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How Do the Blackhawks Replace Jonathan Toews? They Don't – Sports Illustrated

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After hearing about the illness that will sideline Jonathan Toews indefinitely, is there any possible way we can just dispense with the last three days of 2021 and go directly to 2021? This annus horribilis has done quite enough damage in 363 days, thank you very much. And of course it would have to be a leap year because we needed an extra day of suffering in 2020 like we needed a Shea Weber slapshot to the mid-section.

First Henrik Lundqvist and now Toews, two of the most respected players in the game today. In a couple of days, we won’t be ringing in 2021 as much as we’ll be ringing out 2020. And there is not a person in the game who doesn’t wish Toews a speedy recovery and a return to good health.

The Chicago Blackhawks, meanwhile, must be wondering exactly what they did to merit this much misfortune. You see, the Blackhawks were not a very good team before Toews was removed from the lineup. And not even a week ago, an innocuous collision at mid-ice in a World Junior Championship tune-up game cost them the services of Kirby Dach for the next four-to-five months with a wrist injury. Throw in Alex Nylander, who is out four-to-six months with a knee injury and a team that was already suffering from a dearth of NHL talent on its roster has been dealt a trio of body blows.

Suddenly, the Blackhawks are faced with a center ice corps that consists of Dylan Strome, David Kampf and Lucas Wallmark. Undrafted 24-year-old Pius Suter, a point-per-game player in Switzerland last season, now gets a chance to prove he can be another Artemi Panarin or Dominik Kubalik, players the Hawks plucked out of Europe who turned out to be terrific NHL players.

The Hawks, of course, will have all kinds of cap space if they have to go out and get a center, especially if they put Toews on the long-term injured list. Even with Toews, they’re already more than $4 million under the salary cap for this season. And at just $1.85 million committed to Collin Delia and Malcolm Subban, the Hawks are devoting less cap space in goaltending than all but a couple of teams have committed to their No. 1 goalie. Of course, their goalies are Collin Delia and Malcolm Subban, which is part of the reason why things look so grim for them this season.

This season, the Blackhawks will play in the revamped Central Division and they would have almost certainly finished last in that division, with or without Toews and Dach. But now there’s a very real possibility they’ll be seriously in the mix for the first pick overall and wouldn’t Owen Power be a fine addition to that defense corps? But let’s not stop there. If Toews’ career is in jeopardy, the Blackhawks stand an excellent chance as constituted to land the first pick overall in 2022, where Shane Wright is the top prize. Imagine that. The Blackhawks haven’t had two young franchise-altering prospects since the drafted Toews third overall in 2006 and Patrick Kane first overall the next year.

Over the summer, GM Stan Bowman tried to convince Blackhawk fans – and their star players – that they were not going all-in on a teardown and rebuild, that there would be pain, but a lot of the heavy lifting in terms of building had already been done. And that was met by a fair amount of skepticism in many parts, particularly among those who saw the Blackhawks as a very long way away from once again being a contender. And that was with Toews, Kane and Duncan Keith in the lineup. Remove Toews from that equation and you no longer have to worry about carrying on that façade.

So how do you replace Jonathan Toews? Well, if you’re the Blackhawks, you probably don’t. And if his career is in jeopardy, do you not get to the point where you look at a complete teardown, knowing full well that the last time you bottomed out it set you up to build a team that won three Stanley Cups in a six-year span? (And that would have almost certainly been four had they not lost in overtime of Game 7 of the Western Conference final to the Los Angeles Kings to cap a series that was one of the most entertaining in NHL history.)

Kane has a no-move clause in his contract that has this season and two more left on it at a team-friendly cap hit of $10.5 million. But don’t the Blackhawks owe it to themselves and Kane to at least explore whether he might like to try to win another Cup or two before the end of his career? If Kane continues to be a top-10 scorer in the NHL and one of its most dynamic talents, there would be a conga line of teams willing to give up multiple draft picks, prospects and young players to get him. And it wouldn’t sully Kane’s legacy one bit. If players in the history of that franchise deserve to get a statue in front of the United Center, it’s Toews and Kane.

The Blackhawks were not a good team and they were made much worse in the past week. So if you’re trying to build another quasi-dynasty, now is the time to make some very important, but difficult decisions. 

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Sinclair to lead Canadian women’s team in her fourth Olympics

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Christine Sinclair, the all-time international goal-scoring record holder, was named to her fourth Olympic squad on Wednesday and will headline a Canadian roster at the Tokyo Games that features a mix of veterans and youth.

Led by Sinclair, whose 186 goals for her country are the most by a female or male soccer player worldwide, Canada won medals at both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics and was the only nation to make the podium in both competitions.

“I am looking forward to doing whatever I can to help take this team back to the podium and make history again,” said Canadian captain Sinclair. “Our team is in a good spot, we are excited, we are hungry and we are ready to go.”

