Thursday, December 30, 2010

Thoughts on 2 Big NHL shakeups

The First is the firing of John MacLean in New Jersey.  MacLean is a rookie NHL coach.  And let's face it, we all should have known that it would be a tough year for the Devils.  The salaries that the Devils are carrying are causing many of the problems that they are experiencing.  When 15 of your players have a Salary Cap hit of $1.5 Million or higher (and 11 of those are $3 Million or higher), you know that there isn't flexibility in setting up your roster.  The problem is the defense and Goaltending.  The defense has been porous this year.  It appears like they don't want to touch anybody, let alone get mean and nasty.  Also when your defense isn't playing well, you expect your $5 Million Goalie to start saving the bacon.  Brodeur hasn't this year.  He has the lowest SV% of all the Devil's goalies.  And none of them are above 90%.  The coaching change won't mean a thing in my opinion.  Going back to Jacques Lemaire will stop giving the players an excuse, but it won't help in the long run.  The man responsible for this is Lou Lamoriello.  He is the one that has signed all this dead weight.  Getting rid of Brian Rolston was a start at fixing this mess, but he will sit back and collect all of the $5 Million that is owed him by the Devils.  The Kovalchuk contract is an albatross around the Franchise's neck.  Basically, if you look at the history of the NHL, the Devils have become Toronto East.  They keep bringing in veterans for lots of money and that fact along with the minors not producing top line talent for the NHL team causes the salary cap problems for teams that try and stay competitive year after year by signing those veterans.  And the excuse that Lemaire would be able to teach the young players, is laughable.  MacLean was an assistant for 7 years and guided the New Jersey farm team at Lowell last season.  It appears like he should be able to coach young players.  Lamoriello is the bad man here and MacLean is the scapegoat.  I hope that the Devils continue to mire in the depths of the Eastern Conference until Lamoriello is no longer the GM of the team.

The second is Darryl Sutter resigning as GM of the Calgary Flames.  It is about time for this to happen.  The Flames have went from one of those teams that were good in the regular season and a tough out in the playoffs to a mediocre team at best.  The full rebuild that should have taken place 2 years ago might actually start now.  And the Sutter clan won't be populating the offices of the Flames past the end of this year at most.  It is time to trade Iggy and Kiprusoff at the trade deadline this year.  Get what you can for these two commodities and possibly get a good young Goalie along with 3 or 4 serviceable forwards or defensemen.  The Flames can't get much lower than they are now.  And Jay Feaster has put together a good roster before down in Tampa.  The fans of Calgary deserve better than what they have gotten over the past 3-4 years.  Now let's hope that the management team of the Flames takes the longer but more astute route of rebuilding from the ground floor up.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Path To The Postseason

Jason CampbellI would love to say that the Oakland Raiders control their own destiny and all we need is Jason Campbell and his right arm to lead us to victory. Unfortunately it’s not that simple.

The Raiders had their chances to win the AFC West division but a few things happened along the way. Sebastian Janikowski and his three missed field goals cost us a win against the Arizona Cardinals. The offense couldn’t find the end zone against the San Francisco 49ers. The inability of Michael Huff to cover anyone in the Raiders recent defeat against the Jacksonville Jaguars. There were too many times when the Raiders gave up games that they should have won and now they need the help of others to get into the postseason.

How can that happen? They can get there if they end the season as the AFC West champion. But the road to the title has a lot of twists and turns starting with this week’s schedule:

TENNESSEE TITANS at KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: This is the “early morning” game for us on the West Coast and it won’t be on television here in San Diego. Everyone is picking the Chiefs to win, but the Titans are still mathematically eligible for the playoffs so they’ll be fired up to compete. The Titans won both of their last two road games in Kansas City (2007 and 2008) and it’s been forever since the Chiefs have played a meaningful game in late December. If the Chiefs beat the Titans, then they will eliminate the Raiders from the playoffs since they cannot get in as one of the two AFC wildcard entries. But if the Titans pull off the upset and beat the Chiefs then that’s when things get interesting.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS at OAKLAND RAIDERS: This is a “must win” game for the Raiders and the Colts are there for the taking. They have the fourth-worst defense against the run, which will allow Darren McFadden, Michael Bush, and Marcel Reece to have great games. The weather might be a factor, something that the Colts historically have problems with. There’s a 40% chance of showers in the Bay Area, and add a 10mph wind and that could wreak havoc on Peyton Manning’s passes.

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS at CINCINNATI BENGALS: The Chargers have to lose one out of their last two games to let the Raiders control their own destiny. Why not this one? Antonio Gates is out with a lingering foot injury and the rest of the wide receiver corps is banged up. The weather will be a huge factor for San Diego. The high temperature in Cincinnati will be below freezing. The wind will be howling at 15mph and there’s a 30% chance of snow showers. That’s certainly not weather the Chargers are accustomed to playing in. The Bengals are also coming off a win in which they established their running game. It’s very possible Cedric Benson could carry the Bengals to victory in this cold weather game.

It’s not a fatal blow if the Chargers win. It only means they control their own destiny in their final game against Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos since the Raiders play the Chiefs next weekend. I’ll have more on that next weekend.

Assuming the Raiders win tomorrow, of course.

He Said It

"Hopefully the league can figure it out one day to go back to the situation it was in the '80s, when you had three or four All-Stars, three or four superstars, three or four Hall-of-Famers on the same team. The league was great. It wasn't as watered down as it is. You had more (All-Star) players on a team, which made almost every game anticipated -- not just a Christmas Day game, not just a Halloween game." – Miami Heat forward LeBron James, December 23, 2010.

LeBron JamesI have to preface this post by saying I can’t stand LeBron James. I firmly believe he is the most narcissistic athlete in professional sports, and when I see news items like sponsorship opportunities for his upcoming birthday party all I can do is shake my head and think this coddled man-child is Exhibit A of what is wrong with today’s professional athlete. But when he told reporters the NBA would be better off with fewer teams, I thought to myself how the NBA was back in Larry Bird and Magic Johnson’s rookie year and realized King James might be onto something.

Back in the 1979-80 season, the NBA was a twenty-two team league. Every team had at least one All-Star caliber player and it was common for even the bottom feeders to have a Hall of Famer on their roster. Even my sorry San Diego Clippers had World B. Free and Bill Walton, when healthy, in their lineup. The Detroit Pistons, who were the worst team in the league that year with a 16-66 record, boasted a lineup with Hall of Famers Bob Lanier and Bob McAdoo.

Maybe the NBA should contract up to eight teams so the bottom feeders have a chance to field a halfway decent team? Do we really need the Toronto Raptors? The Memphis Grizzlies, who failed in Vancouver? The New Orleans Hornets, who failed in Charlotte? The Los Angeles Clippers, who failed in San Diego and Buffalo? The Charlotte Bobcats? The Minnesota Timberwolves? We don’t. In fact, we didn’t need any of the expansion teams that entered the NBA after the 1979-80 season.

If I were the NBA Commissioner I’d keep the strongest 26 teams and hold a dispersal draft of the players on the other teams that would be contracted by the NBA. If that choice were up to me these are the teams that can take a hike:

  1. Charlotte Bobcats – This team is nothing more than a depository of failed first round draft picks and underachievers. The New Orleans Hornets need an owner. I’m willing to bet they would be welcomed back to Charlotte with open arms with George Shinn out of the picture.
  2. Toronto Raptors – Has this team ever been competitive? After the Leafs, Blue Jays and the CFL’s Argonauts the Raptors are an afterthought in Toronto.
  3. Los Angeles Clippers – The NBA never should have allowed Donald Sterling to buy this franchise. His twenty-six year reign of error in Los Angeles is legendary only because no one will force him to give up control of the team or sell it.
  4. Memphis Grizzlies – This team failed in Vancouver and it’s not exactly tearing up the league in Memphis. Like the Bobcats, it has no history.

Some might argue the Sacramento Kings should be on the chopping block but they have solid ownership in the Maloof Family and have had a history of success in Cincinnati, Kansas City and in Sacramento in recent years.

Which teams would you contract if you were the NBA Commissioner?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Week 16 NFL Predictions and Week 15 Results

Carolina at Pittsburgh (-12):  I cannot see taking the worst team in the NFL against one of it's elite franchises.

Dallas (-6.5) at Arizona:  Dallas is rolling this last part of the season.  To tell you how bad Arizona is this year, they have been eliminated from the NFC West.

New England (-9) at Buffalo:  The way that the Patriots played against the Packers, look for Belichick to ensure that the Bills get blown out early and the accelerator will not be let up on.

