It’s the Deee-fense, stupid.

Teddy Bridgewater is the biggest story at Minnesota Vikings training camp. At least, he’s the biggest story if you operate a national radio or TV show and it’s unlikely you know much of anything about the Vikings.

It actually gets comical after awhile. Turn on Fox Sports or NBC Sports or ESPN and you invariably get, right off the top of an interview, “So, Bobby, who’s the Vikings starting quarterback?’ or “When will Teddy Bridgewater get the starting job?”

cdebff2833b2a9f0264d3aee2798b0ee crop north.jpg It’s the Deee fense, stupid.

Rookies QB Teddy Bridgewater: America’s national media is calling him a saviour. Saviour of what, precisely?

There is this assumption that the Vikings biggest problem is at quarterback and everyone wants to know if the rookie, a kid whose biggest enemy at training camp is the playbook, is going to lead the Purple out of the wilderness.

Well, despite what a lot of people around the country think, the quarterback position was not the biggest problem the Vikings, a team that was 5-10-1, faced last season. As bad as Christian Ponder turned out to be and as mediocre as Matt Cassel is, the offense didn’t kill the Vikings in 2013.

The Vikings were 13th in the entire NFL in total offense. They were tied with Indianapolis for 14th in total points with 24.4 per game. They scored enough to win more than their share of football games.

However, no team gave up more points – 480 or 30.0 points per game – than the Vikings. Only the Dallas Cowboys allowed more yards per game – 397.6. The Vikings allowed 4,595 yards passing, 31st in the league.

It’s great for the national media to blame Ponder and Cassel and suggest that Bridgewater is the saviour, but unless the Vikings’ new head coach Mike Zimmer does something about the defense, it isn’t going to matter what revered offensive mind Norv Turner does on offense. If the Vikings continue to bring up the bottom end of the league on defense, they aren’t going to be any better than last place in the NFC North.

On offence, the Vikings have tools. Cassel — who will start the opening game unless Bridgewater tears it up in the pre-season – has Adrian Peterson to carry the ball and Greg Jennings, Cordarelle Patterson, Jerome Simpson, Jarius Wright and Kyle Rudolph to catch it. The offensive line is passable. Offense isn’t the issue.

On defense, however, the Vikings were atrocious in 2013 and if they don’t get better this coming season, they might not win five games with a schedule that includes Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, Aaron Rodgers and Matt Stafford over a five week period between Sept. 14 and Oct. 12.

munnerlyn captain It’s the Deee fense, stupid.

Captain Munnerlyn. There is a better chance that this guy is the saviour.

So in the off-season, while everyone was focused on Bridgewater, the Vikings brought in Captain Munnerlyn to play cornerback, Linval Joseph to put 300 more pounds on the defensive line and also drafted Anthony Barr (before Bridgewater, by the way) out of UCLA to add speed and athleticism at linebacker. Of their 10 draft picks, seven were defensive players. And defensive-genius-turned-head-coach Mike Zimmer also has a handful of young players who should improve (or, hopefully, stay healthy) in 2014.

Offense is sexy so the national media is going to focus on offense, but if the Vikings do absolutely nothing different on offense in 2014 they’ll win more games automatically — providing the defense is better.

After all, this is a team that lost four games last year by less than five points each. And in every instance, the defense gave up 27 points or more. Take those four wins, become 9-6-1 and the Vikings win the NFC North, Leslie Frazier is still the head coach, Christian Ponder is the quarterback and Teddy Bridgewater would never have been a Vikings draft pick.

It’s the deee-fense, stupid.



Special Defense Gives Bombers A Win in B.C.

Thank Heaven for Kevin Glenn. Or, if you just want to praise the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, thank heaven for Gary Etcheverry’s defence.

Friday night at GM Place in Vancouver, the Bombers picked off two Kevin Glenn passes and recovered a huge second-half fumble by Ernest Jackson (forced by Teague Sherman) as the Bombers D got the job done in a 23-6 shellacking of the heavily favored B.C. Lions.

9961022 Special Defense Gives Bombers A Win in B.C.

Kevin Glenn wasn’t smiling much on Friday night.

With the win, the Bombers improved to 4-1 on the season and moved into a second-place tie with the Edmonton Eskimos in the CFL West. Calgary, at 4-0 remains in first place.

