vote them out–for sports

It was March 8, 2020. I was at the Calgary airport, heading back to the United States after watching 3 hockey games in Alberta–2 Jackets games and a Junior game in Red Deer. I had no idea those would likely be the last sporting events I would see live in 2020.

While at the airport, the news about the spreading coronavirus appeared on TV’s the way it might in a movie to foreshadow what was to come. A few weeks before, I had been at a Junior game in Everett, Washington. On the way to that game, my wife and I heard the news of the first major U.S. outbreak of the virus at a nursing home in Washington. The line for security was long. We were packed in like sardines. I thought, perhaps, there were additional precautions due to the virus. Nope. They were more concerned about whether I was bringing any agricultural products back with me. That would all change in the blink of an eye.

The NHL season would abruptly be suspended on March 12 after an NBA player tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Less than 2 weeks after I left Canada, on March 21st, border between Canada and the United States would close. It is still closed as I type this. I had hoped to return to Alberta this winter to see the World Juniors in Red Deer. Those plans are long gone as it has already been announced that the World Juniors will not have spectators this year. In fact, it was just announced this week that there will not be scouts present in person. The baseball season is nearly complete. One of the best seasons my beloved Dodgers have ever played. A team that usually brings in 1,000,000 plus fans a year will have finished the season playing before perhaps 1/10 of that…not a single one saw them play in LA. A team that routinely sells out Dodger Stadium is left to play out a World Series before a mostly empty stadium with a few fortunate, wealthy few able to see them. The Big Ten opened its season this week with the President bragging about his “accomplishment”…with no fans in attendance at the massive 100,000 seat stadiums and no tailgate in site.

Oh, we all kid ourselves. We watched a Stanley Cup playoffs! We are watching a World Series! We are watching College Football! But the sports we watch are nothing more than Potemkin Villages to perpetuate a lie–that everything is normal, or soon will be and that our government has it all “under control,” that we are “turning a corner,” that a vaccine will be available in “weeks.” Lies upon lies perpetuated with phony crowd noise and camera angles that cut out the empty stands while some cardboard cutout sits in the seats we once occupied.

Now, let’s be brutally honest and admit what you and I know to be true. We won’t again be sitting in those stands together or having a beer at a tailgate with 100’s or 1,000’s of our like-minded fans until the spread of this virus is controlled. Oh, maybe a chosen few will be allowed into an arena (at an exorbitant cost and with some substantial risk of catching the virus). Maybe some foolish state (Florida seems a good bet) will be so foolhardy as to allow full arenas and to see what happens. But, only a truly foolish team owner would take the risk of liability in such case.

And, yet, there is someone more foolish than any team owner or college president and that person is holding events with 1,000’s of unmasked people regardless of the threat to the health and safety of those people. And that person is the President of the United States. And his Chief of Staff, just this morning, announced that the policy of this Administration is that they cannot–no, let’s be brutally honest, WILL NOT–stop the spread of this virus.

You and I won’t be at the Big Ten championship. We won’t be at opening night for the Blue Jackets. We won’t be at high school basketball games. We won’t be at concerts. We won’t be at movie theaters. Not any time soon with this Administration’s policies.

That isn’t the worst of it all. But it is the only way some of you will listen to our reality. “Stick to sports.” Yeah, I was one of those guys. It is easy to be that guy when the policies of this Administration don’t directly impact your daily life. It isn’t your child pulled from your arms because you came here to find a better life. It isn’t your sister recklessly shot by police with no justice for those who committed the crime. It isn’t your family told they can’t come to our country on the basis of their religion. Well, fine. I’ll “stick to sports.” The only way we are going to get back into the stands is to vote out this Administration and its enablers and put people in power who will make some attempt to get this virus under control. Because there is no guaranty a vaccine is coming soon and even when one is available, distribution will not be instantaneous.

So, let’s make game plan to make it happen with just over a week left before this election. If you live in a state with early in-person voting and you are comfortable voting in-person, do it as soon as possible. Avoid Election Day lines. If you have your absentee ballot, DO NOT WAIT. If it is an option where you live, turn it in at a dropbox. If you must mail it DO NOT WAIT, mail it ASAP. Avoid election day lines. Avoid the possibility your vote doesn’t arrive on time. If you are not sure about the options in your jurisdiction, you can find more information here: https://www.ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/early-voting-in-state-elections.aspx

It is time to put people in charge who will take this virus seriously and who will do what is necessary to get fans back in the stands and to banish the fake cheers to bad sitcoms. So, get out there and vote and make it happen so that we can all grab a beer at a tailgate sometime in the not-too-distant future.

