Monday, November 20, 2017

Chris Jones Reflects On East Final Loss and 2017

Riders HC and GM Chris Jones faced reporters Monday less than 24 hours after the 25-21 defeat at the hands of the Toronto Argonauts in the East Final to talk about that game, the 2017 season and where the team is going forward.

Amongst the highlights of the almost 19 minute session

-- This team has as much character as any he has ever been on
-- Despite the improved play in year 2 from year 1, the fact you aren't playing for a championship still stings
--The roughing the passer call on Kevin Glenn that wasn't called is a penalty as stated in the rule book and should have been called. It also was not the reason they lost the game
--Talks with pending FA Brandon Bridge have already started
--He will be sitting down with Duron Carter to discuss his future

NHL Three Stars Of Week

Carolina Hurricanes left wing Teuvo Teravainen, Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen and Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon have been named the NHL’s “Three Stars” for the week ending Nov. 19.

Teravainen led the NHL with five goals and 10 points in four games (5-5—10) to propel the Hurricanes (9-6-4, 22 points) to a trio of victories. He posted 3-1—4, his first career hat trick and second career four-point performance, in a 5-1 triumph over the Dallas Stars Nov. 13. Teravainen then registered two assists in a 6-4 loss to the New York Islanders Nov. 16 and one helper in a 3-1 win against the Buffalo Sabres Nov. 18. He capped the week with 2-1—3, his third three-point outing of the campaign, in a 4-2 victory over the Islanders Nov. 19. The 23-year-old Helsinki, Finland, native paces the Hurricanes with 8-11—19 in 19 contests this season, nearly half his career-high point total from 2016-17 (15-27—42 in 81 GP).

Andersen was perfect in two starts, stopping all 75 shots he faced to help the Maple Leafs (14-7-0, 28 points) extend their winning streak to six games. He made a season-high 42 saves in a 1-0 overtime victory against the New Jersey Devils Nov. 16, followed by 33 stops in a 6-0 triumph over the Montreal Canadiens Nov. 18 – the second time he has earned consecutive shutouts in his career (also Jan. 23-25, 2017). The 28-year-old Herning, Denmark, native shares first place in the NHL with three shutouts and ranks second with 12 wins in 18 appearances this season, compiling a 2.88 goals-against average and .914 save percentage.

MacKinnon collected 2-5—7 in three games to power the Avalanche (10-8-1, 21 points) to a pair of wins. He established career highs with four assists and five points in a 6-2 victory against the Washington Capitals Nov. 16. After being held off the scoresheet in a 5-2 loss to the Nashville Predators Nov. 18, MacKinnon bounced back with the primary assist on the tying goal in the final minute of regulation and then the overtime winner in a 4-3 victory over the Detroit Red Wings Nov. 19. The 22-year-old Halifax, N.S., native leads the Avalanche with 7-15—22 in 19 outings this season, including 6‑11—17 in his past nine games.

(NHL Media) 

Something To "Mitch" About

--The season has come to an end, and it comes to an end with a lot of Rider Nation thinking their team had made history.  Christion Jones appeared to have come up with a punt return that would be talked about for ages.  His 80 yard sprint to the endzone looked to have capped off a huge 4th quarter and a chance for the Riders to win the East and head to the Grey Cup.  Not so fast!  On a day where the defenses controlled the day, Ricky Ray found a way. Did he ever!  After really not doing much all day, the ageless Ray who could call it a career if his team can win it all next weekend managed to pull it together with one drive---a drive that sends them and not the Riders to Grey Cup 105.

Did the Riders deserve to win this game? After three quarters, the answer was no, but the final 15 minutes was something. Brandon Bridge and Kevin Glenn had looked less than stellar, but Air Canada got it going in the 4th and with the help of Jones' big punt return, the Riders had a chance to win.  They should have won.  All the defence that had shut down Ray and the Toronto offence all day was make one more stop. It didn't happen.  It even came down to one 3rd and 5, but Ray placed it perfectly into the hands of James Wilder Junior. From there, you knew what was coming.

Where, and how do you dissect this one.  Offensively, the team did not play well for three quarters, but give Toronto's D credit for that.  The Riders defence was incredible, but it wasn't enough.  The fact there was no roughing the passer call on the Toronto pick six was baffling seeing Kevin Glenn took a clothesline to the head, but whatever.  At the end of the day, Toronto did what they had to and the Riders didn't.    If you are going to criticize Tyler Crapigna for missing the field goal in Montreal that cost them the season-opener, you have to criticize the defence for not making the stop in the final two minutes in the season finale.

