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Red Wings not interested in Leafs-style, ground-up rebuild

Red Wings not interested in Leafs-style, ground-up rebuild

19/10/2017, Canada, Multi Sports, SportsNet Publication, Article # 24518700

As teams such as Edmonton, Montreal, San Jose and the NY Rangers struggle to match the high hopes they started the season with, the Detroit Red Wings are overachieving and look more like a playoff contender than one that’s All-In for Dahlin.

By missing out on the playoffs last season, the Red Wings had their season cut short for the first time in 25 years. That streak greatness can be attributed to good management, smart drafting and a development system that produces many all-star talents.

But as those players have left the NHL, the Wings have been in decline, which has left many believing it’s time for general manager Ken Holland to blow up the roster and go into a full rebuild, a la Edmonton, Buffalo, Arizona and Toronto.

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As those teams have proven, though, that kind of approach can be long and unpredictable, and it’s not a road Holland is keen on taking.

“The rebuild is a long process to get to where you’re elite, I’m talking six, seven, eight years. We’re trying to be competitive,” Holland said on Hockey Central at Noon Wednesday. “It’s hard to make the playoffs. It’s a hard league and a hard conference. We’re trying to put a team on the ice we think is going to be competitive. We want to be playing big games in March.”

Holland pointed to how hard the Wings were hit by the injury bug last season, ranking among the highest man-games lost to injury. The team’s power play also went into the dump in the second half of last season, so modest improvement there and a little more luck with injuries should be enough to lift the Red Wings and keep them in the race longer.

Goaltending especially is key. Petr Mrazek, 25, was expected to completely take over the No. 1 job, but his struggles in 2016-17 put the pressure back on Jimmy Howard, who had a strong .927 save percentage in 26 games, limited by his own injury problems. As the 33-year-old Howard continues to fight for his job, Holland believes the netminder is key to his team’s bounce back.

“He had a great year last year. Unfortunately for us he had a groin injury and missed about seven weeks,” Holland said. “If we can get 50 games out of Howie and he’s played good in the early going — he (also) played good in the World Championship at the end of the year for USA.

“To compete for a playoff spot we’re going to need to have real good goaltending.”

As the Wings enjoy a strong 4-2-0 start, there’s currently less of an urgency to get back RFA Andreas Athanasiou, who still hasn’t agreed on a new contract with the team. His speed and offensive upside are just the kind of skills a young, scrappy team like Detroit needs in the long-term, though.

Holland acknowledged that he’s in communication with Athanasiou’s agent and would prefer to have the 23-year-old forward in the lineup, but as the negotiations go on, there is reason to be concerned about how productive he’d be when he returns.

“Andreas is gifted with a great pair of wheels and a good skill level — he can do things at high speed,” Holland said. “But you can see players who’ve missed training camp in past years and when you get behind in the NHL it’s a tough league to catch up on.

“The longer you go, I don’t care how talented you are, you start to get behind. It’s hard to get up to speed.”

The Red Wings are in Toronto Wednesday night for a game against the Leafs. And while Holland appears to not have any intention of stepping back and letting his team slide to the basement to try and get high draft picks, Detroit’s opponent is an example of what a rebuild can accomplish when it all comes together.

But the Wings GM reminds us that the Leafs weren’t built overnight.

“They’re one of the elite teams in the Eastern Conference,” Holland said. “They spent a lot of years drafting high skill players and they’re all out there. They’re a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.”



http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/red-wings-not-interested-leafs-style-ground-rebuild/
Bulls suspend Bobby Portis for ‘inexcusable’ fight with Nikola Mirotic

Bulls suspend Bobby Portis for ‘inexcusable’ fight with Nikola Mirotic

19/10/2017, Canada, Multi Sports, SportsNet Publication, Article # 24518698

The Chicago Bulls suspended Bobby Portis eight games for his involvement in an altercation that left his teammate Nikola Mirotic hospitalized with facial injuries and a concussion, the team announced Wednesday.

The team’s VP of basketball operations John Paxson spoke with reporters, saying both players took responsibility for the altercation but that Portis was the only player to throw a punch–an action he called “inexcusable.”

