Archive for December, 2013

The Major League’s offseason is still going on, and Masahiro Tanaka is still singlehandedly plugging up the pitcher’s market. But lots has been done over the last few weeks, and we are going to check out which teams improved, and which teams took a step back.

Arizona Diamondbacks – Their 3-team deal with the White Sox and Angels landed them Mark Trumbo, who is little more than a power hitter, and a later deal brought in Addison Reed, who is an effective late innings pitcher. The cost was very high, as they traded prospects Adam Eaton and Tyler Skaggs to Chicago and Anaheim respectively. The question is, did it improve the team’s chance to win games? I don’t think it’s a step in the right direction, but it didn’t really hurt the team. Trending: Neutral

Atlanta Braves – They have been relatively quiet over the offseason, but they lost 2 of their key pieces in Tim Hudson to the Giants and Brian McCann to the Yankees. Their only acquisition worth mentioning is Gavin Floyd. They probably resigned themselves to losing both of those pieces, but it didn’t do much damage to them, with catcher Evan Gattis still on the roster. Trending: Neutral

Baltimore Orioles – The O’s roster took a few shake-ups the last couple of months, trading closer Jim Johnson to Oakland for Jemile Weeks, but most of the moves involved players leaving Baltimore. Nate McLouth went to Washington, Scott Feldman to Houston, and Michael Morse to San Francisco. I have to believe that next year will be tough for the O’s, with impending free agents Matt Wieters and Chris Davis to worry about. Trending: Down

Boston Red Sox – It’s tough to improve on a championship run, especially when one of your star players leaves to a rival team (understatement of the year). Jacoby Ellsbury was one of the most shocking moves of the year, going to the Yankees for 7 years. They also changed their catcher from Jarrod Saltalamacchia (Miami) to now another long last name, in A.J. Pierzynski. They didn’t improve, but they didn’t decline either. Trending: Neutral

Chicago Cubs – The Lovable Losers so far made a bunch of minor acquisitions, such as OF Justin Ruggiano and Casper Wells, C George Kottaras, and RP Jose Veras. They are also one of the big players in Tanaka, but that doesn’t mean they have him. Their farm system is loaded with talent, so big name free agents aren’t hugely important. But, I have to believe they will be on the rise soon, with or without Tanaka. Trending: Up

Chicago White Sox – The South-Siders were busy this offseason, picking up guys like 1B Jose Abreu (Cuba), and Mark Eaton. They did lose a couple of young arms, but they took a nice step in the rebuilding saga, trying to bring back competitiveness they had years ago. Trending: Up

Cincinnati Reds – They knew they were going to lose OF Shin-Soo Choo (Texas), and they have a serviceable lead-off replacement in Billy Hamilton AKA Speedy Gonzalez. They also lost starting C Ryan Hanigan (Tampa). They still have a great roster loaded with talent, and I don’t see them losing ground in the NL Central anytime soon. Trending: Neutral

Cleveland Indians – They signed a bunch of smaller contracts, notably OF David Murphy and RP John Axford, but they lost a ton of their effective bullpen, with Joe Smith, Clay Rapada (both Anaheim), and Chris Perez (other L.A. team) all leaving. Also, Scott Kazmir, their low-risk, high reward starter is gone to Oakland. It’s not going to be easy to keep up the level of competition in Rock City. Trending: Down

Colorado Rockies – They made a ton of signings: 1B Justin Morneau, OF’s Drew Stubbs and Brandon Barnes, and pitchers LaTroy Hawkins, Franklin Morales, Boone Logan, and Brett Anderson. Their only key loss was OF Dexter Fowler, in the trade with Houston for Barnes and Jordan Lyles. They vastly improved their pitching, and their offense should be able to help that as well. Trending: Up

Detroit Tigers – The Tigers were extremely busy. They signed OF Rajai Davis and closer Joe Nathan, and traded for Ian Kinsler and Steve Lombardozzi. But the list of key losses is massive (not because of a certain 1B): IF Omar Infante (KC), RP Joaquin Benoit (SD), IF/OF Jhonny Peralta (STL), 1B Prince Fielder (TEX), and SP Doug Fister (WAS). They were trying to clear salary and they did. But it came at a massive cost. Trending: Neutral

Houston Astros – It’s hard for them to decline, with 3 straight 100-loss seasons. They made a bunch of small acquisitions at little cost, like OF Dexter Fowler, 1B Jesus Guzman, P’s Scott Feldman, Chad Qualls, Matt Albers and Peter Moylan. They have improved, but most of their improvement is on the way still. Trending: Up

