Monday, July 12, 2010

Penguins headed in wrong direction

This past spring, the Pittsburgh Penguins had probably the easiest path the Stanley Cup Finals that I can ever remember. Ottawa, Montreal and Philadelphia, none of which would have even qualified for the playoffs in the Western Conference. It looked promising, but they fell flat. The same can be said for the Penguins off season. The Penguins wanted to bolster their defense and were rumored to be interested in guys like Anton Volchenkov and even traded for the rights to Dan Hamhuis. On July 2nd came, the Penguins didn't get either. Not only did they not get neither Volchenkov or Hamhuis, but they also lost their best defenseman, Sergei Gonchar as well.

I understand that Gonchar is 36 and he was looking to remain a Penguin until he was almost 40, but so what? Its not as if Gonchar's skills were clearly diminishing. As I mentioned in my previous post, Gonchar had just 4 less powerplay points than Crosby and played in 19 less games. He was second in the NHL in powerplay assists. If you thought the Penguins had problems on the powerplay before, how well will they do without one of the league's best powerplay quarterbacks? I know a lot of you expect Kris Letang to "step it up" and be that guy but I haven't seen any evidence of him being able to do that. Gonchar finished with 30 powerplay points last year in 62 games. Letang played in 73 games and finished with 5. They played on the same powerplay unit together. Gonchar got points, Letang did not. Gonchar has that big heavy shot that you need on your powerplay. Letang has a big heavy shot too, unfortunately most of the time, that shot is smacking off the glass.

The Penguins did manage to snatch up a couple of defensemen though. Not the ones they wanted, but Shero was determined to not let that cap space burn a hole in his pocket. He signed Zbynek Michalek, a shutdown stay at home shot blocker from Phoenix for $4 mil a year for 5 years. So they let Rob Scuderi, who does the exact same thing for less money, walk away last year and they get this guy. Devoting that much money for that long to a guy that just blocks shots is a little puzzling. Mark Eaton, who is a smart shot blocking defenseman went to the Islanders for $2.5 mil.

Shero wasn't done yet though. Rather than sign Gonchar for $5.5 mil for 3 years, he goes out and gets former NJ Devil Paul Martin for $20 mil over 4 years. That's right, instead of having one of the best defensemen in the league for just a half mil more, he signs an offensive minded defenseman that is nowhere near as good as Gonchar. Five million a year for 4 years for Paul Martin?? He's a fast skater and a decent passer, but he's actually worse than Gonchar defensively (which is the reason a lot of yinzers wanted Gonchar gone) and his shot isn't impressive. He's been the Devils go to guy for offense from the blueline for several years and the most points he's ever had in a season was 32. Martin missed almost the entire year with an injury in 09-10 and the Devils finished with the second best record in the conference, so he won't exactly be missed by them.

What Ray Shero needs to understand is that there's this thing called a "salary cap". In a "salary cap" era, you need to make smart decisions. You're not going to be able to fill all of your team's needs, you're going to have holes somewhere. When the Penguins signed Crosby, Malkin and Staal to big contracts, they made it apparent that this was going to be an offensive minded team. Get what you can defensively and spend money on forwards. Acquire players that will enable you to get the most of your big investments (Crosby, Malkin, Staal). When the Penguins won the Cup in 09, Eaton, Gill, Scuderi, Orpik and Letang were all under $4 mil. The bulk of their cap space was spent on forwards, as it should be. The Penguins are now in a bad spot. Outside the big three, what do they have? Kunitz? Cooke? Talbot? If guys like Cooke and Talbot are playing on your second line, you have problems. However, they don't have any cap space left to sign anyone thanks to Shero's wasteful spending. It should also be noted that Volchenkov and Hamhuis each signed deals worth $4.5 mil, which means the Pens could have gotten the defensemen they wanted for the same price they got Michalek and Martin.

I hope you like look of this Pens team, because barring a blockbuster trade or a huge raise in the salary cap, this team is pretty much set (or stuck) for the next 2-3 years. I keep hearing Pens fans say they'll be alright because Eric Tangradi will be on the big club this year. The same Tangradi that scored just 17 goals in the AHL last year?

Even though Ilya Kovalchuk isn't signed yet, its being rumored that the teams interested in him are trying to sign him to one of these huge contracts (10-15 years) that lower the cap hit. Kovalchuk is looking at a $5-6 mil cap hit because of this. If *I* was in Shero's place going into the off season, I would have re-signed Gonchar and Eaton. Then traded Fleury and his $5 mil a year contract. He's not $4 million better than Brent Johnson and its been proven by the Wings, Flyers and Blackhawks that you don't need a high priced goalie to win in the NHL. Finally, I would have made a strong pitch to sign Kovalchuk to one of those mega deals. The $5 mil they're spending on Fleury SHOULD be spent on a much needed goal scoring winger. Kovalchuk is one of the best scorers out there and would be far more valuable to the team than Fleury is now.

Ray Shero is failing as the Penguins GM. It doesn't take a genius to know that you need to re-sign Crosby and Malkin when their contracts expire. The money he's paying Staal is too much for his current role on the team and the money he's spending on Fleury, Martin, and Michalek is unbelievable. He's had 5 years to get a winger for Crosby and aside from the brief stint he's had with Hossa, his best linemate has been Chris Kunitz who's never had more than 60 points in a season. That's pretty pitiful considering names like Heatley, Kovalchuk, Gaborik and Kessel have all been up for grabs in the past couple years. If the Penguins are going to head back in the right direction, its going to take big moves, moves that Shero has proven he doesn't have the stones to make.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Factoring In: 06/30/2010

- Yesterday, the Dallas Stars said that they would not offer the 40 year old Mike Modano a new contract despite his desire to still play hockey. To me, this is a classless move by the Stars organization. Modano has been the face of that franchise since they were the Minnesota North Stars back in the early 90's. If he wants to play another year, you sign him to a one year deal, he won't cost that much and you put him on your third or fourth line. He's earned the right to choose when he retires and if he wants to play another year after all he's done for your franchise, the Stars should be glad to have him back. Now Modano has to decide between choosing another team or retire. He really only has three options at this point. Play for the Minnesota Wild and end his career in the same city he started it in. Play for the Detroit Red Wings so he can play his final year in his hometown and have a legitimate shot at the Stanley Cup. Or retire. I would love to see Modano in a Wings jersey. He's a smart, classy, two way player that would fit in really nice on our third line. For the right price, I think this is something Detroit needs to consider. How great of a story would it be to see Modano win the Cup in his hometown and both he and Lidstrom end their illustrious careers as champions.

- With the NHL free agent frenzy nearing, the Penguins have yet to come to terms with defenseman and powerplay specialist Sergei Gonchar. I've heard pretty much every Penguins fan I know say "Ohhh we don't need him", "He's too old" or "Did you see how Travis Moen blew past him in Game 7? He's terrible". I strongly disagree. First off, the Penguins DO need him. His presence on the powerplay is critical. Gonch finished with just 4 less powerplay points than team leader Sidney Crosby and played in 19 less games. He was also second in the NHL among defensemen in powerplay assists, one point behind Mike Green. Last season, Gonchar missed all but 25 games during the regular season. The team struggled badly on the powerplay until he returned. The year before that Gonchar was 2nd in the league in powerplay points, including forwards. His defensive skills have always been questionable, but that's not his role. His role is to supply offense from the blueline and there are very few people in the NHL that have done that as well as Gonchar. You can say "We don't need him" and "He's too old" now, but in the Fall when the Penguins can't score on the man advantage, somewhere in the back of your mind, you'll think, "Hey, maybe that Gonchar guy wasn't so bad afterall".