Mirotic is expected to miss four to six weeks.

More to come…



http://www.sportsnet.ca/basketball/nba/bulls-suspend-bobby-portis-inexcusable-fight-nikola-mirotic/
Leafs’ McElhinney talks Calvin Pickard: ‘The threat is always there’

Leafs’ McElhinney talks Calvin Pickard: ‘The threat is always there’

19/10/2017, Canada, Multi Sports, SportsNet Publication, Article # 24518554

TORONTO — Curtis McElhinney’s long, lonely wait is over.

The Toronto Maple Leafs’ backup goaltender will draw into his first real game under his new contract Wednesday, as the Leafs host the rested and resurgent Detroit Red Wings on the sleepy end of a back-to-back.

"It’ll be nice to hop back in there and get a feel for things again," McElhinney told Sportsnet in an interview.

After inking a two-year, $1.7-million commitment on July 1 and moving his family to Toronto for a contract McElhinney understands could be his last in the NHL, the career No. 2 is antsy to perform after an uneven showing in pre-season.

McElhinney says he prepares for each Frederik Andersen start as if it were his own, finding confidence through routine. The journeyman knew, barring injury or blowout, he’d have to wait until Game 7 of the season to taste the action.

"Goalies have tough jobs. You’re out there on an island, it feels like," sympathized Leafs defenceman Morgan Rielly.

"The way he played at the end of last year was outstanding. There’s no reason not to have confidence in him. Mac’s a great pro. He’s been doing it a long time. There’s never a doubt that when he gets his chance to go, he’ll be ready."

The 34-year-old has carved a good living wearing a ball cap and cradling a clipboard. Simple habits, McElhinney explained, help him deal with a jagged schedule where he could be called upon every couple days or sit dormant for four weeks at a time.

"When you’re in those longer stretches, the hardest part is getting the feel of the game back," McElhinney said. "Even nights I’m not playing, I’ve found for me to have success, I prepare as if I am playing. The routine stays the same."

Head coach Mike Babcock has said flatly that McElhinney will get "all the horrible starts" this season, and Andersen’s shutout of Washington’s high-octane offence Tuesday only underscored the great Dane’s No. 1 status.

Flip the calendar to last October, and fans will recall just how tight a leash Babcock can give his backup, a man who must spin horrible starts into wins. Jhonas Enroth was unable to do that, and vanished in a blink after four lost starts.

McElhinney says he feels no extra pressure to perform now that the Maple Leafs made a trade with Vegas for Calvin Pickard, a younger NHL backup who backstopped Team Canada to a silver medal at the 2017 world championships.

"The reality is, if I wasn’t doing my job, they’d go out and get someone anyways. That’s the road they wanted to take. Whether it’s somebody now or somebody when I don’t do my job, it’s the same thing," McElhinney said.

"The threat is always there."

Few understand the position’s tenuous job security like McElhinney.

Backing up Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky on an excellent Columbus Blue Jackets outfit last spring, McElhinney had posted a nice .924 save percentage — his best mark in four seasons as a Blue Jacket — when he fell out of favour with coach John Tortorella and was waived.

McElhinney understands why GM Lou Lamoriello traded for Pickard but was not given a heads up that the Leafs were looking to add another NHL-calibre goalie.

"I’m not privy to that type of information, and I don’t think I’m entitled to it, to be honest with you," he said. "It’s the nature of the beast. You’re blessed to have more than less."

The 25-year-old Pickard, an impending restricted free agent confident he belongs in the majors, sparkled in his first outing with the AHL Marlies, making 33 saves en route to a 3-2 victory over Providence Saturday.

"He looked like a goalie that was on another level," Marlies coach Sheldon Keefe told the Canadian Press. "That’s really positive for us and them."

But is it positive for McElhinney’s own NHL status?

"You’re trying to solidify as much as you can," McElhinney said, taking the organizational viewpoint.

"If you put yourself in a situation where you want to have success, depth is an important thing. At the end of the year, Fred got hurt at some critical times. I don’t know if it’s one of those things where you just want to add to your stable.