Kansas City Royals – Building on a great season in Royal standards last year, they’ve made some improvements to their roster for this year. IF Omar Infante for 4 years was the biggest move, which included OF Norichika Aoki and SP Jason Vargas. There is still word that they might deal DH Billy Butler, but it hasn’t happened yet, and seems to not be happening at all. Still, these guys should be the main contestants to the Tigers in the AL Central. Trending: Up

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – Of course losing 1B Mark Trumbo is big, but they got a great return on all their moves this offseason. They picked up 3B David Freese, and SP Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs, plus DH Raul Ibanez, if for no other reason but to hit home runs. They still have too much tied into Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, so it’s tough for them to really do much else. Trending: Neutral

Los Angeles Dodgers – Most of their offseason was spent shopping (or not shopping) Matt Kemp, and resigning their players. They did pick up SP Dan Haren, to further improve a dynamite rotation, and RP Chris Perez to help the bullpen. As far as quiet offseasons go, however, the Dodgers found all the squeaky floorboards. Trending: Neutral

Miami Marlins – Their big fish (hehe pun) was C Jarrod Saltalamacchia for 3 years, and they also picked up 1B Garret Jones, while losing Justin Ruggiano (CHC) and Logan Morrison (SEA) from their outfield. Remember when I said it’s hard not to improve on nothing? The Marlins managed that. Trending: Neutral

Milwaukee Brewers – You’ll see pretty much the same Crew next year, minus Nori Aoki (KC). OF Corey Hart signed with Seattle, making that the only news in the offseason regarding the Brewers. Trending: Neutral

Minnesota Twins – They have vastly improved their rotation, from pretty much Samuel Deduno, to now include Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes. Also, they picked up C Kurt Suzuki to work with them. They seem to still be in the market for some more pitching, and it still will improve their staff. Trending: Up

New York Mets – The Mets made 3 signings, OF Curtis Granderson and Chris Young, and SP Bartolo Colon. 2 guys who will average somewhere between .220 and .240, and giving Colon a guaranteed year make me scratch my head, but anything is an improvement for the Amazin’s. Trending: Up

New York Yankees – My firm belief is that building a team can’t be from just free agents. I guess my philosophy isn’t the same as the Bombers. They brought in C Brian McCann, and OF Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, and lost 2B Robinson Cano (SEA), OF Curtis Granderson (NYM), and P’s Phil Hughes (MIN), Boone Logan (COL),  Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera (retirement). Spending money isn’t the only way to improve this “team”. They need to clear the table and start over. Which in Yankee-land, is impossible. Trending: Down

Oakland Athletics – GM Billy Beane is always wheeling and dealing. This time, he got closer Jim Johnson, SP Scott Kazmir and Drew Pomeranz, and OF Craig Gentry. They lost a decent amount of players, like OF Seth Smith (SD) and Michael Choice (TEX), 2B Jemile Weeks (BAL), P Brett Anderson (COL), Bartolo Colon (NYM), and Jerry Blevins (WSH). Beane has something up his sleeves, as always, and the A’s will probably contend, like always. Trending: Neutral

Philadelphia Phillies – The Fightin’ Phils didn’t do much this offseason, signing just OF Marlon Byrd and SP Roberto Hernandez (Fausto Carmona) among others. Seems like they are standing pat with what they have, for the most part, even though they are older and falling apart. Supposedly SP Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee are on the trade market. I doubt, however, that either will be moved. Trending: Down

Pittsburgh Pirates – Everyone’s new favorite team made noise in October, but not so much after. They lost a couple of pieces in 1B’s Justin Morneau (COL) and Garret Jones (MIA), along with platoon man Marlon Byrd to Philly. They gave a flyer to Edinson Volquez, and for the most part kept what they had, which isn’t a bad move. They are still dangerous, and will probably be contenders for the NL Central for the next few years. Trending: Up

San Diego Padres – They didn’t lose a ton of names, because they didn’t have many names beforehand. But they brought in a couple in OF Seth Smith and P’s Josh Johnson and Joaquin Benoit. The Friars still have a long way to go before getting back on track, however. Trending: Neutral

San Francisco Giants – Their only to additions/losses were adding OF Michael Morse and SP Tim Hudson, in the hopes of last year being a fluke. Not a bad idea, but you would think that a losing record the year after winning the Series would set off some alarms. Trending: Neutral

Seattle Mariners – The M’s got the top guy on the market, signing 2B Robinson Cano away from the Yankees for 10 years, gobs of dough, and a beard. They also picked up OF’s Logan Morrison and Corey Hart, and are top players for OF Nelson Cruz and SP Masahiro Tanaka. They are making alot of noise, and with a purpose. Look for them to continue. Trending: Up

