Posts Tagged ‘Jets’

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Could the end of an Era be on the horizon? According to a report by Fox Sports reporter Jay Glazer, New York Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan will coach his final game as a Jet next Sunday in Miami. Glazer tweeted on Sunday that Ryan told his players in a team meeting on Saturday night that he will be fired after the season ends.

Ryan requested of his players to fight for him in the last two games of the season and the players have seemed to respond. The New York Jets played one of their strongest games of the season, defeating the Cleveland Browns 24-13. The defense came up huge on multiple occasions and the offense look fairly competent, moving the ball fairly well against a strong Cleveland defense.  With one game remaining for the Jets upper management to change their mind, here are three reasons why New York should hold on to their once beloved coach.

                                                                        He is Respected

            Players like to play for Rex Ryan. This has been a fact ever since 2009. Multiple players, both on and off the Jets, have come out and said if they could have any head coach they want Rex Ryan. This nearly became a problem in 2011. After going 8-8 and missing the playoffs, it seemed as if the Jets locker room was in total disarray. Players not giving it their all, being selfish, and getting in fights seemed to be a common occurrence. It was at this point that Rex stepped up and not only demanded the adoration of the players, but the respect. The players have seemed to respond to this properly. Despite the losing, there has not been another report of dysfunction or lack of discipline in the locker room. Rex also showed this week the give and you shall receive policy. After a Geno Smith was pushed after running out of bounds, Ryan exploded at a referee for not immediately throwing a flag. Ryan then ran over to a scuffle that was breaking out between players and broke it up. One of the keys to being a good head of anything is to be respected and with Rex Ryan there is respect.

He Did The Best He Could

Coming into the season, expectations were at an all time low for the New York Jets. Coming off the worst year in his tenure, dealing with a Quarterback controversy, and having a difficult schedule, Ryan and the Jets seemed doomed to have a terrible year. However, this has not been the case. With the average prediction was 4-12 for the New York Jets final record, New York took that all in stride and put together a pretty impressive year. The Jets are 7-8 going into the last game of the year. That 7-8 record includes wins against the New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, and the then formidable Atlanta Falcons. In addition to this, the Jets possess a top 10 defense, a top 5 pass rush, and a top 6 rushing attack.

The area in which New York has struggled the most is in the passing game. Despite having the 30th worst passing offense in the NFL, the question must be asserted, how much can you blame Rex? New York has a second round rookie quarterback under center. To make matters worse, that quarterback has no receivers to throw to. Stephen Hill has been a disappointment, Santonio Holmes and Jeremy Kerley have been off the field half of the year with injury issues, and Kellen Winslow was suspended for PEDs. With all that being stated, none of these receivers are stars to begin with. Holmes, who is supposed to be the #1 receiver, has only had one year where he had over 1,000 yards receiving. You cant expect to have a better than 30th ranked passing game when you don’t have better than 30th ranked receivers.

Who Else Is There?

            Despite all of the positives, New York still hasn’t made the playoffs in three years. This is typically long enough of a time span for a team to decide to pull the plug on their head coach. However, who are they going to hire? Former Bears head coach Lovie Smith, Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, and Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton are the three hottest names on the market right now. All of these guys are defensive minded coaches. The defense has been very good to this point, so what need is there to replace one established defensive mind with a less established one?

Another name brought up has been Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrel Bevell. Bevell did wonders with Russel Wilson over the past two years and has created one of the most dynamic offenses in the NFL. This could be an intriguing higher, but is it worth it? Yes, the offense would receive an improvement, but without proper upgrades, that improvement has a ceiling. Furthermore, the defense would take a tremendous hit with Rex no longer in the fold. With the weak free agent market this year, the cost would outweigh the benefit of replacing Rex.

As WFAN host Joe Beningo pointed out, the New York Jets seem to be stuck in a rut. They hire a coach; he exceeds expectations in his first year and then disappoints and gets fired. First Herm Edwards, then Eric Mangini, and now it seems Rex Ryan will be joining that club. The Jets need to resist temptation and keep Rex. He took a team that no one gave a chance to and may have them end up at .500. In reality, Rex may be getting a pink slip, but he might actually deserve an extension.

Welcome back, puckheads! Finals week is over, and now you can concentrate even more on sports, more specifically hockey. We’ve had half a season so far, roughly, and in case you missed a lot of it studying or working, here’s how everyone did. We are giving each team a semester grade, and later in the week we will have predictions on what will happen next.

Anaheim [Mighty] Ducks: Most points in the league as of today, with super strong play by top guys like Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, as well as the less known guys like Hampus Lindholm and Nick Bonino. It seems like it’s no longer a possibility for them to lose at the Pond, so far 13-0-2 on home ice. Grade: A

Boston Bruins: Despite a couple of setbacks, and a policing issue, the Bruins seem to be doing fine for themselves. The defense-wins-championships mantra holds very true with the B’s, having let up the 2nd fewest goals in the league, and it adds up to 2nd in the Eastern conference. Grade: A-

Buffalo Sabres: They managed to get great value out of the Thomas Vanek deal, being Matt Moulson (doubt he’s staying) and 2 top draft picks. That’s where the good part stops. Now the only team not to have won a 10th game, and are 19 goals behind 2nd to last in scoring, the Sabres seem like they are investing in ping pong balls for the lottery. Grade: F

Calgary Flames: Young gun Sean Monahan has been a pleasant surprise, with 16 points in 29 games, despite a minor injury. However, they really miss Miikka Kiprusoff in net, having to depend on a couple of guys only hockey experts and Flames fans know, in Reto Berra and Karri Ramo. Their best move, however, was firing GM Jay Feaster. Now, they might actually progress. Grade: C-

Carolina Hurricanes: Mired in the Metropolitan mess, the Canes have quietly had a better season than what people originally predicted. Despite injuries to Cam Ward and Jeff Skinner, they have a NHL .500 record, and are alive and kicking in the playoff race. It won’t be easy, but the Staals have been there before. Grade: C+

Chicago Blackhawks: The defending champs aren’t joking around with the fabled “Cup hangover”. They have far and away the top offense in the league, and if they can keep outscoring any mistakes they make, it will be difficult to beat them on any given night. Grade: A

Colorado Avalanche: The surprise team of the season has to be the Avs. Led by rookie head coach Patrick Roy, and a multi-headed attack of young dynamic stars, this team has a bright future. Despite trouble with the law, goalie Semyon Varlamov has been solid enough to help the team succeed in the elite Central. Grade: A-

Columbus Blue Jackets: Marian Gaborik was a fantastic pickup, but a broken collarbone will shut him down for a couple of months. Nathan Horton is on his way back, however, and the Metropolitan factor means they are still very much alive in the race. Who would have thought that the 3-7 seeds in that division are 3 points apart? Grade: C

Dallas Stars: Tyler Seguin has more than a point per game, and the guy he was traded for seems to have a target on his back for cheap shots. Also emerging are Alex Chiasson and Valeri Nichushkin, giving the Stars a bright future. Grade: B-

