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Maple Leafs sign forward Scott Sabourin to one-year, $700K contract – Sportsnet.ca

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The Toronto Maple Leafs have signed forward Scott Sabourin to a one-year, two-way contract worth $700,000 at the NHL level and $250,000 in the AHL, per Sportsnet‘s Chris Johnston.

The 28-year-old had been with the organization on an AHL-only deal and was placed on waivers earlier Sunday.

The native of Orleans, Ont., had six points in 35 games with the Ottawa Senators last season, his lone pro campaign in the NHL.

The move comes after the revelation earlier Sunday that the Maple Leafs could be without power forward Wayne Simmonds for six weeks after he was hurt during the team’s 5-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday.

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SIMMONS: Giant opportunity for the Maple Leafs can't be wasted – Toronto Sun

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Brendan Shanahan and Kyle Dubas have to know — there may not be another NHL season like this one.

There may not be a Canadian division in the future. There may not be a path to the Stanley Cup Final Four as clear as this one appears. This kind of opportunity for the Cup-starved Maple Leafs has never been more apparent.

They’re well aware of the possibilities and of the quality of their first-place team after just 24 games. Which is why there has been so much talk around of the Leafs looking to upgrade up front for the eventual playoffs in May. The popular choice of improvements, now that TJ Brodie and Zach Bogosian have stabilized the formerly wonky Toronto defence, is the addition of a top six forward.

Maybe someone to play with John Tavares and William Nylander. Maybe someone who gives them the depth up front that enables coach Sheldon Keefe to maintain Zach Hyman on the third line and put a Tampa Bay type lineup out up front.

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Here is where it gets dicey. The Leafs have next to no salary cap room. In order to acquire anyone — the name Nick Foligno keeps popping up — they would have to move other assets and money, certainly Alex Kerfoot for example, maybe one of the young defencemen Rasmus Sandin or Timothy Liljegren, maybe the young sniper Nick Robertson, maybe an early-round draft pick.

The Leafs, not even halfway through the season, playing a limited schedule in a limited division, look like one of the best teams in the NHL. How that translates to playoffs and then crossover playoffs will be determined later. The chore for Shanahan and Dubas now is to take advantage of the greatest opportunity they’ve ever had in management. This is a shrunken season of possibilities. There may never be another like it.

THIS AND THAT

Since Keefe benched Nylander in Montreal, the mercurial winger has scored five goals in six games. He scored three goals in three games in the remarkable 13-1 pounding of the Edmonton Oilers. And with Nylander, there’s always something strange in the numbers. In the Edmonton games, he played just 13:51, 13:25 and 14:28 and played great. In the where he was benched in Montreal, he played 13:55. And he has never played better or scored prettier goals. Keefe has somehow figured out that he gets more from Nylander when he plays him less. Go figure the logic on that one … Dubas in the free-agent market. Signed Brodie. He has been great and made Morgan Rielly better. Signed Joe Thornton. His impact on the ice and off has been enormous. Signed Wayne Simmonds. Before he got hurt, he gave Leafs a net-front presence they’ve rarely had. Signed Zach Bogosian. He looked slow early on but has really stabilized the Leafs defensive depth and third pairing. Lesser signings — Jimmy Vesey and Travis Boyd have contributed something, Boyd more than Vesey — but the surprise has been Michael Hutchinson, who no one saw coming and has actually won games. Outside of Brodie, who was paid big money and has delivered, the rest of the signings were bargain-basement buys — all of them working out more than reasonably well for Dubas and the Leafs … Connor McDavid had no points in three home games against Toronto. Does that impact his Hart Trophy candidacy in any way? … It’s early but the Hart conversation already includes McDavid, Auston Matthews, Patrick Kane, Victor Hedman, Mark Scheifele, Mark Stone and Andrei Vasilevskiy. Who it doesn’t include at this point: Nathan MacKinnon, Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin and Elias Pettersson.