St. Louis Cardinals – The Redbirds made a trade with the Angels, picking up OF Peter Bourjos for 3B David Freese, and signed 2B Mark Ellis, and OF Jhonny Peralta. They also lost closer Edward Mujica (BOS) and OF Carlos Beltran (NYY). Tough to say they made the right moves, but the Cards usually know what they are doing, so trust them. Trending: Neutral

Tampa Bay Rays  – The Rays made a couple of moves, mostly resigning. They did manage to bring in C Ryan Hanigan and RP Heath Bell. Some minor pieces left, but it’ll still be the same Rays you’ll see, being pesky and run-by-Joe-Maddon-y as ever. Trending: Neutral

Texas Rangers – Their 2 big splashes of 1B Prince Fielder (not a fat joke) and OF Shin-Soo Choo were very good for the Rangers, who lost a bunch of pieces like C A.J. Pierzynski to Boston (who they replaced with another initials guy J.P. Arencibia), 2B Ian Kinsler and CP Joe Nathan to Detroit, and OF David Murphy to Cleveland. They still have some pitching questions, but their offense will be dynamic next season. Trending: Up

Toronto Blue Jays – After last season’s trade for the Marlins, the Jays didn’t do much this offseason, besides wave goodbye to Josh Johnson (SD) and Rajai Davis (DET). That being said, them doing nothing won’t help them in the AL East. They are still well behind the other 4 teams. Trending: Down

Washington Nationals – The Nats brought in SP Doug Fister to bolster an already outstanding rotation, and Nate McLouth to platoon in the outfield. They lost just Dan Haren (LAD) and Steve Lombardozzi (DET), which they are completely ok with. They are a team on the rise, and a bump in the road last year won’t prevent them from being dangerous this year around. Trending: Up

There are still tons of moves still to come, as pitchers and catchers report in 2 months. Until then, Happy New Years!

 

Phoenix Coyotes v Buffalo Sabres

This week in the hockey world, we had a 3 day break with no games, but that doesn’t mean we had a slow week. We still had quite the amount of action to fill you guys in on, so here we go, in this week’s Week in Review.

Anaheim [Mighty] Ducks (2-1-0) – With a couple of key division wins, these guys are now tied for the lead in the President’s Trophy race with the Blackhawks. That was a gorgeous 10-game winning streak that just was halted against Phoenix.

Boston Bruins (2-1-0) – Their two wins this week combined for a score of Bruins 11, Nashville/Ottawa 2. If their offense gets rolling like that, I don’t see anyone stopping them. However, Dennis Seidenberg is now ruled out for the season with a torn ACL/MCL. Ouch.

Buffalo Sabres (2-0-1) – #Buttgoal.

Calgary Flames (1-2-0) – Beating the Blues is no easy task, but neither is getting shut out by the Oilers. It takes skill just to not score on them.

Carolina Hurricanes (0-2-1) – Their slide increases to 5 games without a win, and don’t look now, but the Islanders are right behind them.

Chicago Blackhawks (2-0-1) – Amazing game vs. the Blues, despite taking the SO loss. Crushing the Devils and Avalanche make up for that loss. Can anyone stop them from scoring 5 goals per game? They average just under 4 goals per game, which is unheard of.

Colorado Avalanche (0-1-2) – Tough losses against San Jose and Winnipeg, but everyone will have fresh in their mind that pounding from the Hawks.

Columbus Blue Jackets (2-1-0) – Key divisional wins against New Jersey and Carolina are the kind of thing that will keep them alive in this logjam for 3rd in the Metro.

Dallas Stars (2-0-1) – The Stars became the first team to beat phenom Kings’ goalie Martin Jones, and 5 goals tells me that it wasn’t a fluke loss. Also, they caught the Wild and passed them for 4th in the Central. Tale of two teams trending in opposite directions.

Detroit Red Wings (1-1-0) – Their 3-0 loss to the Islanders is a fine example of how the Wings have been playing lately. In other news, Jimmy Howard has gotten many get well sooner cards.

Edmonton Oilers (2-0-1) – Claude Giroux’s shootout winner against the Oilers Saturday night was funny, because Giroux simply skated up and calmly put it through Ilya Bryzgalov’s 5-hole. As if he knew somehow Bryz’s one weakness…

Florida Panthers (1-2-0) – A new shiny scoreboard will put fans in the seats, right? They have to be able to see it, duh.

Los Angeles Kings (0-2-0) – Martin Jones is human, again. The Kings fell behind the Sharks, again. Coincidence?

Minnesota Wild (0-3-0) – They have successfully blown a double digit point lead. According to sportsclubstats.com, their chances to make the playoffs dipped a bit, from over 80% to now 7.2%. I know it’s early still, but where’s that panic button?