- I've never really been a fan of the NBA, but the rumors about free agents LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh getting together and forming a mega team in Miami are really interesting. Three of the best basketball players in the world all joining the same team at the same time. A lot of current NBA fans are saying its bad for the game to have one team with that many stars and it takes away from the competitive spirit of the game. Let's put it this way, I had ZERO interest in the NBA before this. If this does happen and all three sign with the Heat, I will find myself watching NBA games this season. I want to see this mega team tear through the NBA. It would be really something to behold. It would be fun for Heat fans, obviously and it would be fun for non-Miami fans because just imagine how amazing it would be if this superstar team lost and your team beat them. These three joining the Miami Heat would be one of the greatest things to happen to the NBA in a long time.

- Sticking with basketball, people are saying that LeBron should stay in Cleveland and that he would be a traitor if he left and a coward for joining a team of all stars. He's been with the Cavs for 7 years and made it to the Finals once. From my understanding, he was the whole show that year and had very little support. He continues to receive virtually no support from his teammates today. LeBron James wants to win a championship. The Cavs had 7 years to put together a good supporting cast around him and haven't done it. Its time to move on. If he joins Wade and Bosh in Miami, they could become the greatest NBA team ever. Ever! If LeBron really wants to make a name for himself, being the best player on the greatest NBA team ever is a good way to do it. Some people have written that it would tarnish his legacy or make his championships less impressive. Absurd. Were the Jordan and Pippen championships less impressive? Were the Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul Jabbar championships less impressive? How about the Kobe and Shaq teams? Besides, where would you rather live during the winter... Miami or Cleveland?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Eric Lindros should be in Hall of Fame

Fifteen years ago, I had an Eric Lindros picture taped to a dart board hanging in my room. I couldn't stand him and said "I don't care who wins the Cup as long as HE doesn't." Today, I'm writing a blog post saying why the guy should be in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Recently, the retired center became eligible and "Puck Daddy" of Yahoo Sports gave Lindros 25-1 odds that he would be part of the 2010 class. Many people feel that he shouldn't ever be in the hall of fame, much less a first time ballot inductee.

When he was 16 years old, Lindros was expected to be the next Mario Lemieux. He wasn't and in the minds of a lot of people, that means he was a bust. I'm sorry, either you're the greatest hockey player of all time or you're a bust? Those are some pretty high standards to live up to. Lindros also managed to make himself hated by all hockey fans throughout his career too. When he was drafted by the Quebec Nordiques in 1991, he said he wouldn't sign with them, forcing Quebec to trade him to Philadelphia. So that pretty much ticked off all of Canada. Then he was playing for a team that everyone hated, the Flyers. He became of the focal point of everyone's hatred for the Flyers. NHL fans cheered against Lindros for years, celebrating every time he got another concussion. On April 1st 1999, Lindros suffered a rib injury that was misdiagnosed by the Flyers team trainer and said he could fly back to Philly the next day. Fortunately, his teammate Keith Jones insisted on taking him to the hospital right away and it turned out to be a collapsed lung caused by internal bleeding. The doctors in Nashville said that if Lindros had listened to the trainer, he would have died. Lindros criticized the team doctors, while Flyers GM Bobby Clarke criticized Lindros and basically called him a wuss. Yeah, Bobby, your franchise player nearly dies and you're calling him a wuss. As if we needed another reason to hate you and your organization. A lot of the Flyers fans however, sided with Clarke and essentially ran Lindros out of town. With Philly fans against him too, he had 100% of hockey fans hating his guts. However, if you can push your hatred aside and take a look at what he did during his career, you'll see that even though he wasn't as good as Mario Lemieux, he was one of the best, if not the best hockey player in the 1990's.

To me, the hall of fame, in all sports, is about honoring the greatest players to ever play the game. In order to become a member, you should have, at some point in your career, been considered the best player in the league during your era. As a 19 year old rookie, he scored 41 goals in just 61 games. In 1995, he tied Jaromir Jagr for the most points in the league and won the Hart Trophy (writers MVP) and Lester B Pearson (players MVP) awards. In 1997, he led the league in playoff scoring and the Flyers to their first Stanley Cup finals appearance in 10 years before losing out to the Red Wings. Lindros was a dominating force. In the first 5 years of his career, he averaged 1.47 points per game. To give you just an idea of how good that is, Sidney Crosby averaged 1.36 points per game through his first five seasons and Alexander Ovechkin averaged 1.34 in his first five. After the concussions and other serious injuries, Lindros' career average dropped to 1.14 points per game, which is still pretty impressive. Its still a higher career average than Jarri Kurri, Bryan Trottier, Pavel Bure, Brett Hull, Bobby Hull, Mark Messier, Adam Oates, Gordie Howe, Ron Francis, Rocket Richard, and Luc Robitaille. Just to name a few.

A lot of people believe Lindros shouldn't be in the hall of fame because he was a dirty player and he whined a lot. Ironically, I hear a lot of this from Pens fans that worship Sidney Crosby who is guilty of having those same traits. Eric Lindros was a big guy at 6' 4", 240 lbs. When you're that big and you play for the Flyers, you're going to play physical. As I mentioned in my "Ovechkin vs Crosby" post, when you play a physical type of game, you're going to occasionally cross that line. When you play physical, not all of your hits are going to be clean. Its impossible. The game is too fast. Lindros was the league's best power forward for almost a decade. Using his size to be a great power forward was his strength, but it was ultimately his downfall as well. His physical style of play invited other physical players to take shots at him and being as big as he was, its not like he could get out of the way. Now he took a few big hits because his head was down, but I think it was more of the everyday physicality that destroyed his body and made him injury prone near the end of his career.

People always talk about his injuries when they talk about Lindros and the hall of fame. Injuries were a significant part of Eric's career, however it shouldn't stop him from going to the hall of fame. When he played, he was arguably the best player in the game. He has the MVP trophies to prove it. So he never won a Stanley Cup, once again, as I've stated in previous posts, the number of championships doesn't determine your worth as a player. The Stanley Cup is a team trophy, not an individual one. One person doesn't win the Cup by himself. In his first three playoffs in Philly, Lindros averaged 1.21 points per game. He did everything he could, but Ron Hextall / Garth Snow / Sean Burke and whatever other shooter tutor Philly put in net couldn't stop pucks and this is why Lindros isn't a Stanley Cup champion today.

I understand why people dislike Eric Lindros. I get it. He was physical, he was tough, he was a Flyer. Big E looked like he was going to turn the hated Flyers into the next hockey dynasty and turn 1975 into just another number, but you need to get over it. I disliked him as much as anyone, but its time to let it go. Its been 10 years since he played his last game for the Flyers and its been 3 years since he played his last NHL game. Its time to put that hatred aside, take a look at what he accomplished, take a look at his numbers and come to the only conclusion that makes sense... Eric Lindros is a hall of famer.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Tampa Bay Lightning? Y not?

This morning I woke up and checked, "Yzerman, Red Wings icon, named Lightning GM". "Damn!", I thought to myself, "it wasn't a dream". Shortly, thereafter I logged onto Facebook, pulled up the Tampa Bay Lightning fan page and clicked "Become a Fan" (or Like). Within minutes my wife posted on my wall "You like the Tampa Bay Lightning?! Come on now..." I thought to myself, Y not?

When the news broke yesterday that my favorite player and legendary Red Wing Steve Yzerman left Detroit to take over as GM for the Tampa Bay Lightning, I couldn't believe what I was reading. Is this a joke? I thought what probably every Wing fan thought at that time they heard the news... "F$%&*$!" While none of us thought this was possible, deep down, we all knew that this was bound to happen. He was going to have to wait a long time to become the GM in Detroit and fresh off his success as the GM for Team Canada in the 2010 Olympics, now was the time. What a great situation to go into too. The Lightning have some really good, young, talented players to build around. Guys like Steven Stamkos (age 19), Victor Hedman (age 18), and Vinny Lecavalier (age 29). The Bolts have a new owner, Jeff Vinik, who has deep pockets and a commitment to winning. Plus, you get to live in sunny beautiful Florida year round! What more could you ask for? While it hurts us Red Wings fans to see him leave our franchise, most of us will continue to cheer on The Captain as GM for the Tampa Bay Lightning. A good number of Wings fans have already said that Tampa Bay will be their second favorite behind the Wings. So get ready Lightning, your fan base is about to get very big, very fast.

