The Inconsistency of the NHL By Nick D’Amuro

14 Mar

The NHL is the worst run league in major sports, please argue against me I’d love to hear it.  This is not to say I hate hockey, it’s my second favorite sport next to football, but with idiots like Bettman and Shannahan, it’s doomed to fail.

Earlier this year the NHL had a second lockout in less than seven years, luckily we somehow salvaged a short season.  Whatever the case, the NHL has a bigger problem, dangerous hits from behind.  The problem keeps popping up and more concussions are there.  This past week Nathan Gerbe was nailed from behind against the boards with the puck well gone by Philadelphia defensemen Luke Schenn.  As you can see below this is a scary hit.



 

The NHL and Brendan Shannahan did not give Schenn a suspension or any warning for this hit.  Ridiculous.  The NHL is so inconsistent with this type of play.  It’s a simple “well sometimes they give out suspensions, sometimes not, so just hit the guy and hope.”  The NFL has handled their situation much better.  Anytime there is anything close to a dangerous head shot, a penalty is called.  At least in football you know where you stand.  In hockey, it’s a wait and see.  This type of play is awful and needs to be addressed but the NHL simply does not have the consistency to do it.  I mean they cannot even nail down a good television contract so what makes anyone think they can address a serious issue within the league.

Take a look at this hit by Milan Lucic from last year.  Lucic was given a one game suspension for this hit on Rinaldo of the Flyers.  As you can see just like Gerbe, the puck is long gone from the play and Lucic nails him in a similar fashion as the hit from this year’s Buffalo game.

I understand that with referees on the ice calls can be tough, but the NHL can look at these plays in slow motion a million times and it amazes me that they miss this kind of stuff.  Unless you are a star, don’t expect a cheap hit to draw a suspension.  This is just another reflection of why hockey is the worst run league of all the major sports.  Until they get their issues under control they will remain the fourth sport to football, baseball and basketball.

New Chiefs Regime Making Waves In the Offseason by Kenny Cember

14 Mar

When the Chiefs parted ways with Romeo Crennel and Scott Pioli fans rejoiced. When Clark Hunt announced the hiring of Andy Reid fans knew that there would be a new era in Kansas City. Reid brought the Eagles to the playoffs nine out of 14 seasons as head coach. With Reid in power Chiefs fans knew he would bring in those closest to him and those who he had worked well with in the past. Enter John Dorsey. The Chiefs new General Manager and Andy Reid, along with Clark Hunt, who has taken control of this organization, are making waves in the offseason and showing the fans that they are not afraid to spend money and make the right decisions to win.

The first big problem was the direction the new regime wanted to take at the Quarterback position. At one point this year, Chiefs fans cheered when Matt Cassel was hurt and had to come out. The big question for the Chiefs and the new regime was whether they would use that first overall pick to take a quarterback, trade for one, or sign one once free agency starts on March 12. Reid and Dorsey made the call to put in place a trade that would send Alex Smith, former number one overall pick and San Francisco 49ers quarterback to the Chiefs. In a poor quarterback free agency and draft the market demanded a trade that many Chiefs fans were upset by. Reid and Dorsey agreed to send the Chiefs 2013 second round pick (34th overall) and a conditional mid round pick in 2014 to the 49ers for Alex Smith. The new regime had solved their quarterback issue. This pretty much ended all hope of the Chiefs drafting West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith.

The next thing the new regime had to work on was the big three. The big three being the Chiefs top three free agents in wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, left tackle Branden Albert, and pro-bowl punter Dustin Colquitt. Considering the Chiefs have the number one overall selection in this year’s draft and considering the top player overall, Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel, is a left tackle, Chiefs fans had some speculation as to what the new regime would do. Would they let Albert walk and draft Joeckel? Would they franchise Bowe? Would they let Bowe walk and draft a receiver in the third round? Would they let Bowe walk and sign Mike Wallace? Would they sign one of the other free agent tackles? These were all questions Chiefs fans were considering. I know I wanted the Chiefs to sign Bowe and Colquitt long term and place the franchise tag on Branden Albert. The new regime answered my wishes as well as the wishes of many Chiefs fans. They signed Dwayne Bowe and Dustin Colquitt to five-year deals. Bowe was signed for $56 million with $24 million of that money being guaranteed. Colquitt was signed for $18.75 million with $8.9 million of that money being guaranteed. This made Colquitt the highest paid punter in the NFL. The Chiefs then answered the biggest question in the form of placing the Franchise Tag on Branden Albert letting fans know he will be in Kansas City in 2013.

