The Twins

I wonder if Daniel ever holds it over Henrik that he was drafted one pick ahead of him. I wonder if it did happen and people overheard that Henrik would just say “stop pretending to be me”. And we’d laugh.

There it is. They’re twins, they look the same, and now we can move past that aspect of their career.

1999 was a draft year that brought something new to hockey. Brian Burke and the Vancouver Canucks did what no team had done before; traded to be able to draft 2 twin brothers 2nd and 3rd overall. What a treat Vancouver was in for.


Since then, they’ve had almost identical careers. I mean identical. As of the time of the retirement announcement, Daniel had scored at a pace of 0.796 points per game, and Henrik at 0.804. If my math is correct, (there’s a chance that it isn’t), that is a career separated by 0.08 points per game (measured over careers spanning 1,300 games played each.

They have won their share of individual awards, 3 for Henrik with 2 going to Daniel. Back to back Art Ross trophy’s, 09-10 going to Henrik and 10-11 to Daniel. The difference there being Henrik took home the Hart that same year for his accomplishments.

They each won an Olympic Gold in the 2006 games, with Daniel adding a silver medal in 2014 and Henrik a silver at the 2013 World Championships.

Okay maybe now we can move past it.

The decision had been in the works for the past couple of months, and in typical Sedin fashion, in conjunction with the Vancouver Canucks.  It was only fitting, and a prime example of how unique they were not only as players but people in this league, that after one of their last games in front of a home crowd the opposing team wanted to not only salute them but shake their hands.

Over the years stories of hockey players off the ice have usually at some point involved some sort of debauchery. Much to their delight, these kinds of things have dried up more now that social media exists, but it’s very seldom that players will even try to hide their good deeds from the social pipelines.

The Sedins’ may have also been some of the first to do that, as they actively tried to anonymously donate $1.5 million to the BC Children’s Hospital in 2010. A statement was only released on their behalf after hospital officials convinced them the news would encourage more donations from other sources.

The game will miss them. The city of Vancouver will miss them. And I’m sure Daniel and Henrik will miss each other from time to time now they’ll have some separation.

But then again they can just look in the mirror.


Blue Jays: What We Learned From a Series Split With The New York Yankees

Colour me surprised with the Blue Jays splitting the opening series against the new age Bronx Bombers, as Toronto hung in there with the predicted playoff squad. Toronto used a few different weapons to get the split, which is promising as the one trick pony Blue Jays of old, are now dead and gone. So what did we learn about the Blue Jays from the opening series of the season?

Kevin Pillar is a bad, bad man.

We all loved Superman in the outfield, but he showed off his multi-faceted offensive approach in this series. Pillar hit .462 in the first four games, with a .500 OBP. He scored the only run for the Jays in their season opener with a solo home run, netting his only RBI of the season.

What was most impressive was his three stolen bases in the series… which all came in the same game… in the same inning… and included a straight steal of home, too.

Pillar’s most enticing asset will always be his defence in centre field, but if he can string together some games with offensive production (1.269 OPS), the Jay’s will be able to surprise a lot more teams with depth offence. What has certainly helped is having Pillar hit later in the order. Previously shoe-horned into the lead off spot, Pillar is much more effective without the pressure to get on base.

Toronto’s Bullpen is For Real

Between Roberto Osuna, Ryan Tepera, Aaron Loup, and Seung Hwan Oh there have been zero earned runs, only two walks, and a combines six strike outs in seven innings of work. Tyler Clippard, Danny Barnes, and John Axford each have one earned run to their names, inflating their ERA stat, but have been serviceable and added a further eight innings of work out of the pen.

Tepera looks vintage. He delivered his pitches well with great location. Plus, with mid to high 90’s coming out of him, he completely messes with batters after seeing Estrada or Happ through 5+ innings before.

After a bit of a disappointing spring, Seung Hwan Oh has looked great in his two games played and two innings pitched against the Yankees. He has not allowed an earned run, and even has a save to his name following the series finale against the Yanks. He looks like the veteran that the Jays were after in their pen, calm, cool and able to work in versatile situations.

Osuna is great. Not sure why he didn’t get the chance to close when Oh went in the last Yankees game, but regardless he is stellar. In his first games of the season Osuna has not allowed a hit or a walk, adding an impressive strike out against Brett Gardiner. Three consecutive fastballs, three strikes, three different locations, all watched – it was an awesome out for Osuna to secure his first save of the season.

The bullpen will need to keep sharp should the Jays see any sustained success this season. Their starters are good enough to put the team in contention in every single game, but the offence has less pop and will require lockdown pitching to secure games.

