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Weekend NHL rankings: The Bruce Boudreau debacle gets a pathetic final chapter

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No bonus top five this week because I’m cranky. Instead, I’m going to ask you to let me vent for a bit.

I’m a bit of an NHL history buff. You may have picked up on that based on roughly half the columns I post here. I also wrote a book on the subject. I’m not an expert, but I feel like I know my stuff.

I’ve never seen anything like this Bruce Boudreau story.

Never. And I lived through the era of Harold Ballard, an owner so mean and awful that he once asked Roger Neilson to wear a paper bag over his head. Neilson told him to get stuffed, and Ballard backed down because even the worst of the worst are still capable of realizing when they’ve gone too far.

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The Canucks went too far. Way too far. Their treatment of Boudreau over the last few months went from comical to bizarre to outright cruel, which is where it’s been for weeks now. Yesterday’s announcement of the inevitable was just one last act in a bad farce. The way this was handled makes Gerard Gallant’s infamous taxi look like a stretch limo.

Look, coaches get fired. It’s never pleasant, but it happens, to almost everyone, and it’s part of the game. You could absolutely make the case that Boudreau deserved a pink slip based on how this season went, or at least that the coach taking the fall for a flawed roster would be the standard operating procedure in plenty of places around the league. That’s fine. Maybe Rick Tocchet will be the better fit.

But there’s no reason to do it like this. None. We’ve known the coaching change was coming. We knew who’d be replacing him. The exact date it would happen leaked out a while ago. And yet the team still sent Boudreau out there, night after night, as dead coach walking. Just fire him! If Tocchet can’t take the job right away because of TV commitments or whatever, then let Mike Yeo run the bench for a few games on an interim basis. There’s no reason to let a respected coach with over 600 career wins who almost saved your season last year twist in the wind like this. No reason to have Jim Rutherford periodically show up to kick him when he’s down. No reason to send him out there for what everyone knew would be his final games, then watch him have to clarify to the media that he hadn’t actually been fired yet.

If there’s a positive in any of this, it’s that the last part at least allowed Vancouver fans to step up to the plate. Their final Bruce chant, and Boudreau’s reaction to it, was a genuinely touching moment, even if it should have never happened.

Seriously, what does the Canucks’ organization gain from this? Possibly a coaching upgrade, although that remains to be seen. Beyond that, it’s hard to imagine the purpose behind all of this. Maybe there’s some behind-the-scenes grudge. Maybe Rutherford, or ownership, or (tries to remember the name of that GM who hasn’t been seen in months) Patrik Allvin genuinely hates the guy. Maybe they thought their weird excuses and quasi-apologies would actually land. Maybe they’re in the increasingly large group these days that mistakes cruelty and pettiness for bold leadership. I have no idea.

What I do know is that the Canucks look awful in all of this. Drance gets into some of the bigger picture stuff here, and he nails it in one key sentence: “the way an organization treats people matters”. The fans are ticked off. The Province reported that the players are too, and this could impact the Canucks ability to resign key pieces or attract free agents. And around the hockey world, all anyone can do is shake their heads and wonder how it came to this.

And if that’s not enough, this guy is ready to put someone through a table.

I’ve never met Boudreau, and I’m not going to pretend I know he’s some great guy based on his public persona. But the mere fact that he has a public persona is worth something, especially in a league where all we see most coaches do is stare at iPads after goals, grunt out dismissive non-answers at press conferences, and bag skate their teams after 5-4 wins. Boudreau always seemed like he enjoyed his job, and understood that he was in the entertainment business. He even seemed to be, dare we say it, having fun.

Maybe that’s why he had to be publicly humiliated and cast aside. Maybe it’s something else. Maybe it’s no reason at all, other than Rutherford or whoever realized that they could.

Good luck to Rick Tocchet. Hell of an organization you’re stepping into there, coach.


Road to the Cup

The five teams with the best chances of winning the Stanley Cup.

By the way, hope everyone enjoyed weekend number three of at some point going “Wait, is the All-Star Game happening today?” The original rosters were announced four months ago, and the voting went on for seven weeks, I think they announced the winners recently but I saw Stuart Skinner on the list so it may have just been a meme, and it turns out it wasn’t this weekend after all. Will it be next weekend? Nobody knows, tune in to find out.

5. Toronto Maple Leafs (28-11-8, +34 true goals differential*) — After last week’s dramatic handwringing over dropping the Avalanche out of the top five, I’ll admit it was tempting to quietly slip them right back in as if nothing had happened. Instead, we’ll reluctantly go back to the Leafs, who collected five of six points this week despite rarely looking especially impressive.