Detroit Red Wings: For whatever reason, the old Red Wings can’t play so well in their old barn, just 6-9-6 at the Joe, while 11-3-3 away from home. At least they are getting point in nearly half the games they lose. Grade: B

Edmonton Oilers: I had high hopes for this team coming into this season, predicting them to be a dark horse team in the playoff run. Now, they have Ilya Bryzgalov on their NHL roster. How the possibly mighty have fallen…Grade: F

Florida Panthers: The biggest news out of this team is that Tim Thomas is back, though not quite to his form from his Boston years. Maybe it’s because the Panthers’ D-men aren’t guys like Zdeno Chara. However, the Cats have been playing spoiler the entire season, as everyone thought they would. Grade: C

Los Angeles Kings: Who would have thought that the Kings would be better after Jonathan Quick went down with an injury? Martin Jones, tying an NHL record with winning his first 8 starts, has been the talk of the league since his call-up. Ben Scrivens has been good too, and the Kings have the stingiest defense in the league to boot. This makes for an interesting question; two’s company, but three’s a crowd. Will one of them be traded? Who knows? Grade: A-

Minnesota Wild: At home, they are stellar, 14-3-2. Once they hit the road, they seem to lose their flair, with a paltry 6-10-3 record away from the X. Josh Harding has been excellent for them this season, and a hero to everyone regardless of his record. But we know the Wild aren’t going to get home ice in the playoffs, so they have to solve their road woes in order to succeed. Grade: B+

Montreal Canadiens: A solid hot streak has put them in a good race for tops in the Atlantic, with young guys like Alex Galchenyuk, Brendan Gallagher, and PK Subban leading the way. The team has a good mix of young and older, and can be dangerous later in the season. Grade: A-

Nashville Predators: They miss Pekka Rinne, but the guys backing him up seem to be doing alright. Marek Mazanec and Carter Hutton combined have a 12-12-3 record, but in a division like the Central, .500 will get you nowhere. All the Seth Jones hype seemed to have died down also. Grade: C

New Jersey Devils: The Devils’ injury problems seemed to be a blessing in disguise, when some of their future emerged and started playing well. Reid Boucher and Jon Merrill have been good, but the real story is Eric Gelinas, who is quickly making a name for himself, having one of the hardest slap shots around. Can’t hurt that the golden oldies like Jaromir Jagr are there to show them the way. Grade: B-

New York Islanders: Between November 12 and December 20, they had a grand total of 2 wins, and neither of them were in regulation or overtime. It’s safe to say that something’s gotta change, because their promising future took a massive hit. Grade: D-

New York Rangers: Probably the most inconsistent team in the NHL. There are nights where everything goes right, and nights where they lose to the Islanders. Henrik Lundqvist seems to be fielding a good chunk of the blame, but that’s because he fields a good chunk of the payroll. The lack of a defense-first coaching scheme should get part of it too. Grade: C+

Ottawa Senators: Their great defense from last year seems to have dissipated. The only team to have given up more goals are the Islanders, and the Sens have their regular goalies in net. The fact that they have top defenseman Erik Karlsson says something about the rest of the blue line crew for them. Grade: C-

Philadelphia Flyers: They made a great bounce back after an atrocious start to the season. It’s still a surprise to the hockey world that Steve Mason has a .922 save percentage, as well as a winning record. Claude Giroux also has regained form after a 15 game goal drought to start the year. The Metro division is very convoluted, and the Flyers are right in the middle of it. Grade: C+

Phoenix Coyotes: They had a great start to the year, made a little bit of noise, and then quieted down some. Still a playoff contender, despite a decent difference between them and the 4th place Canucks. It’s still way better than most people in Arizona thought it would be (ehem Seattle). Grade: B

Pittsburgh Penguins: Crosby yadda yadda yadda, Fleury regular season blah blah, Malkin when he’s healthy, yeah that too. It’s the same story for the Penguins as it’s been the last few years. Not that that’s a bad thing. Grade: A

San Jose Sharks: A single regulation loss in the Shark Tank confirms that this team is deadly at home. However, they are vulnerable on the road, at 10-7-3. Tomas Hertl has been phenominal so far, but a nasty knee injury could sideline him for the season. If that’s the case, someone else has to step up. Grade: B+

St. Louis Blues: By the numbers, the Blues have the fewest losses (7 regulation, 4 overtime/shootout), best goal differential (+44), in fewer games than almost everyone in the league. Alex Steen became yet another weapon for this team, who is primed for a cup run after years of dreams dying in the playoffs. Grade: A

Tampa Bay Lightning: It was on everyone’s mind, how the Bolts would do after Stamkos got hurt. They have a 10-6-3 record since the injury, and he’s still a couple of months away from returning. They seem to be doing just fine, and just wait until he returns. The question remains, if Ben Bishop can continue playing lights out like he has been. Grade: A-

Toronto Maple Leafs: Despite still holding a playoff spot, the Buds aren’t nearly as impressive as last year. Fresh off the free-agent market, David Clarkson has been a massive bust, with just 6 points so far this season. Despite some bright spots, it’s been more of the same for the Leafs, and their fans sure let them hear about itGrade: C

Vancouver Canucks: They are slowly returning to form, despite a sluggish start. Despite still being tied with the Sharks for 3rd in the Pacific, they seem to be holding their own nicely, and are for sure happy about that coaching swap with the Rangers. Grade: B+

Washington Capitals: Alex Ovechkin has been the story, now with 30 goals in 34 games. Many say he might break the 50 in 50 barrier, which has been done by 5 players before (Maurice Richard, Mike Bossy, Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, and Brett Hull), but I have my doubts. Meanwhile, the team is in cruise control for a spot in the Metro playoffs. Grade: B+

Winnipeg Jets: This group can be better, but they just haven’t been playing to their potential. The home ice advantage they seemed to have in their inaugural year seems to have slipped as well. It’s a shame, too, because everyone wants to see a true Winnipeg White-out. Grade: C-

Well, there you have it. This week, we will have predictions for the rest of the year, including some bold ones. Until next time, puck-heads!

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This past week in hockey had some significant developments in the standings, as well as some controversial events. The standings are ever-changing, in this week’s Week in Review.

Metropolitan Division

The division leading Pittsburgh Penguins had an up-and-down week, crushing the San Jose Sharks 5-1, but losing to the Boston Bruins in a bitter rivalry turned dirty game 3-2. In the process, defensive stalwart Brooks Orpik was carted off the ice, and James Neal is awaiting a suspension in a similar event, but more on that later in the post. The Washington Capitals remained just 7 points back, also taking a 2-1-0 week by thrashing the Nashville Predators and the New York Rangers. Speaking of the Blue-shirts, the Rangers had a tough week, taking 3 points out of 4 games, losing division matchups to the Devils and Capitals, and only beating the bottom-feeding Sabres. They are now tied with the Carolina Hurricanes, who have set up a nice 3 game win streak, with strong play from Cam Ward and rookie Elias Lindholm. 1 point behind those two are the New Jersey Devils, who still have random outbursts as well as random lulls. The Devils lost the first 3 games of the week, taking 1 point out of 2 games against surging Montreal, then coming from behind to beat the Rangers in OT. The Devils have needed to dig into their AHL roster, and have seen success in them so far. The Philadelphia Flyers are hanging around, and are even more baffling than the Devils, crushing one night, then looking hopeless the next. They  remain 1 point ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets, who have started to win a few big games recently. The Islanders haven’t won since Nam, with their streak extended to 9 games without a win, and continue to be one of the league’s biggest busts. Seeds 2-7 in the Metro are separated by just 7 points, and the shuffle continues from here on out.

