Here’s what you need to know this week about the sports you love.
Last weekend, the Winnipeg Jets and the Columbus Blue Jackets pulled off a blockbuster trade. Pierre-Luc Dubois wanted out of Columbus, and the situation deteriorated quicker than a Trump hairdo in a Wreckhouse windstorm.
Following a game where Dubois mailed it in and the coach nailed him to the bench, GM Jarmo Kekäläinen decided it was time to pull the trigger. Hockey Insider Darren Dreger reported that 20+ teams expressed interest in Dubois.
In Winnipeg, GM Kevin Chevaldayoff had his own unhappy camper. Patrik Laine, in the last year of his contract, preferred to move on from the Jets.
A player swap seemed logical, except Columbus desperately needed a centre in the deal. So Chevy dipped into his bag of Les Misérables and hauled out Columbus native Jack Roslovic, a young centre and unsigned restricted free agent.
Laine and Roslovic for Dubois and a 3rd round pick. Done deal. The Jets now have one of the league’s best 1-2 punches down the middle in Mark Scheifele and Dubois. But they paid dearly to get it.
Meanwhile, the Blue Jackets are laughing at landing one of the NHL’s elite goal scorers, but at centre, significant question marks remain.
So who won the deal? We may have to wait a bit to see who asks to be traded first.
Elsewhere in the NHL, on Wednesday, Jan. 27, the Pittsburgh Penguins announced GM Jim Rutherford had resigned for personal reasons. Rutherford has three Stanley Cups, two earned since joining the Pens in 2014. The veteran GM has been widely criticized, but he was brought in with a mandate – win in Sid and Geno’s window.
Referred to as Brass Balls Rutherford by exactly no one but me, he was famously “all in” and fearlessly traded away assets to build around Crosby and Malkin. You can poke holes in specific deals, but it’s hard to penetrate those Cups.
Another storyline I’m watching is the race for the Calder Trophy, awarded to the NHL’s rookie of the year. At least six players are worth some attention. Let’s start with the top picks of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.
Drafted 1st overall by the New York Rangers, Alexis Lafrenière was scoreless in his first six games. Number 2 pick Quinton Byfield is out with an injury after being assigned to the AHL but is expected to see action with the Los Angeles Kings this season. Tim Stützle, the 3rd pick, was also sidelined by injury, but in three games with the Ottawa Senators has one goal.
Amongst Canadian teams, keep an eye on three more kids.
Ville Heinola, drafted 20th in 2019 by Winnipeg, was scoreless after seeing action in one game. Nick Robertson, selected at 53 by Toronto in 2019, was held pointless in one game before being injured. In Montreal, Alexander Romanov has one goal and one assist in six games for the Habs. He was the 38th pick in the 2018 draft.
The stairs that get you out of the basement are never as fun as the ones that get you to the penthouse, but the Toronto Raptors are climbing back to .500 after a nice run of six wins in eight games. They started the season with two noticeable holes – size in their forward group and depth off the bench.
When Pascal Siakam went down last week to injury, Coach Nurse turned to Stanley Johnson to join the starting line up and that decision was rewarded. Johnson was a factor in the win and made a case to carry a bigger load from the bench.
The Raptors are banged up and time is running out for them to move up the standings before trade deadline.
Blue Jays Babble
The Toronto Blue Jays dipped into the free agent market again this week. Marcus Semien has joined the Jays on a one-year $18-million deal.
Semien has been in the majors for eight years, spending the last six seasons with the Oakland Athletics. He has primarily played shortstop but is expected to move to second base in Toronto, with Bo Bichette secure at short.
As of press deadline, the Blue Jays have committed more than $180 million to free agents, strengthening the outfield, infield and pitching depth. The Jays might be spending like a drunken sailor, but the moves might not be enough unless they can bolster their pitching options.
Pitching you say?
On Wednesday night the Jays traded three prospects to the Mets for lefty Steven Matz.
Matz is not the ace fans may have hoped for, and the Jays may not be done. They’re hoping pitching coach Pete Walker can help Matz compete for a spot in their starting rotation.
The stage has been set for the final game of the NFL season. Super Bowl LV will take place at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa on Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021.
Patrick Mahomes cleared concussion protocol in time to lead the Kansas City Chiefs to a 38-24 rout over the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship game.
In the NFC, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the Green Bay Packers to the tune of 31-26, and Tom Brady is going to the Super Bowl without Bill Belichick.
It’s probably poor form to say so in a sports column, but my favourite part of the Super Bowl is the food.
Let me introduce you to Valerie Bertinelli’s Potato Skins with Beer Cheese. Easy, delicious, and you can find them in the Google machine.
Lori Bennett is a social worker, policy professional, recreation softball player and coach, and new ukulele-ist. A Newfoundlander living in Toronto, Lori loves a good hockey chat or even a debate, just as long as it remains respectful. She posts her gametime thoughts on twitter, particularly for hockey and the Montreal Canadiens, as @lori10habs.