Montreal Canadiens (1-1-0) – They are probably going to be jockeying with the Lightning between 2nd and 3rd in the Atlantic for the rest of the year. Funny part of that is, is that if that’s true, they are first round opponents.

Nashville Predators (1-2-0) – What a win for them against the Kings on Saturday. Giving up the tying goal with 35 seconds left, then scoring to take back the lead just 10 seconds later. Wow.

New Jersey Devils (1-1-1) – Travis Zajac’s game winning goal on the Island was off his face. Way to use your head!…*cricket noises*.

New York Islanders (2-1-0) – Evgeni Nabakov returns, and all of the sudden the Islanders re-learn how to play hockey. They must be related…

New York Rangers (2-1-0) – Captain Ryan Callahan is getting there, but for the Rangers to succeed, they need him on the ice, not in rehab.

Ottawa Senators (2-1-0) – After spanking the Penguins 5-0, they get the favor returned by the Bruins by the same score. Funny how hockey can work.

Philadelphia Flyers (2-0-0) – They are becoming just as pesky as they were before they decided to stink for the first month of the year. Just ask the Oilers.

Phoenix Coyotes (0-0-3) – Ownership apparently isn’t happy with how attendance is going so far this year. Did they know how long it took to find a buyer who would invest in the team?

Pittsburgh Penguins (2-1-0) – Losing Pascal Dupuis to a torn ACL is bad news for the Pens. The injury bug seems to like it in Pittsburgh.

San Jose Sharks (3-0-0) – 3 wins against 3 tough opponents tells us that the Sharks are primed for a good bounce back. They still won’t have their Teenage Mutant Ninja Hertl for the season, though.

St. Louis Blues (2-0-1) – Crazy comeback against the Hawks with 2 goals in the final 4 minutes. Those are the games that make the NHL so much fun to watch. The question is, can they do that without top goal-getter Alex Steen for a while?

Tampa Bay Lightning (1-1-1) – Who would have thought they’d be in second in the division after Stamkos went down a month and a half ago? Their offense seems to be doing just fine, putting up a 6 spot on the Panthers in Sunrise.

Toronto Maple Leafs (2-0-1) – They gave up a goal to John Scott. Really?

Vancouver Canucks (1-0-0) – A very restful week for the Nucks, playing one game in Calgary. They need the rest, because they have 4 games next week.

Washington Capitals (1-1-1) – As long as the Caps tread water, they get whoever wins the race in the Metro among the many teams in it. Not a bad spot, actually.

Winnipeg Jets (2-1-0) – They took their opportunity to beat up on some recently struggling teams, and got 2 much needed wins. They are still 4 points out of that 4th spot in the Central, despite having played 3 more games than Dallas.

Goal of the Week

Corey Tropp of the Columbus Blue Jackets delivers this stunner of a goal against the Penguins;

In the box this week

Rochester Americans’ Frederick Roy. In case you didn’t know, this is the son of Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy, who has had a history of temper problems (goalies are so weird). Frederick was ejected from a game in Switzerland, during the Spangler Cup, and didn’t quite like the call. Here’s what he did (some NSFW language, consider yourself warned):

Well, like father like son. Doesn’t excuse him from doing that though. He later apologized after getting sent to the corner to think about what he did.

That wraps up another active week in the NHL. Tune in next week for the Winter Classic. See you then, puck-heads!

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With another regular season in the books, the infamous Black Monday is upon us. Coaches will be on pins and needles to see if they will be returning or on the unemployment line. With a bevy of head coaches on the hot seat, lets look at the presumed outlooks of these nervous head coaches.

Leslie Frazier-Fire. One year removed from a playoff bid, the Minnesota Vikings tremendously underperformed this year with a final record of 5-10-1. Despite having mostly the same personnel, this team could just not put it together. Expect the Vikings to start from scratch in hopes of returning to the playoffs next year.

Jim Schwartz-Fire. Reports surfaced before Sundays game that the Lions are leaning towards having Schwartz return. With that being said, Schwartz needs to go. Detroit has way to much talent to have gone 7-9 this year. They have the best Receiver in the NFL, a fantastic defensive line, and a potential franchise Quarterback in Matthew Stafford. The Lions collapsed down the stretch and it had a lot to due with the questionable and sometimes flat out odd play calling of Schwartz. The players are there, it’s the coach who needs to be upgraded.

Greg Schiano-Keep. Who would have thought that these words would have been uttered two months ago? However, there is credit due here. Schiano has taken a team on the heals of mutiny and has reinvigorated them. For that, he deserves to come back for another year.

