Tuesday, 7 October 2014

2014-2015 NHL Season Preview Amongst Canadian Teams

     As the 2014-2015 NHL season is shortly about to begin, here is a preview on how each Canadian team will do.

1) Montreal Canadiens
2) Ottawa Senators
3) Vancouver Canucks
4) Toronto Maple Leafs
5) Winnipeg Jets
6) Calgary Flames
7) Edmonton Oilers

1) Montreal Canadiens: After a season that saw the Habs go all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals, they once again made significant changes. They signed faceoff specialist Manny Malhotra who will definitely take some pressure off Tomas Plekanec and Lars Eller on the defensive front while signing defenseman Tom Gilbert who will help with the powerplay along with acquiring forwards Jiri Sekac (free agent) and PA Parenteau (Trade with Colorado) who will provide the team will some scoring. While these additions will help the team going forward, the Canadiens leadership took a huge hit with captain Brian Gionta and defenseman Josh Gorges leaving to Buffalo via free agency and trade respectively. The Canadiens have the tools but if they want to have another deep run in the playoffs, they need the core players to play hard every night and hope that Carey Price can stay healthy the whole way through and steal a few games here and there.
Montreal Canadiens celebrate
2) Ottawa Senators: For the second straight year, the Ottawa Senators will have a new face as captain as Erik Karlsson replaces Jason Spezza as he was dealt to Dallas in the offseason. The Sens still have the same pesky core with Kyle Turris, Karlsson, Craig Anderson, Chris Phillips, Bobby Ryan and Clarke Macarthur. While they were able to sign David Legwand who is a reliable two-way forward who provides great leadership but will not produce at the same rate that Spezza did throughout his time in Ottawa. The Sens have a good chance at making the playoffs if guys like Ryan and Anderson can stay healthy throughout the year and get more production out of Turris and Macarthur.
Erik Karlsson
3) Vancouver Canucks: After a horrific year that saw the Canucks perform like circus acts, changes were definitely necessary. GM Mike Gillis was fired based on the teams poor performance and the way he handled the goaltending situation as he finally traded Roberto Luongo back to Florida. He was not the only one as Head Coach John Tortorella was also gone after just one season being replaced by Willie Desjardins. The new era with GM Jim Benning has proved to be starting on the right foot. He traded disgruntled forward Ryan Kesler to the Ducks for Nick Bonino and defenseman Luca Sbisa. He also signed goalie Ryan Miller to a three year deal as well as signing forward Radim Vrbata. The Canucks are heading towards the right direction but there chances of making the postseason rests on how Desjardins can handle being a coach in the NHL and how well the Sedin twins and Miller perform over the 82 games schedule.
Daniel Sedin
4) Toronto Maple Leafs: After making the playoffs for the first time since 2004, everything seemed to be turning around in Leafsnation except it did not. After playing some solid hockey throughout the majority of the year, everything fell apart down the stretch. After goalie Jonathan Bernier went down with injury and eventually made his return, the Leafs finished 2-12 in the final 14 games and once again finished on the outside looking in. To fix this situation, the Leafs hired hall of famer Brendan Shanahan as team president. He kept both GM Dave Nonis and Coach Randy Carlyle along with making moves that improved team toughness. Leo Komarov returns after a one year stay in Europe while new defenseman Roman Polak and Stephane Robidas add more sandpaper on a defense corps with captain Dion Phaneuf and Cody Franson should he stay healthy. The Leafs chances of making the playoffs however rests on the core guys staying healthy throughout the year and if Bernier can play great night in and night out.

Jonathan Bernier
5) Winnipeg Jets: The novelty of hockey returning to the peg is clearly gone. After another slow start to begin the year, the Jets replaced Head Coach Claude Noel with Paul Maurice. While the team showed signs of improving it was not enough as they missed the playoffs for a seventh consecutive year. The Jets made minor acquisitions signing forwards TJ Galiardi and Mathieu Perreault. The team does have a good core with forwards Andrew Ladd, Brian Little, Blake Wheeler and defenseman Dustin Byfuglien being joined by youngsters in defensemen Jacob Trouba and forward Mark Scheifele. If the Jets want to make surprises this season, they will have to hope that goaltender Ondrej Pavelec and forward Evander Kane wake up and start performing on a consistent basis.
Paul Maurice
6) Calgary Flames: Year 1 of the rebuild in Calgary was not as bad as what people had anticipated. After finishing October with a 5-5-2 record, things fell apart due to injuries and poor play. To fix the issue, the Flames hired Brad Treliving as the new GM and made some moves signing players like forwards Devin Setoguichi and Mason Raymond and signing a new goalie in Jonas Hiller. Theses three will help improve a core with the likes of Curtis Glencross and Mark Giordano. The youngsters look good as Sean Monahan will try and build off his successful rookie season as well as drafting Sam Bennett except he will be missing time due to injury. The future looks bright in Calgary except there only a few years away from returning to the postseason.
Mark Giordano
7) Edmonton Oilers: Another year filled with promise ended up being another year filled with disappointment. The Oilers failed from the beginning winning four out of their first 21 games to start the year. This was based on poor play from goalie Devan Dubnyk and forward Nail Yakupov. While the goaltending situation improved with the acquisition of Ben Scrivens, the Oilers still failed to get production from the forwards. To improve the situation, GM Craig Mactavish signed forwards Teddy Purcell and Benoit Pouliot as well as drafting Leon Draisaitl. If the new players can contribute with the established core of Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle and if Scrivens can give the Oilers a chance of winning every night, the Oilers will move up in the standings and may fight for a playoff spot. If they fail to, it will end up as the same old story since the past couple of years.
Ben Scrivens

