SIMMONS: On Babcock, Trestman, Nylander negotiations and Lowry’s crazy numbers

Mike Babcock can be a walking contradiction at times. He wants to see someone take advantage of the opportunity presented with Auston Matthews out and William Nylander unsigned.

And so the Maple Leafs call up winger Trevor Moore, with eight goals in 10 American Hockey League games, after an impressive playoff run last spring, and what does Babcock do?

He doesn’t dress him Saturday night in Pittsburgh.

He continues on, giving more opportunity to those who have done next to nothing in the first segment of the NHL season, rather than try someone who has produced.

What exactly was Moore supposed to do to earn Babcock’s trust? Was he supposed to score 15 goals in 10 games?  Moore got called up because he earned the promotion – and also because at least half of the Leaf wingers have been invisible or unproductive to date.

You get a chance – but only when Babcock wants you to get a chance. The Leafs have a bottom half of the roster than needs to chip in with the occasional goal. There isn’t a need to have them score a lot. Just sometimes. And through 13 games, sometimes hasn’t come often.

Maybe Moore is just an injury fill-in, a depth piece for press box sitting. But how do you ever find out if you don’t play him?

THIS AND THAT

John Tavares doesn’t seem like the type who would succumb to pressure. He’s too calm,  too talented, too focused. So how do we explain, other than it’s early season, that Tavares has one goal and four points at home but six goals and 10 points on the road in fewer games played … The Leafs have never had a winger score 100 points in a season. Mitch Marner will be the first. Maybe not this year, but sometime in the future. In Marner’s past 41 games, he’s scoring at 102 point pace … Talked to a player agent about Matthews’ pending contract negotiations. I asked if Matthews missing 20 games last year and probably close to that this year, will factor in the negotiations. “The team will try to use it,” said the agent. “The agent will ignore it. In the end, it won’t factor much at all.” … It took 13 games for Patrick Marleau to finally look like Patrick Marleau … Leafs first pick Rasmus Sandin has played two games with the Marlies and been impressive in both games, scoring goals in each. The AHL is a tough place for an 18-year-old to play but Sandin is off to an impressive beginning. Sandin was a revelation in training camp and the same thus far in the AHL … John Tortorella thinks today’s NHL is far too buddy-buddy so he does his best to be buddy-buddy with no one … My early coach of the year favourite: Claude Julien in Montreal. That team plays hard, fast and with purpose. Reminds me of Vegas from a year ago … The cone of silence has fallen over the Nylander negotiations – if there are any going on – around the Leafs. Lou Lamoriello knew how to run a tight ship. GM Kyle Dubas is silent Lou on steroids.

HEAR AND THERE

Is it just me or does $31 million a year for Clayton Kershaw border on the crazy? Kershaw has a 2.39 earned run average career. But his numbers balloons to 4.32 in 24 post-season starts with a losing record … Can we waive the normal waiting period and immediately place Redblacks offensive lineman Jon Gott in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame? The in-game beer drinker was born for Grey Cup … I bought a ticket for an NHL game the other day, just so I could l watch linesmen drop the puck and then banish centres from the faceoff circle … I’ve covered enough Olympic Games to know this much: Whatever economics are being talked about on the way to the bid bear little resemblance to the economics after the Games are held. Believe what you want about the apparent Calgary Olympic bid but don’t believe the numbers being floated about … The NHL was against sports gambling until it found a way it could make a buck being a partner in it … Kawhi Leonard may be the most subtle star basketball player I’ve ever seen. Everything he does looks easy, smooth and in control. And he does so many different things on the court. Makes everybody better … Somebody is going to sign Josh Donaldson in free agency. But can’t imagine it will be for long term. And probably not for $20 million a year.

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SCENE AND HEARD

Late bloomer Yanni Gourde, who scored more goals and more points last season than Nylander, just signed with Tampa for six years and $5.1 million per year. He may be four-and-a-half years older than Nylander but that’s a value deal for the Lightning. Gourde has 12 points in 12 games this season … In their wild-card season of 2016, the Blue Jays averaged 41,880 in attendance per game. This season, they averaged 29,066 per game. That’s a drop of more than $50 million in ticket revenue and it should get worse next season … So let me see if I have this straight. President Masai Ujiri is sitting beside Nick Nurse when the coach hiring is announced. President Brendan Shanahan is sitting beside Kyle Dubas when the GM hiring is announced. President Bill Manning is at the podium for the firing of Marc Trestman Saturday. At the Charlie Montoyo hiring as manager of the Blue Jays, club president Mark Shapiro is nowhere near the podium or the microphones … Twitter can be funny, occasionally. After the Argo firing I saw this Saturday: “Jon Gruden should be available soon.” … My pick to coach the Argos: Hamilton assistant Orlondo Steinauer … I worry about Doug MacLean’s upbringing in PEI: He’s never seen The Wizard of Oz … Barry Trotz’s New York Islanders have more points, early season, than Trotz’s former team, the Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals … There’s a lot to be impressed about with the cool of Ron Hainsey, who just played his 1,000th NHL game. He’s averaged more than 20 minutes a game on defence for the past 13 seasons … The Michael Jordan promotion for the Sunday Night Football game of Tom Brady vs. Aaron Rodgers is about as good as it gets. As is the quarterback matchup … Mike Reilly is a free agent at the end of the CFL season and the Argos should go after him. But don’t be surprised if Jason Maas ends up as coach of the B.C. Lions and Reilly winds up as his quarterback again.