What can't be debated is the future of this Rider team. A 5 win improvement from Chris Jones' 1st year to his 2nd. The development of what is a solid nucleus and group for 2018. The three-year plan is working.  That doesn't translate to a Grey Cup berth or championship, but the fact is this team is once again a contender for the championship. Chris Jones is delivering on his promise.

--As I type this, I am still trying to make sense of what was a huge brain cramp by Jason Maas.  I am still trying to wrap my head around what he did. Kicking a field goal when down by 7 with less than two to play when the ball is at the Calgary 13 takes over as the dumbest play call since Pete Carroll called for a pass at the one yard line instead of giving the ball to Marshawn Lynch.  The explanation was even baffling.  It is inexplicable.

--It leaves us with a Calgary-Toronto Grey Cup.  Yes, the Argos that won 3 games last year have a chance to go from worst to first. I am guessing Calgary will be favoured by 6 1/2 to 7 1/2 points.  Are you betting against Marc Trestman.

--Speaking of dumb football decisions, I wonder how Buffalo Bills fans are feeling this morning.  The decision to bench Tyrod Taylor for Nathan Peterman simply blew up in Head Coach Sean McDermott's face.  Peterman threw 5 INTs in that first half sparking McDermott to say after the game he will "evaluate" his starting quarterback situation. Thanks Tips!

--Seeing Dallas get throttled at home is always a good thing.

--The Packers desperately need Aaron Rodgers back

--The Rams aren't the team they think they are yet

--The Giants beat the Chiefs?

--Back to the CFL, and the league needs more Duron Carter's.  Whatever he does and wherever he goes, he is the show! His movie stunt with Rider Nation got as much attention in Toronto as the lead-up to the game. While I would not endorse this, one can only wonder how much publicity he would give for the Argos and the CFL if he was playing for the double blue.

--While I have harped on the fact the CFL needs to change when it comes to playoffs, so does USports Canada.  Those who read this blog know I love University sports and University Football.  I believe there should be a lot more of it on Canadian TV, but instead I get stuff on both networks and the CBC that make me shake my head.

When the chance arises to get a University football game on Canadian television, Western throttles Acadia 81-3 in a national semi-final. 81-3!! While it wasn't fair to expect a lot of Acadia after the Loney Bowl fiasco and the fact they had just played Tuesday, we expected more than this.  It was embarassing! Who would want to watch that!  Who is kidding who, the 2-6 U of S Huskies would have given Western a better battle and so would other Canada West teams like the Rams, UBC and Alberta. Yes, let's throw Manitoba into that mix too and we know Calgary would since they were conference champs. How do you fix it though?

Sportsnet's Arash Madani suggested six teams be involved in the national playoffs on the Sportscage last week.  Jim Mullin's seemingly dead Northern 8 proposal, which is a regular season initiative and not a playof one, is one that could be revived and perhaps tweaked.  Whatever it is, USports was embarassed as a whole because of what happened at the Uteck Bowl. This needs to be the impetus for change!

--Leafs fans that took it for years from Habs fans have to be feeling good these days. What a beatdown that was Saturday in Montreal.  WOW!!

--Back to the NFL, what did you think of last Thursday's game where the view we got was like watching a Madden game.  I wasn't big on it, and I think the general consensus is it wasn't great.  Playing a video game is one thing, but watching a real game is another.  The depth perception was tough as you had a hard time determining how many yards had been gained.  At some point, I am sure we will have the capability to watch from any angle that we want. I'll stay to the angle I am used to while I can.

--The sports world would be a better place without Lavar Ball.

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

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Duron Carter Lives Up To His Promise

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While in Ottawa this week, Riders receiver Duron Carter hinted he would like to do something Saturday in Toronto with Rider Nation like go to a movie.

He confirmed that would happen on Saturday morning by saying he is footing the bill for a showing of "Justice League" at a Toronto theatre close to where the team is staying in advance of Sunday's Eastern Final against the Toronto Argonauts.

There was one condition though.

When asked in Toronto, what member of the Justice League he would be. Carter answered by saying "I would be the guy that you don’t see, I’m the guy on the intercom, the communications guy, safe in the ship, away from everybody just telling them where the enemies are, I’m not part of the fighting.
“I want to stay safe and chill, I want to do the celebrating with the justice league, the justice league party I’m definitely there.”

Friday, November 17, 2017

This And That

Welcome to Friday!  Here are the usual weekly thoughts running through my muddled mind, and as always they come in no particular order.

--Attention Canada:  Saskatchewan will be closed for about three hours starting at Noon on Sunday. We hope you understand! Would I be correct with that statement?  Rider Nation will be glued to their radio, their TV, their tablet or whatever as the Saskatchewan Roughriders look to advance to the Grey Cup for the first time since that magical night at Taylor Field in 2013 that many of us still remember oh so well. Can they do it? Can they knock off the Argos to represent the East in the Grey Cup.  All I know is I need to visit Mark Habicht at the Rider Store to get a 2017 "East Division" champion shirt if it should happen.

