Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Fixing Perfection

It turns out that sometimes, perfect just isn’t enough.  Strange as it may sound, that is the harsh reality for the 12-0 Boise State Broncos.  For the 9th ranked perennial Cinderella, the gem of the Gem State, simply taking care of everyone on their schedule likely won’t get them where they want to be.  I can stand up along with the 1,499,401 other Idahoans and complain that a 61-10 exclamation point over a decent Fresno State team should have been enough to catapult the blue-turfers to big stages in Glendale, New Orleans or Miami, but thanks to an undefeated Utah team they will likely head to the conciliation prizes in places such as El Paso, Memphis, San Diego, or even stay home in Boise. 

While much about the BCS seems, nay, is frustrating (quick tangent- Longhorn fans need to be quiet, you are at best the third most screwed over team…they are now guaranteed a BCS bowl berth, unlike Texas Tech WHO BEAT THEM, presumably because Vince Young wore the burnt orange there three years ago.  This could even be a blessing for the Longhorns if Oklahoma is knocked off by Missouri, there is no reason that the Longhorns won’t sneak in the back door to the national championship game… Oh yeah, they also lost more games than Ball State, who will probably end up in something like the Motor City Bowl, make that fourth most screwed... and yet I’m treated to a 48 hour candle light vigil for Colt McCoy’s hopes and dreams on ESPN) the thing that bugs me the most is that Utah has been presumed to be better than Boise State.  The most logical, or least illogical rather, explanation for this is that the Mountain West was better than the WAC this year, and therefore Utah had more quality wins.  But is that really the case? 

The main tenant of the strong Mountain West argument was that it had three BCS contenders, and that Utah therefore had wins over 2.  This is a stretch, at best, BS at worst.  The first of those supposed contenders, TCU, has a record that is solid enough.  Their 2 losses came at the hands of Utah and Oklahoma.  They were dismantled by Oklahoma, but so were plenty of other quality teams, so that can be thrown out.  Other than that, their only tough game was their other loss, a last minute loss to Utah.  The Horned Frogs did knock off a Pac-10 team, but it was a Stanford team that went 5-7, including an eeked out victory against hapless Washington.  TCU was a solid squad, that beat everyone they should have, but it is hard to say that they were a legitimate contender, as they lost both of their games that could be considered a test.

The other so called contender in the MWC was BYU.  They vaulted into the national spotlight after a convincing victory over UCLA, who was coming off of a win over a ranked Tennessee team.  Since then, both Tennessee and UCLA have struggled, and while a dominant win over a Pac-10 team is still impressive, that win doesn’t carry the weight it did at the time.  The next game on BYU’s schedule should retrospectively end any debate over whether or not they can be considered a contender.  Washington was the worst team in the nation this season at 0-11.  The closest they came to winning a game this year was against 2-11 Washington State.  The second closest (which should have been the closest), came against against BYU.  Only the worst penalty call of the 2008 season, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Jake Locker for throwing the ball into the air, leading to a missed extra point, was able to save the Cougars.  While the stripes saved the game for BYU, they managed to get beat on the field by the worst of 119 D-1 college football teams, something no other team managed to do.  This would not have happened to a good team, and is the end of legitimate discussion of BYU as an actual contender.

Having debunked the myths that TCU and BYU were legitimate contenders, the Mountain West, and indeed the rest of Utah’s pedigree look considerably weaker, especially compared to Boise State’s.  The WAC wasn’t a terrible conference, and will have 6 bowl eligible teams, compared to 5 from the Mountain West.  Out of conference, Boise was able to knock off an Oregon team, handing the 19th ranked Ducks their only loss in Eugene.  Boise also knocked off a bowl bound Bowling Green team that beat Pittsburgh at Heinz Field, and handled bowl bound Southern Miss on the road.  Out of conference, Utah’s marquee win came against Oregon State, who lost to the Oregon team that Boise beat.  The Michigan win looked good at the time, but looks much less impressive on the tail end of a 3-9 season for the maize and blue in a shaky Big 10.  Looking at all of that, Boise’s thorough domination against a good Fresno team should catapult them ahead of Utah, who was only able to dominate like that against the dregs of the MWC and WAC. 

Alas, as painfully obvious as it becomes when examined properly, Utah is presumed to be a better team by an ignorant polling system, and therefore will go into the BCS.  So what is left for Boise State?  Many people are calling for a matchup of the non-BCS undefeateds. Unfortunately, playing Ball State in Boise, as some have suggested, has absolutely no upside for the Broncos. 

Ball State has the weakest schedule of any top 25 team, and has struggled a number of times in an embarrassingly weak MAC.  Even if Ball State was on the same level as Boise, as they most assuredly are not, Boise State would have nothing to gain by playing them in a bowl game.  Boise will be presumed to be the class of the non-BCS, non at large teams.  The Broncos have proved this over the past (half) decade, by continuously finishing with less than 4 losses, and perennially challenging for an at large BCS bid, even if they have only received one.   That leaves nothing to prove against a team that allowed 22 points to the fourth best team in the state of Michigan (the Detroit Lions are just behind Western in 5th).  So if not Ball State in the H Bowl, then where should Boise go?  I’m glad you asked.

There is one obvious matchup that has been overlooked.  Boise needs to play a BCS conference school in order to prove anything.  Further, beating a four or five loss team won’t turn any heads.  Ordinarily it would be difficult for a mid major to draw a team like this, as there would be little for the big school to prove.  Luckily, they have established themselves as a program against which a point can be made.  They are not like Ball State, for which a BCS team would receive little credit if they knocked off, despite their undefeated record.  Luckily, there is a one loss team with something to prove, from a BCS conference.

Why not pit the two best offensive minds in college football circa 2008?  The answer is that there is no reason.  It would be a crime against football fans everywhere if Boise State didn’t go up against Texas Tech in a bowl this year.  This game would have every appeal.  First of all, it would essentially be a BCS game.  Both teams earned a spot in one of the big games, Tech by losing only one game in one of the toughest conferences in the nation, Boise because, well, they didn’t lose.  The level of play in this game would actually be miles ahead of a potentially unwatchable Florida State-Cincinnati Orange Bowl.  It would be a treat to watch these two offensive juggernauts pound it out in the Screwed by the BCS Championship Game (presented by Wachovia).

The venue for this game is also a no brainer.  The Cotton Bowl, as it is, is the biggest of the non-BCS bowls.  It is actually looking to become a BCS bowl when it moves to the new Texas Stadium.  Texas Tech will likely go anyways, as a non-BCS Big 12 team is represented in the game anyways.  The Cotton Bowl offers a high profile and a decent venue, which would be necessary for what may be the most interesting matchup of bowl season.  Furthermore, the $3 million that is offered, while not BCS money, would be enough to draw the two programs.  The SEC is usually represented on the other side, but hopefully the bigwigs in Dallas would be able to think logically and waive that tradition (especially because it isn’t a real tradition, BYU played in it 10 years ago, UCLA the year after that) in order to facilitate this matchup.

In fact, I will go a step further.  When the BCS Bowls are released Sunday, I don’t want to see Boise go to Glendale or Miami.  There is so much wrong with the BCS, I want to avoid it entirely.  If invited to play Cincy in the Orange Bowl or the loser of the Big 12 or SEC Championship in Glendale, the Broncos should continue to be the most innovative program in college football.  As hard as $17 million may be to pass up, they should give a giant middle finger to the BCS.  Turning down one of those second rate invites the Broncos should put on a show in Dallas, going to the Cotton Bowl, taking on the other team that got jobbed by this ridiculous system in an offensive showdown for the ages.  

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Last Cassel

On the eve of the baseball free agent market opening, an NFL game that virtually no one saw has stolen the headlines.  In essence, Brett Favre has done (for now), what he was brought in to do.  Favre has been far from perfect this season, at times even calling into question whether or not the Jets are better off with him at the helm than they would have been with Chad Pennington.  Right now the point is mute, as Favre has lead the Jets over the Patriots for just the second time in the Mangini-Belichick era. From Bangor to Darien, New Englanders will point out that the Patriots were playing without Adalius Thomas or Ty Warren (obviously the fact that New England was without #12 is irrelevant in the context of this season), completely deflating their pass rush, and still came within a coin flip but for now it is irrelevant as the 7-3 Jets are atop the AFC East heading into Week 11.

While Favre took a large step towards vindicating himself after early flops against the Pats and Raiders, the biggest stories were the two non-American Heroes playing skill positions in this game (because lets be honest, the Patriots running back is not a skill position).  First of all, Thomas Jones had another solid game (104 yards and a score), and has become nothing short of a must start for those of you in fantasyland. 