Atlantic Division

The Boston Bruins have lost most of their division lead this week, and it had nothing to do with their play. They won 2 of their 3 games, against decent opponents in Pittsburgh and Toronto. But their one loss came against the bleu-blanc-et-rouge hot team, the Montreal Canadiens. The Habs, winners of 4 this week and 5 straight, swept the Devils in a home-and-home, and beat the Bruins in a showdown Thursday night 2-1, climbing within 1 point of the lead in the Atlantic. Both of those teams are trying to pull away from teams like pesky Detroit. The Red Wings went 1-2-0 this week, beating the Devils, but losing to the Flyers and Panthers, teams they should beat, and are now 4 back of Montreal and 5 from Boston. Tampa continues to fall through the standings, only winning 1 of 3 games this week, but received good news from Steven Stamkos, who plans a return soon after the Olympic break. The Lightning just have to hold on until he gets back in order to contend for the playoffs. Another team that’s been falling have been the Maple Leafs, who took 2 of 4 this week, but remain far from the top, and have not played well against better sides. They do remain in the second wild card, 4 points ahead of Carolina/New York Rangers, however. Ottawa is stopping the flailing, but they haven’t been winning enough games to get back in the hunt, now 8 points back of Toronto after a tough week. The Florida Panthers seem to win random games, with no rhyme or reason behind it, and remain way behind most teams. The Sabres played twice and lost twice, what else is new? The Canadiens caught fire, but can it continue into the next few games? We shall see coming up soon.

Central Division

The Blackhawks actually lost 3 in a row this week (gasp!) before pommeling the Panthers Sunday night, and remain well ahead of anyone in the division. Their 21 wins and 47 points both still lead the league. The St. Louis Blues, however, have played 4 fewer games than Chicago. The Blues took just 1 of 3 games this week, and missed a golden opportunity to gain ground on the ‘Hawks, but still are within range. The Minnesota Wild are now tied with the Blues, after 3 home wins and a road loss this week. The Wild are nearly unstoppable at their home rink, and have passed the Avalanche, who took 1 of 3 this week in Western Canada, including an embarrassing 8-2 loss to the Oilers. The Avalanche seem to be coming back down to earth after an unreal start to the season, having one of the best records at the quarterpole, while the Wild are heating up again, and starting to prove that they have the team to compete this year. The Dallas Stars have been creeping up, taking 5 of 6 possible points this week in big wins against Chicago and Philadelphia, and are now just 7 back of the Avalanche. The Winnipeg Jets also remain somewhat alive, taking 2 of 3 this week, but have a bigger hill to climb, having played more games. The Nashville Predators lost all 3 this week, and are becoming destined for another lottery pick. This division has been tightening up, and will get more interesting with the current trends as the season continues.

Pacific Division

The division lead continues to be switching between the San Jose Sharks and the Anaheim [Mighty] Ducks every week. This week, it belongs in So-Cal. The [Mighty] Ducks got 5 of 6 points, beating Chicago and St. Louis in big games, while the Sharks hit another soft spot, losing 3 straight after beating Toronto, including losses to Pittsburgh, Carolina, and Minnesota. It wouldn’t shock anyone if the [Mighty] Ducks continue to win, and the Sharks continue to struggle, or if they again swap positions by this time next week. The Los Angeles Kings have something to say on the matter,  winning 3 this week and getting points in 9 of their previous 10 games to pull within a point of the Sharks, further changing the scope of things. Vancouver also won all 3 of their games this week, making 4 straight, and are pulling back into contention. The Canucks are now just 6 behind Anaheim, and took the 4 spot in the division away from the plummeting Phoenix Coyotes, who took 1 of 3 in Western Canada to fall back to 5th place, 2 behind Vancouver. They have been struggling recently, but look to get back into the swing of things when they return home to the desert. The Calgary Flames had 2 wins this week, and it seems like a while since they’ve done that. The Edmonton Oilers have gotten crushed and also crushed this week, showing that their offense is potent, but their defense is still a huge question mark. It seems this division turns to whoever is playing on home ice for the time, as the top 5 teams are a combined 46-12-11 at their respective home rink.

Top 5

1) Anaheim [Mighty] Ducks – Though it took a shootout, they beat the Blackhawks this week. They are still without regulation loss at the Pond, also. Tops for me this week.

2) Chicago Blackhawks – I know they hit a 3 game slide this week, but that says more for them because they still lead the President’s Trophy race.

3) Los Angeles Kings – Ben Scrivens has stepped up big time in the absence of Jonathan Quick. This gives the Kings time to make sure their top guy is ready to come back at 100%.

4) Montreal Canadiens – Red hot play from everyone lately, and the group of Brendan Gallagher, Alex Galchenyuk, P.K. Subban, and others are looking to overthrow the Bruins in the Atlantic.

5) Minnnesota Wild – The Xcel Energy Center has been a safe haven for them so far, but their road woes continue to question their stability. I see it getting fixed soon.

In the Box this week:

Flyers’ Zac Rinaldo and Bruins’ Shawn Thornton. Friday night, the Flyers were in Dallas to face the Stars. Rinaldo and Stars’ forward Antoine Roussel were chasing the puck down the ice, when Rinaldo surprised Roussel with a mugging. Here’s how it looked:

Rinaldo got 2 for instigating, 5 for fighting, 10 minute misconduct and a game misconduct. It led to a 7 minute power play for Dallas. At least Roussel got up from that one. In our other case, a series of cheap shots exchanged Saturday night in Boston led to a small scrum between the Penguins and Bruins. Shawn Thornton took exception to a hit Brooks Orpik landed on poor Loui Eriksson, and gave him the business. This time, though, it ended worse.

Thornton slew-footed Orpik, followed by a couple of punches to the head. Orpik was out cold, and was subsequently stretchered off the ice. Thornton does have a bit of a history, but this one involves injury. He has a hearing coming up, and a well deserved suspension soon there after.

Stay tuned this week for some more action on the ice. See you then, puck-heads!

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10 Case Keenum- He is going against JAX and needs to make up for the last loss he had against them. Expect Tate to be the star of that game but Keenum should still put up numbers.

9 Matt Ryan- He has talent but the team has been falling apart all year since Julio went down. Poor guy has a great arm and two good receivers, but all they do is run the ball. If you can’t win might as well kill the clock from the start and protect the talented arm.

