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As Oilers look to end skid, goaltending struggles only part of problem

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EDMONTON — Rome is burning and Connor McDavid has tested positive, as the Edmonton Oilers death spiral towards somewhere south of the final wildcard position out West.

The Oilers have concocted the deadly mix of a team that starts slowly, scoring first less often than any other team in the NHL, and a goalie who seldom arrives ready to play, letting in the first shot or making an early, heinous mistake seemingly every second start.

So the whole “scoring first” thing is as much about actually potting the first goal as it is about a race against a goalie who beats his offence to the punch.

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The head coach threw his goalie, the miscast backup-turned-No. 1 Mikko Koskinen, under the bus after the latest loss, as Dave Tippett came across as a coach who had just seen enough of the same, crippling trait, and couldn’t play nice anymore.

But poor Mikko — he is not and never was an NHL starter. Ex-GM Peter Chiarelli foolishly paid him like one, and when Mike Smith went down this season Koskinen has subbed in as a No.1, fairly admirably up until lately. But watching Koskinen fail as a starter is like putting a third-line winger on the top line, and then after 15 games wondering why he doesn’t produce like a first-line player?

Because he isn’t one. He is a third-line player.

Either way, the Oilers are praying that Smith can play Wednesday in Toronto — and continue through the second half — even if McDavid looks like he may miss the Leafs game, the latest to fall victim to the great roster culler that is COVID-19 testing in the NHL.

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With a huge break awaiting after the Toronto game — due to postponements Edmonton has one game (against Ottawa) in the next 12 days starting Thursday — the Oilers will limp into the New Year looking for some space to recoup. They are undoubtedly not the .750 team they were through the opening 20 games of the season, but likely not the .363 team they have played like since.

Somewhere in the middle is a playoff team, we thought, but one that has to address some issues. One that has to man up a bit here, and put an end to a skid that they simply haven’t been able to put the brakes on.

What are the issues? To begin with:

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Goaltending

Nobody has a problem with Mike Smith when he is healthy and playing. The Mike Smith that won’t cut it is the one who is eternally on the injured list, or the one being given a long leash in games because he hasn’t played in two months and he is working his way back.

Holland would rather not spend his trade capital on a goalie mid-season, where there is little inventory and the prices are high. He’d rather Smith stay healthy, play 65% of the games, and push Koskinen into his rightful role as a one-in-three-games backup.

Meantime, Holland should be working the room for a goalie trade. Because if Smith goes down again, he’s going to need to pull off a trade to save his team’s season.

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Third Line Centre

This is where Holland would prefer to spend the 2022 first round draft pick that he is dangling.

Ryan McLeod is coming along nicely, but he’s not ready to be the 3C on a team that wins playoff rounds. Holland needs an older and more experienced player here. Someone who can help drive a Bottom 6 that needs to chip in a lot more than Edmonton’s does right now.

This is no place to be breaking in a kid, and it’s killing Dave Tippett these days.

Depth Forwards

Holland swung and missed on Kyle Turris big-time. Same with Derek Ryan who missed practice after testing positive with McDavid and is unlikely to play on Wednesday. The GM needed more from these two free agent signings, and both have Oilers fans tapping their foot, waiting for the contracts to end.

Warren Foegele was decent value for Ethan Bear — an OK defenceman for an OK forward. But although he makes the bottom six a little faster, a tad more tenacious, Foegele does not improve scoring nor add any serious physical element.

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Holland’s mandate last summer was to find support scoring for McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. He did well with Zach Hyman, but after that there isn’t much here.

He needs more size, aggressiveness or scoring in his bottom six. Something — because right now the Oilers are as easy a team to play against as there is in the NHL.



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Two-time champion Simona Halep advances past Coco Gauff at National Bank Open

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TORONTO — Two-time champion Simona Halep has moved on to the semifinals of the National Bank Open.

The Romanian player dispatched Coco Gauff of the United States 6-4, 7-6 on Friday.

The 30-year-old Halep won the title in 2016 and 2018 when it was still called the Rogers Cup.

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Halep will face seventh-seeded Jessica Pegula in a semifinal on Saturday. 

Pegula, the highest-rated player left in the tournament, downed Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva 6-3, 6-3 in their quarterfinal match.

Halep is now 4-0 in singles matches against Gauff on the WTA Tour.

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Later, Ottawa’s Gabriela Dabrowski and partner Giuliana Olmos of Mexico defeated Andreja Klepac of Slovenia and Chile’s Alexa Guarachi 2-6, 6-2 (10) to advance to the doubles semifinal.

The quarterfinal between Halep and Gauff on Friday was the only one at the National Bank Open with two seeded players. Gauff is the tournament’s 10th seed and Halep is 15th.

