Friday, April 29, 2011

Athletes Being Stupid: Derek Lowe

By Jeff

Apparently Jon Gruden does not own
the rights to this haircut.
DUI's bother me a great deal. They should bother everyone. These people are endangered others' lives because they are irresponsible. I'm sorry to turn this into an after school special, but it's ridiculous how often it happens and how little punishment people, especially professional athletes, receive.

Well, Atlanta Braves pitcher Derek Lowe was arrested and charged with DUI, reckless driving and improper lane change last night. Lowe was allegedly also racing another car when he was pulled over.

How dumb can you be? You've been drinking and now you're going to draw attention to yourself by racing someone else.

I wonder if Lowe pulled a Tony LaRussa and asked the arresting officer if he knew who Lowe was? Considering nobody in Atlanta cares about Atlanta sports teams, the officer probably had no clue Lowe played for the Braves.

The Braves and MLB probably won't do more than bench Lowe for one start if they even do that. It's a shame that franchises don't do more to punish their players for this type of behavior.

Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band - Racing in the Street

First round winners and losers

By: The Boss

My top four winning (duh) and losing teams from the first round of last night's NFL Draft. Some players certainly lost out like Da'Quan Bowers who went from a possible top pick three months ago to still being available as the second round begins.


New Orleans: Hard not to like their draft. Cameron Jordan gives them another pass-rushing weapon and then they trade back in and add Mark Ingram for a 2012 1st-rounder that is likely to be no better than 28. Ingram can solidify the Saints backfield and serve as a solid complement for Pierre Thomas. The Reggie Bush era is likely over but Ingram should be a much better back as time goes on. Kudos to the Saints for their round one.

Arizona: They got the top cornerback and one of the best players at five in Patrick Peterson, when there were rumors flying around all day yesterday that they were looking to trade out. Instead, they stayed at five and took one of the top three players in the draft.

Detroit: Nick Fairley has some issues attached to him and he did look like he raided Carlton Banks' wardrobe last night, but the potential of a Suh-Fairley middle of the d-line is scary and should could cause some issues for Aaron Rodgers and a couple concussions for Jay Cutler. Plus, Fairley was talked about as a top ten pick for most of the pre-draft so this is great value (to steal a line from Mel Kiper Jr.). The Lions are a franchise on the way up.

Indianapolis: The Colts desperately needed more protection for their franchise, Peyton Manning, and they got that in BC lineman Anthony Castonzo, who most mocks had going higher. Great pick for the Colts.


Atlanta: I have no issues trading up but if you give up as much as the Falcons did, you better land a stud and sorry, Julio Jones is not that. If they traded up to 4 for A.J. Green, who would have been worth the price they ultimately paid Cleveland at 6, that would have been understandable and I would have even paid it to get to 5 for Peterson. But Julio Jones is not worth 2 first-rounders, a second-rounder and 2 fourth-rounders. Surprisingly bad move by Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff.

Minnesota: I understand the pressure to draft a quarterback but Christian Ponder at 12 was a big-time reach, especially after seeing that Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick, and even the head case known as Ryan Mallett are still available. The Vikes would have been better served to address their O or D-line and then looked to move up in the second for a QB.

Kansas City: Jonathan Baldwin felt like a major reach at 26 for the Chiefs. I get they needed a wide receiver but Kentucky's Randall Cobb, Maryland's Torrey Smith and even Troy's Jerrel Jernigan would have been better picks. Baldwin's stock took a big tumble after a so-so 2010 college campaign.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The right pick-certainly not Cam Newton

By: The Boss

The NFL Draft starts tonight with the first round and the Carolina Panthers will lead things off with the No.1 pick. All signs seem to be pointing to the Panthers taking Auburn quarterback Cam Newton with that selection. Last night, ESPN reported that the team was looking at Newton, LSU CB Patrick Peterson, Alabama DT Marcell Dareus and Georgia WR A.J. Green with the top pick.

Living in Charlotte, the arguments for Newton have been pretty consistent. Newton is a dynamic playmaker, everyone else in the NFC South but the Panthers are pretty solid at quarterback (Saints have Brees, Falcons have Ryan and Bucs have the underrated Josh Freeman) and the southern region has been tantalized by Newton's one-year showing at Auburn that led to a national title (in truth the South is tantalized by anything SEC football related)

But is Cam Newton really the answer? Newton will need to carry a clipboard for at least a year, but it will really should be two years. The offense he ran at Auburn was far from a pro-style offense and he will need time to get the nuances down. He is far from a polished product at the quarterback position.

Then there are the character concerns that date back to his time at Florida, where he was accused of cheating and stealing, in addition to allegations at Auburn that his father engineered a pay-to-play setup (that frankly I think Cam Newton knew about). There are also reports that he was ducking reporters all day yesterday while in New York and there have been concerns about his leadership ability or lack thereof. Personally, I look at Cam Newton and I see a cross between JaMarcus Russell and Vince Young. In the college game, that is a compliment as all three won national titles and were great playmakers on the NCAA level. In the pro game, not so much.

The selection of Cam Newton is all about two related things: ticket sales and fan interest. The Panthers front office feels that Newton's presence can help drum up fan interest (although the truth is the fan base is split on him) and spike sagging tickets sale. In truth, the Panthers have a lot more working against them as well. They have one of the most incompetent general managers in sports (Marty Hurney) and an owner in Jerry Richardson, who frankly is out of touch with today's NFL and is leading the charge on the owners' side with the labor deal. He is the guy who pretty much insulted Peyton Manning and Drew Brees financial knowledge at one bargaining session. For years, Richardson has stayed out of the public eye, but these labor talks have brought him out and listening to him talk, that is not a good thing. Problem is Richardson is so revered in Charlotte, not one dares to take him, on except for the Charlotte Observer's Tommy Tomlinson. As a whole the organization has dropped the ball, sending out ticket renewal forms within a day of the NFL lockout being official in March.

Let's get a one thing clear, the Panthers do have a need a quarterback, badly. Last year, they spent a second-round pick on Jimmy Clausen, who slid down the draft board. The 2010 season was not kind to Clausen, he had a lame-duck coach that didn't give a shit and point blank said that he was not on board with drafting him, no veteran to learn from, no coaching instruction, no offensive line protection and rookies at receiver to throw (with the exception of the handful of games Steve Smith was active for). A lot of things conspired against Clausen, some of which were no fault of his own. I am not ready to close the book on him completely, he needs to carry a clipboard for a year and learn from a veteran. Do I think he can be a Brees or even a Matt Ryan type-QB? No way, but Clausen can be a game-manager type quarterback a la Kerry Collins, if given a real chance, and you can win games in this league with a guy like that at QB.