Khudobin’s staying home, signs three-year extension with Dallas

After a miraculous run that ultimately led to defeat in the Stanley Cup Final, Anton Khudobin re-signed with the Dallas Stars on a three-year contract worth $10 million ($3.333 million per season) through the 2022-23 season.

The 34-year-old goaltender was originally drafted by the Minnesota Wild in the seventh round (206th overall) of the 2004 NHL Draft and made his league debut with Wild in the 2009-10 season and spent parts of two seasons with Minnesota.

On Feb. 28, 2011, Khudobin was traded to the Boston Bruins, where he played until he joined the Carolina Hurricanes as a free agent on July 5, 2013.

After parts of two seasons with Carolina, the Ust-Kamenogorsk, Kazakhstan native was dealt to the Anaheim Ducks on June 27, 2015, then appeared in nine games with the Ducks before he was sent down to the San Diego Gulls (AHL).

He returned to Boston on July 1, 2016, with a two-year deal, then left the Bruins again via free agency for Dallas on July 1, 2018, serving as the Stars’ backup goaltender in a 1A/1B tandem with Ben Bishop for the last two seasons.

Khudobin made his first NHL postseason start and earned his first career Stanley Cup Playoff shutout in the 2020 postseason and had a 16-8-4 record with a 2.22 goals against average and a .930 save percentage in 30 games played in the 2019-20 regular season for Dallas.

He has a career 99-76-25 record in 218 NHL games spanning 11 seasons for the Wild, Bruins, Hurricanes, Ducks and Stars with a career 2.46 GAA and a career .919 SV%, as well as eight shutouts in that time.

In 27 career Stanley Cup Playoff games, Khudobin has a 14-10 record with a 2.63 GAA, as well as a .919 SV% and one shutout.

The Sharks Actually Did Something

Yes you read that right. The San Jose Sharks actually did something on the first day of free agency. No it’s not one of the top free agents in this year’s class. But it’s someone they wanted back. No, not Joe Thornton. It’s Stefan Noesen! He has re-signed with the Sharks on a one year deal worth $925,000.

In his first season in San Jose, Noesen scored six goals, with two assists for eight points in 34 games played. Not the flashiest kind of stats, but he did show positive flashes before the season shutdown last year.

Sharks fans, just be happy that something happened today. With the trades of Devan Dubnyk and Ryan Donato, there was a real chance San Jose was going to be quiet this weekend. But alas, maybe Doug Wilson has a plan and is not done yet this weekend.

Ennis re-signs with OIlers for 2020-21

The Edmonton Oilers have resigned forward Tyler Ennis to a one year deal that is worth $1.000 million. Even though it’s only for a year, Edmonton keeps their guy for at least another year.

Edmonton acquired Ennis in a trade last season from the Ottawa Senators. After arriving in Edmonton he had four points (two goals, two assists) through season’s end. In Ottawa, he had 14-19–33 totals in 61 games.

Edmonton will now have Ennis for longer than nine games so there is some high powered offense coming to Edmonton. It’s time to get excited Oilers fans!

Winnipeg Stays BEAUtiful

The Winnipeg Jets have brought back defenseman Nathan Beaulieu on a two-year deal with an average annual value of $1.250 million. Beaulieu was plagued last season due to injuries and only played 38 games.

In those 38 games, Beaulieu scored one goal and had seven assists for eight points. Not the season Winnipeg and Beaulieu were hoping for there’s room for redemption if he can stay healthy.

Beaulieu made it known that he wanted to stay in Winnipeg and he got his wish.

Petrovic signs with Flames

The Calgary Flames had a strong opening day in free agency. Not only did they add Jacob Markstrom earlier in the day on Friday, but Calgary also added Alexander Petrovic with a one-year, two-way, contract worth $700,000 at the NHL level and $300,000 at the AHL level.

Petrovic did not play in an NHL game last season after signing a professional tryout agreement with the Boston Bruins at training camp, then later earning a one-year contract and being sent to the Providence Bruins (AHL).

He amassed 2-18–20 totals in 54 games with the P-Bruins last season and might be a little more than just a depth signing if the Flames were in dire need.

Calgary wanted to improve their defense and they got their guy. What a time to be a Flames fan right now.

Calgary lands Markstrom in free agency

Jacob Markstrom is the latest goalie off of the market, as he and the Calgary Flames agreed to a six-year, $36 million contract (worth $6.000 million per season). It was the longest unrestricted free agent signing of the day on Friday as the NHL’s free agency period began.

A native of Gävle, Sweden, Markstrom was originally drafted in the second round (31st overall) by the Florida Panthers in the 2008 NHL Draft and made his league debut with Florida in the 2010-11 season before he was later traded during the 2013-14 season to the Vancouver Canucks ahead of the 2014 trade deadline.

