Wednesday, September 10, 2008

If I pretend hard enough that it never happened, can that make it so?

Of course, I am refering to the devastating hit to the Super Bowl chances of the New England Patriots with the loss of Tom Brady for the season. Watching it live, I saw the hit, knew Brady took a good shot and would be hurting but had no idea it would be nearly as bad as it was. Then the replays and pictures and replays from better angles came out and there was no question... we had just lost our quarterback and face of the franchise. So while contemplating the future of this season I came to the frustrating realization that I was going to have to steer clear of any football articles on ESPN or SI for the simple fact that the trolls would be out in force.

Well my curiousity got the best of me and I decided to go and look at some comments with surprisingly mixed results. There are of course the people who act like Brady's injury is some karmic payback for the 'Spygate' bullshit (not even going into my opinion on that) or for running up the score last year. They cheer that another human being is severly injured and I just can't comprehend that any mature, rational human being could find such an event to be gratifying. I don't think I ever would have openly cheered if Peyton Manning or Derek Jeter were injured, even during the height of my anti-Yankees sentiments (post 2003 ALCS).

After reading these people I started fearing for the future of our society but then the unexpected happened... there were actually decent people who supported other teams but were still sympathetic towards Brady and the Patriots! Most of them expressed sadness that one of the NFLs best was out for the season and what it meant to the rest of the league... that any win over the Patriots now comes with something of an asterisk. Most of these people were even fans of our strongest challengers for AFC supremacy; the Chargers, Colts and Steelers. For the past seven years (if not more) we have been a thorn in the sides of these teams and their fans and have developed a healthy distaste for one another. So it came as quite a surprise to see these rabid fans of our bitter rivals unhappy about the loss of Brady and the removal of the Patriots as Super Bowl favorites. Looking at it now, it makes sense though... all those teams want to go through us to take the title and they want to do it with as at full strength so there are no excuses. Just as the 2004 Red Sox World Series title would not have been complete had we not exorcised our demons and defeated the Yankees, any title for San Diego would not be complete without taking care of us first. I am not going to lie... the sympathy from these fans actually restored the faith in humanity I had lost from the immature posters and even took it higher than where it started...

As for the Patriots, I see them as a 9-11 win team that takes their division but loses in the playoffs. I just don't see them pulling it together like in 2001 to win the title without Tom Brady but I have most certainly been wrong before. There are even silver linings in this injury... for one, we were in a lose-lose situations... win the title and everyone says we were expected to... lose it and we choked. Now, we are in a win-win situation... we have an excuse for any level of failure, whether it be failing to win the title or failing to even make the playoffs... win it and we are labeled the greatest organization in NFL history. The team now goes back to the mentality of our previous title-winners when they could play the 'Nobody believed in us' card and it will be 100% legitimate. Mind you, I don't believe it will actually happen but then had someone told me seven years ago today that we would win the title that year, there is no way I would have believed them and look how that turned out. We still have a supremely talented team with an excellent coach and what looks to be a favorable schedule so winning is not impossible... stranger things have happened.

This whole ordeal makes me think of a quote from one of my favorite authors... the first half is especially fitting for the circumstances surrounding the Patriots and Brady's injury (even works to some extent for the Red Sox now that I think of it...)

"Never forget that when they all love you there is something awry. Every scapegoat was once a star, and every star will soon fall. Let us never forget, again, that we all love to celebrate the failure of our heroes. We live in a world of scapegoats because we all want the same things in our evil, evil hearts. Let us never forget that the same crowd that cheers at your triumphant entry will be the ones to crucify you in the end. And in the search for a moral, consider: The very thing that is worth dying for is the very thing they will hate you for." - A.Schwab

Friday, September 5, 2008

Flashback to 98...

NHL 98 that is... on the good old Nintendo 64, my first hockey game since the epic Blades of Steel. What does this have to do with the Bruins you ask? Well, when I got the game the Bruins were of course terrible (starring Allison, Khristich, Carter, Bourque and rookies Thornton and Samsonov) so I played as the far superior Colorado Avalanche which boasted Stephane Yelle as its 3rd or 4th line center. To be honest, I didn't think much of him at the time but grit and defensive-minded forwards don't usually translate well to the digital world so it is no surprise. However, knowing the type of player he is I like the signing, especially considering that it is fairly cheap for another Axelsson like player. With this addition, I would think the lines would change slightly with Yelle taking over for Sobotka on the fourth line. More likely however, my guess is that this opens the team up for a trade since we now have 24 NHL-caliber players for a 23 man roster. This would also free up some cap space for team that is spending right to the limit. Therefore, the question becomes who is most likely to be traded.

Schaefer - Disasterous debut season in Boston, especially considering his $2.1M salary. Still, he has the talent to merit more consideration so my guess is he sticks around for some of the season. Trade option would be a team like the Kings who are rebuilding and are WAY below the salary floor.

Kessel - Has not yet lived up to his potential though seemed to wake up after being benched in the playoffs. One of our best trade chips since he is so young and talented but the fact he is on a contract year means he will probably produce for the team and make others less likely to trade for him. I would like to see him given another year to mature in Boston.

Axelsson - Longest tenured Bruin who plays a similar game to Yelle for $1.1M more. Would definitely free up cap space but would hurt the team from a defensive and PK standpoint. Could still see him going based on his age and somewhat diminishing skills.

Alberts/Ference - Both young defensemen making $1.3M/$1.4M respectively who have shown promise but could be replaced by cheaper options in Hnidy, Hunwick and/or Lashoff.

No trade - Most likely outcome in my eyes... I see the Bruins demoting Reich (and saving his $500K salary) since there is no need for Shawn Thornton lite when we have the real thing and better players available for the last roster spot. My only concern with this is that it leaves little playing time for young guys like Nokelainen and Sobotka who may be better served from further development in the minors. Question is, how does that affect their confidence after spending most of last season with the big club and doing everything asked of them? Will be interesting to see what Chiarelli and Julien ultimately decide to do...