Smoak is on Fire

It’s only been four games, but Justin Smoak looks like the same player from his breakout 2017 season. He is currently the owner of ALL Blue Jays offensive stat categories, average (.467), home runs (2), RBIs (8), OBP (.529), and hits (7).

Delivering the offence for a team that has moved out its big boom sticks over the passed two seasons in Bautista and Encarnacion, Smoak is more valuable than just some errant home runs. What has been most impressive has been the spray on his hits; Smoak is using the whole field. A switch hitter by trade, Smoak his both of his home runs from the left side of the plate, and muscles them to opposite centre field. Clearly the big first base man is welcoming the shift defence this season.

A six RBI game is something special, even moreso when you add in hitting the game winning grand slam against a divisional opponent. Smoak will be relied on for his big bat in this line up, along side Donaldson and Granderson who also have some pop. But he truly is a valuable player on both sides of the ball, scooping low, off base throws to first, and ripping line drives out of the air down the line.


It has only been four games, I know, but its promising. What was most impressive in the four game series split for the Blue Jays is the adoption of the new culture of the team. They are not relying on three or four players to produce their offence, and are not running off of the idea of outscoring their problems.

The 2018 Jays have taken on a new persona, strong starting pitching, great relief pitching, and manufacturing runs. Sprinkle in some pop from Smoak and Donaldson, and they Jays have the ability to sneak up on teams around the league. The must frustrating part of playing in Toronto, the lack of access and credit just because of geography, may be the key to their success as they will be able to surprise their opponents. One thing is for sure, the Yankees won’t be taking the Blue Jays lightly this season.

West Ham 3-0 Southampton: Don’t Put Baby In A Corner

West Ham performed to perfection with their backs up against the wall, hosting Southampton at the London Stadium. With the club owners barricaded in the directors box, the fans tense with uneasy anticipation, and the eyes of the (Premier League) football world upon the London Stadium, the players showed up.

Off to a quick start West Ham burst forward with exuberant pressure and kept the pace up for the entire first half, a half that would see all three goals scored. Southampton could not afford to put forward the pathetic effort they did in this match, as they had an opportunity to leafprog the hammers with a win and could have taken advantage of the toxic atmosphere surrounding the club currently.

Arnautovic who has been West Ham’s main man for offence this season was yet again the focal point of the front line. Arnautovic not only nets the goals but her creates so much pressure on the defence that even when he doesn’t score or assist he factors into West Ham’s success. He also directed the cross in from Joao Mario for his first goal, a rebound off of a laser header.

Joao Mario who had yet to impress this season for West Ham, had his best game in the Premier League today. He scored a rooftop laser and assisted Arnautovic’s first goal. He was effective today because of the pressure he brought in the open field on Southampton’s defenders and midfielders. He goal was brilliant and assist matched it – Mario had an amazing game and provided a glimpse of options beyond Lanzini in attacking midfield.

A saddening aspect of the game was Michail Antonio coming up lame early in the game game, giving way to Edmilison Fernandes in the 9th minute. Antonio left the pitch after an apparent thigh injury, with his face hidden under his jersey hiding tears. He wanted to factor into the turn around for West Ham, an attitude all West Ham fans should be happy to see. Captain Mark Noble ran up while he was walking off the pitch and pulled his jersey off his face, nothing to be embarrassed about here for the injured attacker.

His replacement, the Swiss international Fernandes, was absolutely brilliant in his first club action in four months. Coming off of an ankle injury, Fernandes was slotted in aside Mario and behind Arnautovic in a free roaming attacking mid role. This may be his natural position as his speed and ability to use the width of the pitch made him a constant threat. Edi also held onto the ball well, it sounds simple but its a facet of the game West Ham have been in need of for awhile now.

If you eliminate Arnautovic, the man with the first half brace, from contention for man of the match you could easily give it to either Declan Rice or Angelo Ogbonna. Both were stellar today in a very involved back three. Constantly used in the possession game for West Ham, Rice and Ogbonna were amazing outlets and kept play in the Southampton end for the majority of the afternoon.

Cresswell was also reliable in the back three. It isn’t his natural position but he doesn’t seem to care. Rather than rely on size like many centrebacks, Cresswell jockeyed for position and won aerial battles with his body positioning rather than height. He was great as well, but Ogbonna and Rice were next level.

Rice was coming off two matches for Ireland where he made his first team international debut. He was Man of the Match in game one, and impressed in the second game as well. Ogbonna was also with his home nation, Italy, over the International break but did not feature.