NY Jets at Chicago (-1):  The Jets have had distraction after distraction and Mark Sanchez is having problems with his throwing shoulder.  I'll take the Bears and that defense.

Baltimore (-3.5) at Cleveland:  The Ravens will know that they need to win to keep the AFC North title hopes alive.  Watch for the Defense to show up.

Washington at Jacksonville (-8):  Does Mike Shanahan know that he isn't a god?  The McNabb and Haynesworth fiascos have continued to tarnish his reputation.  The Redskins aren't a good enough team to play well with those distractions.

Tennessee (+5) at Kansas City:  I can see a real close game here.  The Titans might not win, but they will keep it close.

Detroit (+3) at Miami:  The Phins have been eliminated from the playoffs.  Look for the Lions to legitimately win a road game this year.

San Francisco (+1.5) at St Louis:  The 49ers have the better talent out of these two teams.  The pressure of playing for the Division might be too much for the Rams.

Houston (-2.5) at Denver:  Houston isn't a good team, but they are better than the Broncos, who look like they have regressed in the 2 games since McDaniels was fired.

Indianapolis (-3) at Oakland:  The Colts can taste the Division title that is out there waiting for them to grab it.  Watch them dissect the Raiders defense.

San Diego (-9) at Cincinnati:  The Bengals are self-destructing.  TO and Ochocinco have thrown Marvin Lewis under the bus.  The natives in the Jungle are restless and this will only fuel their lust for new blood.

Seattle at Tampa Bay (-7):  The Bucs are furious about having the game stolen from them last week with the phantom Pass Interference call on Kellen Winslow.  The Seahawks aren't a road warrior type of team.  Bucs big.

NY Giants at Green Bay (-2.5):  Aaron Rodgers is back for the Pack.  And who knows how the Giants respond to the choke job against the Eagles last week.  I'll take the home team and watch for the thin ice under Tom Coughlin.

Minnesota at Philadelphia (-15.5):  I see a 30 point victory by the Eagles.  And revenge will be the incentive.  Brad Childress and Andy Reid are great friends.  I'm sure that Reid thinks that Chilly got a raw deal in Minnesota this year, so he will go for the jugular.  I also predict that the Vikings quit by the middle of the 2nd Quarter.

New Orleans at Atlanta (-1):  I will take Matt Ryan and his record in Atlanta against anybody.  It will be close and nasty, but give me the Dirty Birds and they clinch the NFC South.

Record For Week 15: 62.5% Winning Percentage

Overall: 10-6 Favorites: 8-3. Road Favorites: 3-0. Home Favorites: 5-3. Underdogs: 2-3. Road Underdogs: 1-3. Home Underdogs: 1-0.

Season:  56.7% Winning Percentage

Overall Record: 125-95-3. Favorites: 83-70-2. Road Favorites: 40-25-2. Home Favorites: 43-45. Underdogs: 43-25-1. Road Underdogs: 28-20-1. Home Underdogs: 16-5.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Coaching Changes In College Football

And my take on why the new coach will or won't succeed in their new homes.

Maryland Terrapins:  If you go beyond the PR nightmare and the perception that the Maryland Athletic Department has no clue about anything after firing Ralph Friedgen with an 8-4 record this year and a Bowl game yet to be played, the Administration did themselves a favor.  Nothing against Coach Friedgen, but when your history shows that 4 out of your last 7 years are losing records, you don't have a long leash.  And I am sure that the administration was worried that he couldn't pull another 8-4 record out of his hat next year.  Add to the fact that the coach's contract is up after next year and he wants an extension at a heftier price, it makes sense to boot his ass out now.  I am also sure that the marketability of the Terps football program played a role in this.  When the bowls can choose the team that they invite from your conference and with Maryland in 3rd place in the ACC and getting bypassed until the 7th ACC school choice, the coach needs to be good and be able to get the program to look better than it does now.  And Coach Friedgen cannot do that.  If Mike Leach is the pick, then the Terps have a chance to become a sexy pick with the flinging the football around and might become a program that Bowl games want at their game.

Minnesota Golden Gophers:  After being teased by the AD saying that he was looking to make a splash with the hiring of a coach that had the stature of Tubby Smith, the fans revolted when the name Jerry Kill became the choice for Head Football coach.  And after the uproar has died down and doing some research on the new coach, I think that this is a good hire.  He has shown that he can coach in the lower levels (Southern Illinois and Northern Illinois).  He has a fast-paced offenseive scheme that will cause recruits to actually look at Minnesota.  His assistants and he are loyal to one another and I think that he can bring the Gophers back from the depths of the Big 10 into a 4th or 5th place team that every five years might have a shot at a Big 10 title.

Pittsburgh Panthers:  Um, let's start with the positives here.  Dave Wannstedt is gone.  He should have been fired a couple of years ago.  The new coach does have enthusiasm which Wannstedt didn't have.  But the replacement is almost a complete unknown.  Mike Haywood won during his 2 years at Miami (Ohio), but hasn't shown over a period of time that he can recruit or continuously have his teams playing for conference titles.  His game management skills are shaky.  The MAC Championship game against Northern Illinois showed his shakiness.  It was luck not his in game coaching that had Miami winning that title.  That said, if he can get the Pitt program that should be a national power up and feeling good about itself and playing in BCS Bowl Games, then it is a good hire.  Otherwise, it is just another young hot coach that needed more seasoning before he came to play with the big boys.

Miami Hurricanes:  The U fired Randy Shannon saying that a 28-22 record and cleaning up the cesspool that was the Miami football program wasn't what they expected.  That they expected to be playing for conference and National Championships.  The Administration has too many expectations.  Look at the programs that are playing for National Championships.  They are on the shadier side of the rules.  The firing of Shannon might have been warranted, but I wouldn't have done it.  So they bring in Al Golden from Temple.  And while Golden did good things at Temple, they are overblown in my mind.  Yes, he got Temple to a Bowl Game.  But he wasn't playing in the Big East.  He was coaching in the MAC.  And that says that yes, he can coach and even get some players to a Mid-Major school.  Now the job Golden has to do will be magnified 20 fold.  Does the "U" get back to it's glory days?  Not with this hire.

Florida Gators:  Will Muschamp is a very excited guy.  So excited that other Head Coaches that were watching his inaugural press conference at the Gator's Head Coach were texting him to tell him to settle down a little bit.  And while Urban Meyer was seen as an offensive coach, Muschamp is the architect of a BCS winning defense for Texas in 2005 and is known as a defensive guru.  He was the Longhorns' coach-in-waiting, but jumped at this chance.  Florida has youth and experience coming into this season.  31 Freshmen or Redshirted-freshmen played for the Gators last year and that experience will help with the Gators rising up back into an Elite program for the near future.  Muschamp is a great choice by the Gators and I cannot wait to see what he does with the program.  All I know is that I will be rooting for Florida's opponent each and every weekend.

And as for the other Head Coaching changes like Kent State, Indiana, Vanderbilt and others, they aren't in this discussion because they are perennial bad teams, or they aren't major college programs and I don't see any of them rising up and becoming the cram of the crop anywhere except in their own little world.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Long, Cold Winter in Packerland

I had the feeling that instead of a "Pats Are the Greatest" blog entry, I was going to write a "Fire McCarthy" entry. Two pivotal play was Flynn's pick-six where no one could tackle Arrington; and, of course, Connolly's 71-yard return near the end of the 1st half in which the Pats were able to convert and cut the lead to 17-14 at half-time. Tackle the fucker, Peprah, and don't let him rumble on for another 30 yards.

Yeah, this was Flynn's first start basically as a third year rookie, but he held on to the ball too long on those sacks. I blame McCarthy because they had the Pat's defense tired and being shredded with the ground game, and instead they throw the ball, get sacked, incompletions, and give the ball back to Brady. Then, instead of putting pressure on Brady, they sit back and allow him all day to make completions -- UUgghhh. And then, when you got 1st and goal at the 2, why line up Kuhn as the fullback and give him dive calls and then allow the corner to come in and make the play?

So I so during the game, the terrible talking heads said something about Belichick being in his 11th year of coaching the Pats and McCarthy being in his 5th. How many rings did Belichick have after 5 years? I bet you a lot more than McCarthy at the same time. McCarthy can't win the close ones. Did you see the stat about since 2008 that the Pack is the worst at loses of 8 pts or less with zero wins this season? He needs to go. Ahhh, stop me before I puke.

The Pack need to win out their last two games to make it to the playoffs. I seriously doubt that, and that will make it a long, cold winter in Packerland.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Week 15 NFL Predictions and Week 14 Results

San Francisco at San Diego (-10):  I will take my chances on giving double digits to the 49ers based on the Chargers MO over the past years.

