My client, Green Relief, attended the Lift Cannabis Expo in Vancouver last month and spoke with some of the brightest minds in the medical cannabis field to get their take on where the industry is headed.
Matt Calvert slashes an unsuspecting Tom Kuhnhackl at the end of the Blue Jackets 4-1 loss to the Pens. Calvert only received a 1-game suspension for the slash. Video courtesy of Sportsnet.
Roman Polak goes down with a gruesome looking lower-body injury in the 2nd period of Game 2 against the Washington Capitals. Video courtesy of Sportsnet.
If there's one thing I love more than sports, it's sports in international competition format. On March 6th, The World Baseball Classic kicks off in Seoul, South Korea and will feature 16 teams. Below is the bracket for the entire tournament.
Poor Michel Therrien. He got dumped on Valentine’s Day only to find out that his now ‘ex’ got back together with their ‘ex.’ The same ‘ex’ that he got dumped for 14 years ago. Tuesday, February 14th marked the end of the second Michel Therrien era in Montreal and thus began the second Claude Julien era in La Belle Province.
The firing of Michel Therrien is about 9 months overdue—the truth is, he should have been fired at the end of last season. Instead, Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin went to the media to assure them that Michel Therrien wasn’t going anywhere. He attributed the Canadiens downward spiral last season to Carey Price going down with a right knee injury in November. Losing Price for most of the 2015-2016 season did factor into the Canadiens’ finishing near the bottom of the League, but so did Therrien’s average coaching skills.
After beginning his NHL coaching career with Montreal in 2000, Therrien’s second stint as an NHL head coach came in December of 2005 with the Pittsburgh Penguins. His first half-season with the Penguins was poor, with Pittsburgh amassing a 14-29-8 record. The following season, however, Therrien coached the Penguins to one of the most successful single-season improvements in NHL history, finishing with a 47–24–11 record (105 points), a berth in the 2007 playoffs and a nomination for the Jack Adams Award. The following season, the Penguins would make it to the Stanley Cup Finals but eventually lost to the Detroit Red Wings in 6 games. The 2008-2009 season would not be so kind to Therrien. During this time, Crosby was plagued with minor injuries which kept him out of the line-up. After a hot start, the Penguins entered a considerable slide and as a result, Therrien was fired in February 2009.
Therrien would make his return as the Canadiens’ bench boss in June 2012. His first season back was a successful one. The Habs finished first in the Northeast Division after finishing last the year before. In the 2013-2014, he led the Canadiens to the Eastern Conference Finals where they eventually lost to the New York Rangers in 6 games. Marc Bergevin was liking what he saw out of Therrien’s second go with Montreal and rewarded him with a 4-year contract extension, making Therrien the highest-paid coach in the history of the Canadiens. Cut to the 2015-2016 season, the Habs shot out to a 19-4-3 record before losing Carey Price to injury and ending the season with a .500 record and failing to make the playoffs.
Montreal got out to a fast start again this season, going 13-1-1 in their first 15 games, placing them comfortably atop the Atlantic Division. However, the Canadiens have been among the worst teams in the League since the start of 2017 and though they’re still first in the Atlantic, the team has been flat out bad. Price has been substandard, Weber’s cooled off and Plekanec has been a shell of his former self. Are you sensing a pattern here? Michel Therrien is an average coach who looks great when his superstars are firing on all cylinders but has no idea what to do they aren’t. He’s not a player’s coach; that much has been obvious this season. He had issues with Subban’s ‘personality,’ the Carey Price stare down and then the GM and players only meeting that was held last week. The fact that some people have found Therrien’s firing and Claude Julien’s hiring surprising is strange to me.
Even casual hockey observers could see that Michel Therrien was a huge part of the problem in Montreal over the past 2+ seasons. As for Claude Julien, hiring him makes the most sense. He’s been the best NHL head coach over the last 10 years, he comes from the rival Bruins and—he speaks French. Realistically, what other options did Marc Bergevin have? Not Gerard Gallant. He has limited NHL head coaching experience and had already served as Therrien’s assistant coach from 2012-2014. Ken Hitchcock? He doesn’t speak French, is almost 70 and has already hinted at retiring this year. Who else does that leave? Jack Capuano, Kirk Muller? Both don’t speak French and one has limited head coaching experience.
Bergevin needed someone who checked all the boxes to take a team that is sitting in first place with tons of talent and get them back on track. Claude Julien is that guy. There’s no way of knowing if Julien can be the type of coach for Montreal that he was for Boston but at this point, he was Montreal’s best option.
