Sidelines: this week in sports

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Leafs season begins tomorrow!

After a long and crazy preseason, the Maple Leafs 2019-20 season will get underway tomorrow night against Ottawa. Their final preseason game came on Saturday against Detroit, and the Leafs shut ‘em out 5-0, scoring four times in the second frame; thrice on the power play and a shorty just for good measure.

I’ve got to say, the new coaches challenge rules that the NHL implemented for this year? Brilliant.
Basically, coaches will now have unlimited challenges, however, if your challenge fails, your team gets a minor penalty for delay-of-game. A second incorrect challenge results in a double minor. As a fan, there’s nothing worse than seeing the commentators try to kill time while the same play is shown a dozen times. It kills all the momentum of both the game and the broadcast, so to hand out a punishment for essentially wasting everyone’s time is genius in my book.

The new rules were in full effect on Saturday, as after Detroit incorrectly challenged a William Nylander goal for offside, the resulting Red Wings penalty ultimately led to another Leafs’ power play goal. Especially against a team like Toronto, with such a potent power play unit, opposing coaches will have to think twice when using their challenges.

It’s been a crazy couple of days for Auston Matthews, after a disorderly conduct charge that he received in the offseason in Arizona came to fruition recently. Both Kyle Dubas and Mike Babcock said they had no idea about the charge until all of us did, which is not a great look on Matthews’ part. I mean neither is drunkenly waddling through the streets of Scottsdale in your boxers, but that’s besides the point.

My two cents is this: it was stupid, but at the end of the day harmless, so I don’t think there is any reason to give it any more attention. I don’t think it should affect upper management’s decision regarding the captaincy, but of course if Tavares or Rielly ends up with the ‘C’ the internet will think otherwise.

On the ice, Matthews has looked incredible. He scored in every preseason game he played, racking up eight points (five goals, three assists) in just four games. His shot is as deadly as always, and if he stays healthy he will certainly be in the mix for the Rocket Richard Trophy.

The Leafs season opener will take place at home against the Ottawa Senators tomorrow at 7:00 p.m. I have a sport management lecture that runs from 6:00-9:00 p.m. tomorrow as well. Is the over/under going to be set at 20 people?

Blue Jays season comes to an end

The 2019 Blue Jays finished the season a lousy 67-95, used a team-worst 39 different pitchers this year and yet it was one of the most enjoyable seasons to watch from an awful team. Most of that has had to do with the young rookies the Blue Jays put out night after night, especially Bo Bichette.

The performance put on by Bo in just 46 games was what everybody thought Vladimir Guerrero was supposed to do; not to say Vladdy didn’t have a good rookie year, but given the hype surrounding him as a prospect, it didn’t quite live up to everyone’s sky-high expectations. Bichette slashed .311/.358/.571 with 11 homers, 18 doubles and 21 RBIs in just under 200 at-bats.

Guerrero had a span in July and August where he looked the former top prospect he once was, but there were also times where Vlad looked like a 20-year-old rookie struggling to adjust to major league pitching. His defense was, um, not good. His 17 errors were the most in the American League by a third baseman. He did record 126 hits, the most by any rookie in the league, and had a slash of .272/.339/.433 with 15 homers and 69 RBIs in 123 games. All in all, a pretty good first season for Vlad, hopefully some of that pop will come back to him for next season.

With Bo and Vlad gaining most of the headlines, Cavan Biggio quietly had a terrific rookie season of his own. He struggled early on; his average hovered around .200 for a couple months in the summer, but was able to finish the year with a slash of .235/.366/.433 with 16 homers, 48 RBIs, 76 walks, and was a perfect 14/14 in stolen bases. Highlighted by a cycle against Baltimore late in the year, Biggio will take a 29 game on-base streak into 2020. He has an incredibly high baseball IQ, and along with Lourdes Gurriel Jr, who had his best season as a pro after moving into left field, the Blue Jays have a great core-four to build around.

The pitching however, needs improvement. Big time. Trent Thornton was the only starter to consistently pitch from March to September. There was some promising signs from young Anthony Kay and T.J. Zeuch as September callups, but it’s evident that the front office will need to address the pitching situation come 2020. See you all next season.

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