The new regime also made some more moves recently that needed to be done, as well as moves that shocked the football nation. Chiefs’ defensive lineman Tyson Jackson was drafted 3rd overall before the rookie wage scale was in place and the Chiefs owed him $14.2 million this season. The Chiefs knew that with Glenn Dorsey also being a free agent, they had to make a decision. They approached Jackson and they were able to get him to restructure his contract, which was huge for the salary cap. Instead of that huge hit to the cap, Jackson is only earning $4.2 million this season. The Chiefs then did something no one would believe would happen. They released right tackle Eric Winston, who was a coveted free agent last season and had just been signed to a four year $22 million deal with the Chiefs.

The Winston release creates more questions such as: Will Branden Albert move to right tackle to make way for Luke Joeckel? Will second year tackle Donald Stephenson be moved to right tackle? Will Luke Joeckel play right tackle? These are questions that will be answered soon. With free agency under way, we will see what the new regime will do. They have been making the right moves so far.

Patrick Kaleta Suspended 5 Games; Girardi 0 By Nick D’Amuro

4 Mar

Patrick Kaleta will sit five games for his hit to Brad Richards.  Kaleta does have a history of stuff like this but let me tell you the decision has left me a little upset.  I hate this type of play in hockey but the Rangers did some hitting of their own in this fashion too.

I for one am not a huge Kaleta fan, his style of play is something that a hockey team needs.  He rarely ever scores, and takes awful penalties.  Kaleta is out there like a pissed off teenager who just got dumped by his girlfriend; angry and without discipline.

The Sabres had control of that game, but that long power play decided the game.

However, the hit was barely a hit at all.  As you can see he barely shoves Richards, and I think Richards did an excellent job of selling this one.  Richards was able to play pretty darn well the rest of the game too.  Also, look at who Kaleta hit….a star, Brad Richards.  If he hits someone else, there’s a good chance this is not a 5 game suspension.

Here is the Kaleta hit.

I do believe Kaleta deserves a suspension, but there were two other Rangers who did the same exact thing and they are not even mentioned.  Why you ask?  Because Tyler Ennis and Brian Flynn were hit….they weren’t Brad Richards.  I am unable to find the Flynn video but that one was very bad, and it was only two minutes.  However the one on Ennis should have been five and a one game suspension.  Dan Girardi for the Rangers takes 6 long strides at Ennis whose back is turned and lays him out from behind.  That’s a heck of a lot worse than a shove.  Girardi had plenty of time to react and make a different play.  At least Ennis got up and played and didn’t lay on the ice and come back to play like a soccer player.

Here is the Ennis hit.

This reinforces a point I often make; the NHL is the worse run league of all the professional sports leagues.  Stuff like this happens all the time, Kaleta was wrong of course, but the Girardi hit was right on par with that one.  Kaleta deserves a longer suspension due to his history.  Ryan Miller last year got laid out by Milan Lucic and nothing was called their either.

I don’t know but the Rangers had 2 scary boarding penalties that game, and the Sabres had 1, but Buffalo is punished.

Comment your thoughts below and vote in the poll.

Dream Team? USA World Baseball Classic by Tom Jennings

4 Mar

This Friday, the World Baseball Classic begins. While not quite as official as other international tournaments such as the FIFA World Cup, it provides enjoyment to baseball fans all over the world. In addition to rooting for players on their favorite teams, fans can also rally behind players who happen to play for their country. No surprise here, I will be rooting for Team USA (in addition to hoping no Yankee sustains a serious injury). While I like a lot of parts of Team USA, I acknowledge that it is not the best group that could potentially be put together. Here is the roster I would handpick given the opportunity. Assume all of these players would say yes regardless of injury concerns or any other extraneous factors:

Catcher:

Current:

J.P. Arencibia , Jonathan Lucroy,  Joe Mauer

The USA is actually pretty sound behind the plate, save one glaring omission. Reigning NL MVP Buster Posey simply has to be there.  As for the other two spots, Mauer is a just choice. I would also put Matt Weiters back there.  No hard feelings to Jonathan Lucroy or J.P. Arencibia, but this choice was fairly simple

1st Base:

Current: Mark Teixeira

I love Tex. However, I must put my Yankee bias aside for this pick. Prince Fielder is currently a better offensive player. Tex is a far better defender, but I want as much firepower as possible on this roster. Prince takes the cake.

2nd base:

Current:  Brandon Phillips

I would like to keep Phillips on the team. However, as much as it pains me to say this, he should not be a starter.  Dustin Pedroia is the best American Second Basemen in baseball right now. I like the idea of Phillips coming off the bench or pinch hitting, so lets keep him for that.

