Monday Morning Chatter
So this is officially Yu Darvish week in Toronto, right?
Not really. We'll find out probably around 9 p.m. tonight if the Blue Jays even get to try to negotiate a contract with the Japanese right-hander, and if that happens, it will be another month or so of chatter and speculation and debate about a player who may or may not be able to fill a major hole in the Jays rotation next season.
For the Jays, it's all good. This - assuming the Jays are the highest bidder - alters the public conversation to some degree, making Alex Anthopoulos look aggressive and Rogers willing to spend to get better. If Darvish doesn't sign, the Jays can claim he wanted too much and all that's been lost is the time spent chasing Darvish.
Me, I'm thinking the development of centre fielder Colby Rasmus will have a lot more to do with whether the Jays progress next season than if Darvish is signed. Then again, both wouldn't be bad, right?
Other items of note:
--Of Leafs top players - Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul, Dion Phaneuf - none are nearly as accomplished defensively as they are offensively. That's the team's mindset. It's different in Chicago, say, where two-way centre Jonathan Toews sets the tone, or in Boston, where Claude Julien's defence-first approach means everyone has to check, or in Detroit where Pavel Datsyuk is a superb defender.
Don't get me wrong. The Leafs are fun to watch and all, sort of in the same way Doug Carpenter made it fun to watch the club again two decades ago. But they're really testing the odds to imagine that being in the bottom five of the NHL defensively will result in a playoff berth.
--It's always a mistake to look at concussions to individual players as only meaningful until those players return to action.
For my money, Kings blueliner Drew Doughty hasn't been quite the same since he was hit and concussed by Erik Cole, then of Carolina, in late October, 2010. In the same way, to me Tomas Kaberle was never quite the same after he was concussed by a late hit from New Jersey's Cam Janssen in 2007. In that light, the subsequent bout between the late Wade Belak and Janssen that supposedly "evened" the score seems even more laughable.
--Windsor's Ty Bilcke is now up to 22 fights on the OHL season with Christmas still a week away. That's a pathetic statement on the modern game all on its own, as bad as Gary Bettman's "maybe it is, maybe it isn't" comment on whether fighting in the NHL is an inherently dangerous pursuit. What's really sad is the way Bilcke parrots the "just standing up for my teammates" nonsense. Enough of that particular lie, okay? These guys fight 99 per cent of the time for themselves and only themselves.
--The biggest junior news on the weekend was the acquisition of Minnesota prospect Charlie Coyle by the Memorial Cup champion Saint John Sea Dogs. Coyle, orginally drafted by San Jose and included in the Brent Burns/Dany Heatley deal last summer, bolted Boston University just ahead of the academic police and just days after the team's leading scorer, Islanders draftee Corey Trivino, was kicked out of school after being charged with sexually assaulting a fellow student.
Coyle was courted by four QMJHL teams and finally agreed to join Saint John, a rather unusual mid-season situation. What clinched that deal is unclear, but in a world where there's all kinds of rumours about monies paid under the table to junior stars, there's bound to be speculation on this front on this transaction. Coyle is currently with Team USA for the upcoming world juniors and will join the talent-loaded Sea Dogs after the tournament.
--Losing on Sunday was probably the best thing that could have happened to the previously unbeaten Green Bay Packers. Now all the debate about the final weeks of the season, and whether they should go for a perfect mark or rest key players, is moot. They can just go about their business. Losing that game makes a Packers' Super Bowl win more likely, not less so.
--The Bills have now lost seven in a row, games in which $59 million quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has thrown 12 INTs and only eight TD passes, a slump that is putting the future of head coach Chan Gailey in serious doubt after a strong start to the season.
"If we don't get this thing cleaned up, we're all going to be looking for jobs next year," cornerback Drayton Florence told the Buffalo News. "Myself included."
The staggering regression of the club also changes the southern Ontario dynamic after it was at least worth theorizing that an improved Buffalo team might be able to make further inroads into this market, particularly with the Argos so awful and boring.
Now, the Bills are terrible again, Fitzpatrick doesn't look like a franchise QB and the Argos have added a new head coach and a new star quarterback.
Suddenly, the Bills don't look like very much of a threat at all.
--it only makes sense that receiver Andy Fantusz would be the apple of the Argos' eye when the CFL free agent season opens Feb. 16. But it seems unlikely he'll be in the Double Blue, at least if he's looking for $200,000 or more per season, the rumoured asking price.
This is where the acquisition of quarterback Ricky Ray has a trickle down effect. As it stands, GM Jim Barker will be asking two or more Argos to take pay cuts, plus he's got free agents to sign as he tries to fit 42 players under a $4.35 salary cap. When you're paying one player $400,000 or more, it gets tricky in a hurry. Fantusz would have to want to come to Toronto at a discount.
One last thought on the Ray trade with Edmonton. The Argos gave up QB Steven Jyles, kicker Grant Shaw and their first round pick in the Canadian draft (second overall) in the deal. Don't forget, however, that they also gave up their first round pick last year to get Jyles. This is a very slippery slope.