By Rob Ficiur
Every year in this column I write what could / should be wish lists from the sports world. Before I look deep into Santa’s secret 2016 wish list – here are two dreams that were on the 2015 Christmas wish list. Looking back a year later, it looks like Santa has the ability to makes wishes come true in amazing ways.
2015 Wish List Items:
1. Sidney Crosby scoring touch – At this moment (December 2015) Sidney Crosby, the two time NHL scoring leader, is tied for 95th in league scoring. At 28 years of age Crosby should be entering the prime of his NHL career, not on a downward slide that feels like we are falling off of Mt. Everest. Why is Crosby slumping?
Update a Year Later: After Santa got this request things changed for Sidney and for his Penguins. Crosby finished third in NHL scoring with 85 points. (For your information Lee Stepniak of the New Jersey Devils took Crosby’s spot and finished). Crosby went on to win the Conn Smythe (Playoff MVP) as Crosby won his second Stanley Cup. In the fall Crosby led Team Canada to the championship in the World Cup of Hockey – and was selected MVP again. As of today (December 15) Crosby is third in NHL scoring. Pretty good results from a player who was 95th in league scoring this time last year.
2. The Ottawa Red Blacks want to Turn Back the Hands of time – The Red Blacks are not greedy they just want time to go back one year. When they start the 2016 CFL season the Red Blacks want the 2015 Henry Burris to lead them to just one more win in 2016 than he did in 2015…Ottawa is not being greedy, they don’t need Burris to improve on his 2015 numbers, they just want a repeat of Hank’s eighteenth pro season numbers in his nineteenth year.
Update: Henry Burris and the Ottawa Red Blacks got nothing they asked for on their 2015 Christmas wish list – but they got everything they wanted. Burris’ numbers were the worst we have seen from him this century. Smiling Hank lost his starting job for most of the season. However, when it mattered Burris started and won the 2016 Grey Cup. With Ottawa’s first Grey Cup since 1976, no one cares what his season stats were like.
2016 Christmas wish list items –
1. Calgary Stampeders – Fast Forward to the Grey Cup – The Calgary Stampeders were the best team in the Canadian Football League in 2016. Their 15 wins were one away from the best ever in CFL history. None of that mattered when the Stampeders lost the first ever Grey Cup overtime game. The 2017 Stampeders could win every game of the pre-season and regular season by the score of 45-0 and no one will care. Only winning the 2017 Grey Cup will be considered a successful season for the Stampeders.
2. NHL Labour Peace – In the last month Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association have reached agreements with their unions. Rather than wait until a lockout / strike was imminent both sides got together and worked out a deal. Perhaps baseball and basketball owners and leaders have learned from past mistakes and how labor unrest hurts their sports.
In the meant time the NHL and NHLPA are at odds on their negotiations. Hockey fans take a deep breath because the current agreement does not expire until September 2022. With six years to go before a possible work stoppage the NHL and the players began bargaining again…sort of. The NHL would agree to go to the 2018 Olympics if the players agreed to extend the current collective agreement until 2025. Within the next month a decision has to be made about NHL participation in the 2018 games. This real deadline might be big enough to get both sides talking. In the last two lockouts no real negotiations took place until the last minute; why not start now?
3. Blue Jays – Rewind Time for Free Agent Period – Some gifts are hard, nearly impossible for even Santa Claus to deliver. Toronto Blue Jays fans want to go back in time and have the team sign Edwin Encarnacion to the four year $80 million contract he turned down in November. At the time of this writing E.E. is still a free agent; so the Jays could sign him. It looks like Edwin will be lucky to get the $80 million he rejected from the Jays. In the weeks since Encarnacion turned down the four year contract the Blue Jays moved on and signed 33 year old Steve Pierce for two years; and $12 million dollars and 33 year old Kendrys Morales to a three year $33 million dollar contract. If the Jays did re-sign Edwin they have invested $54 million into two players who play the same position that Encarnacion would play.
This request from Santa is three parts – sign EE back to the Jays and somehow evaporate the other two contracts so that the Jays 2017 roster makes sense – you don’t need four first basemen / designated hitters on your roster.
Confidential update: Santa can do some amazing things. With his unparalleled magic he was able to talk Edwin into signing the original contract the Jays offered him. It is not often we hear of Santa getting personally involved in free agents negotiations, but Blue Jays fans flooded his mail box and his in box on this one. Somehow Santa weaved his magic and there is no record of the Jays having signed Kendrys Morales or Steve Pierce.
However, not all is right in Blue Jay land. Santa was unable to convince Blue Jays management to accept the free agent signing of Edwin and forget the contracts of Pierce and Morales. Blue Jays management privately told Santa that they believe the 2017 Toronto Blue Jays will be a better team with Morales and Pierce (and thus without Encarnacion).
Santa did his best to bring Toronto Blue Jays fans what they wanted. Even the big guy in red can’t convince the management they are wrong. Fans already know they will be blue in the summer of 2017 when their Jays don’t fly like they did before.