With the No. 1 pick, you should be looking for as close to a sure thing as you can find because the wrong choice at No. 1 can cripple a team for years. Cam Newton is far from a sure thing. Dareus and Peterson seem to be safe bets to be good players, are regarded higher by talent evaluators and would address needs as well. And given all the talk that wide receiver Steve Smith has asked for a trade, A.J. Green would not be a bad idea either (yes I realize receivers are boom or bust, point is he is a better pick than Newton).

A few months back, after Stanford's Andrew Luck unfortunately decided to return to school, a friend asked me about taking Cam Newton at No. 1. I laughed at the notion and made the comment, the Panthers have made some bad choices, but they aren't that stupid. Apparently, I have the mistake of underestimating them.

He's back!

By Jeff

What I'm about to say is a true statement as of 2:02 p.m. Eastern Standard time. Ryan Andrew Vogelsong, he of the 5.77 career ERA, is currently pitching a two-hitter against the Pittsburgh Pirates with six strikeouts.
He just needed four years in Japan to get his head straight.

The team definitely gave up on him too soon!

In the time it took me to write those three sentences, Vogelsong added another strikeout to his total.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Game 7 predictions

By Jeff

No matter what you hear about tonight's Game 7 between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Tampa Bay Lightning, know that past Game 7 results mean nothing and most predictions for the game are useless.

You will hear that the Pens have a history of blowing Game 7's at home. You will hear about last season's loss to the Montreal Canadiens. You will hear about how Mario Lemieux was denied a shot at his third cup by the New York Islanders and Florida Panthers. None of that matters tonight.

It's a fairly obvious statement, but media and fans are quick to talk about the past as if it will somehow factor in to tonight's game. This is not 2010, 1996 or 1993, so let's not be so excited to act like those results matter in 2011.

On the flip side, The Fan Morning Show's Paul Alexander mentioned that home teams are 2-0 in Game 7 this postseason. That would be a very insightful stat if one of those two wins was the Pens'. It's not (obviously) so it shouldn't give Pens fans any encouragement.

I won't predict a score. That would make it seem like I have some inkling of what it might be. I don't. The only things I can predict with some certainty are:

  • I will be uncomfortable any time Martin St. Louis has the puck. It won't matter where he is on the ice
  • My heart will skip a beat any time Marc-Andre Fleury goes behind the net to play a puck
  • I will get very excited any time Dwayne Roloson goes behind the net to play a puck
  • Ryan Malone will take at least one stupid penalty
  • Alexei Kovalev won't shoot the damn puck and will probably take a stupid penalty
  • Tyler Kennedy will skate hard down the right side and rip a slap shot into Roloson's chest
  • As good as Zbynek Michalek has been, there will be at least two instances where his sprawling on the ice will put him out of position
  • Steve Downie will be a prick
  • The Pens' power play will stink
  • I will have a sense of calm when Steven Stamkos has the puck
  • The Pens' fourth line will be their best line like they have the rest of the series
Any other predictions?

NHL players whining a lot

By Jeff

NHL players are as tough as they come, especially when the playoffs roll around. Broken bones, sports hernias and torn ligaments are just some of the injuries they play through. But it seems like players and coaches are doing a lot more whining then usual this postseason.

- Philadelphia Flyers captain Mike Richards was crying about the Buffalo Sabres "getting away with murder". The same Mike Richards who says Sidney Crosby whines too much.
Think I could sell this to the city of Buffalo?

- Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller said Mike Richards was getting away with "mass murder". Yeah, Richards boarded Tim Connolly in a reckless play, but mass murder? That's a bit much.

- Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff called out the Flyers for complaining too much, then was telling the media how dirty he thought the Richards hit on Connolly was.

- Prior to last night's Game 7 against the Chicago Blackhawks, Vancouver Canucks general manager Mike Gillis called for an "even playing field". He then went on a rant about how the Canucks have been called for a lot more penalties than the Blackhawks. This might sound crazy, but maybe the Canucks should have been called for more penalties.

- Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy "Next Bond Bad Guy" Boucher told the media that Pittsburgh Penguins Brooks Orpik tried to gauge out Steven Stamkos' eye. While face washing is embarrassing and probably very unhygienic, it happens all the time. It's doubtful Orpik was intentionally going for an eye. Also, Boucher didn't seem to have anything to say for the goon hockey Ryan Malone is playing this series.

- Anaheim Ducks general manager Bob Murray was complaining the Nashville Predators were getting away with dives and his team needed to start diving more. It has not been confirmed or denied that Murray is planning on applying for general manager of the Italy national soccer team.

- Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau not only called out the New York Rangers for hitting Mike Green in the head, but he went after all of New York by complaining about the attention Madison Square Garden gets as a venue.

If this were the NBA, all of these comments would have resulted in fines. Some may have resulted in assassination/mysterious disappearance.

While I understand that some of the comments were made to take attention away from a team's performance, or to defend a player, it's still annoying to hear this chatter. Play the game.

Johnny Cash - Cry, Cry, Cry

Monday, April 25, 2011

Stop speculating on returns of Crosby, Malkin

By Jeff

Words can't describe how excited Pittsburgh Penguins fans were when they heard Sidney Crosby was skating last month. After months of uncertainty regarding his recovery from a concussion he received in January, fans finally had something to clue them in to his return.

Too bad his return is just as cloudy today as it has been since the day after Crosby was concussed.

We've all seen the exploding water bottle video. We've seen Crosby doing all kinds of drills and looking as good as ever while doing them. We just haven't seen him in a game and no one knows when we will. That won't stop national media and fans from constantly speculating on when he will be back. Every day there is a story on whether Crosby skated or not, like it means something in the grand scheme of things. But the truth is Crosby has a strict schedule he follows, and that schedule includes days off. So just because he's not skating, it doesn't mean he is suffering headaches or other conditions.
This bromance is probably on a "break" until October.

All we know about Crosby is that he is "two stages" away from a return, as Dan Bylsma says. Too bad Bylsma won't tell anyone what those two stages are. One can assume the first stage is full-contact practices, but after that it's just guesswork.

As if the constant Crosby speculation wasn't enough, there is now word spreading that Evgeni Malkin might return during these playoffs.

Yes, this is the same Malkin who tore his ACL and MCL Feb. 4 in a game against Buffalo and needed surgery on his ACL. He has participated in light skating a few times over the last week, so now people are saying he might be back before Crosby.


The guy who tore his ACL and is just now starting to skate again will be back before the guy who has been symptom-free (I assume Crosby wouldn't be allowed to skate and practice if he was experiencing symptoms.) and skating for a month? Am I really supposed to believe this?

