Realty One

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Monday, January 9, 2017


Keith Hershmiller Photography

1 - SCOUT'S HONOUR:  Something struck me when I walked into the Scouts/Media Room at the Brandt Centre prior to Friday night's Pats game against Calgary.  There was a larger-than-normal contingent of hockey men congregated in the bowels of the arena and many of them were wearing navy winter coats.

As it turns out, the Regina Pats were hosting all of their regional scouts for the weekend for mid-season meetings.  They were all smiling, but that wasn't astounded me.  No, what struck me was that these are all the same guys that they've had for years.  Head Scout Dale McMullin has been with the club since 2011.  Winnipeg's Russ Kutzak and Vancouver's Rob Gallamore have been bird-dogging for the Pats for several years as well, going back to the prior ownership.  The same goes for a whole host of these guys.

Doesn't this strike you as almost odd?  In less than three years of ownership by the Queen City Sports & Entertainment Group, the Pats are the #1 team in the nation for the first time since the inception of the rankings and have a consecutive sellout streak of six games.

What it should tell you is that the main ingredient for a winning program is culture, and that it starts at the top.  I was chatting about this with my brother on Sunday and he mentioned that fans would likely assume the entire scouting staff was purged with the sale of the team.

But it hasn't.  And there's a huge lesson to be learned there.

And kudos to the scouts, who knew what they were doing all along.

2 - WHAT HAPPENED SATURDAY?;  I missed Saturday's game due to a family supper but it sounds like I didn't miss much. The arch-rival Moose Jaw Warriors jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the Brandt Centre and cruised to - I'm told - a relatively easy 4-1 victory.  In the process, they handed the Pats their first regulation time home loss of the season.

Pats analyst Jared Dumba will join us on Monday's SportsCage to break down the loss but the reports I've gotten from fans in attendance are alarming.  Perhaps the Pats - like me - thought the Warriors raised the white flag when they dealt sniper Nikita Popugaev to Prince George on Thursday.  Clearly Moose Jaw had other ideas.

It's going to be a very interesting 24 hours as the WHL's Trade Deadline is on Tuesday and the rumour is the Pats are still searching for a goaltender to compliment starter Tyler Brown.  Head Coach & GM John Paddock has certainly been busy as of late and I was dismayed to see gritty forwards Luc Smith and Rykr Cole shipped out of town a week ago.

When Regina hosted Brandon on December 27, the Pats' third line had as many goals as the Wheat Kings' top line.  Production certainly wasn't a problem.  Was chemistry?

Of course the naysayers pop out of the woodwork each time the Pats lose a game but folks, they're averaging one regulation time loss per month.  As this train picks up steam, they're going to gain their share of bandwagoners but also their share of skeptics.

But Paddock's earned the right not to be questioned, and I've never been in his dressing room.

3 - DURANT STUFF: The CFL rumour mill was set ablaze late last week when Sportsnet's Arash Madani reported the Roughriders have tabled a new offer to pending free agent Darian Durant.  Madani said the offer is for $300,000 base with incentives to get up to $400,000 in Year 1 with a second year added on.

However team officials tell me those numbers are nowhere near accurate.

And then Friday afternoon, TSN's Farhan Lalji - presumably after speaking with Durant's agent Dan Vertlieb - reported the new offer is actually $50,000 less in guaranteed money and $75,000 less of a signing bonus.

There was also a report by's Justin Dunk that the Riders and Montreal Alouettes had engaged in trade talks for Durant but the furor around that one died down almost as quickly as it arose.  The Riders told me that news is almost six weeks old and it came out of the Alouettes investigating Durant's health status and why he didn't play in Game 18 at BC.

Nothing to see there.

4 - THE RIDERS WANT DURANT:  That was underscored by Roughriders officials whom I spoke with throughout the weekend.  YES, they have offered Durant an incentive-laden deal based on starts and playing time but, as I was told, "We are more than happy to pay Darian really good money but he has to earn it by being on the field."

The club is steadfast in its refusal to guarantee Durant anywhere near the type of money he's earned the past few seasons.  "We can't tie that much money up in one position like what happened in 2014, 2015 and 2016," the source said.  "How did that work out?"

Not very well.

I was also told that last year when they re-structured Durant's contract face-to-face, they offered a multi-year deal but Darian preferred to keep it to just 2016.  The Riders feel they weren't the ones to turn this into an adversarial stand-off and I'm still not sure that it is.