Responsible for the second goal for Arnautovic, Arthur Masuaku returned from a six match ban for spitting towards a Wigan player. Masuaku was immediately a threatening presence in West Ham’s offence and reminded us all what we were missing without him in the side. Always looking for a chance to embarrass a defender along the touchline, King Arthur did not disappoint in his return. He flung a seemingly innocuous ball into the box that somehow found the perfect space between keeper and defender – on Arnautovic’s foot- where it could be volleyed safely home. Just one example of his abilities to create goal scoring chances. He is an offensive spark plug and gave it all for the team today.

As you can probably tell by the steady compliments I’m feeding to the West Ham players that it was a solid team performance from the Hammers. Safe to say they understood that their backs were up against the wall and they performed; baby was put in a corner and fought her way out.

The points were crucial but the swagger that comes with a triumphant 3-0 win where the opponents were held to two (pitiful) shots on net. It was a well rounded game and provided a glimpse into what this team can do. The hill is still tall in front of West Ham but it isn’t as insurmountable as it would have been with anything than less than three points from this match.


West Ham Vs Southampton – The Saints Are Coming

Two points up, yet West Ham feels miles behind Southampton and for all the wrong reasons. Off-pitch issues have ground the season to a halt for the Hammers, and hosting Southampton this late in the season could see relegation staved off again, or all but confirmed.

For Southampton they have two big boosts to their team. New manager Mark Hughes has taken over the manager position from Mauricio Pellegrino. Playing a characterless style of play, Pellegrino didn’t take the Saints to the next level as many thought he could. Hughes stepped in at the beginning of the three week international break and has had time to drill his squad into shape.

The second addition is the reinstalling of striker Charlie Austin. Austin, who scored a penalty against West Ham in their early season victory over West Ham, is rejoining at a time where his squad needs him. Manolo Gabbiadini has left the Saints missing Austin at striker, and the script really writes its self, doesn’t it?

For West Ham they have two similar positives heading into this match. The first is Mark Hughes, yes Southampton’s new manager. Having been sacked by Stoke City earlier this season, Hughes was visibly pissed off at former star Marko Arnautovic who facilitated his move away from the Potters in the summer transfer window. Arnautovic steamrolled Hughes former team to the delight of West Ham fans and hopefully can do so again.

After a hotheaded performance that ended in an intentional elbow to Southampton defender Stephens, Arnautovic took his team to ten men early in the match. Chicharito tried his best to drag the teams level again, but just fell short as the game ended 3-2.

Southampton has yet to see the in form Arnautovic, and that could be West Ham’s secret weapon in this match.

The perfect wingback for Moyes’ unchanged formation returns for West Ham. After a loogie gone awry against Wigan, Arthur Masuaku has had a six game ban to think about his actions. Since then his team has fallen out of relative safety into the Kenny Loggins Danger Zone. What he brings in his return to the lineup is speed, shiftiness, and some impressive crossing skills he showed off against Dag & Red.

This game is almost too close to call really. New manager bump may carry Southampton over the line, where as fan unrest at West Ham may force the team to perform. Whoever wins, should three points be awarded, will secure one of the necessary games remaining for both sides against relegation teams.

The true defining factor for this match will come down to managing. Will Moyes have the guts to abandon his back-5 and implement a formation that will fit all of his of his offensive options? And will Hughes be able to inspire his new squad out of the bottom three?

Good lord, relegation is fun isn’t it? Horrifying, but fun.

Premier League Weekend Preview, Plus Predictions and Bets!

Its match week 32 for the Premier League, and the seasons end is quickly approaching! Here are my picks for the top three games of the weekend, and my bet for winners!

Everton Host Manchester City

This match sticks out for reasons related to Everton, rather than Manchester City. Quality fullbacks return to the lineup for Everton with Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman once again fit. This should give some defensive stability to the Everton backline, who despite performing well in 2018, will welcome some injury return support.

The January transfer addition, Cenk Tosun has struck form brilliantly in his last few weeks. With a brace against Stoke last match, and one versus Brighton the week before the Turkish striker seems a good fit for Everton and the Premier League.

Despite the positives for Everton they are playing arguably the best team in European football. They are human, however, if anything this match will be tough for the Toffees. Kevin De Bruyne, Sergio Aguero, the now fit Gabriel Jesus and company make a potent offence that continued their form for their respective nations over the break.

Prediction: Everton 1 – 2 Manchester City. Everton will put up a good fight, but City will break the deadlock late to seal the victory.

West Ham Host Southampton

The basement bowl! Both teams are staring relegation in the face and desperately need wins. Despite West Ham being two points up on the Saints, all the pressure falls on the home team after the debacle against Burnely. A resounding 0-3 loss at home populated by pitch invasions and fan protests, West Ham cannot get behind in this match or the scenes could seal relegation for the Hammers.

