Steve weighs in on Leafs’ Rielly, the Jays and more:
This is how long a shot it is for Morgan Rielly and the Norris Trophy. In his career, this being his sixth NHL season, Rielly has not received a single vote for the award as best defenceman. Not one.
And in most seasons at least 20 different defencemen get recognized with a top-5 vote of some kind.
The jump from no votes to award-winning totals is not unprecedented but is quite unusual for Norris winners. Normally, in the cases of Drew Doughty, Duncan Keith, and even the legendary Nick Lidstrom, they knocked on the Norris door for several seasons before winning the trophy as top defender. Victor Hedman finished third before he won last year, as did Brent Burns the previous season.
Calgary’s Mark Giordano, who is 1-2 with Rielly right now in NHL consideration, has received Norris votes in each of the past five seasons.
Only once in a complete 82-game season of late has a defenceman, Erik Karlsson, gone from getting no votes previously to an eventual Norris Trophy win.
If Rielly, who didn’t win his all-star play-in vote, happens to excel in the second half of the season the way he’s played the first half, he will be a finalist for the big award. The odds are against him winning it. History makes him a long shot.
THIS AND THAT
I don’t know if I’ve come across anyone I enjoyed talking baseball with more than Russell Martin, given away to the Los Angeles Dodgers. He loved to explain things. He welcomed good questions. He liked to debate. Away from groups, unlike most players, he gave expansive answers. Can’t speak for anyone else but I will miss having a staple voice like his in the Blue Jays clubhouse. And, yes, he took pride in being an accomplished Canadian on a Canadian bigleague team ... The Raptors have never had an MVP candidate. Chris Bosh came the closest, finishing seventh in voting in 2007. DeMar DeRozan was eighth once. The highest Vince Carter finished was 10th, same as Kyle Lowry. Kawhi Leonard should be top 5 this season, in a mix that includes James Harden, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant and Anthony Davis. Best player on best team should help Leonard’s cause ... The Maple Leafs have not had an MVP in 64 years — Ted Kennedy — and the award was questioned at the time. Doug Gilmour placed second in Hart Trophy voting in 1993 and fourth in 1994, while Curtis Joseph was fourth in 1999 ... Josh Donaldson and George Bell are the only Blue Jays to win MVP awards ... In a rather small Canadian Foot-
ball League, six Argos have won the most outstanding player award. You know the names: Doug Flutie, twice. Pinball Clemons, Condredge Holloway, Chad Owens, Damon Allen and Bill Symons.
HEAR AND THERE
Can you imagine being in the meeting with Mark
Shapiro and Edward Rogers? “So what’s the plan?” Rogers asks. “We’re going to pay Troy Tulowitzki $37 million to go away. We’re going to give Josh Donaldson to the Indians and Steve
Pearce to the Red Sox and get next to nothing in return. We’re going pay the Dodgers $16.4 million to take Russell Martin off our hands. And we’re going to sign nobody of significance and eventually we’ll call up Vladimir
Guerrero Jr. Is that OK?” ... This is Connor McDavid’s fourth NHL season and already he has accumulated 96 more points than the second highest scorer from his 2015 draft year. The next three scorers are Jack Eichel, Mikko Rantanen and Mitch Marner. The only downside is team performance. The Oilers probably need 49 points in 38 games — that’s a 105-point pace — to make the playoffs and that may not be possible ... The Raptors need an outside shooter. Not sure Patrick
McCaw fits the bill ... What the Vegas Golden Knights did in their first season was improbable and nearly impossible. But what might be more impressive is what they’re doing right now in their second season, after an early fall-off. What George McPhee, Kelly McCrimmon and Gerard Gallant have built here is movie worthy. Is
Brad Pitt available to play McPhee? ... On any day or night in America, you can turn on your television and see some basketball Hall of Famer talking about the
NBA. If it’s not Charles Barkley, it’s Shaquille O’Neal,
it’s Tracy McGrady or Scottie Pippen or somebody who was great. But turn on a Canadian television and watch hockey, and there’s not a Hall of Famer to be found anywhere among colour men. Oh, Ray Ferraro and Craig Simpson and Jeff O’Neill and Dave Poulin were decent enough players. Legends they were not.
SCENE AND HEARD
There was nothing I liked more than getting an e-mail or a telephone call from Jim
Taylor, the giant Vancouver sports columnist, who passed away this week. It was like hearing from one your heroes or your teachers. It always made my day. Taylor was a remarkable figure, funny in person, funnier in print, naturally gifted as a wordsmith, trusted enough to write books about Wayne Gretzky and Walter Gretzky, in love with sports and in love with media. Man, I will miss those calls and those notes and everything about him. Jim Taylor was 82 ... The Blue Jays didn’t exactly get value from the Dodgers for Martin. They got minor-league depth. The pitcher, Andrew
Sopko, is considered a better prospect than shortstop
Ronny Brito. But neither are anything close to sure things ... John Gibbons isn’t quite ready to retire. He’s moved from San Antonio to New Mexico, has some calls out, and is hoping to stay in baseball in some capacity ... Department of brain cramp: Last week I listed the most exciting players in the NHL and somehow missed Elias
Pettersson. Apologies to the entire Pettersson family and friends ... Men’s tennis at its best had Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray at the top of their games. Murray now will be the first to retire. Soon, all four will be out of the game. Impossible to ever recapture an era such as this one ... It’s a month before catchers and pitchers report to spring training and
Manny Machado and Bryce Harper are still looking for a place to play ... This is how the rule should work: If a goal is scored more than 10 seconds after an offside is missed, the goal should count. This going back half a minute business to find an offside goal borders on the ludicrous.
AND ANOTHER THING
Little known football fact: The Argos came close to hiring former Bills quarterback
Frank Reich as offensive coordinator in 2012 when
Scott Milanovich was hired as head coach. Reich, like Milanovich, played QB at the University of Maryland. When Reich got an NFL job, Milanovich instead turned to
Marcus Brady, who is now Reich’s quarterback coach with the Indianapolis Colts ... Little known football fact II:
Mike Mayock, who went from television to take the general manager’s job with the Oakland Raiders, played one game for the Argos in 1981 ... For all the detail football teams put into every aspect of operations, leaving little to chance, it’s rather amazing the Chicago Bears were eliminated from the playoffs on a bouncy missed field goal by a kicker who was terribly inconsistent all season long ... One more fact you can’t live without: Kliff
Kingsbury, the surprising new coach of the Arizona Cardinals, was the third string quarterback in Winnipeg in 2007 ... The birthdays of Muhammad Ali and Joe
Frazier were a week apart in January. Ali would be 77 next week, Frazier 75 had they lived this long ... Not sure why this took so long but
Rocket Ismail is being inducted in the College Football Hall of Fame. He last played college ball in 1990 ... The volume in Heaven will need to be turned down just a touch: Brian Henderson has arrived. Condolences to all ... Happy birthday to Connor McDavid (22), Mike Palmateer (65), Kelly Hrudey (58) Cesare Maniago (80), Lawrence Robert Shreve better know as Abdullah the Butcher (78), Jeremy Colliton (33), and Joannie Rochette (33) ... And hey, whatever became of Jonas Hoglund?
Morgan Rielly ranked second in NHL scoring by defenceman, with 46 points, heading into yesterday’s games.