Let's get one thing straight, no one is seeing these guys play in the playoffs if the Penguins don't beat the Tampa Bay Lightning in their first-round series. So let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Now that I've stated the obvious, I request that everyone stop talking about Crosby and Malkin until their names are in the lineup. In defense of some of these speculators, Crosby Fever hit me pretty good when I saw he returned to skating. With other players on the team who suffered concussions, they just needed a week of symptom-free skate before they were cleared. So, by the way of thinking, Crosby was close. OK, so I forgot that Crosby is the face of the franchise and league while the other guys were on near minimum salaries and might not be back next year.

But the continued Crosby watch (He's practicing with the fourth line instead of the fifth!) and now the Malkin talk has annoyed me. Blog contributor Joe made a great point today, as he does often, in that fans and the team can't count on these two coming back this year. Statements like, "If only we had Crosby or Malkin" or "We're doing well now, just wait until Crosby and Malkin come back" are silly. The team doesn't have Crosby and Malkin and might not until October. If one or both come back, then it means the team is on to the next round and you can get excited. But for now, stop asking about these guys everyday and enjoy the team taking the ice every night.

Peter Gabriel - Here Comes The Flood

Friday, April 22, 2011

Selig says Pirates finances not an issue

By Jeff

Just read this story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Just as they said last year, Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig and the players union have no problem with the way the Pittsburgh Pirates use the money they receiver through revenue sharing.

A common complaint in Pittsburgh is that Pirates owner Bob Nutting pockets all of the revenue sharing money the team receives, rather than put it back into the team. A Forbes report stating that the Pirates made a $25 million profit in 2010 add fuel to these critics' fire. Too bad as Post-Gazette writer Dejan Kovacevic said in his blog here, the $25 million amount makes no sense and was not verified by anyone.

Now I am in no way a Nutting fan. I am one of those people that believe the team is moving in the right direction, but I would be a very happy man if Nutting sold the team and was never heard from again. He's just not a baseball guy. With that being said, the man receives more blame and hatred than is fair.

MLB has forced teams to take on payroll if it is determined that they are spending revenue sharing dollars in the wrong place. MLB has taken over teams that are being run into the ground by irresponsible owners. Clearly the league is not afraid to act when they view a situation as problematic. The fact they haven't penalized the Pirates for either of these practices shows that the Pirates currently are not misusing revenue sharing funds and are not being run into the ground by Nutting.

Some will still claim Nutting is pocketing all of the profits, and there is nothing anyone can say to dissuade these individuals from thinking otherwise. Others will says Selig is a joke and his support of the team means nothing, and I can't really argue the fact that Selig makes decisions that make me bang my head against a wall. But he has a history of punishing big and small market teams and their ownership for actions viewed as harmful to the league, so I'm actually going to trust him on this one.

Stiff Little Fingers - Johnny Was

No eating after midnight rule flawed

By Jeff

"Gremlins" is one of my all-time favorite movies. Not because it's made well, or the plot is spectacular. It's just one of the first movies I remember seeing and has always had a place in my heart. And come on, who wouldn't want Gizmo or another friendly and adorable mogwai as their pet?

Well, someone mentioned gremlins at work this week. They weren't referring to the movie but my mind immediately went to old memories of watching it on my family's 25-year-old television that changed channels with a knob. But then I got to really thinking about the movie, especially and the rules mogwai live by. They hate bright lights, direct sunlight kills them, they can't get wet and they can't eat after midnight. If you're not familiar with the movie, mogwai are cute, furry creatures that are about a foot tall. When they get wet, they shoot little balls out of their backs that spawn into more mogwai (No sex for these guys.). If they eat after midnight, they go into a cocoon and come out in a reptilian form that is then called a gremlin.

I don't even mind that Gizmo's eyes
are almost as big as his hands.
It's that last rule that has been on my mind the past few days and led to many questions.

First, how does the mogwai's body know it's after midnight? It's not like they're looking at a clock when they eat. They know what clocks do, as the evil mogwai sabotaged the clock so that they could trick their master into feeding them after midnight, but you never saw them looking at a clock and evaluating if they should eat or not.

Second, What exactly constitutes "after midnight". Is it 12:01 to 11:59 a.m.? This question can go really in depth, as there are many theories on time. Just for a start, go to the Wikipedia entry on the topic. Where's Albert Einstein when we need him? Granted, you could say that Einstein's theory on relativity would address all of the topics regarding this curious event.

Third, how strict are mogwai with this rule? If "after midnight" is indeed 12:01 to 11:59 a.m., will the mogwai go into cocoons if they eat at 12:01 a.m.? Once again, whatever theory of time the mogwai follow would determine the answer to this question.

The existence of these strange creatures doesn't bother me. I'm fine with the idea that they can take over a town despite being a foot tall. The fact 99 percent of mogwai have bad intentions makes sense to me. But it's this whole eating after midnight thing that I can't get over. I still love the movie, but these questions will always be in the back of my head.

Matt Sharp and Rivers Cuomo - Time Song

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Selig was right to step in with the Dodgers

By The Boss

I am not Bud Selig's biggest fan. I think he has done some things as commissioner that were dumb, stupid and idiotic (read: the whole home-field advantage in the all-star game among others, such as the Game 5 rain-filled debacle known as the 2008 World Series).

However, I am on Commissioner Selig's side today for the stance he took on the Dodgers ownership situation. We can debate whether this stance should be adopted with the Mets on another day (although in a way, I think it already has with Selig-cronie Sandy Alderson running the baseball operations/personnel) and we also debate how active MLB will allow the Dodgers to be if they are in contention (based on their track record with the Expos and Rangers, I would say the team will be able to make moves). Hell, Dodgers fans have been taking to the airwaves and columns to praise the move to get McCourt out now. (I listened to an interview of Meet the Press host David Gregory, a lifelong Dodger fan who grew up in Southern California, and you could hear how relieved he was that this irresponsible person was not in charge of the team he roots for anymore. From the sounds of it much of Southern California agrees as it is still a Dodger town.

Dodgers owner Frank McCourt is in the middle of a nasty divorce that has seen things come to light that he probably wished didn't. Such as the fact that his wife was made CEO and used team money for haircuts.

McCourt, who knew he was hurting financially before the 2011 season began, approved GM Ned Colletti spending over $90 million to retain or bringing in free agents such as Ted Lilly, Hiroki Kuroda, Jon Garland, Juan Uribe, Rod Barajas and Matt Guerrier. On top of that, in the middle of all his troubles the team signed Chad Billingsley to $35 million extension. It is no wonder that McCourt had to take a loan from Fox to meet the team's payroll last week.