4. New Jersey Devils (30-12-4, +40) — Well, look who’s back. After a three-week absence, the Devils return to the top five. Yesterday’s win over the Penguins left them with the third-best points percentage in the league, which helps dispel any lingering notions that they’d settled into mediocrity after that long stretch of early season dominance. And I have to say, this Timo Meier talk is making some sense to me.

(Jamie Squire / Getty Images)

3. Dallas Stars (28-13-7, +44) — It was the week of the 4-0 win, as they racked up three of them. That’s more than enough to move them back into the Central’s spot after the Jets slipped past them last week. They’ve started an eight-game homestand that will include visits by Carolina, New Jersey, Tampa and Boston, so we’ll get a good sense of how they can handle the league’s big kids.

2. Carolina Hurricanes (29-8-8, +26) — Absolutely devastating news on the Max Pacioretty injury. Awful for the player, who’d worked so hard to get back and now faces an uncertain future. Awful for a team that had paired creativity with patience in the hopes of adding a legitimate scoring threat. Just a genuinely miserable moment.

1. Boston Bruins (37-5-4, +82) — They won all four games this week, but gave up two goals in the process. Unacceptable, really, here’s hoping they can get themselves out of his tailspin.

*Goals differential without counting shootout decisions like the NHL does for some reason.

Not ranked: Pittsburgh Penguins — It’s time to check in with our quasi-monthly feature called “Do the Penguins make any damn sense yet?”

This week’s answer: Nope.

The good news is that they’ve steadied things a bit since snapping a six-game losing streak, winning four of their last eight and earning loser points in two more. But those four wins have come against the Coyotes, Canucks, Ducks (barely) and Senators, so it’s hard to declare the team is fixed. They looked completely off in Ottawa on Wednesday. The blue line badly misses Kris Letang, now on the LTIR, and the goaltending wasn’t great during three weeks without Tristan Jarry. They really haven’t looked especially dangerous since before the holiday break. That’s bad.

But Jarry is back now, starting Friday’s win over the Senators and looking fantastic, making 44 saves in a 4-1 win. Jeff Petry is back too, which should help the blue line. And despite all the negatives, the Penguins are still holding down a wild-card spot, ahead of the struggling Islanders, the intriguing Sabres and the suddenly feisty Panthers. That’s … well, I’m not sure holding down a wild-card spot is good, but it’s not terrible as far as worst-case scenarios go.

It’s not all that hard to look at this team as a talented group that hit a patch of tough injury news, weathered it, and is now well-positioned to lock down a playoff spot in the second half. The Crosby/Malkin duo is still dangerous, and Letang should be back at some point. If you believe in Mike Sullivan, you have to figure that he’ll get the penalties under control and maybe get the powerplay working again. (Jesse Marshall has some interesting thoughts on that here.) And while it feels unlikely, maybe Ron Hextall does … something? Stranger things have happened.

Of course, you could also go down Josh’s recent checklist and note that many of those problems can’t be fixed in the short term. They’re not going to get younger, faster, or bigger. Maybe Sullivan can get them to improve the defensive coverage issues, but they’ve had half a season to do that. Yes, they can probably make the playoffs despite all that, but is anyone going to pick them to beat Boston or Carolina? They didn’t bring the core back so they could serve as a first-round warmup for a real contender. And right now, that sure seems like where they’re headed.

They’ve got those Panthers tomorrow, which should be a fun one. Will it provide any clarity on where this team is headed? No, because we’ll never get that until the season is over. Right now, it sure feels like we can pencil that in for roughly five games into the postseason.


The bottom five

The five teams that are headed towards dead last, and the best lottery odds for Connor Bedard.

Hockey parents are the absolute best.

5. Montreal Canadiens (20-24-3, -50) — The standings don’t think they’re this bad, but we’re predicting the future here, and the Habs have become the first team to hit the “everyone that’s hurt gets shut down for the year” mark.

That’s a crucial milestone for a tanking team — I say this from personal experience — and it works. As an added bonus, the players who get shut down have a chance to fully recover in time for next year. You need Cole Caufield’s shoulder to be ready for opening night because all those Connor Bedard-assisted goals aren’t going to celebrate themselves.

4. Columbus Blue Jackets (14-30-2, -61) — Pulling off the impossible by losing to the Ducks in regulation was big, but they couldn’t keep the momentum going with a disappointing win over the Sharks. The good news is that the next 10 games are rough, so even in a crowded field of four absolutely terrible teams, they can still take this.