Much more interestingly, Matt Cassel solidified his spot as (gasp) one of the top free agents in the 2009 offseason.  Granted, Cassel has (at least) 6 more games in which this could drastically change, but I wouldn’t expect it to.  Barring an emergency amputation of Brady’s left leg, Cassel will surely test the waters of unrestricted free agency this coming spring.  Many have chalked this up to overreaction to a number of good games.  That’s not the case though.  While 6-3 with good pieces around him could be chalked up to coincidence, 400 yards cannot.  At the very least, Cassel proved that he has an upside much higher than many other quarterbacks in the league. 

One thing stands out in the argument for signing Cassel.  In my column about Aaron Rodgers, I made the argument that NFL teams are the best judge of what they have in unproven players, and that no where is this more apparent than with backup quarterbacks.  So far it has been true for Mike McCarthy (Rodgers is in the top 10 in touchdowns, QB rating and completions), and I would be confident that it is true about Bill Belichick, like him or not (even if it is “not” for everyone west of, say, Worcester, MA).  Granted, only an injury to Tom Brady and a lack of a viable alternative gave Cassel the starting job.  The fact that Cassel is playing is not actually an endorsement of his ability.  On the other hand, 50 passing attempts in the most important game of the season (to this point) most certainly is.  What we know is this Cassel will get paid this offseason, probably with a long term contract, and it will probably get a lot of scrutiny, but I for one think it will be deserved. 


Sorry for the hiatus.  Starting college and being thrown into the hockey season hasn't left me with much time to update this site.  I did write most of an NHL preview, but never found time to finish it, so I am going to hold off posting it until mid season, when hopefully I will find time to either obnoxiously brag about my nostrodomus-esque prediction ability or complain about how my sleepers are underperforming and making me look like an idiot.  
In the mean time, in order to keep this blog moving, I'm going to be posting shorter, more topical posts a few times a week (or hopefully more).  While it will be a bit of a departure from the less topical colums that usually grace this space, I feel like it is a better use of the half hours that I am able to find where I feel like writing than trying to string columns together over a few days, which usually results in me quitting on them for one reason or another.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Break From Sports; Find Your Voice

In the last few months we, as Americans have heard a lot of things. We have been barraged by media storms covering conventions, speeches, background checks and nominations. We have followed a race, one that has become a battle. Most of us have anyways. Maybe you aren’t among those who have, and that’s ok, but it is time to speak up.
To the young people of America, I say this; find your voice. Many of the people that will read this will be under the voting age of 18. You may feel as if you don’t have a voice in a society that rightfully restricts the age at which you have the opportunity to cast a vote. Please, don’t believe that. You may not have a vote, but you still have a voice. Find it.
It is easier than you may think. One of the most beautiful things about this country is that you will always have an opportunity and a right to be heard. Sure, not everyone can make time to volunteer to a campaign, or to try to convince your peers to support a candidate or an issue. That’s fine. There are easier, simpler ways that you can be involved in this presidential election. All you have to do is make a point.
Speak up in a class, engage in a debate there. Tell your friends or your parents who you support and why. Find a friend you disagree with and engage in a discussion of what you take issue with in their views. Get your opinion out there. It is one of the most important things you can do, for even though no one else can take your voice away from you, if you don’t express your opinions, you take it away from yourself. Make sure you use it, but just as importantly, make sure you hear someone else’s. See another side of an argument; understand why conservatives think you’re too liberal, or why liberals think that you’re too conservative. We can all be proud of our country, and enlightened disagreement is American as it gets. That is why American men and women have died on the battle fields of France, Germany, Afghanistan and, yes, Iraq, so that you can tell someone why they are wrong, and so that they can tell you why you are.
Our generation will fight a political war. The last generation was white versus black (and enlightened minds heroically inspired a truce). This generation, that of our parents fights a battle, liberals versus conservatives. Eventually we will fight an even more important one; apathy versus involvement. Our generation was blessed with an extraordinary ability to complain. While this may not strike you as a gift, I assure you that it is. After all, this country was founded on dissent. The problem is this; only if we get involved do we earn our right to dissent.
So, finally, I beg of you this. Get involved, care know the issues, know why you are right, but also why you may be wrong, and if you are of age, vote. Politics may seem to be the sport of older men and women, but make no mistake; they affect you as much as anyone. Involvement can begin before even the right to vote, unfortunately, so can apathy. Don’t let it happen to you, find your voice.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

It's Not Just You

Sitting around on a Monday night, halfheartedly watching Sportscenter after a phenomenal I saw something crawl across the bottom of my television set  that, to the average viewer would be relatively trivial.

MLB Brewers fire manager Ned Yost and name third base coach Dale Sveum as interim manager.

Sveum, that name seems familiar….

Where do I know that….

Wait a second, is that….

Good God.

Ladies and gentlemen, in the strongest nod to mediocrity since Sarah Palin was nominated to be the vice president of the United States, the worst third base coach in Boston Red Sox (nay, Major League) history, is now in charge of an actual baseball team.  In charge of one in a pennant race for that matter.

Ok, maybe mediocrity is the wrong word.  Sveum did capture the elusive third base coach triple crown in 2005.  He lead the league in RTOAP (Runners Thrown Out At the Plate), RTSBDS (Runners That Should’ve Scored But Didn’t) and HAGESF (Heart Attacks Given to Elderly Sox Fans).  I guess in the Brewers’ defense, they could have given Sveum a position he was worse suited to: Buss Driver (‘I know that the light is red, but I swear I can make it, screw it, I’ m going!’).

What did the people of Wisconsin do to deserve this?  And not just this, this entire year has been a disaster for the Cheese and Beer State (I know Wikipedia could have given me WI’s actual nickname, but that was more appropriate than the ‘Badger State’, although maybe more risqué than ‘America’s Dairyland’ as a nickname for the state that has a population of 5.6 million and is represented in the Senate by Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold.  Alaska is near Russia, nominate me for VP).  Forget the fact that you are in a pennant race.  Forget the fact that no team has fired an above .500 manager through 150 games since the Hoover administration. Forget even that the Brewers got rid of the manager that lead a mediocre pitching staff and a lineup featuring only one hitter over .280 to a tie for the wild card with two weeks left in the season.  The Brewers just hired a guy that any Sully, Mick or Murph could have tell you should be managing in A Ball.  So for Brewers fans, here is some definite proof-ish type stuff that the sports world has, indeed been turned upside down and you aren’t alone.


Victor Zambrano threw a no hitter, at an Astros’ home game.  Despite being in a tight pennant race, the Astros agreed to play this game at Miller Park.  Apperently they don’t know how to use mapquest.

Aaron Rodgers is a better quarterback than Brett Favre, not in 2010, now.  Sure, it has only been two weeks, but you can put this debate to bed.  There are things that you can fake for a couple of weeks (a minor leaguer charging out to a .450 average after a call up etc), but the poise and ability that Rodgers has shown isn’t something that comes and goes.  The shocking part; I was right.  Not to say I told you so, everyone on ESPN and every other media outlet that thought the Packers were out of their minds and are now conveniently not mentioning their favoritism towards Favre, but… I F***ING TOLD YOU SO! (that felt good, moving on)

Matt Cassel is starting in the NFL.  Matt Leinart isn’t.  Two starting QBs went down in week one (Brodie Croyle and Vince Young), and every analyst agreed that their backups (Kerry Collins and Trent Green) were significant upgrades.  The best QB in the NFL went to a 1-AA school and he is one of seven (Romo, Warner, Jackson, Kitna, Flacco, O’Sullivan and Thigpen) that didn’t even play D1-A football.  There are 112 D-1 teams…how does this make sense?  Of the 10 best quarterbacks in the world, beyond the fact that two that theoretically weren’t good enough to start at Temple or Middle Tennessee St.,  one (Brady) is out for the year, one (Manning) is beginning to look like he peaked in 2006,one (Favre) spent 4 months of the offseason retired and one (Vick) is in jail for another 10 months.  Speaking of which, Marcus is going to go down as the well behaved Vick (old I know, but still funny).  This is how the best football league in the world is filling out the 32 highest profile jobs in sports?

I lost 6 fantasy points because DeSean Jackson dropped the ball too early as he celebrated into the end zone.  If I hadn’t won anyways, I may have put a hit out on Jackson.  Speeking of hits on fantasy NFL players, LT has 6 points in two weeks.  People are debating whether you can trade him for someone like Adrian Peterson.  Right now I might trade him for Darren Sproles… Norv Turner appears to agree.

I actually considered that some people from Wisconsin may still be upset given the second point that I made here.


So if that doesn’t at least ease the pain Wisconsinites, don’t drink yourself into a Miller-induced stupor, or commit suicide by eating brats and cheese until you clog an artery, instead look on the bright side.  Your Brewers may not make the playoffs, but Rodgers looks miles ahead of Tavarius Jackson, the Badgers are poised to make a run at the Rose Bowl, if not the national championship, and if that doesn’t make you feel better at least Sveum isn’t your third base coach anymore.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Done Four

Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Mike McCarthy. Brett Favre. Green Bay Packers. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Trade or release. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Tampa Bay, New York. Brett Favre. Brett Favre.