"I think [Pickard] is a good goalie. He’s definitely proven himself in Colorado and done very well, so depth will never be an issue. That’s a good thing."



http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/leafs-mcelhinney-talks-calvin-pickard-threat-always/
Bruins’ Marchand on evolving as a player: ‘I’m not going to be perfect’

Bruins’ Marchand on evolving as a player: ‘I’m not going to be perfect’

19/10/2017, Canada, Multi Sports, SportsNet Publication, Article # 24518699

During and after the 2011 Stanley Cup final, Brad Marchand was the most hated hockey player in Vancouver because of how he got under the skin of the Canucks, biting fingers on the ice and bruising fans’ pride off it as the Bruins snatched the Stanley Cup.

Despite the animosity, Marchand said Vancouverites mostly let him off the hook.

“After we won, there was a lot more things that would happen, getting chirped in town, but most of the time people were actually pretty good. I thought I would get a little more than I would tend to,” he said a day before Boston hosts the Vancouver Canucks at TD Garden.

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Calling in to talk with Vancouver’s Starting Lineup on Sportsnet 650, the Bruins left winger said he’s worked to grow his game from that provocative, dislikable opponent who is loved at home and hated everywhere else, into a rounded and productive player.

“There’s a lot of people that had that conversation with me,” he said, listing players, former head coach Claude Julien, and family who needled him into professionalism at the rink and with “extra-curriculars.”

“Claude spoke to me several times a year about it. My dad talked to me a ton as well. I had a lot of different people in my ear that pushed me to try to be more of a player than an agitator and continue to work on my game.”

He said the transition continues to test his discipline.

“At times it was [hard]. I don’t completely get away from that stuff. There’s something that tends to happen every year that gets me in trouble,” he said. “It was definitely a work in progress. It took a while and it’s still something I have to work on. I’m not going to be perfect this year but I’ll do my best.”

The Canucks, off a 3-0 win over the Senators in Ottawa, continue their five-game road stint Thursday in Boston. Marchand has six points in five games and looking to build off a 39-goal, 85-point season last year that nonetheless saw the Bruins eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.

He said Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin continue to be dangerous and, like the 37-year-old twins, Zdeno Chara is an example of NHL longevity.

“His work ethic is incredible. It seems like his goal every day is to prove people wrong and show he is still an incredible player,” Marchand said of his 40-year-old teammate. “He may play until he’s 60. He has that drive and that ability.”



http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/bruins-marchand-evolving-player-im-not-going-perfect/
Kobe Bryant sends words of motivation to Hayward on Instagram

Kobe Bryant sends words of motivation to Hayward on Instagram

19/10/2017, Canada, Multi Sports, SportsNet Publication, Article # 24518553

The horrific injury Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward suffered on NBA opening night Tuesday brought forth an outpouring of support and well-wishes from Hayward’s current peers, but on Wednesday he received a heartfelt message from a legend of the game.

Warning: Images may be disturbing.

Retired superstar Kobe Bryant took to Instagram to offer words of encouragement and motivation to Hayward.

Be sad. Be mad. Be frustrated. Scream. Cry. Sulk. When you wake up you will think it was just a nightmare only to realize it’s all too real. You will be angry and wish for the day back, the game back THAT play back. But reality gives nothing back and nor should you. Time to move on and focus on doing everything in your power to prepare for surgery, ask all the questions to be sure you understand fully the procedure so that you may visualize it in your subconscious while being operated on and better the chance of it’s success. Then focus on the recovery process day by day by day. It’s a long journey but if you focus on the mini milestones along the way you will find beauty in the struggle of doing simple things that prior to this injury were taken for granted. This will also mean that when you return you will have a new perspective. You will be so appreciative of being able to stand, walk, run that you will train harder than you ever have. You see the belief within you grow with each mini milestone and you will come back a better player for it. Best of luck to you on this journey my brother #mambamentality always.

