April 2, 2013
The Boston Bruins have been one of the best teams in the NHL at even strength for the past three seasons. However during that time they have also featured one of the league’s worst power plays. Despite being one of the very best teams at even strength, and top of league in penalty killing, the Bruins power play has been at best decent and at the worst a detriment for some time now. They have had flashes of success this year, thanks in large part to rookie Dougie Hamilton, who has brought some much needed offensive flare to a blue line that is generally lacking in that department particularly with the man advantage. However the power play has for the most part been a major disappointment and patience is growing thin amongst Bruins fans. Happily the Bruins, and their power play in particularly, got a shot in the arm on Tuesday when they traded for future Hall of Fame winger Jaromir Jagr.
Now lets get one thing straight real quick – the Bruins lack of success on the powerplay has not been due to lack of talent. It is not a personnel problem. Even before the acquisition of Jagr the Bruins had a stable of forwards with the talent level to make for a very dangerous powerplay unit. Tyler Seguin, David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton, and Rich Peverley have all proven themselves more than capable of putting the puck in the net over the course of their careers. The problem has been lack of effort. And I’m not calling the players lazy. However the simple fact is that the agressive forecheck and dogged puck pursuit that is such a staple of Bruins hockey at even strength vanishes the second they go on the man advantage. The battles that they win at even strength they lose on the power play. That attack mentality just disappears. They suddenly get all caught up in trying to get set up and make clever plays, and the Bruins’ team that wears teams out five on five goes on a two minutes vacation. They don’t seem to realize that, just because you have the man advantage, that doesn’t mean that you don’t have to keep playing hard. Their approach is just different on the power play. It’s not a personell problem, it’s a mental problem. However with that said some additions to the personell will still help.
While most will argue that the talent level necessary for a successful powerplay has been there for the Bruins over the past three years, no one can deny that the loss of Marc Savard really hurt them in this area. In the 215 games before Savard’s injury the Bruins had the 7th best powerplay in the NHL. In the 215 games since they are 30th. They’ve replaced the other aspects of his game, but the left handed playmaker was an absolute wizard on the powerplay, and the Bruins have never found another player to fill that particular role. On the man advantage Savard could set up on the right half wall and run the show, setting up Zdeno Chara for one timers, or making plays to the net. The Bruins simply haven’t had another guy who can do that since Savard went down. David Krejci is an excellent playmaker, but he’s right handed, making him a missfit on the right half wall. The same goes for Tyler Seguin. Milan Lucic is left handed, but he’s a shooter not a passer. The same goes for Brad Marchand. Again, the Bruins have still have had the talent to be better than they are with the man advantage. However there is no denying that they’ve missed Savard too.
This is where Jagr will really help. At 41 he isn’t the same player who terrorized the NHL in the mid 90s with the Pittsburgh Penguins, and while he’s on his way to the Hall of Fame he probably never had the pass-first mentality that Savard did (he’s got 665 career goals to his name). However while the speed might not be where it once was with Jagr the hands still are. He’s probably still a shoot first player, but his playmaking ability is nothing to be laughed at (those 988 career assists didn’t all happen by accident). The Bruins haven’t had a player who can really be comfortable on the right half wall since Savard went down, and it has been a pretty serious deficiency. Jagr can fill this void with authority. He wont solve all their problems with the man advantage. For that to happen the Bruins will have to change the way they approach the whole issue. However adding Jagr does give them something they didn’t have. Something that they needed, which should at least help a little.
January 2, 2013
With the 2012 NFL regular season officially in the rear view mirror The Way I See It wraps up the year with a final 32 thoughts on 32 teams.
1) The New England Patriots – Watch out. This team went 12-4, the four losses were by a combined 11 points, and they haven’t been healthy all year. If the secondary is healthy there is nothing this team can’t do. Also they own this division, still.
2) The Miami Dolphins – “The Bills had a great offseason.” “The Jets are stil dangerous.” Yet afte hearing all that before at the beginning of the year the Dolphins were the second best team in the east despite trading Vontae Davis at the start of the season.
3) The Buffalo Bill – I said at the start of the year that Mario Williams and Mark Anderson were not going to make a difference. I was right.
4) The New York Jets – ROFLMAO! No in all seriousness it was the right move to fire Mike Tannenbaum and keep Rex Ryan. What was the point of trading for Tim Tebow when you never had any intention of playing him?
The AFC North
1) The Baltimore Ravens – The year long crusade to show that Joe Flacco is an elite QB achieved one thing – boning my fantasy team by ignoring Ray Rice.
2) The Cincinnati Bengals – This is what happens when you don’t knee jerk fire coaches the second times get tough. Marvin Lewis is a good coach, the Bengals stuck with him in the late 2000s, and now he has them in the playoffs with a winning record for the second straight year. First time that has happened for the Bengals since the mid 70s.