If you are anything like me, at this point you have walked away from your computer, madly pulling out your hair and screaming “I DON’T F***ING CARE!” Now, hopefully for the sake of this blog’s popularity, you are willing to overlook your frustration and distain for this story and continue to read this particular column, but if you aren’t I kind of understand. The coverage of this non-story has created more distain for sports media in me than any topic in my lifetime.
There are so many reasons to that this story bugs me, it is difficult to know where to start. Essentially there are two elements to why I can’t stand this particular media circus.
The first, and most important, is that it is a non-story. The fact is, there have been countless hours spent discussing and covering the (non)story (much has been made of the 2000+ hours that NBC and it’s networks will spend covering the Beijing Olympics, I would venture a guess that ESPN and its networks have spent much more time covering Favre), and yet there really hasn’t been much of anything to cover. Favre retired, then four months of nothing (which were mercifully devoid of 23 hours a day of FAVRE WATCH! on ESPN). Finally, Brett decided that he wanted to come back. Brett said that he wanted to come back, but the Packers didn’t say anything. Think about it, for two weeks, there was nothing to cover, no events, no solid rumors, no comments from the parties involved. Just a player interested in coming back. No story.
That didn’t stop ESPN. Instead of ignoring it and saying “we will keep you posted and let you know if something happens,” the Worldwide Leader decided to make this the largest story of the year. We were subject to coverage of text messages, secret meetings, private jets, tampering phone calls and trade rumors, all of which really didn’t lead to anything. I’m not sure, but I think at one point Bob Ley hosted a 2 hour special on why Favre was pronounced Farv, instead of fav-rey.
After four or five days of covering a story that didn’t exist, the sports media (ESPN bears the brunt of this criticism, but only because it is the largest outlet. Others are no less guilty) began the tell-tale sign that a story has been overblown. It started covering itself. With no new developments to hyperbolize, radio hosts, talk show hosts and pundits began to discuss themselves, and debate whether or not they were paying too much attention to #4 (they failed to see that the answer was inherent in the debate). It is a pity that Jon Stewart doesn’t cover sports, it was the kind of thing he could have had a proverbial field day with.
The second thing that bothers me about the coverage, is that everyone seems to be wrong. (Warning: this is where I weigh in on the story, I completely understand if you want to stop reading now.) It has become a forgone conclusion for most writers, hosts and pundits. The Packers are better off with Favre and are foolish not to welcome him back (most of the time it is said with considerably less conviction, but that is the general consensus). While my first point that this story is fairly popular, my second point is far less accepted. I doubt that I am the first to say it, but I am certainly one of a few. The Packers are much better off not welcoming Brett Favre back as their starting quarterback. It isn’t even really a debate.
There are plenty of reasons that this is the case, but to me, the most obvious has been completely neglected by the media (I apologize if this has been argued, but I have yet to hear it). Aaron Rodgers may not be a better player than Favre, but he is not significantly worse than Favre. Make no mistake, the Packers were not better last year because Favre reformed himself made less mistakes and lead them to where they ended up. Last year saw the exact same Favre recklessness and mistakes as when the Packers had loosing seasons. 2007 just had better pieces around him.
Still I will concede that Favre has a slight edge over Rodgers, so why not take the upgrade, which doesn’t cost anything, however small?
Because the upgrade actually has a considerable price. Highly regarded throughout college, Rodgers has performed when given the chance (one game, but still…). The Cowboys game last year aside, Packers organization has seen more of Rodgers the last two years than anyone else. They have had an ample opportunity to evaluate Rodgers, they are not blandly handing the reigns to a rookie. Clearly they think highly of him based on what they have seen, given that they were willing to push a legend out of town to give Rodgers his chance. So why not take Favre back for a year, before handing it over to Rodgers when Favre is done?
Hopefully those who have followed the story are beginning to see the answer already. Rodgers is the quarterback of the future for the Cheeseheads. If it is allowed to begin, he just might chose to stick around for that future. Rodgers becomes a free agent in 2009. If he is jerked around and forced to spend another year with a clipboard, make no mistake, there will be another 2 way quarterback race in Green Bay in ’09. Not Rodgers and Favre, Matt Flynne and Brian Brohm will battle it out while Rodgers gets his chance in New York, Tampa Bay or Baltimore. Is it worth it for an upgrade that is marginal at best?
The confluence of over coverage and ignorance has frustrated me beyond belief. It has made me virtually unable to watch SportsCenter, and dismissive of the many talk radio podcasts I subscribe to. The list of things I would rather hear about is long (the MLB deadline which saw a number of big names move may not have been completely overshadowed, but the coverage was certainly diminished because of Packer-gate). Unfortunately, Favre stepped off of his private jet and saw his shadow, meaning that the coverage has no end in sight.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Draft Tracker

As much as I love ESPN’s Bill Simmons’s work, when it comes to hockey, anything he can do I can do better. With the NHL Draft’s first round tonight I couldn’t resist trying to prove this point. With that in mind, here it is, the 2008 NHL Draft running diary.

5:19 MT: The Lightning are at the podium, their GM is giving a speech. Because they know that everyone knows Stamkos is their pick, apparently they are dragging it out to make up for the lack of drama.

5:21: VS actually cut to Stamkos before the pick on split screen, leading me to hope that they went a different direction. Stamkos is being compared to Yzerman, and being expected to make an impact immediately, no pressure. Bigger news, the VS crew expects Barry Melrose to be named coach of the lightning, intriguing…

5:24 Biggest NHL news of the day so far while they are interviewing Stamkos (who; a. says that he is ready to play in the NHL right away, b. says that he can’t compare himself to an NHLer, and c. appears to be about 12 years old; a troubling confluence of circumstances if you are a bolts fa- er, uh never mind) is that Malkin has been offered $20 mil to play in Russia. I for one am not so surprised that the Euro leagues are starting to try and challenge the NHL. Honestly though, I think their window of opportunity was immediately following the lockout and that they missed it. Plus, Malkin defected in the middle of the night just 2 years ago; I doubt he will be eager to go back.

5:26: Just learned that Sharks don’t pick till 117, leading me to consider quitting now, but I’m going to stick with it anyways

5:31: A Canadian kid who worshiped 99 in the mid 90’s! Hard hitting reporting and interview tactics by VS in the Downy (the Kings pick at 2) interview, digging up that gem.

5:33 A trade is being announced, and it is a big one… Jokanin to Phoenix for Boynton and a few others. If you didn’t go to Kent in 2007 you won’t get this, but you have got to be Oli Jokanin’n me right now!

5:35: The Versus crew keeps asking what teams are planning to do with their picks and in free agency, but they are 0-6 as far as getting answers, maybe time to go with a new tactic there Pulitzer.

5:40: Bogosian is added to the core of prospects that are taking shape In Atlanta (joining Coburn and Esposito) in a “gigantically positive…cover up move” according to the play by play that we have tonight. 2 for 3 on foregone conclusions, not a whole lot of drama so far in Ottawa. Meanwhile Begosian hates losing and is glad he chose to play hockey, according to his interview, good to know I guess.

5:43 Another trade from Betteman, he has been traded (with cash) for David Stern!

5:43: Sorry, I just nodded off, had a great dream. The trade was actually Tanguay to MTL for picks.

5:48: Pietrangelo is the Blues pick, another offensive guy who will be great with Johnson. 3 of the top 4 picks have been defensemen (all 4 from the O). He was compared to “Pronger without the edge.” I think that Ryan Kesler would see this as an upgrade.

5:49: Hold on, I think that one of the guys accidentally referenced “Larry Zubov.” You can’t make that sort of thing up…

5:50: The crew is actually sending it from the host desk that is doing the play by play to another set where they are doing the interviews with the picks. This is presumably because the host play by play guys can’t ask unoriginal questions that don’t actually lead to anything interesting from the players themselves.

5:51: Pietrangelo actually made a number of jokes, and didn’t even stutter in the interview, charismatic kid…meanwhile VS just broke the news that the Blues would prefer not to have the 4th pick again next year, so basically, they would prefer not to finish 26th in the league again. Watch out Bob Woodward.

5:53: Gord Miller (the sideline reporter for VS) has said that the Islanders and Leafs have made a trade, the 5th pick for the 7th pick, but they couldn’t get the details. These GMs aren’t leaking anything tonight, Barrack Obama take notes.

5:55: VS is using Sum 41 as its theme music for the draft, I don’t even have a joke here. I hope that someone got fired for that, but that’s not even a joke.

5:58 Luke Schenn will be the Leafs best defencemen, but won’t ready to play in the NHL next year according to Pierre McGuire… does that make Brian McCabe an AHLer? Schenn should call Matt Carl, ask how it is developing as a defenceman under Ron Wilson.