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HEAR AND THERE

The biggest problem with the Canadian division is teams are not playing up to their capabilities. Montreal and Calgary have already fired coaches. If someone other than Travis Green was coaching the Canucks, they’d have made a change by now. Ottawa’s goaltending is terrible, Edmonton looks thin and flawed and only Toronto and Winnipeg have played to or above form. The division is not as strong as I believed it would be but it’s not as weak as some of our American friends are telling us. The West Division, by the way, has Anaheim, San Jose, Arizona and Los Angeles. If you have a pulse you make the playoffs in the West. The Central has Detroit. The East has Buffalo. There are about 14 below-average teams in the NHL right now. Not all 14 play in Canada … Jack Eichel has not asked to be traded. Question is: Why hasn’t he? … New nickname for Sabres GM Kevyn Adams. Wiarton Willie. He pops his head out once a year to inform us of how many bad weeks are left in the NHL season … In Alex DeBrincat’s draft year, a well-known NHL scout said he was too small and would never play above the AHL. In his first season in Chicago, he scored 28 goals. A wiseacre from the OHL told the scout later: “I checked all the AHL rosters. I don’t see DeBrincat’s name on any team.” The diminutive DeBrincat is seventh in NHL scoring as of Saturday, one point ahead of Brad Marchand … So if there’s any matter to settle between Darryl Sutter and Daniel Carcillo, I’m taking Sutter and the points. Sutter can coach my team any time, just so long as I don’t have to cover the post-game press conferences.

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SCENE AND HEARD

A hockey voice: If you didn’t like and respect Walter Gretzky, you don’t like and respect yourself … Wally was like the Pied Piper of hockey. He spoke, we followed. Always with a friendly smile. Didn’t matter if you were the most important man in the world, or the least important. Wally made certain you mattered … I thought Seth Jones and Miro Heiskanen would be Norris Trophy candidates this season. I thought wrong … McDavid had no points in three games against the Leafs. Auston Matthews had no goals in his first two games returning from the injury. The word is in for kind of explosion or correction … The Leafs third line of Pierre Engvall-Zach Hyman and Ilya Mikheyev has played four games together and has scored five goals. That won’t continue. But this might be the Leafs niftiest third line with speed and size since Peter Zezel centred Bill Berg and Mark Osborne … When Mike Babcock was choosing between Buffalo and Toronto, he preferred the Sabres roster to that of the Leafs. His wife preferred living in Toronto. That, of course, was before Matthews was drafted. Some five years later, the Leafs are contending, Sabres have become an NHL embarrassment … At last glance, Leafs were first in the NHL in wins, first in goal scoring, fourth in goals against, first in power play, sixth in shots against per game. The one area that needs some work — penalty killing. They’re just 15th with a man short.

AND ANOTHER THING

This from Scott Mitchell of TSN, but worth repeating. Saturday Blue Jays: No TV, no radio. Sunday: No TV, Detroit radio; Monday: Off day; Tuesday: No TV, no radio; Wednesday: No TV, no radio. Thursday: No TV, no radio; Friday: Pittsburgh TV, no radio. And this from me: Who owns the Blue Jays? Rogers. Who owns the TV network? Rogers. Who’s in charge here? Nobody with a clue … Nate Pearson, saviour pitcher who has thrown 18 big league innings, is hurt again. In case you didn’t see that on television … Apparently, Kyle Lowry’s north Toronto home has sold. What we don’t know: Does he want to finish his career as a Raptor or be traded to a contender later this month … The best part of the first half of the Raptors season: The continued growth of Fred VanVleet and Norm Powell; the steady hand of Lowry; the offensive improvement of OG Anunoby; the fact Pascal Siakam has re-invented himself and the giant steps made by Chris Boucher. That’s a lot of positives for a team with more losses than wins … Wouldn’t you like to be in on the meeting where Raptors executives get to the bottom of how so many coaches and players were exposed to COVID-19. This is very un-Raptor-like behaviour … So much optimism about a professional hockey league emerging from the Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association. Still asking though: Who will pay for it when NHL owners aren’t selling any tickets or doing much business? … If you didn’t read this about Chris Schultz before, please do here. https://tinyurl.com/ym4pxj6w … The latest from the Tokyo Olympics? Athletes from all over the world will be there. No fans or family allowed in from any country other than Japan. And if it comes off, it’s going to feel very odd … Happy birthday to Rasmus Sandin (21), Shaquille O’Neal (49), Ivan Lendl (61), Joe Carter (61), Lynn Swann (69), Franco Harris (71), Jeff Kent (53), Marcus Smart (27), Val Venis (50) and Tommy Kramer (66) … And hey, whatever became of Nate Archibald?