A few Wings fans that didn't take the news so well said things like, "I hope the Lightning do terrible, so they'll fire him (Yzerman) and he'll come back here" and "I hope he doesn't tarnish his name trying to save this cheesy Mickey Mouse franchise". First, hoping that a guy that spent 27 years of his life turning your team in a winner fails is ignorant. Plain and simple. Second, no team starts off as the Detroit Red Wings. Everybody starts off as a "cheesy Mickey Mouse" franchise. Who took the NY Yankees seriously before Babe Ruth? Who took the 49ers seriously before Joe Montana? Who took the Penguins seriously before Mario Lemieux? Everybody starts off as this franchise that everybody points and laughs at. Then that one guy shows up, leads you to greatness and changes everyone's perception forever. Yzerman can do that with the Lightning. He can take them from being this unpopular Florida based hockey team and turn them into the Red Wings of the Eastern Conference. He has the smarts, he has the support and he has the young stars to build around.

I also think its very ironic that Yzerman went to Tampa Bay. The Wings colors are red and white. The Lightning's colors are blue and black. The exact opposite. Detroit is so far north, its almost in Canada. The Lightning couldn't be farther south. The best player on the Lightning is a 19 year old, right handed shooting, first round pick named Steve that was given the task to not only perform, but to renew interest in this hockey club. Wasn't Yzerman given that exact same assignment 27 years ago? Steven Stamkos also wears the numbers 1 and 9 on his back, except in the reverse order (91). The Bolts also have a young 18 year old Swedish defenseman named Victor Hedman that is supposed to be one of the next great defensemen in the game. Its like Yzerman went to the bizarro Red Wings. Everything is so similar yet different.

Its a very exciting time for Steve Yzerman and it should be an exciting time for his loyal fans. Yzerman and the Lightning have a lot of work to do, but they are on the cusp of something great. O CAPTAIN! my Captain! Good luck with your new team and us Wings fans will be there to cheer you on every step of the way!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Ovechkin vs Crosby: Part 1

Every great sport has its rivalries. Sometimes its between teams, players, colleges, coaches, fans. The NHL is blessed with a great rivalry right now between Washington Capitals franchise winger, Alexander Ovechkin and Pittsburgh Penguins crown jewel, Sidney Crosby. Two great players, but only one can be called "the best". Its fine to say you like one more than the other, but don't go saying one is BETTER than the other because of that liking. I think its just amazing how Crosby fans will ignore the numbers and just say, "Crosby's the best". It seems like everyday now I get into an argument with someone about "Who's better? Crosby or Ovechkin?". Its funny because last year Crosby wasn't even mentioned in the "Who's the best?" discussion. It was "Malkin or Ovechkin?". Crosby wasn't even a consideration. But now, I get some Pens fan trying to justify his or her position with lame arguments that Crosby is the best. Take off your black and gold glasses for a few minutes and look at these facts:

FACT: Ovechkin and Crosby were both rookies in 05-06. Crosby had Lemieux, Palffy, LeClair, Recchi, and Gonchar. Ovechkin had Dainius Zubrus and Jeff Halpern. Ovie did better and beat out Crosby for the Calder Trophy which goes to the league's top rookie.

FACT: Ovechkin and Crosby finished with the same number of points this year (109), while Sid had just one more goal. Crosby also played in 9 more games than Ovechkin. I'm quite certain that if Ovie had played in those 9 games, he would not only have more goals and points than Crosby, but he would've won the Art Ross for a second time.

FACT: Both have one Art Ross trophy

FACT: Ovechkin has 2 Hart Trophies as the league MVP, Crosby has just 1.

FACT: Ovechkin has 2 Lester B. Pearson Awards (which goes to the league MVP voted by the NHLPA). Crosby has just 1.

FACT: Ovechkin also owns 2 Rocket Richard Trophies as the top goal scorer in the league. He wasn't a co-champion either like Crosby is this year with Steven Stamkos.

FACT: 2 is a greater number than 1

I do expect the Hart Trophy numbers to be evened up this year when the awards are given out though. The winner of the Hart Trophy is determined by a panel of hockey writers aka the hockey media. The same media that is ramming Sidney Crosby down our throats every chance they get. A good portion of that media is from Canada. Who do you think they'll vote for? Their fellow Canadian that scored the "Golden Goal" in the Olympics or the "dirty Russian"? They're already saying "this is going to the player that's most valuable to their team" which is what they say whenever their opinion doesn't match the stats. This wouldn't be the first time this happened though. In 88-89, Wayne Gretzky won the Hart over Mario Lemieux, despite the fact that Mario had 31 more goals, was a +15 better and played in 2 less games than the "Great One". What did exactly did Wayne do that year? He got traded to the LA Kings and got married. The Hart is more of a media popularity contest than it is an actual award based on talent.

Despite all of these FACTS, people persist that Crosby is a better player:

"Sid's a more complete player. He plays defense." - First off, let me just say that in today's game, you don't rack up over 100 points AND play defense. Coming from someone who's watched a lot of Wings games with players like Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Yzerman, Fedorov... neither of these guys play defense. I don't recall either of them laying down to block a shot or back check on every shift. However, between the two of them, Ovechkin is better defensively. No, that's just not my opinion either. Let's consult the numbers shall we... This year, Crosby is a +15. Ovechkin is a +45. Both have the same number of points and both have about the same number of power play points. So it seems to me that opponents are scoring a heck of a lot more when Crosby's on the ice than when Ovie is. Sooo, how is it Crosby is better defensively? Isn't defense about keeping the puck out of your own net?

"Ovechkin plays in the weak Southeast, while Crosby plays in the tough Atlantic" - The same "weak" Southeast division that produced 2 of the last 5 Stanley Cup champions? Don't get me wrong, the Southeast has its flaws, but people who live in glass houses should not throw stones. The Devils are no where near as good as they were since their last championship in 2003. They've been knocked out of the playoffs in first round in each of the last 3 years. The Rangers haven't been good since '97 when they re-united Gretzky and Messier and even that team was iffy. The Islanders have been in rebuilding mode since 1985. The Flyers are the closest thing to a good team and they have lousy goaltending, inconsistent players and bad coaching.

Here's the 09-10 breakdown:
Crosby vs Atlantic - 1.83 points per game, +14
Ovechkin vs Atlantic - 1.75 points per game, +17
Crosby vs Southeast - 1.10 points per game, -7
Ovechkin vs Southeast - 1.52 points per game, +10

It seems to me that both got big numbers in that "tough" Atlantic division and didn't do quite as well in the "weak" Southeast division.

"(After Canada beats Russia in the Olympics) Once again Crosby proves he's better than Ovechkin" - Huh?? First off, neither of them scored a point in that game. Second, Team Canada is MUCH stronger than Team Russia. Canada has a Hall of Fame goalie, one of the best coaches in the NHL and all-stars on their 4th line. Russia had players from the KHL. You really can't compare two individual players based on the outcome of a game between two teams, especially when those two teams are not equal.

"Crosby beat Ovechkin in the '09 playoffs, so he's better" - Crosby's team did beat Ovechkin's team in a 7 game series where it all boiled down to one game. A game in which Caps rookie goalie Semyon Varlamov, who was playing in just his 19th career NHL game, came unglued and gave up 4 goals on 18 shots. While playoff battle tested Marc-Andre Fleury just gave up 2 goals on 21 shots. What exactly did Ovechkin have to do with Varlamov's meltdown? The Penguins team was better that day. It had nothing to do with Ovechkin vs Crosby. Its not like Crosby out produced Ovechkin. In fact, Ovechkin slightly outproduced Crosby in the series. Crosby finished with 8 goals and 5 assists, Ovie with 8 goals and 6 assists. Crosby's team was better than Ovechkin's so that makes him a better player? Ovie's great, but he can't score, play goalie and coach. The Caps have the same problem the Red Wings did prior to 1997. They're not built for playoff hockey. The Penguins on the other hand, are built for playoff hockey. This doesn't make Crosby better than Ovechkin, it makes him lucky to be with a franchise that knows what it takes to win in the playoffs.