Shortstop:

Current: Jimmy Rollins

I would absolutely love to put Derek Jeter here. If he hadn’t fractured his ankle last ALCS, I would have. Having said that, he did fracture his ankle last October. He is currently rehabbing in preparation for his 28th World Championship (see what I did there?). The World Baseball Classic is no place to get healthy. If I want the most skilled American Shortstop out there, I’m going with the Colorado Rockies Troy Tulowitzki. He spent most of last year on the disabled list, but I’m all in on Tulo for this team.

Third Base:

Current: David Wright

This was one of the toughest calls I had. I’m not going to boot David Wright off of this team. I’m going to put him at DH. Evan Longoria is my 3rd basemen. David Wright is great, but the upside of Longoria (who is 27, and is just entering his prime) is too great to ignore.  Honorable mention to Ryan Zimmerman, who will make this team someday.

Outfield:

Current: Ryan Braun, Adam Jones , Giancarlo Stanton , Shane Victorino

THIS is where things get interesting. The United States is loaded with outfielders. So much so that I only have one of these four on my final roster. Steroid controversy aside, Ryan Braun makes my team. His numbers are too hard to argue against. The other three are not so lucky. Mike Trout should have won the AL MVP last year. Unfortunately, he didn’t  As a consolation prize, he is a no-brainer pick for one of my starting outfielders  (specifically, center field).  To complete the starting outfield, I’m going to put Matt Kemp out there.  Coming off of the bench we will have Pirates superstar Andrew McCutchen.  My god this is a loaded group. In order to get here, we not only ignored the three names above, but we also failed to include the likes of Josh Hamilton, Justin Upton and rising star Bryce Harper. It’s an embarrassment of riches. It sure is good to be an American!

Pitchers:

Current: Jeremy Affeldt, Heath Bell, Mitchell Boggs, Steve Cishek, Tim Collins, R.A. Dickey, Luke Gregerson, Derek Holland , Craig Kimbrel , Kris Medlen , Chris Perez , Vinnie Pestano , Ryan Vogelsong

Pitchers are the hardest players to agree to partake in a tournament such as this. They are the most susceptible to major injuries and thus have the most to lose by participating. Even so, we can do significantly better than this group. As big a fan as I am, I actually had to look some of these guys up. No bueno.  This list is made up of 3 starters and ten relievers. I am going to do things a little differently. I will be taking 4 starters and 9 relievers on for this tournament.  Justin Verlander will be my staff’s ace. He is the most consistently dominant pitcher in baseball, period. TO round out my starters, I will take on Clayton Kershaw, Stephen Strasberg and David Price. Similar to the outfield, the US is filled with starting pitching depth.  The likes of CC Sabathia, Matt Cain, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee are not left off of many teams, but unfortunately for them, this is one of them.

I will keep a few of the given relievers.Craig Kimbrel, Jeremy Affeldt and Kris Medlen have earned their spots on this team. Joe Nathan would get another one of the spots. Additionally, to round out my final five, I would add David Robertson of the Yankees, Sergio Romo of the defending champion Giants,  Fernando Rodney of the Rays,  Jim Johnson of the Orioles and Huston Street of the Padres.

So there you have it, my very own Team USA. I’m fairly confident this team would run the table in this year’s World Baseball Classic. Hopefully, the current team will be good enough.

What Do The Bills Need in the 2013 Draft? by Nick D’Amuro

28 Feb

Bills Draft 2013

The combine is over, and the draft is approaching, and the Bills will have the number eight pick this season.  The team has several glaring needs this year in order to challenge for a playoff spot.  The three biggest needs I see are:

Linebacker

Quarterback

Wide Receiver

The Bills run defense last year was absolutely horrible.  The defensive line was able to maintain the line of scrimmage, but the linebacker corps were absolutely awful.  They need to be able to stop the run this season, without that they will not be competitive.

Quarterback is the next glaring need, almost as much as linebacker.  Ryan Fitzpatrick as much as I like the guy doesn’t have the arm and has gone downhill since his big contract.  His future with the team is still up in the air, but no matter what the Bills need a quarterback in this draft.

Finally, wide receiver.  Stevie Johnson has been solid in Buffalo, but with the loss of David Nelson, there is a huge lack of a second target.  A new quarterback will need target to pass to.

For each position there are a few players I’d like to see on the Bills.