Joe Philbin- Keep. Yes the Dolphins collapsed. They endured a horrific last two weeks, suffering embarrassing losses to the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets. Despite all that Philbin deserves to stay. If for no other reason, Philbin deserves to keep his job for putting the Dolphins in a position to make the playoffs. After the Richie Incognito scandal, most people wrote off the Miami. However, Philbin was able to right the ship and keep the players focused on football. He deserves one more year to come in, with better personnel, and attempt to lead this Dolphins team one more time.

Jason Garrett- Fire. Everyone’s seen enough. America’s team has not made the playoffs in Garretts tenure. In similar fashion to his Quarterback, Garrett has choked when it matters most with ridiculous play calls that have cost Dallas full games.  He is just not an NFL Head Coach. He was a fine OC, but that’s it. Jones needs to clean out the entire coaching staff if he hopes to have a chance at getting to the promise land.

So far, the NHL season has had it’s fair share of plot twists and surprises. From the trade that sent Thomas Vanek to the Islanders, to Steven Stamkos breaking his leg on a goalpost. From Shawn Thornton receiving a 15 game ban for mugging Brooks Orpik, to a drunk Blackhawks fan stealing Adam Pardy’s helmet. Much has happened so far, and here are some predictions of how it will lay out in the end.

Metropolitan Division

Obviously, the Penguins are a playoff team. We’re also fairly certain of the Capitals being there. Since the Atlantic is much stronger, they will likely have both wild card spots from the East. That leaves one spot for the rest of the division to fight for. Let’s look at each of the contenders:

Philadelphia Flyers – After a tumultuous start, where they lost their coach and top scorer Claude Giroux took 15 games to score a goal, they seem to be piecing it together. Steve Mason has been solid in net for them, and a little bit of stability in net goes a long way for these guys. However, the lack of discipline these guys can have could easily be an Achilles’ Heel. They take 17.2 penalty minutes on average per game, which is most in the league, and 3 more than the next highest team, the Blues. Their 12th ranked penalty kill has done well, but continual overworking of them will wear them down and hurt them later on.

New York Rangers – They just extended goalie Henrik Lundqvist for 7 more years, and already he’s been put under the microscope. His numbers this year are well below his career averages so far, and has received some very ill criticism from Rangers fans and the media. The truth is, it isn’t all his fault. No one’s sure that the team in front of him will show up on any given night. They’ve had games where they picked apart the Minnesota Wild, and games where they rolled over to the New York Islanders. They have to stick to one trend if they want to see continued success, and not just wavering between one or the other.

New Jersey Devils – In my honest and unbiased opinion (despite me being a Devils fan), I honestly think that the Devils have the best of the rest potential in this division. They have tremendous discipline, taking the fewest penalties per game with just 7.8, and have the 6th best penalty kill when they do get penalized. Their offense doesn’t scare anyone, on average taking the fewest shots per game, but they give up the least shots against per game. Here’s where they beat other teams, and that’s chemistry. Their record is skewed somewhat toward the beginning, where they started 0-4-3, but since then, they’ve made some key call-ups (Eric Gelinas, for example), and have grown together to create a team that is strong defensively. They do have games where they can’t outscore their mistakes, but if they keep playing their game, discipline and defense, they will be tough to beat.

Columbus Blue Jackets – Recently, they’ve been heating up, but with a horrid stretch, winning just 4 of 17 games between 10/27 and 12/1, they remain on the outside looking in. Marian Gaborik was just starting to heat up, when he broke his collarbone, and is likely out a couple of months. Nathan Horton is still on his way back, and they need him, because only one Jacket has more than 10 goals, being Ryan Johansen. They need offensive depth, because goalie Sergei Bobrovsky is not playing like he did last year, and it’s hard to trust a backup, despite Curtis McElhinney giving his all. It probably doesn’t add up to a playoff berth this season for them.

Carolina Hurricanes – They’ve been up and down this season so far, bouncing between 2nd and 7th in the Metro. They have serious offensive issues, having one skater with double digit goals, in Jeff Skinner, who’s been hurt part of the time. Goalies Justin Peters and Cam Ward can’t handle the game every night, and because of those reasons, it’s clear to me that this isn’t a playoff team.

Final standings: PIT, WAS, NJ, PHI, NYR, CBJ, CAR, NYI.

Atlantic Division

It’s clear that at the very least, 4 of these teams are serious playoff threats. The only real questions are, can anyone catch the Bruins, and do the Leafs have what it takes to hold on?