"Crosby has a Cup and Ovechkin doesn't" - This is like when people said Gretzky was better than Lemieux because he had 4 Cups and Lemieux had zero. It was ridiculous then and its ridiculous now. Gretzky played on a team that was stacked with talent, while Lemieux had to pretty much do everything himself. The same can be said here. Crosby's team is loaded with high end talent. Malkin (2nd overall pick), Fleury (1st overall pick), Staal (2nd overall pick), all high draft picks. Ovechkin has Semin (13th overall), Varlamov (23rd overall) and Backstrom (4th overall). If Crosby and Ovechkin switched places, Ovie would have a Cup (maybe more) and Crosby would have zero. This is the weakest argument a Crosby supporter can make. Kris Draper has 4 Cups, does that make him better than Crosby?

"Ovechkin always chokes in the playoffs" - Oh really? In 28 career playoff games, Ovie has 20 goals, 20 assists, and a +14. He owns a 1.43 points per game average in the playoffs which is actually better than his regular season average of 1.34 points per game. So if anything, he's actually BETTER in the playoffs. Crosby averages 1.36 points per game in the regular season and 1.32 in the playoffs.

"Crosby always beats Ovechkin everytime they meet up" - That was true in the beginning. Back when both were non-playoff rebuilding teams, the Pens beat the Caps many times. Something like 10 out of 11 times. However, since both became elite teams, those numbers have really changed. The Penguins and the Capitals have played each other 15 times (including the playoffs) in the last two years. The Caps have won 10 of those games.

"(After the Capitals lost Game 7 to the Canadiens) Who's the best player in hockey?? Crosby!!" - Wait... what? How does the Capitals losing to the Canadiens make Crosby better than Ovechkin? I'm confused. Is it because Penguins won their series and the Caps lost theirs? The Capitals ran into white hot goalie, Jaroslav Halak. A guy that took Team Slovakia to new heights just a few months ago in the Olympics. The Pens played against shooter tutor Brian Elliot. However, Pens fans spoke too early though because the Pens played against the same Montreal Canadiens team that knocked Ovie out of the playoffs and also lost. Well almost the same. The worn out Canadiens, who had one day off in between the two series, lost the services of their best defenseman Andrei Markov in Game 1 against the Penguins. Let's take a look at the numbers, shall we?

Ovechkin vs the Canadiens
5 goals, 5 assists, 10 points, +5 in 7 games

Crosby vs the Canadiens (minus Andrei Markov)
1 goal, 4 assists, 5 points, -1 in 7 games

Crosby and Malkin vs the Canadiens
2 goals, 6 assists, 8 points, -3 in 7 games

Ovechkin not only did better than Crosby, but he did better than both Crosby and Malkin combined! It should also be noted that Crosby's lone goal came in Game 6, which also just happened to be the game Hal Gill didn't play in. Ovechkin also had a goal disallowed on a bogus goaltender interference call.

"You just don't like Crosby because he beat your Red Wings!" - My dislike for Crosby, a player that used to be one of my favorites, actually started at the end of Game 4 of the 2008 Finals. After the Wings had taken a 3-1 lead in the series, Crosby skated over to the Wings as they were heading into the locker room, got into Henrik Zetterberg's face and started talking trash. About 10 minutes prior to this disgraceful act, Zetterberg had stopped Crosby on the doorstep of the goal on a 5-3 powerplay. Apparently being shutdown at a critical point in the game (and series) offended the Sid the Kid. That was the first of many classes moves by Crosby and he lost me as a fan. The result of the '09 Finals was irrelevant. Regardless of the outcome of that series, I would not like Crosby today. As it relates to this blog post, I have always said that Ovechkin is a better player than Crosby. Even before the Pens and Wings played against one another and I was a Crosby fan...

"..Ovechkin in my opinion is the best player in hockey (sorry Sid). Ovechkin is the Mario Lemieux of the NHL right now, while Sid is the Gretzky. I always said Lemieux was better so I have to stick with my guns here. "
- Fantasy Friday chat transcript
Friday, January 25, 2008
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A lot of people will say that Ovechkin is classes or dirty for some of his big hard hits. Ovie plays a physical game and there's a fine line between being physical and being dirty. When you play physical style, sometimes you are going to cross that line. Its unavoidable. Its funny though, Pens fans didn't have a problem with Ulf Samuelsson being physical and sometimes crossing that fine line into "dirty" when he was matched up with Cam Neely in '91 and '92. Nor did they have a problem with Francois Leroux when he knocked out Pat LaFontaine and pretty much ended his career.

I believe the root of the problem here is that most Pens fans don't know an era in which they didn't have the best player in hockey. Let's face it, how many Pens fans today, were fans before 1985? Whether it was Lemieux or Jagr, the Penguins were considered to have the best player in the league for close to 20 years. Today, they have two great players in Malkin and Crosby and cannot accept the fact that there's someone out there that's better and that they don't have the best player in the league. Ovechkin is better than Crosby. Its an air tight case. You can argue this point all you want, but you'll be wrong. Who knows, maybe 5 years from now, things will be different. Maybe Crosby will have more goals, points, wins, Cups, trophies, whatever, but as of right now, it is undeniable that Alexander Ovechkin, the Great Eight, is better than Sid the Kid.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Factoring In: NHL Playoffs 5/6/2010

- How lucky can one team be? Last year, the Penguins played their beat down toys, the Flyers, the Capitals who had a goalie with 11 games of NHL experience entering the series, a worn down Hurricanes team and then a worn down and injured Red Wings. Fluky events (Brodeur's meltdown, Boston blowing it at home against Carolina) had the Penguins miss playing Penguin killers, New Jersey and Boston. This year, the top three seeds in the East fall in the first round, the Penguins get a Senators team that is a shadow of its former self, a worn down Habs team that is missing its best defenseman and then will either play their beat down toys again or a Bruins team that just lost one of its best scorers. Yet again, the teams the owned the Pens during the regular season (Devils and Caps) are out. All three teams the Penguins will play in the Eastern Conference playoffs, wouldn't have even qualified for the playoffs in the West. This is as easy as it gets.

- I really liked the guts the Ottawa Senators showed in the first round. They were over matched, but it didn't stop them. They layed down and blocked every shot, fought for every inch of ice. If they had ANY talent at all, they would've knock off the Pens.

- Has the "greatest goalie in the history of the NHL" Martin Brodeur, lost a step? The Devils have been eliminated from the playoffs in the first round in each of the last 3 years.

- I said this about the Pens when Therrien was in town and I'm saying it about the Caps now too. They'll never win the Cup with Bruce Boudreau behind the bench. His unwillingness to make any changes while his team struggles to put away an 8th seed is all the reason you need. They also need to give up on Semin. Great shot, great hands, but is way too soft. If the Caps setup Ovechkin with as many opportunities as Semin, we would be talking about a Ovechkin vs Crosby Conference Finals.

- With the season on the line in a shootout, how do you not put in your 42 goal scorer Marian Gaborik? Instead they went with... Olli Jokinen? Dumb. You didn't deserve to go to the playoffs.

- Same old sad story for the Flyers. "We're tough, we're physical, we're built for the playoffs, but we have no goaltending." I hate this team and even I'm getting annoyed by the fact that they refuse to go out and get a competent goaltender.

- You know, I really don't hate Marian Hossa anymore. I haven't for sometime now. I was mad when he left the Wings to sign with the Blackhawks, but I'm over it. He's a good guy and a great player and while I would still like to see him in a Wings jersey, I wouldn't burn my Hossa t-shirt like some idiots might.

- I've never seen a 3-0 series as closely matched as the Sharks and Red Wings. It could easily be 3-0 Wings, but the bounces aren't going their way and they're losing by one instead of winning by one. Meh, it happens.