If that wasn't enough, under McCourt's watch, Dodger Stadium has gone in the tank attendance-wise. And on top of that there was his rather 'such is life'-type response to the brutal attack on Giants fan Brian Stow in the parking lots of Dodger Stadium (the stadium McCourt's team plays in and also the one whose security force or lack there of, McCourt is responsible for), in which Stow is now in a medically-enduced coma.

McCourt also had his fingerprints on the decision to move the team from its long time spring training home in Vero Beach, Fla. (also known as Dodgertown) to Arizona for spring training. A decision that angered much of the Vero Beach community as spring training was a strong source of their tourism income and a decision that angered many long-time Dodgers as well.

What's real sad, is that one of baseball's most storied franchises is being trashed. I do not like the Dodgers, but they are arguably one of the five most storied franchise in the sport. Here's hoping that someone like Tommy LaSorda, a lifelong Dodger, can help put together an ownership group to take the rains in a similar fashion to what Nolan Ryan did in Texas.

Frank McCourt and his ex-wife were completely irresponsible in their running of the Dodgers, and also apparently their own lives. While they will have to fix their personal issues, Selig and baseball were right to step and in and fix the Dodgers' issues.

Searching for the puck

By Jeff

Wayne Drehs has a great story on right now. Drehs went searching for the elusive puck from Game 6 in last year's Stanley Cup Final. He found some good evidence to point him in the right direction, but the whereabouts of the puck are still unknown. You can read the full story here.

Hall & Oates - She's Gone

Colin Campbell is crazy

By Jeff

NHL Senior Vice President (Is there a Junior?) and Director of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell is losing his mind. Well, some would argue that he did lost it a long time ago. I've never heard someone in professional sports get so defensive when interviewed.

Anytime I've heard him speak to the media, Campbell gets extremely upset and says that the members of the media didn't play hockey and don't know hockey, so they shouldn't be asking questions. It's a "thankless job" because he does a poor job.

Here is a link to his latest interview. You will find it on the right side of the site and on the second page of videos. It's titled "Cybulski & Company: Colin Campbell Interview". Campbell took over the interview and basically whined the whole time about people questioning his decisions.

I'll let you be the judge as to whether you think he is fit for the job, but here are my thoughts. Campbell needs to go. While I agree with him on the hit that knocked Sidney Crosby out, I disagree with him about everything else. No one in media circles knows about this mysterious video that says targeting a player's head behind the net is OK because there are no "blind-side" hits back there. Yet Campbell says it was sent to "everyone in the media".

I also don't understand how he can justify not suspending Raffi Torres for checking Brent Seabrook in the head, when he suspended Steve Downie for basically the same kind of hit. The only differences were that Downie left his feet and didn't actually hit the head, whereas Torres stayed on his feet but connected with his victim's head. They both had the intent of hitting a player in the head, so they should have been suspended. Instead, Torres got to play the next game and Seabrook was out with a possible concussion.

Campbell will constantly tell his critics that they don't understand the game of hockey, but maybe the league shouldn't be trusting a former player that logged 1,292 penalty minutes in 636 career games. He clearly didn't understand or respect the rules when he played. How can we expect him to understand them today?

Then there was the e-mail controversy in 2010. Campbell sent e-mails to the director of officiating Stephan Walkom crying about how refs called Campbell's son, Gregory of the Boston Bruins, for a penalty. If that's not an attempt to abuse power, I don't know what is.

Colin Campbell needs to go. He is hurting the league.

Frightened Rabbit - Swim Until You Can't See Land

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Athletes Being Stupid: Chris Kunitz

By Jeff

The NHL is anything but consistent when it comes to dishing out discipline for hits to the head. Some guys get suspended – and rightfully so – for 17 games because they're a repeat offender, while other repeat offenders get nothing for similar hits. Trying to predict what the NHL will do is very similar to figuring out if Brett Favre is coming back or not. It changes every week and the outcome always upsets someone.

But that uncertainty doesn't mean players should risk getting suspended in the playoffs with dirty hits to head, which is what Pittsburgh Penguins forward Chris Kunitz did last night when he elbowed Simon Gagne in the head. Gagne no longer had the puck and Kunitz clearly targeted the head with is his elbow. This is the kind of hit the NHL needs to eliminate and Kunitz should be suspended for two games.

What the heck was Kunitz thinking? His team was already down its two biggest stars and one of its top penalty killers, the last thing it needed was to lose another forward. While the Pens won the game and have a 2-1 series lead, that could easily slip to be down 2-3 with Game 6 in Tampa Bay if Kunitz is suspended for Games 4 and 5.

What's so frustrating about the hit is Kunitz is not a dirty player. He's a feisty guy that doesn't shy away from physical play, but he doesn't have the reputation of being dirty like Cooke, Steve Downie and others. He's usually smarter than this and doesn't hurt his team by taking stupid penalties. And he could have completely avoided this play. Gagne lost the puck and Kunitz could easily delivered a clean hit, rather than raising his elbow.

The incident is all Kunitz's fault, but the league could have created stricter rules to prevent these kinds of hits. How long will it be before stubborn general managers like Brian Burke realize that these hits require harsher punishments?

UPDATE:  Kunitz and Downie have been suspended for Game 4.

Counting Crows - Omaha

Athletes Being Stupid: Mike Leake

By Jeff

This could die in a week, but I'd like to start a series titled Athletes Being Stupid in which we'll look at some of the boneheaded things professional, both active and retired, athletes do.

Rather than turn back the clock and look at past offenses, like Lawrence Taylor paying an underaged girl for sex and not thinking he did anything wrong, the posts will try to call attention to recent events.

The first athlete on the list is Cincinnati Reds pitcher Mike Leake, who was arrested Monday for allegedly stealing six shirts from Macy's. The shirts' combined value was about $60. Leake could get 180 days in jail, but that is unlikely.
Macy's Most Wanted.

Leake, 23, received a $2 million signing bonus from the Reds when he was drafted in 2009, and makes more than $400,000 a year. What the hell was he thinking if he did indeed rip the tags off of six shirts and try to steal them? The price of the shirts is around one-one thousandth of a percent of his annual income. I get that the recession is hitting people pretty hard, but this is a bit dramatic on Leake's part.

What excuse could Leake possibly have for his actions? Was it his way of celebrating beating the Pittsburgh Pirates two days earlier? Only two other home pitchers have been able to beat the Pirates this season. Was he just doing it to prove he could, like people run marathons to show themselves they are capable? Maybe he was trying out for the Bengals incase of a lockout.

No matter what excuse he chooses, if he chooses one, I congratulate Leake for being the first featured player in Athletes Being Stupid.