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An evenly contested first set saw both players take turns controlling the pace. Halep pulled away in part thanks to a pair of deep returns from Gauff that were well out of bounds.

The crowd at Sobeys Stadium on York University’s campus also seemed equally split, with Romanian flags dotting the stands but calls of “Let’s go Coco!” often punctuating the breaks in play.

Gauff was down a double break 4-1 in the second set, battling back from the brink to tie it up. The 18-year-old American clenched her fist and yelled “come on!” when Halep’s return landed out of bounds to tie the set 5-5.

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The see-saw match continued, with Halep digging deep to rally from a 30-0 deficit to take a 6-5 lead. Gauff then used her powerful forehand to force tiebreak, with a deep lob going past the charging Halep.

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Gauff had a poorly timed double fault to give Halep a 6-2 advantage in the tiebreak and force match point. The teenager then put a backhand into the net to end the match as Halep advanced.

In later quarterfinals, 12th seed Belinda Bencic of Switzerland was set to face Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil and 14th seed Karolina Pliskova was scheduled to take on China’s Zheng Qinwen.

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Trea Turner Has Historic Stats In His Dodgers Tenure

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(Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

 

Trea Turner, the shortstop of the Los Angeles Dodgers, is about to become a very rich man when the World Series ends.

The 29-year-old star, one of the main actors in the Washington Nationals’ 2019 World Series win, will become a free agent after the Fall Classic, and he is putting up some insane numbers.

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His season performance has been magnificent, but if we extend the search for the last 162 games (to include portions of 2021 and 2022), we will find some historically great numbers.

“Trea Turner has played 162 games with the Dodgers: 208 H, 110 R, 28 HR, 47 2B, 109 RBI, 31 SB, 142 wRC+, 7.1 fWAR, .318/.359/.524/.883. He’s the 5th player in MLB history to have a 162-game stretch with those first 6 categories,” Dodgers insider Blake Harris tweeted.

The Dodgers acquired Turner before last year’s deadline, in the same deal that netted them ace Max Scherzer.

 

A True Star

Ever since coming over from Washington, he has been a true star for the Blues.

Turner represents the rare breed of player that can do absolutely anything on the field: he can hit for a high average, he has power that results in both doubles and home runs, he has blazing speed, and plays a fantastic shortstop.

He is the complete package for a contending team, and he is not even 30, so he should have several years left of his prime.

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The thing is that he will be very, very expensive, perhaps commanding more than $200 million.

The player has expressed his desire to stay in Los Angeles, and the Dodgers would very much love if that happened.

They seem like a functional marriage, but once he enters the market, everyone will be able to make a play.

The bidding will start soon.

The post Trea Turner Has Historic Stats In His Dodgers Tenure appeared first on The Cold Wire.

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Dolphins owner Stephen Ross changes succession plan, will hand franchise to his daughter, per report

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Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has had a change of heart regarding his succession plan for the NFL franchise. The 82-year-old has notified the league of his intentions to change his successor of the Dolphins to his daughter, Jennifer Ross, according to the Sports Business Journal. The process has not yet been completed, but Ross has reportedly made it clear to NFL executives of his desire to pass the team on to his children. Before this development, Dolphins vice chairman Bruce Beal would have had the opportunity to ascend to be the club’s owner. 

Of course, both Ross and Beal are no strangers to seeing their names in headlines over the last few months. Back on Aug. 2, the two were suspended and fined by the NFL for “tampering violations of unprecedented scope and severity.” 

That punishment stemmed from the club pursuing both Tom Brady and Sean Payton. The league’s findings noted that the organization had “impermissible communications” with Brady on two different occasions. In August 2019, Beal had contact with Brady while the quarterback was still a member of the Patriots. Later, both Beal and Ross were “active participants” in discussions with Brady following the 2021 season while the future Hall of Famer was still with the Buccaneers

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Beal was suspended from league meetings for the remainder of the 2022 season and fined $500k. Meanwhile, Ross was suspended through Oct. 17, 2022, is not allowed to attend league meetings until 2023, removed from all league committees indefinitely, and fined $1.5 million. The Dolphins were also docked a 2023 first-round pick and a third-rounder in 2024. 

The Sports Business Journal reports that Ross deciding to have his daughter succeed him is not related to the latest punishment by the league and possibly even predates the investigation entirely. While that may be the case, a transition to Jennifer Ross, who already has an ownership stake in the team, may be the cleaner approach. 

In 2016, the NFL approved a plan that would allow Beal the first right to buy the Dolphins in the event of Ross’ death or sale. However, owners would have to vote again to allow him to take control of the team, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to learn that these tampering charges could’ve been a major speed bump. 

In 2008, Ross bought 50% of the Dolphins franchise and later purchased an additional 45% in January 2009 at a total value of $1.1 billion. 

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