3. Anaheim Ducks (13-29-5, -87) — Well, at least Trevor Zegras is staying upbeat.

2. Arizona Coyotes (15-27-5, -47) — Last night’s upset win over the Golden Knights was their first non-shootout victory since the final days of 2022 when they beat (checks notes) the Leafs and Avalanche. Sure, why not, hockey makes sense.

1. Chicago Blackhawks (14-27-4, -53) — They’d won six of seven before last night’s loss to the Kings, the sort of stretch that threatens to tank a tank just a few weeks after they looked like they had last place in the bag.

I’m keeping them in the number one spot for now because they still have the Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews trades to navigate. In terms of being bad, I still think they have another level. But the last few weeks have hurt, and this is a race again.

Not ranked: San Jose Sharks — They slip out of the bottom five this week, but need a mention because it’s starting to feel like an Erik Karlsson trade could actually happen. He talked to Pierre about the situation this week, and his comments are worth a read. He certainly doesn’t sound like a guy who wants out of San Jose. But he also doesn’t sound like a guy who’s completely shut the door on the idea.

That’s crucial here, obviously, because Karlsson has a full no-move and controls his future. Remember, he has four years left on his deal and wouldn’t be a rental, so this isn’t a situation where somebody is only committing to go chase a Cup for a few months at most. If he moves, it’s for the foreseeable future, so he has every right to be picky.

Still, he says he wants to win, and right now the Sharks can’t offer that. And while his massive contract would have made any trade scenario feel unworkable heading into this season, Karlsson’s monster season might be changing that. I’ll emphasize that “might” because we’ve never seen a contract like this get traded in the cap era, let alone at midseason. Still, we’re told that teams are calling. And if they are, Mike Grier should absolutely be answering. (Mike, you got my note, right?)

Fans of deadline blockbusters shouldn’t be getting our hopes up quite yet; we’re already seeing caveats about how a deal might be easier in the offseason. I don’t see how that makes sense since you’d think you only even consider adding this contract if you know you’re getting a playoff run from its best season. The most likely outcome here is still that everyone hems and haws and eventually talks themselves out of doing anything bold.

But that doesn’t feel like a sure thing anymore, and that’s intriguing, to say the least. Karlsson is one of the best defensemen of his era, and he’s in the middle of what could be a career year. If he actually switched teams, it could change the entire dynamic heading into the playoffs. I don’t think it happens, but let’s see if anyone out there proves me wrong.

(Top photo: Rich Lam / Getty Images)

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A Look At Today’s Best Live Dealer Online Casino Games

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Online Casino Games

Some of the most popular games you can play at fully licensed online casinos today are live dealer games, such as Live Dealer Roulette, Live Dealer Blackjack, TV Game Show-themed live dealer games, and Live Dealer Slots. Here is a closer look at some of the best live dealer games from three leading software providers – Evolution Gaming, Pragmatic Play, and OnAir Entertainment.

All of these state-of-the-art live dealer games are now available to play in the real money mode at a fully licensed online casino called Lucky Spins Canada, which is free to sign up to and is currently offering all new Canadian players up to 500 FREE SPINS for Play’n GO’s iconic Book of Dead online slot, plus a 100% matching deposit bonus worth up to C$500.

Top 10 Live Dealer Games in the Spotlight

Here are ten of the best live dealer casino games that you must check out. These games have wide betting ranges that cater to low rollers and high rollers alike (and pretty much all other betting ranges in between low rollers and high rollers), and you can often play one round/hand/spin from as little as C$0.10 to C$0.50 up to C$1,000.00 or more.

The top ten live dealer games from Evolution Gaming, Pragmatic Play, OnAir Entertainment, Betgames.tv, Ezugi, and eBET that you must check out include the following mixture of live table & card games, live slots, and television game show live dealer games:

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  • Live PowerUp Roulette from Pragmatic Play
  • Live Andar Bahar from Ezugi
  • Live Teen Patti from Ezugi
  • Live XXXtreme Lightning Roulette from Evolution Gaming
  • Live Crazy Coin Flip from Evolution Gaming
  • MONOPOLY Live from Evolution Gaming
  • Live Wheel of Fortune from Betgames.tv
  • Live Airwave Roulette from OnAir Entertainment
  • Live Black Sports Arena from OnAir Entertainment
  • Bet On Poker Live from Betgames.tv

How old do I have to be to play live casino games?

To play live dealer games at online casinos, such as Lucky Spins, you generally need to be at least 18 years old. However, always check because, in some regions where online gambling is legal, it could be 21 or 20 years old.

What devices can I play live dealer games from?

You can play live dealer games from all of the providers mentioned above using either a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop computer. Just make sure that it has decent Wi-Fi or internet connectivity. Most games can be launched instantly in your web browser, plus you also generally have the option to download and install a free casino app directly onto your smartphone or tablet and then play from within the secure app.