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

A Dark Day in Montreal's Sports History

     August 12th, 2014 marks the 20th anniversary that MLB decided to go on strike. The strike which lasted 232 days from August 12th, 1994 till April 2nd, 1995 led to the cancellation of approximately 948 games along with the 1994 World Series. Other great accomplishments failed to happen as well such as Tony Gywnn becoming the first player to hit .400 since Ted Williams did in 1941 along with Matt Williams trying to beat the single season home run record of 61 held by Roger Maris at the time. The biggest impact however happened to the Montreal Expos.
   This day will always be one of the most darker days for a sports team in Montreal. Before the strike happened, the Expos had the best record in baseball with a 74-40 and were six games ahead of the Atlanta Braves for first place in the NL East with players like Pedro Martinez, Larry Walker, Marquis Grissom, Moises Alou, John Wetteland and Ken Hill leading the way. When the strike ended, it all went downhill from there. Due to the fact that Montreal is a small market in baseball compared to the likes of the New York Yankees or the Boston Red Sox, they were not able to keep marquee players due to financial issues. During Spring Training in 1995, the Expos were forced to trade four key players (Grissom, Hill, Wetteland and Walker leaving as a free agent). As the rest of the 90's happened, the rest of the team like Alou, Martinez and Mel Rojas left through trade and free agency respectively. The consequences of this happening was simple. In 2004, ten years after the strike, they relocated and became the Washington Nationals to start the 2005 season.
   If the strike never happened, the Expos would have won the World Series and contrary to my father's belief they would finally have a new place to play since it would give the people responsible a good idea to build them a new stadium. Unfortunately it never happened. August 12th, 1994 will always be remembered as a dark day in the history of sports in Montreal and maybe one day Montrealers will see a baseball team play again.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

2014 CFL Season Preview

  As the 2014 CFL season is quickly approaching, here is a preview on how each team will do.

Eastern Conference                                                  Western Conference

1) Toronto Argonauts                                              1) Saskatchewan Roughriders
2) Hamilton Tiger-Cats                                            2) BC Lions
3) Montreal Alouettes                                              3) Calgary Stampeders
4) Ottawa Redblacks                                              4) Edmonton Eskimos
                                                                               5) Winnipeg Blue Bombers

                                                            Eastern Conference

1) Toronto Argonauts: After losing to their provincial rivals in last years Eastern Conference Finals, the Argos saw some unexpected changes. First RB Chad Kackert suddenly retired right before the start of training camp due to injury. Head Coach Scott Milanovich will have to rely on    to get the job done at tailback. The defence will get a boost as they signed all Canadian LB Shea Emry away from Montreal. While Emry gives them a huge presence, they will miss DB Patrick Watkins (Eskimos) and depth player Jason Pottinger (Redblacks) as they gave them much needed leadership who did what they were told. If QB Ricky Ray can stay healthy and the defence does the job, the Argos will win the division and can possibly go back to the Grey Cup. If not, it will be a difficult year in Toronto.

2) Hamilton Tiger-Cats: The Tabbies surprised last year as the played in the Grey Cup game for the first time since 1999. If they want to have a repeat of last year, they will do it without QB Henry Burris as he was cut and replaced by former Argo QB Zach Collaros. He will be the one to get the offence going with sophomore RB C.J Gable and a great receiving corps that has been further bolstered with the signing of Cary Koch. He is one of those under the radar players who gets the job done when asked upon. The defence got even more stronger with all Canadian DB Craig Butler joining the frame with LB Simoni Lawrence and company. If Collaros can replicate what Burris did last season, the Tiger-Cats can have a repeat of last season and can possibly win the Grey Cup this time around.