6:00: Betteman almost fainted like the kid in the spelling bee a few years ago, attempting to explain the TOR-NYI trade. He even had to start over and explain it a second time. If only he could do that with his entire professional life. Suffice to say the Leafs gave up 2 picks (2nd and 3rd rounders), in order to move from 7 to 5. “This is the start of their rebuild” says one of the announcers…giving up 2 picks to move up and take an 18 year old is their first rebuilding step? That’s why you are in TV, not a front office, dude.

6:03: Toronto takes Schenn amidst boo’s from the Senators fans. Kid from Kelowna (awesome town, if anyone cares), was absolutely drooled over by the Versus/TSN crew, they have building this guy up for the past 10 minutes. I think Pierre is expecting this kid to be the next Nick Lindstrom. I was actually kind of hoping that they went with the Russian kid Filatov, just to see Pierre McGuire flip out like Kanye West at a Katrina benefit.

6:03: “JOHN FERGUSON DOESN’T CARE ABOUT SASKATCHWAN PEOPLE” screams McGuire, while Bob McKenzie nervously returns to the script. (sorry, I had to)

6:06: Speaking of Filatov, it is early but not for nothing, this is the second year in a row that the top Russian has dropped in the draft. I think that the Malkin affair opened a lot of eyes as to how hard it can be to sign the Russian kids.

6:08: Two of Columbus’s picks to Philly for Umberger…Betteman has the exact same mannerisms as George Bush…and the same track record of success.

6:09: Umburger was an Ohio State Buckeye, he has to be happy about going back to Columbus. Speaking of which, it has long been my belief that there is no reason for the Blue Jackets to play in front of half empty arenas. How hard would day of game student discounts be? How would this not work?

6:11: The Blue Jackets took Filatov, so much for the Russian slide. Filatov makes Stamkos look old. No joke, he looks like he is under 15 years old. The Jackets had a Filatov jersey made up, which raises questions at the 6th pick, does it not? Filatov wore a cage in World Juniors, tells me a lot more than the fact that he says he would like to model his game after Sidney Crosby.

6:15: I need to see a Nickolai Filatov birth certificate. No way is he more than 15 years old; this
kid won’t be able to grow a playoff beard until 2020.

6:15: Remembered that Filatov was drafted by Columbus, so barring trade growing a playoff beard won’t be an issue.

6:16: Seriously, Filatov looks like Harry Potter, only younger.

6:17 Thanks to VS, as a bull riding commercial reminds me why this league isn’t taken seriously, I had almost forgotten.

6:19: The Isles trade down again, this time to Nashville. It says a lot about the draft this year (not great about the top, but a lot of solid players), that the Isles have traded from 5 to 9, but compiled 4 extra picks in the process, good work by them.

6:21: The Preds took Justin Daniels, out of Kent School…just kidding, they took Wilson out of BU. First American, out of Greenwich, CT. I’m pretty sure he pulled the Preds jersey over a pink Lacoste dress shirt and a Vineyard vines tie.

6:27: Gretz got a 2 minute standing O in Ottowa before taking a Danish kid, a Kitchner Ranger who looks a lot like Bure in his highlights (my analysis not VS).

6:30 Versus neglected to interview Boedker (the kid), in favor of Gretzky. I’m not even mad…By the way the fact that Boedker could be the Desert Dogs third straight first rounder to play the next year says a whole lot more about the Coyotes than it does about Boedker.

6:32: Gonna have to wrap it up here in a second, I have to go umpire little league at 7.

6:33: The Isles finally make a pick, taking Josh Bailey, the 5th OHL player taken in the top 10, and the 4th OHL defenseman. He has a “great half court game.” I heard he also has great post moves and can create shots off of the dribble.

6:38: They just showed Luc Bordoun getting drafted, a sad moment. A little bit eerie, as Vancouver has the 10th pick again this year.

6:41: Hodgeson, a “hockey player’s hockey player” is taken by Vancouver. Hodgeson is another OHL kid, who is a little bit green, but is the captain of the U18 Canadian team. Should be a solid pick.

6:46: With the last pick of the running diary, the Hawks take Kyle Beach at 11. Beach had just taken an interview with the TV crew…not suspicious at all that the guys predicted all 11 picks so far…Beach was a strong power forward (an Iginla type), but a problem child compared to Sean Avery. There are worse people to be compared to, but probably not what you want to see.

Ok, I really have to go now…You were right Simmons, this is harder than it seems.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Out For the Season

note: a modified version of this column will appear in the Prize Day Edition of the Kent News

The NHL is dead to me. It is done, as far as I am concerned. I am vaguely aware that the season is still going on, but it may as well be over for all I care. The Sharks have been eliminated, and with them, my interest for the 2008 Stanley Cup playoffs. I am a 2008 Playoffs widower.
Many fans have little or no problem picking up another team once theirs has been eliminated from the playoffs, continuing to care about a race from which their horse has withdrawn. This has lead to the wide spread obnoxious trend of Canadians moving from team to team in the playoffs, in vein hope that the Cup can return to its homeland. While many Montréalers are perfectly willing to exchange Kovalev for Iginla if their Habs fall, and many Leafs fans don’t think twice about rooting for the Canucks if Toronto fails to make the playoffs, I can’t do the same. I could never adopt the Kings for a playoff run because they share a home state with the Sharks, let alone the hated Ducks (Leafs fans do, to their credit, largely refuse to support the Senators, even if they are the last team standing north of the border). I will never trade my Michalek jersey for a Modano one, in hopes that the Cup can stay in the Pacific Division. People aren’t less of fans for picking up a new team, it just doesn’t seem right to me.
When I root for a team, I have one gear. I go all out. I put the pedal to the medal. I engage in one more cliché involving a wall which is inappropriate for this family publication. That is simply impossible over the course of two weeks, a month, or however long the season continues after one’s team is sent to the links. I didn’t trek an hour to Joe Louis arena about forty times in fifth grade or make a point of going every year even if I am only home for two months during the season and it is a 12 hour drive, I don’t know who the Wings best players played junior hockey for or follow their top draft picks through juniors and college before they sign with the big club. But I did go to the Shark Tank, then and now, I know that Joe Thornton played for the Sault St. Marie Greyhounds and Patrick Marleau played for the Seattle Thunderbirds, and I make a point of checking the Ottawa 67s website every week or so to check up on Logan Couture and Jamie McGinn. I can’t simply forget all of this, just because the Wings are still playing and the Sharks are not, tempting as it may be.
While rooting for any other team is somewhat perplexing to me, switching to a team in the same division is unforgivable (although I may be willing to make an exception in Laura Conrad’s case, she claims to be a Kings fan who was rooting for the Ducks because they made the playoffs, but is getting a pass because she is a blonde California girl who has a blog on NHL.com). You have spent all season hating these teams, taking pleasure in their pain, pain in their pleasure. Switching on a dime and rooting for these teams should be perfectly easy and acceptable only if you list your historical heroes as Judas Iscariot, Benedict Arnold, and Brutus.
It may be a step up from pulling for a division foe morally, but even harder for me would to be to root for a team that has eliminated your own. For six games, the Dallas Stars were Al Queda, anything they did wrong brought me pleasure. For the past two weeks I called Niklas Hagman inappropriate names for cherry picking to get his second goal with an empty net. I was devastated to learn that Sergei Zubov, a man I have never met with whom I probably share many interests and ideals, had made a full recovery from his injury and was going to be able to play. I sent text messages to friends asking why TSN had a broadcast team that appeared to be Stars owner Tom Hicks and Mike Modano’s father for game six. By the time a combination of luck, bad officiating and Marty Turco lifted the Stars over the Sharks in an epic four overtime battle, I was beyond the point where rooting for Dallas was even comprehensible, let alone a possibility. And yet some Ranger fans will inevitably adopt the Penguins, just like some Sharks fans will inevitably adopt the Stars, something I will never understand.
Naturally, this state of hockey viduity can be difficult. I still enjoy watching the games, but as hard as it may be, I just can’t bring myself to care. It just wouldn’t feel right. I will watch only because I enjoy watching hockey, the outcome will be a moot point. As far as my emotions are concerned, the offseason has begun.