Linebacker:

The Bills really need an inside presence first and foremost and unfortunately there is a lack of that this season.  I would love to see the Bills draft Alec Ogletree who is a linebacker from Georgia.  He is an inside presence that I think would bring some serious physical tools to the defense.  The Bills are better suited to be a 4-3 team, and so the likes of Dion Jordan from Oregon and Jarvis Jones from Georgia do little for me when it comes to the Bills. They are outside pass rushers which the Bills have no need of at this point with Mario Williams and Mark Anderson.  The only other ILB who is rated highly is Manti Te’o of Notre Dame who I am very skeptical of.  First, he played weak schedules up until his senior year, and disappeared in the national title game.  In fact, he was a joke in that game.  You can tell me he had a lot on his mind with the scandal but that tells me that he can’t handle things outside his life and just play football when it counts.  His poor combine workout furthers my feelings and if the Bills chose him at eight I would throw something at the television.  Another possible pick in the second round at linebacker would be Kevin Miller from LSU.

Wide Receiver and Quarterback

I really would like the Bills to address their run stopping ability in the first round and outside of that they should go after a QB or two, and a WR.  Some quarterbacks I like are Ryan Nassib from Syracuse and Tyler Wilson from Arkansas.  Nassib would reunite with head Coach Doug Marrone, and shows some promise as a professional quarterback.  He has the arm strength and throws well on the run which I like.  He also played in a somewhat pro-style offense in college.  Wilson has a very nice delivery and arm strength.  He improved his draft stock during the Senior Bowl and combine.  My biggest fear is that the Bills will draft Geno Smith from West Virginia.  Smith is a system quarterback played in a spread style offense that created large windows for him to hit wide open receivers.   He is a huge mistake to pick at number eight and I am unsure if he can compete in the NFL.

At wide receiver, I’d like to see the Bills address this in the third round.  My pick, and I personally love the guy, is Ryan Swope from Texas A & M.  I believe he will be there in the third round, and he has really upped his stock in the combine.  Some have even labeled him a sleeper as the next Wes Welker.  Another guy I like in the third round is Justin Hunter from Tennessee.  Hunter is a tall receiver at 6’4’’  and played against top talent in the SEC while putting up good numbers.  He might be available in the third round.

Overall, this is what I believe the Bills should do through the first 3 rounds.

Round 1: Ogletree is the best guy for the position the Bills need, but even he could be a slight reach at eight.  I would trade down to 15 or so and take him then.  This would allow the Bills to pick up another pick later on in the draft.

Round 2: Ryan Nassib or Tyler Wilson are both fine picks for me here.  It’s really hard to pick between the two of them.

Round 3: Ryan Swope with that 4.34 speed is such an attractive pick, but he could even fall to the 4th round.  If the Bills trade down in the first round they could nab both Justin Hunter and Swope.

Winners and Losers of the 2013 NFL Combine By Nick D’Amuro

27 Feb

NFL Scouting Combine 2013: Winners and Losers (So Far)

Winners

1. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia: Smith significantly helped his stock at the combine yesterday. He shocked people with his first unofficial 40-yard dash time running a 4.56. His official 40-yard dash time was a 4.59 making him the fastest and most explosive quarterback at the combine. He also recorded a 33.5-inch vertical jump and a broad jump that measured 124 inches, or a 10.3 foot broad jump. He proved he is the most athletic quarterback despite being a pocket passer. Smith also solidified his status at a top 10 pick hitting all of his throws at the combine.

2. Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee: Most people associate Hunter’s counterpart Cordarrelle Patterson as the best wide receiver not only out of Tennessee, but in the entire draft class. Hunter has absolutely caused his stocks to rise with the results he put up. With an official 4.44 second 40-yard dash time, a 39.5 inch vertical and with a broad jump of 11 feet and three inches he showed just how explosive and athletic he his. He also performed extremely well in the wide receiver drills such as the sideline drill, catching the ball well over his shoulder and showing great hands in the gauntlet. At 6’4, 196 pounds look for Hunter to be off the board in the second round.

3. Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan: I asked Bucky Brooks via twitter who they thought which small school prospect was making the biggest buzz at the combine. I think Eric Fisher would win (even though I didn’t want to include him because he’s been on everyone’s radar for a while). Fisher solidified his status as the second best tackle at the combine and based on his (and Luke Joeckel’s) results, he could be taken as high as fourth overall to the Philadelphia Eagles. Fisher, ran a 5.05 40-yard dash time, recorded a 28.5 inch vertical jump and broad jumped nine feet seven inches. He was also extremely impressive in the offensive line drills. It is absolutely worth mentioning that he is a physical freak. He is 6’7, 305 pounds with an arm length of 34 and a half inches. He also has big hands measuring ten and a half inches there.  Fisher was tied for the best 20-yard shuttle time for offensive lineman at the combine showing he is extremely versatile and excellent as changing directions quickly in a short space. Look for fisher not to make it out of the top ten.