Chalk one up for the little guys, or in this case, little guy. Mitch Marner stands 6’0 and weighs 170lbs soaking wet. He’s plays centre and was drafted 4th overall in 2015 by the Leafs. He was a dynamo in junior, plying his trade with the powerhouse London Knights for 3 years, racking up 301 points in 184 games. He was lauded for being an offensive star but pundits also deemed him to be too slight, not strong enough to go toe-to-toe with the big boys of the NHL. It would take time “they” said for him to fill out, get stronger and round into a complete NHL player.
Cut to 2016; Auston Matthews was all the rage. Matthews, the kid who grew up playing grassroots hockey in Arizona, who spurned conventional norms and went over to Europe to play professionally instead of going the college or major junior route. Matthews was going to be “the guy,” the one who the not-so-subtle tanking Leafs were going to scoop up first overall and tear up the league. It rang true, at least for 1 game. As if it was written in a script, Matthews had 4 goals in his NHL debut and immediately, sports media outlets everywhere were anointing him the “next one.”
No rookie in the history of the NHL has ever scored 4 goals in his NHL debut. The bar was set, this kid is must see TV. NBCSN suddenly began picking up the broadcast rights to Leafs games, something that would have been unimaginable a year ago. They were talking about him on the Dan Patrick Show; a daily, nationally broadcast sports radio show in the US that almost never talks about hockey. Do you know what comes with all the attention and spotlight? Pressure—lots of pressure. Auston Matthews is 19 years old, playing in one of the most overexposed sports markets in North America. Can you guess what happens to a 19 year old when an entire continent is focused on every move you make on the ice? That spotlight becomes brighter and brighter and that attention begins to sound louder and louder. The end result—a highly publicized scoring drought.
Did you already forget about Mitch Marner? Don’t worry, you’re not the only one. The entire league, and to some extent the Maple Leafs, had made Marner a bit of an afterthought coming into this season. He’ll score a few goals, put up some points but hey, no pressure kid, you didn’t score 4 in your debut, we don’t expect the world of you. Since scoring 0 points in his NHL debut, Marner has 16 points (7G, 9A) in 17 games. He’s 1 point behind veteran James Van Riemsdyk for the Leafs scoring lead—oh, he also has 3 GWG, leading the Leafs in that category. It must be a nice feeling for Marner, playing without that pesky pressure. If Marner suddenly hits a 5-game scoring drought, a few people would notice, maybe even ask him about it a couple of times but there still won’t be that pressure. He wasn’t drafted first overall, he wasn’t expected to be the entire solution instead of being only a part of it. Anything Mitch Marner accomplishes this season will be considered a success because the expectations for him weren’t sky-high.
This isn’t a slight on Marner, in fact, it’s the opposite. I remember being at Leafs training camp in the summer of 2015 and while most people were focusing on William Nylander, I paid particular attention to Marner. I remember one dry land drill that all the prospects had to perform over and over and over again. One stick was laid down horizontally in front of each player and they had to sweep a puck around that stick without switching their stance. It was a monotonous and boring drill but I remembered watching Marner and he was so focused and honed in on this task. Even when the other players would stop and have a look of slight apathy on their faces, Marner kept his head down and never broke focus. I got the sense at that moment that Mitch Marner would be a very effective NHL player sooner rather than later.
Two weeks ago, I talked about how it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility that Marner be in the Calder conversation come the New Year. So far, he’s continued to prove me right. I covered the Leafs vs Panthers game on November 17th; it was my first opportunity to watch Marner, Matthews and the rest of the rookies in person. Watching Marner play live further galvanized my opinion of him; of course, this little play helped. He was good in all zones, was rarely knocked off the puck and his back checking was on point. The next time you’re wondering why Marner is outplaying Matthews so far in this young season just remember: It’s easier to play to your potential when the weight of expectation isn’t squarely on your shoulders.
With the start of the 2016-17 NHL season just over 3 weeks away, we've combed through the schedule and found the 11 games you can't miss this upcoming season.
First overall draft picks always come with plenty of fanfare for their NHL debut but that gets magnified when the team that drafted you is the so-called 'Centre of the Hockey Universe.' October 12th marks the NHL debut for Auston Matthews and it comes against a division rival; all eyes in Canada will no doubt be glued to televisions for this one
October 15th will be an unofficial holiday in the city of Toronto as Matthews makes his long-awaited home debut when the big but, not-so-bad-anymore Bruins, pay a visit to the ACC. An upper deck ticket will cost you a cool $200 US and that will probably come with an obstructed view.
