TORONTO (Nov. 10) — One man is the most–intriguing figure not currently behind a bench in the National Hockey League. The other ranks among the great defensive practitioners in the coaching industry. Together, they might provide the missing magic for the bumbling Toronto Maple Leafs.
Patrick Roy and Dave Tippett. Both available. But, maybe not for long.
It is almost certain the Edmonton Oilers will be seeking a replacement for the beleaguered Jay Woodcroft. Especially after his club lost, Thursday night, in San Jose. The Sharks, right now, resemble a glorified junior team.
The Oilers aren’t much better — a sickly 2–9–1 for five points, tied with San Jose for fewest in the NHL. Connor McDavid looks more like David Kampf than his normally prolific self. Leon Draisaitl is walking around in a veritable stupor, wondering why the Dynamic Duo has lost its unparalleled touch. So, Woodcroft, even if still behind the bench tomorrow in a road trip finale at Seattle, won’t be there much longer. Patrick Roy — quietly, stealthily — is awaiting the best opportunity to rejoin a club in the NHL. He coached Colorado from 2013 to 2016, with wildly mixed results; first, garnering 112 points (third–highest in the NHL), then missing the playoffs in consecutive springs. Still, we’re talking about one of the most–celebrated figures in the modern history of the NHL: four Stanley Cup titles as a goalie (two each with Montreal and Colorado) and coach of the 2023 Memorial Cup–champion Quebec Remparts. No person is a more–coveted prospect to reappear behind the bench in the big league.
Tippett had moderate success as a head coach from 2002 to 2022 with Dallas, Arizona and Edmonton. His teams twice lost in the Western Conference final: Dallas to Detroit in 2008 and the Coyotes to Los Angeles in 2012. But, he instilled defensive discipline on all his clubs and would make, in my view, a perfect assistant or co–coach to Roy. At the moment, the Leafs are led by the duo of Sheldon Keefe and Guy Boucher — the latter, formerly head coach in Ottawa, a presumptive replacement if Keefe loses his job. But, seriously, would the Leafs not potentially soar higher with a Roy–Tippett combo behind the bench? It would represent a major housecleaning by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment… and rather a condemnation of new general manager Brad Treliving for not hiring his own coach. But, the Leafs are in serious trouble behind center ice and require a veteran voice with proven results.
MLSE could find no better tandem than Roy and Tippett.
PASS COVERAGE THE KEY TO ARGOS’ GREY CUP DREAM
Having not lost at home throughout the 2023 Canadian Football League regular schedule, the Toronto Argonauts need one more triumph at BMO Field to become East Division champion for a second year and defend their Grey Cup title in Hamilton next weekend. But, defeating the Montreal Alouettes for a fourth time this season (in the Eastern final) won’t be a cakewalk. Nothing, likely, that resembles the 39–10 Toronto rout when the clubs met here in town on Sep. 9. The Argos can score with any team in the CFL, but the defensive secondary yielded gobs of passing yardage throughout the record–tying 16–2 season. If Alouettes quarterback Cody Fajardo puts up anywhere close to 350 yards through the air, it’ll be Montreal going to the Grey Cup, not Toronto. That’s the primary challenge for the Double Blue in front of an expected full house at the CNE tomorrow afternoon (3 p.m., TSN).
CODY FAJARDO WAS HARRASSED BY THE ARGOS DEFENSE IN THE SEP. 9 MEETING AT BMO FIELD.
After a bye week for the Conference semifinals, the Argos are healthy at most positions. Quarterback Chad Kelly will be joined by A.J. Ouellette and veteran Andrew Harris in the backfield. Slotback Kurleigh Gittens Jr. remains sidelined, but Kelly will have Damote Coxie, DaVaris Daniels, Cam Phillips and Dejon Brissette as starting receivers, with Tommy Nield and lanky Richie Sindani also available. As good a cast as any in the CFL. If the offense is clicking, putting up 30–plus points shouldn’t be a problem. Preventing points, however, could become an issue amid the continued absence of defensive backs DaShaun Amos and Robertson Daniel — the latter having practised all week, but still unavailable. Toronto continued to prevail in the second half of the season without its two coverage stalwarts, but a playoff game will present more of a challenge for the incumbent five–man secondary: Jamal Peters, Mason Pierce, Royce Metchie, Tavarus McFadden and Qwan’tez Stiggers.
If this group has a good game on Saturday, the Argos will breeze.
If Fajardo, the ex–Toronto pivot, picks apart the Argo secondary, all bets are off.
Undoubtedly, this will be the key to the Argos finishing their 2023 schedule undefeated on home turf. By a hair, the Alouettes actually yielded fewer points per game (21.8 to 22.0) than Toronto. The Argos were strafed for 4,922 passing yards, second–most in the CFL to Ottawa (5,304). That has to change on Saturday for the Double Blue to win the Eastern title. It will be nippy down by the lake, with the second half to be played after dark. The weather forecast calls for a partly cloudy sky with a temperature of five degrees Celsius at kickoff. That number will fall to two degrees throughout the match. Winds are expected to be light: 10 miles–per–hour out of the northwest.
BMO has the only natural–grass field in the CFL.
Prediction: Argos 37, Montreal 29.
THE GREATEST GAME — EVER
It was 40 years ago that the Argonauts and Hamilton Tiger–Cats engaged in what remains the best football game I’ve ever attended. Toronto prevailed, 41–36, in the 1983 Eastern final with all 54,530 seats occupied at old Exhibition Stadium. The Argos bounced back from a 23–8 second–quarter deficit and won the match with 27 seconds left on a short touchdown plunge by running back Cedric Minter. It occurred after quarterback Condredge Holloway vehemently lobbied coach Bob O’Billovich to remove the field goal unit from the turf and gamble on third–and–one… even though a successful kick by Hank Ilesic would have put Toronto in front, 37–36. Holloway was concerned about Hamilton counterpart, Dieter Brock, who had thrown for big yardage in the first half. He didn’t want Brock to get the ball with only a one–point deficit. Instead, Minter scored; the Argos went ahead by five, and Brock fumbled a snap on the next play from scrimmage. Game over. Toronto on top.
Tiger–Cats fans of vintage are likely still fuming over a debatable pass–interference call against defensive back Gerald Bess that prolonged the Argos final drive. In the end, however, it was a golden day for the Double Blue, which went on to an 18–17 triumph, the following week, over the B.C. Lions in Vancouver.
Here are images from a scrapbook I kept during the 1983 Grey Cup playoffs:
COVER OF MY HEAVY, CARDBOARD SCRAPBOOK (TOP–LEFT) AND THE FIRST PAGE (RIGHT), DEPICTING THE NARROW ARGONAUT VICTORY. HOLLOWAY AND JOE BARNES PROVIDED TORONTO A SPLENDID ONE–TWO PUNCH AT QUARTERBACK. ARGOS WERE 12–4 DURING THE REGULAR SEASON.
FRONT SPORTS PAGE OF THE NOV. 21, 1983 TORONTO STAR. YES, THE ARGOS WERE KINGS.
SPORTS FRONT (LEFT) OF THE NOV. 21, 1983 TORONTO SUN. SCORING PLAYS, BELOW.