Southampton, despite being in the relegation zone are welcoming in two faces to the team, one new and one old. Mark Hughes has been appointed new manager. He has been drilling for intensity and fitness since taking over the club earlier in the International break and Southampton could see the likely ‘new manager bump’ as they all try to impress their boss.

Southampton also welcome back striker Charlie Austin to the line up. Having scored a penalty in the early season clash with West Ham, Austin is likely to slip right back in the lineup either as a starter or sub for Manolo Gabbiadini.

Prediction: West Ham 3 – 1 Southampton. Despite their new manager, West Ham should react with their backs up against the wall. Arnautovic has been in form and destroyed Hughes’ Stoke team earlier this season.

Chelsea Host Tottenham

Ah, some elite competition. Both teams currently sitting in the top six, with Tottenham five points up on the reigning Premier League champions. Chelsea will look to pressure Tottenham and nab all three to stake their claim in the Champions League next season.

For both teams the International break saw players donning their national gear to represent their countries. Chelsea’s new striker Oliver Giroud scored for France against Columbia, while Hazard, Alonso, Willian, and Kante (France, as well) all played for their respective countries in International friendlies.

Tottenham had a similarly large list of international players, like defender Davidson Sanchez who factored into Columbia’s unlikely 3-2 win over France. As well, Danny Rose returned to action for England after a long injury lay off. The left back will likely step in over Ben Davies who has played well for Spurs in Rose’s absence.

Prediction: Chelsea 2 – 3 Tottenham. The attacking options of Tottenham will eventually overwhelm Chelsea who can only rely on Willian and Hazard for so long. Look to Son and Eriksen to drive the offence for Spurs.

Match Day Bets

In a five team win-pick parlay I have:
– Liverpool (1.50) over Palace
– Leicester (2.90) over Brighton
– Manchester United (1.22) over Swansea
– Burnley (2.70) at West Brom
– Manchester City (1.30) over Everton

With only one home team selected (Manchester United), the away team odds boosted the parlay to a five bet fold returning $373.23 on a $20 bet. Not bad!



Two Budding Superstars Who Will Be Forever Linked

Matthews Vs. Laine; A tale as old as…two years. In 2016 the Toronto Maple Leafs won the draft lottery, and Leafs nation went wild. It was the biggest thing to happen to the franchise in decades, and it’s a moment I will never forget. With the first overall draft pick, the Leafs had the choice between two clear front runners. Arizona native Auston Matthews from the Swiss pro league and Patrik Laine from the Finnish pro league. Both players came into their draft years heavily hyped up, but Matthews was always the favourite to go first. It wasn’t until Laine’s stellar 2016 year where he got some serious recognition as a threat for first overall pick. He lead his team to a championship and was named Liiga playoff MVP. He also dominated the World Juniors and helped Finland win a Gold Medal. Very impressive draft year for Laine. But despite his recent accomplishments, Leaf fans were still drooling over the thought of drafting a Franchise center they haven’t had since Mats Sundin. Matthews amazingly managed to put up 46 points in 36 games for his Swiss team Zurich SC. While that doesn’t sound super impressive without context, its’ quite amazing for a teenager to do against grown professionals.

At the 2016 draft the Leafs made their selection – Auston Matthews. Patrik Laine went second overall to the Winnipeg Jets. At this moment, these two players who were both drafted to Canadian teams, would become forever linked. In a way similar to the rivalry between Crosby and Ovechkin, fans of both sides will argue to the death why one player is better than the other. And like Crosby and Ovechkin, it comes down to two very different types of players. The Elite Two-Way center who can carry a line, dominate possession, and make the players around him better (Matthews) Vs. the sharpshooting power forward with cannon shots and the ability to score from anywhere on the ice (Laine).

Production wise, these two forwards have had a remarkably similar start to their young careers. Here is a quick comparison:

Games Played        Goals        Assists        +/-

Matthews                     139                   70               53             23

Laine                             149                   79               53             16

Almost 150 games into their career they are posting nearly identical point totals. It couldn’t be scripted any better, save for a face off in the Stanley Cup finals. So did Toronto make the right decision? Of course they did! One must remember that Matthews has accomplished these insane numbers while centering the Leafs top line, a position much more defensively responsible and harder to learn than being a winger. In a vacuum, a similar center will always be more valuable to a team than his winger counterpart. That’s not to discredit Laine who is ripping wristers and one timers past goalies at an incredible 19% shooting percentage this season, not too mention in the race for the Rocket Richard trophy. But when you watch both players play, you see Matthews as a driver of offense, and Laine as more of a passenger. Matthews uses his beastly strength on the puck and stick handling skills to drive possession, and he’s no slouch in goal scoring himself, with a full season pace of over 40 goals once again. Laine relies much more on his teammates to set him up, and powerplay where he has more room to get his crazy shot off. Give me Matthews skill set every time. Fun fact – Auston Matthews has scored more even strength goals than any other player in the league since he was drafted, and that’s including the time he’s been injured. That’s how good he is. If (when) he can improve on the power play there is no telling what he’s capable of.

