After a historic collapse by the Pirates in August, followed up by a similar embarrassment by the Steelers, my sports year was looking pretty miserable as the NHL lockout continued.
With no hockey, I would have had nothing to look forward to until March (Sorry, Spring Training, World Baseball Classic, NBA and NCAA basketball season all mean very little to me.).
Then we got hockey back and all was right in the world. The Pittsburgh Penguins are off to a great start, minus the whole Evgeni Malkin concussion. Sidney Crosby is healthy and playing great, Paul Martin is showing that last year was a fluke (He wasn't terrible in 2010-2011 like everyone seems to say he was), and Marc-Andre Fleury doesn't appear to be suffering any lingering effects from his dismal showing in last year's playoffs.
Of course, all this means nothing if the team chokes again in the postseason, which is very possible. Unfortunately, as we saw in the second Flyers game this season, Dan Bylsma still struggles with in-game adjustments. Actually, he may not know that they are allowed. It seems that he thinks the only strategy change a coach can make is change line combinations... Sorry, Dan, Tyler Kennedy is going to skate down the right wing and take a slapper at the goalies chest or glass behind the goal no matter who he's on the ice with.
Bylsma's inability to make strategic changes on the fly has been evident for the past three seasons. It is baffling. He may be the best coach in the league when it comes to preparing his team for each game. Just look at the way the Pens come out flying every game. I think they've scored first in all but four or fives games out of 20 this year. But then he gets stubborn. Other teams adjust and Bylsma keeps plugging away thinking his team's superior talent will win out if they execute his game plan effectively.
The sad thing is, he's not wrong. When the Pens "grind bitches down", forecheck aggressively, get out of their zone quickly and are healthy, chances are they are going to win. But this is hockey. It's a game where momentum is vital and can change in an instant. You also have moody players. With a long season in a phyiscally grueling sport, there are going to be nights where guys don't show up. It's these nights where you have to alter the plan. I don't see Bylsma ever doing that.
The guy is a great coach, but another early exit in the playoffs and it would be hard for me to argue against cutting him loose.
Other quick thoughts:
- Why is Tom Brady being praised so much for essentially making more money? He is taking his salary as a "bonus" rather than "salary". He is being guaranteed more money than the previous deal. I get that it's opening more cap space, but big time players do this all the time (Roethlisberger will probably do it for the second year in a row this offseason.). It's a standard business move in the salary cap era. Brady isn't doing anything special or commendable.
- It's like when Cliff Lee signed with the Philadelphia Phillies for his mega deal a few years ago. People praised him for turning down "more money" from the New York Yankees. Well, he was actually making more money per year with the Phillies than the Yankees were offering. The Yankees just added another year. I just don't get praise.
- DJ Gallo is pretty hilarious. Of course, this article would have been a lot funnier if Joe Flacco didn't just win a Super Bowl... http://www.sportspickle.com/opinion/15586/10-great-sports-debate-questions-answered-once-and-for-all
- Where did Dwight Howard go wrong? A few years ago he was dressing up as Superman and everyone thought he was a great guy. The past two seasons he has basically been the cause of two head coaches to lose their jobs and will probably be a major contributor to a third losing his job. He complains about his role, and pretty much everything, while his number decline. Quite a 180 he's pulled.
- I can't bring myself to get excited about the Pirates this year. Granted, I felt this way before last season and they proved me wrong. I'm just thinking that the May-June run was the fluke and the April, August-September team was the real thing. I hope I'm wrong.
- "Looper" is a crazier movie than its previews even made it out to be.
- "Taken 2" was maybe the most disappointing movie I've seen in quite some time. It was an obvious money grab. Not only does Liam Neeson seem to be tired and phoning it in, he even says in the movie that he is tired.
- The daughter in "Taken 2" is just as annoying as ever. And someone please tell me how throwing multiple grenades off of rooftops in a major city like Istanbul doesn't get very much attention?
- Almost finished with the game "Dishonored" and it's pretty sweet. Combat is a little limited and redundant, but still a refreshing game.
- How would you fight an invasive snake species? Drop dead mice filled with Tylenol, duh! If your mind just pictured a bunch of zombie mice commandos parachuting behind enemy lines, you're not alone. Why didn't we try this with Hitler and Nazi Germany?
- Hitler was a vegetarian, that's why.
- Things my dog Lucy has eaten or tried to eat since we adopted her last May: Couch cushions, pillows, couches, two sets of blinds, cable remote, cable line, Pirates hat, phone book, chapstick, about 20 DVDs, a leash, the floor to her crate, christmas tree topper, incent candle, picture frames, a shoe, chess pieces and a burner on the stove.
- Things my dog Yigo has eaten since I adopted him in December of 2008: a Phillies hat and a sock.