8 Joe Flacco- Against MIN everyone does well. Hasn’t been on this list much this season, but has the potential to do something good this week.

7 Josh McCown- Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall help when you are a second string QB. Another thing that helps is going against DAL secondary on Monday night AT HOME. Looks like we are in for another great matchup Monday night.

6 Cam Newton- Cam is showing us why we should call him SUPERMAN even though he wears Batman fleets. The man flies and can sling the ball as well.

5 Tom Brady- He is heating up finally and becoming that QB we all wanted to watch in the beginning of the season. Look for him to have fun against a strong CLE defense.

4 Drew Brees- Time to forget last week and think of the future. BIG DIVISIONAL GAME! Saints are back at home and are going to show them why home field advantage is so important after being shown that back in SEA

3 Nick Foles- Gonna be a shootout down in Philly this week! Two of our top 3 QBs are in this matchup and the other is clear cut #1! I like him for another week without an interception.

2 Matthew Stafford- Going against a weak PHI DEF and second in the league in passing yards. He has Megatron and he has Bush he is one blessed man this week.

1 Peyton Manning- Is this really still surprising people that he is putting up these numbers? He has the most passing TDs by a long shot and passing yards by a full 300 which is more than the average passing yards per game in this league

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MLB free agency is officially underway. While the free agent pool is short on big name stars, it is filled with quality depth that can help any team take themselves to the next level. Let’s take a look at some of the notable free agents available, and who are their most likely suitors.

Robinson Cano, 2B – far and away the best free agent on the market this year. He hits for average, hits for power, gets on base, plays great defense, all while playing at a premium position. Any given game, the team with Cano has a sizable matchup advantage, and that is invaluable. Sounds enticing. All that production comes with a price, and it’s well documented at this point that that price is sky high. Cano and his agent Jay-Z have reportedly been asking for a 10 year, $310 Million deal. Cano is already 31, so a 10 year deal is unlikely, even for the sometimes-recklessly-spending Yankees. Not to mention no player has ever been paid an average of over $30 Million a year. The Yankees have been firm in saying they won’t pay for Cano’s demands, and while both sides aren’t budging, the Yankees are in the drivers seat. They’ve been negotiating with numerous other free agents including Shin Soo Choo, Carlos Beltran, Masahiro Tanaka assuming he posts from the Nippon Professional Baseball League in Japan, and of course recent signee Brian McCann. No one will pay Cano $310 Million. But the Yankees best offer will be more than anyone else.

Prediction: Yankees

 

Nelson Cruz, OF – Before being suspended 50 games for his connection with the Biogenesis clinic in Florida, Nelson Cruz was having a quietly strong year. He hit 27 HR and slugged .506 in just 109 games, while making his 2ns All-Star Game. He’s 33 so he still has plenty left in the tank for what he gives you; a power bat with serviceable defense. He’s reportedly asking for a 4 year $75 Million deal. Seems pricey but for a contender looking to upgrade their offense, he’s a perfect fit. With Marlon Byrd’s magical season over, and being 36 and a free agent, the Pirates have a big hole to fill.

Prediction: Pirates

 

Jacoby Ellsbury, OF – Ellsbury is 30 years old coming off a fantastic rebound year, following a 2012 season cut short by injury, with the world champion Boston Red Sox in which he bat leadoff, hitting just under .300 and stole a league leading 52 bases. The Mariners have the 7th lowest payroll in baseball and beyond their 2 frontline starting pitchers; Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma, no player makes over $2.7 Million. The Mariners have an impressive amount of young pitching coming up including Taijuan Walker, James Paxton, and Danny Hultzen. Add Ellsbury into the mix offensively and defensively; the Mariners could be formidable contenders in another years’ time.

Prediction: Mariners

 

Shin Soo-Choo, OF – Choo had a fantastic all around offensive year in 2013 for the Cincinnati Reds. From the leadoff spot, he hit .285, hit 21 HR, stole 20 bases, and was 2nd in the NL in on-base percentage to teammate Joey Votto, with a .423 on-base percentage. Some of that can be attributed to being hit by a major league leading 26 pitches, but Choo is still a high-end leadoff man. He’s posted an OBP of .373 or higher 5 out of the last 6 years, including 4 times over .390, twice topping .400. But Choo is 31, and his Achilles heel has always been his defense. Agent Scott Boras is pushing for his client to get over $100 Million. I’m not sure if he’ll top it, but he’ll get close. The Mets lost Matt Harvey for this upcoming year as he’s recovering from Tommy-John surgery. They won’t be competitive in 2013. But next year, they’ll have Harvey, Wheeler, and Syndergaard in the rotation. Add Choo, and a couple more pieces next year during free agency into that roster, and they’ll have a legitimate chance to compete for the first time since 2006.

Prediction: Mets

Curtis Granderson, OF – Grandy had phenomenal 2011 and 2012 seasons, topping 40 HR each year. A hand injury sustained in spring training this year derailed is 2013 season and limited him to just 61 games. Now, at 32, he’s a free agent, and teams are concerned not only about his health but his game as well. He hasn’t hit over .262 in the past 5 seasons, and teams worry that Grandy’s power numbers were over-inflated by tiny Yankee Stadium, and don’t think he can sustain those numbers outside of such a hitter-friendly park. Since trading Justin Upton to Atlanta last season, the Arizona Diamondbacks have been missing a power bat to compliment MVP-candidate Paul Goldschmidt. While Chase Field isn’t Yankee Stadium, it is one of the most hitter friendly stadiums in all of baseball, and could help vault Granderson’s numbers back to where they were in 2011 and 2012, and help the Diamondbacks make a push past the Dodgers to the top of the NL West.

Prediction: Diamondbacks

 

Mike Napoli, 1B – Napoli quietly had a fantastic 2013 season with the Red Sox hitting 23 HR, driving in 92 runs, and getting numerous big-time hits during the postseason. Many expect Napoli to return to Boston next year, and I agree. He signed a 3 year $39 Million deal before last season that was nullified when his physical revealed injuries in both hips. Napoli was more valuable at catcher in previous years, but due to his medial history, his days of catching are over, and at 32, that is probably the wise choice to preserve his bat long term. The deal then became a 1 year $5 Million deal. He far and away outplayed that contract, and is back to full strength. We already saw the Red Sox are willing to commit to him long term, relatively speaking for a 32 year old player, with their original offer last year. He isn’t going anywhere.

Prediction: Red Sox

Joe Nathan, RP – Nathan had a great 2013 season, finishing with the 5th-most saves in the majors with 43, and had an outstanding 1.39 ERA and .90 WHIP. Nathan may be 39, but he’s still performing at an elite level. Earlier this month, Nathan declined his 1 year $9.5 Million option with the Rangers. He should be able to pull in more annually on a 2 year deal. The Tigers don’t have many holes on that team, but closer is one of them. They haven’t had a reliable closer since Jose Valverde, and even that’s a stretch. The Rangers sent the Tigers $30 Million in the Ian Kinsler-Prince Fielder trade. So while a big chunk of that can be put towards locking up Max Scherzer long term, the cash can help them land Nathan and help shore up one a bullpen that had the 7th worst ERA in the majors last year. This seems like a match made in heaven.