The 18-player roster features 12 members of the squad that competed at the 2016 Rio Games while a quintet including Vanessa Gilles, Jayde Riviere, Julia Grosso, Adriana Leon, and Evelyne Viens will be making their Olympic debuts.

Goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan travelled to Rio in 2016 as an alternate.

Canada will kick off their Tokyo 2020 journey when they face Japan on July 21 and continue Group E play against Chile on July 24 and Britain on July 27.

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Ed Osmond)

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Which of the Canadians Picked in the 2021 NFL Draft Will Thrive This Season?

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It was a good NFL Draft for Canadian players in 2021.

Some four stars from north of the border were selected by NFL franchises in the free agency pick ‘em, and that is tied as the highest number of Canadians drafted in the 85-year history of the event.

Of course, the hope is that these young talents are more than just filler and roster depth, but can any of the quartet make the breakthrough into the big time?

Here’s a look at which of the NFL’s newest Canadian additions can shine in 2021/22.

Jevon Holland

The defensive back was the number 36 pick in the Draft by the Miami Dolphins, who beat off a number of rivals in the hunt for the Coquitlam native.

A versatile defender, Holland is a former Jim Thorpe Award semi-finalist thanks to his exploits in the NCAA back in 2019 with the University of Oregon.

He sat out the 2020 campaign, but representatives from dozens of NFL teams were in town to watch Holland go through his paces at the Oregon Pro Day.

The 21-year-old is following in the footsteps of his father Robert, who turned out for the Detroit Lions, and he is expected to force his way into the starting line-up at the Dolphins. And, who knows, maybe Holland could go all the way in his first season, with Miami priced at +2500 in the Super Bowl 2022 American football odds.

Benjamin St-Juste

When you’re six foot three, 205 pounds and still able to run 40 yards in 4.51 seconds, it goes without saying that you have the physical credentials to succeed in the NFL.

Benjamin St-Juste is the man that can, and he will bolster the roster at a Washington Football Team that will be looking to improve upon their playoff showing in 2020.

The 23-year-old may only have been a third-round pick, but he comes with a burgeoning reputation thanks to a successful time at the University of Minnesota. An All-Big Ten special mention in 2019, more than 50 NFL recruitment personnel attended the college’s pro day – largely to catch a glimpse of St-Juste going through his paces.

Both Brian Gutekunst and Jon Robinson made the trip but, in the end, it was Washington who snapped up the powerhouse from the Draft.

Chuba Hubbard

The third Canadian to be drafted in 2021 was Chuba Hubbard, who became the first Canadian running back to be selected from the Draft in 25 years.

It’s the Carolina Panthers who have taken a chance on the 22-year-old and with his credentials, you can see why. Hubbard finished eighth in the voting for the Heisman Trophy in 2019 after a stellar campaign – he served up 2,094 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns, an NCAA best. He was named the Big 12 Conference Offensive Player of the Year.

While running backs are not the hottest of properties in the Draft, Hubbard provably has the talent to cross into the end zone with regularity – the Panthers might just have got their hands on an unheralded gem here.

With these three Canadians taking the step up to the NFL, the future of the sport north of the border looks in safe hands.

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Berrettini ends Murray’s comeback at Queen’s

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Andy Murray‘s grasscourt return was cut short in brutal fashion at Queen’s Club as Italian top seed Matteo Berrettini dished out a 6-3 6-3 defeat to the former world number one on Thursday.

The 34-year-old two-time Wimbledon champion, playing in his first singles tournament on grass for three years, could not handle the ferocious pace of Berrettini as he slid to defeat.

Murray eased past Benoit Paire in his opening match on Tuesday but world number nine Berrettini was too big a step up.

Berrettini’s huge first serve and forehand did most of the damage but the Italian also showed plenty of silky touch on the slick lawns to register his first career win over Murray.

Berrettini, 25, finished the match off with a powerful hold of serve, banging down four massive first serves before sealing victory with a clubbing forehand winner.

He faces British number one Dan Evans in the quarter-final after Evans beat Frenchman Adrian Mannarino.

Murray, a five-time winner of the traditional warm-up event but now ranked 124 after long battles with hip injuries including resurfacing surgery in 2019, has been handed a wildcard for the Wimbledon championships.

Apart from a slight groin niggle, Murray said he was reasonably happy with his condition, considering this was only his third Tour-level tournament of the year.

“I think obviously I need to improve,” Murray told reporters. “I actually felt my movement was actually quite good for both of the matches. My tennis today was not very good today. That’s the thing that I’ll need to improve the most.

“I felt like today that that sort of showed my lack of matches.”

Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez, who won the singles title in 2019 and the doubles alongside Murray, was beaten 6-2 6-3 by Canada‘s Denis Shapovalov.

(Reporting by Martyn HermanEditing by Toby Davis and Pritha Sarkar)

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