The reviews are in from pundits and commentators outside of Edmonton on the first day of NHL free agency.
The reviews are in from pundits and commentators outside of Edmonton on the first day of NHL free agency.
And the reviews are not positive. Zach Hyman was considered a winner of the free agency period, but not the Edmonton Oilers, which had one of the most active and consequential days in team history.
Edmonton’s move included:
Adam Larsson left as free agent, Ethan Bear traded, Jujhar Khaira left as free agent, James Neal bought out, Caleb Jones and third round pick traded.
Zach Hyman signed to a seven-year, $5.5 million per year deal, Tyson Barrie signed to a three-year, $4.5 million per year deal, Cody Ceci signed to a four year, $3.25 million per year deal, Derek Ryan signed to a two year, $1.25 million per day, RFA Warren Foegele acquired in a trade, Mike Smith signed two years. $2.2 million per.
Here is some of what the commentators had to say:
Mike Brehm of USA TODAY had Hyman as a winner: “He played with skilled forwards Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner in Toronto. Now he’ll get a chance to play alongside Connor McDavid in Edmonton. Plus, the winger gets a seven-year, $38.5 million contract after averaging $2.25 million in his last contract.”
But Matt Larkin, The Hockey News on youtube had Edmonton as a loser: “I just don’t understand. What are they doing? … I’ll put the Zach Hyman deal aside. I’m willing to defend it. I think he’s going to actually be very helpful in the
short term. You have to give him that term and money because it’s competitive to sign him. I think he’ll be a really nice fit
playing with McDavid… I think that move is totally fine but bringing in guys like Cody Cedi and with term, I just don’t understand what this team is doing. You’re bringing Duncan Keith. You lose Adam Larsson. You trade away Caleb
Jones. You trade Ethan Bear… You’ve also resigned Mike Smith into his 40s now for multiple seasons.
“I just can’t condone the decisions over all of this team… I don’t know if this team is better. I don’t believe that they are but I could be wrong.”
Larkin added: “I do think that the Oilers could save their offseason. They could steal Tomas Tatar on a cheaper deal kind of like what they gave to Dominik Kahun last summer.”
Scott Burnside of The Athletic gave the Oilers a 4.5 out of 10 grade. “That’s some weird stuff going on for an Oilers team that was embarrassingly swept by Winnipeg in the first round of the playoffs. Young defensive depth went out the door in the form of Caleb Jones (Chicago) and Ethan Bear (Carolina) replaced by 38-year-old Duncan Keith and Cody Ceci, who was pretty good in Pittsburgh and is now an Oiler at $3.25 million for the next four years. Ceci is the kind of player, and that is the kind of contract, that fans in Edmonton will turn on in an instant… This is at best a blue line in transition and at worst in regression. Love Zach Hyman up front and the Oilers will love him too but not likely for the entirety of his seven-year deal at $5.5 million).”
Commentator Josh Wegman of The Score, also had the Oilers as a loser: “The Oilers general manager’s reputation has taken a turn for the worse over the past couple of weeks. The Oilers made a handful of questionable moves Wednesday, leaving them with one of the most suspect blue lines in the league… The Bear-for-Foegele trade isn’t entirely bad in itself, but the fact that the Oilers shipped out a promising, homegrown blue-liner to make room for Barrie and Ceci is bad optics. Outside of Nurse, this back end is littered with question marks… Holland did do well to improve Edmonton’s forward depth, bringing in Foegele, Derek Ryan, and Zach Hyman, but the latter’s seven-year deal worth $5.5 million per season is a massive overpay. The Oilers also didn’t address their issues between the pipes, missing out on all the top free-agent options and failing to pull the trigger on a deal for Kuemper.”
Lyle Fizsimmons of Bleacher Report also had the Oilers as losers, says that Holland “made a series of moves Wednesday that could be labeled anywhere from optimistic to misguided… iI’s the defensive moves—particularly the Bear trade—that reminded fans of past moves that saw young assets bloom elsewhere. The Oilers traded Matt Greene, then 25, to Los Angeles in 2008 and saw him win two Cups with the Kings; dealt Jeff Petry, then 27, to Montreal in 2015 and saw him emerge into one of the league’s best blueliners and later help the Canadiens to the Cup Final this season; and dispatched Justin Schultz, then 25, to Pittsburgh in 2016 where he, too, went on to win a pair of Stanley Cups.”
1. These commentators have varying degrees of knowledge and expertise about the Oilers and about the true talent of the players Edmonton move out and moved in. Nonetheless, I find it interesting what outsiders have to think. Quite often they get it right in evaluating Edmonton’s moves, but they also get it wrong. For example, last year the re-signing of Mike Smith was widely criticized but it worked out well.