A post shared by Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) on

The full caption reads as follows:

Be sad. Be mad. Be frustrated. Scream. Cry. Sulk. When you wake up you will think it was just a nightmare only to realize it’s all too real. You will be angry and wish for the day back, the game back THAT play back. But reality gives nothing back and nor should you. Time to move on and focus on doing everything in your power to prepare for surgery, ask all the questions to be sure you understand fully the procedure so that you may visualize it in your subconscious while being operated on and better the chance of it’s success. Then focus on the recovery process day by day by day. It’s a long journey but if you focus on the mini milestones along the way you will find beauty in the struggle of doing simple things that prior to this injury were taken for granted. This will also mean that when you return you will have a new perspective. You will be so appreciative of being able to stand, walk, run that you will train harder than you ever have. You see the belief within you grow with each mini milestone and you will come back a better player for it. Best of luck to you on this journey my brother #mambamentality always.

Bryant is no stranger to missing time due to injury as the twilight of his decorated career was nearly defined by him constantly and desperately rehabbing various ailments so his words come with weight.

There’s no timetable yet for Hayward, but it’s expected that the Celtics star will miss a considerable amount of time.



http://www.sportsnet.ca/basketball/nba/kobe-bryant-sends-words-motivation-hayward-instagram/
Gymnast McKayla Maroney alleges sexual abuse by team doctor

Gymnast McKayla Maroney alleges sexual abuse by team doctor

19/10/2017, Canada, Multi Sports, SportsNet Publication, Article # 24518195

Two-time Olympic medallist McKayla Maroney says she was molested for years by a former USA Gymnastics team doctor, abuse she said started in her early teens and continued for the rest of her competitive career.

Maroney posted a lengthy statement on Twitter early Wednesday that described the allegations of abuse against Dr. Larry Nassar, who spent three decades working with athletes at USA Gymnastics but now is in jail in Michigan awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to possession of child pornography. Nassar also is awaiting trial on separate criminal sexual conduct charges and has been sued by more than 125 women alleging abuse.

Nassar has pleaded not guilty to the assault charges, and the dozens of civil suits filed in Michigan are currently in mediation.

Maroney, now 21, says the abuse began while attending a U.S. National team training camp at the Karoyli Ranch in the Sam Houston Forest north of Houston, Texas. Maroney was 13 at the time and wrote that Nassar told her she was receiving "medically necessary treatment he had been performing on patients for over 30 years." Maroney did not detail Nassar’s specific actions.

Maroney, who won a team gold and an individual silver on vault as part of the "Fierce Five" U.S. women’s team at the 2012 Olympics in London, said Nassar continued to give her "treatment" throughout her career. She described Nassar giving her a sleeping pill while the team travelled to Japan for the 2011 world championships. Maroney says Nassar later visited her in her hotel room after the team arrived in Tokyo, where he molested her yet again.

"I thought I was going to die that night," Maroney wrote.

Maroney did not immediately return an interview request from The Associated Press. Attorneys for Nassar had no comment.

Maroney says she decided to come forward as part of the " MeToo" movement on social media that arose in the wake of allegations of sexual misconduct against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.

"This is happening everywhere," Maroney wrote. "Wherever there is a position of power, there is the potential for abuse. I had a dream to go to the Olympics, and the things I had to endure to get there, were unnecessary and disgusting."

Maroney called for change, urging other victims to speak out and demanding organizations "be held accountable for their inappropriate actions and behaviour."

Maroney is the highest profile gymnast yet to come forward claiming she was abused by Nassar. Jamie Dantzscher, a bronze medallist on the 2000 U.S. Olympic team, was part of the initial wave of lawsuits filed against Nassar in 2016. Aly Raisman, who won six medals while serving as the captain of the U.S. women’s team in both 2012 and 2016, called for sweeping change at USA Gymnastics in August.

USA Gymnastics launched an independent review of its policies in the wake of the allegations against Nassar in the summer of 2016 following reporting by the Indianapolis Star that highlighted chronic mishandling of abuse allegations against coaches and staff at some of its more than 3,500 clubs across the country.

In June, the federation immediately adopted 70 recommendations proffered by Deborah Daniels, a former federal prosecutor who oversaw the review. The new guidelines require member gyms to go to authorities immediately, with Daniels suggesting USA Gymnastics consider withholding membership from clubs that decline to do so. The organization also named Toby Stark, a child welfare advocate, as its director of SafeSport. Part of Stark’s mandate is educating members on rules, educational programs, reporting and adjudication services.