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LEAFS IN A TOUGH SPOT WITH HYMAN

The Maple Leafs are caught in a squeeze of sorts with their most dependable player. They can’t afford to sign the pending free agent Zach Hyman for what he would be worth in the open market — and they can’t afford to let him go.

Whatever Hyman was expected to be when then fill-in general manager Kyle Dubas made his first ever trade, acquiring Hyman’s rights from Florida, the fiery and dependable winger has exceeded any and all expectations.

Hyman has scored 29 goals in the Leafs last 79 games and goal-scoring isn’t what he does best or is known for. He kills penalties, he retrieves pucks like a mad man, he forechecks, he battles, he brings the puck up ice with tremendous speed and he has elevated and expanded his offensive game the past few seasons. He is one player Mike Babcock was right on from the beginning — and damn the critics.

What is a 29-goal scorer who hits, skates like the wind, blocks shots, and makes every line he plays on better worth in free agency? Open market the number would start around $5 million a year. But the Leafs are forever tight salary cap-wise, with little expectation that the number is going to go up.

And they have to sign goaltender Frederik Andersen and a year from now sign defenceman Morgan Rielly. The math is forever confounding.

The Leafs can’t afford to let Hyman walk and they can’t afford to sign him for what he’s worth. It’s complicated in a good complicated kind of way for the unlikely and incredible kid from Forest Hill.

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CHANGE NEEDED FOR CANADIAN FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME

Laurent Duvernay-Tardif is not eligible to be elected to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame unless he’s elected for the time he played at McGill. Chase Claypool, from just outside Vancouver, who scored 11 touchdowns in his first NFL season, would not be eligible for the Canadian Hall either.

And that’s wrong if it’s going to call itself the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. It’s not the Canadian Football League Hall. It’s not the CIAU or U Hall, even though one university player every year now gets recognized.

So let’s see if we have this clear: If you star for Acadia, you can make the Hall. If you star for the New Orleans Saints, the way Rueben Mayes did, you can’t. The Hall should be there to recognize the best Canadian’s playing football, no matter where they play.

Dahrran Diedrick ran for 26 touchdowns at Nebraska and he can’t be elected. Eric Lapointe ran for 29 touchdowns at Mount Allison and he’s already been recognized by the Hall.

Of course, I got to thinking about this upon Chris Schultz’s passing. He played nine excellent seasons for the Argos and spent three years with the Dallas Cowboys. He never did get his deserved Hall of Fame status here, held back because he was good enough, for a real stretch, to play and start in the NFL.

The best Canadians playing football should be in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. Not just the best CFL and U players. Maybe in Schultz’s honour, the time has come to expand and alter the parameters here.

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UGLY TIMES IN CLEVELAND AND BASEBALL

There are uncomfortable times for Mark Shapiro, Ross Atkins and anyone who has had anything to do with Mickey Callaway’s now ruined baseball career.

Shapiro was president of the Cleveland Indians when Atkins hired Callaway to work for the club and apparently, Atkins and Callaway have remained good friends since then. Atkins, being forthright this week, said he knew nothing about Callaway’s lewd treatment of women that he’s being accused of.

It’s easy to question exactly what was going on or not going on with the Indians when the people being hired by Shapiro and Atkins are in the middle of this mess. The son of manager Terry Francona has called out his father for looking the other way. Unrelated, former Cleveland man and Jays’ manager John Farrell is in a similar dispute with his son. The two no longer speak.

Nick Francona no longer speaks to his dad. The Farrell’s are split up as a family. The reputation of anyone with a connection to Callaway is being questioned and you have to hope that Shapiro and Atkins have been more aware of advancing their hiring practices in Toronto.

The stain of the Callaway story, in concert with the hiring and firing of GM Jared Porter with the New York Mets, has put baseball on watch. The wrong kind of watch.

ssimmons@postmedia.com
twitter.com/simmonssteve

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Canadiens vs. Jets game recap: A confidence-building win – Habs Eyes on the Prize

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Carey Price was back in net for his first start since Marc Bergevin decided to axe his goalie coach earlier in the week. Could a new voice and new methods get us a rejuvenated Price? Well, honestly that is still to be decided, considering the fact that Sean Burke will be in coronavirus isolation for a fortnight before being able to join up with his new disciples. This meant that the question for Saturday’s game essentially was: What changes could Laval Rocket goaltender coach Marco Marciano implement in his first few days as an interim coach? Could he, in any way, restore Price’s confidence this soon?