With the playoffs around the corner, both Auston and Patrik will be under immense pressure to perform, and I for one am really excited to see how it shakes out. The unlikely kid from Arizona Vs. the Finnish phenom. A rivalry that will no doubt follow their careers.


Toronto Blue Jays Season Preview: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

With the MLB season just hours away from kicking off lets have a look at what could be in store for the Toronto Blue Jays this year.

The Good

For Toronto the biggest positive is their pitching rotation. Highly touted for the passed two seasons, the five starters of Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Marco Estrada, J.A. Happ, and new comer Jaime Garcia combine to make a stout rotation. All Toronto fans can hope for is the shoulder inflammation of Stroman to disappear, and for the blister problems of Sanchez to also be a thing of the passed.

Should the (significant) injury bug stay away from the Jays’ starters there is no reason that they cannot contend for a wild card spot, or take advantage of the divisional super teams (we’ll get to them in a bit) not meshing as a unit.

The new additions to the team are also something shiny and exciting for fans to fawn over. The outfield has two notable additions of different levels, the veteran Curtis Granderson and the everyday youngster Randall Grichuk.

Granderson brought the pop to spring training, hitting a homerun in his first at-bat as a Blue Jay. His spring ended well, putting up 4 homeruns,  a .279 batting average, and .360 OBP. Likely to be used in a committee role in left field, splitting time with Steve Pearce and Teoscar Hernandez. With Bautista now gone Granderson will be a veteran presence and can provide some stability in the clubhouse for the young players on the team.

Grichuk should be Toronto’s everyday right fielder for the season. A new face in right field after long standing fixture and club legend Jose Bautista parted ways with the club, Grichuk adds more athleticism and youthful competitiveness to the outfield. While he wont overwhelm with his power at the plate he can provide middle of the road offence with the upswing of better defence.

New infielders Aledmys Diaz, Gift Ngoepe, and Yangervis Solarte create a new, deep crew to bail out the oft injured duo of middle defenders Devin Travis and Troy Tulowitzki. Diaz should see starting time at SS with Tulo likely to start the season on the DL, but the versatility of all three players will allow for matchup play to maximize their effectiveness.

The bullpen also got a facelift for the Jays following the moving out of the surprising Dominic Leone (along with prospect Connor Greene) to get Grichuk. The Jays added Seung-hwan Oh, and veterans John Axford and Tyler Clippard to fill out the reserves. While not star studded, the Jays bullpen is strong and with the young talents of Osuna, Mayza, and Barnes in the mix they should be deep and economical this season, although another lefty couldn’t hurt.

The Bad

The Yankees and Red Sox are done messing around.

I could honestly leave it there, but we might as well embrace and explore the probably outcome of the season with these two monsters in the mix divisionally.

New York is fully embracing the Bronx Bombers title as they added Giancarlo Stanton to their impressively powerful team. Stanton will bring his explosive bat alongside Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez who, when combined in the 2-3-4 slots in the line up, will create a baseball Voltron that will not only smash balls out of the atmosphere, but will probably cause a concussive blast radius that will send most of the Jays to the DL.

It’s a horrifying lineup offensively, and if they can get a lead to Dellin Betances in the 8th inning the game will be as good as over as the stone-cold relief pitcher  hands the ball off to flamethrower Aroldis Chapman. Their starting rotation isn’t special but they’ll probably just win game 45-9 or something crazy like that.

Boston, on the other hand, will be a more balanced and therefore more scary opponent for the Jays to come up against. They landed their man in free agency with J.D. Martinez eventually signing, and he joins a team stacked in outfield youth and production.

Whats truly upsetting about the Red Sox is how young their positions players are. Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., Christian Vazquez, and Rafael Devers. Wow. Mix in vets like Hanley Ramirez, Dustin Pedroia, and Martinez and you’ll get a pretty damn potent team.