USA Gymnastics praised Maroney’s strength in a statement on Wednesday, adding it is "outraged and disgusted" by Nassar’s alleged conduct.

"We are strengthening and enhancing our policies and procedures regarding abuse, as well as expanding our educational efforts to increase awareness of signs to watch for and reporting suspicions of abuse, including the obligation to immediately report," USA Gymnastics wrote. "USA Gymnastics, its members and community are committed to working together to keep our athletes as safe as possible."

The organization had initially agreed to purchase the training facility at the Karolyi Ranch following longtime national team co-ordinator Martha Karolyi’s retirement shortly after the 2016 Olympics ended. The organization has since opted out of that agreement. The organization also fired president Steve Penny in March. A replacement has not been named.

Maroney, who lives in California and officially retired in 2015, encouraged others to speak out.

"Our silence has given the wrong people power for too long," she wrote, "and it’s time to take our power back."



http://www.sportsnet.ca/olympics/gymnast-mckayla-maroney-alleges-sexual-abuse-team-doctor/
1992 World Series Time Capsule: Flag fiasco, Sprague’s big homer

1992 World Series Time Capsule: Flag fiasco, Sprague’s big homer

19/10/2017, Canada, Multi Sports, SportsNet Publication, Article # 24518273

It’s been 25 years since the Toronto Blue Jays reached the World Series for the first time in franchise history. We all know the result—the Blue Jays beat the Braves in six games—but the specifics of the series can fade over the years.

In 1992, I was a kid listening to Tom Cheek and Jerry Howarth call the games on the radio. Over the next week I’ll be looking back at each game of the series on the 25-year-anniversary of the night it was played.

Final score: Blue Jays 5, Braves 4
Series tied 1-1
In a way, the success Ed Sprague enjoyed after 1992 allows us to forget just how improbable the biggest home run of his career really was. After 25 years, we remember Sprague as the third baseman who hit 36 home runs in 1996 and later became an all-star, not as the unproven catcher who stepped in to pinch hit in the ninth inning of a game his team trailed against Jeff Reardon, at the time baseball’s career saves leader.

The resulting two-run home run turned a 4-3 deficit into a 5-4 lead for a Blue Jays team just two outs away from another loss. Instead, the Blue Jays evened the World Series after a memorable day that saw the U.S. Marine Corps Colour Guard fly the Canadian flag upside down during the national anthems.

David Cone, a major summer acquisition who cost the Blue Jays Jeff Kent, didn’t pitch particularly well in his first career World Series start. But the bullpen picked him up with 4.2 scoreless innings capped off by Tom Henke’s fourth save of the playoffs.

How it looked on Toronto TV in 1992
City Toronto’s post-game highlight pack from Oct. 18, 1992:

City Toronto’s post-game report from Oct. 18, 1992:

Toronto Star Game 2 headlines from 1992:

Conventional-then-but-controversial-now managerial move:
Before Game 2, Braves manager Bobby Cox benched Ron Gant for Deion Sanders. Completely justifiable when you consider that Sanders was enjoying his best MLB season and Gant had struggled down the stretch. The two strikeouts in Game 1 didn’t help Gant’s case, either.

But he was still a powerful bat who had homered 32 times in both 1990 and 1991. A right-handed hitter, he crushed lefties, with a lifetime .840 OPS against them. So when the pitcher’s spot came up for the Braves in the bottom of the sixth inning with Toronto southpaw David Wells on the mound, a case could be made for pinch hitting with Gant. Instead, John Smoltz struck out looking and the Braves missed out on a chance to add to their lead. In the end, an add-on run or two would have been useful for Atlanta.

To be fair, there’s also a compelling case for leaving Smoltz in. He was a Hall of Famer at the height of his powers, and Gant was scuffling. Let’s leave at this, then: if this series were replayed today, it would not be a foregone conclusion that Smoltz would hit in that spot.