Whether it’s Burke, Marciano, or Dominique Ducharme in charge, the best thing the whole coaching staff could do at this point is try to decrease the quality of chances the opposition is allowed near the Montreal net. During the early part of the first period, the Canadiens did so in an admirable fashion, perhaps not creating much offence themselves, but efficiently preventing Winnipeg from getting their skates set in the offensive zone.

After a power play that saw some promising looks from both Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Jonathan Drouin, Montreal got a first-class opportunity to take the lead. Brendan Gallagher delivered a pass to the aforementioned Drouin, which cut like a knife through butter on a hot Sunday morning. Unfortunately, Connor Hellebuyck proved once again why he is considered a goaltender of the first degree.

There would however be one goal scored in the opening period. Josh Anderson, back from a three-game absence and effectively replacing Artturi Lehkonen in the lineup, received a pass from Kotkaniemi which bounced off the wall behind the net. Grade A smartness there from the young Finn, since his obviously deliberate pass tricked the entire Jets team, including Hellebuyck who went out to clear the puck from behind his own goal, thereby leaving the net wide open for Anderson to score from the slot. This was Anderson’s 10th goal of the year.

Both teams started the second period having problems stringing together quality scoring chances. Instead, the puck went quickly from one zone to another, without there seeming to be a cohesive idea behind either team’s offensive gameplay.

Thankfully, you are not as dependent on a continously working offensive gameplan if you have functional goal-scorers on your team. Seven minutes in, Tyler Toffoli went bar-down for his 15th goal of the season. This means that the two wingers who were brought in to Montreal this autumn to primarily aid the team’s scoring problem have combined for 25 goals during the opening 23 games.

Another guy who has always had a knack for scoring goals is Brendan Gallagher. This night he moved even further up the Canadiens’ all-time scoring list with two eerily similar goals during a three-minute span. Assisted by Phillip Danault and Tomas Tatar, commonly known as his usual partners in crime, Gally batted them home to make it 10 on the year for him as well. We have to give extra credit here for Danault’s sublime dual no-look, behind-the-back passes on the latter goal. They were icing on the delicious cake which was the Habs’ second period.

That was all she wrote for Hellebuyck. The normally formidable Jets goalie surrendered after letting in four goals in just 19 shots and was replaced by Laurent Brossoit. Would Brossoit then provide an immediate spark for the struggling Manitoba side? No, he did not.

Drouin lasered a pass cross-ice to his newest linemate, Joel Armia, who banged it home from a distance. Montreal went to the locker room with a five-goal lead and a fine possibility of the year’s first shutout for Carey Price.

Winnipeg tried to get something going, but as they were buzzing around Price’s net, a shot took a detour off Trevor Lewis’s hand and ended up in Jake Evans’s possession. Evans flicked it downfield, looking for either a breather through an icing call or a potentially lucky bounce off of Brossoit. In the end, he got the latter. Skating phenom Paul Byron pounced on the rebound and scored the Canadiens’ sixth goal of the evening.

Why stop at six when you can get seven, thought Jeff Petry, and fired a sneaky wrister from the blue line exactly four minutes later. Lots of traffic in front of the net aided Petry and fooled the netminder.

If he wasn’t already in there to replace the starting goalie, I am sure that Brossoit would have enjoyed seeing the rest of the game from the bench. Up until this point, the Jets’ two goaltenders had missed seven out of the home team’s 27 shots, giving them a combined save percentage of .741.

Unfortunately, there would be a small dent in the otherwise shining effort by the Montreal Canadiens. With 10 minutes left to play, Alexander Romanov took a tripping penalty. On the ensuing power play, Drummondville native Mathieu Perreault would score to implode Carey Price’s possibility of a well-deserved shutout.

The final minutes of the game flew by as both teams just wanted the game to end, although for entirely different reasons. The Canadiens took their 11th win, by a score of 7-1, in a way that will instill confidence in the entire team, as they now move back out west for a 12-day, six-game streak away from home.

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Furor grows over photo of champion trainer Gordon Elliott sitting on dead horse – The Globe and Mail

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Trainer Gordon Elliott during the Grand National Festival on April 6, 2017.