3) The Pittsburgh Steelers – I know the Steelers have a lot of problems, but I’m putting this season on Ben Roethlisberger. He was hurt when they really needed him, then after Chaz Batch kept them in it he comes back and tosses the season away with two of the worst interceptions you will ever see. Great time to break out the Brett Favre shuffle Ben.
4) The Cleveland Browns – I don’t really know what to say. Trent Richardson is good I guess?
1) The Houston Texans – I hate when people say “X team just gave everyone a blueprint for beating Y team,” but is that what the New England did when they crushed the Texans on Monday Night Football? The Texans’ secondary can be picked apart, and if you slow down Arian Foster and force Matt Schaub to beat you suddenly Houston is really average.
2) The Indianapolis Colts – Big single season turnaround, but the truth is that the 2011 Colts were not actually that bad. The problem wasn’t that they didn’t have Peyton Manning, it was that they didn’t have any quarterback at all. Seriously they started 57 year old Kerry Collins and “Mr. 0-16″ Dan Orlovsky. Now they have a quarterback and suddenly they’re pretty good again. Shocking!
3) The Tennessee Titans – I remember the days of Steve McNair and Eddie George when the Titans were a force to be reckoned with every year. Man, what happened? They’ve been going backwards for a while.
4) The Jacksonville Jaguars – Bring in Tebow! It’s your only hope! The Jags need divine intervention.
1) The Denver Broncos – There are two teams in the NFL that can beat the Broncos – New England and Green Bay. Denver has very few weaknesses, but I believe that this secondary can be picked apart. However Rodgers and Brady are the only QBs capable of doing it.
2) The San Diego Chargers – Why did it take so long for Norv Turner to lose his job? This team has been getting worse ever since Schottenheimer left.
3) The Oakland Raiders – I say again – last year the Raiders were 4-2 with Jason Campbell. Trading two first round picks for Carson Palmer sure looks smart now doesn’t it.
4) The Kansas City Chiefs – What the Chiefs are doing to Jamal Charles reminds me of what the Lions did to Barry Sanders. Someone save him!
The NFC East
1) The Washington Redskins – I love the ‘Skins. They are so much fun to watch. Russell Wilson vs RGIII this weekend? Yes please.
2) The New York Giants – Once again this is why Tom Coughlin, despite the two Super Bowls, is not a Hall of Fame coach – his team is a total wild card. You never know which Giants squad is going to show up.
3) The Dallas Cowboys – Ugh. Tony you bring a lot of this on yourself.
4) The Philadelphia Eagles – Haven’t seen a team quit on a coach the way the Eagles quit on Andy Reid last Sunday in a long time.
1) The Green Bay Packers – Scary team, but still too one dimensional in my opinion. I don’t believe in the running game, or the offensive line, or the defense, or anything really other than Rodgers throwing the ball. Thing is I really don’t see another NFC team that is better.
2) The Minnesota Vikings – I almost think that the Vikings are going to go to Lambeau this weekend and beat the Packers. Almost. Green Bay can’t stop AP right? Yes, but the Vikings beat Green Bay last weekend because they needed that game more than the Packers did. Things will be different this time around….I think….but it’s AP.
3) The Chicago Bears – Guess Chicago was just looking for a reason to fire Lovie Smith because going 10-6 and missing the playoffs on a tie breaker is nothing to be ashamed of.
4) The Detroit Lions – I always argue against firing coaches the second things start going wrong, so I guess Jim Schwartz should probably be given a few more shots. After all he did bring them back from the dead. They were 0-16 the year before he took over. But with that being said I don’t think the Lions will ever get out of their own way while Schwartz is still there.
1) The Atlanta Falcons – I’ll believe it when I see it.
2) The Carolina Panthers – Tough year for Cam Newton, but seriously, name another player on the Panthers and don’t say Steve Smith. Tough isn’t it? Hard to blame a quarterback for having a mediocre year when the team around him is clearly terrible.
3) The New Orleans Saints – The Saints defense wasn’t awful this year because Jonathan Vilma wasn’t around and Sean Payton was suspended. They were awful because that’s what they are. They have been for a while. Remember who the team that Marshawn Lynch beasted through two years ago at Qwest Field? They couldn’t tackle then and they can’t tackle now.
4) The Tampa Bay Buccaneers – This team is good. Josh Freeman is good. Vincent Jackson is good. Mike Williams is good. Doug Martin is good. I’m still hung up on them firing Raheem Morris two years ago. The Bucs loved to play for that guy. They haven’t been the same since.
1) The San Francisco 49ers – The 49ers are the Texans, except they actually have a quarterback on their roster who can do more than just “manage the game.” Colin Kaepernick gives them an X-factor that they desperately needed. Thing is without Justin Smith this D suddenly doesn’t look that great.
