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Archive for July, 2012|Monthly archive page

The Weekly Six-Pack, July 27

In Football, Hockey, Pro Wrestling on July 27, 2012 at 2:43 pm

Normally, I feel the need to start this off with some sort of musing, but I’ve spent the last week playing uncle to my niece and two nephews. So the only thing I can come up with after all that time is that I’ve gotten each of them hooked on old school Street Fighter II for the Super Nintendo. And yes, I’m very proud of this.

That said, strap in kids, here we go.

Predators match Shea Weber offer sheet
What had been looming over the hockey world for the last week was answered earlier this week, as Nashville emptied their payroll to match the Flyers’ monster offer sheet for captain Shea Weber. And honestly, good for the Preds. I said it last week, if they let Weber go, Nashville is on the fast track to becoming the Atlanta Thrashers, 2.0. But GM David Poile swallowed hard and kept the team’s best player in the fold. By doing so, Poile saved the franchise’s credibility and appeal to not only the current cast, but future free agents. In addition, having Weber’s presence means that guys like Ryan Ellis, Roman Josi and Jon Blum can fill in with a veteran mentor. So good for you, Nashville. The last thing an expanding market needs is to turn into what the Thrashers used to be.

Rick Nash heads to Broadway
FINALLY! After five long months of being unhappy in what might as well be hockey purgatory, Nash gets sent to the New York Rangers for Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Tim Erixon and a 1st-round pick. Of course, like most hockey analysts (something I am far from), I like the deal for the Rangers more than the Jackets. New York gets a power forward to help soften the blow of Marian Gaborik’s injury, and they didn’t have to give up any of their top young forward like Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller, Carl Hagelin and Derek Stepan.

For Columbus, this isn’t the type of return I’m sure GM Scott Howson was looking for. Yes, he got two NHL-ready forwards and a very good prospect on defense in Erixon. But even though he didn’t get the 30-goal scorer I’m sure he was after, he didn’t get totally hosed and get 30 cents on the dollar like I thought he would. Then again, based on what Howson’s original asking price was, I’m not shocked with the return he got.

Dubinsky and Anisimov will step in right away, but the one that intrigues me the most is Tim Erixon. By adding Erixon, the defense could be considered one of the best in the Western conference when healthy. Yes, I know, I’ll probably regret that statement down the line. But on paper I love what they’re building on defense in Columbus. How if only the team could find a way to lose Howson as GM, they just might find a way to contend.

Alex Semin heads to Carolina
Another guy that I was very interested in just where he would be playing next year, Semin inks a deal to head to Capitals’ division rival Carolina. I love that the ‘Canes got him for one year and it’s similar to what Detroit did a few years back with Marian Hossa. Semin gets to play with some very talented players in the Staal brothers and Jeff Skinner, but his added offense could very easily make the Hurricanes the favorite in that division. On top of that, he’s coming in to a locket room with stable leadership, something that hasn’t really been the case in the nation’s capitol the last few years. I love the deal for each side and I would be very surprised if Semin doesn’t score 30 goals this year.

Raw 1000 turns back the clock
Like many people my age (I’m 26, if that helps), growing up was a blast because every Monday night was wrestling night. It was the Attitude Era and every weekly show was a blast just because of the antics of Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, DX and others. So when I heard about the 1,000th episode of Monday Night Raw, I figured it would be fun to watch for the nostalgic factor alone. And of course, I was treated to some old names and faces that made me feel like I was a 12-year old sitting on the couch with dad every Monday night. This even included mom yelling, “I can’t believe you’re watching this crap.” Ah memories…

So it was great to see DX as a whole group, The Rock still carries himself like he never left the business and Lita and Trish Stratus are still SMOKING hot. While I was a little upset at the absence of Stone Cold and Edge, I was more let down with the wrestling product. Each week during the Attitude Era guys like Triple H, Chris Jericho, Edge, Eddie Guerrero and others would have some very entertaining matches each week. This show lacked that in a big way. So clearly the times have changed in that aspect. Regardless, it was a fun night to laugh about some of the best memories from a simpler time for me.