2. The comment I most agreed with came from Larkin when he said: “I don’t know if this team is better. I don’t believe that they are but I could be wrong.” It’s excellent when any commentator recognizes the limitation of their her or his own knowledge, and the limitation of anyone’s predictive power in general, and owns up that they could very well be wrong. That’s a sign of wisdom.
3. I’m fascinated by those fans and commentators who aren’t expert in these players, who haven’t seen many of them play much this past season and certainly haven’t studied them closely enough to give an expert take on their value, yet come out with complete certainty on the merit of a trade.
For example, we can tell certain things about Foegele from his statistics and from what others say of him, but that’s not the kind of deep analysis needed to get a fair and accurate sense of his true talent. It’s the best we can do, and it’s fun to engage in this kind of judgement as fans and commentators, but how could we possibly be certain of our predictive powers regarding the outcome of a trade when our knowledge base is so incomplete?
Even if we have a deep understanding of the value of a player, as many Oilers fans do with players like Larsson and Bear, it’s hard to know just how they’re going to perform next year. For one thing, so much depends on the player’s health and his usage. Will Larsson’s back hold up? Will Bear get thrown into the deep end, over his head, against the toughest competition?
But it’s also difficult to guess if a player like Bear will do what it takes and get the right coaching and opportunity to take a step up. And it’s also difficult to know how much more one more year of grinding will impact Larsson’s game.
4. The best we can do with players we know well is offer a probability, such as me guessing Larsson has an 80 per cent chance of playing as well as he did this past season and suggesting it’s a coin flip as to whether Bear will progress or regress this coming year. As for players I haven’t seen and studied thoroughly, such as Foegele, Keith, Ceci and Ryan, my guesses about how they’ll play are utterly crude, not anything I would state with certainty.
5. As for Larkin wondering what the Oilers are up to, that’s a fair question, but I think the answer is obvious: Edmonton was scrambling to fix its defence after Larsson unexpectedly left, and this is what made most sense to the organization. When you’re scrambling, it’s not easy. Ask any quarterback. Sometimes you get sacked, even concussed. Sometimes you’re able to improvise a touchdown pass.
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – No team torments the Toronto Blue Jays quite like the Tampa Bay Rays, and adding insult to injury in their final regular season meeting was getting a beatdown from their archnemesis and then watching them clinch a playoff berth.
The finale of a three-game set at Tropicana Field lacked the typical drama most of Wednesday afternoon after Ross Stripling got lit up for five runs in a six-run third that effectively decided a 7-1 Rays win. But theatre arrived in the eighth when Ryan Borucki hit Kevin Kiermaier, who triggered ill will Monday by grabbing a data card dislodged from Alejandro Kirk’s wristband during a play at the plate, prompting words to be exchanged and the dugouts to empty.
Relative calm prevailed as Rays manager Kevin Cash ranted to the umpiring crew, which then gathered by the mound after and ejected Borucki. That prompted pitching coach Pete Walker and manager Charlie Montoyo to argue, and Walker was restrained before he was ejected, too.
David Robertson closed things out in an incident-free ninth inning and the Rays poured out on the field afterwards for business-as-usual handshakes.
As usual, the Rays got the better of season series with 11 wins, and at 94-59, now have a magic number of four to clinch the American League East in back-to-back seasons. Of their 19 clashes this season, it was only the sixth time the game was decided by four runs or more, in contrast to the 10 contests settled by two or less.
The Rays winning the East is an inevitably at this point and should the Blue Jays successfully clinch a wild-card berth and then win that game to reach the division series, the Rays are likely to be waiting for them there.
There are steps to be taken for them to get there, but the math remains fairly favourable for the Blue Jays (85-67), who fell even with the New York Yankees (85-67) for the second wild card and dropped two games back of the Boston Red Sox (87-65) for the first, pending Wednesday night’s action. The Yankees were scheduled to host Texas, the Red Sox home to the Mets.
With 10 games left, beginning with a four-game set at the Minnesota Twins opening Thursday, a 6-4 run would push them to 91 wins, a total likely enough to get them into the playoffs. After the Twins, the Blue Jays have three-game series at home versus the Yankees and Baltimore Orioles, so the opportunity for 7-3 or even better is certainly there.
A big weekend versus the Twins while the Red Sox and Yankees play three in New York this weekend is a pivotal chance to gain ground before Boston closes out against Baltimore and Washington. The Yankees finish against the Rays after playing Boston and Toronto.
