Tuesday, January 27, 2009

They're ba-aack!

Fluto at the Globe has confirmed that the Bruins will be getting considerable reinforcements tonight in the form of Lucic, Bergeron and Ference.

Lucic will be returning to the first line to play alongside Savard and Kobasew while Ference has been written into the second defensive pairing with Wideman (Stuart and Hnidy are the 3rd pairing). Bergeron will playing playing for the ill Michael Ryder (flu-like symptoms) on the second line alongside Krejci and Wheeler... hopefully Krejci continues his magic and jumpstarts Patrice's game as he previously did with Marco and Mikey.

The real surprise from all this is what it means to the kid, Matt Hunwick... instead of scratching him after his solid fill-in work, CJ has decided to try him on the wing. He is currently pencilled in to fill the left wing alongside Nokelainen and Byron Bitz (what a great name...) which should prove an interesting experiment. I love the idea of keeping a 7th D dressed as it lets CJ manage the minutes for Ward and Ference and is a nice insurance policy should one of the two go down... I would much rather play a with one less forward than 5 D...

EDIT: Fluto just reported that Phil Kessel has been cleared for contact and is in line to play in tomorrow's game against the Devils. He will be wearing extra padding around his midsection to protect his spleen (which can become enlarged due to mono) but it is purely a precautionary measure. His return will be a HUGE boost for the offense!

Monday, January 26, 2009

ASG recap and changes

Well, the 2009 NHL All-Star Weekend has come and gone with all the usual highlights and an unfortunate number of lowlights. Despite their best attempts, Montreal fans were unsuccessful in barring Boston from the festivities with all four Bruins making their presence felt. Quick recap of the Bruins’ impact upon the weekend…

Blake Wheeler – Hat trick in the YoungStars game (against Carey ‘The Second Coming’ Price!) and a couple of assists… named MVP.

Zdeno Chara – Breaks record for hardest shot with 105.4mph blast and raises $24K for Right to Play, his charity of choice. Was booed (as were all the Bruins) at the introductions but amazingly, the Montreal fans were classy enough to applaud his record-breaking victory and his honorable charitable efforts.

Marc Savard – Runner-up in the elimination shootout to Shane Doan… three assists in the game and one funny bastard when mic’ed up.

Tim Thomas – The true MVP of the ASG… gave up two quick goals in 3 minutes and then only allowed 1 more in the last 22 minutes, including stonewalling Nash and Doan on the shootout. Ultimately had 19 saves on 22 shots in 25 minutes and 2 for 2 in the shootout… winning goalie for second straight year.

Now for those unfortunate lowlights… the NHL just can’t seem to avoid the damned things! Of course, in this instance I am referring to the glaring issues with fan voting determining the starters. The fact that this game ended up being a contest between the ‘Pittreal Canaduins’ and the ‘Chicaheim BlackDucks’ is pathetic to say the least. It is even more damning when you consider the fact that the four teams (Montreal, Chicago, Anaheim & Pittsburgh) to comprise the starting lineups are not in the top 6 in the NHL (7th, 10th, 16th & 18th respectively) and not one leads their division. So now the question is… what can be done to right the ship and make the NHL ASG at least slightly reputable?

1 – Keep the ‘1 Team, 1 All-Star’ rule currently in place and allow fans of each team to vote on their team’s representative. This would fill 15 of the 21 roster spots with the remaining six being given to the league to decide upon. The main problem here would be too many teams voting in goalies but this could be solved using season stats as tie-breakers and the fans second choice being named in the loser’s stead.

2 – Same as #1 with a twist… the extra roster spots are given out proportionally to the top teams in each conference. For instance, this season would see two extra spots go to Boston, Washington, Detroit and San Jose since they are the clear ‘elite’ of their respective conference. The remaining four extra spots would be divided between Chicago, Montreal, New Jersey and Calgary as these are the 3rd and 4th team in each conference based on the standings. The problem here is that the proportional spots could not be determined until close to the break and therefore fan-voting wouldn’t be possible for those.

3 – Get rid of the ‘1 Team, 1 All-Star’ rule and just let the league fill in the 15 reserves with the most deserving candidates regardless of team. This would make the ballot-stuffing less damaging since there would be more spots for the truly deserving to still make the squad. Problem here is that the rule is in place to make it so that every fanbase has someone to cheer for and therefore a reason to watch the ASG. This could be solved by ensuring all teams are represented in the skills events and the YoungStars game… possibly even upping the ratio of non-ASG team reps to account for the disparity.

Needless to say, however the NHL decides to act (or not act as is more likely the case), controls need to be implemented to limit excessive voting from one source. Whether it be vote caps per email or IP address, I do not know… I just know that the NHL needs to change it and has two full years to do so. My guess is nothing will change for 2011 and Bete-man will point towards the results of this years game and the ‘fair and balanced’ voting as evidence that all is well.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Back in Action!

Been a whiles since I last posted... I would use the holidays or work as my excuse but its two weeks into the new year and I haven’t had any real work in months so those aren’t gonna fly. Guess I will just blame my absence on a lack of motivation (I am a complete slacker after all…) and nothing that really inspired me to write a post. Anywho, I am back now and will try to do this on a more regular basis. In the meantime, a lot has happened in the world of sports since I last posted so I suppose it is about time I caught up...

