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SIMMONS SAYS: Would Dubas trade for Keefe?

Edmonton Journal sent this email to their subscribers on June 10, 2023.

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Bo is one and Vladdy is two now for Jays Canada's most read sports column delivered to your inbox a day early Enjoy this Simmons Says column one day early, appearing online and in print Sunday, June 11 BY: STEVE SIMMONS There is no reason to extend Sheldon Keefe’s contract with the Maple Leafs and never mind the annual uninformed junk about lame-duck coaches. If the Leafs choose to stay with Keefe as coach — and that determination has yet to be made public by general manager Brad Treliving — there is no reason to provide Keefe with a contract extension now. Here’s why: If he returns and has a great season coaching the Leafs, he will naturally get his contract extended, certainly with a pay raise of some significance. But if he returns and doesn’t meet expectations, with the team and in the playoffs, then it’s easy. You part ways with Keefe and thank him for his years on the job. It really comes down to performance in the end, which is how the business should work and sports rarely does. The plus side to Keefe is the club’s record since he replaced Mike Babcock and the manner in which the Leafs have transformed from an offensive team to a better all-around team under his tutelage. The downside for Keefe has been playoff performance, post-season preparation, and the Leafs’ inability to appear ready to start the biggest of games. That was evident in Games 5-6-7 against Montreal in 2021, in Games 6-7 vs. Tampa Bay in 2022 and through a lot of the playoffs, especially the Florida series, this season. If Keefe does the job well down the road, he will be appropriately compensated. Rewarding him now for what he has yet to accomplish doesn’t make a lot of sense. THIS AND THAT The Blue Jays once traded manager John Farrell to the Red Sox in a rather odd arrangement. This is far-fetched — even beyond far-fetched — but if you are Brendan Shanahan or Treliving, would you contact Kyle Dubas and test his interest in Keefe as his coach in Pittsburgh? And would a swap of Keefe for Pens coach Mike Sullivan, crazy as it sounds, ever be possible? ... Sullivan is one of the five best coaches in the NHL ... There are all kinds of whispers around the Leafs right now, about what players might have said in exit interviews or conversations since then. There are some, who have doubted the Leafs leadership and wondered about Keefe’s in-game decision-making and have questioned the manner in which Toronto players are spoiled by team management. Some are saying the Leafs lose far too easily and without enough accountability. The strength and weakness of Dubas as GM was making his players overly comfortable. Sometimes the boss has to be the boss. Dubas wanted to be everyone’s friend ... A voice from the outside wonders: will Treliving have the wherewithal to strip John Tavares as captain if need be and transfer the ‘C’ to Morgan Rielly? Leadership remains an issue Treliving will have to deal with in Toronto .... A surprise from Shahanan: He never made any attempt to contact the St. Louis Blues about Doug Armstrong’s availability and never spoke with former San Jose GM Doug Wilson about any position with the Leafs ... A strength of Treliving can also be considered a weakness. He may be the most active telephone-calling GM in the NHL. He wants to know what is going on everywhere and how he can make a big deal work. Critics wonder if he would be better off picking his spots ... Treliving didn’t hire Shane Doan because he was Matthews’ favourite player growing up. Treliving hired him because he worked closely with him in Arizona and shares the respect for Doan that so many in the hockey community do. HEAR AND THERE How furious would you be if you turned down LIV money — millions and millions of dollars, life-changing money — only to be betrayed by the PGA Tour with the merger of this week? I don’t know if I’d ever get over that ... Shouldn’t everyone be welcome at the ballpark, at the stadium, at the arena, at the ice rink, at the golf course every day of every year? ... You have to know the Blue Jays would have turtled and looked the other way if one of their better players had done what Anthony Bass did. Releasing Bass was easy — because he was bottom of the roster — and it was done far too late for the stumbling Jays. They took a bad situation and somehow made it worse ... The Oakdale Golf and Country Club, home of this weekend’s Canadian Open, was born in 1926. The reason it was built: None of the established country clubs at the time would include Jewish members. By the way, the national anthem singing at Oakdale Saturday on the 14th hole, better known as The Rink, every time a Canadian golfer appeared was stirring and fun ... Do you also find it unusual that no Canadian network televises the Canadian Open? ... Of the many amazing statistics of the late Roy Halladay, this one sparkles for me: He only lost 105 games in 16 big league seasons. Roger Clemens lost 184 games. Greg Maddux lost 227 games. Fergie Jenkins lost 226. Halladay was 148-76 as a Jay ... I’m starting to get the impression the NHL is overplaying its hand with the sale of the Ottawa Senators. Some good people with real money have pulled out of the Senators negotiations ... As Treliving waits on his decision on Keefe, there is an important assistant coach’s job open with Spencer Carbery having gone to Washington. And there are minor league openings with the Marlies to fill. You can’t hire your minor league coaches without knowing who your major league coach is, and it’s hard to convince a big-time assistant to join your team when you don’t know if you have a job beyond next week ... Serbian Darko Rajakovic will be the new coach of the Raptors. He’s spent the past 10 years