2) The Seattle Seahawks – I’m almost convinced. Best secondary in the game, good pass rushers, one of the best running backs, and a major playmaker at QB? Seems legit, but I still hate Pete Carroll.
3) The St. Louis Rams – Jeff Fishers makes teams better but honestly the Rams just don’t have a lot going for them.
4) The Arizona Cardinals – I kind of wonder what would have happened if Kevin Kolb had stayed healthy. He isn’t very good, but he seemed just good enough to give this defense a shot. At least it looked that way when they were 3-0. Oh well, Whisenhunt i gone. I guess we’ll never know.
December 17, 2012
If you’re a fan of another AFC team you want to believe that the New England Patriot’s 41-34 loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday night was a sign of weakness. You want to think that it was proof that the Patriots are vincible, and that the 49ers just gave the league a blue print of how to beat them. However the reality of the situation is that, following this loss, the Patriots look even scarier. It was a bad loss. New England didn’t come up with even close to their best effort and made a myriad of uncharacteristic miscues. Yet they still almost won. The message that that delivers is this – in order to beat New England you need everything to go your way to even have a shot.
Take a step back and consider that loss, the one that dropped New England to 10-4, third place in the AFC. Nothing went New England’s way, nothing. Seriously not one thing. The ‘Niners fumbled six times – they lost one, and turned another into a touchdown. The Patriots meanwhile turned the ball over four times, all four completely unforced errors, and still managed to score 34 points on the league’s best D and have it tied midway through the fourth quarter. That shouldn’t be possible. Many admired the fight New England showed after the game, asking “how many teams comeback from 31-3 and make a game of it?” The question they should be asking is “how many teams could?” Plenty of teams would try, but how many teams are actually capable of scoring 28 points in less than 20 minutes? None, that’s how many.
Take away the emotional aspect of what is a very frustrating loss and fans should realize that New England should never have been in that game at all. San Francisco got every single bounce yet New England still almost won. Just look at special teams – the ‘Niners converted a fake punt, got a 62 yard kickoff return, and twice pinned New England inside their own 10 at the crucial juncture of the game thanks to boneheaded Patriot penalties. Meanwhile New England gave them the ball in their own territory five times, yet this game was still tied midway through the fourth quarter. That should not be possible.
It’s one thing when the Patriots come back from down 21-0 to the Buffalo Bills like they did last year. That was against the Bills. The question following that game was “why were they get down 21-0 in the first place?” This was against the 49ers – easily the best defense in the league who can hurt you in a variety of ways on offense and special teams. There isn’t another team in football with the linebackers to matchup against New England’s tight ends. There isn’t another team with the secondary to neutralize Wes Welker. This is the very best that the NFL has to offer on defense, and they got every single bounce, and won by seven.
There is an old adage “things are never as good or as bad as they seem.” The Patriots probably weren’t as good as they looked in the first half against the Houston Texans last Monday night when everything was working perfectly. They also aren’t as bad as they looked in the first half against San Francisco when nothing was. The reality is probably somewhere between the two, but that is still better than any other team out there. They didn’t come up with even close to their best effort on Sunday Night. No one other than Tom Brady, Danny Woodhead and Brandon Lloyd played at all well. Nothing went their way. Yet they still almost beat the best team in the NFC.
Wait, it gets worse. It’s easy to forget when they’re hanging 42 on the Texans and 34 on the 49ers, the two best defenses in football, but the Patriots are doing all this without their best offensive player Rob Gronkowski. They still have things to fix – they should have a great running game but that wont matter if Stevan Ridley doesn’t stop fumbling. The offensive line came up small in the big moments on Sunday night. And the defense, while greatly improved, still has a lot of questions to answer. Yet even on a night when nothing, nothing, was going their way, when they were down 28 points against the best D in the league, the Patriots still almost stole one. Is there anything scarier than that?
How do you beat the Patriots? Hope you get lucky, and even that might not save you.
November 1, 2012
Whenever you meet a “big name” in any sport the first thing you try to do is decide if the hype is legitimate. I had the chance to not only meet Olympic Gold Medalist Nathan Outteridge of Artemis Racing at the 2012 Ronstan A-Class Catamaran World Championship, but actually get out on the water and watch him race from the media boat. I came away with one impression – that kid is the real deal. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. After all no one achieves what Outteridge has in his relatively short sailing career without a boat load of legitimate talent. Yet even though there are plenty of high quality sailors in the world it is rare that any one of them does something really eye popping on the water. Outteridge pulled something like that off in Race Four of the 2012 A-Cat Worlds.