Reuters Staff/Reuters

Until last week, Gordon Elliott had the kind of backstory the sports world loves – the son of a car mechanic who rose from nothing to become a superstar in British and Irish horse racing through sheer guts and determination.

His renown as a horse trainer is unparalleled. He’s won the Grand National steeplechase three times and dominates the Cheltenham Festival on a regular basis. He’s transformed a derelict dairy farm in Ireland into a racing juggernaut stacked with nearly 200 horses, including Tiger Roll, the first two-time winner of the Grand National in nearly 50 years. “There’s only one thing I want to be,” he once said “That’s a champion trainer. I don’t really care about anything else.”

But now Elliott’s future has been thrown into turmoil over a scandal that has shaken the sport and raised questions about how the racing industry treats horses.

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It centres around a photograph of Elliott taken in 2019, which surfaced on social media this week. The picture showed him sitting on a dead horse named Morgan, flashing a “V” sign while chatting on his cellphone.

The image sparked a public outcry and led to calls for Elliott to be banned from racing. Several companies, including gambling giant Betfair, immediately cut their ties to the trainer and some owners pulled their horses from his Cullentra House stables. “It is just such an appalling image,” champion jockey Peter Scudamore told the BBC this week. “It just hit the bottom of my stomach.”

On Friday the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board banned Elliott for 12 months, with the last six months suspended. In its ruling the IHRB said the photograph showed “appalling bad taste” and added; “There can be no doubt but that the production of the subject photograph has been a cause of enormous distress to all those who appreciate the enjoyment that horses brings to their lives.” The British Horseracing Authority is expected to impose a similar sanction and it has already banned Elliott from racetracks in Britain.

Elliott has offered several apologies and he didn’t contest the IHRB’s ruling. “I am paying a heavy price for my error but I have no complaints,” he said in a statement on Friday. “I was disrespectful to a dead horse, an animal that had been a loyal servant to me and was loved by my staff.”

In a statement earlier this week he explained that the horse had suffered a heart attack during training. He added that he was standing over the body when he received a phone call. “Without thinking, I sat down to take it. Hearing a shout from one of my team, I gestured to wait until I was finished,” he said. “I appreciate that an initial viewing of this photo suggests it is a callous and staged photo but nothing could be further from the truth.”

His comments have done little to quell the uproar or the growing debate about the welfare of race horses. “The main subject of that picture is the dead horse,” said Dene Stansall of Animal Aid, a non-profit group that campaigns for better treatment of race horses. “Why did he die and how many of these horses are dying?”

Few argue that horse racing is dangerous, especially steeplechase, in which horses jump over barriers that stand up to 1.5 metres tall. The Grand National covers 7.2 kilometres and horses have to clear 30 jumps made of woven spruce branches. In 2019 Up for Review fell at the first fence and television viewers briefly watched the horse convulsing on the turf before dying. Two other horses died during the three-day series of races.

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According to figures complied by the BHA, 135 horses died in all races last year across Britain. That was down from 177 in 2019, although there were fewer races in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. A total of 202 horses died in 2018.

Stansall and others believe the death toll is higher because the BHA doesn’t include horses that die in training, which could account for an additional 200 deaths annually. He adds that horses are being put under increasing strain through over-racing, intensive training and specialized diets that are not designed for the horse’s well-being.

The Grand National and BHA insist that racing has improved and that animal care is paramount. “As a consequence of British racing’s investment in safety, welfare and health, the number of horses that have died on racecourses has decreased by one third in the last 20 years, to 0.18 per cent of runners,” the BHA said. The Grand National said it has changed fences to make them more forgiving and improved postrace care for horses to prevent injuries.

Many people have stood by Elliott, including Michael O’Leary, the chief executive of Ryanair, who co-owns Tiger Roll and Morgan, the horse in the photograph. “We accept Gordon’s sincere, profound and unreserved apology and we will continue to support him and his team at Cullentra,” O’Leary said in a statement.

But Elliott’s career remains uncertain and he spoke this week about the toll the scandal has taken. “When your world starts crumbling in front of you, it’s a scary place to be,” he told the Racing Post. “My whole life has revolved around horses since I was a child. I know nothing else. Horses are all I have. I came from nothing and built a dream.”

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