Friday night, the Bombers gave their fans a defensive masterpiece reminiscent of some of the 1980s and 1990s masterpieces. They swarmed all over Glenn, the Lions veteran quarterback, sacking him six times as Winnipeg never let the potent Lions offense get started.

They stopped Andrew Harris (38 yards on eight carries) and Stefan Logan (32 yards and eight carries). They made Emmanuel Arceneaux disappear (four catches for 63 yards and no TDs). And they kept the Lions out of the end zone for a full 60 minutes.

In fact, all the Lions could muster was two Paul McCallum field goals. That was it. So much for Geroy Simon’s pre-game pep talk (Sheeesh, the way TSN got all mushy about Simon on Friday night, you’d have thought he’d found the cure for cancer).

The Bombers, meanwhile, got five field goals and a single from Lirim Hajrullahu and a touchdown from Clarence Denmark and that’s all they needed. The Bombers offense wasn’t much. QB Drew Willy went 18-for-26 for 250 yards, the TD to Denmark and a meaningless late interception. Heck, Nic Grigsby carried 15 times for a measly 19 yards. Still, this one was over early. There was never any sense that B.C. would snap out of it.

Of course, the Bombers also benefited from B.C.’s own idiocy. The Lions drew a penalty flag on just about every good play they made in the first half. B.C. never really got started because every time they did something to move the football, the officials were picking their laundry up off the field.

But as bad as B.C. was, they were only that bad because the Bombers defense made them look that bad. Glenn was so frustrated by the Winnipeg rush that he started blaming his teammates for, well, spending half the game flat on his ass.

Now, I’m sure the Saturday morning Vancouver papers will blast the Lions anemic offense, but you have to give credit where it’s due. The Lions offense was horrible because the Bombers defense was so good.

Teague Sherman 1024x681 Special Defense Gives Bombers A Win in B.C.

Teague Sherman (Photo by Jeff Miller)

I mean, they were all good, but how about the play of former Bisons Louie Richardson and Teague Sherman? Those guys can play. Kudos to Kyle Walters and Mike O’Shea for (a) giving them contracts and (b) giving them a chance to play.

Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea said last week that despite the 26-3 home loss to Edmonton, he didn’t expect his team to let down in Vancouver. It didn’t. The Bombers team that played on the Coast last night was the one that went 3-0 to start the season.

It was a splendid defensive performance by a team that needed a splendid defensive performance on the road. But as we said this past week, there was no need for Bomber fans to panic. Even if the offense wasn’t much, this Winnipeg defense has something special.



If It Is a Good Deal, Wiggins-for-Love Will Get Done, If Not…

We’re told that it’s the trade every basketball fan  is expecting. It’s the deal that WILL be made. And hey, it’s only obvious, right? After all, we’re also told it’s the trade LeBron wants.

Trouble is, it can’t happen for 30 days and that’s making a lot of people nervous.

wiggins jersey shoot 140627 06 If It Is a Good Deal, Wiggins for Love Will Get Done, If Not...

Andrew Wiggins in his new Cavs jersey.

On Thursday, the Cleveland Cavaliers signed No. 1 draft choice, Andrew Wiggins. As a result, the Cavs can’t trade Wiggins for 30 days. Some people think that’s a big deal. Others? Not so much.

The seldom-used 30-day rule was designed to prevent teams from getting around the NBA’s salary cap rules. In fact, there were restrictions on trading newly-signed rookies in the 1998-99 CBA.

Again, we’re told that the spirit of the rule is all about appearances. If there isn’t some kind of delay fans will think that the team acquiring the kid in the trade is actually the one that is signing him. As if that matters.

Regardless, the Minnesota Timberwolves and Cleveland Cavaliers have been in discussion for quite some time (so, we’re told) in an effort to consummate a trade that would involve the Cavs sending No. 1 overall draft pick Wiggins to the Wolves in exchange for NBA superstar (or whatever) Kevin Love.

Although the trade can’t be completed and registered with the league until about the 23rd of August, it doesn’t mean the deal can’t be negotiated. And make no mistake, now that Wiggins has been signed, it makes it much easier for Cleveland to deal him. That’s because, the Timberwolves now know exactly what impact Wiggins will have on the cap ($5.5 million) and they can also be secure in the knowledge that he’s signed for a reasonable amount of time.