New Orleans (+1) at Baltimore:  The ravens defense has given up too many scoring drives and let teams back into games.  The Saints are 10-3 and the defending Super Bowl Champions.  They know how to play against good teams on the road.

Arizona at Carolina (-2.5):  All the numbers point to Arizona.  But I'm playing a hunch that Steve Smith calling out Jimmy Clausen last week will have the Panthers in a feisty mood.

Cleveland (+1.5) at Cincinnati:  If the Browns do fire Eric Mangini after this year, it will be without cause.  The Browns roster stinks and Mike Holmgren is showing why he was a failure in Seattle as a GM.

Washington at Dallas (+7):  Even a 5th Down couldn't get the Redskins a victory last week.  Now they play Dallas who is looking like the team we thought they would be at the beginning of the year.

Jacksonville at Indianapolis (-4.5):  The Jags are playing over their heads and the Colts are slumming this year.  It doesn't matter in this game though.  Watch for Manning to have a great day throwing the ball against the Jags secondary.

Buffalo (+5) at Miami:  The Dolphins season is essentially over now.  The Bills are fighting for respectability.  I can see the Bills going home with a straight out victory here.

Philadelphia at NY Giants (-2):  Both teams need this win badly.  The Eagles a little more than the Giants.  But the talent is better on the Blue sideline than the Green.  Look for the running game of the Giants to power this win.

Kansas City at St. Louis (NL):  No lines because of the uncertainty of Mat Cassel.  I say that he plays and the Chiefs regain the swagger that was missing last week in San Diego.

Detroit at Tampa Bay (-5.5):  The Lions have a Defensive Line and skill positions working for them.  It won't be enough against the Bucs that are on a Race to 10 that might not be enough to get them into the playoffs.

Houston (+1) at Tennessee:  It is starting to look like Jeff Fisher is losing the team and the support of his owner.  I don't like a team that gives up on their coach to do much.

Atlanta (-7) at Seattle:  I am going against my gut on this one and going with conventional wisdom.  Seattle usually plays well at home and the Falcons aren't great on the road.

Denver at Oakland (-7):  The Raiders offense looks good.  Now if the defense could do something, the Raiders would be in business.  The Broncos have quit and it is easy to see on the field.

NY Jets at Pittsburgh (-5.5):  It is starting to look like Matt Sanchez will be the second coming of Carson Palmer.  And that isn't a good thing.  Meanwhile the Steelers continue to roll down their schedule.

Green Bay at New England (NL):  The only question is how many points do the Packers give up.  If it is over 7, then they lose.  And I think that it will be more than 7.

Chicago at Minnesota (NL):  Take any Minnesota QB and have them face the Bears.  Not a good picture for the Purple.  The Monsters of the Midway might have the Division wrapped up after this week.

Record For Week 14: 62.5% Winning Percentage

Overall: 10-6 Favorites: 9-5. Road Favorites: 4-4. Home Favorites: 5-1. Underdogs: 1-1. Road Underdogs: 0-1. Home Underdogs: 1-0.

Season:  56.3% Winning Percentage

Overall Record: 115-89-3. Favorites: 75-67-2. Road Favorites: 37-25-2. Home Favorites: 38-42. Underdogs: 41-22-1. Road Underdogs: 27-17-1. Home Underdogs: 15-5.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Better Get Your Popcorn For This One

This is Colton Orr’s fight against Zack Stortini from last night’s game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Edmonton Oilers. Enjoy!

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Firing Line

I haven't had a rant about things that have irritated me over the past month or 2 about sports.  So I decided that after 2 incidents this past weekend that had me wanting having people get their jobs taken away, that I would post about it.

Person That Should Be Fired:  Jets Assistant Coach Sal Alosi.

The game of football is brutal and you need to keep a constant watch out for cheapshots that happen each and every game.  However, you shouldn't have to watch out for an Assistant coach on the sideline making knee-on-knee contact and possibly destroying your NFL career.  But that is exactly what happened to Dolphins Cornerback Nolan Carroll.  He was covering a punt, the 2 Jets defenders pushed him out of bounds and then the Assistant stuck his leg out to trip Carroll.  He should have been fired on Sunday night and while the NFL cannot fire him, they should suspend him for 20 games and also fine the Jets $750,000.  Might get lots of people's attention and make it known that this is not acceptable behavior from the word go.

Group That Should Be Fired:  Chain Gang From the Bucs-Redskins Football game. 

This piece of cheating almost cost the Buccaneers a victory on Sunday.  The person that had the 1st Down marker instead of extending the chains all the way, went 1 yard short.  So the Redskins achieved a 1st Down when on a 1st Down play they got 9 yards.  And the NFL is complicit in this as well.  They are saying that nothing went wrong.  Well, to the NFL and the employers of the chain gang.  Bite me.  They tried to cheat the visiting team out of a victory.  That is not acceptable.

Person That Should Be Fired:  Ed Wade

God, if I wasn't such a big Astros fan, I would be a free agent with all the mistakes that Ed Wade has made with the roster of the Astros.  I shook my head when he was made GM by Drayton McLane.  And now look at the roster that he has.  Carlos Lee and Hunter Pence are the top stars.  Michael Bourn might develop into a good leadoff player, but the infield and Pitching is in shambles.  Brett Wallace at 1st?  Manzella or Sanchez at SS?  Chris Johnson at 3B and 4 possibilities at 2B.  Nice to see that we are non-players in the Free agent market.  And after Wandy Rodriguez, the starting staff is suspect at best.   Wade should be fired and bring in a President of Baseball Operations that will hire a GM that actually knows what they are doing, before we become the Pittsburgh Pirates.

People That Should Be Fired:  NCAA President Mark Emmert, SEC Commissioner Mike Silve, Auburn AD Jay Jacobs, and Auburn Coach Gene Chizik.

All for the Cam Newton fiasco which is currently ongoing.  Emmert for not requiring the SEC to follow their own bylaws.  Silve and the Auburn poeple for not abiding by the SEC bylaws.  See the post that I did about this here.

Person That Should Be Fired:  Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford.

This is the hardest one on my list.  He made shrewd moves in the past and actually got the Hurricanes a Stanley Cup.  But now look at what the product has become over the past 3 years.  We either have no shot at the playoffs or barely squeak in.  And the surprise run to the Eastern Conference finals against the Flyers a few years ago was more luck than anything.  We have a legitimate superstar in Eric Staal and a Stanley Cup winning Goalie in Cam Ward, but there has been very little other help that we have received.  The young players still need seasoning and the veterans that they have brought in on the cheap haven't helped.  I respect Mr. Rutherford for his accomplishments, but the time has come for the Hurricanes to have a new captain in the Front Office.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The price of not having a salary cap

I feel bad for the fans of the middle and small market teams in Major League Baseball, I really do.  Am I excited about the players the Red Sox picked up at the Winter Meetings?  Absolutely.  Who wouldn't be excited to add Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford to their teams.  The problem is that fans of most major league teams can't even fantasize about that possibility.  In fact, they get to look forward to losing great stars like these if they came up with their franchises.
As a life-long, multi-generation Red Sox fan, I know this is the only way we can compete with the Yankees.  I'm absolutely convinced that within the constraints of a salary cap the Red Sox management more often than not would build a better team than the Yankees, who get to rely having much more money than anyone else, including the Red Sox, and that tradition of winning, a tradition that'll never end as long as they can always outspend.  They can afford to make mistakes on these huge salaries, essentially eating the cost, and just go out and buy more talent.  Don't fool yourselves into thinking the Red Sox can do that.
At least the Red Sox have the wherewithal to shoot a big wad on occasion, something most teams can't do; but they cannot afford to do it every year, make a mistake or have bad luck.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Week 14 predictions and Week 13 results

Indianapolis (-3.5) at Tennessee:  I predict that Peyton gets things turned around against the Titans.

Cleveland (+1) at Buffalo:  I think that Mangenius has the Browns pointing the right way for the future. 

Atlanta (-9) at Carolina:  The Falcons should have no problems with this game.

Green Bay (-7) at Detroit:  I like what Jim Schwartz is doing in Detroit.  That said, don't expect the Packers to be seriously challenged here.

Oakland at Jacksonville (-4):  The Raiders are still in the AFC West chase.   Unbelieveable.  After this week, I don't think they will be.

NY Giants (-2) at Minnesota:  Leslie Frazier is 2-0 as the Vikings head coach.  Now he has some real competition.

Cincinnati at Pittsburgh (-9.5):  Come one, come all!  See the last four games of Marvin Lewis as Bengals head coach starting with this game against the Steelers and see the losing continue.