Thursday, May 8, 2008


Since I have been really busy the last couple of days, and since i don't want to mail in the last Sharks column of the season, there isn't going to be anything up here today.
I will do a (probably) extended TT and post it this weekend (if my teachers let up a little bit), as well as post a KN column that is part of the reason I can't write the TT tonight.
Sorry for the Delay

Friday, May 2, 2008

Clip of the Week 2: WHL Hit

As you probably didn't notice, I decided to make the YouTube

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Teal Thursdays special Edition, 4/30

I’m doing an abbreviated teal Thursday this week, and I’m posting a day early for a number of reasons, mainly because I want it to go up before game four. It is abbreviated for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that I really don’t feel like re-living games 1-3 of the Dallas series. I’ll go through a quick recap of the series in one section (not game by game as I have been doing), give a few thoughts on what needs to happen, and end it with a quick story.
Although I doubt anyone relies exclusively on this blog for updates on the Sharks, in case anyone does, as you may have been able to gather from the tone, things are looking grim in San Jose. The Sharks dropped game 3 in overtime last night, falling in a 3-0 hole to the Dallas Stars in the second round of the playoffs. The Sharks have not played horribly, and with just a few bounces could have won any of the three games. Games one and three went to overtime, and the Sharks took a 2-1 lead into the third period of game 2. Having been able to watch games one and two, I felt confident, even down 2-0 in the series. The Sharks had outplayed the Stars badly for 40 minutes in game 2, but a dismal third period effort lead to a 4 goal period for the Stars, and a 5-2 loss. Game one was similarly frustrating, as the Sharks seemed to have the upper edge, even if they didn’t lead on the scoreboard, but ended up falling in overtime.
One theme has been clear over the first three games of this series, and that is this; the Sharks lack a killer instinct. It could easily be argued that the Sharks are only three timely goals away from being up 3-0, rather than down 3-0. In games one and 3, obviously OT winners would have done the trick, but particularly in game one, if the Sharks had scored one more in a first period that they dominated, the Stars likely would not have been able to respond. In game 2, the Sharks dominated the first two periods, but had only a 2-1 lead to show for it. An insurance tally late in the second would have allowed the Sharks to go into the dump and protect game they play so well, but instead a single bounce tied the game early in the third. Three times, the Sharks have been controlling the play, and had a chance to bury the Stars. Three times, they have been unable to.
The second thing I want to touch on is something that I take no pleasure in doing. I am a Ron Wilson fan, and was never comfortable with the notion that his job should have been in jeopardy following last year’s playoff exit. I sincerely wish that I could support the way that he has handled this series, mainly because he has (I believe) yet to make a serious error as head coach of the Sharks, yet I cannot. First of all, as I wrote in the “Just a Thought” column, Jeremy Roenick has absolutely no business on the first powerplay unit, and having him there cost the Sharks game one. In the first period, Patrick Marleau made a phenomenal pass to Roenick in front of the net. Roenick re-directed the puck, but couldn’t bury it. Did Turco make a phenomenal save? Yes. Would the majority NHL goal scorers have made the same play? Probably. Can I even blame JR? Probably not, but Jonathan Cheechoo would have scored. He would have put that pass home ten times out of ten, but he was sitting on the bench. This was the most glaring and costly, but not the only instance of the Sharks PP being hurt by not having #14 on the first unit, and that one falls squarely on Ron’s shoulders.
The second problem I have with what Ron has done came in game three. Down 2-0, Wilson was looking to wake his team up, which he should have been, except for two things. First of all, the Sharks hadn’t lost 3 games in a row since mid February. This team had proven that it doesn’t need wake up calls to get back on track. On top of that, the Sharks had outplayed Dallas for all but the last twenty minutes of the first two games. Unfortunately, Ron panicked, and stuck Alexi “the pylon” Seminov on the blue line. Unless it comes out that Carl was injured, this is inexplicable. Carl had been playing well since being put back into the lineup, and Seminov has consistently proven himself incapable. Sure enough, Seminov took a key penalty that lead to the tying goal. Inserting Plihal for Rissmiller is somewhat less egregious, but Plihal appears unprepared for playoff hockey, and Grier’s game suffered considerably without Rissmiller in the lineup. Both of these moves reeked of desperation from a coach who did not need to be desperate quite yet.
I have two more quick thoughts before I wrap it up. First of all, Joe Thornton was non-existent like never before on Tuesday night. Listening to the game on the radio, I barely heard his name mentioned the entire night. Needless to say, Thornton is probably the best player in the NHL when he is on, and the Sharks need him to be on to climb out of this hole. Lastly, there are plenty of "what ifs" that are relevant to the first few games of this series. I'm going to refrain from touching on those, until the time that they become necessary to address. Here's hoping that time is never.

I want to finish with a story. It has nothing to do with the Sharks, but it seems relevant to the present situation. In October of 2004, the morning after the Sox had dropped game 3 of the ALCS 19-8 to fall into a 3-0 hole to the hated Yankees, I passed my friend Taylor Donner on the boardwalk. Still disappointed from the night before, and sure that the series was over, all I could do was shake my head, giving a feeble “It doesn’t look good.”
After pausing, as if to think of something else to say, all Taylor could muster was a “no.”
A few seconds later though, he finally said “but I mean, if we can win tonight, we have Pedro going tomorrow.”
“And Shilling after that in game six.” I replied, still morbidly, but beginning to cheer up.
“And then game seven, anything can happen there, all we have to do is win tonight”
“You never know.” Was all I could say, as if the notion that hope still existed was new to me, something I wasn’t quite ready to embrace.
“You never know.” He echoed, and we went our separate ways.
Sure enough, that night Dave Roberts stole second off of Rivera and the rest, as they say, was history. I don’t know if this story really has a point, except that of all the memories from the 2004 Red Sox Championship, this seemingly mundane conversation will always be one of my most vivid. It serves as a reminder that it really never is over, that it is never better just to give up hope. So when the puck deflected past Nabokov and the Sharks went down 3-0, I thought of Taylor, and I thought of 2004. Because if we win tomorrow, we go back to San Jose, and by game six we will be rolling, and anything can happen in game seven, all we have to do is win tomorrow. Because you never know.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Just A Thought

It’s the busiest time of the year on the sports calendar, so you would think finding a column out of this mess would be easy. There is certainly plenty going on, but when it comes down to it, nothing jumps out. Between the NFL Draft, MLB season, NBA and NHL Playoffs and everything else, you would think that there would be something that absolutely demands at least 1000 words, but nothing really jumps out. Take a look; the NBA and NHL playoffs haven’t developed a theme or even an intriguing story line (yet), the draft was sort of wild with all of the first round trades, but the class over all was pretty bland, and lets face it, April baseball is pretty damn boring. That isn’t to say that I don’t have any opinions I want to write, just nothing that I feel demands an entire column. So, since it is all that I have, here are a few random thoughts, opinions, facts, stats and downright lies that I have on my mind right now.

I’m not sure if this excites or scares the hell out of me. If pressed, I’m going with both.

Joe Pavelski is a gamer. So is Matt Carl. I wish I could say the same about Milan Michalek, but I’m not so convinced yet (an understatement).

I’m frustrated with Doug Wilson right now. On an unrelated note, let’s check out this Joe Thornton player card. Acquired: From Boston in exchange for Brad Stuart, Wayne Primeau and Marco Sturm. Back to Wilson...I actually calmed down for some reason, moving on...

Jeremy Roenick deserves to be on the first PP unit. Jeremy Roenick deserves to be on the first PP unit. Jeremy Roenick deserves to be on the first PP unit. Jeremy Roenick deserves to be on the first PP unit. Jeremy Roenick deserves to be on the first PP unit. Jeremy Roenick deserves to be on the first PP unit. Jeremy Roenick deserves to be on the first PP unit. Jeremy Roenick deserves to be on the first PP unit. Jeremy Roenick deserves to be on the first PP unit. Jeremy Roenick deserves to be on the first PP unit.

After typing that ten times, I’m starting to believe it, I’m 90% sure Ron Wilson did the same thing.

I’m just kidding, I hit ctrl+c, ctrl+v, and I still don’t believe it. It is the first intermission of game 2 and Cheechoo would have had 2 goals if he was playing with Marleau and Thornton.

Niklas Hagman is a (expletive) who cherry picks and flies the zone when the other team has pulled the goalie IN A FREAKING PLAYOFF GAME. It doesn’t get any lower. Congrats on the 2 goal game all-star.

Out of 7, 2 Sharks first round games were on national TV. Out of the first 4, only 2 of the second round are scheduled to be. I hate Versus more than I hate Al Qaeda. This may be its own column...

I tried, I really did, but I can’t hate on the Campbell trade. Yet.

Screw it, we blew 2-0 leads the last two years, I’m sure the Sharks are just trying to reverse the trend in a nice, symmetric style.

Contrary to the content of this blog over the past few weeks, I am capable of non-Sharks-related thoughts. (I’ll even prove it, besides I need to save some thoughts for the Thursday column)

The Rangers were done (for the series, not the game) as soon as the Pens came back from the 3-0 deficit, even if it took a 5-4 OT loss to drop game one.

Sidney Crosby is going to get better, and fast. Once he learns to keep his feet moving a little bit more, he is going to be unstoppable as he already skates through checks as well as anyone in the NHL. Once he learns to turn the corner and get to the net, he will be the best goal scorer in the NHL, as well as the best playmaker.