Without having spoken to Durant - but having been through this before with Henry Burris in 2005 - I can only imagine that Darian is hesitant to sign a deal based on starts because there's no guarantee he'll be under centre even if he's healthy coming out of training camp.  That's how Burris felt way back when, knowing Roy Shivers' and Danny Barrett's love for Nealon Greene at the time.

So Darian Durant will do what anybody would do if they were offered a substantial paycut: see what else is out there.

So again, it appears we'll have no resolution to this situation for at least a month.

5 - WORLD JUNIOR THOUGHTS:  It seems Canadians would have no problem with the shootout in international compeition if we'd actually beaten the USA in Thursday's gold medal final ... But but but It's Our Game! Isn't Canada guaranteed of winning these tournaments?  That was a silly, flimsy marketing slogan at the time and still is ...  Don Cherry blasted Hockey Canada during Coach's Corner Saturday night for cutting the Pats' Sam Steel and furthermore, holding it in Montreal where tickets were over-priced and fans stayed away.  No argument here, because they could've used Steel in the shootout and I still maintain Regina's Connor Hobbs would've been a difference-maker on the blueline.

6 - THEY'RE STILL SCREWING IT UP!:  NFL officials were red-faced Saturday night on Paul Richardson's touchdown reception in the second quarter which opened the scoring for Seattle in their home wildcard playoff game against Detroit.  Richardson clearly twisted the defender's head around by grabbing his facemask with his right hand while making a remarkable one-handed touchdown catch with the other.

"Unfortunately that's not reviewable," NBC's Chris Collinsworth said of the offensive facemask.

But, all scoring plays are reviewable so shouldn't replay officials have picked that up at second glance?  I've seen goals in hockey reversed because video review detected an infraction earlier in the shift.  The same concept should apply to football.

As it turns out, it does.

"I asked the officials at field level how that touchdown was allowed to stand," said sideline reporter Michele TaFoya Saturday night.  "Their response was 'We screwed up'."

Great.  Lions fans are howling that officiating cost them the game but in the end, they were no match for the Seahawks.

But the idea of "getting it right" by the addition of video review has now fallen victim to human error just like it was before video replay was even invented.

7 - COLD ENOUGH FOR YA?:  If it wasn't for my wife, I wouldn't even leave the house on these frigid winter weekends in Saskatchewan.  I don't know whether to thank her, or blame her.

8 - BLADES FOR SALE?:  Where there's smoke, there's fire and the rumour of the Saskatoon Blades being for sale just won't go away even though it was just 2013 when the Priestner family purchased the club from Jack Brodsky.

A month ago I floated the rumour on Twitter and was promptly scolded by Blades General Manager Colin Priestner.  I still have the Direct Message he sent where he hotly denied the story.

However the Saskatoon Star Phoenix ran a big feature on Saturday in which it was mentioned Saskatchewan Rush owner Bruce Urban might be in line to purchase the Blades and the Alberta millionaire - who was raised in Regina - did anything but throw water on the story.

If it's not true, then it's a shame that this is just a vicious rumour.  However if it turns out to be true, it'll be a huge, huge story.

Meanwhile there's trouble in P.A. where the Raiders are languishing at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings and drawing crowds of less than 2,000.  My friends in P.A. fear that the team is in serious trouble and could make a return to the SJHL.  At this rate, they could be the franchise which moves to Nanaimo, BC.  The City of Nanaimo is holding a referendum to see if citizens will support the construction of a WHL-calibre arena.

9 - NHL:  With so much going on around here, I've only watched the NHL with a casual glance but living in the 306, we're sandwiched with news about the Maple Leafs and the Oilers.  One has to wonder if the Toronto Maple Leafs are ahead of the Edmonton Oilers in their rebuild?  The Leafs are 9th in the Eastern Conference with 44 points while the Oilers are fifth in the Western Conference with 49.

However the Oilers' performance in last week's loss at Columbus had to set off quite a few alarm bells.  Coach Todd McLellan said some of his big names were invisible in the game and I asked SportsCage NHL insider Rich Sutter who Todd may have been referring to.  "Just about everybody," Sutter advised.

It's too early to tell who's-ahead-of-who, but the final standings will tell the tale.

10 - HUG A COP:  Monday, January 9, 2017 is National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day!  Get out today and hug a cop, and tell them you appreciate all they do!