Not planning on saying much here as I plan on having a couple posts dedicated to them in the coming week. Just need to say that the last second equalizer for St Louis in yesterday’s matinee was unequivocally a high-stick and I am utterly baffled as to how the replay officials missed that and thus failed to overturn the goal. That said, the loss cannot be blamed on the officiating since there is no way the Blues should have been able to get that shot off or even still be in the game that late. Such is life…

I love Carey Price’s dedication to his team... he sits out important regular season games due to an injury but of course manages to come back to play in a meaningless exhibition for his own greater glory. That is the definition of a selfish player... going after personal honors instead of being more concerned about team goals and honors. Teams rarely go far in the playoffs when their goalie is more concerned about looking out for himself at the expense of the team. No way would Thomas, a true team player, act in such a way…

After all the experts predicted he would sign with the Red Sox, Mark Teixeira signed an 8 year, $180M deal with New York last month meaning the Yankees now have spent $424M this season on three players (20 years total). This also means that the Yankees have the four of the six highest paid players in baseball for 2009 (Santana #3, Cabrera #5) totaling $92M, or more money than the payroll for 16 other TEAMS! It also means the Yankees have the highest paid player at 6 of 8 possible positions (Cano is second for 2b, Damon is eighth for OF). Now I realize that my Red Sox have benefited from the lack of a salary cap in MLB but this is just getting ridiculous. Quite simply, when one team is given such a dramatic competitive advantage over the rest of the field, something needs to be done about it…

Now one could argue that this is all sour grapes from a Red Sox fan… after all, according to the experts Boston was a near lock to sign Teixeira so his ‘defection’ to the Yankees stings more. However, as a Red Sox fan, I am thrilled they didn’t give into Boras’s demands for $20M+ per season and I love the $244M spent on an ever-expanding blimp and a pitcher who lives on the DL. In all seriousness, Burnett has not been able to stay healthy for his entire career so what chance is there he will be able to do so after getting the big payday? Can anyone say Pavano 2.0? As for Sabathia, the man easily weighs 350lbs already… what is going to happen in three or four years when he is pushing four bills? He may work out in the short-term but no way does he pull a Dave Wells and pitch well as an old fattie. I see the two contracts being wasted money by 2011, if not sooner…

That said, I would wager a considerable amount of money on the Yankees not winning the 2009 World Series. Hell, I honestly doubt they will even make the playoffs… there is more to baseball than buying the best possible team. After all, if it were all about money how would the Phillies ($98M, #13) have won the title over the Rays ($44M, #29!) while the Yankees ($209M, #1), Tigers ($139M, #2) and Mets ($138M, #3) all failed to even qualify for the playoffs?

As for the Red Sox, they have been taking the low-risk, high-reward approach by signing veteran pitchers (Smoltz, Penny, Saito) while also locking up their young talent long-term (Pedroia, Youkilis). At this point, the only concerns heading into 2009 is filling the void at catcher (preferably with someone NOT named Varitek) and the healthy return of Lowell and Ortiz from off-season surgery. For all the Yankee signings, I still think Boston has the advantage (in terms of both depth and talent) in the rotation, bullpen (major advantage) and defense. It is far too early to be making predictions but it is safe to say I am confident of yet another competitive Red Sox campaign in 2009…

The Patriots became the second team in NFL history to reach 11 wins yet fail to qualify for the playoffs. Many fans are calling for a change to the NFL’s playoff formats since ‘lesser’ teams (8-8 Chargers, 9-7 Cardinals, 9-6-1 Eagles, 10-6 Vikings) made it to the playoffs ahead of New England. My view is that no change is needed and the Patriots’ not making the playoffs is their own fault since they could have (and should have) won the second Jets game and the Colts game. They can only blame themselves for not stopping the Jets on 3rd and 15 in OT or for the stupid drive-killing penalty to David Thomas against the Colts.

Though the Patriots did fail to make the playoffs, their season still has to be considered an unmitigated success. After all, how many franchises could lose the reigning MVP in the opening minutes of the season, hand over the reigns to an absolutely unproven quarterback and still finish 11-5? Their success is especially impressive when you consider the number of veteran starters lost to injury (Harrison, Thomas, Bruschi, Warren, Green, Maroney, Neal). During the year, the Patriots had undrafted rookies starting at LB and RB (Guyton, Green-Ellis) and two retirees signed off the street starting the final four games at LB (Colvin, Seau). The bright spot in all this is the progression of our recent top draft picks… Brandon Meriwether validated his ’07 first round selection while Jerod Mayo was an absolute revelation at linebacker and will (hopefully) be a cornerstone of the defense for years to come.

As for the playoffs, I am still having a hard time believing that the Cardinals made it past the Panthers and Eagles to make it into the Super Bowl. Can this really be the same team that the Patriots limited to 186 yards (78 of which came on one meaningless TD) in destroying them 47-7? I would love to see the Cardinals stun the world by beating the heavily favored Steelers if only to say that the Patriots absolutely dominated the reigning champs (and yet didn’t make the playoffs). The fact that I despise the Steelers probably has something to do with my rooting for the Cardinals too…

Oh, one last thing… Peyton Manning won his third NFL MVP. Of course, this honor came along with his routine first-round exit from the playoffs. That runs his record up to 7-8 in the postseason with SIX first-game departures (3 WC round, 3 divisional round)… and that is even crediting him with the 4 wins of their championship run where he was carried by the defense and ground attack (3 TDs, 7 INTs in 4 games). Makes me wonder… would he rather have his 3 MVPs, 7-8 playoff record and 1 ring or Brady’s 1 MVP, 14-3 playoff record and 3 rings? I certainly know who I would take…