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The Globe and Mail

Seth Jones appears to be a better skater than prognosticator

Jones may have proclaimed the U.S. the best team of the 2013 World Junior tournament, and although the jury is still out on that claim, his play over the past few weeks has cemented his status as one of the top picks in the upcoming NHL entry draft. Now he just needs a league that is actually playing hockey.

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GOOD YEAR Seth Jones, the son of former Toronto Raptor Ronald (Popeye) Jones, may have been a little wide of the mark when he suggested the United States are the “best team” at the world junior hockey tournament, but the Portland Winter Hawks defenceman has few peers when it comes to ranking the best player in junior hockey. Jones and Halifax Mooseheads centre Nathan McKinnon are the two players who appear most likely to go first overall in the 2013 NHL entry draft according to most analysts, and if Jones goes No. 1 he will be the first African-American to do so. Then all he’ll need is a hockey league that plays its games on the ice and not the boardroom.

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GOOD YEAR Pep Guardiola? Jose Mourinho? David Moyes? While media pundits across the world seem content to while away their lives debating who will take over the Old Trafford hot seat as early as this summer, the incumbent, Sir Alex Ferguson, just gets on with what he does best – winning – and has guided Manchester United top a seven-point lead atop the English Premier League summit and a last-16 clash against United old boy Cristiano Ronaldo and his Real Madrid cohorts in the Champions League next month. A 13th league title under his watch come May is very much in the cards, and for those expecting him to step away at 71, on Tuesday Ferguson advised pretenders to his throne to put foward their interest in “two or three years’ time.”

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GOOD YEAR Notre Dame may not win the national title next Monday (most bookmakers have the University of Alabama as a 10-point favourite) but the most legendary program in U.S. college football history has finally come out of the grotto and back into the light. Dismissed even as the Fighting Irish clawed their way to a 12-win season and the No. 1 ranking (ESPN columnist Rick Reilly buried the program back in August, saying it was time to “turn in the tiara”), Brian Kelly’s team returned the school to relevance and has it set to stay at the top for the foreseeable future, giving NBC a rich return on its TV contract and reminding people that Sean Astin played an undersized football player long before he was a hobbit.

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GOOD YEAR Saints coach Sean Payton may have been banished from the sidelines this season by decree of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for his role in “Bountygate,” but his position has never looked stronger. While he could only watch, the Saints missed the playoffs, despite a record third 5,000-yard passing season by quarterback Drew Brees, largely due to its defence giving up an NFL-record 7,042 yards. Now armed with a five-year contract extension set to make him the richest coach in the league at more than $8-million (U.S.) a year, Payton is going to need little motivational tools to fire up a franchise that feels it’s been wronged and is going to spend the entire 2013 season making sure everyone else pays.

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BAD YEAR Josh Hamilton may be getting a lot richer in 2013 – signing a five-year, $25-million per deal tends to do that – but money can’t buy everything, and happiness is unlikely to be found inside Angel Stadium. The newest superstar to join Albert Pujols and Mike Trout in the Los Angeles lineup has had more plate appearances in Angels Stadium than anywhere other than Rangers Ballpark, but the former American League MVP has been less than stellar in Southern California, posting a batting average down .55 from his mark at his former home field, with his slugging percentage down a whopping .152. Add to that the fact he requires almost double the at-bats per home run in Los Angeles (15.5 in Texas; 30.0 in Anaheim) and the signing, paired with a less-than-stellar rotation, means that if Hamilton wants to see his dreams come true in Anaheim, his best bet is to head to Disneyland.

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