Tampa Bay (-2) at Washington:  Tampa is the youngest team in the league and is more talented than the Redskins.  Maybe the Haynesworth drama being over will help the Redskins, maybe not.

St Louis at New Orleans (-10):  Drew Brees should have a good day against the Rams secondary.

Seattle at San Francisco (-5.5):  Two teams that are not good but still in the NFC West title contention.  I don't like even thinking about taking Seattle on the road.

New England (-3) at Chicago:  Best team in the NFL will beat the Bears.

Denver (-4) at Arizona:  Arizona has quit on the season.  The Broncos have stopped all the drama by firing Josh McDaniels.  They should be able to win.

Miami at NY Jets (-5.5):  Imagine how  angry the Jets are since New England embarrassed them.  And the Dolphins need a good quarterback.

Kansas City at San Diego (-7):  If Matt Cassel did not have an appendectomy, I would have went with the Chiefs.  But him being out or limited means that the chargers will control this game.

Philadelphia at Dallas (+3.5):  I am starting to believe in Jason Garrett.  We will see how well he is with this game.

Baltimore (-2.5) at Houston:  The Ravens are a real dangerous team coming off a loss.  Watch for them to blow out the Texans.

Record For Week 12:

Overall: 11-5 Favorites: 6-2. Road Favorites: 2-1. Home Favorites: 4-1. Underdogs: 5-3. Road Underdogs: 4-1. Home Underdogs: 1-2.


Overall Record: 105-83-3. Favorites: 66-62-2. Road Favorites: 33-21-2. Home Favorites: 33-41. Underdogs: 40-21-1. Road Underdogs: 27-16-1. Home Underdogs: 14-5.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Hate on that, Jet fans

Just a little clinic.  Wanna see what a team that runs its mouth before accomplishing anything looks like when it starts to get its ass kicked?  See the Jets in the second half of this game.
A little tidbit stat for you.  Tom Brady just moved into 13th all time in TD passes with 252.  Do you know who he passed, as it were?  Another very fine and underrated Patriot quarterback, Drew Bledsoe, who doesn't get nearly enough credit for where this franchise is right now.
Final score:  Patriots-45 Jets-3

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Just Sweep The Chargers, Baby!

IMG_5117The graphic on the above picture says it all. Jason Campbell (pictured) led the Oakland Raiders to their second straight victory over the Los Angeles -- oops, San Diego Chargers, dealing San Diego a near death blow in their chances to win the AFC West division crown. If the Chargers don’t beat the Kansas City Chiefs next weekend, it’s all over and we’ll have a new division champion.

The Raiders are two games behind the Chiefs with four games left in the season, but they’re 4-0 against the AFC West and still have to play the Broncos and Chiefs head-to-head so it’s still a two-horse race leading up to their showdown in Kansas City on Week 17.

BOOM: Raiders rookie linebacker Rolando McClain is developing a reputation as a ferocious tackler and today he made Chargers running back Darren Sproles go “lights out” with a clean tackle late in the second quarter.

Things That Make BoSox Fans Shriek In Horror

IMG_5110I rummaged through a box of old trading cards this morning and found this button along with one for Tony Armas and Tom Seaver. Why I kept this particular one for the past quarter century and how it survived without meeting the business end of a ball pien hammer I have no idea.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Nazem Kadri Has Magic Hands, And So Does Tim Thomas

Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas is not only having an MVP-type season, but he may end up with one of the best seasons a goalie has ever had in my lifetime. In what would be a great effort for most goalies, Thomas had a minor hiccup and gave up two goals in regulation against the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight.

After a ho-hum overtime period, both teams went to a shootout to determine the winner. Leafs rookie/superstar in training Nazem Kadri showed us what Hockey Night in Canada commentator Don Cherry meant when he said Kadri has “magic hands”.

That is one sick goal on a top flight goalie. To be fair, you *must* see this save Thomas made on Francois Beauchemin in overtime that I doubt any other NHL goalie would have made.

That was incredible! Great game by both teams.

Cam Newton Situation Is A NCAA Scandal

“If at any time before or after matriculation in a member institution a student-athlete or any member of his/her family receives or agrees to receive, directly or indirectly, any aid or assistance beyond or in addition to that permitted by the Bylaws of this Conference… such student-athlete shall be ineligible for competition in any intercollegiate sport within the Conference for the remainder of his/her college career."

That is from the SEC Bylaws.  And if you read this in plain English, it would read:

If a student or a member of their family receives or agrees to receive anything in addition to the scholarship of the student by any school of the conference, the student is ineligible to play sports in the SEC for their lifetime.

But with Auburn being on the cusp of the National title game and Newton bringing home the Heisman in a couple of weeks, neither the school or the SEC Commissioner Mike Silve is willing to do what is required of them.  That is to declare Cam Newton ineligible to play collegiate sports in the SEC for his entire life.   It is what is right and what the rules of the SEC says need to be done.  But they are worried more about the money than what is right to do for this kid and others.

And that is where the NCAA should step in.  Auburn, the SEC and the NCAA all agree that Newton's dad solicited money from Mississippi State to have his kid enroll at that university.  So what does the NCAA do?  They go to Auburn and tell them to declare Newton ineligible on a Tuesday, so they can reinstate him on Wednesday.  What?!  According to the NCAA talking point, this is routine in an investigation and happens every week in the NCAA conferences.  Really?  So why haven't we ever heard of this before?  And why do we have potential All-Americans in basketball from Kentucky and Kansas that have their eligibility cases go on month after month where they don't know what is going on, but Auburn gets this thing done at light speed? 

My personal belief is that there was actual money that changed hands here.  But it isn't from institution to a family.  It is from an institution to the governing body.  I will never be able to prove it, but I believe that Auburn has paid off the NCAA in this investigation.  I can see a wealthy booster from Auburn or a couple of boosters talking to someone in the investigation that has power and slipping him money or other things to have this blow over.  Because what happens after Auburn possibly wins the National Championship and Newton wins the Heisman doesn't matter.  Because Auburn will always have a national championship.  You can take away the trophy and strike the records, but every week for the rest of time, there will be at least one person that sees Auburn winning the National Championship for this year.  The same thing for Newton winning the Heisman.  He will always have that moment in the spotlight of winning the award, no matter what happens to him later in life.

The NCAA has put their head in the sand here and I am sure that there will be more potentially damaging things that come out about the Newton's shakedowns at Mississippi State and possibly other schools.  And I would suspect that Cam knew all about what was going on.  The NCAA might not have the rule or bylaw that would make Cam Newton ineligible to play football for the rest of the season, but they should force their member conferences to follow their bylaws.  Otherwise, why do we need the NCAA? 

And the last point that I will make is that this opens the Pandora's Box for recruiting and additional benefits for families.  If the standard for this is that the student doesn't know and he is still eligible and the family can request all of these things, then imagine a 5-Star recruit out of Florida.  The family can request cruises, cars, homes, cash, and other things and then lie to the student and it is all legal under the NCAA standard that is being shown here.  But don't actually give a kid a ride in a golf cart across campus because that will cause the kid to be ineligible.  The NCAA needs to take a hard look at their rules and figure out whether or not they are going to enforce them or just play games.  Because this situation with Cam Newton stinks to high heaven and they are the main cause.  I only hope that the NCAA makes the right decision and starts enforcing the rules on everyone.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Week 13 NFL Predictions and Week 12 Results

Houston at Philadelphia (-9.5):  Asanti Samuel appears like he will play.  That is the key to a big Eagles victory.

New Orleans (-7) at Cincinnati:  I'll take the team that has something to play for.

Chicago at Detroit (+3):  Something is telling me that the Lions come out and play the Bears real hard.

San Francisco at Green Bay (-10):  I believe that the Packers will make a statement after losing to the Falcons last week.

Denver at Kansas City (-10):  Think Josh McDaniels seat is warm now, just wait until the Broncos stumble in December.

Cleveland (+4.5) at Miami:  I am taking Payton Hillis over the Dolphins backfield and say that the Brownies keep it close.

Buffalo (+5.5) at Minnesota:  I was less than enthused about the Vikings victory last week.  I expect the same bad offense from the purple and the defense isn't facing the Redskins again this weekend.

Washington at NY Giants (-8):  Both teams have looked bad the past couple of weeks.  The talent level is so much greater on the Giants, that they are able to turn it around faster.

Jacksonville at Tennessee:  No lines on this game.  Take the Jaguars to win this game.

Oakland (+13.5) at San Diego:  I'm going out on a limb here.  The Chargers are in their 2nd half of the season juggernaut mode and the Raiders are doing the same things that they have done the past 5 years.  No way Oakland wins, but I'll say that they keep it close.