- I bet everyone knows who Craig Anderson is now.

- Roberto Luongo must be a Britney Spears fan. Ooops, he's doing it again!

- The Nashville Predators had a 3-2 lead in Game 5 on the road, were on the powerplay with less than a minute left in the game and found a way to lose. No wonder they don't have any fans. I got sick to my stomach watching that and I didn't care who won.

- Great performance by the Coyotes in their first playoff appearance in years. Great system, great coach, now if they could get a few snipers so they don't have to rely so much on Shane Doan, Radim Vrbata and Wojtek Wolski to score goals. They're $13 million under the cap and Illya Kovalchuk would do wonders for them.

Monday, April 19, 2010

What does the Stanley Cup playoffs mean to me?

Last week Seth Rorabaugh of the PG's Empty Netters wrote a blog post entitled, "What is it?". He wrote, "If someone were to ask us what the Stanley Cup playoffs mean to us, we'd have a hard time giving a simple concise answer". He then goes on to name quite a few memorable moments in playoff history like:

-It's Bobby Orr leaping through the air.
-It's Steve Yzerman blowing a slapper by Jon Casey from Livonia.
-It's Doug Weight lifting the Stanley Cup with one shoulder.

All good stuff. If I could, here's a few I would like to add to that list:

- It's having my two favorite athletes of all time dropping the puck before a Penguins / Red Wings Stanley Cup Final.

- It's Chris Osgood making the so called hockey experts look foolish for calling him the weak link as he shuts out the high powered Penguins twice.

- It's "THE KILL".

- It's Henrik Zetterberg making the greatest defensive play in the history of the Finals on one of the league's greatest players.

- It's Sidney Crosby unable to deal with losing.

- It's Marc-Andre Fleury's butt knocking the puck into the net for the eventual Cup clinching goal.

- It's Osgood having to make an incredible save on Marian Hossa to win the Cup.

- It's a guy named Nick picking up the Cup in Pittsburgh in an arena that's just down the street from where my son Caleb Yzerman Fruscello was born.

- It's the victory parade down Woodward Avenue.

- It's Nick Lidstrom playing hockey less than a week after getting his "inflamed testicle" worked on.

- It's the Red Wings picking up right where they left off by dominating Game One and Game Two.

- It's Evgeni Malkin unable to deal with getting beaten, taking an instigator penalty in the final 5 minutes, but for some reason NOT getting suspended for Game 3.

- It's Malkin recording 3 points in Game 3 to win 4-2.

- It's the Penguins playing with 6 guys on the ice for 20 seconds and not getting penalized.

- It's Pavel Datsyuk coming back early from a broken foot and making a huge difference.

- It's Max Talbot slashing Datsyuk's recently broken foot.

- It's the Penguins taking one cheap shot after another.

- It's the Wings capitalizing on all of those dumb penalties.

- It's Orpik icing the puck, but not having it get called.

- It's the new Claude Lemieux scoring the eventual winning goal.

- It's motivation for future playoff runs.

- It's the villain stealing the Stanley Cup out of Hockeytown.

- It's the good guys bringing it back. (link pending)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Jagr vs Yzerman

Last week on the Mark Madden show, he started a debate on top 10 all time NHL forwards and said that Jaromir Jagr would be on the list. I had to think about it for a minute, but I don't think Jagr would quite hit the top ten. Here's my list:

1. Mario Lemieux
2. Wayne Gretzky
3. Gordie Howe
4. Mark Messier
5. Guy Lafleur
6. Phil Esposito
7. Marcel Dionne
8. Steve Yzerman
9. Brett Hull
10. Joe Malone

I respect Jagr and his talent but I think top 10 all time, is a little much. I would rather have any of those players over Jagr. At least one caller thought so too, which then drew a challenge from Madden for the caller to name 10 forwards better than Jagr. The caller named a lot of people on this list and also named Ron Francis and Steve Yzerman. Madden scoffed at the Yzerman response and replied, "Jagr won 5 scoring titles. How many did Yzerman win? Huh? How many?". The caller correctly replied zero. Steve Yzerman was in his prime at the same time as Lemieux and Gretzky. Its next to impossible to win a scoring title when you're up against the two greatest players in the history of game. Jagr won his scoring titles matched up against Eric Lindros and Peter Forsberg. That doesn't exactly carry the same weight as Lemieux and Gretzky. Yzerman had six straight 100+ point seasons and in 5 of those seasons he scored over 50 goals. When Scotty Bowman came to Detroit he asked Yzerman, "Do you want points or Cups?" Yzerman wanted to win and dramatically changed his game to be more than just a scoring machine, but also backcheck, block shots and focus more on defense. His individual stats took a hit, but the Red Wings went on to win 4 Campbell Conference trophies, 5 Presidents trophies, the 1996 team finished with more wins than any other team in history, and won three Stanley Cups. "How many Cups did Jagr win? Huh? How many?" Saying that Jagr is better than Yzerman because he has more scoring titles is asinine. By that logic Martin St Louis is better than Yzerman, Messier, Sakic, and Hull.

Madden, unfortunately, wasn't done. The self proclaimed "Super Genius" continued, "Yzerman scored that one Game 7 goal in the playoffs, but what else has he done? Jagr was always clutch and scored a ton of big goals in the playoffs." Jagr did score a big goal in the 92 Finals against the Blackhawks, but he must not have been too clutch if all he has is two Cups and he had little to do with those championship teams. Those two Cups that he has were won by Lemieux, Stevens, Recchi, Francis, Murphy, Tocchet and Barrasso. Aside from just a couple plays, Jagr kind of just went along for the ride. Yzerman, on the other hand was very instrumental in his teams' success shutting down the opponents top line and scoring big goals at the same time. Yzerman won the Conn Smythe Trophy in '98. You can't get more clutch than being the playoff MVP of championship run. "How many Conn Smythe's did Jagr win? Huh? How many?"

Its one thing to love your team and the players that played for it, but when getting into a hockey debate, let's use a little common sense. Jagr was great for the Pens and did a lot of things for the franchise, but calling him one of the greatest of all time, that's a bit much. Steve Yzerman is widely recognized as one of the greatest leaders in all of sports. To not rank him in the top ten of forwards would be a crime. As for Jagr, I would probably rank Jagr around 15 right now and 10 years from now, he'll probably be over 20.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Caps vs Pens: Game Report for 4/6/2010

The other day I was fortunate enough to fall into some free hockey tickets (thank you Dave Cannone) and was going to see Crosby vs Ovechkin in what will most likely be my final game at the Mellon Arena. What a great matchup to close it out.

We got the arena at 6:50pm, but the game didn't start till 7:30pm (thank you Versus) so we had some time to kill. We walked around the arena, got a couple drinks and headed to our seats which were fantastic! Section C, to the right of the goalie, on the side that the Pens would be shooting at twice. We were right behind one of those special sections that had TV monitors. By the way, I never realized how huge the delay was between what they telecast on Versus and what was going on in the game. Its at least 20-30 seconds. Don't talk to someone at the game on a cell phone unless you like knowing well in advance what will happen.

Anyways, the Caps come out first, Alexander Ovechkin was in front... "booooo" went the Penguin fans. Ovie takes one of the Penguins practice pucks and blasts it into their net before skating over to his side of the rink... "BOOOOOOOO!!!!" It was like putting a drop of blood in a piranha tank. As Ovie headed over to his side, I began to make my way down to the glass to get some pictures. As I'm heading down, my path down the aisle gets blocked by none other than Seth Rorabaugh, the Post-Gazette's Penguins blogger. I was going to say "Hi", but we would probably start talking about hockey or the PG and take up a lot of time. So it was either talk to Seth or see two time NHL MVP Alexander Ovechkin up close during warm ups.

