In honour of the long weekend, here are the always laboured musings and meditations on the world of sports.
— Here’s a happy exercise. Take out a pencil and sketch out the forwards who figure to make the Vancouver Canucks out of training camp.
Assuming they sign Bo Horvat before their season-opener, you can find 15 forwards the Canucks have under contract before you get to Brock Boeser, Jake Virtanen or Nikolay Goldobin. That group includes the Sedin twins, who turn 37 at the end of this month, 33-year-old Thomas Vanek, 32-year-old Loui Eriksson, 28-year-old Sam Gagner and 28-year-old Brandon Sutter, who all figure to play key roles with the team.
Of the projected top nine, only three are 25-and-under: Horvat, Sven Baertschi and Markus Granlund.
And this is a team that is trying to sell a rebuild.
Look, we understand this season can go a number of ways and, by February, Boeser, Virtanen and Goldobin might be regulars in the Canucks’ lineup. But this is also an organization which is trying to keep its fan base engaged and it’s hard to see where the Canucks’ opening-day lineup is going to do that.
Put it this way. A 20-goal season from the newly signed Vanek isn’t going to excite anyone. A 20-goal season from Boeser will.
The Canucks maintain they want to build a competitive environment which will bring out the best in their younger players. The problem is that competitive environment is being supplied by average veterans who are largely in the decline phase of their career.
The faithful have already suffered through two excruciating seasons. Sitting through another losing campaign without seeing what’s coming is asking an awful lot.
— If the B.C. Lions were wondering where the bar is set for their final eight games of this CFL season, they received a sobering message from Saskatchewan over the weekend.
Since losing to the Lions at The Dome in early August, the Riders have rattled off three straight lopsided wins over, in order, B.C., Edmonton and Winnipeg on Sunday. They’re now half a game up on the Leos for what figures to be the CFL’s final playoff spot and they hold the tie-breaker.
The Lions do have an advantageous schedule over the final two months. Five of their last eight games are at home and four of those are against teams from the East. That said, their season will be determined by a three-game stretch in October when they travel to Winnipeg, play Edmonton at home, then return to Winnipeg.
They’ll likely have to win six of their last eight to make the playoffs. Head coach Wally Buono has turned the team over to veteran quarterback Travis Lulay and says the Lions’ problems will be fixed by better quarterbacking.
Maybe, but given everything else they face, that still might not be enough.
— Back in April, the bride and I saw Steely Dan in Las Vegas where they were in the middle of a lengthy run at The Venetian. Walter Becker, the group’s guitarist, bassist and Donald Fagen’s writing partner, didn’t look all that spry but he still played for two hours in front of a remarkable group of musicians, just as he had since the Dan released their first album in ’72.
Turned out that would be one of his last live performances. Becker passed away on Sunday but he leaves behind an extraordinary body of work. The best of Steely Dan is a luscious stew of rock, jazz, rhythm and blues and soul and it sounds as fresh today as when it was recorded five decades ago. Have a listen to Deacon Blues or Kid Charlemagne and tip your hat to Becker.
— Two takeaways from the Canadian men’s soccer team 2-0 over Jamaica in Saturday’s friendly.
1) This isn’t your dad’s Canadian team which, come to think of it, is my Canadian men’s team. Head coach Octavio Zambrano has the Canucks playing a pleasing, attacking style which has introduced at least one big-time player in Junior Hoilett and a solid supporting cast. It’s too late for Canada in the 2018 World Cup but pay attention for 2022.
2) The Whitecaps’ Alphonso Davies is a big part of that program’s future but Davies, who was sent off in the second half for kicking at Jamaican defender Damion Lowe, will have to learn the lesson every young star in every sport has had to learn.
Teams will test you. If they think they can throw you off your game, they will test you some more. This isn’t going to change in your career and the only acceptable response is to play through it.
Greatness comes with a price. This is part of it.
— And finally, when they first emerged as an elite NFL team, there was something endearing about the Seattle Seahawks’ collective makeup.
They were cocky and outspoken but, as non-conformists in a rigid, uptight league, there was also a sense of fun about them. Head coach Pete Carroll, himself something of an outsider, seemed to get the best out of his team by letting their personalities show.
But the core of that team is now entering its sixth year together and something has changed.
Cornerback Richard Sherman used to be a breath of fresh air. Or maybe he was always a pain but he was tolerated when he shut down half the field.
Now, he comes off as a petulant prima donna.
The defence used to scare teams. This weekend, they moved a second-rounder and Jermaine Kearse for Sheldon Richardson, a pass rusher with issues of his own, largely because Malik McDowell, their second-round pick, is likely lost for the year after a mysterious ATV accident.
McDowell fell to the second round because of, you guessed it, questions about this character
A winning locker room is a fragile ecosystem at the best of times and it just feels like the Seahawks have upset the balance in theirs.
They might still be a playoff team. The championship window has closed.