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Kevin Love in his old Minnesota Timberwolves jersey.

And because his cap hit is $5.5 million, it also allows the Cavaliers to clear enough room to acquire Love’s $15.7 million salary next season.

However, fans, TV experts and league executives are now saying that because Wiggins can’t be dealt for 30 days, something will happen to the deal. Twitter has told us that plenty of people are concerned the Wolves don’t want to make the deal. Screams of, “If Flip Saunders (the Wolves director of basketball operations and head coach) really wanted to make this deal, it would have been done already,” seemed to be a meme on Thursday.

And while that feeling should come as no surprise, it’s not entirely accurate. After all, a week ago, the Cavaliers made a public statement saying they weren’t going to trade Wiggins. That could have been a load of baloney just to get Wiggins signed, but a week ago, they probably had second thoughts about trading away their No. 1 overall draft choice. They probably had to talk to LeBron’s people (I’m pretty sure he HAS people) first.

As well, both Minnesota and Cleveland have received phone calls from other teams. If Cleveland has actually told teams that it is prepared to trade Wiggins, there are plenty of clubs that would like a shot at him and since we’re told that Minnesota is hell bent on dealing Love, a handful of teams have had a chat with Saunders. Word is, Saunders has been on the phone this week with everyone from Chicago’s Gar Forman to Golden State’s Bob Myers.

Lebron James Press Conference If It Is a Good Deal, Wiggins for Love Will Get Done, If Not...

And, of course, there is LeBron .

Eventually, however, this deal will get done – even if two or three other teams get involved. Love, who is a double-double machine, will give LeBron his new Three Musketeers trio, along with Kyrie Irving. Meanwhile, the Wolves will get a 6-foot-8 forward with a 44-inch vertical who is only 19 years old.

When both teams are winners, there is no reason not to make the trade. Mark the weekend of Aug. 23 on your calendar. There will be a big NBA trade announcement.



Bombers Trying to Bounce Back on the Road

For Mike O’Shea, the assignment is simple. Take a rebuilding but still-fragile Canadian Football League team and bounce back from a crushing defeat.

Oh yeah, and do it on the road against the hottest offence in the league.

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Drew Willy needs to be at his best in B.C. (Photo by Jeff Miller)

On Friday night, O’Shea’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers will take on the suddenly red-hot B.C. Lions in a huge early-season game for both teams. The Bombers are 3-1, but coming off a 26-3 home loss to the 4-0 Edmonton Eskimos. The Lions are 2-2 and after losing 27-20 to Edmonton at home in the season opener and then going 0-2 after a 24-9 loss in Montreal, the Lions have bounced back to beat Saskatchewan in Regina 26-13 and then last week, they crushed Montreal 41-5 at General Motors Place.

So this week, a team coming a big home loss travels into the unfriendly confines of a team that is coming off a huge home win. The Vegas oddsmakers like B.C. by eight points. Does that matter? You can bet the coaches have no idea that there even is a spread.

For O’Shea, preparation will play an important role in Friday night’s battle in B.C.

“We need to just move on, concentrate on the type of work habits that got us to where we are (3-1). That effort, we need to see that effort all the time,” O’Shea told cfl.ca. “You need to practice how you play.”

The banged up Bombers will also have to fill a few holes. Aaron Kelly, who was outstanding against Ottawa in Week 2, will miss this week’s game with a knee problem. Hard-hitting defensive back Johnny Sears will be out as will monster defensive end Jason Vega. Canadian receiver Julian Feoli-Gudino will suit up but he missed practice on Wednesday. Winniperg’s Brett Carter will back him up and be ready to play if needed. Maurice Leggett will replace Sears.

However, the defense wasn’t really Winnipeg’s problem in their Week 4 loss to Edmonton. In fact, the Bombers held Edmonton to one offensive touchdown and four field goals (Odell Willis scored the Eskies other TD on an interception).