As I avoided eye contact with Seth, I pulled out my iPhone and made my way down to the glass. I make a point to do this before every game ever since I watched the Red Wings do their warmup back in 1996. Its always exciting to see these guys up close and it never gets old. I snapped a few of Ovie, a few of the Washington goaltenders and got a picture of some of the Caps throwing a few of the practice pucks over the glass to some kids in the front row. As I kind of expected, when all the other Caps players started making their way back their locker room, Ovie stayed out there (first one on, last one off) and took a few more blasts at the net. A few of the shots that missed the net, banged off the glass and made a sound so loud you would have thought the roof was caving in. This is why he's the greatest goal scorer of our time and scores 60 goals when everyone else is barely reaching 40.

When Ovie finally left the ice, I went back up to my seat and uploaded some of the good pictures I got onto Facebook. During the warm ups, I noticed Evgeni Malkin heading into the locker room. As it turned out, he wasn't feeling well and was a late scratch for the game. Their was a definite "GASP" amongst the crowd when that was announced. One Pens fan exclaimed, "Great! Geno's out again. Now we're going to have to beat them without one of our best players." On a side note, Caps defenseman Mike Green, who led NHL defensemen in points, was not in the lineup either.

As the game started, a "Lets Go Pens" chant started. I didn't see a lot of red Caps jerseys in the crowd, but I did hear "Lets Go Caps" pretty clearly and sometimes overtaking the Pens chants. Now the Penguins were getting to see what it was like to have the shoe on the other foot. It was a pretty even 1st period until Pens defenseman Alex Goligoski apparently forgot how to skate backwards and Alexander Semin blew past him, fired a perfect shot past Fleury and gave the Caps a 1-0 lead. A few minutes later Ovechkin received a slashing penalty and you would've thought the Penguins just tied the game when it was announced that he was the one getting the penalty. The Penguins powerplay did what it does best, not score, and the period ended 1-0 in favor of the Caps.

The Caps came out of the locker room and into the second period like they were shot out of a cannon. I grabbed my iPhone and got my camera ready, as I could tell a goal was probably going to be scored soon... and I was right. Forty two seconds into the period, Mike Knuble (former Wing whooo!!!) fired a shot at Fleury that he should have easily had, but it trickled through and into the net. Ovechkin, who had been charging for the loose puck before it went in, jumped and slammed himself into the glass in celebration of the goal. Unfortunately, when I took the picture, it all came out as a blur, soooo... no pic. Sorry.

The Pens came back though. A Mike Knuble penalty (former idiot Flyer) went off for holding. None of the Penguins seemed to be able to hit the net until Sidney Crosby wristed in his league leading 48th goal of the year. The place went nuts and the Penguins were back in the game... until 21 seconds later when Tomas Fleischmann received a pass from Alexander Semin and ripped it past Softie McFleury. Just like that, the crowd was out of the game again and speaking of out of the game... shortly after Semin passed the puck to his teammate, Max Talbot threw an elbow into Semin's face knocking him to the ice. As the over enthusiastic announcer read off the Crosby goal, Semin laid on the ice holding his head. Now every team has its "bad fans", but the Penguins seem to have a lot of very bad, outspoken fans that really need to chill. One fan not far from me was yelling, "Get up!! Get up you bum! You're not hurt you, f****t. Get up!" Really dude? Then when Semin got to his feet, the trainers helped him back to the Washington bench, a lot of the Pens faithful booed him. You're booing an injured player, Pittsburgh? Really? I'm not exactly Alexander Semin's biggest fan either, but booing an injured player is disgraceful and ignorant. Semin wasn't the only player leaving the game either. Coach Bylsma yanked Fleury and put in backup Brent Johnson. Fleury smashes his goalstick as he now sits in the runway leading to the Pens locker room and watches the rest of the game from there.

The Pens did manage to get back into the game once again when Jordan Leopold blasted one from the blue line that hit off a Caps players' foot and into the net. They nearly tied it when a Sergei Gonchar blast smashed off the crossbar. Before the period expired, former Penguin Matt Bradley scores a nice deflection goal with Brent Johnson having no chance. The Caps regained their two goal lead, 4-2.

During the second intermission, I looked around at a few souvenir stands, hoping to get something for the kids, but everything was way overpriced. Its bad enough that professional sports teams gouge their fans for tickets just to get in to see a game, but do they have to gouge us for money inside the arena/stadium too? How about making things affordable for us normal people that love, fund and support YOUR franchise?

Anyways, back to to the game. Despite only giving up 2 goals, Caps goalie Semyon Varlamov looked beatable. Toward the end of the second period, he looked as though he was fighting the puck and if the Pens could get some shots on him early, they could get back in the game again... and they did. Forty nine seconds into the period, Jordan Leopold scored, pulling the Pens within 1 goal again. At this point, the Pens should have just started throwing pucks at the net because Varly looked rattled. Unfortunately for the Pens, Pascal Dupuis fired a shot wide of the net, breaking the glass (the same glass Ovie was blasting earlier) behind Varlamov. There was a 10 minute delay in the game to fix the glass, killing the Pens momentum. While they were fixing the glass, it was announced the Sidney Crosby recorded his 100th point of the season on the Leopold goal. All of the fans, scratch that, MOST of the fans gave Sid a standing ovation and started chanting "M-V-P, M-V-P!" I didn't agree with that and neither did someone else in the building... the current reigning league MVP, Alexander Ovechkin.

This ovation for Crosby, just ignited Ovechkin who has been struggling to score goals lately. Bill Guerin received a high sticking call giving the Penguins their first penalty of the game. Ovechkin just needed 4 seconds. Backstrom won the face off, Ovie picked it up, moved into the slot before anyone else could even blink and fired it past Johnson, restoring the Caps 2 goal lead. It was Ovechkin's first goal in 5 games. He wasn't done yet. On his next shift, Ovie showed off another side of his game, his physical side. He slammed Max Talbot into the boards, crushed Kris Letang a few seconds later, then leveled Jordan Staal right in front of where we sat. My buddy Dave exclaimed, "Oh man, Ovie's a beast! He's destroying everybody out there right now." I smiled and quietly clapped my hands and chanted in my head "M-V-P". Watching Ovechkin brought back memories of Mario Lemieux and how he would just take over a game and there was no stopping him. Just like with Mario, I found myself no longer following the puck, but following the player. You just knew Ovie was going to do something awesome with or without the puck.

With a few minutes left, the Pens pulled their goalie and Ovie was on the ice. When he got the puck, Pens fans were irate, "STOP HIM!!! You can't let HIM score!" Gonchar dove to the ice to knock the puck off Ovechkin's stick which he did with 6 seconds left. However, Ovechkin, with Nicklas Backstrom's help, managed to get the puck back a few seconds later and was all alone with the empty net. I looked up at the clock and it read 1.2 seconds, with all the fans cursing his name, he cruised towards the empty net as if he had all night. I slipped up just this one time and yelled, "Shoot now you idiot!!" Ovechkin buried it into the empty net with 0.2 seconds left on the clock. He was now tied with Crosby for the league lead in goals with 48. It was the final goal, in the final seconds, of my final game at Mellon Arena. Sorry Ovie, you're not an idiot. I got a little wound up there.

The game was over and the Caps surrounded their goalie while celebrating their 6-3 win and sweeping the Penguins in the season series. As we rode the T back home, a Pens fan was whining about Ovie's empty netter, "I'm so pissed off! You're going to win the scoring title because you can put a puck into an empty net. Aren't you so great?" Just as an FYI, Ovie is 6 points ahead of Crosby in points, tied for first goals and Ovechkin played in 8 less games. He won't win the scoring title because he scores into empty nets, he'll win it because he's better.