The Clash - Police on my Back

Friday, April 15, 2011

Blue-Gold Game hype ridiculous

By Jeff

Maybe it's because I went to a small college with a FCS football team, but these spring scrimmages really get under my skin. The worst offender is this highly advertised Notre Dame Blue-Gold game.

For those of you who don't know what these spring scrimmages are, they are the intra-squad games schools have to get people excited for the upcoming football season. The Notre Dame game is getting all kinds of hype because it's the 82nd Blue-Gold Game and it will be the first time it's televised.

Who cares?

First, it's Notre Dame. When was the last time they were actually relevant in the National Championship picture? I think Lou Holtz was coaching and had not yet gone senile. Are people really interested in watching a glorified practice of a mediocre and perennially overhyped team?

That brings up the second point. It's a practice (Go on. Everyone do their best Allen Iverson impression.). It's a practice where teammates and friends are not going to be going 100 percent because in the back of their minds they don't want anyone to get hurt. Sure, some guys will be looking to get the coaches' attention, but I sincerely doubt the intensity will be anywhere near the level that makes football fun to watch.

Third, it's April and the season starts in September. What they do in this spring game means little. They could look like stars in the scrimmage and then turn to crap in a real game.

I understand that Alumni love this stuff, but does it really need to be televised? Does Versus need to advertise it like it's actually a big deal? It's not. It's a friggin' practice. Just one more way colleges and the NCAA to make money off of college athletes who get suspended if they sell a jersey or trophy because they're broke college students and need money.

Pure Prairie League - Amie

Thursday, April 14, 2011

.500 means little

By Jeff

The Pittsburgh Penguins victory last night in Game 1 of their playoff series against the Tampa Bay Lightning was awesome. There is nothing I can say here that you won't read or hear somewhere else, so I'll leave it at that.

What's kind of bothering me today is how much attention has been given to the Pittsburgh Pirates falling below .500 for the first time this year. I get that the town is sick of having a losing baseball team and .500 has come to represent a goal. Something we all dream of and want. But let's be honest. A .500 record mean very little in the grand scheme of things.

Pittsburgh would go nuts in excitement if the Pirates did finish a season .500. There is no denying that. But to be keeping track of it in April is a bit ridiculous. Especially when this team was expected to be bad, as their top pitching prospects are years away. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette had two headlines that emphasized the sub .500 mark. Is there another team in the country that would cause these kind of headlines after falling to 5-6 on a 162-game season?
No one on the Pirates will celebrate like this for just
achieving a .500 record, so why would fans?

While this city craves and deserves a winning team, that's not the goal. Making the playoffs and building a contender is the ultimate mission. Not to simply win more games than they lose. I know. It's crazy that I just mentioned playoffs and contender when referring the Pirates, but it's true. The team is on the right track for building a good team that can bring excitement to its fan base. It's just a few (Might be wishful thinking, but I believe it.) years away.

Keeping track of the Pirates race for .500 at this juncture in the season is just silly. Hell, it will be silly if it were September. It would break and embarrassing streak of losing seasons, but it doesn't mean a damn thing if you still miss the playoffs. Find me a professional team or player that is legitimately happy with just winning a few more contests than they lost. I wouldn't want that kind of person running my team or playing next to me, and that is not the culture that should be encouraged.

A .500 record has become a symbol for this franchise. It's a symbol that critics of the team point to first, while being a finish line for others. Either way, it has come to represent too much. A record is an easy way to judge a team, but not the only way. Look the current Pirates roster and there is a lot of good things going on there. The core players young and locked up for four to six years. There are going to be rough patches because the pitching a joke, but that is being addressed.

The Pirates could finish with only 60-70 wins, continuing the losing trend, but be on the rise. On the flip side, you could have a team around .500, but they have no hope for the future (I'm staring right at the Los Angeles Dodgers and Angels of Anaheim.). They were both 80-82 last season but don't appear to have a plan in place for competing in the upcoming years. These teams don't have the losing history of the Pirates, but I'd feel a lot better about a 70-win Buccos team this season than I would an 82-win Dodgers season this year.

So let's look at how the young players are progressing before we look at the team's record. Is Pedro Alvarez developing into the potential 40-homer threat he was drafted to be? Is Tabata going to be a constant threat on the base paths? Will Neil Walker become an all-star second baseman? Will Andrew McCutchen be the five tool superstar he has the potential to be? If the answer is yes to two or three of these at the end of the season, but the team loses 95 games, I'll be OK with it.

The Joy Formidable - Whirring

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Sliding head-first is dumb

By Jeff

Maybe I'm just bitter because my fantasy team will be without Josh Hamilton for two months, but sliding head-first in baseball doesn't make sense on most occasions.

Hamilton made an ill-advised attempt to tag from third on a foul ball that didn't leave the infield because no one was covering home. The third base coach told him to go, so he did. Not only was Hamilton out by a good bit, but he fractured a bone in his arm on the slide. The catcher didn't fall on him or kick him, he just landed awkwardly when he slid. He would have been out if he slid feet first too, but he also wouldn't have been injured.

Nevermind Hamilton telling the media that he didn't want to try and score and only did so because his coach told him to. That's not what this post is about. Although, Hamilton sounds pretty silly in this instance. It's not like the pop-up was behind him and he was relying on the coach to be his eyes. Hamilton had a clear view of the play and is a grown man fully capable of making decisions for himself.

Back to the topic at hand.

Honestly, what advantage does a runner have to dive headlong into a base? It can be argued that you have more control and agility with your hands than you do with your feet, but I can name maybe one head-first slide where this strategy worked well. Jack Wilson lifted his arm over the tag and ended up being safe. He couldn't have done that with his feet. The play was a great, but it's the exception.

The only time we ever practiced sliding in my little league days, we were specifically told not to go in head-first. I can't imagine we were the only little league team that received this lesson.

The worst is when you see people slide into first base. The only time this practice makes sense is if someone if not covering the base, and the pitcher or first baseman has to apply a tag. All other examples of this are stupid and you'd expect major leaguers to understand this fact. Sliding slows a player down. And because you can run through first base, there is no reason to slide, as sprinting through the bag gets you there faster than sliding.

Are coaches failing to reinforce this basic fundamental, or the players are just too stubborn to change?

Queen - Headlong

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Handing out NHL awards

By Jeff

Let's start off by recognizing how stupid it is that the NHL has an awards ceremony. I don't get it. Awards shows are lame and I'm not a big fan of making a showcase of individual awards in a team sport. Players deserve to be recognized for their contributions, but a whole show based around it? These are hockey players, not actors. Make an announcement, let the sports media report on it and be done with it.

With that being said, here are my awards for the season.