Prediction: Tigers

Carlos Beltran, OF – Beltran may be 36 but he hasn’t shown many signs of slowing down in recent years. He hit .296 this year, hitting 24 HR, and driving in 84 runs. The Yankees have reportedly been negotiating with Beltran in recent days, and reportedly made him an offer. With Curtis Granderson expected to leave the Yankees this offseason, the Yankees will have a gaping hole in the outfield. In that stadium, the switch-hitting Beltran can probably return to 30-homer status.

Prediction: Yankees

Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C – Salty hit a respectable .273 with 14 HR ad 65 RBI this year, while playing above average defense. With Napoli no longer catching and no other legitimate catcher on the free agent market, the Red Sox bringing Saltalamacchia back makes the most sense.

Prediction: Red Sox

 

Matt Garza, SP – Garza is widely viewed as arguably the best pitcher available in the free agent market. Between the Cubs and the Rangers this year, Garza went 10-6 with a 3.82 ERA and a WHIP of 1.24. But a major concern for Garza is his health, as he’s only pitched 259 innings in the past 2 years combined. And already 30, teams will have to wonder about his long-term durability and value. The Dodgers were considered a viable option, but the recent signing of Dan Haren probably takes them out of the mix. The Blue Jays on the other hand, lost Josh Johnson this offseason, and saw prized acquisition R.A. Dickey struggle mightily this year. Bringing in Garza to add stability to that rotation would make a lot of sense for Toronto.

Prediction: Blue Jays

Detroit Red Wings v Ottawa Senators

Thanksgiving is over, Chanukah is still going strong, and hockey is getting more interesting by the day. This week, teams were tested, big games were played, and a hero returned to his old team. Let’s dive in:

Metropolitan Division

The Pittsburgh Penguins are one of the more streaky teams in the league, and they are on a good streak lately. They picked up 7 points in 4 games this week, with varying levels of competition. They lost in OT to the Bruins, took to a shootout to beat the Leafs, then blew out the Lightning and Panthers. They now lead the division by 7 to the Washington Capitals, who had an average week, going 1-1-1 against teams they probably should have beaten. The Penguins are being given the opportunity to run away from them and the other teams in contention. One of those teams is the always confusing New York Rangers. When they lose, they lose big, but when they win, they play well. This week, they went 2-2-0, but had no consistency in their game whatsoever, getting shutout 5-0 against Tampa, but crushing Vancouver 5-2. They currently sit one point ahead of the up-and-down New Jersey Devils, who this week also went 2-2-0, but snapped a 3 game losing streak with their win in Carolina to split a home-and-home. Their game has been inconsistent as well, but for lumps of games at a time, and all of the inconsistency points to their offense. Right behind the Devils are the streaking Philadelphia Flyers, who went 2-2-0 this week, but should have been able to win every game with the level of teams they played. They sit one point ahead of the Hurricanes, who split a home-and-home with the Devils and then lost at home to the Canucks. The Blue Jackets alternated between good wins and bad losses, landing them 5 points back of the third place Rangers, and the Islanders continue to plummet, losing all 3 this week, one in OT, and will be hitting rock bottom any day now. The division has been convoluted with inconsistency, and will continue to be very fun yet frustrating for all teams involved.

Atlantic Division

Despite the 6-1 loss to the Red Wings, the Boston Bruins are sitting pretty atop the Atlantic, winning their other 3 games this week, including two showdowns with Pittsburgh and the Rangers. Their defense has been stout for the most part, and has been carrying the team to the top of the division. Those Red Wings, however, have been catching up to them, moving into second place with a fantastic 3-0 week, outscoring opponents 15-3. Their offense has certainly picked it up, and their defense has been solid to boot, even though they only had one quality opponent. The Wings passed the Lightning for second place, but Tampa has been doing well in their own right. The Bolts had 2 quality wins over the Rangers and Flyers, but lost to the Penguins, which was enough to drop them into third. They have been doing well without Steven Stamkos, but who are we kidding, they really want him back soon. The Montreal Canadiens have been picking their game up lately, having a 2-0-1 week, and are now tied with Tampa for third. The Habs’ strong overall game helps from their young core mixed with veteran help to make a team no one should sleep on. They overtook the lately-sour Maple Leafs, who’ve picked up 2 points in 4 losses this week, in a year where they need to prove that they are for real. Ottawa had a good win against Washington, but two losses since have them 7 back of those Leafs, and they are losing their chances more per day. Saturday night featured the return of longtime captain Daniel Alfredsson, who was met with a standing ovation and a scoreboard tribute, which will just about be as newsworthy as the Senators will get for the next little while. Florida will be playing spoiler for the rest of the season, with their occasional good wins against good teams, like their Monday night win against the Flyers, but don’t count on it every game. Buffalo took what seemed like a record 3 points in a week, and are the first team to hit 20 losses in regulation on the season. This division has been shuffling constantly, with teams dropping and rising seemingly every night, and will continue to shuffle for the rest of the season.

Central Division

Raise your hand if you can beat the Chicago Blackhawks. Since I know none of you did, as well as none of the rest of the NHL, we can safely say that the Hawks are the best team in the league, harboring a 6 game winning streak, all 6 being road games, 4 of which this week. Their offense has been outstanding, and their defense has been good enough to boot, as these guys boast a 5 point lead on the next team up in the powerful Central. That team is the St. Louis Blues, who went 2-1-0 this week against very strong opponents, Minnesota, Colorado, and (losing in) San Jose. They still have one of the top cores and systems in the league, and despite them being so far back from the almighty Blackhawks, they can’t be discounted as one of the top teams in the league. Also in that conversation is the Colorado Avalanche, who lost to the aforementioned Blues before sweeping a home-and-home with division rival Minnesota. The Avs have had the best turnaround by miles this season, and continue to show that they are indeed for real, with strong wins and few losses to separate them. The Minnesota Wild had a gauntlet this week, managing just 1 point in 4 games against the Blues, Coyotes and Avalanche. This week and next are a huge test for the Wild, who are still trying to confirm their spot among the league’s elite, but losing all 4 games this week can’t help their cause. The Nashville Predators had an up and down 2-1-1 week, but remain somewhat in the hunt. Dallas had a huge win against the [Mighty] Ducks, 6-3, but followed it up with 2 shootout losses. They have to be able to build on those wins to have a chance in this crazy strong division. Winnipeg had 2 wins in 3 games this week also, but have the furthest climb out of the 3 bottom teams in the Central, should one of the mighty’s slip and fall. That being said, this division is relatively clear cut as to who will make the playoffs, but no one can be counted out yet, especially in this era of the NHL.