Here are the highlights in case you missed it:

So in all likelihood that will be my final time at the Civic/Mellon Arena. Lots of great memories in that building. I witnessed so many events like WWF, NHL Draft, Dane Cook and countless hockey games. I witnessed the greatness of Mario Lemieux. I got to see Steve Yzerman, Sergei Fedorov, Henrik Zetterberg, Nick Lidstrom, Chris Osgood, Pavel Datsyuk, Dominik Hasek and all of "my" Wings in person. I watched Illya Kovalchuk score a game winning goal in the final seconds of overtime. I saw Lemieux and Jagr record their only points of the '96 Eastern Conference Finals in Game 2 of that series. In 2008, the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup in that building just a few months after my son Caleb Yzerman Fruscello was born at Mercy Hospital, which is just down the street from the arena. There's a lot of great things to look forward to at the Consol Energy Center though... taking my kids to their first hockey game, taking Caleb to his first Red Wings game, arena football, NHL All Star game, playoff games, wrestling events and most likely another Stanley Cup. It will be sad to see the old Igloo get shutdown, but those of us that were lucky enough to experience it, will have great memories that will stay with us forever.

Monday, April 5, 2010

McNabb traded to Washington; Eagles give up on winning

After I got home on Easter Sunday, I turned on ESPN to catch some of the Yankees-Red Sox opener. The BottomLine had breaking news and was giving us general facts about quarterback Donovan McNabb. I thought, "Oh, so the Eagles traded him afterall. Can't wait to see what they got." I continued to read and was floored when I saw who he was traded to... the WASHINGTON REDSKINS??! Wait a minute... did the NFL realign their divisions again and I missed it? These two franchises are bitter division rivals. Why in the world would the Eagles trade away their pro bowl caliber franchise QB and most successful player in franchise history to a team that plays them at least twice every year? Didn't the Red Sox trading Babe Ruth to the Yankees teach them anything about trading within your division, let alone trading a future hall of famer to your opponent? What did they get in return for possibly the best player in franchise history? Draft picks. Not even a first rounder either. Un-freaking-real.

Sadly this isn't the first time the Eagles and Redskins have been involved the trading of a franchise QB. Back on April 1st (I know, almost to the day too) 1964, the Eagles traded their 30 year old pro bowl QB Sonny Jurgensen to the Washington Redskins. Vince Lombardi called Jurgensen the "best I have seen." The Eagles finished over .500 just once over the next 14 seasons. Jurgensen finished his career considered as one of the finest passers of his time and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1983.

Fast forward to today. Under McNabb the Eagles soared to new heights. They finished with 11+ wins in each of his first 5 seasons. In 2004, he lead the Eagles to a 13-3 record and into the Super Bowl for the first time since the 1980 season. He never won a Super Bowl, but he won a lot of games, went to the Pro Bowl 5 times and brought respectably to a franchise that really needed some. Now he's gone. He was given away to a division rival in exchange for some draft picks.

The Eagles do have two younger QB's waiting in the wings with Kevin Kolb and Michael Vick, but as of right now neither could hold a candle to McNabb. Hell, a couple years ago Vick was in jail. Kolb showed some potential last year, but only played in two games. He's supposed to carry the franchise now? If he falters, they'll turn to Vick. So you're going to rely on an ex-con to save your franchise? Does any of this seem dumb to anyone else? To trust your franchise in the hands of an unproven rookie or an ex-con.

Some are saying that the Eagles wanted to do the right thing with McNabb and didn't want to trade him to Raiders or the Bills where he would be miserable. They wanted to trade him to a team that wasn't a disaster. While the Redskins are not exactly the model franchise, they will now be forced to play against McNabb at least twice a year. Trading him within the division is idiocy. My favorite quote is from Andy Reid, "We thought this was the best for Donovan and the compensation was right. We surely took into consideration Donovan's feelings.'' HA HA HA HA!! You took his FEELINGS into consideration? Will he consider your feelings when he's throwing for 300+ yards and 3 TDs against your team? Will he consider your feelings when his Redskins beat your Eagles twice, preventing you from making the playoffs?

This trade won't start a dynasty in Washington, but it will move the Eagles a step closer to becoming the new Detroit Lions. Philadelphia doesn't have a lot of patience and watching their Eagles go from potential Super Bowl contenders to basement dwellers won't sit well with the Eagles faithful. There's an expression, "You don't know what you have until its gone." Well the Eagles are going to find out what they had real quick and maybe 46 years from now that will prevent them from trading another franchise pro bowl QB to the Redskins. Of course, this is the Philadelphia Eagles and there is a reason why they don't own a Super Bowl title.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sidney Crosby is real life Shooter McGavin

In 2005, the Penguins won the draft lottery which gave them the first overall pick in the NHL draft. It was a no brainer as to who they were going to pick. Sidney Crosby was the most hyped player entering the draft since Mario Lemieux twenty years earlier. This was going to be a banner day for hockey in Pittsburgh. The next "Great One" was going to fill Lemieux's throne and carry the Penguins into a new era. Growing up, he idolized Steve Yzerman, probably one of the classiest players in the history of the game. The teenage Crosby was also going to be living with another class act, Mario Lemieux. Pittsburgh thought that had a combination of class and skill, but over a few years, what they found out they had, was a real life version of Shooter McGavin.

For those of you that don't know who Shooter McGavin is (and shame on you if you don't), he was a character in the movie "Happy Gilmore". McGavin was an incredibly talented golfer that believed he was the best and that it was "his time". When things were going well and he was on top of his game and winning, he always said the right things, smiled for the cameras, etc. However, when Adam Sandler's character Happy Gilmore showed up, things started to go down hill for McGavin and his demeanor changed. There was some question as to who the better golfer was, the aggressive, physical Happy Gilmore who owned the best shot in the game and loved to showboat? Or Shooter McGavin who simply couldn't handle losing and did everything in his power, legal or illegal, to win? Hmmmm... do these two sound like anyone else we know? **cough** Ovechkin / Crosby **cough** Man, this cough is terrible.

I had heard a rumor in which Crosby said to Ovechkin, "Just stay out of my way... or you'll pay! LISTEN to what I say!" and Ovechkin responded with "Hey, why don't I just go eat some hay, make things out of clay, lay by the bay? I just may! What'd ya say?"

Crosby's antics are tainting his image and ruining him. I noticed this early on in his rookie, year, but I figured he was just trying to make a name for himself. Even Lemieux was feisty in his rookie season. But as the years went on and Crosby gained more responsibility, nothing changed. If anything he got worse. The real eye opener was Game 4 of the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals against the Detroit Red Wings. The Penguins were down 2 games to 1 and needed to win at home. The Wings were up by a goal late in the game and the Penguins were going on a 5-3 powerplay. That's when Henrik Zetterberg made one of the most incredible defensive plays in the history of the Finals, defending Crosby and knocking the puck off his stick. Had it not been for that play, Crosby would have easily scored and tied it up. Zetterberg went on to dominate on the penalty kill and the Wings won the game. After the game ended and the Wings were skating to their locker room, Crosby, the captain and poster boy of the NHL, goes after Zetterberg, gets in his face and starts talking trash.

That was my first indication that something wasn't right here. The next season, Crosby was going head to head with his rival Alexander Ovechkin in the second round of the NHL playoffs. In Game 2 in Washington, Ovechkin scored a hat trick, putting his Capitals up 2-0 in the series. After the game, Crosby, who scored a hat trick of his own in that game, complained about how many hats were being thrown onto the ice after Ovechkin scored his 3rd goal. Seriously? Would he be complaining about how many hats hit the ice if he scored a hat trick at home? I didn't think so. As the hats were raining down, some Caps fans said they could hear Crosby yelling, "Damn you people. This is hockey. Not a rock concert!"

Later in the same playoffs, Crosby met the Detroit Red Wings and Henrik Zetterberg yet again. Crosby started off the game with a blind side hit on Zetterberg, you know the kind that gets you suspended... oh wait... no it doesn't. Just ask Matt Cooke.

Zetterberg, however, shut him down yet again and the Wings won Game 1. After the game ended and the Wings were headed off the bench to congratulate Chris Osgood for his win, Crosby decides to slash Kirk Maltby in the foot. Now granted, it was a small slash and Maltby has probably feels more pain from a stubbed toe than this slash, but what is that about?? You're the captain of a championship caliber NHL team. You CANNOT do stupid things like slash a player after the game is over. When the series switched over to Pittsburgh and the Penguins got back into the series, everything was fine with Sid. The Penguins looked strong, everything was going his way and then Game 5 happened.