The 30-year-old goaltender had a 23-16-4 record in 43 games (43 starts) last season and amassed a 2.75 goals against average, as well as a .918 save percentage and two shutouts in that span.

For the first time in his career, he made a postseason start in the 2020 playoff format and carried Vancouver in 14 games to an 8-6 record with a 2.85 GAA and a .919 SV%– as well as one shutout– until an injury forced Thatcher Demko to takeover in the crease for the Canucks in their ultimate Second Round series loss to the Vegas Golden Knights in seven games.

Meanwhile, the Flames desperately needed an upgrade in net and can finally differentiate between having a starting goalie and a backup. For the first time in what feels like forever, this isn’t a 1A/1B situation.

Markstrom is an elite goaltender that’s been in the Pacific Division since March 4, 2014, so there’s enough familiarity in what the Flames are getting and will more than likely provide the stability Calgary has been after.

Wild sign Talbot to three-year deal

Minnesota Wild General Manager, Bill Guerin, added depth to his crease by signing veteran goaltender, Cam Talbot, to a three-year contract worth $11.000 million ($3.667 million per season) on Friday.

The Wild have to negotiate a new contract with their current-restricted free agent goaltender, Kaapo Kähkönen, but once Guerin locks up the 24-year-old young goalie Minnesota will have some healthy competition for the starting and backup jobs in St. Paul between Talbot, Kähkönen and Alex Stalock.

Talbot was originally signed as a free agent by the New York Rangers on March 30, 2010, and broke into the league in the 2013-14 season as the backup to the now new Washington Capitals goaltender, Henrik Lundqvist, and spent parts of two seasons as a Ranger before he was traded to the Edmonton Oilers on June 27, 2015.

After parts of four seasons with the Oilers, Talbot was dealt to the Philadelphia Flyers leading up to the 2019 trade deadline, then signed a one-year deal with the Calgary Flames prior to last season on July 1st.

The 33-year-old native of Caledonia, Ontario went 12-10-1 with a 2.63 goals against average, a .919 save percentage and two shutouts in 26 games (22 starts) with the Flames in 2019-20.

He recorded a 5-4 record with a 2.42 GAA and a .924 SV%, as well as two shutouts for Calgary in all 10 postseason games this summer and has a career record of 150-122-25 in 314 regular season NHL games with a 2.61 GAA, a .915 SV% and 22 shutouts in that span with the Rangers, Oilers, Flyers and Flames.

Talbot played three seasons of college hockey at the University of Alabama-Huntsville from 2007-10 and helped save the independent program in the offseason.

Oilers add a bit of depth

While the Oilers are out hunting for a goaltender, they’re also adding some depth in hopes for another winning season.

After being bought out by the Nashville Predators, Kyle Turris looks to revitalize his career in Edmonton. He is signed through the 2021-22 season, earning money from his buy out and also an addition $1.65m from Edmonton.

The 31-year-old native of New Westminster, British Columbia, has 416 points (165 goals, 251 assists) in 726 career NHL games for the Phoenix Coyotes, Ottawa Senators and– most recently– the Nashville Predators.

He was originally drafted by the Coyotes in the first round (3rd overall) of the 2007 NHL Draft.

Former Calgary Flame, Alan Quine signs a one year $750,000 deal. Simple addition for some depth and more development. The Oilers are also adding Seth Griffith to their roster on a two-way two year deal that’s worth $750,000. Their minor league team will see some in net depth as Anton Forsberg signs a one year deal.

Motte re-signs with Canucks

Vancouver Canucks forward, Tyler Motte, re-signed with the club on a two-year deal worth $1.225 million per season on Friday as the NHL’s free agency period began.

The 25-year-old native of St. Clair, Michigan was originally drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in the fourth round (121st overall) in 2013, and made his league debut with Chicago in the 2016-17 season.

He was later dealt to the Columbus Blue Jackets with Artemi Panarin and Chicago’s 6th round pick (Jonathan Davidsson) in the 2017 NHL Draft (previously acquired from the N.Y. Islanders) for Brandon Saad, Anton Forsberg and Columbus’ 2018 5th round pick (later traded to Arizona, Coyotes selected Michael Callahan) on June 23, 2017.

On Feb. 26, 2018, Motte was traded with Jussi Jokinen by the Blue Jackets to the Canucks for Thomas Vanek.

In parts of four seasons in the NHL, Motte has 22-16–38 totals in 187 career games for the Blackhawks, Blue Jackets and Canucks.

He had eight points (four goals, four assists) in 34 games with Vancouver last season and plays a vital role on head coach, Travis Green’s fourth line.

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