Read that sentence again, Rangers fans, and try not to quiver.

The Eastern Conference circa 2008 is no better than the NL circa 2007, I am convinced of it. The only way that an eastern team can win the cup is if the Western playoffs prove daunting enough that by the finals, the best team is completely worn down.
The best part about that theory is that it can never be proven wrong. No matter who wins the Cup, I will have been right.

I felt bad for Ovechkin, but really, I was just happy that the Philly-Washington game ended in time for the Sharks game to start on TV.

I don’t know, I just can’t get excited for the baseball season while the NBA and NHL Playoffs are going on. Call me in July.

Brandon Webb and Danny Haran are the best 1-2 punch in the Majors. Haran’s trade went largely ignored, but if Derek Jeter tells the media that he got an e-mail from A-rod but didn’t respond it is front page news. How am I supposed to believe that there is no east coast media bias?

Brad Wilkerson is hitting .189, Frank Thomas is hitting .164, Jason Botts has played 14 games in left field for the Rangers despite hitting .147, Barry Bonds can’t find work and this isn’t collusion. Yeah, ok.

The Rays just swept the Red Sox to move into a tie atop the east. I wrote it before, this isn’t a fluke, the Rays are for real.

I can’t decide who I’m more excited about, Tim Lincecum or Clay Buchholz.

I’ll shut up if it is just me (I am a Warriors fan, after all), but shouldn’t the Nuggets have thrown their last few games if they didn’t want to be in the playoffs? At least for the good of the NBA, I mean come on.

Note to Gilbert Arenas: just be quiet next time. (on second thought, don’t, for humor’s sake, keep talking)

Everyone seems to be taking sides on the wild MVP race, so I may as well throw my opinion out there. Wait, I watched about 5 NBA games this year, so I’m gonna go with Michael Jordan.

Isiah Thomas is being forced out of the Knicks organization right now. He better work out a severance package before his entire reign is remembered as an embarrassment.

I’m worried about Isiah, it is gonna be tough for him to get a job after failing so miserably in New York, but I’m even more worried about Bill Simmons. He isn’t going to have anything to write about.

The NFL Draft passed this weekend. It was as hyped as ever (naturally), but once it started there were only two players I could really get excited about.
If in 5 years, Matt Ryan is better than Glen Dorsey and Darren McFadden, I will sink all of my money into Home Depot stock (that is a bet, Mr. Blank).

The above statement has nothing to do with my rejection from Boston College, I swear.

The National Clever Sports Headline Writers Guild would like to thank Chris Long, Jake Long, the Miami Dolphins and the St. Louis Rams for their easiest day of work ever.

The NCSHWG? Really? Conan O’Brian read that and went “come on, that’s a streatch.”
I don’t care what anyone says, I like Pacman Jones.

If you have questions for Mel Keiper Jr. or Todd McShay in the next 4 months, please send them care of the Waikiki Sheraton, Honolulu, HI.

Going to Pizza Garden, coming back and writing a column while watching the Sharks game isn’t better than going to prom, but it isn’t $300 worse.

One last thing, an apology... Couples of Kent School, I am sorry for walking in on / third wheeling you guys, I really am, it’s just that I really wanted to watch that game.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Teal Thursdays 2- April 24, 2008

Well, it took a bit longer than Sharks fans probably expected, and definitely a bit longer than they would have liked, but the Sharks ultimately got the job done. Team teal capped a 4-3 series win with a dominating 5-3 performance in game seven. The victory means the Sharks will move on to face the Dallas Stars in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Game five on Friday night proved to be a wild affair. The Sharks entered the third period with a 2-1 lead on the strength of a beautiful Patrick Marleau wrist shot and an acrobatic save by Evgeni Nabokov, on which he was initially beat, but dove back to swipe the puck away as it trickled towards the goal line. The Sharks appeared poised to run away with the contest when Jonathan Cheechoo scored two goals in the first half of the third period giving the Sharks a 4-1 lead; but the Flames came roaring back, cutting the score to 4-3. Despite a late flurry, the Flames attack ultimately fell just short thanks to 33 saves from Evgeni Nabokov.

The Sharks then took their act to the Pengrowth Saddle Dome, where they hoped to close out the series in game six. Any excitement from the Sharks end was quickly stifled, however. The Sharks came out flat, managing only 21 shots on goal, and handing Mikka Kiprusoff his only shutout of the post-season. Ex-captain Owen Nolan notched the game winner just 11 minutes into what proved to be the Sharks weakest performance of the post season so far.

Six games having settled nothing, the teams traveled back to Silicone Valley, where 60 minutes of playoff hockey would determine who would move on, and who would hit the links. While the Sharks lacked a killer instinct in game six, the threat of another early playoff threat having become imminent, the Pacific division champs came out flying for game seven. After tinkering with the lines for much of the series, Coach Ron Wilson went back to lines that closely resembled those of the 18-0-2 streak. The Cheechoo-Thornton Michalek and Rissmiller-Grier-Mitchell lines were restored, while Jody Shelly was scratched, giving a spot to Devin Setoguchi on the fourth line (alongside Goc and Roenick) and keeping the red hot Clowe-Marleau-Pavelski line in tact. On the blueline, the only change from the regular season was a sidelined Kyle McLaren giving way to Matt Carl, who had stepped in and played a phenomenal series for the Sharks.

Once play began, superstars Joe Thornton and Jarome Iginla traded powerplay goals sending the teams into the first intermission tied at 1, despite a decided 14-5 advantage in shots for the Sharks. Despite the great start, early in the second period the Sharks appeared to be in trouble. Just 3 minutes into the second period, Brian Campbell was caught out of position, and the hero of the Sharks last game seven victory, Owen Nolan turned a questionable Douglas Murray pinch into a flukey breakaway goal on which Nabokov made the initial save, but the rebound caromed off of Nolan’s shin pad and into the net for a 2-1 Calgary lead.

Last year, veteran leadership had proven the Sharks Achilles heel in a second round playoff exit. With game seven in jeopardy, they got just that, as 38 year old Jeremy Roenick took over. JR knotted the game at 2 on a Setoguchi screen and a seeing-eye wrister that snuck through Mikka Kiprusoff. Just 3 minutes later, Roenick put home his own rebound and gave the Sharks a 3-2 lead, capping it off with one of the greatest goofy/awkward celebrations in playoff history.

The Sharks didn’t stop there though, as minutes later the pride of Plover, Wisconsin Joe Pavelski put a rebound top shelf, chasing Kiprusoff, and giving the Sharks a 4-2 lead. Devin Setoguchi then scored his first playoff goal, giving the Sharks a 5-2 lead and capping a 4 goal, 21 shot second period on the first shot seen by Curtis Joseph. Another former Shark, Wayne Primeau scored the only goal of the third, and 20 after 25 minutes of lock down hockey, the Sharks had secured a birth in the second round.

Looking back now, in last week’s post, I said that there were five keys to beating the Flames. Here they are again, but with a recap and a grade of how the Sharks fared in these areas for the first round

1. Get Big Joe Going- Thornton finished the series with two goals and five assists. These aren’t spectacular numbers, but they are pretty good, certainly a bit better than the last few years. Thornton also had a presence outside of the score sheet, playing physically and doing lots of little things. Score- 8/10

2. Get to the Net- Simply by watching highlights, it is easy to see that the Sharks did this exceptionally well this series. Kipper was constantly screened, and when he did kick out rebounds, he paid the price. Score- 9.5/10

3. Limit Iginla- 9 points in 7 games is hardly shutting someone down. Iginla was a force for the entire series, showing why he is one of the elite superstars in all of hockey. However, I said to limit, not stop Iginla, and he was a -1 on the series. Score- 5/10

4. Attack- For 5.5 of 7 games, the Sharks were on the attack. In game six, they inexplicably played not to lose, and after going up 3-0 in game 4, they sat back and let Calgary take it to them. Other than those two games though, a pretty good job here. Score- 6/10

5. Get the puck out- I couldn’t possibly handicap this for the entire series, having watched only game seven in its entirety, but Grier and Mitchell were both pluses on their +/-, and in game seven the Sharks did an excellent job, so I will give them a tentative 8. Score- 8/10

Finally, before I move on and look ahead to the Dallas series, here are the three stars of round one. Before I get to the Sharks, two Flames stood out to me, and deserve to be mentioned. Jarome Iginla showed that he is one of the best players in the game. As I said, he scored 9 points and was terrifying every time he touched the puck. The second was a surprise, but I think that Owen Nolan showed that he has a little bit left in the tank.