What to remember when playing for real money

When playing for real money, don’t forget to set deposit limits where possible. Don’t ever chase your losses because it may result in you losing even more money, and don’t gamble just for the sake of it. Try and have fun, and always remember to gamble responsibly. Gambling is meant to be fun, so if you aren’t having fun anymore, it might be a good idea to take a break from gambling for a while.

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Gambling in Ireland vs. Canada

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Regulation of Online Gambling in Ontario: The Fight Against Black-Market Operators Continues

Gambling has traditionally played a significant role in Irish society. Naturally, the advancement of technology has changed how Irish gamblers conduct their business. Because of cell phones, placing bets is now simpler than ever (You could check here for a few trustworthy ones). However, Irish individuals must be cognizant of the country’s licensing laws.

Irish gamers can wager on bingo, lotteries, casino games, poker, sports, and more about the regulated and licensed gambling websites, making internet gambling in Ireland a multi-million-dollar business. This is not so dissimilar from the humongous gambling industry in Canada. For the past couple of years, gambling practices have been on the rise in Canada. So in today’s article, we’ll be looking at how gambling has fared in Ireland vs. Canada.

 

Ireland

According to the most recent statistics from Ireland from 2022, approximately half of the Irish population (49%) partakes in gambling, while its estimated prevalence for gambling addiction is 0.3%, meaning there are 12,000 problem gamblers in Ireland. Since only a small percentage of those with an issue with betting seek treatment, there is a need to try and understand Irish gambling behavior and treatment adoption.

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According to industry statistics, Irish gamblers ended up losing over €1.36 billion the year before last, or around €300 on average for every person, ranking them as the fourth-largest gamblers throughout the EU. According to industry researchers H2 Gambling Capital, Ireland places 14th internationally for the biggest median gambling losses, comfortably ahead of the UK but behind Sweden (€325 per adult), Malta (€334), and Finland (€342).

Revenue rose €51.9 million in conventional betting duty revenues and €40.6 million in online betting receipts in 2019, almost twice as much as the corresponding amounts from the preceding year ($28.9 million & €21.7 million, respectively). Sports betting is the most well-liked online form of gambling, comprising over 41% of the industry and bringing in €10 billion in 2019, claims the European Gaming and Betting Association.

Instead of using desktop computers, over 44% of all internet wagers are placed from a phone or tablet. By 2025, it is anticipated that approximately 6 out of 10 online wagers will be placed using mobile devices. Despite representing just 1.1% of the total population, Ireland generates 2.6% of Europe’s online gambling market in terms of revenue, according to the H2 data.

 

 

Canada

Like many other nations, Canada has a large gambling industry. The majority of gamblers don’t suffer any consequences, but a small percentage will. The number of gambling options in Canada has grown over the years, and new gambling innovations like online poker & sports betting have increased the significance of more thorough and ongoing oversight.

A study used information from the Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) to assess gambling and gambling-related issues among adults aged 15 and over. Those who may be at risk of developing a problem with gambling are identified using a Problem Gambling Index. This evaluates problem gambling behavior and the effects of that behavior on the individual or others.

Of the 18.9 million Canadians aged 15 and over, nearly two-thirds (64.5%) reported betting in the previous year, & 1.6% of those gamblers were exposed to a substantial risk of gambling-related issues. Men were more prone than women to file gambling in the previous year across all age categories. Additionally, men were more likely to have a relatively high risk of developing gambling-related issues.

Though they were more prone to developing gambling problems, people in lower social households were less inclined to wager than those of relatively high-earning households.

 

For instance,

 

  • 1% of Canadians at significantly higher risk for gambling issues were among the 71.5% of those living in higher-earning households who reported betting in the last year.
  • 8% of people from low-income families gambled in the preceding year, and 2.7% of them were at moderate to high risk for developing gambling addictions.

 

The likelihood of gambling-related issues rose with the quantity of casino games played.

In the multivariate analyses, the majority of factors, such as engaging in various gambling activities, living single (or separated or divorced), being unmarried, and possessing poor or fair mental well-being, remained independently related to gambling problems.

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Canada Soccer has hit the big time with coach John Herdman

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John Herdman, Head Coach of Canada, reacts during a press conference at the Main Media Center on Nov. 30, during the World Cup in Doha, Qatar.Mohamed Farag/Getty Images

In every team’s final news conference at a World Cup, it’s tradition to ask the head coach if he plans to stick around.

Someone threw it up at Canadian national men’s coach John Herdman following this country’s measured success in Qatar.