3) Montreal Alouettes: After a disappointing season that saw the Als barely make the playoffs with a 8-10 record, GM Jim Popp made huge changes during the offseason. For the second straight year, the Als have a new Head Coach in Tom Higgins. He has a lot of CFL experience and will want to start off on the right foot but the biggest change of all is at QB. Troy Smith will have huge shoes to fill as he will be the one replacing Anthony Calvillo for the starting job. As well the Als added an old NFL veteran in Chad Johnson who will join a great receiving corps with S.J Green, and sophomore Duron Carter. With SB Jamel Richardson released, expect Carter to see more balls thrown his way and being a huge downfield threat. The defence remains the same except without MLB Shea Emry as he is now an Argo. If the Als want to make the playoffs for an eighteenth straight year, the offence will have to give the defence more run support or that streak will be in jeopardy.

4) Ottawa Redblacks: This is the first season for the expansion Ottawa Redblacks. Unlike most expansion franchises in their first season, this can be a competitive team as they signed an experienced QB in Henry Burris. He will be the one who will guide the offence with RB Chevon Walker, SB Paris Jackson and a good offensive line anchored by Joe Eppele, John Gott and J'Michael Deane. The defence will also have good talent with guys like DB Jovon Johnson, LB's T.J Hill and Anton McKenzie along with DT Keith Shologan and DE Malik Jackson. The Redblacks will give a scare to the majority of teams, but like most expansion franchises in their first season, they will miss the playoffs in 2014.

                                                       Western Conference

1) Saskatchewan Roughriders: The defending Grey Cup champions saw some huge names leave for the NFL during the off-season. Gone are RB Kory Sheets (Raiders) and SB Weston Dressler (Chiefs). Those two were reliable leaders on the Riders options. That will put more pressure on guys like SB's Chris Getzlaf and Taj Smith and WR Rob Bagg if he can stay healthy for an entire season. The offence will also miss the leadership that Geroy Simon brought as he announced his retirement. The defence saw guys like Craig Butler (Hamilton Tiger-Cats) and Keith Shologan (Ottawa Redblacks) leave. Saskatchewan's hope of winning a second consecutive championship simply rests on Durant's shoulders. The Riders will go wherever he goes.

2) BC Lions: Another season filled with expectations that led to another year of disappointment. The Lions finished third last year and were soundly defeated by the eventual Grey Cup champs in Saskatchewan. After seeing starting QB Travis Lulay go down with injury, GM Wally Buono acquired a valuable backup in Kevin Glenn. He gives them the experience that they need should Lulay go down with injury once again. The defence saw the reacquisition of Jamall Johnson who will join a terrific linebacking corps with Adam Bighill and Solomon Elimimian. The hopes of the Lions becoming the third team to play in the Grey Cup game in their home building, Lulay will have to stay healthy and RB Andrew Harris will have to continue to get the yards to help his team win.

3) Calgary Stampeders: The Stamps had a great regular season last year finishing first in the West. The only problem, they were not able to go to the Grey Cup. To get back to the big game this year, they will rely on QB Bo-Levi Mitchell as he can stay more healthy than Drew Tate can. RB Jon Cornish can still be effective as he led the league in both rushing yards and touchdowns last year. Their defence remains the same as last years but their hopes of going back to the Grey Cup will be solely on the shoulders of Mitchell and Cornish, the main leaders on the offensive side of the ball.

4) Edmonton Eskimos: Last year was another season of disappointment for the Eskimos. QB Mike Reilly did a good job last year but he could not avoid seeing Edmonton finish with a 4-14 record. To fix the mess, GM Ed Hervey hired Chris Jones to become their new head coach. He is a proven winner as he has won everywhere he has been such as Montreal, Calgary and Toronto. Hervey was not done there as he added players like DB Patrick Watkins from Toronto, former Lions receiver Akeem Foster and offensive linemen Justin Sorensen and Andrew Jones. These changes will help, but for the second consecutive year, the Eskimos will simply not make the playoffs.

5) Winnipeg Blue Bombers: Last season was a complete mess for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. They finished dead last in the East with a terrible 3-15 record in their first year at Investors Group Field. To improve on such a bad year, the offseason saw huge changes. First former all-star linebacker Mike O'Shea is the new Head Coach. He has some experience as he was special teams coordinator with the Argos for a couple of seasons. The offence is completely different as Drew Willy is the new starting QB. He gives them more options as he is more durable than his predecessor in Buck Pierce. While these additions will help, the Bombers lost two important pieces in Henoc Muamba (NFL) on defence and SB Terrence Edwards to retirement. The Bombers will improve but it will be another long year in the Peg as they will miss the playoffs for a third straight year.