I know, you're probably thinking this list is the 11 LEAFS games you should watch but, we assure you, these games are on here for a reason. A very laid back, Finnish fellow by the name of Patrik Laine was picked #2 behind Matthews and October 19th marks the first time the top 2 picks of the 2016 Entry Draft will face each other. With the season being only a week old at this point, it won't really determine too much but these 2 guys will dig deep for big performances.
A rematch of last season's Stanley Cup Final, the Sharks pay a visit to the Pens October 20th and will no doubt be looking for a pound of flesh. The Sharks were ousted in 6 games thanks in large part to the play of Sidney Crosby and the stellar goaltending of unknown rookie, Matt Murray.
Yes, the Maple Leafs...again! We can't help it; they have the first overall pick who will probably be a stud NHLer, so they're going to be talked about ALOT in the coming weeks/months. November 1st, McDavid and company visit Toronto and we get to see the two most talked about first overall picks since Crosby and Ovechkin, go head-to-head. If the World Cup has been any indication so far, it'll be a treat to watch McDavid and Matthews battle on the ice. It will also be fun to see who's better at protecting a superstar, Matt Martin or Milan Lucic.
At first glance, this might look like just another game on a Friday night but when you look a little closer, you'll see it's a lot more than that. Both these teams are loaded with young, dynamic talent that are ready to break out and no longer be seen as the NHL's bottom feeders. Both these teams have superstar forwards (Max Domi/Connor McDavid), defensive stalwarts (Oliver Ekman-Larsson/Darnell Nurse) and grizzled veteran leadership (Shane Doan/Matt Hendricks). Oh, let's not forget Anthony Duclair and Jesse Puljujärvi. Both these teams also share the same weakness; unsettled goaltending, so the goals will come fast and furious.
Toronto's goaltending situation last year was tenuous, to say the least, and no one took the brunt of the fanbase's wrath more than Jonathan Bernier. Once seen as Toronto's answer to their goaltending woes, quickly became the team whipping boy. Bernier was traded to the Anaheim Ducks on July 8th, a move that came after the Leafs had acquired the Ducks much-maligned goaltender, Frederik Andersen. December 19th marks the first time the 2 teams square off against one another and the first opportunity for both netminders to stick it to their former teams.
The city of Montreal nearly burned to the ground on June 29th, 2016. This was the day that Marc Bergevin traded P.K. Subban to the Nashville Predators in exchange for perennial Norris Trophy contender, Shea Weber. This was by far the most divisive trade for the club since Patrick Roy was given away for a bag of pucks in 1995. January 3rd will be the first opportunity Subban has to light up his former team and the first time Shea Weber will be able to remind Predators fans what a defensively-responsible d-man looks like.
It's been a while since a New Jersey Devils game was must-see TV but when you make a trade for a team's hometown son, people are going to take notice. With a glut of young, talented wingers, Taylor Hall was deemed expendable by Oiler brass and traded to the Devils on June 29th in exchange for defenceman, Adam Larsson. No one was more shocked by the trade than Hall himself and he made it known that he felt wronged by the Oilers. It was a messy split with rumours of Hall having too big a personality in the dressing room and Oscar Klefbom doing his 'my-comments-were-misinterpreted' routine stating that Hall 'didn't play well against tough teams.' January 7th is the first meeting between the 2 teams and it's a safe bet that Taylor Hall will be amped up.
Everything that was stated above, plus this: January 12th will be the first and only time Taylor Hall will visit Rogers Place in the regular season. He'll no doubt get a warm welcome from fans and just might throw a few expletives in the direction of Oilers management.
Take Auston Matthews' ACC debut plus Taylor Hall's return to Alberta, multiply it by 750 and you'll have the return of P.K. Subban to the Bell Centre. Fans will have to wait for almost the entire NHL regular season but on March 2nd, the Prodigal Son returns to the place that made him (in)famous. Subban was and still is a beloved figure in Montreal and fans will still, without a doubt, be seething about Subban's departure; even more so if the Habs aren't in playoff contention come March. Look for Subban to put on a show and stick it to Bergevin and Co.
Around this time every year, NHL teams begin signing free agents to Professional Tryout Contracts (PTO) for the preseason. These players will report to training camp in the hopes of landing an NHL contract. Here's a little infographic I did showing the 15 free agents who are currently on PTO's with NHL teams.