as an assistant in the NBA, working in Memphis, Phoenix, and Oklahoma City and spent years doing work for San Antonio before that. SCENE AND HEARD Not since the Celtics won the NBA championship in 1969 and the Bruins followed by winning the Stanley Cup in 1970, has the same city won NBA and NHL titles in consecutive years. Colorado won the Stanley Cup last year and it sure looks as though Denver will win the NBA title this year — the first time there has been an NHL-NBA back-to-back championships in the same city in 53 years ... Kitchener’s Jamal Murray is the first NBA player in history to have 10-or-more assists in the first four games of the NBA Finals ... The remarkable Nikola Jokic has 10 triple-doubles in this year’s playoffs — the most of any player in history. Second on the list is this guy named Wilt Chamberlain. Only four players in NBA history have more than five in a single playoff campaign. The unstoppable Jokic is averaging 30.8 points a game in the post-season, with 13.5 rebounds and eight assists. He is impossible to explain and pretty much impossible to stop ... So who’s the tougher Florida athlete, Matthew Tkachuk or Jimmy Butler? .... And in a Florida sporting scene that includes Tkachuk, Sasha Barkov, Butler, Bam Adebayo, Tua Tagovailoa and Tyreek Hill, there is now Lionel Messi. Weather won’t be the only reason for trips down south ... There is no question that Kyle Lowry will one day be inducted to the Basketball Hall of Fame because in truth, pretty much every one of reasonable quality gets inducted to the Basketball Hall ... I’m a TV nut and I’m going through withdrawal now that Succession, the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Ted Lasso and Barry have seemingly come to an end, all at once ... Can’t wait to see what a Canadian basketball team with Murray, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Andrew Wiggins, Lu Dort, R.J. Barrett, Dillon Brooks, Kelly Olynyk, Ben Mathurin, Chris Boucher and Nickeil Alexander-Walker might look like with Nick Nurse coaching. Should be a medal contender for Paris 2024. Bo has turned the table It used to be Vladdy Guerrero first and then Bo Bichette. That was the Auston Matthews-Mitch Marner order with the Blue Jays. But all that has seemed to change in this Blue Jays season. Bichette, at 25, is playing the best baseball of his life. At the plate — and maybe more importantly for a shortstop — in the field. One of those was expected. The other has been questioned, especially coming into a season in which shifting is no longer allowed in Major League Baseball. But it’s not questioned very much now with Bichette playing defence better and more consistently than he’s ever played before. Guerrero was an MVP candidate in 2021, just not anywhere close now. Bichette would be a clear MVP candidate beyond the first third of the season if the Blue Jays won-loss record was just a little bit better. Still, he leads his team in batting average, hits, runs scored, home runs, RBI, on-base percentage and OPS. He leads the American League in batting average, and hits, and is fifth in homers, behind such stalwarts as Aaron Judge, Yordan Alvarez and Shohei Ohtani.   There is a calmness and greatness about him both at the plate and in the field this season and a confidence that seems apparent almost every single day. No Blue Jay player has won a batting title since John Olerud in 1993, who is the only Jay to be so honoured. Today, the batting title may not mean what it once did but it’s all part of the Bichette package. His game coming together in so many different ways as the Blue Jays battle to find a playoff spot in a very competitive American League. AND ANOTHER THING I don’t care much for Mike Babcock personally, but I do think the man can coach. The best playoff series the Leafs have had — performance-wise — came with Babcock coaching a young team against Washington in 2017. The best Team Canada at any Olympics was Babcock’s squad in Sochi in 2014. He will make Columbus better and the Blue Jackets are building a defence that should make Babcock happy ... The Hockey Hall of Fame class of 2023 will be announced later this month. It will include Henrik Lundqvist. This could be a goaltender’s year. It might include Curtis Joseph and Tom Barrasso, both of whom have been passed over for too long ... And shouldn’t this be the year Alexander Mogilny finally, repeat, finally gets elected? ... Under the Department of ignorance: The French Open not allowing diabetic player Alexander Zverev to inject insulin on the court because “it looks weird.” All the injections do is keep him alive... What a strange hiring for Pat Verbeek and Anaheim, turning to 60-year-old Greg Cronin, a former Leaf assistant, as the new coach of the Ducks ... This could only happen in the CFL. The season opened Thursday night. There is all kinds of online gambling available. But the league couldn’t find a way to get its individual stats posted while the Calgary-B.C. game was going on. In today’s world, really, how is that possible? ... The opening game attendance in Calgary of 17,942 was the lowest in 26 years for the Stampeders ... The Iron Sheik had a better act and was a better interview than The Sheik, from the old Toronto wrestling days. But the original Sheik — both are now gone — who headlined Maple Leaf Gardens for years, was the meanest filthiest wrestler I’ve ever seen ... Happy birthday to Butch Carter (65), Chuba Hubbard (24), Joe Montana (67), Dan Fouts (72), Ken Singleton (76), Scott Mellanby (57), Brent Sutter (61), Jackie Stewart (84) and Diana Taurasi (41). ... And hey, whatever became of Craig Stadler? Twitter POSTMEDIA'S You received this email because you are subscribed to Simmons Says newsletters, registered as [email protected] • • • Contact us • Digital Ad Registry © 2023 Postmedia Network Inc. All rights reserved.
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