By the way, how did no one come up with the BEL13VE slogan before now? What a great slogan! Who gets credit for that?

--Is this a sign of things to come.  The Riders have won their last four division finals.  (2007, 2009, 2010, 2013).  We know what their record is the week after, and yes the two losses are against the guy who will be coaching on the other sidelines (Marc Trestman) with his defensive co-ordinator (Corey Chamblin) being the guy who guided them to the 2013 title.

--TV ratings for the playoffs were up (especially the East semi), and the Argos are already pronouncing they will have their biggest crowd of the year.  It's not hard to see what the common denominator is.  The Riders are Canada's team. They are good for business.  Right TSN? Right Toronto? Will there be more Rider fans than Argo fans at BMO Place when kickoff hits. It wouldn't surprise me one bit.

--If its a Riders/Eskimos GC Final, will the story be the first time two Western teams have played for the Grey Cup? Remember in 2007, Winnipeg was technically in the East. While I would say yes, you know the Chris Jones defection to Regina after the Eskimos won the 2015 Cup will be brought up again and could end up getting top billing.

--If two Western teams qualify for the Grey Cup, will this make the CFL decide to get rid of East vs West and go with the top six teams making the playoffs?

--The Bombers are upset at the fact they let a good season get away. A team who is seemingly on the upswing has a lot of work to do in the off-season. Guys like Chris Randle, TJ Heath, Weston Dressler and Stanley Bryant are free agents.  Add Justin Medlock to that list too.  Yes, every team has its fair share of free agents, but there are rumblings the Bombers could be the team that gets hit the most once mid-February rolls along.

--The Eskimos name debate is raging again.  An Edmonton radio station has put out a survey asking listeners if the team was to change its name, what would you like it to be.  The "Energy"and "Elk" are both leading the way.  The Edmonton Elk.  Imagine!

--Imagine the CFL being a 10 team one with that 10th team being situated in Halifax. That news broken by TSN's Dave Naylor got the attention of CFL fans far and wide. I'm very interested to see how this ends up.  I can't help but think it would be a huge success.  Would it be safe to say the Bluenosers would love their football team as much as the people in the Wheat Province?

--Week 11 NFL Lock of the Week -- Saints over Redskins
   Week 11 NFL Upset of the Week --  Bears over Lions

--Are the Eagles really the best team in the NFL? Their record says yes, but one has to think they would have their hands full with the Patriots, Steelers, Rams etc etc etc.

--Alex Anthopoulos became the GM of the Atlanta Braves this week.  It is already said if the Blue Jays don't get Josh Donaldson signed, sealed and delivered that AA will take a run at getting the 3rd baseman to move to Georgia. With a good young farm system, the Braves are poised to take over from Washington as the best team in the NL East in short order.  Blue Jays fans should just shake their head at how he just walked away thanks to the buffoonery that is Mark Shapiro.

--The Leafs don't need Auston Matthews it would appear.  It would appear as if Habs fans are ready to call it a season after losing to Arizona. Meanwhile, I am guessing the Oilers store at Rogers Place did not make any Mike Camalleri jerseys.  By the way, is the guy who looks like "Blue"from Old School that has shown up at Rogers Place the homeless guy that Ovechkin helped.  Who is that guy?

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

Thursday, November 16, 2017

CFL Looking At Halifax

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The Canadian Football League has responded to a report by TSN’s Dave Naylor regarding the league’s interest in expanding to Halifax, NS in the near future.

The league said Thursday afternoon that it can “confirm the CFL has had discussions with a group interested in securing a Canadian Football League franchise for the city of Halifax.”

“We can confirm the CFL has had discussions with a group interested in securing a Canadian Football League franchise for the city of Halifax. While this group has been professional, enthusiastic and impressive, these conversations are relatively new and a very thorough process of due diligence must be put in place and completed before we can fully assess the viability of the project. We want to publicly thank this group for its passion for the CFL and we thank the members of the media for their interest.”

In his report, Naylor stated that “a group of businessmen with ties to Eastern Canada would like to make the Canadian Football League’s dream of a tenth franchise come true in Halifax.”

The group is headed by New Brunswick native Anthony Leblanc. He was most recently the former president and CEO of the Arizona Coyotes. Another member of the group is Regina's Gary Drummond who was president of hockey operations for the club.

The group has met with officials in Halifax, the Nova Scotia government and commissioner Randy Ambrosie.

It is their hope to have a conditional franchise granted by the beginning of the 2018 season with play commencing in 2020.