Atlanta at Tampa Bay (+2):  The Bucs almost beat the Falcons in Atlanta where Matt Ryan is 19-1 as the starter.  I'll take Tampa at home and tightening up that NFC South race.

St. Louis (-3) at Arizona:  My heart wants the Cardinals to win so we possibly could have a 7-9 division winner.  The head says that the Cardinals have quit on the season.

Dallas (+5) at Indianapolis:  The Colts don't look like their usual selves and the Cowboys under Jason Garrett have impressed me.  Give me the upset.

Carolina at Seattle (+7):  The Panthers are on the road and don't really care.  The 12th Man in Seattle will be rockin'.

Pittsburgh (+2.5) at Baltimore:  Toss up on this one.  I look for the Steelers to come out and play as nasty as the Ravens.  I think Roethlisberger will be the difference in this game.

NY Jets at New England (-3.5):  Another Toss Up.  I think that Belichick wants to prove that he, not Rex Ryan is the genius in the division. 

Record For Week 12:

Overall:  9-7  Win Pct:  56.3%  Favorites:  5-6.  Road Favorites:  2-2.  Home Favorites:  3-4. Underdogs:  4-1.  Road Underdogs:  3-1.  Home Underdogs:  1-0.

Overall Record:  94-78-3.  Winning Percentage:  54.6%  Favorites:  60-60-2.  Road Favorites:  31-20-2.  Home Favorites:  29-40.  Underdogs:  35-18-1.  Road Underdogs:  23-15-1.  Home Underdogs:  13-3.  

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

That's what a great coach looks like

Even a month and a half before his death Jimmy V was ebullient in his love of life.

Just watched this on ESPN for probably the 10th time. If you've never seen this speech, it is a must-see. It is the greatest speech I've ever seen. It is profound in its courage, wisdom and hope. I dare you not to tear up and smile at the same time. The man was infectious.  Wouldn't you wish your coach or your father was like this man, someone who could help give a young person the confidence in themselves to be their best that is the rarest and most precious commodity of the human spirit.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Big News: TCU Going To The Big East

I told you months ago that the moving around in the conferences wasn't done.  And this move of TCU from the Mountain West to the Big East is big news.  For more than one reason.

Reason #1:  It means that the Horned Frogs are now in an automatic qualifying conference for Football.  And that is huge.  Imagine if TCU makes the BCS 3 out of the next 5 years.  That is money rolling into TCU that they could never get in the MWC.  And that more than anything will allow the school to increase their profile in sports and in academics.

Reason #2:  The Horned Frogs other sports programs will be able to improve.  Imagine a TCU Woman's Basketball team that gets to play UConn at least twice a season.  Now when they recruit, they can use the conference to get players that might have not considered TCU before.  After all, if you want to be a UConn Lady Husky and they decide that you aren't good enough to be recruited by them, you might decide to go to another program in the same conference to gain some measure of revenge.  It's the same for the other TCU sports teams.  Improve visibility and improved opposition will get you a better player to recruit.

Reason #3:  An in to the lucrative Texas markets to the Big East.  Imagine now how Rutgers or Louisville will start to recruit around the Dallas.Fort Worth area.  Come play for us and your family will still get to see you play.  You will get to come back home at least every other year and play in front of your friends and family.  Just seems like it will improve all the Big East teams, not just TCU.

Reason #4:  The Big 12 gets hurt in their quest to rebuild their conference.  TCU wouldn't have brought much in expanding the conference borders and where it is seen, but it also would have kept the Big East out of Texas.  Now in Texas, you have The Big 12, The Big East, The SEC, Conference USA, and The Sun Belt having a presence there.  That is a lot of conferences and teams that are going to be recruiting there with an actual chance to be seen.  The Big 12 is down to 10 teams and Missouri just needs to be asked by any other conference and they will be gone.  Texas is starting their own TV network and has bullied the rest of the Big 12 for preferential treatment.  So now you are down to 9 teams and Texas acting like king shit.  Who do you get to come into the league and get the conference strong again?  Houston?  Memphis?  BYU?  The thing about TCU was it would give the Big 12 a respectable name to come in and stop the watching of the conference dissolve.

Reason #5:  The Mountain West is no better off than they were at the beginning of realignment.  The MWC had thoughts of being an automatic qualifier for the BCS with the acquisition of Boise St., Fresno St., and Nevada.  Imagine having a conference with the Top 4 teams being the 3 mentioned and TCU.  If you could get BYU to come back after their experiment in being an independent, you would have 5 teams that are almost always mentioned in the lower half of the Top 25.  It would look better than the current Big East roster of teams.  Hell, it might look better than the vaunted ACC.  But now you have Boise St., Air Force, Fresno St., and Nevada as your top 4 teams.  Utah is in the Pac-12.  BYU left because of inactivity of the WAC to get a better TV contract.  and TCU left for an automatic qualifier conference.  If I were the Conference Commissioner, I wouldn't stand still right now.  I would be pounding down the President's door at the University of Houston, SMU, and Missouri.  I don't think that Missouri would come, but I would try.  For the 12th team, go and get Tulsa.

Watch out for more realignment this offseason from football.  After all when a team from Texas is in a conference with teams from Connecticut, Florida, and New York, there is no reason that other nonsensical alignments cannot happen.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Sitting on the Redskins Suck Bubble

There comes a time in the life of a fan when you have to scream and laugh at the same time. For some fans, every time your team plays, that’s the time. It’s come to that for the Washington Redskins. A once very and perennially tough team, it seems the Skins have been permanently relegated to the league’s “folding table,” where the Bengals, Lions, and Clippers (ooops, that's the wrong league!) sit at Thanksgiving. For the Redskins, the last 18 years have been more than just a Super Bowl drought, it’s been a “winning season” famine! Since winning the 1992 Super Bowl, the Skins have had a .500 record only nine times (the best being 10-6 in ‘99 and ‘05), been to the playoffs only three times, and won its division once. Once! In the 28 years between 1971 and 1999, the team has had a losing season (less than .500) only five times! Since Dan Snyder’s been the owner (’99), the team has gone 85-101. Two weeks ago, the Redskins took a double “bitch-slapping” from the Philadelphia Eagles 59-28. For all intents and purposes, the “E-A-G-L-E-S EAGLES!” scored 35 pts (not 28) in the 1st quarter since their first score of the 2nd quarter was a continuation of a 1st quarter drive and the score happened only 48 seconds in.
I’m a die-hard, loyal, rabid DC sports fan—a “homer.” For decades, the Skins earned a reputation of having the hardest season ticket to get. I’ve had mine for the past 4 years, but I might as well have bought them off the back of a truck because the games are no longer “fun” to go to, or to watch. If you want to get a first-hand impression of how really pissed off Skins fans are about their beloved team, listen to the now classic post-Eagles/Skins game rant ( of Chad Dukes of the “LaVar Arrington Show with Chad Dukes” (WFAN 106.7) as he went “Duke Nuke ‘Em” on the Skins. Man, he said it all, and then some!!!
We got to the stadium at 5:00, did the obligatory tailgate, razzed every Eagles fan we saw—it seemed like every other person was wearing green and white. Then settled in our seats for what we were sure to be a slug fest. Within seconds of the opening kickoff, I was texting smack to my Eagles friend—then it happened. TOUCHDOWN! TOUCHDOWN!! TOUCHDOWN!!! TOUCHDOWN!!!! TOUCHDOWN!!!!! Then it started to rain. My “pisstivity” with the Skins didn’t start with those five consecutive TDs—I pretty much gave up on the game with the first 2 TDs within two minutes. Now what pissed me off was the long walk down the ramp from our Section 400 seats. At 35-0, in the pouring rain, half the stadium was bailing and the FedEx workers wouldn’t let us down the escalator—they made us walk because they expected more fans to arrive! As I slogged down that ramp, I just got madder and madder—and I hadn’t heard Chad’s ranting yet—that didn’t occur until the next day. I was fuming, steaming mad, but I was chuckling at the same time. “Dan Snyder!” I thought aloud and began laughing.

San Diego Clippers: Doomed From The Beginning

San Diego ClippersFor many years I’ve wondered why the San Diego Clippers never succeeded before Donald Sterling bought the team and moved them to Los Angeles. Tonight I decided to check out for the answers and it’s stunning how the former Buffalo Braves (what the Clippers were before 1978) franchise mismanaged their assets in the years before they left New York state for sunny Southern California.