Pacific Division

The San Jose Sharks have the least amount of regulation losses, and are sitting happily on top of the Pacific, with 3 quality wins this week. They have been incredibly difficult to play against, with a young/old mix for the ages, and a win-now perspective. They passed the Anaheim [Mighty] Ducks for that top spot, who lost big in Big D before losing to the Sharks in a shootout, to flank a solid win in Calgary. The Ducks are still a dangerous team to play against, with two of the top scorers in the league, and an unprecedented three options in net. The Phoenix Coyotes had a 1-2-0 week, and fell to fourth behind the Los Angeles Kings, who went 1-1-1 this week. Both of those teams have been playing average hockey lately, but well enough to continue to hold off the Vancouver Canucks, who went 2-1-1 this week. With their latest surge, the Canucks have made it a 5 team race for the 4 spots from the Pacific, that remains tightly contested. The Calgary Flames had a win against the Kings, but lost the other two, and are fading into the dark, but giving their young players time to warm to the league. The Oilers, like the Panthers, have the team to be able to play spoiler to some teams, but remain wildly out of contention. The Pacific has been knotting up, with the Canucks surging back into contention, but it remains tough to crack the top 4. If one team has a big skid, it might be too much to get back in.

Top 5:

1) Chicago Blackhawks – Winning 6 consecutive road games is one thing, but when those games are all in a row, it’s something unheard of. No contest for the top spot.

2) San Jose Sharks – The ultimate regular season franchise has been keeping to their name this season, and are back atop the Pacific.

3) Boston Bruins – Lately, this team has been very hard to play against. If their offense continues to improve, they will become nearly impossible to beat.

4) St. Louis Blues – Tough schedule recently, but they are still doing just fine, and are not a team to look forward to on the calendar.

5) Colorado Avalanche – Despite a lull in the middle of last month, they have been very good and hard to play against. If they get one trustworthy goalie in net as opposed to two solid ones, they will be an elite team.

In the box this week

Vancouver’s Kevin Bieksa and New York Rangers’ Brian Boyle. In the closing seconds of the Rangers’ 5-2 win at the Garden, Bieksa went after Boyle, clearly frustrated from the game. After a scuffle and wrestling match, Bieksa went after Boyle’s helmet, much like a certain fan of a certain ice hockey team, known as…daaaa Hawks. Here’s what he did after he grabbed it:

Rather childishly, Bieksa drop-kicked Boyle’s helmet, clearly frustrated. Boyle joins him in the box because he responds by kicking Bieksa’s helmet. Helmet soccer isn’t very mature, and both players deserved some finger-wagging as they go to the corner and think about what they just did.

Tune in next week for some more. Happy Chanukah puckheads!

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#10 Desean Jackson – Going against a strong DEF is why he is just #10, but he has a good QB and is a great WR.

#9 Josh Gordon – JAX defense isn’t that bad but Josh Gordon is getting thrown to all the time giving him the opportunities he needs to capitalize.

#8 Jordy Nelson – He is going against DET but also has Matt Flynn and not Rodgers. He is a talented WR and looks like he can flourish this week against a second rate DEF.

#7 Antonio Brown – He is a personal favorite of Big Ben and seems like he isn’t turning the jets off anytime soon. Look for a score and a bunch of targets from this guy.

#6 Alshon Jeffery – Going against MIN, if they cover Marshall someone is going to open and it’s gong to be this guy.

#5 Demariyus Thomas – At the end of the day he is a Peyton Manning favorite right now and that means MONEY.

#4 AJ Green – Going against SD isn’t a shoe-in but when you have hands like Green you can do a lot against a second rate DEF.

#3 Dez Bryant – They have been connecting well lately together QB-WR here. Dez is playing a weak secondary and has a great QB throwing to him. Expect a show with this boy.

#2 Brandon Marshall – MIN again is the weakest DEF in the league and Marshall is one of the top WR in the game! Seems like he drops another good day this week.

#1 Calvin Johnson – Is this really a surprise? He is a beast and that’s really it. Nobody stands a chance against him to cover him unless you double team him or shadow him with a zone and that just leaves open the other WR and Bush.

New Jersey Devils v Los Angeles Kings

This week in the NHL brought some interesting developments in the standings. Some new teams are heating up for the first time this season, while other teams are coming back to earth. Let’s see what happened last week, and how it will impact the league going forward.

Metropolitan Division

It seems like for the time being, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals will be jostling for the top spot, but with the Caps getting just 1 point this week in 3 games, including a 4-0 loss to the Penguins on Rivalry Night, the Pens have a small cushion for first. They also took 3 games out of 4 this week to help their cause. Another dog fight between rivals is now for the third place spot in the Metro, between the New York Rangers, and the New Jersey Devils. Both teams went 2-1-0 this week, with the Rangers starting a road swing, and the Devils nearly sweeping through California. During the second game of that trip, Devils’ Jaromir Jagr tied Mario Lemieux for 9th overall in goals with 690. Carolina had a tough 1-2-1 week, but the Hurricanes got Cam Ward back, and he already dazzled, with an epic save on Ottawa’s Colin Greening. The Philadelphia Flyers are continuing their charge back, winning all 3 of their games this week, trying to prove that their lull to start the season was a fluke, now just 2 back of the 3rd place team in the division. Columbus continues to struggle, putting up a 7-0 stinkfest in Edmonton against the lowly Oilers. The New York Islanders are now in the cellar, losing all 3 this week, and have struggled mightily since that Vanek trade. With 4 points separating 2nd and 6th in the division, expect a war from here on out.

Atlantic Division

The Boston Bruins are starting to establish themselves as a mainstay atop the Atlantic, getting 7 of 8 possible points this week. Tuukka Rask continues to hold the line behind one of the strongest defensive corps in the game. Toronto took 2 of 3 games, and are now in second place, after passing the free falling Tampa Bay Lightning. However, the Leafs’ only regulation win was against the Islanders, and didn’t look too strong in their other two games. The Lightning had a trip to California, and took 1 point from the Golden State, leaving in 3rd place, and scoring 3 goals in 3 games shows how much they miss Steven Stamkos. The Detroit Red Wings are having a tough go at it, going 2-2-0 this week, but haven’t been winning a ton of games lately. They lead the league with 7 OT losses, though, which is keeping them in the race until they get back on track. They are just a point ahead of Montreal, who had 3 big wins against surging teams this week, beating the Wild, Capitals, and Penguins, and are making their case for joining the B’s and Leafs near the top. Ottawa is struggling to keep pace, winning 1 of 4, and are sliding out of contention quickly, curiously not as stout on defense as they were last year. Florida continues to be the Tim Thomas swan song, seemingly stuck in 7th. Buffalo, like the Islanders, seem like they got the worse end of the Vanek deal, but the draft picks may prove valuable, as the Sabres are making a lottery run. In other Sabres’ news, they finally unleashed the “Turd-Burger jersey” on Sunday, while the rest of the league shielded their eyes. The division is tight, but with struggles of a couple of the higher seeds are making it very fun to watch, as teams will start shuffling between places.