Herdman gave a meandering answer of 1 minute 15 seconds that ended this way: “[Belgian assistant coach] Thierry Henry told me this team played [Belgium] off the park. I’ll take that. Because if that’s our foundation? We’ve got a great four years ahead, and I can’t wait to get after it.”

Though that reply didn’t contain the crucial word, people took it for a “yes.” Because what else would it be?

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Few coaches in the world have a gig this sweet. Herdman is such a big fish in Canada’s soccer pond that he essentially runs the program. He’s got a guaranteed spotlight in the next World Cup, which Canada will be in by virtue of being a co-host. He’s still young (47), says he loves living here and is signed for the long term.

Maybe he’d like to coach at a sexier program in Europe. Wouldn’t anyone in his position?

But with that caveat, from the outside looking in, Canada is a great job. It wasn’t always, but Herdman (with a major assist from Alphonso Davies’s parents) turned it into one.

Which makes it curious that reports out of New Zealand on Wednesday claimed that Herdman was about to be appointed the coach of that country’s men’s national team.

In a report from the NewsHub network, Herdman was described as “the clear top pick” for the job. To hear this story tell it, it was just a matter of fussing with details.

Canada is the 53rd-ranked team in the world and on the rise. New Zealand is 105th and just barely treading water. New Zealand is Canada 10 years ago, and not in a fun, preinflation sort of way.

A complicating factor – Herdman’s son, Jay, plays for New Zealand’s under-19 national team. An even more complicated one – money. Some people love their job, but everyone loves money.

That said, judged from the perspective of social capital, the New Zealand job is not a promotion. It’s not even a lateral move. It’s trading the big leagues for the bush leagues.

So what’s going on? Does Herdman want out of Canada? And if so, why? Does he want more money? Is he a secret Lord of the Rings superfan?

This is what happens when a story like this is loosed into the world and not recaptured immediately – people begin to wonder all sorts of fantastical things.

As usual, whenever a story about it is breaking, Canada Soccer was caught in a blank stare on Wednesday morning. It wasn’t until early afternoon that an official denial was put together.

Three people commented in that statement – Herdman, Canada Soccer general secretary Earl Cochrane and Canada Soccer president Nick Bontis.

Bontis affirmed the “full confidence” of the board in Herdman, which is weird. He just took Canada to its first World Cup in 40 years. Why wouldn’t the board have confidence in him?

Cochrane noted first and foremost that Herdman is under contract until after the 2026 World Cup, which is also weird. That’s not news.

Herdman was unequivocal: “I’m not going anywhere.” But he also felt the need to mention that he’s got “several offers” recently, including one from New Zealand, which is super weird. If you’re happy where you are, why do so many people think you aren’t? And why do you feel the need to share that information?

Another oddity – no one mentioned anything about the story out of New Zealand being wrong. Actually, none of them mentioned the story at all.

If there were no truth to any of this, all that was required was a straight denial. That should have taken 15 minutes to put together.

Instead, it took hours to wrangle all the top decision-makers at Canada Soccer to patch up a complex, interwoven, multiperson denial. That has the whiff of an organization protesting o’ermuch.

So no fire, but plenty of smoke and lots of time left to sit around doing a paranoid arson investigation.

Nothing has come of this little fizzle, but something’s coming. That’s how this works. Not always, but often enough to make it a rule. It’s just a matter of figuring when, where, who and how it can hurt the most.

Can the Canadian men’s program survive without Herdman? Of course it can. Every graveyard is full of indispensable men, but none are as chock-a-block as the crypts of sports. Herdman’s done the hard work of stitching the Canadian team into a unit. All the next person has to do is hold that group together until 2026.

A better question is can the men’s team thrive if we’re going to spend the next three years trying to figure out when John Herdman is leaving, and where he’s going, and who’s to blame for that, and what does Alphonso Davies think about that, and why is Canada Soccer always like this, and exactly how long is a regulation pitchfork?

Those questions are a lot more interesting, and the people who care about them – it’s a small group, but it’s growing – will spill barrels of virtual ink interrogating them.

Uncertainty is an enemy of successful sports organizations, and intrigue is its accelerant. From player strikes to spats over pay to people rubbishing the organization after they’ve left, Canada Soccer has always had these twin weaknesses much worse than most. The difference is that now people have started paying attention.

At the very least, making the World Cup in Qatar was supposed to graduate Canada out of this high school state of affairs. Canada was a big-timer now, with a big-time coach with big-time plans. Well, I hope Canada Soccer is happy. Because now it has a big-time HR headache, and shouting at people that you feel fine, fine, totally fine is not going to make them believe you.

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