Did you know the San Diego Clippers could have had a frontcourt in 1979-80 with Moses Malone, Cliff Robinson and Kermit Washington? Or a backcourt with Adrian Dantley? How about a frontcourt of Brad Daugherty, Charles Barkley, Terry Cummings and Tom Chambers seven years later along with guards Byron Scott and Danny Ainge? It’s all true. The Clippers could have been a successful NBA franchise in San Diego but the moves the team made years earlier killed any chance the team had of developing a fan base.

Here’s how it all went wrong, starting with Malone and Robinson:

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Hurricanes are still the Bruins' daddy

Nothing's changed since the playoffs where the Canes came back on the Bruins after being down 3-zip.  As of the writing of this piece, the Canes are 3-3 on the power play.  If you'd like to watch a game that defines the thought that hockey can be the most aggravating sport at times, it's this one.  One team's goalie stands on his head while his team is being outplayed, yet they take advantage of their opportunities on the power play to win a game they had no business winning.  Only in hockey.  I think the 'Canes scored 3 power play goals on 4 shots.

Much props to Cam Ward, who was outstanding in this game and is no slouch at all between the pipes. So standing on his head comes as no surprise, getting his first shutout of the season in this game.  And no team is better than the Hurricanes at holding a lead, which usually comes down to great goaltending and smart play with the puck.  So congrats to the Hurricanes for winning a game where they didn't play well or at least as well as the opposition, on the road no less.  That's a sign of a good team.  Repeat after me:  Special teams and goaltending, special teams and goaltending...
By the way, congrats to Mark Recchi on scoring his 1500th point the other night.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Week 12 NFL Predictions and Week 11 Results

New England (-7) at Detroit.  I don't see a letdown from the Patriots after an emotional win against the Colts last week.

New Orleans (-4) at Dallas.  There are people picking Dallas with the upset.  That being said, the Saints are 7-3.  Their offense is starting to click, and the Dallas defense still isn't up to snuff.

Cincinnati at NY Jets (-9).  I don't like the line being this high for the Jets.  Their offense is missing something.  Maybe the Bungles coming to town will cure what ails them.

Pittsburgh (-7) at Buffalo.  I think that the nastiness that the Raiders played the Stellers with last week will cause the Steelers to have a chip on their shoulder the rest of the season.  That's not good for the rest of the league.

Tennessee at Houston (-7).  Rusty Smith is the starting QB for the Tennessee Titans.  That is all you need to know.

Minnesota (E) at Washington.  Leslie Frazier will get his 1st win as Head Coach of the Vikings, despite the play of Brett Farve.  Vikings will be motivated after the head coaching change.

Green Bay at Atlanta (-2).  The Falcons are built for the tracks indoors of the NFL.  If this was at Lambeau, the pick would be the Green and Gold.

Carolina at Cleveland (-11).  The world is ending.  The Browns are double digit favorites.  But how do you not pick them against the worst team in the NFL this season. 

Jacksonville at NY Giants (-8).  Tom Coughlin has a soft spot in his heart for beating the Jaguars.  Look for the Giants to roll.

Kansas City (-2) at Seattle.  Kansas City is the better team but Seattle plays well at home.  I'll take the Chiefs to win by a field goal.

Tampa Bay at Baltimore (-9).  The Ravens defense is still extremely dangerous and will show that against a young Bucs offense.

St. Louis (+4) at Denver.  I am going against the grain here.  The Rams have not been Road Warriors and the passing game isn't vertical.  I still see them winning this game against a rebuilding Broncos team.

Philadelphia (-3) at Chicago.  A matchup to watch and see if Michael Vick can run roughshod over the Bears defense.  I say no, but he will get the Eagles the victory.

San Diego (+2.5) at Indianapolis.  The Chargers always give the Colts a game.  Usually winning in the process.  I'll take Rivers and the Bolts offense that is getting Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates back into the lineup this week.

San Francisco at Arizona (E).  Would anybody watch this game if it wasn't on Monday night?  Both teams have QB problems and at least one head coach won't be around next year.  I'll take Arizona.

Record For Week 11:

Overall:  12-4  Win Pct:  75.0%  Favorites:  8-2.  Road Favorites:  3-0.  Home Favorites:  5-2. Underdogs:  4-2.  Road Underdogs:  4-2.  Home Underdogs:  0-0.

Overall Record:  85-71-3.  Winning Percentage:  54.4%  Favorites:  55-54-2.  Road Favorites:  29-18-2.  Home Favorites:  26-36.  Underdogs:  31-17-1.  Road Underdogs:  19-14-1.  Home Underdogs:  12-3.  

Saturday, November 20, 2010

In Memoriam: Pat Burns (1952 - 2010)

"…I know my life is nearing its end and I accept that. As for my career, I always said to my kids, 'you don't cry because it's over, you're happy because it happened.' That's the main thing. I'm happy it happened." -- Former Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Pat Burns, March 26, 2010.

It’s been about eight hours since I found out former Leafs coach Pat Burns passed away and I’m still devastated. But at some point I have to write something about this and tonight I thought I’d share how I became a Leafs fan.

I didn’t know it at the time but my love for the Leafs started in the summer of 1986. Back then, San Diego was a hockey wasteland. The WHA’s San Diego Mariners folded nine years earlier and with the exception of the PHL’s San Diego Hawks (and the immortal Bill Goldthorpe) the only hockey games you saw on television were whatever Los Angeles Kings games you could pick up on KCAL with a rabbit ears antenna on a clear night.

The St. Louis Blues hockey team was owned at the time by La Jolla businessman Harry Ornest, and when the Blues announced they were going to play an exhibition game at the San Diego Sports Arena against the Calgary Flames in late September I made sure I was first in line to buy tickets for the game. The biggest reason why I wanted to go? I wanted to see Doug Gilmour, who was my favorite NHL player after Bobby Clarke retired two seasons earlier. They had a similar style of play, except Gilmour didn’t use his stick like a scalpel on his opponents like Clarke did.

I attended the game with a very attractive “girlfriend” and we sat right behind the Blues bench. It was one of the most enjoyable games I’ve ever attended. Not only did I get to see Gilmour, Rob Ramage and Greg Millen in action for the Blues, but I also got to see a very young and feisty Gary Roberts play in one of his first professional games. Not bad for $30, huh?

Let’s fast forward seven years later to the spring of 1993. I’m in my third year of my junior year of college at San Diego State (It’s a long story) and almost all Los Angeles Kings hockey games were now available on cable television in San Diego via the Prime Ticket network. Pro hockey had returned to San Diego in the form of the IHL’s San Diego Gulls and Gilmour was now a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs, a franchise I kept an eye on ever since they drafted Wendel Clark first overall in 1985.

That spring, both teams faced off in the Campbell Conference finals for the right to play the Montreal Canadiens for the Stanley Cup. I was impressed with the Leafs because they reminded me of the Oakland Raiders. Unlike my Kings, the Leafs were a blue-collar team that worked hard and mirrored their tough head coach, intimidated everyone that stood in their way and won more often than they lost. They didn’t retire uniform numbers (Bill Barilko and Ace Bailey excepted) and their fans were everywhere. Even here in San Diego!

My most vivid memories of Pat Burns were from Game 1. After Marty McSorley and Clark fought at the Kings blue line, Burns pointed a finger at Kings head coach Barry Melrose and tried to go after him. To this day I still think Burns would have ripped Melrose’s mullet out of his skull if those ushers and police weren’t between them.

Although the Kings prevailed in seven games, I have to admit my heart wouldn’t have been broken if the Leafs had won the series. They played my kind of hockey and up until I disowned the Kings a few seasons ago I rooted for both franchises --even if I had to keep my membership in Leafs Nation a secret for many years.

Pat Burns made me a Leafs fan. That is what I’ll remember about him the most.

Friday, November 19, 2010

3 Time Jack Adams Winner Pat Burns Dies At Age 58

Mr. Burns was the head coach of the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, and the Boston Bruins when he won his Jack Adams awards.  He won his only Stanley Cup as coach of the New Jersey Devils in 2003.  Lung Cancer is the cause of death.

“On behalf of the ownership, management, staff, and players of the New Jersey Devils, we are all deeply saddened by the loss of Pat Burns,” Devils’ President/CEO/General Manager Lou Lamoriello said in a statement. “Pat was a close friend to us all, while dedicating his life to his family and to the game of hockey. He has been part of our family here in New Jersey for eight years. Today, the hockey world has lost a great friend and ambassador. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Line, and the entire Burns’ family.”

God Speed Pat, and ensure that you take your turn coaching the great players that you will meet in heaven.

Packers vs. Redskins

On October 10, 2010, I attended the NFL game between the Green Bay Packers and Washington Redskins. My brother-in-law (BIL), his best friend, and another friend all flew in from my hometown Sheboygan, WI, to attend the game. It was quite hilarious that when we were setting this weekend up, my wife decided that she would fly to WI to visit my dad and sister while our BIL and friends came out to Virginia -- they actually passed each other in the airports.