AND ANOTHER THING

Dear Ricky Ray. Please retire. Do it for your wife and kids … Trading for Kawhi Leonard was a wise move by Masai Ujiri, even if it’s a one-year run. Just as wise: Not trading away Pascal Siakam, whom San Antonio coveted when talking trade with Toronto … In the last 10 World Series, 59 games in all, only five of those games were played in less than three hours … The shortest book ever written: Veteran NHL players who love their coaches. They may come to love them years after retiring, but while playing for them, not a chance … Here’s what I’d like to see in the next NHL collective bargaining agreement: a 1% kickback of salary from current players to past players in need. That would form a fund of more than $20 million a year. That would certainly help former players in distress or financial need … James Reimer has two more years on his contract in Florida and one win in six starts this season. Can you say buyout? … How nutty is this? Kyle Lowry is averaging 11.2 assists per game to lead the NBA. He has never averaged more than 7.4 assists per game in any season. He’s up 62% in assists from a year ago. The Kawhi Factor … You know video tributes are becoming overdone when the healthy scratches like Connor Carrick are getting them …. This is Hockey Hall of Fame week coming up. Still think if Larry Murphy is in the Hall, Doug Wilson should be there alongside him … … I miss OUA football on television. I do … Happy birthday to Larry Holmes (69), Colin Kaepernick (31), Ryan Tepera (31), Paul Quantrill (50), Pekka Rinne (36), Howie Meeker (95), Cassius Vaughn (31) and Dez Bryant (30) … And hey, whatever became of Jason Blake?

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Elias Pettersson a top contender for rookie of the year

The top four picks in the 2017 NHL Draft – Nico Hischier of Jersey; Nolan Patrick of Philadelphia; Miro Heiskanen of Dallas and Cale Makar, soon to be with Colorado, all look like they’ll be fine players one day. But the fifth pick, the Swedish rookie Elias Pettersson, is already looking the part of all-time great in Vancouver after his just nine NHL games.

And it must have the teams that passed on him questioning how they could be so wrong in their assessment of Pettersson.

He has nine goals in nine games, had five points on Friday night in a wide-open game against Colorado, looks dangerous on almost every shift and is already having some Canucks watchers figuring where they will rate him alongside Pavel Bure and the Sedin brothers in the very near future.

The consensus going in to the draft was that Hischier and Patrick were 1-2 on most team’s boards and the Devils probably made the right choice in selecting Hischier. But even the draft mavens like Bob McKenzie and Craig Button had Pettersson ranked at No. 7 and No. 8 on their lists, respectively. Now everybody’s trying to figure out how Pettersson has lapped the field and has completely ended the conversation about the Canucks being in contention for next year’s top pick, either Jack Hughes or Kaapo Kakko.

The rookie of the year race doesn’t often end in November. Except this year, barring injury.

Trestman’s had it tough

Marc Trestman lost his quarterback, Ricky Ray, to injury in early season, and lost his way and so much more than that in a football season that ended with him losing his job as coach of the Argos.

I understand the firing Saturday and it doesn’t mean that replacing Trestman was the wrong thing to do, but I have both tremendous regard and personal admiration for all that Trestman has accomplished in life and in football.

This was the harshest season of all. His father passed away on Labour Day. His mother had to have her jaw rebuilt as she continues to battle a severe cancer. He left three times for Minnesota during the season to deal with family matters. His wife, coming off stem cell surgery, is fighting myeloma in her own way. And he was trying to juggle all that, while making sense of a football team that was lacking in talent (not his fault) and in coaching talent (his fault).

In a very short two seasons in Toronto, Trestman won an unlikely Grey Cup, celebrated at City Hall along with owner Larry Tanenbaum and general manager Jim Popp. In time, what became clear was that the Popp-Trestman Dream Team was far more nightmare than dream. Popp survives now under dubious circumstances. The pressure shifts to him. Trestman is gone and hopefully the worst football season of his life, personally and professionally, has peacefully come to an end.

Canadian teams not short on talent

Not that long ago, Canadian teams in the NHL were struggling to succeed and the talent base across the rosters was certainly limited.

Well, those days are gone.

It isn’t just Connor McDavid in Edmonton or Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner in Toronto. It’s right across the nation that the 23-and-unders are beginning to strut their stuff in impressive ways.

Vancouver has Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser. They scored a combined nine points on Friday night – and with 12 shots on goal between them. There’s Matt Tkachuk in Calgary, coming after Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan were already there. Winnipeg has Patrik Laine, an elite shooter, with Mark Scheifele already there and McDavid is clearly the most explosive offensive player in all of hockey.

In Montreal, where the Canadiens were expected to be terrible this season, people are finding out how great teenager Jesperi Kotkaniemi is going to be while in Ottawa, Erik Karlsson is gone and 21-year-old sophomore Thomas Chabot on defence has taken up some of the scoring lost.

The depth of young talent across the country likely means more and more Canadian teams will make the Stanley Cup playoffs this year and in the years that follow.

Source:: Toronto Sun – Movies