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Bombers coach Mike O’Shea. (Photo by Jeff Miller)

The offense, however, was anemic last week and the offensive line was atrocious. It’s not going to get any easier for the Bombers this week. After all, the B.C. defense allowed Montreal only 62 passing yards in the Dome last week. It was the Lions’ best defensive performance against the pass since Sept. 9, 1975 when they held Blue Bombers QBs Dieter Brock and Chuck Ealey to only 39 passing yards in a game (on Oct. 21, 1970, they held Winnipeg’s Ron Johnson – Remember him? Didn’t think so — to just 19 passing yards).

So are the Lions ready for the new-look Bombers? Cornerback Dante Marsh seems to have been ready last week.

“By the third quarter, I was already starting to think about Winnipeg,” Marsh told the Vancouver Province. Guess you can do that when you blister a team 41-5.

The banged-up Bombers have other ideas, of course.

Game time on TSN is 9 p.m. CDT.



Week 5 in the CFL: Bombers Could Be In for a Rough Ride

The best football game of Week 4 in the Canadian Football League was supposed to be at Investors Group Field last Thursday night.

It wasn’t.

In fact, there weren’t very many good games in the CFL last week. That’s what happens, I guess, when six of eight teams don’t even the talent to score 20 points.

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Eddie Steele and the Edmonton defense was just too good for Winnipeg. (Photo by Jeff Miller)

After four weeks, the CFL is a bit of a mess. Last week, Edmonton blasted Winnipeg 26-3 and B.C. crushed Montreal 41-5. In the other two games, not one team reached the 20-point plateau.

OK, I’m old, so I remember the days in the CFL (about 1994) when the defenses were sensational and yet, if a team didn’t get to 30, it wasn’t going to win. Of course, those were the days when CFL coaches had their quarterbacks under centre and used motion to their advantage. These days, high school teams have more imagination. In the CFL, coaches put the QB in the shotgun and instead of using motion to deceive the defense, they just run five or six receivers at the line of scrimmage. It’s the same thing play-after-play. No wonder the defenses have it figured out. Everybody does exactly the same thing on every play.

Oh well, it is what it is and all you can do is hope somebody has an epiphany one day. I don’t expect that to happen, but one can always hope.

In the meantime, our intrepid prognosticators had an interesting Week 4. The Coach went 2-2 because Winnipeg lost and Calgary didn’t cover. Dr. Football went 1-3 because Winnipeg and Toronto lost and Calgary didn’t cover. Thank heaven for Andrew Harris, Kevin Glenn and the B.C. Lions.

Anyway, this week, Dr. Football decided to use his keen CFL mind and head to Vegas to piss away all of his money. So he mailed in his picks. Literally, not figuratively. He actually mailed them in. So that leaves the Coach to do the actual work and he’s not happy about it.

Let’s look at Week 5:

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Mike Reilly is a tough dude (Photo by Jeff Miller)

CALGARY (3-0) at EDMONTON (4-0) LINE – Pick ‘em

The battle for first place in the West kicks off Week 5 as the Eskimos, on the strength of the best defense around takes on an undefeated Calgary team that was lucky to beat Hamilton 10-7 at home last week. Edmonton went into Winnipeg and ate up the Bombers’ Drew Willy while Calgary was awful in a three-point win over a team with a quarterback Jeremiah Masoli. Even his own coach thought Masoli should probably be playing Arena ball. If the Hamilton defense shut down Bo Levi Mitchell, the Edmonton defense will put him in the hospital. Really. Just ask Zach Collaros.

Dr. Football: TAKE THE STAMPEDERS TO WIN.

The Coach: TAKE THE ESKIMOS TO WIN.

Harris 4 Week 5 in the CFL: Bombers Could Be In for a Rough Ride

Andrew Harris

WINNIPEG (3-1) at B.C. (2-2) LINE – B.C. by 8

The Bombers have shown they can win on the road. After all, they beat Montreal with 17 seconds remaining on the clock. Trouble is, the team the Bombers are playing this week, beat Montreal 41-5 last week. The Lions’ Andrew Harris has always said he’d like to play for his hometown Blue Bombers someday. How about this week?

Dr. Football: TAKE THE LIONS TO WIN BUT NOT COVER.

The Coach: TAKE THE LIONS TO WIN AND COVER

OTTAWA (1-2) at HAMILTON (0-3) LINE – HAMILTON by 4 1/2

Zach Collaros won’t play again this week. Henry Burris returns to Hamilton. Hamilton scored seven points last week. Ottawa won last week. Hamilton is favored this week. Go figure.