Chiefs training camp opens. Warning: May cause false optimism
OK, back to sports talk. Sorry about the detour. I know a lot of my friends have been chomping at the bit to get football back, and only now have I started to pay a little bit of attention. Of course, that means I’m likely subjected to another torturous season of watching the Kansas City Chiefs. And as bad as last year was, I’m optimistic in the early stages of camp just because the team went 7-9 last year without Matt Cassel, Jamaal Charles and Eric Berry for most of the year. Yes I know the Broncos have Peyton Manning and everyone thinks the Raiders are going to be better. But the Raiders are still the Raiders, the Chargers are still coached by Norv Turner and the Manning is one missed block away from ending his career. I’m probably going to remain optimistic until things start to go south. The fact that Dwayne Bowe isn’t in camp is a good start to that…

My encounter with an NFL running back
I’m closing the column today with an unexpected meeting that happened to me as a young teenager. I was spending some time with my family and my Godparents’ family in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in what I want to say was 2001. We were having a nice time when some of the football players for Coe College stopped by. There were three total, but two of them were twins from the state of Texas, one of whom happened to be Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson. My memory from that long ago isn’t the best, but I remember that night and how friendly Jackson, his brother and his teammate were to us. They were nice enough to play some alley basketball with us (stomping us mercilessly) and dance to the Cha Cha Slide in the living room (where I announced my status as the whitest of white boy dancers). The picture still sits in the living room of that house, and it’s amazing to just how far Jackson has come.

My Godparents became very close with Freddy and his brother in school and that has continued to this day. It’s also a cool little story for me to tell today, given that I never would have expected it back when I met Fred 11 years ago.

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The Start of the Weekly Six-Pack

In Baseball, Hockey on July 19, 2012 at 8:42 pm

I took a look at the recent posts, and since the last one was back before the opening round of the playoff, what better time than now to start what I hope will be a weekly installment. In honor of an old college tradition in Thirsty Thursdays, here’s the debut of the Weekly Six-Pack (see what I did there?). One thing I will try to do is avoid the hot-button topics that ESPN and your local sports talk radio shows beat to death. In this particular column, there will be no mentions of Penn State, Jeremy Lin, Tiger Woods, Tim Tebow or Dwight Howard from this point forward. You want 172 different opinions on those topics? Watch ESPN. They won’t disappoint.

Chances are this one will pertain mostly to hockey (since that’s my deal), but occasionally I’ll mix in a little something else.

Now that our little disclaimer is out of the way, time to brush the cobwebs off this bad boy! All I need is my broom to get this going and… wait…what the hell is that? SPIDER!

OK, he’s dead and my heart skipped a beat. Also, sorry I screamed. Knee-jerk reaction and it won’t happen again. Let’s go in.

The Inaugural Weekly Six-Pack, Jul. 19.

When I was much younger, the off-season for all of my favorite sports was hardly interesting. In football, there was much less hype about the draft and I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to free agency in any sport. Now that I’m older, things have changed, my goodness have things changed.

This off-season in the NHL has been the craziest that I can remember in recent memory. Maybe since the free agent frenzy of 2002 (Teemu Selanne, Curtis Joseph, Tony Amonte, etc.) has one been this entertaining. And since I haven’t posted for a while, I may be playing a little catch-up.

Shea Weber inks massive offer sheet from the Flyers
Lucky for me this one came out last night, and I about spit water all over my computer when I saw what Paul Holmgren did. Paulie saw a chance to upgrade his defense that was torched by the Devils in the playoffs without losing a roster player, and I love it. For the Flyers, it’s not only a move to get better, but there’s also the thought of preparing for life after Chris Pronger. Throw in the possibility of Weber joining the team and they get much younger as well. And with the team’s biggest rival employing the two best players in the game, Weber could make life very hard for Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Paul Holmgren, I tip my hat to you given how little GMs break out the offer sheet today. Ed Snider should buy you a bigger wheelbarrow to haul around the massive stones you possess after this move.

As for Nashville, you have my sympathy. After losing Ryan Suter (more on him later), this is the last thing the team wanted to have happen. David Poile is one of the league’s best GMs, and in my opinion, he has no choice but to match the 14-year, $100 million contract. The ESPN article by Scott Burnside lays it all out as far as the option of not matching the offer sheet:

“The equation, then, is relatively simple for the Predators: match the deal and remain relevant, or take the four first-round draft picks that would come as compensation for not matching the offer sheet and give up any hope of being a contender, of attracting top talent, of being anything other than a team treading water and wondering when the lights will go out for good.”

I had that thought in mind before it was written, and it’s dead on. If the Preds don’t match, you can start the countdown as to when the franchise shuts down or moves. The team just started to become relevant in that city as a team ready to contend for a Cup, and this is as crushing as it gets. Yes, the team has some good young defenseman coming up in the system. That shouldn’t matter. Send the right message to the team and fans that you want to remain relevant and in the hunt for a Cup and MATCH THE OFFER.