It was Day Three of the event and the breeze was on in the Florida Keys. The Race Committee had run three races in extreme conditions on Day One which thinned the fleet considerably, and Day Two had to be abandoned due to the overzealous weather system. With Hurricane Sandy on its’ way PRO Billy Richnow moved the first warning signal of Day 3 to 9 a.m. and the top portion of the A-Cat fleet launched into the nasty breeze with the back half deciding that discretion was is the better part of valor. At the start of the day the big story was whether or not defending World Champion Steve Brewin or A-Cat veteran Brad Collett could catch Mischa Heemskerk of the Netherlands, who held a small lead on the Aussies entering Race Four. Outteridge meanwhile had missed the practice race due to a breakdown, and after scoring a fourth and sixth on day one, busted his dagger board and had to take a DNC in race three, so it wasn’t looking like he was going to do much at the regatta. His start in Race Four proved otherwise.
If you look at the photo of that start it looks like fast cat Steve Brayshaw (AUS 25) has Outteridge right where he wants him, and that Nathan is about to enter a world of pain. The freeze frame makes it look like Brayshaw is about to roll right over the top of him. What you don’t know is that after that picture was snapped Nathan shot out of that gap like a cork out of a bottle. The windward hull was just out of the water, his harness was dropped down in the perfect position, and he was flat as a board parallel to his main beam. He smoked off that pin like a forest fire, and was far enough ahead at the windward mark that we in the media boat were reduced to using the process of elimination to figure out who it was.
However it wasn’t all fun and games for Nathan. By the second windward Heemskerk was closing on him. Anyone who has met Mischa knows that he is a big boy, bigger than most in the A-Cat fleet, and the aggressive conditions of Day Three are his stomping ground. The current World Champ has sailed catamarans professionally since he was 16 and, after the performance he put on at the worlds, has to be considered the heavy air maestro of the A-Cat fleet. Watching he and Nathan approach that windward mark, well in front of everyone else, was like watching two heavy weight champs go at it – no one was giving ground. Yet, unbelievably, it got more interesting from there.
Though Mischa was closing Nathan still had a nice lead around the second windward mark. Then he messed up. Mistaking a blue pennant on the committee boat for a shorten course flag Nathan sailed for the finish followed by Collet, who had been sitting fourth at the time. Neither sailor realized their mistake until perhaps ten boats had gotten by them, yet while that basically wrecked Collett’s race and ultimately cost him a spot on the podium (he finished fourth, two points behind Brewin), Outteridge had more tricks up his sleeve. He probably lost half a kilometer due to that misadventure, knocking him out of the top ten and well back into the pack, but he pulled himself back together and immediately and started climbing through the fleet like it was going out of style. He was already back up to seventh by the last windward mark. Incredibly he still wasn’t done.
All week long sailors had been going left on the run. Islmorada is famous for its’ close chop, A-Cats are famous for pitch-poling, and the left side offered a little more shelter from the worst of the waves. Yet as the photo boat hung out by the finish line watching the parade of sails scoot down the left side after Mischa got the gun we suddenly noticed a sail way out in the right corner. At first I thought it was a competitor who had capsized going up wind and was now retiring due to the intense conditions. Then with a sudden shock I realized it was Nathan. My first though was “what the heck is he doing out there? he’s going to get crushed.” Then he gybed and came screaming out of that corner like a bat out of hell, edging Murray Philpot and Andrew Landenberger at the finish to pull a second out of nowhere.
I am a very difficult guy to impress. I grew up around guys like Lars Guck, Duncan MaClane and Steve Clark. I had the chance to see Mischa Heemskerk and Steve Brewin race this week, and I’ve seen Simon McKeon and Jimmy Spithill sail live before. I’ve even met Glen Ashby and Pete Melvin a few times. Those guys are on a very short list of sailors who impressed me. It is a pretty exclusive club, but what Nathan Outteridge did in that race was one of the more impressive things I have seen in a lifetime spent watching sailing.
Perhaps I am overreacting. Perhaps I was just happy to find out that, despite being a legitimate sailing celebrity, when you meet Nathan in person he is just an ordinary nice guy. It’s easy to root for a guy like that, but after all he isn’t the only young kid in the A-Cat fleet going really fast. Mischa was about as impressive as it is possible to be in five races. 49er Silver medalist Blair Tuke had his moments, with a particularly strong Race One, and Aussie young gunner Jack Benson has been hanging around the front of the fleet for a couple of years now. There were plenty of other impressive people out there. However nothing anyone else did opened my eyes like Nathan’s performance in Race Four.
During the second of two interviews that I butchered up with Nathan that week he told me that he really wished he had had a few more days of heavy air sailing in Islamorada to find his feet before the event kicked off. After being unable to participate in the practice race, and using Day One to scope out the scene, by Day Three he felt that he was just getting into the swing of things. One has to wonder what would have happened if he had gotten his wish. The kid was in beast mode on Day Three.