The Wings got off to a fast start and began to rout the Pens. Crosby, out of nowhere decides, he's going to two hand Zetterberg in the knee:

There's another Pennsylvania team that plays hockey like that. "We're not going to win, so we'll just injure you to make sure we win the next one". I've always said that kind of sportsmanship has no place in hockey and always cheer against whomever plays against the Flyers. You should want to beat your opponent when they are at their best. Trying to injure your opponent to give you an advantage in the game is cowardly.

Last night was just another example of Crosby being a sore loser. Once again, Zetterberg shut down the Penguins captain and held him pointless. In the final seconds of a 3-1 game with Crosby on the wrong end of the scoreboard, he just flat out assaults Zetterberg with his stick and starts punching. The Detroit faithful rained down chants of "Crosby sucks" during the fight. I wonder if he was thinking to himself, "Damn you people. Go back to your shanties."

THIS is garbage. Talent wise, he's unbelievable and without question one of the best in the game. But his character really comes into question when he acts like a thug. Mario Lemieux, Steve Yzerman, Wayne Gretzky, Guy LaFleur, Joe Sakic... these guys never did anything like this. They were talented AND classy. They respected the game and the players in it. They didn't take cheap shots at opposing players that were getting the better of them. They just worked harder, became better players, which is why they eventually became unstoppable. Crosby needs to clean up his act if he ever wants to be mentioned in the same breath as the players I mentioned above. However, if he stays on this track...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Saints did not win it, the Vikings lost it

Now I'm a guy that will give credit where credit is due. If a team goes out there and outplays the other one, I'll give them credit, even if I don't like them. This past Sunday, the Saints moved on to their first ever Super Bowl after getting past the Minnesota Vikings. Heading into the Super Bowl, I would love to say that the Saints beat them by outplaying Minnesota, but that's just simply not true. The Saints are going to be marching into a game that they should not be in, instead of watching the greatest quarterback of all time face off head to head against the best quarterback in the game today on the grandest stage in sports. I have nothing against the Saints, but they don't deserve to be there.

5 Vikings Turnovers: When you turn over the ball this many times, its pretty tough to win against any team. Let alone against the number one seed in the Conference Championship. However, despite all of these turnovers, the Vikings still had a very good chance to win the game. How does that happen? How can a team make so many mistakes yet still have an opportunity to win? These dumb mistakes were devastating to the Vikings, but really they did it to themselves. You could make the argument that the Saints "forced" the turnovers and in some cases you're right. But what did the Saints have to do with the Adrian Peterson fumble at the Saints 4 yard line at the end of the first half? Peterson couldn't handle the hand off from Favre and he lost it.

Unnecessary roughing: I really hate these overprotective rules that protect the quarterback, but rules are rules and you can't pick and choose when you're going to follow them. Midway through the 3rd quarter, Brett Favre was picked up and basically slammed into the ground by a Saints defender. Unnecessary roughness was called and the Vikings received 15 yards and a first down. The Saints faithful were outraged and booed mercilessly. Four plays later, two Saints defenders get to Favre, one hits him below the waist after the pass is away. Correct me if I'm wrong, but by rule, if you hit the quarterback below the waist, its an automatic 15 yard penalty. On the play, the pass was intercepted and rather than charge the Saints with another 15 yard roughing the passer penalty, give the ball back to the Vikings, and upset the fans any further, the refs ignored the rule book, looked the other way and allowed the Saints to have the interception. Lesson learned here, you can only get one roughing the passer penalty per drive. After that, you can do pretty much whatever you want to him, the refs won't call it, because God forbid that penalty gets called more than once on a single drive.

Missed opportunity: At the end of regulation, Favre drives the Vikes right down the field, and into field goal range. On 3rd down, instead of going for the 50 yard field goal, the Vikings decide to run another play to get closer. Inexplicably, after a timeout, the Vikings have 12 men in the huddle, pushing them back 5 yards, making it a 55 yarder. The Vikings now feel they have to throw the ball to get those yards back. Favre gets flushed out of the pocket, has at least 5 yards if he runs it himself, but instead throws back across his body to the middle of the field and its picked off. If it isn't for Favre's poor decision, the Vikings are kicking a game winning field goal and going to the Super Bowl, despite all of the mistake they made throughout the night.

Awful officiating in OT: After winning the coin toss, the refs did everything except kick the ball through the uprights for the Saints. The refs make a questionable holding call on 3rd and 7 that extends the drive. A few plays later, the Saints come up short and decide to go for it on 4 and 1. Pierre Thomas leaps into the air, gains the first down, but a Vikings defenders' helmet hits the ball, knocking it backwards behind the line of scrimmage. This wasn't like breaking the plane of the goaline or being pushed backwards after his forward progress was stopped. Even though he held onto the ball, it wasn't where it needed to be for a first down. Sorry Saints fans, but it should have been the Vikings ball at their own 43. The very next play was even more outrageous. Drew Brees throws a pass well over the head of his intended receiver David Thomas. However on the play, Thomas falls over while backpedaling and being covered by Vikings LB Scott Fujita. The two never even made contact until the ball was beyond Thomas. If you're going to call pass interference on a play that pretty much guarantees one team a trip to the Super Bowl, you better be damn sure you're right. They were not. It was an AWFUL call. No way to sugar coat it either. I'm not saying the league "conspired" against the Vikings. I'm just saying that the refs made very bad calls at very big moments and it may have cost the Vikings a trip to the Super Bowl.

Vikings Luck: I talked with a Vikings fan online the other day and he was feeling pretty lousy about the loss, but said he's used to the disappointments. He went on to list of number of things that were unbelievable, but all true. Here is what he had to say...

The Vikings have had the worst luck of any Pro team in sports history other than the Cubs...102 years and counting....
- 4 Superbowl losses
- 5 NFC Championship game losses
- Jim Marshalls wrong way run
- The "Hail Mary" pass Drew Pearson caught against the Vikes in 75 NFC championship to give Dallas the win in the final minute.
- The Herschel Walker trade in which Vikings gave Dallas three 1st rounders, three 2nd rounders, plus a 3rd and a 6th rounder in addition to 5 players. Walker lasts only 3 seasons in Minnesota
- Korey Stringer dies in training camp.
- The love boat incident
- Gary Anderson who had just completed the first perfect regular season in NFL history (not missing a single extra point or field goal attempt the entire year), missed a 38-yard attempt with less than 2 minutes remaining in NFC championship game that most likely puts Vikes in Superbowl in 98.
- Vikings despite being favored, lose 41-0 in NFC championship game in 2000.
- Green Bays Antonio Freeman makes one of the all time great miracle catches in overtime to defeat Vikings
- In 2003 Arizona's last second touchdown on 4th and 28 against Vikings eliminated Vikings from playoffs. The moment of Arizona's touchdown was actually the first moment the entire season in which the Vikings hadn't led their division. The Vikings became the second team in football history to miss the playoffs after getting off to a 6–0 start
- ADD TERRIBLE DEFEAT 31-28 OT to the Saints in the 2009 NFC Championship game..... why did Childress not kick a 50 yard field goal on 3rd down to win it before the Moronic 12 man in the huddle penalty !!!! CMON MAN, how bad of a decision is that ???? Longwell was good to at least 55, CMON MAN!!!!!! and then Favre could have run it AGAIN to the 35 for another 52 yard field goal try. You blow it twice!!!!! CMON MAN !!!!!!!

I knew the Vikings had bad luck, but look at all of this! I never realized it was this bad. As much as I would love to say the Saints beat the Vikings, its simply not true. Whether it was because of bad officiating, bad breaks or just bad luck, the Vikings had more to do with their loss than the Saints did with their win.