Good morning, I’m Dan Gartland. Will there be more than one player elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame today? We’ll recap the voting in tomorrow’s newsletter.
In today’s SI:AM:
🧠 Why an NBA draft pick retired at 22
🏀 Grading the Lakers’ trade with the Wizards
🎙️ Greg Olsen’s great postseason in the booth
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The Canucks are a mess
Tonight’s game against the Blackhawks in Vancouver will mark the first game behind the bench for new Canucks coach Rick Tocchet after the team completely bungled the firing of Bruce Boudreau.
The Canucks hired Boudreau in December 2021 to replace Travis Green after a slow start, and he guided the team to a respectable 32-15-10 record in his first season, although Vancouver narrowly missed out on a playoff spot. This season, though, the Canucks are 18-25-3 (39 points), far behind the Avalanche (53 points) for the final wild-card spot in the West.
Maybe Boudreau is the problem, but the actions of the Vancouver front office in recent weeks don’t inspire confidence in leadership’s ability to fix whatever is wrong with the team.
Rumors that Boudreau would be let go swirled for the better part of the past two weeks. On Jan. 12, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman said on The Jeff Marek Show that the Canucks had approached Tocchet “a while ago” to discuss having him replace Boudreau and had spoken to other coaches, as well. Canucks president Jim Rutherford threw fuel on the fire Jan. 16 when he told reporters, “All I can say is, Bruce is our coach right now.”
The speculation about Boudreau’s future with the team created a strange environment for the Canucks’ two games in Vancouver this weekend.
“It kinda seems like the mindset and the mood got to us tonight,” defenseman Tyler Myers told reporters after Vancouver lost to the Avalanche 4–1 on Friday. “You can tell guys are down. It’s not easy times right now, a lot going on. Gotta find a way to stay positive and keep working.”
Then Saturday night, in the closing moments of a 4–2 loss to the Oilers, Boudreau had tears in his eyes behind the bench as the fans chanted his name.
Speaking with reporters after the game, Boudreau got emotional again.
“When you’ve been in it for almost 50 years, I mean, the majority of your life,” he said. “If it’s the end, it’s … y’know …”
The Canucks made it official Sunday, firing Boudreau and naming Tocchet as his replacement. Rutherford apologized to Boudreau for how the situation was handled.
The love Vancouver fans had for Boudreau was evident in the send-off they gave him Saturday. He’s a hockey lifer (a long and winding career as a player in multiple leagues, followed by 16 seasons as an NHL head coach), but there aren’t many people in hockey like him. (How many NHL coaches will enthusiastically answer questions about WWE during a press conference?) His jovial personality made him a fan favorite in Vancouver, and his track record of success (10 playoff appearances) earned him respect across the league. He deserved better than to have his job status become the subject of weeks’ worth of speculation.
The Canucks are a listless franchise right now. They haven’t qualified for the playoffs in a full 82-game season since 2014–15 (although they were in seventh place in the West when the pandemic halted the ’19–20 season and beat the Wild in a playoff qualifying series and the Blues in the first round).
Tocchet will be the team’s third coach in two years, which is mostly the fault of ownership. Owner Francesco Aquilini fired Travis Green as coach and Jim Benning as general manager Dec. 5, 2021. Four days later, Aquilini hired Rutherford as the team’s new president of hockey operations. Why not wait to fire Green and let Rutherford bring in his preferred coach?
Tocchet is Rutherford’s guy. He was an assistant coach for the Penguins when they won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2016 and ’17 with Rutherford as GM. (Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin also worked in the Pittsburgh front office at that time.) The other main reason the Canucks reportedly like Tocchet is he previously coached two of Vancouver’s highest-paid players (Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Conor Garland) when he was the head coach of the Coyotes. After how the Boudreau situation was handled, Rutherford and Aquilini better hope Tocchet works out.
The best of Sports Illustrated
- For today’s Daily Cover, Julie Kliegman spoke with Tyrell Terry about why he decided to prioritize his mental health and retire from the NBA at 22.
- Rohan Nadkarni is a fan of the trade the Lakers pulled off yesterday with the Wizards.
- Ahead of today’s announcement, Emma Baccellieri and Matt Martell filled out their hypothetical Baseball Hall of Fame ballots.
- Jimmy Traina writes that Greg Olsen’s excellent postseason as a color commentator makes things difficult for Fox as the network prepares to welcome Tom Brady.
- Patrick Mahomes expects to play against the Bengals on Sunday.
- Tom Brady’s response to being asked about his future on his podcast was funny but not terribly illuminating.
- The Patriots are bringing back Bill O’Brien as their new offensive coordinator.
- For the first time, no teams from Texas are ranked in the women’s AP top 25.
The top five...
… things I saw last night:
5. John Tavares’s backhand goal.
4. Nevada fans storming the court after the men’s team beat No. 25 New Mexico in double overtime.
3. Jalen Green’s career-high 42 points.
2. Jonathan Isaac’s first basket since tearing his ACL Jan. 1, 2020.
1. Caitlin Clark’s triple double as No. 10 Iowa took down No. 2 Ohio State in Columbus. (Clark and Dwyane Wade are the only two players—men’s or women’s—in Division I since the 1999–2000 season to have a triple double against a team ranked in the top two.)
Record-breaking former Michigan running back Tim Biakabutuka was born on this day in 1974. When the Panthers took him with the eighth pick in the ’96 draft, he became the first modern NFL player from which country?
- Democratic Republic of Congo
Yesterday’s SIQ: NFL owners approved a rule change this week in 1950 permitting unlimited substitutions and thus paving the way for modern football’s offensive and defensive specialization. When did college football permanently adopt unlimited substitutions?
Answer: 1964, although that wasn’t the first time that college teams had been able to deploy separate offensive and defensive units.
In 1941, as World War II limited the available pool of players, Michigan coach Fritz Crisler suggested separate platoons would be essential to keeping college football viable during wartime. (The military urged schools not to scrap athletic programs, as they kept service-age men in shape.)
“Since the problem was obviously a matter of depth, Matty [Bell of SMU] and I came to the conclusion that the answer might be found in a relaxation of the substitution rule,” Crisler told SI in 1964. “The rule at the time said that if a boy started a quarter and was taken out he could not return to the game during the same quarter. So if you had only a limited number of men, a narrow bench, and you had to make substitutions for reasons of injury or fatigue, and one thing and another, you might very well run out of men altogether.”
The wartime substitution rules remained in place through the 1952 season, after which the NCAA went back to the more restrictive rules. The rules were tinkered with throughout the years, leading to some truly convoluted guidelines. In ’63, according to The New York Times, college football employed “a hodge podge rule [that] allowed free substitutions on second and third downs, and on first down if possession of the ball hadn’t changed on the previous play.” Otherwise, teams could make only two subs at a time.
But the success of the NFL’s free substitutions led the college game to change its rules. Imagine how different the sport would be if it stuck with soccer-style subs.
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