Dr. Football: TAKE THE REDBLACKS TO WIN.

The Coach: TAKE THE REDBLACKS TO WIN.

21 Week 5 in the CFL: Bombers Could Be In for a Rough Ride

Darian Durant

TORONTO (1-3) at SASKATCHEWAN (1-2) LINE – SASKATCHEWAN by 6

One can’t help but think that the Roughriders will get the ship back on course sooner, not later. And one way to get back to .500 is have the Toronto Argos come to town, a team that was hammered by Winnipeg in Week 1 and last week became the first victims of the expansion Ottawa RedBlacks. Watch for Darian Durant to put up some big numbers against a Toronto defense with more holes than Portage Avenue in April.

Dr. Football: TAKE THE ROUGHRIDERS TO WIN AND COVER.

The Coach: TAKE THE ROUGHRIDERS TO WIN AND COVER.



The NHL Releases Report On Climate Change and On What it Will Do About It

On Monday, the National Hockey League released an unexpected, yet refreshing and comprehensive report on the league’s environmental impact and how it plans to reduce that impact. It was kind of thrilling, actually.

In fact, the report stated that “action on environmental issues is absolutely necessary for the league’s growth.” The report, which surprisingly, draws attention to the impact of climate change on the long-term future of the sport is, according to the NHL itself, the first of its kind from any major professional sports league in North America.

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Gary Bettman

According to Commissioner Gary Bettman, “The NHL more than any other league depends on cold weather and clean water, not just in and around its arenas and outdoor events but also because many youth hockey players — the future talent for the league — learn to play the game on frozen outdoor ponds.”

Now I must admit, I never thought of the NHL and/or Bettman to be at the edge of science in the United States. While most intelligent people understand that climate change is upon us and the weather that change has produced is becoming more extreme every year, it is surprising to me, at least, that a major sports league that is so dependent of fossil fuels would concede that climate change is already negatively affecting its futre. Kudos to the NHL for stepping up.

The report states: “Perhaps more than any other sport, hockey is impacted by environmental issues, particularly climate change and freshwater scarcity. The ability to skate and play hockey outdoors is a critical component of the League’s history and culture. Many of the NHL’s players, both past and present, learned to skate outside on frozen lakes, ponds and backyard rinks. The game of hockey is adversely affected if this opportunity becomes unavailable to future generations.”

Bettman then stepped up on a personal basis. He wrote:

“We believe that this effort is not only the right thing to do for the environment, but is also a core strategy for the long-term success of our League. We have a vested interest in this cause. As a business, we rely on fresh water to make our ice, on energy to fuel our operations and on healthy communities for our athletes, employees and fans to live, work and play. Moreover, to continue to stage world class outdoor hockey events like the NHL Winter Classic, NHL Heritage Classic or NHL Stadium Series, we need winter weather.”

Now, I must admit that I didn’t realize the NHL has gone to bat for climate change science before. In fact, the league highlighted its dependence on the environment and the potential threat of climate change in letters to members of the United States Congress.

And in an amazing show of candor the NHL even released its carbon footprint on Monday disclosing (by the report’s calculations) that it produces nearly 530,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases each year.

“The vast majority of the league’s footprint comes from electricity to power its arenas and from team travel between games,” the report stated. “According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s emissions calculator, that is the equivalent of the yearly output of approximately 111,579 cars or 48,358 homes.”

NHL Outdoor Games The NHL Releases Report On Climate Change and On What it Will Do About It

The Outdoor Game in Philly

Now, to be fair, the NHL used the report to let the public know about the work it’s already doing. The league did launch the NHL Green initiative in 2010 in partnership with environmental groups such as the National Resources Defense Council, and it also reported that it has since undertaken initiatives aimed at water and environmental restoration, (Gallons for Goals and Hattricks for Trees). The report also claims that hockey fans are already 11 times more likely to recycle than the average American adult, and 20 times more likely to pay for environmentally-friendly products and services. But hey, nothing wrong with a little PR in a country that leads the world in climate change deniers.

“At the NHL, we recognize that we have great responsibility for the way we conduct our business,” Bettman wrote.  “As our revenues, TV viewership and attendance continue to rise, we are acutely aware of our influence on culture and society, especially with today’s youth. We have the power to promote, develop and support positive change.”