Their rotation also features Chris Sale, David Price, and Rick Porcello with Drew Pomeranz, Eduardo Rodriguez and Steven Wright all starting the season on the DL. Boston is my pick to win the division this season. They are young, balanced, and have had time to marinade as a unit more so than the Yankees.

Toronto will be duking it out with Baltimore for the third division spot this season, with Tampa Bay falling behind yet again. The Orioles are a lot like the Jays, and not just in an aviary sense. Both teams have good starting rotations, good closers, and can play solid defence. Hopefully these two will be going head to head for the second wildcard spot, to add more intrigue to an already fiery division.

The Ugly

It’s pretty obvious, but when will Josh Donaldson leave the Blue Jays.

He has brought so much excitement to Canada’s team over the passed few seasons and took the team from playoff maybe, to contenders. It’s an ugly situation because it appears to only be a matter of time before he gets shipped out to a team looking to become World Series favourite. Even more ugly is the face that that is probably the best thing for the team.

With Encarnacion a year gone now, the Jays are essentially playing out Donaldson’s contract before cashing in on him. What helps this situation is that prospects in the Jays organization, like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette, are apparently on the cusp of the big leagues. With young pitchers on the team and high level prospects close, a Donaldson deal could be for prospects rather than draft picks to speed up this process for Jays fans.

Regardless, the day Donaldson leaves will be a sad one. He has been the focal point of the “new” Jays (despite what Bautista may think) and has brought the joy back to being a Blue Jays fan.


The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly are all out there now, the only thing left is to play. A strong start, opposite of last season, would certainly make the Jays a more watchable team, not to mention would justify the moves made by Shapiro and Atkins in the Jays front office. I think they could surprise some teams this year, but ultimately will end their own season by dealing Donaldson to a World Season contender.

Only time will tell, and boy of boy am I ready to welcome back the Boys of Summer into the TV rotation!

The Race For The Art Ross

As the NHL regular season approaches an end, there is a prestigious trophy still completely up for grabs. The Art Ross trophy. It is awarded to the NHL player who scores the most points in the regular season. It is a trophy that cements a player as one of the best in the business, and reserved for only the truly elite.

As it stands today, with approximately 6-7 games remaining, the top 4 scorers are only separated by 7 points between them. Third year phenom Connor McDavid leads the pack with 99 points on the season. If he were to hold this lead, he would be one of very few players to win the Art Ross trophy in back to back seasons – and the crazy thing is he hasn’t even entered his prime yet. Move over Sid, we have a new generational player ready to take the league by storm! Nobody has been able to handle the speed of McDavid since he entered the league. The amount of goals he has scored by simply blowing past the other team is staggering. He’s a human highlight reel.

In second and third place we have rising star Nikita Kucherov with 95 points, and the veteran Evgeni Malkin with 92. Both are benefiting from offense heavy teams in Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh. They have a shot of catching up, but they are running out of games to do it. Having said that, both players teams have arguably the best power plays in the league, and all it takes is a hot streak to make up some ground.

Tied for third place with Malkin, we have Nathan MacKinnon. He is my wild card here. I think if anyone has a shot of catching McDavid, it’s him. He has been absolutely lights out this season for the Avalanche, and has carried them to a possible playoff series. Although MacKinnon is 7 points off the lead, he has managed to do this only playing 67 games due to injury, which is 9 games less then McDavid. He is a bull on the ice, and can score at will. If he keeps up his pace, it’s going to go to the wire.

No disrespect to Kucherov and Malkin, but I find what McDavid and MacKinnon have done to be more impressive for one simple reason. They are fighting for the Art Ross despite their teammates, rather than because of them. Kucherov has Stamkos and Hedman, and Malkin has Crosby and Kessel. Who do MacKinnon and McDavid have? The next highest scoring player on Colorado is Mikko Rantanen. For the Oilers, it’s Leon Draisaitl (who is over 30 points behind McDavid!). Oh what could have been with Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle. And just to hammer my point home, the Lightning as a team have scored 50 more goals than the Oilers. Put any other player in McDavid’s shoes and I’d be hard pressed to see them break 70 points let alone 100.

Here are my season end predictions for the top 10 players:

1. Connor McDavid 108 points

2. Nathan MacKinnon 105 points

3. Nikita Kucherov 102 points

4. Evgeni Malkin 99 points

5. Steven Stamkos 97 points

6. Claude Giroux 97 points

7. Anze Kopitar 95 points

8. Sidney Crosby 92 points

9. Blake Wheeler 91 points

10. Phil Kessel 91 points

It’s strange to see Crosby at 8 and Ovechkin and Kane not even listed. Three players that have been cemented in the top 10 for years, no chance of winning. But as the saying goes, “out with the old, and in with the new”.