Firstly a couple of Sharks deserve honorable mention. Joe Thornton, as mentioned above, was very good. He is capable of a little bit more, I think, but certainly didn’t disappoint in round one. Jeremy Roenick also deserves mention, mainly for a clutch performance in game seven. Roenick may have saved the Sharks season with his two goals, but won’t quite crack the top three because they were his only two of the series. Lastly, Matt Carl stepped in after an absence from the lineup after Matt Carl was acquired and was outstanding. Carl may have been the Sharks best defenseman at times. Carl’s game still has some holes (albeit ones that should will disappear with experience), but he confirmed in this series what most Sharks fans already know; when Matt Carl is well rested, he is an outstanding defenseman.

The third star for the Sharks was Jonathan Cheechoo. Cheech scored three of the biggest goals of the series. His spectacular shot from a bad angle that saved game 4 may have been the biggest play in swinging momentum to the Sharks side in the series. Cheechoo appeared to step it up down the stretch after a lackluster start and was able to carry his momentum into the first round of the playoffs.

Ryan Clowe returned from ACL surgery, stepping right in on the second line and onto the score sheet for San Jose. Clowe was one of only a few Sharks that put in seven solid efforts this series, and was rewarded for it, notching 4 goals in the first four games. Clowie’s gritty performance goes to show just how valuable being well rested can prove this time of year.

Finally, keeping with a theme of resurgence, you have Patrick Marleau, the first star of the 2008 Western Conference Quarter Finals for the San Jose Sharks. As good as Clowie was, much of his production came off of superb efforts from Marleau. Marleau brought outstanding energy. As long as he has been in the league, there has been a simple way to tell if he has been on his game. When Marleau is going, opposing defensemen usually are backing up on every rush when #12 is on the ice, giving the Sharks ample time to maneuver and create opportunities off of breaks. Calgary has an excellent crew on the blue line, headlined by Robyn Regehr, Cory Sarich and Dion Phaneuf, but Pavelski, Marleau and Clowe had tons of space to work with, which they turned into 9 goals in 7 games.

So it took a little bit longer than expected, but Calgary is out of the way. After a lackluster first round performance by the Quack Squad, the Stars have aligned for the Sharks to face off with Dallas in round 2. Believe it or not, this is the first time that the pacific division rivals have squared off in the post season. As I did last round (albeit a little bit late), I will leave you with 5 keys to success in round two.

  1. STEP UP- The Sharks need their defensemen to be on their game in round two. This means that Brian Campbell must return to the form that he saw at the end of the regular season, not the semi-trance that he appeared to be in for much of the first round. Behind Campbell, the Sharks need Vlasic, Rivet, Erhoff, Carl, McLaren and Murray to have a good series. Against Calgary, one or two guys could carry the load. Dallas has much better secondary scoring, so all of the Sharks D-men have got to bring their A-game in round two.
  2. WAKE UP- First of all, Brian Campbell. While Greason is convinced that he is a poor defender, I still believe (based on watching him for a couple of weeks shortly after the deadline) that he is capable in his own zone. He will need to be, but also will need to regain the magic he had in the regular season with the puck on his stick. Milan Michalek also needs to find another gear. He was invisible for much of the first round. Milan is one of the Sharks top 5 forwards, without a doubt, and he needs to be for the offense to be in gear.
  3. GET UP- For every game that is. In the first round, the Sharks came out flat for two of the seven games, and collapsed in a third. The Sharks may be able to sneak by Dallas in similar fashion, but I wouldn’t count on it. The goal needs to be to come out flying every night this time.
  4. BANG UP- Last round I said that the Sharks needed to drive the net in order to put pucks away against one of the best goalies in the league, Kiprusoff. The task doesn’t get any easier this round, as the boys go up against Marty Turco. Once again, getting traffic in front will be key.
  5. SHUT DOWN- Brad Richards was the Stars biggest addition and has been getting most of the attention in big D, but Mike Modano is quite simply a Shark killer. He is, and has been for quite a while, our kryptonite. My recommendation for shutting him down would be to take a 2x4 to his knees in the parking lot. I nominate Jamie Baker, Brian Marchment, Alexi Seminov or SJ Sharkie for the job. Failing that, the Sharks D need to play aggressive, getting in Modano’s face and taking away his time and space.

Friday, April 18, 2008

YT Clip of the Week 1: Sharks Comeback

As I mentioned, I am going to start some weekly segments, and for Friday, I am going to do a YouTube clip of the week.
This first one is an awesome clip of the two goals making up the comeback in game 4 that kept the Sharks alive. This is worth watching just for Hahn's call on Thornton's game winner, which actually garnered some regional media attention itself. No one can say that Hahn doesn't care about this team, and it is great to have an announcer who feels like a fan.
As for the video itself, first of all if your a Sharks fan and this doesn't pump you up, you need to make sure you still have a pulse. I love Cheechoo's goal, off his back foot, falling away from the net, Cheechoo probably shot that puck 85-90 MPH. With no angle, either, what a shot. Thornton's is best for the celebration, the genuine mix of joy, excitement and relief from the players is great, and Hahn does a great job adding to it.
This is a must see for Sharks fans, but still entertaining if your not for Cheechoo's shot and Hahn's call.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Teal Thursdays 1- April 17, 2008

This is the first Instalment of Teal Thursdays. This space will be devoted to a weekly round up of all things San Jose Sharks. I will write these on Wednesday nights and Thursday mornings, posting by noon on Thursday. These will vary in length, depending on how busy I am and how much is going on with the Sharks, but I should post every Thursday, year round. Also, look for more weekly or bi-weekly features coming in the next few weeks to Obstructed View Sports.

First things first, I need to get something out of the way, both as a disclaimer and as a vent. I haven’t been able to watch any Sharks games in their entirety while at school. I watched most of the first period of game 1, but it is difficult here at Kent, especially with the common room closed as it currently is, and it is impossible when the games aren’t on Versus, as games 2 and 4 were not. Suffice to say I’m missing Greason’s (and his NHL Center Ice package’s) presence in North Dorm this playoff season.

So how have I managed to keep up? I listen to NHL Game Radio (online), read The Feeder boards, and periodically check stat pages to keep me updated during games until 11:30 (usually around midway through the second period). Once the internet shuts off (Temperantia, Fiducia, Constantia, baby!), I have someone text me updates (usually my sister) after goals and at the end of periods. This way I at least know if I need to be angry or not when I fall asleep.

All in all this is a dismal way to follow a game, but it really is the best that I can manage (sopcast and TVU are blocked, and it is impossible to find a reliable Windows Media Player feed). To fill myself in, the next morning I watch highlights online, scan TSN.com and ESPN.com for insight, read the AP recap and box score, stalk SHJSHARKS.com for news and listen to the postgame podcast, a recap with radio highlights and analysis done by Dan Rusanowsky and Jamie Baker. So All in all, even though I can’t watch the game, by lunch the next day I feel like I have a good idea what’s going on.

The main thing that I lack is an unfiltered perspective of who played well and who didn’t, beyond the score sheet and highlights. Owing to that, unless my game day routine gets an improvement, guys like Vlasic, Brown, Rissmiller or even Rivet, who’s contributions go unnoticed in highlights and score sheets aren’t likely to get the credit they deserve here.

So, obviously, any off the ice action right now is greatly overshadowed by the playoffs right now. The Sharks are locked in battle with the Calgary Flames in round 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Going into the playoffs, there were several keys for the Sharks. Here they are:

  1. Get Big Joe going- never a problem during the regular season, Thornton has struggled at times in the post-season. The Sharks offense relies on Thornton and they need him going at full speed in order to handle the Flames like they should.
  2. Get to the Net- Kiprusoff, a former Vezina trophy winner, is going to make a lot of first saves. Pretty goals are going to be few and far between, especially with Phaneuf patrolling the blue line. The focus needs to be on getting the puck on net and banging in the garbage. The Sharks are a big, fast team, so this shouldn’t be a problem.
  3. Limit Iginla- It is unrealistic to expect to completely shutdown such a talented player, but for the Flames to have a chance, their captain is going to need to have an outstanding series, as Calgary’s secondary scoring is limited. If Iginla can be kept in check, Calgary shouldn’t be a problem for San Jose.
  4. Attack- The Sharks have to be the aggressor in this series. As the saying goes, if you play not to lose, you will. This comes down to intensity, look for Marleau to set the tone on this.
  5. Get the puck out- I’m looking at you, Rissmiller-Greir-Mitchell. If the Sharks don’t give the Flames second opportunities on turnovers and uncontrolled rebounds, Nabokov will shit the flames completely down.

To me, it seems that if the Sharks can do any three of these five things, Calgary should not be an issue. Next week I’ll come back to these and see how well they were executed (and also how important they turned out to be) in the series.

Ok, time to get down to it, and asses how the boys have played against Calgary so far.

Game 1 was, frankly, upsetting. I for one expected the Sharks, who had been on a nearly 2 month tear, to feed off of a rocking HP Pavilion, come out flying and crush an inferior Flames team. I for one was disappointed.