Central Division

The Chicago Blackhawks got slapped in a showdown with division rival Colorado, 5-1, but won their other 2 games to keep the top spot in the Central. They showed that they can blow teams out, with a 6-3 win in Winnipeg, and win the tight games, with a 2-1 win in Vancouver. The defending champs did not suffer a hangover, and continue to be the top dog in the tough Central. Right behind them is the St. Louis Blues, who won all 3 games this week and are showing us that they are a top team in the league. The Blues, with a 6-1 win against the Stars, took over top goal differential in the league, now with +29. Colorado found their winning touch back, taking all 3 this week, including a blowout of the Blackhawks. They are tied with the Minnesota Wild, who took 2 out of 3 this week on the road, 2 back of Chicago. The Wild have had a tough swing, and it ends tonight with another huge game in St. Louis. Dallas lost both their games this week, and are now mired in a 3 way tie at the bottom of the central with Nashville and Winnipeg, 10 back of Colorado and Minnesota. Nashville had a couple of wins this week against Atlantic teams, and Winnipeg lost all 3 games, picking up 2 shootout points along the way. This division has an interesting dichotomy of contenders and non-contenders, and it will take a mighty fall and a massive streak for that to change.

Pacific Division

The Anaheim [Mighty] Ducks finally returned home to the Pond after a 9 game road trip, and their first game back was their first loss, a 4-3 OT loss to New Jersey. After that, they won 2 games to remain at the top of the division. One of those games included handing the Phoenix Coyotes their first home loss of the season. Those Coyotes have dropped to 4th in the division, only playing twice this week, and taking 1 point from them. The San Jose Sharks also had two games, but both were wins, bludgeoning the Lightning and squeaking by the Devils, and remain tied with the Blues for the least amount of regulation losses. The L.A. Kings also crushed the Bolts, but then lost the next 2 in OT, in tough luck losses to New Jersey and Colorado. Vancouver had a 1-1-1 week, but will have a tough time cracking the top 4 of this division unless one team starts to struggle heavily. Calgary took 2 of their 3 OT games this week, but remain hopelessly behind Vancouver for the top trailer in the division. Edmonton finally showed up at home, with two blowout wins against struggling teams. The top 4 teams in the division continued to shuffle, and barring a huge turn of events, will probably keep shuffling around for the next while as things take shape from here on out.

Top 5

1) St. Louis Blues – I know they aren’t in first, but it’s been since October 25th that they lost consecutive games. That counts for quite the something.

2) Colorado Avalanche – They are right back on this list after an off week, and showed that they are no joke, especially with that 5-1 win against the Hawks.

3) San Jose Sharks – The Sharks aren’t getting tons of love, but they should be, because they have points in all but 3 of their games this year.

4) Minnesota Wild – Like the Blues, they haven’t lost consecutive games since October. Their entire next week is a litmus test, playing the Blues, Coyotes, and a potentially epic home and home with Colorado.

5) Boston Bruins – No recognition of the East last week, the Bruins and their brick wall defense are making their case to be part of the recognized elite.

In the box this week

Cam Fowler of the [Mighty] Ducks. Friday night at the Pond in Anaheim, the Lightning and Ducks were tied 0-0 in the early stages of the third period, when Cam Fowler was primed for a line change. He was straddling the bench when the puck came by. Then the hilarity ensued:

Teammate Hampus Lindholm got a good chuckle out of watching Fowler channel his inner flightless bird (maybe a duck?) and take a tumble. Now, Cam gets a different kind of 2 minutes for tripping.

Next week is a big one, as teams have big divisional matchups, and more convolution within divisions. Until then, Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Hannukah, puck-heads!

hi-res-184428556-teemu-selanne-of-the-anaheim-ducks-attempts-a-shot_crop_north

We’ve reached the season’s first quarter-mark, and as quick as it may have seemed, plenty has happened. We’ve seen controversy, trades, injuries, and huge moments that have shaken the league up and making this year another interesting one to write in the books. Let’s see how each team stacks up to where they were projected this season.

Anaheim [Mighty] Ducks: They started out this season showing us that they are a powerhouse to be reckoned with, flirting with the lead of the President’s Trophy race for best record in the league. It took until this, game number 24 for them, to lose at home on the Pond. Led by top scorers Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, and goalie trio Jonas Hiller, Viktor Fasth, and Frederik Andersen, the Ducks have been exceptional this year, and even pulled the Mighty out of the closet for one game. Grade: A

Boston Bruins: Widely viewed as the best team in the Atlantic entering the season, the B’s haven’t disappointed. They lead the league in fewest goals against, and have overtaken the Lightning in first, in large part to Tuukaa Rask and his defense, led by Zdeno Chara. Grade: A-

Buffalo Sabres: They’ve already shown the door to their GM, rookie head coach, and team’s top scorer Thomas Vanek. The return for Vanek was good, despite Moulson taking time to fit into the anarchistic system. Ryan Miller is likely going to leave the team this season, being a free agent, but until then remains the only player left with any value as of right now. Grade: F

Calgary Flames: Following the retirement of Miikka Kipprusoff, the Flames have been left with a massive void in net, and it’s been challenging for guys like Kari Ramo and Reto Berra (who made an amazing bicycle kick save the other night) to fill that hole. The team’s bright spot is Sean Monahan, who’s second on the team in points, and has plenty of time to grow, along with fellow rook Sven Baertschi, because the Flames aren’t going anywhere. Grade: C-

Carolina Hurricanes: Carrying over a similar team to last season, the Canes weren’t too high on anyone’s radar. But injuries to top forward Jeff Skinner and goalie Cam Ward (again) have made it tough for them to win games. Their offense has been pretty bad lately, but still somehow stay in games. It remains to be seen if they can keep repelling the bottom of the Metro. Grade: D+

Chicago Blackhawks: Most points in the league? Check. Most goals scored in the league? Check. The defending Cup champs are showing just what they are made of, not much else to say. Grade: A

Colorado Avalanche: I don’t know if Patrick Roy gave them a shot in the arm, or their young players are playing to potential, but this team was unconscious to begin the year, despite a recent slide, this team is dangerous, with 6 forwards with 13+ points. If they continue to score, they can further ignore their less than ideal goalie situation. Still, I like this team going forward. Grade: A

Columbus Blue Jackets: I originally thought this team would be a playoff contender once Nathan Horton returns. But they continue to disappoint. Their leading scorer is D-man James Wisniewski, and their defense hasn’t been spectacular. Tied currently for last in the Metro is no place for a projected playoff contender. Grade: D

Dallas Stars: Guess who’s winning the trade between Boston and Dallas? Tyler Seguin is having a monster season, co-leading the team in points with Jamie Benn. Maybe he did need a change of scenery. The Stars have been quietly turning it on, but the competition in the division may be too tough for them to overcome. They’ve shown great effort, though. Grade: B-

Detroit Red Wings: Of course, Henrik Zetterberg is the top goal scorer. Of course Pavel Datsyuk has the best hands in the game. Nothing much ever changes in Mo-town. But, they haven’t been keeping in shape defensively, and Jimmy Howard hasn’t been his normal game-stealing self this year. It has hurt them recently, and it may come back to bite them again later. They should try and tighten up the back end if they want to chuck some octopus in May: Grade: B-

Edmonton Oilers: If I were grading them on pure offense, they’d get a very good mark. But since this is a team game, it’s time to lower the boom. With their talented offense, they shouldn’t be anywhere near the bottom of the Western conference. They signed Ilya Bryzgalov…to help their defense. Let that sink in for a moment. That’s how bad their back end is. Grade: G…?