Hart Trophy (MVP): Corey Perry

Daniel Sedin wouldn't even be in my top 3, as I think Martin St. Louis and Tim Thomas were more instrumental in their teams' success. Nothing against Sedin, but this award is supposed to go to the player who was the most valuable to his team, not the player who scored the most points in the league.

The Anaheim Ducks don't make the playoffs this year without Perry. He was phenomenal in the second half on his way to lead the league in goals with 50. What's most important about those 50 goals is 11 of them were game winners, which was tied for first in the NHL with Alexander Ovechkin.
"Daniel who!?!"

The team lost their top center for more than a month and were without their top goalie down the stretch. Perry put the team on his back and not only led them to the playoffs, but the No. 4 seed and home-ice for the first round.

If the Vancouver Canucks didn't have Daniel Sedin, they'd still make the playoffs. They would miss his 104 points, but players like Henrik Sedin, Ryan Kesler and Alexander Burrows would have led the team to the playoffs. They were never on the bubble like the Ducks.

Vezina Trophy (Best Goalie): Tim Thomas

Thomas only played 57 games, but he was great in most of them. As important as Marc-Andre Fleury was to the Pittsburgh Penguins once Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin went down, he was terrible for six weeks. Thomas was consistently the top goalie in the league throughout the season.

Calder Trophy (Best Rookie): Michael Grabner

Despite being stuck on a team filled with underachievers and goons, Graber had an amazing season for the New York Islanders. He had 34 goals and only two of them were on the power play, while six were of the shorthanded variety. Grabner's discipline also has to be praised. On a team that would stop playing hockey and goon it up some games, Grabner only had 10 minutes in the penalty box. Logan Couture will probably win it because he was a big contributor on a playoff team, but Grabner shouldn't be punished for playing with a bunch of tools in the league's worst arena.

Norris Trophy (Best Defenseman): Nicklas "Norris" Lidstrom

This award has recently become about what defenseman has the best offensive season, and not so much about the best all-around player at the position. That's why you get people like Mike Green as finalists for this award the last few years. What a joke.

Anyway, despite a minus-2 rating for the season, Lidstrom was tremendous this year. The Detroit Red Wings were hurt all season, but he was Mr. Dependable, playing in all 82 games and leading the Wings to the No. 3 seed in the West. As much as I dislike the Red Wings, there is no denying Lidstrom's talent and superiority at the position.

Jack Adams (Best Coach): Dan Bylsma

I went over this in a previous post. This should be the most obvious choice of all the awards. Take the two best players, one of whom is a the captain, away from their teams at the same time for half the season and tell me you think they would make the playoffs. That's like taking the Sedin twins away from Vancouver, Lidstrom and Henrik Zetterberg from the Red Wings, Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom from the  Washington Capitals, etc. Bylsma had to deal with it and tied for the Atlantic Division lead. Enough said.

Selke Trophy (Best Defensive Forward): Ryan Kesler

The way the Selke works is that a first-time finalist never wins it. Kesler was a finalist last year, and the man who beat him (Pavel Datsyuk) isn't in the running. Kesler will win. He also deserves it.

Lady Byng (Nice Guy): Martin St. Louis

OK, this goes to the player who displayed the best sportsmanship while playing at a high level. When you think about it, the Lady Byng is a commendable award. You want players to be recognized for playing the game the right way and not being dirty or tools (Maybe it should be called the Anti-Ovechkin).

If we don't rename it after Ovechkin, it should be renamed after St. Louis. The little guy play great, fast hockey, yet only has 12 minutes in the box. For someone playing 21 minutes a night, that is nuts. Maybe he is just really sneaky with foul play, but I doubt it. You also never see him perform and silly celebration after a goal. St. Louis pumps his fist, hugs his teammates, and gets ready to play more hockey.

The other awards are silly, so I'm not going to bother with them.

Playoffs start tomorrow.

The Who - Summertime Blues

Monday, April 11, 2011

Pens in six

By Jeff

After six months, the NHL playoffs have arrived! And not a moment too soon.

April baseball means very little in a 162-game season, the NFL is going through a lockout and the NBA does not interest me at all. The Lakers or Spurs will play the Bulls or the Heat. There just aren't enough upsets in the NBA for me to care before the Conference Finals.

But the NHL playoffs have upsets, players taking to the ice with serious injuries and a level of intensity that is not seen in any other sport. Players you never see making or taking hits in the regular season will lay others out. They'll take slap shots to the face, and then get up and try to do it again. It's awesome.

The Pittsburgh Penguins begin their quest for a fourth Stanley Cup Wednesday when they host the Tampa Bay Lightning. This would be a sweep if Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were healthy. But, as everyone in the hockey world knows, they are not going to play. This makes it a tougher series than some want to believe.

The Lightning can score. Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier and Steven Stamkos are scary good at creating goals. And even though Simon Gagne struggled this season, he has 42 points in 53 games against the Pens. This team can score.

On the flip side (Stop me if you've heard this already.), the Penguins no longer have a go-to guy on offense. No one on the active roster has 25 goals or 60 points. James Neal and Alexei Kovalev were brought in to score, yet they have combined for three goals since they came over. So this team struggles to score.

Fortunately for the Pens, they have a great defense and great goalie. Marc-Andre Fleury is going to redeem his poor performance last postseason and steal at least two games for the Pens here. He will be helped by a defense that kills penalties better than anyone in the league, and blocks shots better than most.

Combine that with some timely scoring, and the Pens will advance in six games.

Frightened Rabbit - The Twist

Friday, April 8, 2011

What we learned from Week 1

By Jeff

Week 1 is in the books for the 2011 MLB season, so what have we learned? Nothing. It's baseball and the season goes on forever. But that would be a really short post, and I'm bored. So let's take a look at what happened and what trends can expect to continue or reverse.

Boston Red Sox start 0-6

It's a lot of fun to watch a team analysts drooled over all offseason get off to their worst start in 65 years. Lots of fun. Too bad it won't last. The team will eventually win a game – probably 90 to 95 – when they start hitting. On the bright side, Josh Beckett and John Lackey will continue their declines.

Tampa Bay Rays start 0-6

What's scary about the Rays' start is that they haven't led at any point this season. B.J. Upton is the only one hitting, which is a scary thought. And unlike Boston, I don't think they recover from this start. They just aren't deep enough. One injury to a major play, which we're already seeing with Evan Longoria, cripples this lineup. Who knew that Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon would suck so bad? Probably everyone.

Pittsburgh Pirates win two consecutive road series

Everyone who watches baseball knows this team has been terrible for 18 years. What they may not have known is that Pirates only won 17 games on the road last year and hadn't won consecutive series on the road since 2007. So it's safe to say this team should not be called road warriors.
Maybe the Pirates will transform
into Road Warriors some day.