Finally, this is going to cause a stir at the current CBA negotiations because the owners are saying what they want to change and doing the exact opposite with these massive, front-loaded contracts. You want player salaries to be reduced? Stop handing out these lucrative deals. The league can’t handle the loss of another season, and although this hypocrisy is happening, I can’t help but think things will be solved between the two sides.

San Jose remains relatively quiet during the break
Come on, you didn’t think we would get through this without me playing the role of homer for a short amount of time. After a depressing exit in the playoffs, I didn’t think GM Doug Wilson would stand pat with the structure of the team. Brad Stuart was brought back, and that’s the extent of the team’s activity thus far. I know the team needs more scoring, but all that’s available to them at this point is the option adding Shane Doan, who I don’t see playing anywhere but Phoenix, or trading for Rick Nash. As awesome as that would be, I don’t see Wilson giving up what Columbus wants for the big wing unless GM Scott Howson gets desperate to trade Nash and accept less than what he’s asking for. What the Sharks need to focus on is improving their penalty kill and getting the right guys to fill out the third and fourth lines. Adding Stuart improves the defense, but I don’t see much more happening for the men in teal. Unless Doan decides to join the Sharks, which is something I wouldn’t hate.

Speaking of Rick Nash…
We all know that he’s not going to be in Columbus next year. He can’t stay at this point because the bridge has been burned between himself and management. The biggest issue facing the trade is the amount that Howson wants in return. Asking for guys like Logan Couture of the Sharks, Milan Lucic and Tyler Seguin of the Bruins, and other team’s top young players is insane. Yes, it should be expected to get those kinds of players for someone like Nash, but you have to think that won’t happen. In the end, Nash is either going to be a New York Ranger (they have a boat-load of prospects to surrender), or Howson is going to give up Nash for 30 cents on the dollar. Oh Columbus, you never stop making me laugh.

Ready to get Wild in Minnesota
Yes I know, it’s a terrible pun. But a hockey market that deserves to be noticed finally is with Ryan Suter and Zach Parise in the fold. Offense has been a weak spot for the Wild since Marian Gaborik left, and adding Parise makes this team dangerous from the beginning. Mikko Koivu and Dany Heatley should see an upswing in their production playing with Parise, and Devin Setoguchi should return to the 25-goal region on the second line. Not only if the production at the top going to be better, but the young Minnesota talent coming up won’t have the pressure on them to produce immediately. So Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle, Jason Zucker and perhaps Johan Larsson (all are former top-60 picks) will all have a chance to get a feel for the NHL while the stars handle the heavy lifting.

Suter comes in to be not only the team’s top shut-down defender, but a mentor for one of the league’s youngest defenses. Suter will do wonders for the development of Marco Scandella, Justin Falk, Jared Spurgeon, and the team’s top picks in 2011 and 2012 in Jonas Brodin and Matt Dumba. Life for goaltender Niklas Backstrom is about to become a lot easier as well with the addition of Suter, and all of a sudden, the Wild are a team to be dealt with every night.

Add in the fact that it’s a homecoming for Parise and somewhat of one for Suter (a Madison, Wisc. native), and optimism in St. Paul is as high as it has ever been.

Just what the State of Hockey needed.

The Blackhawks have taken summer vacation very seriously
By that, I mean they’ve barely been heard from. Outside of adding Sheldon Brookbank and striking out on adding Parise and dealing with Patrick Kane going frat boy again, there has been very little noise from the Windy City. For a team that was outplayed by a Phoenix team in the playoffs, I wouldn’t feel good if I were a Hawks fan at this point. Hope you guys like the thought of another first round exit!

Royals struggling to make noise in rebuild
On to baseball to close this out, and it’s a troubling topic for me to discuss. Then again, anything I talk about baseball related is usually depressing given the state of the Cubs and Royals. But while the Cubs are in full-fledged rebuild mode, I at least had hope for the Royals to be competitive in the less-than-stellar AL Central. Needless to say, it has been a train wreck thus far, and the Royals’ pitching staff has led the charge straight to bottom of the standings. I was OK with the team getting Jonathan Sanchez for Melky Cabrera in the off-season, and it has turned into one of the worst trades for the team in recent memory. When Bruce Chen and Luke Hochevar are counted on to lead a pitching staff, trouble won’t be far behind.

You hear so much about how much talent the team has in the farm system, but it appears to be another two years before that talent is ready to contend. And for a fan base that’s growing impatient with the progression, it’s an all too familiar sound.

That’s the first Weekly Six-Pack. Hope you enjoyed it and feel free to leave some feedback.