Good for the Commish.



Colby Lewis is a Whiner or Baseball Can Be Stupid Sometimes

Let me preface this by saying I love baseball. Greatest game in the world. But every now and again, it can get really stupid.

They are called “unwritten rules,” and how they are interpreted and by whom can make baseball really, really moronic.

Take Saturday afternoon’s little disagreement in Toronto as a for-instance. Seems Texas Rangers righthander Colby Lewis (6-7, 6.37 ERA) was all upset over Toronto Blue Jays centerfielder Colby Rasmus’ decision to lay down a bunt in the fifth inning of Toronto’s 4-1 win at Rogers Centre.

Colby Lewis Colby Lewis is a Whiner or Baseball Can Be Stupid Sometimes

Colby Lewis (Duh?)

What happened here was pretty simple. The Rangers, like so many teams in the Majors this year, have decided that moving into a shift – even for guys hitting .223 like Rasmus – is a good idea. So when the Rangers moved their entire infield to the right side of second base to defend against Rasmus, Rasmus decided to lay a bunt down the third base line in order to take advantage of the obvious weakness in the alignment. It was a good play and I don’t understand why players such as Victor Martinez, David Ortiz, Alex Avila etc. etc. don’t take advantage of that situation more often (oh, yeah “unwritten rules.”).

Anyway, Rasmus’ decision to bunt, really got under Lewis’ skin.

Now let’s make sure we understand the situation. When Rasmus defied the alleged unwritten rule that you don’t bunt against the shift (When did that become an unwritten rule, exactly?), it was the fifth inning of a game the Blue Jays were leading 2-0. There were two out and nobody on and I guess Lewis felt Rasmus should just give up his at bat because what happened next could have been comical if it hadn’t been so sad.

Lewis started yelling at Rasmus, telling him to “swing away.”

“I told [Rasmus] I didn’t appreciate it,” Lewis told MLB.com. “You’re up by two runs with two outs and you lay down a bunt. I don’t think that’s the way the game should be played.”

Huh? So what Lewis is saying is this: “Hey, Rasmus, be an idiot and hit a ground ball into the shift. What are doing actually trying against me?”

After the game, Lewis told MLB.com that he thought Rasmus was being selfish because apparently he didn’t try to steal – with two outs in a 2-0 game.

“[Rasmus] didn’t steal within the first two pitches to put himself in scoring position,” Lewis said. “That tells me he is solely looking out for himself, and looking out for batting average. And I didn’t appreciate it.”

After the game, Rasmus, who has attempted to steal twice in his last 180 games, told reporters he was trying to help his team and did not understand why Lewis took offense.

“I’m just trying to help my team and he didn’t like it — so sorry about it,” Rasmus told MLB.com. “I’m not here to try to please the other side, I’m here to help my team, and I had an opportunity where I could, and I took advantage of it.”

Colby Rasmus Colby Lewis is a Whiner or Baseball Can Be Stupid Sometimes

Colby Rasmus on first after his bunt single.

Apparently, by bunting against Colby Lewis you break Colby Lewis’ unwritten rule, which is, apparently, “My team, a team that is 21 games out of first place, can radically shift its defense to defend against a .223 hitter but the .223 hitter can’t try to bunt against me in order to beat that shift because… Ted Williams.”

As the boys at The Big Lead tweeted: “Unfortunately, whining after a defeat remains acceptable under baseball’s unwritten constitution.”

And Sports Illustrated’s Joe Sheehan tweeted: “Lefties were hitting .402/.444/.598 against Colby Lewis coming into today. The bunt by Rasmus wasn’t bad form. It was mercy.”

On a good day, Colby Lewis is a moron.



Three of the IceCaps Best Signed by the Jets

Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff and his assistant GM Craig Heisinger certainly know how to build a Calder Cup contender.

On Saturday, three of the best players on the roster of the Jets’ American Hockey League affiliate were signed to new deals: forwards John Albert, Patrice Cormier, and Eric O’Dell.

Eric ODell Three of the IceCaps Best Signed by the Jets

Eric O’Dell (Photo by Jeff Miller)

As with the signing of Carl Klingburg earlier in the week, Cheveldayoff hasn’t done much to make the NHL Jets better but he’s certainly guaranteed that the AHL’s IceCaps will be solid.