This year should see multiple road series wins, though. Just look at their division and schedule. There are several times this season they get crappy teams back-to-back. They are going to do it again.

Neil Walker leads NL in RBIs

It's been a fun ride. It's sad it has to end this weekend. Walker is swinging a hot bat right now, but he is not a big run producer. He strikes out too much and doesn't walk enough. Guys are going to figure him out. Expect around 70 to 80 RBIs for him this year. Did you notice how I added the "s" to RBIs? All of you RBI people can suck it.

Baltimore Orioles lead AL East

This team is going to finish fourth in the division. Their improved lineup is going to get hurt. It's not a matter of if, but a matter of when. The pitching staff is also young and unproven. They are going to hit some bumps and it's uncertain how they will respond.

Texas Rangers hit 754 home runs this season

That might be a bit of a stretch, but they are absolutely crushing every pitcher they face. And Josh Hamilton hasn't even got in on the action. It's scary that this team has the potential to have four guys with 30 home runs when the season ends. Scary.

No one misses Brad Lidge

Did anyone even notice he didn't play the first week and probably won't play until July? Do Philly fans actually like him? I don't think so. They can find plenty of scapegoats to blame for any losses. Fans will probably forget he's on the team when he comes back.

Big Four in Philly rotation becomes Big Three

Cole Hamels was lit up in his season debut. He didn't last three innings. So was it a bit premature to lump him in with Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cliff Lee? After all, Buster Olney thinks Hamels will win the NL Cy Young because he faces other teams No. 4 pitchers. Never mind that the opposing pitcher plays no role in the lineups Hamels pitches against. That's not as important to Buster as the other team's pitcher.

The quick answer is no. Hamels is a very good pitcher and will be fine this year. He won't be as good as Halladay or Lee, but he and Oswalt will have very similar numbers.

Toronto's young rotation finishes in the top five for ERA in the AL

As much as I love Ricky Romero, Kyle Drabek and the rest of the young guns, this hot start won't last. Next year they might be the best rotation in the AL, but this year they will hit some roadblocks that will knock them out of the top five.

Jackson Browne - Before the Deluge

Thursday, April 7, 2011

NHL's hypocrisy strikes again

By Jeff

The NHL is once again showing it's inconsistency in penalizing players for hits to the head. It's getting ridiculous.

In a previous post, I ranted about what a joke it was that Todd Bertuzzi didn't get suspended for an elbow to the head of another player. It is the kind of the hit the NHL said they were trying to eliminate from the game. Bertuzzi's elbow was flying high and connecting with another player's head. Bertuzzi got a game misconduct but no suspension.

There is no excuse for the NHL not suspending Bertuzzi at least two games. As a repeat offender, he should have received four.

Then there was this hit the other night. Raffi Torres crushed Jordan Eberle. He clearly hit Eberle in the head, but the Eberle's head was lowered and Torres didn't hit him with an elbow. I think you could argue he was still targeting Eberle's head. It was definitely interference, but it wasn't an elbow. Torres raised the elbow after the hit, but never connected. The hit certainly wasn't as bad as Bertuzzi's. But wait, Torres got suspended four games.


Can someone please explain to me how the NHL thinks this hit is worse the Bertuzzi hit? It makes no sense. 

Maybe those conspiracy theories about the league favoring certain teams (I'm looking at you, Original Six) aren't really conspiracies. And don't try and tell me that it's such a tough job to hand out punishment consistently in this sport. That's a joke. It's clear to anyone that is not a biased observer to tell which hits are dangerous and which ones are not. Colin Campbell doesn't have a tough job. He just sucks at it.

Wings - Jet

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Bylsma deserves Jack Adams

By Jeff

The problem with the NHL's award for the coach of the year, the Jack Adams Award, is recently it doesn't go to the best coach. Instead, it has been going to the coaches who are a part of teams that greatly improve from one season to the next. That trend should end this season.

Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma deserves the award more than anyone else in the league. It's not even close. And I'm not saying it because I'm a homer.

Has any other coach lost his star player for half the season, let alone two, and not seem to miss a beat? Sidney Crosby has missed 39 games and Evgeni Malkin has missed 37, yet the Pens are still one point out of the Atlantic Division title.
I know it's hard, but don't
hold the tie against him. 

With guys like Tyler Kennedy, Chris Kunitz (when healthy) and a bunch of AHL call ups carrying the scoring load, you'd think this team would falter and back into the playoffs. Wrong. They are playing great team hockey and could win a few rounds even if Crosby doesn't come back.

Bylsma is a big reason for that success. The play of Marc-Andre Fleury and the Pens' defense has played a big role too, but this team would have fallen apart under a lot of other coaches. Let's see how Washington and Bruce Boudreau do if the team lost Alexander Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and Nicklas Backstrom for more than 30 games each this season. Where would the Vancouver Canucks be if they lost the Sedin twins and Ryan Kesler for half the season.

I can't say these teams wouldn't be successful without these players, but I don't think their coaches could have kept them together the way Bylsma has held the Pens together through tough times.

It's not just how he has made the team play without its stars. The man seems to handle every situation the right way. Fleury from the beginning of the season is a perfect example. Fleury was bad for six weeks. Yet Byslma didn't throw him to the wolves or regulate him to the bench. He stuck with Fleury, defended his goalie against the critics and did what he thought was best.

The situation annoyed the media in Pittsburgh to no end. Radio show hosts and their callers were saying that they didn't think Bylsma knew what he was doing, or that Fleury should be traded. Of course, that never happened, Fleury turned it around and five months later he is in the Vezina conversation. Maybe Bylsma knew what he was doing after all.

With the rest of the team, it can't be said enough what an impact Bylsma has on this team. Just watch "24/7". The players buy in to everything he says and he has their respect. He put the team in position to continue their success and they didn't let him down.

Too bad some other coach will get it because his team wasn't in the playoffs last year, or something like that.

The Bus Boys - The Boys Are Back In Town

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Its OK to be excited about the Pirates

By Jeff

My brother doesn't watch Pittsburgh Pirates games. He just looks at their records the past 18 seasons, says they will lose 100 games and says he will only watch again if ownership does something to prove that they are headed in another direction.

It's impossible to talk to him about the team without one or all of the three statements mentioned above coming into play. It's a common occurrence with Pirates fans, so I can't really blame him. Years of the franchise's broken promises will do that to even the most loyal of fans, which my brother was not.

So of course, my brother and plenty of other critics of the Pirates don't want to hear about excitement surrounding the team's 3-1 start to the season. In their defense, the team has jumped out to hot starts before and stunk the rest of the season.

