just because Jones is gone doesn't mean the expectation changes. Fans here want to see improvement in 2019 and yes, they want to see a similar scene play itself out in 2020 as it did the last time the Grey Cup was here in 2013. Many believe the departure of Jones means the Riders will take a step or two back this year and I understand that sentiment. The heat is on Craig Dickenson and Jeremy O'Day to keep the winning tradition going. Are the Riders of 2019 as it stands now as good as the Riders of 2012. I would say no, but there is time to start making moves to not only keep this year's team as a Grey Cup contender which won't be easy considering what has happened in the past few weeks with free agency, but to have a team that is capable of.
--The Brandon Bridge signing in Toronto brings an end to his Rider days. At this time a year ago, people wanted him to start and now no one thinks he will play another game. There is no doubt Bridge's play took a serious downward turn last season. If he is going to be successful, he has to learn to put some touch on the ball. You can't drill it all the time especially those short crossing patterns.
--Randy Ambrosie spent his Sunday afternoon at Mosaic speaking with Rider fans. I understand his vision for the league when it comes to globalizing it, but when he says doing that will help get butts in the seats in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, I question it. Ambrosie says many Canadians now aren't familiar with the game because of their birthplace and that having leagues in Germany, Mexico, Italy etc etc will help with that. While I don't disagree with that, I feel what is needed is for this league to somehow find a footprint and work with it. Getting "new" Canadians exposed to the game is key, but so much more needs to be done. The million dollar question is how. We know that success is not going to come overnight, but I just feel more needs to be done. What I don't know is if the onus on that is on the league or the teams affected. Its probably a little of both. If you were there, what did you think?
--I think the country found out a little about Robyn Silvernagle this week. In speaking with the North Battleford skip who finished 3rd at the Scotties, she thinks so too and says now that people know who they are, they won't hopefully be a flash in the pan. Finishing 3rd in her first-ever Scotties is a huge accomplishment for the rink. Saskatchewan curling fans should be very proud of the week she had.
It has been a nice year at nationals with a 3rd in the junior mens thanks to Rylan Kleiter and a 3rd at the Scotties. The pressure is on Kirk Muyres. Can hw raise the bar?
--If a panel of 31 wasn't going to name Sandra Schmirler as the best skip of all time when it comes to women's curling in Canada, they at least got it right with the best team. There is no doubt despite all that the Jennifer Jones rink has done that there is no better rink and will be no better rink than Sandra, Jan, Joan and Marcia. I think many of us in the wheat province wonder how much more that team would have done had Sandra not come down with cancer. It is hard to believe just how long ago that was.
--Did Chelsea Carey win the Scotties or did Rachel Homan lose it? I thought Ontario had that game in the bag. To see Homan lose it the way she did was shocking. She is usually money when the game is on the line.
--The Columbus Blue Jackets have taken Ryan Dzingel and Matt Duchene off of Ottawa's hands and they didn't give a lot of immediate assets back. The Jackets now have 4 huge UFA's to deal with at the end of the year. A long playoff run is what they are shooting for. A short playoff run and questions will be asked if they can't re-sign all four. That's the joy of being a general manager.
--Connor McDavid's two-game suspension is being debated. Yes, he was guilty of a high hit on the Islanders Nick Leddy, but it certainly wasn't vicious in nature. What bothers me is the consistency on these calls. How many times has McDavid taken a cheap shot where nothing gets called. I can think of one in Anaheim where Hampus Lindholm gave him a brutal check from behind that didn't get penalized even though the ref was right there. While the McDavid hit was found by the NHL Department of Player Safety to be suspendable, we saw two incidents on Saturday night where Corey Perry delivered a forearm shiver to Darnell Nurse and Wayne Simmonds deliver a head shot to a Pittsburgh Penguin that to the time of this writing has not resulted in a hearing if one will even be held. You can't just pick and choose when it comes to this stuff. If you are trying to send a message by saying no one is exempt by suspending McDavid, you have to make everyone guilty when a head shot is issued. Perry and Simmonds should both be missing at least two games as well.
--One thing I have always wanted is for refs to be held accountable after a game. When a controversial call is made or not made, I feel they should have to answer questions after a game so we know what they did or didn't see. I would have been inquiring about a play in the 3rd period of Saturday's WHL game between Moose Jaw and Regina. Duncan Pierce deservedly got a two minute goalie interference call when he ran into the Warriors goalie. Pierce was then jumped by Warriors defenceman Josh Brook who delivered at least three punches to Pierce's face before being separated. Brook was given two for roughing as was Pierce, but how does Brook not get an instigator or fighting. He threw punches! It is plays like this that deserve an explanation from the stripes.
--Here is an idea for instant replay. When the call is made for instant replay and the officials go under the hood or wherever, a clock comes up, They have 60 seconds to make the call. If they can't see that the call should be changed within that time frame than the play stands. Having officials sit there for minutes on end to determine the result of a play does nothing. Put them on the clock.
--Congrats to the Cougar womens basketball team. They went into Calgary and destroyed the Dinos in their Canada West semi-final. In the 18 years they have been in Canada West, they will play in their 13th championship game and they have already scanned their barcode for the Nationals. They will meet the Huskies Friday for the conference banner and they could very well meet again in a national semi if not final. We remember how that turned out last year. I may have to make a roadie to Saskatoon for Friday''s tilt.
--Its not a popular take, but I can watch golf when Tiger isn't close to or atop the leaderboard. Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and others are guys I can sit and watch battle it out. Tiger is just one of a group now. By the way, is Weyburn's Graham DeLaet going to get back on tour this year or is that back injury going to sideline him for all of 2019?
--I am sick of the phrases "Extreme Cold Warning" and "Polar Vortex". I am guessing most of you are as well.
--Is NHL trade deadline day going to be a dud? Can't wait to see what James Duthie and Jay and Dan have planned!
--That's all I got. Stay warm and have a great week!