My BIL's best friend is the Anheuser-Busch (AB) distributor back in Sheboygan. When they learned of this impending game, he sent an email to AB asking for tickets. AB sent him 4 "dream seat" tickets, Section 31, Row 3, in the east end zone. Basically, we were field level, 3 rows up. When I learned of what he received and found out that they're only available as a season ticket purchase and cost $5k per ticket per season. I was so concerned about getting hit with an ethics violations at work that I voluntarily spoke with the Ethics Officer before they arrived. She assured me that neither the DHS or OIG has contracts with AB, why I still can't figure out, and that they were given to my BIL's best friend, who would give one to me.

It was a beautiful, early fall day in VA. Not a cloud in the sky nor rain in the forecast. I believe the temperature at game time was in the 70's. We caught the Metro to FedEx Field and it is about a mile hike to the stadium (this Marine doesn't hump anymore), and we found fellow Sheboyganites to tail gate with. If you've seen the NFL commercial where it shows the fans who travel with their teams, look for the 1966 Dodge RV that's painted like a GB helmet. That's who we tailgated with. Every Packer fan knows you got to have brats at a tailgate; and another friend from Sheboygan, Chuck Miesfeld, who owns Miesfeld's Meat Market, was there. Johnsonville Brats are made in Sheboygan, but every Sheboyganite knows Miesfeld's is the best. I remember Redskins fans walking by the RV amazed at it, and owner telling them, "Free self-paced tours, just beware there's a 50 percent chance you'll be converted."

So we get to the seats, and they're just beautiful (I guess I owe AB a shout out for them.) We watch the warm-ups and OMG, these players look like highly trained thoroughbreds; well, except for the D and O linemen who are just incredible bulks. To see Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, Clay Matthews, and Jermichael Finley that close; they might have had 10% body fat combined.

In the 1st quarter, a pass is thrown to TE Donald Lee and he gets hit and fumbles the ball. Jermichael Finley tries to tackle whoever recovered the fumble and gets injured and is out, as we learn later for the season. Clay Matthews is living in the backfield of the Redskins and is giving Donovan McNabb hell. If you remember, the Packers scored a TD pass to Donald Lee in the 1st quarter, their only one, right in our end zone. It appears that Donald Lee sees green Packer jerseys and thinks about doing a Lambeau Leap, but changes his mind and gives high-5's instead. That was my BIL and his best friend he jumped to. We got pictures and video of it, there was even a guy from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel taking pics. What was funny is after it happened, they started getting text messages and phone calls from WI asking them, "Was that you?"

Well, as you know, in the 3rd quarter, Clay Matthews goes out with a hammy problem and there's no longer any pressure on McNabb. After leading 13-3 with over 11 minutes to play in the 4th quarter, the Skins come back, tie the game, and win it in OT. (Yeah, I'm the guy in the Packer hat and jersey right under the "Fox" logo.)

I got to say that for the most part the Skins fans were pretty good. For awhile it looked and felt like Lambeau East in the stadium, and most Skins fans didn't heckle us. Of course, after the game there were some assholes who wanted to rub their win in our face; but, overall, it was a polite host. Of course we were warned it wouldn't have been that way if the Skins were playing the Cowgirls or Eagles.

Overall, I rate my game experience as a 9. A 10 would have included a win, but we gave the game away, which some grizzled Skins fans recognized. That's a plus in my book that even die-hard fans recognize a gimme.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Week 11 NFL Predictions and Week 10 Results

I need to get on a hot streak over the final 7 weeks to even get over 65% correct.  So here we go.

Chicago (+2.5) at Miami.  The Bears are looking better on offense the past 2 weeks and couple that with their stifling defense, I look for the Bears to beat the Dolphins.

Washington at Tennessee (-8).  Two Jeckyl and Hyde teams here.  I can't shake the felling that the Redskins are still reeling from that debacle against the Eagles.

Buffalo (+5.5) at Cincinnati.  I am leery of any game that the Bengals are favored in.  Factor in the Palmer problems and the TO experiment going wrong in Cincy and I'll take the Bills.

Cleveland at Jacksonville (-1).  The Jaguars offense is starting to look good.  And I don't think that Colt McCoy will be able to exploit that Jaguars pass defense.

Green Bay (-3) at Minnesota.  The Vikings debacle of 2010 continues with the Packers beating the Purple and Gold.  The natives in Minnesota want to see Joe Webb and what he can do once the Vikings are officially eliminated from the playoffs, not T-Jack.  A week 13 injury for the year to Farve is a possibility. 

Oakland at Pittsburgh (-8).  I think the Steelers got the message after Jeff Reed got cut.  Look for the Raiders to slip back to .500 after this one.

Baltimore (-11) at Carolina.  Brian St. Pierre is starting at QB for Carolina.  People are upset that Tony Pike isn't getting the start.  When there is controversy about which 3rd string QB to start, you know that the football team isn't going anywhere.

Detroit (+7) at Dallas.  Dallas is getting too much credit for beating the Giants.  And the Lions are getting no respect after losing to the Bills.  Look for Megatron and Co. to keep it close and have a chance to win at the end.

Arizona at Kansas City (-9).  The Cardinals defense isn't good at all and I think Charlie Weis isn't going to throw the ball 50 times this game.

Houston at NY Jets (-8).  Matt Schaub will be playing on a hurt knee this weekend.  Look for Gang Green to blitz and see if Schaub is comfortable back there.  My guess is that he won't be.

Tampa Bay (+3) at San Francisco.  Tampa might not be the best team in the NFC but they are better than the 49ers.  Raheem Morris is a possible COTY candidate.  Mike Singletary is not.

Seattle at New Orleans (-13).  I'm taking a leap of faith with this one.  The Seahawks keep dogging games after winning impressively and the Saints offense hasn't looked like it was in 2009.  That said, look for the Saints to roll up and down the field.

Atlanta (-3) at St. Louis.  The Falcons should run away with this game.  They are the newly anointed best team in the NFC.  So therefore, it will be a nail biter with Atlanta pulling it out in the end.

Indianapolis (+3.5) at New England. These teams play close games.  And even though the Colts don't look like world beaters this year, they can beat All-World coach Belichick.  Look for Manning to keep this real close.

NY Giants (+3) at Philadelphia.  I like the Eagles, just not this week.  Look at the people laughing at the Giants play against the Cowboys last week.  I think the Giants come out and show people that they are a possible Super Bowl contender, not a laughingstock.

Denver at San Diego (-11).  The Chargers are starting to look like they are doing their late season hot streak yet again.  Watch for them to torch the Denver defense.

Record For Week 10:

Overall:  5-9  Win Pct:  35.7%  Favorites:  4-8.  Road Favorites:  2-3.  Home Favorites:  2-5. Underdogs:  1-1.  Road Underdogs:  1-1  Home Underdogs:  0-0.

Overall Record:  73-67-3.  Winning Percentage:  52.1%  Favorites:  47-52-2.  Road Favorites:  26-18-2.  Home Favorites:  21-34.  Underdogs:  27-15-1.  Road Underdogs:  15-12-1.  Home Underdogs:  12-3.  

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Ottawa Senators And Reality Away From The Ice

Hockey teams are always proving that they are a family.  It is the same this year with the Ottawa Senators as they are dealing with a death in the extended family.

Sometimes hockey has to take a back seat and that's why the Ottawa Senators have interrupted their four-game road trip to come home.

Before they face the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh, N.C., on Wednesday, the Senators attended an Ottawa memorial service for Daron Richardson, daughter of assistant coach Luke Richardson. She died Saturday at the age of 14.

The Senators learned of her death while beginning their trip in Boston on Saturday night. After playing at Philadelphia on Monday, they made an unexpected return home to pay their respects to Richardson, a former teammate and longtime NHL defenseman, and his family.

"We play hockey for a living, it's our job, but this is more important," Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson said.

Daron Richardson, the younger of Luke and Stephanie Richardson's two daughters, died of injuries resulting from her attempt to hang herself in the family's basement on Friday.

"It's difficult and when you have a family, you start questioning yourself as a parent," said Alfredsson, a father of three young boys. "What would you do, especially when it's coming out of the blue like this?"

The Richardson family is from Ottawa and is well known for its involvement in the community. As a result, a public celebration of Daron's life took place Wednesday morning on the arena floor at Scotiabank Place.