Florida Panthers: So, they stink. We know it. You know it. The Sabres know it, and feel ashamed that they are behind the Panthers. The leading scorer(s) on this team have 12 points each. There are a few players who have more goals than that alone. At least the Panthers aren’t disappointing anyone. Grade: D

Los Angeles Kings: Their defense has been helping out their offense, which is something that many teams don’t have. It’s valuable to have guys like Drew Doughty helping out the top guys on the forward corps. Also, the team is right there in the airtight Pacific, despite top keeper Jonathan Quick out with an injury for a while. Ben Scrivens has shown he can play as well (provided he has a defense in front of him). Grade: A-

Minnesota Wild: Could this be the year they put it all together? Seems like it. Zach Parise leads the way in a talented offense, and Josh Harding continues to impress and inspire everyone. Their division is daunting, but they’ve stuck with it so far, and are playing impressive hockey. Grade: A-

Montreal Canadiens: This team is full of young blossoming stars, like top D-man P.K. Subban, and wingers Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher. While the team is playing well, they aren’t superstars yet. I wouldn’t overlook them, despite their place in the standings, but it makes sense that they are where they are. They won’t kill anyone, but they can be dangerous. Grade: B

Nashville Predators: They are without goalie Pekka Rinne for a while, so more people can concentrate on rookie stud-to-be Seth Jones. He has a while to go before he becomes a true star in the league, but it’s only a matter of time. They likely won’t go far this year, but it gives them time to build up for a run soon. Grade: C

New Jersey Devils: Not sure why so many people were giving them negative feedback. Since the emergence of rookie defenseman Eric Gelinas, the offense and power play have been coming around, in front of a goalie tandem comparable to a Now-and-Later candy from the late 90’s, in Martin Brodeur and Cory Schneider. Jaromir Jagr has plenty left in the tank too, and this team can be a factor later in the year, despite all the bad hearsay. Grade: B

New York Islanders: They currently have 3 top point-getters on their team who have proven their worth, John Tavares, Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo. But disappointment throughout, as Thomas Vanek has been hurt, and when he’s played he hasn’t been much a factor. Evgeni Nabakov has played well, but was hit by injury lately, and for an older goalie, that could prove deadly. Grade: D

New York Rangers: They’ve been playing better since their season-opening 9 game road trip ended, but they haven’t impressed anyone yet. Their offense needs to get going, despite injuries to Ryan Callahan and Rick Nash (both have returned). Henrik Lundqvist and Cam Talbot can’t stand on their heads every game. Grade: B-

Ottawa Senators: Don’t blame Daniel Alfredsson for leaving. Their offense, led by Erik Karlsson and Bobby Ryan, with the emergence of Kyle Turris and ever-present Jason Spezza, is fine. Their defense in front of Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner has been dramatically worse than last year. The team probably won’t be able to contend like they did last year if their defense doesn’t pick it up. Grade: C-

Philadelphia Flyers: It took captain Claude Giroux 15 games to find the back of the net. Combine that with 6 points for Scott Hartnell and 5 goals by defensemen, and shaky goaltending, it’s no wonder the team has had a gaping hole to climb out of. Vincent Lecavalier is proving a good pickup, but he can’t do it alone. Grade: D

Phoenix Coyotes: Sporting one of the deepest offenses in the league, and Mike Smith playing well, this team has been a pleasant surprise for the league, right in the race in the Pacific. Martin Hanzal, Shane Doan, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson and crew have shown that they are for real, and this team is hard to beat now. Grade: A-

Pittsburgh Penguins: This group is as streaky as I’ve seen a team get. They win in bunches, and when they hit a slide, it lasts a few games. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and the rest of the gang have the talent to blow away the Metro, but they haven’t. This trend of win a few lose a few can’t continue if they want to make it far this year. Grade: B+

San Jose Sharks: We can talk about guys like Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, Patrick Marleau, and Logan Couture all day. But they aren’t the story. Tomas Hertl and Tommy Wingels have emerged as mainstays in San Jose, and have been playing for keeps. With a deep team like this, playing in front of a capable Antti Niemi, this group is not one you want to play against in a tough spot. Grade: A

St. Louis Blues: Alexander Steen has 17 goals this season, to lead the league. Combine that with T.J. Oshie and David Backes and you have a great offense. They have 3 defensemen (Jay Bouwmeester, Kevin Shattenkirk and Alex Pietrangelo) over 15 points. They have a goalie duo among the more underrated in the league, in Brian Elliot and Jaroslav Halak. They have one of the best records in the league, and a top team to back it up. This looks like a championship caliber team going forward. Grade: A

Tampa Bay Lightning: Steven Stamkos still leads the team in scoring. Trouble is, he broke his leg 2 weeks ago, and will continue to miss significant time. Guys like Martin St. Louis and goalie Ben Bishop have been playing well in his stead, but it’s impossible to replace that kind of talent. It’s hard to quantify a team that just lost their best player for a while, but they’ve been sticking around so far, and I don’t see why that shouldn’t continue. Grade: B+

Toronto Maple Leafs: They have a good, deep offense led by Phil Kessel, 5 guys over 15 points so far. Goalie Jonathan Bernier has been playing well to try and wrestle the top job from incumbent James Reimer. The team has been playing consistently well the whole season, and deserve some positive recognition for a change. Grade: B+

Vancouver Canucks: The Sedin twins can shoulder a load, but they can’t do it alone. Roberto Luongo can win games on his own, but not every game. The Canucks have a good team with high expectations, but sitting 5th in the Pacific (granted it’s challenging) is a let-down. They must step their game up if they want to see a spot in the playoffs, because it looks like they will be the odd ones out at this point. Grade: C+

Washington Capitals: Alexander Ovechkin and Nick Backstrom are returning to form, and Marcus Johansson and Mikhail Grabovski have helped the cause. The main issue is that goalie Braden Holtby seems like he’s holding up his end of the ice on his own. If that continues, he will look more like a sieve than the solid netminder that he is. Grade: B

Winnipeg Jets: Brian Little leads the way, as one of the more underrated players in the league. The only reason right now, that this team isn’t in a better spot, is the level of competition. Every division game has been a hill to climb, playing against the best of the West. Goalie Ondrej Pavelec has to be better, in order to let his offense give him a lead to play with. Grade: C-

We look ahead to the rest of the season, the Olympic break, and more as the season continues. Till next time, puck-heads!

Gary goes on an all out rampage against the New York Jets