Thursday, February 28, 2013

Thank goodness for hockey

By Jeff

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...
  • 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.
Pearl Jam - Baba O'Riley


  1. No love for the WBC? I know they don't have anywhere near full participation, but I think it's crazy how little anyone cares about it. People go nuts over swimming and the 200m dash every four years, but baseball gets no love at all. Weird.

    Go USA.

  2. I don't think you can compare the two. Olympics is more of a global spectacle. It revolves around sports, but it represents more than that and you get a lot of casual and non-sports fans tuning in.

    Then there is the fact you have the highest caliber of baseball readily available to watch 7 months of every year. With the swimming and track, the Olympics are really their only time to shine.

    The WBC is also goofy with their eligibility rules. Mike Piazza was playing for Italy because someone in his family lived there once...

  3. I guess that's why I never really got into the olympics. I'm more about the sport than the spectacle.

    MLB has talented players but I think baseball in Cuba and Japan is really underrated. They call Jose Abreu the Cuban Barry Bonds. He's hitting .453 and slugging .986. People are calling him the best player in the world. Tune in and check him out! Plus, they play the game the way it was meant to be played. It's like the opposite of a Pirates game.

  4. I meant to mention that those Lucy stats are ridiculous. Riley just eats mulch and maybe a dryer sheet every once in a while. He'd probably eat more though if we kept it within reach.

  5. I'll try to make you feel a little better about the Pirates. Let's go by position from last year's opening day roster.
    LF- Marte>Prestley
    RF- Snider>Tabata
    C - Martin>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>Barajas
    SP - Wandy>Bedard
    SP - Liriano>Correia
    and if McDonald doesn't collapse, Cole should be ready June-ish.

    Even if Marte doesn't hit, his defense alone will add a ton of value. If Barmes can hit like he did in the last month, which was around his career averages, he'd be a plus player because of his outstanding D. And I talked to you earlier about how Melancon could actually work out pretty well. If you look at how bad the Orioles should've been last year and lucked into 90 wins, I think it would be much less surprising this year if the Pirates hit 85. Not likely sure, but it wouldn't be an absolute shocker.

  6. I'll add that if the Pirates end up anywhere near .500 after that absurdly difficult first month they have, it'll be due to great fielding between Martin, Marte, and Barmes.I wish I had time to do a post on how valuable their gloves could potentially be.

  7. I'd say my keys to success in 2013 are:
    1) Cutch
    2) McDonald
    3) Snider

    If Cutch can repeat his MVP caliber play that we saw from May-July, anything can happen. I don't think he's going to fall off again production-wise, but repeating last year's dominance is "a big if."

    We all know the story with JMac. Who knows what pitcher is going to show up? Before last year, he always seemed very middle of the road with flashes of dominance. Now it seems like he's incapable of being average. It's either dominant or getting completely shelled.

    I think Travis Snider taking the RF job would be ideal, but he obviously has to earn it. That's basically the only position up for grabs in spring training. He's the only one on the roster with enough talent and pop to potentially be a legit corner outfielder.

  8. Also, on the Martin, Marte, Barmes comment. Defense in any sport is more reliable than offense. It's just more consistent. Gold glove players really don't go through slumps in the field. So on a team with a ton of question marks, it's nice to know what you're getting from them before the season.