Inexplicably, the Sharks looked awful. They came out completely flat, and they looked as if they were unaware that the playoffs had begun. By the time they realized it, it was too late. The first goal was questionable, but after that, the Sharks turtled, and it was no surprise when the Flames added a second shortly their after. That was as much as I could take in the student center, so the rest of the game was followed as if it wasn’t on TV. The Sharks did bounce back a little bit, but they eventually fell 3-2.

There were two main bright spots in game one. First, obviously, was Ryan Clowe. TO be honest, I was a bit skeptical at first of Clowe’s return. It wasn’t anything against Clowie, a good player, but the lines had been clicking in his absence, highlighted by an 18-0-2 run down the stretch that certainly took a bit of luck, but didn’t happen by accident. Clowe has proved me wrong and then some, first by netting two in game 1, but also by being arguably the Sharks best player in the first 4.

Secondly, I couldn’t help but notice that the Sharks came out and played as badly as I have seen them play, certainly in the last 3 months. Despite this, Calgary was unable to put them away, and the Sharks still made it a one goal game. As mad as I was that we had dropped game one, I was encouraged that we had held with them after coming out without our A-game, or even our B-game.

Game 2, the next night in San Jose, was the Evgeni Nabokov show. Nabby stopped everything he saw, including an incredible sprawling glove save on former Shark Owen Nolan. Kiprusoff was tough in net for the Flames, although he would probably like to have Joe Pavelski’s turn-around wrist shot that was the first goal of the game. That combined with a tap-in by Tory Mitchell, lifting the Sharks to a 2-0 victory and a split at home. Nabokov was clearly the player of the game for the Sharks, but it was a team effort that could have been even more dominating were it not for stellar play by Mikka Kiprusoff.

Game 3 in Calgary saw the Sharks carry their game 2 momentum across the border, notching an early 3-0 lead just 3:33 into the first period. From there, the wheels came off. The Sharks fell back on their heels, giving up 4 unanswered goals and falling 4-3. The turning point was clearly and forcefully brought about by Cory Sarich. With the Sharks up 3-0 and controlling the play, with the Saddle Dome crowd out of the game, Sarich laid into a turning Patrick Marleau, bloodying the Sharks captain. When the Sharks responded, the flames somehow, inexplicably ended up with a powerplay, which they used to cut the lead to 3-1 and take back the momentum. For the next 75 minuets, this appeared to sway the entire series.

The Sharks were widely criticized for not responding to the hit on Marleau. In fact, Matt Carl clearly responded to the hit. This response, coupled with a little bit (or more) of questionable officiating, actually lead to the goal that swung the game. However, Carl should be given credit, not only for sticking up for his captain, but for stepping in and playing well after seeing limited (like, none) ice time after the acquisition of Brian Campbell. Carl even played well enough that when Erhoff (for whom he was filling in), returned from injury, Wilson was compelled to keep him in the lineup, going with 7 defensemen and 11 forwards.

The only bright spot in the last 56 minuets of game 3 was Patrick Marleau. Patty has been playing well the entire series, but still managed to step up his game after being crushed by Sarich. It has bothered me when Marleau had been labeled a bad playoff performer over the past year. Yes, Marleau played dismally against Detroit last year, but for the rest of his career, he has been nothing less than stellar in the post-season. It is great to see Marleau play up to the reputation he should have earned, rather the one he has been unfairly labeled with.

For Sharks fans, game 3 was positively tantalizing. Memories from the last three years of playoff disappointments could not help but crop up for Sharks fans. Game 3 was looking more and more like game 3 of the Detroit series last year, or the Edmonton series the year before. The question loomed, is it happening again.

For the first 30 minuets of game four, it appeared that it was. It appeared that the Sarich hit was going to be the defining moment of the series. An early Iginla goal put the Flames up 1-0, and the Sharks had no answer for Mikka Kiprusoff or the Flames’ defense. With time running down under 10 minutes in the second period of game 4, the series seemed to be slipping away, which is why I’m sure that I wasn’t the only Sharks fan who not only breathed a sigh of relief, but gave a fist pump Jonathan Cheechoo would be proud of when Ryan Clowe tipped a Patrick Marleau wrister past Kipper to even the score at 1-1.

The Sharks still had plenty of work to do, however. Once again they appeared in trouble when the Flames made it 2-1 early in the third. With just under 5 minuets remaining in the game, it was still 2-1, when Cheechoo walked out of the corner and sent a wild wrist shot over Kiprusoff’s left shoulder, knotting it at 2 and silencing the Saddle Dome sellout.

The Sharks pressured in the last minuet, but the Flames seemed poised to force OT, when Doug Murray sent a shot along the ice that looked like an easy save, but a streaking Joe Thornton (who ironically had underachieved in Boston when he was told he needed to go to the net more), jumped in front of Kiprusoff, tipping the puck past him, and sparking life in to the pride of Silicone Valley.

As much of a roller coaster as the first four games of the series have been, the bottom line is this: It is now a 3 game series, and the Sharks have home ice. Historically the Flames have enjoyed playing at the Tank, but I don’t think it is any secret that the Sharks will take their home crowd any day of the week.

A week ago, Sharks fans may not have been excited to hear that the Pacific Division Champs split the first two, but the Sharks deserve no better, having put forth uninspired efforts for most of game 1 and the last 55 minuets of game 3. I’ll refrain from making a prediction (it takes considerable effort), but I will say this, the Sharks have proven what they should have known going in, that they are the better team. Unfortunately Calgary has proven that the Sharks are going to have to earn it. They are guaranteed two more games, and there is a good chance they will play a third this series. If the Sharks can put in a solid effort in two of those three, they shouldn’t have any problems. It should be great hockey.

I just hope I can find a place to watch it.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

My Own March Madness

note: a modified version of this column appears in the April 2008 Kent News

Ten days can feel like a long time. It has been three months since I submitted my last college application, and since then all that I have had to do is wait. While the entire waiting period has been stressful, the ten days since spring break have been almost unbearable. Coming back to Kent I had hoped to find decisions waiting for me, or at least to come in the next couple of days, but almost two weeks later I am still waiting for that last (extremely relevant) decision. Even with an acceptance in hand, three rejections have done nothing for my peace of mind, and by now I am a complete wreck.

Every time I go near the mail center, hear mention of colleges or even think about my pending decisions (right now for instance) I feel like a recovering addict; my pulse skyrockets and my stomach is in knots. I know I’m not the only one, even if it is little comfort. Everyone from the class of ’08 seems a little bit on edge right now. Being a senior in early March is something that I wouldn’t wish upon anyone.

So Why is this relevant? Where is the sports column usually appearing in this space?

Seven times, over the last four days I have sat down to write the NCAA Basketball tournament column I promised my editors. I’m just not up to it. It simply isn’t going to happen. My original premise was to write about tournament brackets and how ridiculous it is that everyone thinks theirs is awful because they didn’t have the 10 seed in the elite eight or the thirteen seed from the WCC beating the four seed from the Big East.

I liked the idea but it isn’t going to work for a number of reasons. First of all the concept became a little bit iffy when all four one seeds ended up winning their regions for the most predictable final four in NCAA tournament history. Secondly, and more importantly, I can’t sit still for more than 30 seconds without deciding that I need to check my mail, getting up and realizing that it is 11:15 P.M. The bottom line is that there is really only one thing that I can concentrate on long enough to write a (semi-) coherent column about, so I’m giving in.

Even if I have decided that an NCAA tournament column would be impossible at the moment because of my own personal “March madness,” I haven’t given up on following sports, quite the opposite in fact. At the best of times sports can be a nice escape from a stressful day to day life. Very seldom has an escape been more welcome than over the past couple of weeks. While a Sharks’ win or a good day for my bracket may not make up for a rejection from Dartmouth or Northwestern, they certainly don’t hurt to take my mind off of it for a while.

Luckily for me, the late March/early April period may be the best of the year for sports fans. The aforementioned NCAA tournament provides some of the most enthralling dates on the calendar in the first couple of rounds. Very few sports fans don’t enjoy sitting in front of their TVs or computers checking their brackets and rooting for 15 seeds (even if they don’t even know where Belmont is). The NBA and NHL are entering their stretch runs, providing a steady stream of excitement and drama as teams duke it out for the last couple of playoff spots. On top of all that Baseball’s season is under way and the NFL draft, one of my favorite events of the year, is just around the corner.

These are just the distractions I need right now. So thank god for an endless stream of NFL mock drafts (even if one letter changed Matt Ryan from my favorite player in the draft not named Ryan Clady or Darren McFadden to my least favorite), thank god for the Red Sox starting up (even though it is ridiculous that they have to do so in Japan four days before the rest of the league), for deadline acquisition/blueline god Brian Campbell pushing the Sharks on a 18-0-2 run and for the Warriors trying to street ball their way into the playoffs. Without those things I could be going insane.

Now you’ll have to excuse me, I need to go check my mail.