4. Leon Sandcastle, DB: He ran his 40 in 4.2 flat and has a 46” vertical. Need I say more?

 

Losers:

 

1. Damontre Moore, DE/OLB, Texas A&M: Damontre Moore was slotted to be a top ten pick, but now after his disappointing combine workout he may drop substantially.  At the combine he measured in at 6’4 and 250 pounds, but then when it came to actually performing he really dropped the ball. He was only able to bench 225 pounds 12 times, which is extremely low for someone at Moore’s position. His 4.95 40-yard dash time was also a major issue. The good thing about Moore is that he can play in the 3-4 or the 4-3, but for an outside linebacker 4.95 is extremely slow.  His vertical jump was solid at 35.5 inches, but it’s nothing spectacular. Damontre Moore really lost out in his performance at the combine. We’ll see if he can make it up at his pro day.

2. Manti Te’o, ILB, Notre Dame: Well you knew this was coming. Prior to the National Championship Te’o was a top ten draft pick going as high as six to the Browns in some drafts and even the number one overall pick to the chiefs at one point. Then he missed all those tackles and the fake girlfriend hoax became a national media field day.  He had the chance to prove himself at the combine and fell flat on his face. He ran an extremely unimpressive 4.82-second 40-yard dash time and then only had a 33-inch vertical jump and a 9.4 foot broad jump.  He was flat out unimpressive and he’s going to drop.

3. Jarvis Jones, DE/OLB, Georgia: Jones was very recently projected at the number two overall pick but has since dropped to the middle of the first round. He didn’t participate in some of the workouts and didn’t pass the physicals of a few of the teams. He has Spinal stenosis and it has ended the career of a few NFL players after just a few seasons so it really is no surprise that a few teams have started to back away from Jones.

The (potential) Beginning of the End for the Hall of Fame by Thomas P. Jennings

22 Feb

For baseball fans such as myself, last week began one of the best times of the year. Pitchers, catchers, and now position players are reporting for Spring Training. This obviously signals the beginning of baseball season. In addition, in a few weeks we will be treated to the third incarnation of the World Baseball Classic. However, something that occurred this past offseason still has left a lingering bad taste in the mouths of many baseball fans. I am, of course, talking about the vote for the (now non-existent) 2013 Hall of Fame Class.

The date was January 9th. A day I had been looking forward to for quite some time. Ever since the influx of talent left the game in 2008, experts said this had potential to be one of the best classes ever. The home run king, Barry Bonds, would be on the ballot. One of the games most feared pitchers ever, Roger Clemens, would be on the ballot.  Mike Piazza, the best hitting catcher EVER, would be on the ballot. Additionally, the likes of notorious slugger Sammy Sosa and 3000 hit player and good guy Craig Biggio would be on the ballot. In short, fans could have hypothetically been treated to one of the greatest classes of all time.

The Baseball Writers of America (BBWA) had other ideas.  For years, it had become increasingly apparent that the writers were bitter about the steroid era. Known cheaters such as Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmiero had done far more than merely fallen short of the elusive 75% of the vote needed to be elected into the hall. They hadn’t even been considered, falling under 20% of the vote.  So, from a realistic perspective, it was no surprise that the likes of Sosa, Bonds and Clemens (the latter two had been convicted of cheating and were involved in rather ugly legal disputes) would have trouble getting in.

Bonds and Clemens aside, what happened with the vote last month is, in short, utterly unacceptable.  Craig Biggio is a hall of famer, period. History dictates that having 3000 hits gives him that honor. If you have ever seen Craig Biggio, you would know that there is a better chance that the Houston Astros bat boy juiced then that he did. Additionally, it would be remiss to say Mike Piazza cheated. He has never been linked to steroids, and has never failed a drug test.  His stats, especially at his position, leave no doubt that he is a first ballot hall of famer. The fact that these two were unable to achieve 75% of the vote makes me think that they are being punished for the wrongdoings of their peers.

Aside from the atrocities of omitting Biggio and Piazza, I still think it is a mistake to not let the steroid guys into the Hall of Fame. Now, I am not condoning cheating. By now, everyone knows Bonds and Clemens reached milestones and crushed records by doing the wrong things. Why not put it on their plaques? That way, when we are all long gone and the Hall is still standing, future generations will always know. I view that as a much better alternative to trying to pretend the steroids era never happened. Not all of history is pretty. But, by its very definition, the fact that it is history means that it happened. We should acknowledge that, make note of it, and move on.

I have. Many other fans have. Hopefully, sometime soon, the Baseball Writers will as well.

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