NFL Sleepers: From Laughing Stock To Buying Stock – Cleveland Browns

In a two part blog series I will look at two teams who were formerly laughing stocks, and why we should all be buying stock in them making pushes for the playoffs. Second up, the Cleveland Browns

This pick was probably a little easier to forecast than the Jets pick, and there is some actual proof to suggest the Browns may not stink next year! To begin with, they literally cannot get any worse than they were last season. 0-12 is impressively bad for an NFL team. That means they couldn’t sneak out a close one, or even pick up a meaningless win in the last few weeks of the season where Pittsburgh would have been looking to rest some players. I mean come on, 29 year old Stevan Ridley led their last game of the season in rushing yards. It’s not 2012, and still he managed 80 yard, almost 80% of his season production last year with a total of 108 yards all year!

So lets jump into it – how the HELL do the Cleveland Browns become not as much of a laughing stock next season. As I mentioned, the bar isn’t high but I don’t think that they are going to let the season goal be “just get one win.” Cleveland is in an interesting division with elite talent at the top and question marks in the middle.

Pittsburgh looks poised to continue Pittsburgh things. They have that rare mix of veteran reliability, mixed with youthful explosiveness, and have elite options at almost every offensive position. Big Ben Roethlisberger, Le’veon Bell, Antonio Brown all rounding out the veteran spots, with Juju Smith-Schuster, Martavis Bryant, and even TJ Watt bringing youthful skill to both sides of the ball. Cleveland can aim high and look to compete against the Steelers, but not surpass them any time soon.

But Baltimore and Cincinnati are both more approachable divisional rivals. Cincinnati is odd – are Andy Dalton, Joe Mixon, and AJ Green elite? Green is without a doubt, but Mixon is coming off of a not spectacular rookie season where he was limited by his coaches inability to pick a lead back between him, Giovani Bernard, and Jeremy Hill. Thankfully, Hill moved on to the Patriots in free agency, limiting the options now. Dalton is a fine QB, but he isn’t elite. Far too reliant on one or two big plays, Dalton seems to be ineffective in low risk situations, and has never taken the next step towards being in the upper echelon of NFL QB talents.

Baltimore has really been a shell of themselves since Ray Lewis retired. Their Superbowl over the 49ers was so polarizing, but saw Joe Flacco receive a contact that made him elite, by pay scale anyways. While their defence is not as good as it used to be, it is reliable and will not hurt their chances at winning, their offence on the other hand…

Flacco is the mainstay here, a strong passer, but despite his pay-grade not an elite talent. He gets two good adds at WR with Crabtree coming from Oakland and John Brown coming from Arizona.

Flacco will surely see an uptick in passing yards from last season with these two upgrades, but their future success will rely on whether running back Alex Collins can cary the mail for the Ravens on the ground. Volume was his friend las season and he put up nearly 1000 yards, but broke 100 yards only twice in 2017. For Cleveland, there is certainly ground to be made up divisionally with Cincinnati and Baltimore not looking to shake things up massively to challenge Pittsburgh.

So what have Cleveland done to make themselves better? Well they actually have some good, young talent that has been brought up in their system. Defensive End Myles Garrett, #1 overall pick from 2017 is a force on defence, picking up seven sacks in his first season while only playing in eleven games. Corey Coleman, WR also showed flashes of brilliance last season putting up 305 yards and two touchdowns in nine games played.

Cleveland also added back their blunt smoking prodigal son, WR Josh Gordon. Gordon showed off his natural (wasted) talent in five games in 2017 with 335 yards and one touchdown on 18 receptions.

With the addition of Miami Dolphins elite slot receiver Jarvis Landry, Cleveland has a very respectable three wide receiver set. Both Gordon and Coleman are young and explosive with big play potential. While Landry, just 25 years old, can suck up targets in the middle of the field as he proved last year with 987 yards on a whopping 112 receptions with nine touchdowns. Even more impressive – Landry did this with Jay Cutler throwing to him. Look out for the Cleveland receiving corps, as they sneakily have one of the most talented and well rounded group of receivers in the league.

To solve the problem of the revolving door of QB’s in Cleveland, and to hopefully end (at least for a bit) the played out, crossed off name jersey joke that every other self hating Browns fan has to make themselves, the Browns traded for Tyrod Taylor from the Buffalo Bills. Not elite, but a stable talent, Taylor is a good passer and elusive rusher. Third last season in QB rushing yards Taylor has the ability to extend plays and grab yards himself.