Gant would pinch run later in Game 2, but he didn’t score. He was benched in Games 3, 5 and 6, and the snub hurt. The following season, he told Tom Verducci, then of Sports Illustrated, that he had been hoping for an off-season trade. “I wanted to go somewhere where a team appreciated the things I can do,” he said.

Game 2 Boxscore (via Baseball Almanac)

Game 1: Oct. 17
Game 2: Oct. 18
Game 3: Oct. 20
Game 4: Oct. 21
Game 5: Oct. 22
Game 6: Oct. 24



http://www.sportsnet.ca/baseball/mlb/1992-world-series-time-capsule-flag-fiasco-spragues-big-homer/
Milos Raonic shut down for remainder of 2017 due to injury concerns

Milos Raonic shut down for remainder of 2017 due to injury concerns

19/10/2017, Canada, Multi Sports, SportsNet Publication, Article # 24518194

Milos Raonic is shutting himself down for the remainder of 2017 due to injury concerns, Tennis Canada announced Wednesday.

The Canadian has dealt with a variety of injuries this year.

He withdrew from both the Western & Southern Open and U.S. Open in consecutive weeks in August citing a wrist injury. These withdrawals were preceded by a disappointing second-round loss to Adrian Mannarino at the Rogers Cup.

Raonic underwent surgery on his left wrist in late August and returned to action roughly five weeks later only to retire from a match at the Japan Open in early October after suffering a calf injury.

It was the fifth event the 26-year-old withdrew from this year.

“It’s been a difficult and frustrating year,” Raonic said at the time. “I obviously wish I could have focused on tennis more rather than chasing help all the time.”

Raonic, currently ranked 12th on the ATP World Tour, finished 2017 with a 29-12 record.



http://www.sportsnet.ca/tennis/milos-raonic-shut-remainder-2017-due-injury-concerns/
Wickenheiser: Downie’s death feels like ‘we lost a teammate’

Wickenheiser: Downie’s death feels like ‘we lost a teammate’

19/10/2017, Canada, Multi Sports, SportsNet Publication, Article # 24518196

TORONTO — Canadian women’s hockey star Hayley Wickenheiser says the death of Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie feels like the loss of a teammate.

She says the band’s music was "a theme that ran through my entire hockey career and every team I’ve ever played on."

Downie, who announced last year he had brain cancer, died Tuesday night.

The hockey world is remembering him today for his love of the game and tributes to it through his music.

The NHL tweeted its condolences, adding that Downie’s "music and love for hockey will echo through arenas forever."

The Hip celebrated Canada’s favourite game in numerous songs, including "Fireworks" and "Fifty-Mission Cap."

Those tracks have both become standard on arena playlists, not only around the NHL but throughout Canada, from the junior A level to house league.

Several current and former NHL players took to Twitter to pay tribute to Downie, many recalling how Hip songs were staples of the dressing room.

"Those songs were constantly in our room," Wickenheiser said in an interview. "I remember many times as a team we’d be jumping around singing whether it was ‘Courage’ or whatever song it might have been. They were part of the fabric of what our team was. I kind of feel we lost a teammate almost."

A devoted Boston Bruins fan, Downie sat alongside Bobby Orr at a playoff game last spring.

Doug Gilmour, a fellow Kingston, Ont., native, said he was heartbroken to hear the news.

"Few Canadians touched this country like Gord Downie," he wrote. "Thank you for everything you gave us. My deepest condolences."

At the 2002 Winter Olympics, Downie pulled some members of the gold-medal winning Canadian women’s hockey team on stage during a concert at the University of Utah.

"Our whole team was on stage with Gord and the whole band," recalled Wickenheiser. "Nothing crazy (or) fancy ever. It was just those guys usually playing and all the athletes, the hockey team, sitting around and having a beer and chit-chatting. Just the ultimate Canadian experience when you think of how humble and understated they were and he was, but just so brilliant in terms of the lyrics and the stuff that he put together that really resonated with athletes and our team through the years."

Wickenheiser said his death is a "loss for Canada."

"We all knew he didn’t have much time left," she said. "It’s a big hole in the fabric of music and sport and who we are as Canadians."



http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/wickenheiser-downies-death-feels-like-lost-teammate/
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