Albert, 25, agreed to a one year, two-way contract worth $585,000 if he plays with the Jets. Last season, Albert played in nine games with the Jets including his NHL debut on Dec. 2, 2013 at the Rangers. That night he scored his first NHL goal. Born and raised in The Cleveland, Ohio, Albert played 63 games with the IceCaps last season and had 28 goals and 45 points. He also played in 21 playoff games with the AHL club and had a goal and six assists. Albert was originally selected by the Atlanta Thrashers in the sixth round (175th overall) of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.

Cormier, 24, agreed to a one year, two-way deal worth $625,000, if he plays in the NHL. Last season, Cormier played in one game with the Jets and had three assists. He has now appeared in 49 career games in the NHL (Atlanta/Winnipeg) and has a goal and four assists. Last season, he played 61 games with St. John’s and had nine goals and 17 assists. The left-handed shooting centre also played in 21 postseason games for the IceCaps and had two goals and five assists. He was originally taken by the New Jersey Devils in the second round, (54th overall) of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft and has never lived up to the potential that the Devils scouts believed he had.

Patrice Cormier by Jeff MIller Three of the IceCaps Best Signed by the Jets

Patrice Cormier against the Avs at MTS Iceplex (Photo by Jeff Miller)

O’Dell, 24, has agreed to a one year, two-way deal worth $650,000, if he plays in Winnipeg. The right-handed shooting forward played in 30 games with the Winnipeg Jets last season and often played very well. He finished with goals and seven points. where he earned seven points (3G, 4A) and 10 penalty minutes. He made his NHL debut on Dec. 17, 2013 and then scored his first NHL goal about a month later, on Jan. 13, 2014 at MTS Centre in a 5-1 win over Phoenix in head coach Paul Maurice’s debut. O’Dell is from Ottawa and he played most of last season with St. John’s. In 42 games, he had 17 goals and 42 points. He also played 21 games during the club’s run to the Calder Cup and had nine goals and five assists. O’Dell was originally selected by the Anaheim Ducks in the second round (39th overall) of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. Of the three, O’Dell has shown the most NHL potential and should get a good look in training camp.

(With files from the Winnipeg Jets)



The Difference Between 2013 and 2014: The Fixes are Easier

A year ago, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers were a team that was already in trouble. They were 1-3 after the first four weeks of the season and had just come off a 35-19 home loss to Toronto.

This team, the one that is 3-1 and has just come off a 26-3 home loss to Edmonton is not that team.

JM BombersEsks July17 OShea 6 950 The Difference Between 2013 and 2014: The Fixes are Easier

Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea is ahead of last year (Photo by Jeff Miller)

This team knows who its No. 1 quarterback is. It doesn’t have an injured runningback and it doesn’t have three injured receivers. It also doesn’t have a coaching staff that is completely lost or a general manager who can’t be found.

That’s why social media is so much fun. The angst, the gnashing of teeth and the couch-potato coaching, has been interesting at best and hilarious at worst.

Make no mistake, the Bombers were whupped on Thursday night, but defense wasn’t a problem. Of course, the number of people who wanted to blame the defense was somewhat disconcerting. Do people really know that little?

The Bombers defense allowed only 19 points. Granted, on a weekend in which five of the six teams that have already played (the was written before the Montreal-B.C. game) have scored fewer than 20 points, giving up 19 might seem a little much, but under normal circumstances in the CFL, you need to score 30 to win. The fact that teams just don’t seem to have the high-powered offenses they used to have is fodder for another column (coaches don’t use motion the way they used to in the CFL’s golden era of offense in the 80s and 90s). However, let us just say that allowing Edmonton QB Mike Reilly only 192 yards of passing offense and only one touchdown is nothing to be criticized.

JM BombersEsks July17 Washington 17 950 The Difference Between 2013 and 2014: The Fixes are Easier

Demond Washington hurries Mike Reilly (Photo by Jeff Miller)

The Bombers gave up four field goals — which means the defense bent but it didn’t break – in a game in which the Bombers offense had 10 two-and-outs and Edmonton had great field position at least half the time.

No sir, the Bombers’ defense was not the issue on Thursday night. A dreadful offense and a porous offensive line was the problem.