Nothing should be taken for granted, but the Blue Jays are set up fairly well, even after their bullpen game Wednesday went terribly awry.
Stripling, entering behind opener Julian Merryweather as the bulk pitcher, got through his first inning unscathed but didn’t survive the next, going single, double, walk, sacrifice fly, three-run homer by Austin Meadows and single before Montoyo came with the hook.
Taylor Walls added a two-run single in the frame before it was over and, with the Rays’ bullpen game going much more to plan, this was a hole the Blue Jays offence couldn’t dig out of.
Surviving as best as possible for Thursday became the priority at that point, and essential on that front was the 2.1 shutout innings delivered by Anthony Castro. That allowed the Blue Jays to both get Jordan Romano and Trevor Richards needed rest and keep Adam Cimber and Tim Mayza available for the Twins opener.
Pearson was pressed into duty after Borucki’s ejection.
Castro’s work may very well get him optioned, as Thomas Hatch, at one point a candidate to be activated from the taxi squad for Wednesday, is likely to join the bullpen Thursday.
Another reinforcement could be Santiago Espinal, whose return from a rehab assignment at triple-A Buffalo is suddenly more urgent with Breyvic Valera on the COVID-19 IL for coming into close contact with a family member.
Valera is fully vaccinated and produced a negative test, but when he’s eligible to return will be dependent on returning more negative tests and getting sign-offs from both MLB and the union. Kevin Smith was recalled from the Bisons to cover for the time being.
Cavan Biggio is a possibility to join the club next week, although the Blue Jays are hoping he can establish some rhythm at the plate before he’s returned from his rehab assignment.
Analytics have become an increasingly important part of the entire Ryder Cup process, but European captain Padraig Harrington is taking his numbers game to a new level – literally.
Stitched on the golf bags of all 12 of Harrington’s players this week at Whistling Straits is a number. The digits are unique to each player and signify where they fit on Team Europe’s historical timeline, which has featured 164 players, from the first eight Brits in 1927 to Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger, who was the last rookie selected for this year’s squad.
“Mine is the smallest number, obviously: 118,” said Lee Westwood, who is competing in his 11th Ryder Cup this week.
The 48-year-old Westwood, who has played in 44 career cup matches, just three shy of Phil Mickelson’s record. His first match came back in 1997 at Valderrama, where the Europeans, captained by the late Seve Ballesteros, edged the Americans by a point.
It was a solid debut for Westwood, who went 2-3 and teamed with Nick Faldo for all four team sessions, but the Englishman doesn’t remember the birdies and bogeys from that week as much as the passion that exuded from the European team.
“I knew from day one, really, [how important the Ryder Cup was],” Westwood said. “Listen, that week the captain was Seve Ballesteros. There may have been one or two people over many generations as passionate as Seve about the game of golf, but I doubt there’s been many as passionate about the Ryder Cup as Seve was. … You just fed off him, really. With Nick Faldo as my partner, Seve and Nick both held the Ryder Cup in high regard, and just being around them, you could see how much it meant to them.
“Passion for the Ryder Cup was never something that I had to learn or gain. Pretty much like European team spirit is not something we have to work on; it’s just there.”
Sergio Garcia can attest. The Spaniard, whose 25 ½ career points earned is a Ryder Cup record, has played in nine of these matches. His debut came in 1999, and he teamed with Jesper Pernevik to go 3-0-1 in team play, though the Euros lost by one at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts.
But when it came to his number, Garcia had no clue until Monday night when Harrington played a short, inspirational video before presenting each player his number and bag.
“I’ve always known that being a part of the Ryder Cup team is very difficult, but I didn’t know that only that little amount of players have made it,” said Garcia, who is No. 120. “So, that showed you how difficult it really is. That’s why every time I’m a part of a team or the rest of our teammates, that’s why we give it the respect that it deserves, because it’s so difficult to be a part of it.
“It’s an honor, and we treat it like that.”
McIlroy, No. 144 (behind just Westwood, Garcia, No. 130 Paul Casey and No. 134 Ian Poulter), described some of the video presentation, which featured the theme, “Make it count.”
“To put it into context: 570 people have been into space. I think over 5,000 people have climbed [Mount] Everest. 225 have won a men’s major. When you sort of break it down like that it’s a pretty small group and it’s pretty cool,” McIlroy said.
“It’s a small collection of people that have played for Europe in the Ryder Cup,” McIlroy added. “I think that’s what brings us very close together, and that’s been one of our sort of big focus points this week is just being here is very special and being part of a European team. Very few people can call themselves a European Ryder Cup player.”