The Bruins have one of the stingiest and biggest defensive corps in the NHL, led by 6’9″ mountain Zdeno Chara, and sometimes a brick-wall-lookalike in net Tuukka Rask. Their offense is known for being grind-it-out tough and hard to play against. They also have the know-how, being the defending Eastern Conference champions. Can anyone top them? I don’t think so. The Tampa Bay Lightning have a scary offense once Steven Stamkos gets back, and goalie Ben Bishop has been very strong in net. However, I don’t see them skating circles around the Bruins. The Montreal Canadiens have a very talented team, but they are on average one of the smallest teams in the NHL. As I said before, I really like how they play the game, but it’s hard for them to get around the big defensive line for the B’s. These are the top 3 in the Atlantic, but the Bruins are the best of the bunch.

Now, the Leafs. They made a couple of moves over the offseason, and they aren’t quite panning out like they wanted. David Clarkson already has 12 games of suspension under his belt, and only 8 points in those 27 games he did play. Dave Bolland, the Cup hero, has been out with ankle surgery since early November. While Jonathan Bernier has been playing solidly in net, he’s not there the whole time, and can’t help in the games he’s not in, as James Reimer hasn’t been playing like he did last year. Mason Raymond has been the best of the lot, also the quietest move, as he’s been playing some of the best hockey in his career. But with the potential these Leafs have, they easily could hold on to that spot, but it’s becoming tougher each day that they don’t perform to expectations. With the Devils and Flyers heating up in the Metro, it gets closer in Toronto’s rearview mirror by the day. In the end, it’s tough for me to say if they are holding on to this spot. If I had to predict right now, I’d say the Devils and Flyers would make it over the Leafs.

Final standings: BOS, MON, TB, DET, TOR, OTT, FLA, BUF.

Central Division

The only real question here, is do the Stars have enough to catch the Wild. The Blackhawks, Blues, and Avalanche have been proving time and again that they belong where they are, and it doesn’t matter who gets what seed, because I think they are all interchangeable.

Dallas has been one of the hot teams under the radar in recent weeks. They made massive strides in shrinking their deficit from double digits at one point, to now just 3 points. Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn lead the way offensively, and have been remarkably good the whole season, in terms of point getting and playing well. Also on the rise are young guns Alex Chiasson and Valeri Nichushkin, both excellent for secondary scoring and depth. Defensively, they aren’t spectacular, but goalie Kari Lehtonen has been great when healthy, keeping this team afloat. Meanwhile, the Minnesota Wild have been tapering off, more specifically on the road. They do have good scoring depth, with Miko Koivu, Zach Parise, and Jason Pominville shouldering the load, but their defensive play has not been amazing. Also, the goaltending tandem has been Jekkyl and Hyde this year. Josh Harding has been the story of the year, with a record of 18-5-3, with a goals against average of just 1.51, and a save percentage of .939. Meanwhile, Nick Backstrom (not to be confused with Caps center of the same name) has been awful, with a 2-8-2 record, GAA of 3.18, and a save percentage of .896. They can’t rely on Backstrom, and can’t play Harding every night. They need consistency in net above all. Do the Stars catch the Wild? My answer, is yes. The Wild won the first meeting 5-1, but 3 remain, and anything can happen.

Final standings: CHI, STL, COL, DAL, MIN, WPG, NAS.

Pacific Division

I think it’s a safe bet that the Anaheim [Mighty] Ducks and L.A. Kings are locks for the playoffs, but 3 teams remain in the hunt. Only 2 wild card slots are left, and the Avalanche have a stranglehold on one. Here are the 3 contenders from the Pacific:

San Jose Sharks – Their scoring depth is among tops in the league, and Antti Niemi has been playing well when called upon. The only qualm about this team, is losing Tomas Hertl for the season. He recently was involved with a knee on knee collision with Kings’ Dustin Brown, and is now likely out for the year. Can they make up his scoring? I think so. Tommy Wingels is the guy to look at to step up in his spot. Tough as nails and a nose for the net, he can play up a line and help the Sharks secure a playoff spot.

Vancouver Canucks – Of course, you have the Sedin twins leading the way, but the surprising emergence of Mike Santorelli and Chris Higgins returning to form have been great developments for the ‘Nucks. Their goaltending also has been strong with Roberto Luongo and Eddie Lack keeping the peace, and no real doubts about this team either. They likely will secure a ticket to the playoffs as well

Phoenix Coyotes – They’ve had decent scoring across the board, but not one guy stands out for them. Among Shane Doan, Mike Ribeiro, Martin Hanzal, Mikkel Boedker, and Radim Vrbata, the scoring depth is there. However, they depend on goalie Mike Smith a little too much. 33.2 shots against per game is 5th most in the league, and Smith is only human. They simply can’t depend on the goalie for everything, and must step their defensive game up, or it may be too much of a climb to reach the playoffs.

It’s clear here, that the teams to beat are the Sharks and Canucks, and the Coyotes are on the outside looking in.

Final Standings: ANA, LA, SJ, VAN, PHX, CAL, EDM.