He isn’t the answer for Cleveland, but he is the best option they’ve had in a while and enjoyed some moderate success in Buffalo, too. More of a bridge to their franchise QB Taylor is a good option to start his new team off on the right foot. Drew Stanton has also been signed as veteran back up QB to Taylor. Coming from Arizona, Stanton (33) would provide stability should Taylor get injured, and can also act as a mentor to the up and coming QB of the future for the Browns.

Perhaps their biggest offseason get, Cleveland signed running back Carlos Hyde out of San Francisco. Like Landry, Hyde is an elite talent and upgrade over the now gone Isaiah Crowell. He’s has game breaking ability and is is built to be a bell cow RB, exactly what Cleveland have needed. He will be backed up and relieved on passing plays by Duke Johnson Jr., a RB with great upside as a receiver, and can also limit overuse and the likelihood of injury for Hyde.

Cleveland is actually trending up this offseason. Wow, even as I type that I can’t really believe it isn’t written with facetiousness or in a joking manner. The Browns can build even more so upon their strong off season by taking advantage of their high picks. With pick #1 and #4, Cleveland can get their franchise QB, and don’t have to rush him into a the starter job immediately. Pick #4 can be used to add to their Offensive line as there is a Joe Thomas sized hole in their O-line now. Cleveland also has three second round picks to add to their teams depth, should they not dispatch a few of those for roster players before the draft.

I don’t think they’re going to make the playoffs, I’m not crazy here.  What I think Cleveland can do is actually make waves divisionally and move up amongst their AFC North peers. Cincinnati? Watch out. Flacco and the Ravens? Duck and hide. Cleveland can ride out a suddenly high powered offence to some much needed success next season. Their biggest threat outside of injury would have to be keeping the bong out of Gordon’s hands – they’re are a different team with him on the field and need to man-manage him to reach his massive potential.

Take the paper bags off your heads, Cleveland fans. The sun is peaking through the impossibly thick clouds as the NFL draft approaches. All the Browns players need to do is play like they can and there is no reason they can’t become a jump-started up and coming team starting this season.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr.: Already The Face of The Blue Jays?

Baseball’s most exciting prospect has already made his mark on his team this pre-season. In front of 20,000+ fans, in his home town of Montreal, Quebec, game deadlocked at 0-0, bottom of the ninth, Vladdy Jr. steps up and does this:


Talk about a flair for the dramatic! It’s a performance that is driving Blue Jay’s fans wild and making an uncomfortable reality a little more palatable. Josh Donaldson may be as good as gone for Toronto, but Guerrero Jr. is right around the corner and ready to keep bringing the rain from 3B.

With his battery mate Bo Bichette at his side on the infield, Guerrero is bringing the performance he was rumoured to deliver when he signed under Alex Anthopoulos in 2015 as a sixteen year old. The two young stars are the next wave of talent waiting to make the jump to the majors for Toronto fans, and it may be sooner than everyone is expecting.

Guerrero will not start the season on the team. He has an all star thirdbasemen in front of him in Donaldson, and shouldn’t be thrown into the mix in an already messy outfield situation. AA ball seems to be his and Bichette’s landing spot post spring training, which developmentally is the best place for him, opposed to the veteran heavy AAA ball option.

He hit .323 in AA last season, with 13 homeruns and 76 RBIs. He took that impressive stat line and transitioned it into 13 plate appearances this spring (before the two game Montreal series), registering four runs, seven hits, one homerun, and identical .538 batting averages and on base percentages.

With a cool head and ice in his veins, the Dominican teenager comes from good stock with a strong Canadian heritage. Side by side with his Expos star father Vlad Sr., baby Vlad seems to have picked up a few things from his old man:

Moon. Shot.

Damn, I actually cannot wait for the start of the 2019 season. Should Toronto fall out of playoff contention early Josh Donaldson could be moved to a playoff contender, making space at thirdbase. However, the Blue Jays have brought in a WILD number of infielders this off season who could step into that role before Vlad would. If the Bringer of Rain is dealt Blue Jays fans can reserve some hope that Vlad may make a late summer appearance with roster expansion.

Regardless of rare appearances this season, Vlad and Bo seem locked in to have strong years in AA and bring youth to the left side of the infield for the Blue Jays in the near future. Despite a garbage year last season, and a possible repeat this season, Toronto has some impact prospects who are on the verge of making it and it’s exciting.

Too early to say it? Probably. But I will anyways, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is already the face of the Toronto Blue Jays, purely out of anticipation. And – it’s a good thing. Homegrown talent with Canadian heritage, seems like Blue Jays have taken a page out of the Maple Leaf’s playbook here.

Dynasty in the making?

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