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Among the office equipment the Toronto Blue Jays travel with is a paper shredder, and every document they print off with any sort of data is run through it before ending up in a trash bin.
That’s not a new practice, as different coaching staffs have been doing it for about a decade now. A newer habit for one of the team’s pitchers is to double-check that all info cards have been removed from his hats before they get packed up, lest someone find one of the cheat sheets and feed it to a rival front office.
Such is the degree of caution, bordering on paranoia, big-league clubs have around their proprietary information and it helps explain, in part, why the Blue Jays are so upset that Kevin Kiermaier grabbed the catcher’s card jarred loose during a play at the plate Monday.
What matters is not so much the specific game-plan information that the Tampa Bay Rays outfielder carried back to the dugout and clandestinely passed to field co-ordinator Paul Hoover, but the window into the Blue Jays’ thinking it provides.
Breaking down the card allows the Rays to see what kind of information the Blue Jays give their players, how they present it and extrapolate how they process data for dissemination. The cards used by their catchers contain far more data than those used by pitchers and outfielders, and is the one they most wouldn’t want another team to see, said one person with the club.
So, it is suboptimal that a division rival the Blue Jays face 19 times a season and could meet in the post-season this year has it then.
What some Blue Jays found especially irksome is the way Kiermaier scooped it up after making the third out of the inning at home plate, and then slipped it to Hoover. Once Kirk realized it was missing, manager Charlie Montoyo sent a batboy over to the Rays dugout to ask for it back, and he returned with a message making light of the situation, something along the lines of, “we can’t hit Robbie Ray anyway.”
Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins spoke with Rays counterpart Erik Neander on the field before the game Tuesday and later, manager Kevin Cash came out to chat with Montoyo. Cash ended up apologizing to him, Atkins, pitching coach Pete Walker “and if I needed to speak to Robbie Ray, I’d have no problem doing that,” he said. “Charlie and I go back and forth a lot during the course of a game, I actually thought he was joking. Regardless, not ideal, and I’m sorry for that.”
Montoyo called it “agua under the bridge,” and with the apologies in place, Cash replied “I do not,” when asked if he expected any further fallout.
For the moment, perhaps, and while it wasn’t immediately clear if Major League Baseball is involved, it’s an interesting case study for a sport long tied to the adage, “if you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.”
There’s certainly some grey area in how off-side Kiermaier was, if at all, and given the scandals in recent years around the Houston Astros’ systemic sign-stealing and the Boston Red Sox’s illicit use of smartwatches, there’s room to see this in a sportsmanship-vs-gamesmanship vein.
Shown video of the matter, a veteran scout with a rival club took a harsher outlook on the matter, shaking his head and saying, “that’s bullshit — what’s Kiermaier doing picking that up? I want to beat a guy fair and square. If you’re going to look at that, what’s the difference between banging on a trash can?”
On the other hand, a longtime coach with another organization took no issue with Kiermaier’s actions, saying, “I always play by the finders-keepers, losers-weepers principle… (having the other team get the card) is the chance you take.”
Former Blue Jays centre-fielder Vernon Wells, meanwhile, made a point echoed by others, that the simplest way to avoid losing proprietary information was to not use cheat sheets on the field in the first place.
“This whole thing is ridiculous. Here’s an idea… TEACH THE GAME BETTER AND STUDY THE GAME BETTER! You shouldn’t need cards if you are a student of the game. Stop being robots and play the game!” he posted on Twitter.
Cash defended his player, saying “the card’s on the ground,” and after watching the video, “it looked like he was considering giving back and he just said, forget it, whatever, it’s sitting here, I’m going to pick it up and take it in.”
Kiermaier, when approached by Sportsnet colleague Arash Madani, said initially he wasn’t sure if the card was the one he carries with outfield positioning, as, “they’re all pretty similar.”
“Then as I picked it up, I realized it was that. I never even looked at it, I’ll say that,” he said. “But at the same time I’m not going to drop it or hand it back. I don’t know what their thoughts were about it or whatnot. At the time though, I saw it on the ground and I picked it up nonchalantly, not thinking anything of it and haven’t heard anything of it since.”
“Everything was so quick and after I did it, I was like dang, their scouting reports or whatever was on the ground and I grabbed it,” he continued. “It got to the point that I’m not going to return it or do that. It’s September, whatever. I didn’t know what was going on.”
Maybe, or maybe he saw an opportunity to gain an edge in the heat of the moment and took it. Either way, Kiermaier’s act of subterfuge caused a stir around an industry already paranoid about protecting data and offered up a reason to be all the more cautious.
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