But this season feels a little different. That 3-1 start is because young players like Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, Neil Walker and Jose Tabata are the ones doing the heavy lifting. When was the last time this team had a young core together at the beginning of the season making the difference in close games?
I owe Neil Walker an apology.
I used to think he was a terrible pick and
would never make it in the bigs. I was wrong.

These are legit players the organization can build around. Let's be honest, the Jack Wilson, Freddy Sanchez, Jason Bay and Nate McLouth core was not the same as this. They weren't highly regarded prospects who had fans begging for the team to call them up. Wilson and McLouth each only had one good offensive year. The rest of the time they were mediocre at best. Bay and Sanchez were more consistent, but I don't think they were the types of players you build a team around. They are additions you make to good teams (See Boston and San Francisco) that make them more dangerous.

In the three wins, and even the one loss, these young players have made the difference. Whether it's a Walker grand slam, or a Alvarez infield single that scores two runs because of heads-up base running, these guys are the reason the team is off to good start. It's not like last season when Garret Jones went all Dmitri Young on us with three home runs in the first two games.

This team is winning games in ways that they can expect to win games all season, not just a little hot streak from an inconsistent source. These are also the players that will be around for the next four or five years because the team has control over them on the cheap. It's really OK to get excited about these players and their potential.

On the flip side, I will not tell you to get pumped for the pitching. It was ridiculous that Root Sports and the Pirates announcers were comparing the ERA of the starting rotation from this year to the ERA of the staff throughout all of last year. Comparing the stats from three games to an entire season to point to an improvement is ridiculous. Maybe it was comparing the first three games of last season to this season, but the graphic didn't make that specification.

I'm not saying the team is making the playoffs this year. I'm not saying they will have a winning record. I'm saying the young players the organization and its fans are banking on to bring the team out of the dark ages are showing that they can be "the guys" on a big league roster. The pitching is off to a good start and Charlie Morton hasn't been lit up yet. It's OK and encouraged that fans enjoy this while it lasts.

Huey Lewis and the News - Do You Believe In Love

Monday, April 4, 2011

NHL playoff races getting intense

By Jeff

The NHL isn't the NFC West of the NFL or the Eastern Conference of the NBA. Teams with losing records are not going to make the playoffs and the last week of play is going to be very intense for a number of very talented teams.

It's not just the teams battling for the final eight spots. It's the scenarios and drama occurring between the teams that have already clinched the playoffs. The top seed in the West in the only playoff spot that can't changed between now and the end of the season. And we're 96 percent through the season.

Eastern Conference

Nobody seems to want to win the No. 1 seed. The Pittsburgh Pens could have made a run at it with wins against the Philadelphia Flyers and the Tampa Bay Lightning last week, but they crapped the bed and scored a combined three goals. But then the Flyers dropped two games in row and opened the door for the Washington Capitals. Hell, the Pens are only three points out and could still steal the top seed.

Of course, the Pens could fall to the No. 5 seed, as the Lightning are only one point back and playing some very good hockey right now. The Flyers could also drop to the No. 4 seed despite leading the Eastern Conference the entire year.

At the bottom, there seems to be a different team in the eighth slot every day. Right now it's the New York Rangers. The same Rangers who have the NHL's shutout leader Henrik Lundquist in net and have been in the top eight all year. Today, they are just two points ahead of the Carolina Hurricanes. But the No. 7 seed, the Buffalo Sabres, are only one point ahead of the Rangers and could easily fall out of the playoffs. All three teams have three games left.

Let's say the Rangers or the Hurricanes win the No. 8 spot. Would any team at the top want to play against Lundquist or Cam Ward? Especially after seeing what Jaraslav Halak did to the Capitals and Pens last year? Not like playing against Buffalo and Ryan Miller would be enticing either.

So you have these teams at the top fighting for that No. 1 seed and home-ice throughout, but can you really give them that much of an advantage considering what they will have to face? Any matchup should be fun to watch. Even the Montreal Canadiens series could be fun if they are facing the Boston Bruins. Well, the hockey won't be fun to watch, but at least the intensity and hatred for each other will be there.

And let's not forget the best part of the Eastern Conference this year. The New Jersey Devils won't be in the playoffs. That's right. No one will be forced to watch their boring style of play for four more games this year. Wooo!

Western Conference

Unlike the East, there is some certainty in the West. The Vancouver Canucks will be the No. 1 seed. After that it gets a little murky.

The seventh through tenth place teams are within four points of each other. The defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks are the No. 8 seed right now with Calgary and Dallas breathing down their necks. Calgary only has two games left compared to Chicago's four, but that's not who the Blackhawks should be worried about. The Dallas Stars are three points back, but their remaining four games are against four non-playoff teams, including two against the lowly Colorado Avalanche. In contrast, the Blackhawks have two against the Detroit Red Wings and another against playoff-bound Montreal.

The middle of the conference could also completely change by the time the playoffs begin. The way it's set up now, The Los Angeles Kings would host the Phoenix Coyotes in the first round. But the Kings and Coyotes are only one point ahead of the Nashville Predators and three points ahead of the No. 7 Anaheim Ducks. So the Kings or Coyotes could go from playing each other in the first round, to playing a powerhouse like Detroit or San Jose. You think they're not going to be playing their hearts out to get those Nos. 4 and 5 seeds?

Taking all of that into consideration, there is then the total insanity that is the NHL playoffs, and you can pretty much throw any analysis out the window. Some people (I'm looking at you, Bob Smizik) who say the regular season in the NHL is pretty much meaningless, as the best teams often get bounced in the first round. I disagree. Because playoff spots are always decided for multiple teams in the final week, I see it as an extra week of playoff-caliber hockey. The type of hockey where nobody takes a shift off and they could be playing with broken wrists, foots, etc. without any of us knowing.

If you love hockey, the span of the next two months is the best time in sports.

The Police - So Lonely

Friday, April 1, 2011

Bold predictions for the 2011 Pirates

By Jeff

I did it for the Pittsburgh Penguins and now I'm making bold predictions for the Pittsburgh Pirates' season.

If you read that post, you know I kind of suck at this, so take this with a grain of salt. I'm not saying these things will happen. I'm saying I think they have a legit shot at happening. Big difference.

  • James McDonald wins 14 games and has an ERA below 3.50
  • Pedro Alvarez hits 30 home runs and strikes out 180 times
  • Andrew McCutchen hits 20 bombs and steals 30 bases
  • Jose Tabata bats .315 with 10+ homers and 30 steals
  • Lyle Overbay will hit .275
  • Ross Ohlendorf will win nine games and have a sub 4.00 ERA
  • Ryan Doumit will... nevermind. There is nothing positive to say about him
  • Joel Hanrahan will save 35 games
  • The team will finish with 71 wins
Go Bucs.

Franz Ferdinand - Take Me Out