That’s what I have for you, puck-heads. See you next week, and happy hockey!

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Despite the fact he was still rehabbing a tear in his Achilles tendon, Kobe Bryant was awarded a two-year contract extension on November 18th. The terms of the contract are two years for approximately $48.5 million.

Bryant and the Lakers have faced a lot of backlash since the move, with fans and analysts calling Bryant selfish for taking so much money from a team that has plenty of other issues. Bryant took to his twitter page the next night to defend the extension. Bryant tweeted “The cap rules players have to be “selfless” on To “help” BILLIONAIRE owners R the same cap rules the owners LOCKED US out to put in #think.” He also tweeted “Don’t just learn ur sport .. Learn the sports industry #futureathletes.”

There is no denying the impact that Kobe has had in the NBA and that he has earned this money. However, Bryant may need to take some of his own advice and learn the sports industry. If nothing else is true about this industry, the one fact of the industry is loyalty means nothing. With these tweets and the situation in general, a bigger question can be raised. Should teams have to pay homage to there former stars?

To start this off lets look at some of the contracts of the biggest stars in major sports. Derek Jeter, at the age of 39, just signed a one-year contract for $12 million. This comes after he signed a three-year contract for $45 million at the age of 36. Playing in a total of 17 games last year, Jeter hit .190 with 1 HR and 7 RBI. He then injured his ankle and was done for the season.

Bryant’s and Jeter’s situations are even more similar when you look at the situations of their teams. Both the Yankees and the Lakers are in a free fall. Both teams have money tied up in bad contracts and have a general lack of talent on their respective teams. Yet, Jeter and Bryant had no issue taking these large contracts that deter their teams from fixing their issues.

The argument for Jeter and Bryant making their salaries is that they need to be paid not only for what they will do, but what they have done. It is undeniable that these two are among the best of all time in their respective games. Jeter led the Yankees to 5 World Series rings & may go down as the greatest shortstop of all time. Similarly, Kobe has 5 rings and arguments (granted to a lesser extent) have been made that he is the greatest basketball player of all time.

The question ultimately comes down to this. Do teams have pay their long tenured players more because of their past actions. The answer to this question varies. Look at Jim Irsay. He only had to pay Peyton Manning what his contract already was. Instead he released Manning and selected Andrew Luck with the #1 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. This move was praised by some and criticized by other. However, there was one universal agreement, there is no loyalty in sports.

This example can go even further. When Danny Ainge traded Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, he was bombarded with criticism for having a lack of loyalty to his players. Yet, the deal was better for the team, as a whole, in the long term as they brought in expiring contracts and future draft picks to build their team with.

The one option not many people mention is why don’t these players just take less money. That’s the situation of future Hall of Fame PF Dirk Nowitzki. Reports have surfaced that Nowitzki will want to slash his salary by more than half next season so that his team, the Dallas Mavericks, can continue to rebuild. This is an admirable situation, which, unfortunately, does not happen as often as it should in the professional sports.

So is it wrong to trade Pierce or release Manning? At the end of the day, an owner, general manager, and coach need to decide whom they have to be loyal to. Do you have to be loyal to a specific player or an entire team? Last time I checked, there are 52 players on an NFL team and 24 on and MLB team. So why must you be loyal to the minority? Yes this is a utilitarian type of thinking, but it isn’t as far fetched, as it may seem. Must there be more loyalty to Kobe Bryant then an entire team and that teams fan base? That is the ultimate question.

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With Robert Griffin III being shut down for the remainder of the season, Kirk Cousins has gotten a chance to put on an audition for other teams. With a franchise quarterback like RG3 and a lack of draft picks, there is no reason for the Redskins to hold on to the former Michigan State leader. In his first two games, Cousins has thrown for 578 yards with four touchdowns and three interceptions. He has avoided pressure well and made some very impressive throws. With all that being said, he are three potential suitors for Cousins

Cleveland Browns- It is no secret that Rod Chudzinski and Norv Turner like to throw the ball. They shipped Trent Richardson out of town so they can focus entirely on the pass game. However, in order to have an effective passing game you need to have a good quarterback. Jason Campbell and Brandon Weeden don’t scream efficiency. While Brian Hoyer played well in his limited time, the sample size is too small to make any realistic judgments about his skill. With potential superstar receivers in Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron, along with an already impressive defense, Cousins could be the last piece before Cleveland can seriously envision going back to the playoffs.