It is sad that Daron Richardson decided that life wasn't worth living.  I don't know the reasons that she decided it wasn't, but my prayers go out to her family and friends.  It goes to show you that even those families that you think have it made because they have money and fame are still just like everyone else.  And I tip my hat to the Senators organization and players.  They understand that their assistant coach is dealing with loss, questions, and uncertainty after this.  And they will be there supporting him and his family every chance that they get, I am sure of that. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Possible NFL Head Coaching Moves

Up here in the Northlands, we have a Head Coach on the hot seat.  The Vikings and Brad Childress look like they will be separated after the season and maybe even before that.  That got me to thinking about which other coaches could eb on teir way out of their current jobs after the season.  So I give you my list of coaches that I believe will be losing their head coaching jobs after the season.

1.  Brad Childress.  The natives are restless and want his scalp.  The seeds of this situation were planted last year during the Vikings 12-4 run.  The Childress/Farve dustups are what caused many of these problems this year.  When Farve basically told Childress that he was doing what he wanted and Childress didn't get the support of Team Management, the entire locker room swung away from the coach.  Just my opinion.  But he will be gone and look for the Vikings to start a major rebuilding project with a new Head Coach, a new quarterback, and about 6-8 veteran starters going to other teams.

2.  Marvin Lewis.  Last year of the contract.  Carson Palmer is regressing in his play.  You have TO and Ochocinco running their flaps nonstop. And Mike Brown hasn't provided the talent to keep the Bengals competitive.  The Bengals need a "strict" head coach, not a "players" coach like Lewis to keep the inmates from overrunning the guards at the asylum.  And with Lewis being a defensive guru, his Bengals defense hasn't looked good.

3.  John Fox.  He is also in the last year of his contract.  The Panthers have the lowest payroll in the league and ownership is still intent on cutting even more expenses.  Fox is a good coach when he gets some talent and that isn't going to happen in Carolina for a couple of years.  Panthers fans know that the ownership is nickeling and diming many things, but their thirst for change might be quenched by having John Fox leaving the head coaching position.

4.  Mike Singletary.  What can you say about this one.  The 1st head coaching stop for Samurai Mike has gone completely wrong.  I like his motivation and organizational skills, but if your head coach is weak on the actual X's and O's, your team isn't going anywhere.  Time management has been a disaster, and feuding with members of your team is not going to let you keep your job for long.  And the fact that the hype for the 49ers was big and starting 0-5 in a season where many people thought that you had an outside shot of making the Conference Championship game makes you a coach that won't be around in 2011.

5.  Gary Kubiak.  The Texans have under performed this year.  More specifically, the defense.  When you have all the draft picks and money that the Texans have tied up in that defense and it looks like a MAC team playing against the pass, there must be changes.  Add the fact that the Texans haven't made the playoffs in their existence and you have a couple of bad bullet points going against your head coach.  They beat Indy in Week 1 and everybody jumped on the bandwagon.  That will aslo play into the fact that I don't see Gary Kubiak in Houston next year.

6.  Jack Del Rio.  I said last year that Jack should have taken the USC job if it was offered to him.  And to Mr. Del Rio's credit, he has the Jags playing hard.  However, his seat was hot according to various NFL "insiders" last year.  Missing the playoffs this year will cause it to become scorching hot.  The ownership isn't happy about the lack of fans paying to see the Jaguars and are skimping on a couple of things.  Look for ownership to fire Del Rio to tell their fan base that we are changing and trying to win.  Whetehr or not that is true, is another story.

Those 6 are the coaches I feel will be released after this year.  The next 5 are if the teams go South before the season ends.

Eric Mangini - Browns.  I don't think that 5 wins saves his job.  7 might.

Josh McDaniels - Broncos.  Look at his record after the phenomenal start last year.  Pat Bowlen might make a move.

Norv Turner - Chargers.  The Chargers are a perennial playoff team and then choke in the playoffs.  Time to get a coach that knows what it takes.

Lovie Smith - Bears.  If the Bears don't make the playoffs, Lovie is out.  If the Bears lose in the Wildcard round of the playoffs, I still think Lovie is out.

Mike Shanahan - Redskins.  1st year in Washington and has alienated lots of his players according to reports.  I would be surprised if he does get fired, but with Dan Snyder being the owner, stranger things have happened.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Back to Alfond Arena

I shouldn't wait until I have relatives attending the University of Maine to get around to going to Alfond Arena.  With the exception of taking my daughters to see the women's basketball team there several years ago, Saturday night was the first time I'd seen a hockey game there since my brother was an undergrad, almost 21 years ago.  I did see them play in Portland at the Cumberland County Civic Center a few years ago.  At least I can brag that the Black Bears are 3-0 in games I've attended.
Saturday night I had dinner with my eldest daughter, a senior at Maine, and her new husband at their new apartment and then the three of us went to The Alfond for the second game of a weekend series with the Northeastern Huskies.
Things started out slow for Maine.  They weren't anticipating well nor coordinating very well, and the Huskies tactic of standing the faster Maine team up at the blue line was successful at disrupting Maine's rushes in the Offensive zone.  In the 2nd Maine seemed to be more together and tied the game during a power play but Northeastern managed to get the go-ahead goal late in the period.  Well, much to the delight of the always raucous and full Alfond, Maine made the proper adjustments and played like the better team, outscoring Northeastern 3-0 and winning the game 4-2, completing a weekend sweep.
Thanks again to my darling daughter and son-in-law for a very enjoyable evening, putting up with dad's need for sports.  I think they would confirm why Maine has such a great record at the venerable Alfond and why opposing teams don't like to come...the place is so intimate and the crowd is right on top of the rink that it's very loud and intimidating.
If you'd like a full game report, you can read this article from the Bangor Daily News.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Week 10 NFL Predictions and Week 9 Results

Week 10 Games

Baltimore at Atlanta (-1):  The Atlanta running game is better.  The Ravens defense is better.  Even matchup between the teams.  I'll take the home team.

Detroit at Buffalo (-2.5):  I don't trust Drew Stanton to play well for Detroit.  And even if Shaun Hill plays for the Lions, I don't think that he will finish the game.

NY Jets (-3) at Cleveland:  The difference in this game is Marc Sanchez and Colt McCoy doing against the respective defenses.  I favor Sanchez.

Houston (+1) at Jacksonville:  Schaub-Johnson is better than Garrard-Sims-Walker.  Both defenses are porous against the pass.  I'll take the Texans to keep their playoff hopes alive.

Carolina at Tampa Bay (-7.5):  Do you take a team that has Jimmy Clausen and Mike Goodson staring in the backfield to stay close at the final gun?  I don't think so.

Minnesota (E) at Chicago:  The only reason that I'm taking the Vikings is the talent level between the 2 teams.

Cincinnati at Indianapolis (-8.5):  Peyton Manning and the Colts are marching yet again into the playoffs.  The Bengals are as bad as the T.Ocho show.

Tennessee (-2) at Miami:  Good move in starting Chad Pennington, but I still don't see Miami winning.

Kansas City (-1) at Denver:  I expect the Chiefs to run, run, run, and run some more vs. the Broncos.  The Broncos won't be able to score enough with their offense sitting on the sidelines.

Dallas at NY Giants (-15.5):  The Cowboys train wreck cannot be turned around in 1 week.  And I don't think that Jason Garrett is the answer.

Seattle at Arizona (-3):  At 3-5, the Cardinals are in the drivers seat in the West.  They play Seattle, San Fran, St. Louis, Carolina, and Denver yet this season.  If they go 4-1 in those games, they have a major shot at winning the division.  It starts here.

St. Louis at San Francisco (-6):  Ugly game here.  Rams can't win on the road and cannot throw downfield.  The 49ers have won 2 games lately and are looking halfway decent.  I'll take the home team and the team starting to win.

New England (+4.5) at Pittsburgh:  Brady and Belichick are smarting after losing big against the Browns.  The Steelers have injuries on the offensive line and are coming off an emotional win vs. the Bengals.  Look for the Pats to roll inot Pittsburgh and come out with a win.

Philadelphia (-3) at Washington:  The reign of Mike Shanahan is causing many people to wonder if he has lost something since his Super Bowl winning teams.  Meanwhile, Andy Reid is pushing all the right buttons for the Eagles.

Record For Week 9:

Overall:  7-6  Win Pct:  53.8%  Favorites:  5-3.  Road Favorites:  3-3.  Home Favorites:  2-0. Underdogs:  2-3.  Road Underdogs:  2-1  Home Underdogs:  0-2.

Overall Record:  68-58-3.  Winning Percentage:  53.9%  Favorites:  43-44-2.  Road Favorites:  24-15-2.  Home Favorites:  19-29.  Underdogs:  26-14-1.  Road Underdogs:  14-11-1.  Home Underdogs:  12-3.