Now, be sure, the Bombers have had an offensive line problem for a number of years, but in the first three weeks of the season it appeared as if line coach Bob Wylie had this mess figured out. On Thursday night, the Bombers O-line couldn’t have blocked the Eskimos girlfriends. In heels.

It was an awful performance. The Bombers had the ball for 21 minutes and 34 seconds while Edmonton’s offense was on the field for 38 minutes and 26 seconds. Guess that means the Bombers defense was even better than we thought.

“I don’t have a lot of concerns,” Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea told reporters on Thursday night. “The guys we have in that locker-room are the same guys we had for the first three wins. It’s not like their character just changed in one loss.”

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Teague Sherman wraps up Mike Reilly (Photo by Jeff Miller)

Well, their character hasn’t, and that’s a good thing. The offensive line has, and that needs to be addressed. If the coaching staff – and maybe with a little help from GM Kyle Walters – can get that fixed, things might improve in Vancouver next Friday. That is, of course, if something like that can be fixed in a week.

On the bright side, Walters and O’Shea know the problem and that’s miles ahead of where Tim Burke and the absentee GM were at this time last year.



Eskimos Defense Smothers Bombers

Odell Willis once enjoyed calling himself “The Mayor of Swaggerville.” Thursday night the nasty former Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive end swaggered into the end zone with a first-quarter interception and the Edmonton Eskimos never looked back.

In front of more than 30,000 blue-clad partisans at Investors Group Field, the Edmonton defense completely shut down the highest scoring team in the CFL, scored one touchdown itself and held the Blue Bombers to 10 two-and-outs as Edmonton came to town and rocked the home side 26-3.

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Eddie Steele (Photo by Jeff Miller)

Both teams went into Thursday night’s game with identical 3-0 records but the Eskimos defense made sure the visitors were the only ones to leave the stadium undefeated. In what was billed as the most competitive game of the week. Thursday’s battle turned into a rout by an Edmonton defense led by Willis, defensive end Willie Jefferson and Winnipeg’s own Eddie Steele.

Have to admit, when Dr. Football and I made our picks this week, we both agreed Edmonton could win this game, but neither of us saw a 26-3 blowout coming.

The Bombers might have gone into last night’s game as the highest scoring team in the league with 115 points, but they sure didn’t add much to their total. The Eskimos had five sacks and held QB Drew Willy to 14 completions in 27 attempts for a mere 180 yards, no touchdowns and one interception.

Of course, after having plenty of steamboats with which to throw during the first three weeks of the season, Willy had little time at all on Thursday night as the Bombers started slowly and then stalled.

Meanwhile, the Eskimos offense wasn’t dominant, but it was good enough. QB Mike Reilly completed 18 of 31 passes for 192 yards, one touchdown – to a wide open AJ Guyton — and one interception. However, he also rushed 10 times for 96 yards and that obviously frustrated the Bombers defense, a defense that was on the field more in Thursday night’s game than it had been at any time during the season.

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Mime Reilly (Photo by Jeff Miller)

Now, to be fair, it wasn’t Willy’s fault that Willis picked off that pass and took it to the Bombers end zone. First, it bounced a few times in RB Nic Grigsby’s hands before Willis snatched it and ran the other way. It was an unfortunate mistake on a night that was loaded with unfortunate mistakes.

Clearly, however, the difference in the football game was the Eskimos defense. They had allowed the fewest points (55) in the league over the first three games (although Calgary has allowed only 23 in two games) and before the coin toss, the 30,976 in attendance knew that this game was going to be decided by either the Bombers offence or the Eskimos D. Chalk one up for the theory that defense wins championships – and big games.

Granted, there was no one in the CFL, let alone in Winnipeg, who thought the Bombers would go 18-0. A loss was coming and after avoiding one in Montreal, the Blue couldn’t avoid one on Thursday.

However, it gets a little tougher next week. The Bombers have to head into Vancouver to face a B.C. Lions team that is pretty good at home and is starting to become accustomed to Kevin Glenn at quarterback. Oh yeah, and they also have that Andrew Harris dude.

This was a test against Edmonton and the Bombers just weren’t good enough. It will be a real test next week against B.C. That Blue Bombers offensive line had better be prepared.