Houston Texans- Despite one of the most disappointing years for a team in NFL history, the Texans still have a strong core. Arian Foster, Andre Johnson, and JJ Watt are all top 10 players at their respective positions. The main issue has been under center this year. Matt Schaub has completely imploded and Case Keenum has shown he’s not a starter in this league. To make matters worse, it looks as if both Teddy Bridgewater and Marcus Mariota will be staying for there senior seasons. With a new head coach set to come in, a new quarterback would be very beneficial the new regime. With a mix of veteran leadership and young talent, Cousins could be the perfect guy to shoot the Texans back to their initial projections.

Denver Broncos- Now I know what everyone is thinking. Why does Denver need a quarterback when they have the legendary Peyton Manning having one of the greatest seasons ever? With all that being true, Peyton is going to be 38 next season. He has also been fighting through two bad ankles for a good portion of this year. At the height of those injuries, Manning was playing fine, but noticeably worse than at the beginning of the year. If Denver wins the Super Bowl this year, it may not be crazy for Peyton to consider going out on top. Bringing in Cousins creates an insurance plan for when Manning finally hangs it up. The drop wont be as bad and Denver can remain a top team in the AFC with this pick up.

What do you guys think? Should the Redskins trade Cousins? If so, where? Leave a comment below with your reactions/suggestions

484px-Masahiro_Tanaka

The Ratuken Golden Eagles of NPB (Japanese League) was reportedly posting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, and he will become a free agent, available to the 30 Major League teams. The posting limit is at $20M, as per the settlement, thus opening the floor to almost every team, and it gives us a fair fight, as opposed to a bidding war between the clubs with money (you know who you are).

It seems like everyone is in on this pitcher, as he’s been all over the news in MLB, and has single-handedly stalled the starting pitcher’s market.

So what’s all the hype about this guy?

To start, over the last 3 seasons with Ratuken, Tanaka has posted a mind-blowing 53-9 record with an ERA of 1.44, striking out 593 hitters. Just last year, he went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA and 183 strikeouts. His 7-year career WHIP is 1.11. That alone is worth looking at, rubbing your eyes, then looking again to see if you were seeing things funny.

His age is another thing to look at. He just turned 25 years old, seemingly about to enter the prime of his career.

Mechanically, he seems sound as a bell. His pitching motion is comparable to Hiroki Kuroda, or really any Japanese pitcher, but more fluent and simple. Also, thankfully, sans the waiting for the pitch like Hideo Nomo or Daisuke Matsuzaka.

His pitching repertoire includes a low-mid 90’s fastball that tops at about 96 with near pinpoint accuracy, a mid 80’s slider with bite and control, a low 90’s shuuto (2-seam fastball), an apparently nasty splitter/forkball in the high 80’s,  a low 90’s cutter with sink, a low 70’s curveball that he seems to be slowing down, and a traditional low 80’s changeup.

So, to sum it up, we have a reliable young arm, with a million different looks, and a history of taking the ball and giving his team the chance to win every night.

Now, what team will he end up with?

There are two major players that have emerged, the New York Yankees and the Chicago Cubs.

The Yankees were the obvious favorites from the get-go. They are a notorious free-spending team (despite what they say about their “budget”), with a desperate need for consistency on the mound. Their offense isn’t exactly clean as a whistle either, but they spent on their outfield and brought in a veteran catcher who can work with pitchers well in Brian McCann. But their rotation is in shambles. CC Sabathia had a below-average year, going 14-13 with a 4.78 ERA, Hiroki Kuroda started strong but fell off in the end, and Ivan Nova has been good, but inconsistent. The remaining spots were vacated by Andy Pettitte to retirement, and Phil Hughes to the Minnesota Twins. Now, the 4 and 5 spots are being fought over within the system by David Phelps, Adam Warren, Vidal Nuno, and Michael Pineda, who started a combined 17 games last season. They clearly have money still left to spend on Tanaka, and are always on the lookout for more star-power to fill seats in the Bronx.

Then, there are the good ol’ Cubbies. They have already made it public knowledge that they are going to go all out to get Tanaka, and with the Yankees on a “spending leash”, the Cubs might actually be the favorite. They spent a good amount of their offseason proving trade rumors wrong about staff ace Jeff Samardzija. The rest of their rotation is a work in progress, with Travis Wood and Edwin Jackson still with the team. The farm system of the Cubs is one of the tops in baseball, thanks to the work of Jed Howyer and Theo Epstein at the helm. Wrigley Field and the team seem like they are still under construction, and could become a big bad machine within a few years, and adding Tanaka would be a big step in the positive if they can get their paws on him.

If you ask me, I think the Cubs will get him in the end. They have more expendable cash than the Yankees (shocker!) with less locked up on their roster, plus a better ballpark for pitchers, and a better future. The Yankees system isn’t widely known for nurturing young players as it is bringing in the big name, and if Tanaka were smart, he’d head to the North Side of the Windy City, because the Lovable Losers might sneak up on people soon.