By Lori Bennett
National Sports Columnist
Blue Jays Babble
Over the Sept. 1 weekend, the Toronto Blue Jays were in Colorado for a weekend series against the Rockies. This was a series the Jays needed to win against a lesser team.
They went into the series two-and a-half games back of a wild card spot.
On Friday night, the Blue Jays sent Hyun-Jin Ryu to the mound,
and he was solid in five innings. But the bats were the story on a night when the bullpen struggled, hitting their way to a 13-9 win.
Danny Jansen contributed to the offense with a sixth inning homerun before being hit by a foul ball and
fracturing his finger. He joined Bo Bichette and Matt Chapman on the injured list. If the Jays were to gain ground in the wild card race, they would have to do it without some core players.
On Saturday, the Jays fell behind early on a rough night for Yusei Kikuchi, and despite a late comeback attempt the game ended in an 8-7 loss. In the rubber match on Sunday the pitching was iffy, but the bats
pulled out a 7-5 win.
From Colorado the Blue Jays headed to Oakland for another must-win series — three games
against the Athletics. They opened on Monday, squeaking out a 6-5 win in the 10th inning, despite a
late push by Oakland. On Tuesday, Chris Bassitt pitched a beauty, going eight innings and allowing just one run on seven hits. The Jays claimed a 7-1 win. Toronto went for the series sweep on Wednesday, but the bullpen could not close out a solid start from Ryu, and the result was a 5-2 loss.
It wasn’t the first time this summer that questions were raised about Manager John Schneider’s pitching decisions. He removed Ryu after just five innings, when he appeared to be cruising, only to have the bullpen give up the game. If Schneider doesn’t trust Ryu to go deeper than five innings, there are real questions about who will make the starting rotation if Toronto does make the playoffs.
The Baby Blue left the series holding the final American League wild card spot, when just a week before
it looked like their season was toast. They had Thursday off before starting a 10-game homestand, with the Kansas City Royals due to be in town for a weekend series to kick things off. Every game counts now.
With rookie camps opening and the days to training camps quickly winding down, NHL teams are taking that final look at their rosters and considering their last moves. Here’s a quick look at one thing each of the Canadian teams might like to pull off in the short term.
The Montreal Canadiens would like to deal with the traffic jam in their crease. Jake Allen, their veteran leader who is under contract for two more years, was the starter to begin last season. By Spring, Samuel Montembeault had claimed the starter role. He’s a pending unrestricted free agent, and the Habs
will want to extend him.
Cayden Primeau, once believed to be the starter to succeed Carey Price, is not yet NHL-ready and
will have to pass through waivers to play in Laval.
Then there’s Casey DeSmith, acquired in the trade that saw Mike Hoffman leave town. That’s too many goalies, and GM Kent Hughes would probably like to trade one before camp opens.
The one thing the Ottawa Senators would like to get done before camp opens is a new contract for Shane Pinto. Pinto is a restricted free agent who is due a significant pay raise, and as of press deadline the Sens may have been short on cap space to make it happen.
Another deal may be necessary before they can lock down Pinto. Ottawa did get one important piece of business covered on Wednesday, signing defenseman Jake Sanderson to an eight-year contract extension.
The Toronto Maple Leafs don’t really need to, but they would sure like to resolve the William Nylander situation. We all remember one training camp Willy didn’t attend, and there was little else discussed in Toronto until he signed.
Of course, he is under contract and if he is still on the roster he will be at camp. But until he has been resigned or traded, his contract status will be the obsession of fans and media. GM Brad Treliving would
love to have this situation sorted before camp opens, but that may be wishful thinking.
One thing on the mind of Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff is two stars entering the final year of
their contracts. After dealing Pierre Luc Dubois early in the off-season, fans were waiting for Chevy to either re-sign or trade centreman Mark Scheifele and/or goaltender Connor Hellebuyck. Neither needs
to happen immediately, but it feels like the status of the team hangs on what these two choose.
The Calgary Flames would like to settle the situation with at least one of their pending UFAs. As of press deadline, the Flames had a whopping eight players entering the last year of their contracts.
These include two centremen — Elias Lindholm and Mikael Backlund, and six defensemen. GM Craig Conroy has previously said he does not want to begin the season with that many pending UFAs, but
it’s also unlikely he intends to resign all of them and making a trade is challenging in a cap-strapped environment. Lindholm is likely the priority contract to resolve.
One thing the Edmonton Oilers are focused on is securing cheap forward depth. If the Leafs have a
Core Four in their forward group, the Oilers have a Core Five. McDavid, Draisaitl, Hyman, Kane and Nugent-Hopkins account for a whopping 44 per cent of the team’s salary cap. This is less than the 48.5
per cent the Leafs pay for their four guys, but still results in a need to fill in the rest of the forward group with inexpensive options.
They will look in two directions. They need young players like Dylan Holloway and Raphael Lavoie to secure their places, and they hope to strike oil with one of the professional tryouts coming to camp. GM Ken Holland would love to know he can count on two or three of these guys.
The Vancouver Canucks are a team whose direction is hard to read, but they should have one priority leading up to training camp, with 24-year-old centreman Elias Pettersson entering the last year of his contract. Extending him is a priority.
No doubt GM Patrik Allvin would just as soon have that out of the way, but the player has reportedly put contract talks on hold and just wants to focus on the season. Perhaps Pettersson would also like a
better sense of the team’s direction before he commits.
The original six teams in the Professional Women’s Hockey League have continued their development
this past week, with the announcement of free agent signings that signified the foundational core of each new team. Teams were allowed to add up to three free agents, and the group announced was a collection of Olympians.
The first three players signed in Montreal are forwards Marie-Philip Poulin and Laura Stacey, and goaltender Ann-Renee Desbiens.
Ottawa signed forwards Brianne Jenner and Emily Clark, and netminder Emerance Maschmeyer.
In Toronto, the early core includes defender Renata Fast and forwards Sarah Nurse and Blayer Turnbull.
Boston added forward Hilary Knight, defender Megan Keller and goaltender Aerin Frankel.
Minnesota signed forwards Kelly Pannek and Kendall Coyne Schofield, and defender Lee Stecklein.
New York was the last team to name their foundational three and had not done so by press deadline.
A 15-round draft is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 18 in Toronto, where the six teams will build out their roster in advance of the November training camps
By Lori Bennett