Thursday, April 12, 2007

I Just Can't Win

"You do it yourself, just you, you and no one else."

Ok, so again, basically anytime I have anything to say about the Celtics, Sports Guy is all over it. For the second time in probably the last month, as soon as I finish an article, I click over to Sports Guy to see what he has to say, and it looks as though I plagiarized the whole thing (I am finding that coming from a city that has had two huge plagiarism cases (Mike Barnicle and Ron Borges from the Globe) apparently is not such a good thing right now). The two articles in question, which looked extremely similar in their context ("Fan-tanking" and "The NBA Lottery") I wrote literally right before I read The Sports Guy (by the way, this in no way is putting down Bill Simmons, because I love the guy, and his articles are outstanding; it's just that two people from similar backgrounds, even if we are a few years apart, tend to have the same thought process sometime). So again, I am telling you, I am not trying to copy him in any way (although I probably should because he is way more elegant and humorous about everything than me). I have way too much respect for him to be doing that. Just wanted to get that off my chest.

It seems like MSNBC reads my blog, or else they listened to the millions of people on this planet called Earth that was calling for the firing of Don Imus, because guess what? Done deal. Nice. Good riddance.

Also, I want to bring up something that may have been misinterpreted by people. I think J.D. Drew is a very good player, I just don't think he's worth $14 million a year, especially when you consider a guy at the same position, Vladimir Guerrero (excuse me, former MVP Vladimir Guerrero) is making $13 million, and he is way better than Drew. I realize that, this offseason, the salaries were really getting up there, but the fact remains that the Sox got suckered by Scott Boras, which was the underlying reason why Boras laid off of his demands for signing Dice-K. Again, I want to stress that I think Drew is good, but completely overpriced. I also feel the same way about Julio Lugo: Good player, way, way too much money.

So does anyone know what's going on in the Oakland front office? Because I sure don't. It seems as though no one is being clear about the intentions of the Raiders in the upcoming Draft or for the rest of the free agency period. I have heard numerous reports saying that they are in talks with Detroit to acquire Josh McCown to take over the starter's position left vacant by Aaron Brooks. If this scenario were to take place, you would be hearing a lot more about the following:

1.) Drafting Calvin Johnson #1 overall instead of JaMarcus Russell, and
2.) Trading Randy Moss to whoever can stand him.

In any case, if Oakland traded for McCown and drafted Johnson, you would be talking about one of the biggest shakeups as far as who's going where in recent Draft history (yes, even more than the immortal Mario Williams pick). Let me describe what the domino effect would start to look like if this went down:

  1. Oakland takes Johnson
  2. Detroit now has an amazingly complicated decision here (luckily, the Raiders take a receiver, meaning the chances are less probable they will take another one here, unless Teddy Ginn's pro day was that impressive), in which they could go in three different directions. First, they could draft their "franchise" QB in Russell or Brady Quinn, second, they could draft their tackle of the future in Joe Thomas (who I am convinced that along with Johnson and Gaines Adams are the only sure "locks" to produce in the NFL, but then again, I said the same thing about Robert Gallery, so you never know), or, they could trade down with a team that wants Russell or Quinn. If the Raiders do not draft Johnson, it is almost a given that Tampa will trade up to #2 to snag him. Teams looking to do this include Cleveland (who has been enamored with Quinn all of a sudden), Miami, or even Minnesota.
  3. Cleveland now decides whether to trade up or not. If they are here, and Quinn gets taken, I don't see the Browns drafting Russell, so what do they do? They signed Jamal Lewis to a one year deal, but that certainly will not be any type of long-term fix (by the way, this and the Wes Welker move I love, because basically these were two guys that killed one team, and rather than have to deal with them any more, they just sign the guy and say "ok, you can hurt our practice squad, but that's as far as it goes."...brilliant). So, do they go after Adrian Peterson, or, again, are they looking at maybe improving their line with Thomas.
  4. Tampa will then be on the clock. This would be a position that they would be dying to get out of, because Johnson has been the guy they were eyeing all along. With Jeff Garcia now in the fold, and Chris Simms still a young capable backup, Tampa will not be in the market for a QB, and after signing Luke Pettigout, they don't need a tackle. So, there is a chance that they would be entertaining offers to trade down, because, again, with most likely only one of the two QBs gone at this point (I would have to say Russell will be there), there is going to be someone who will want to move up. However, there is another possibility here, and that would be to pick Gaines Adams, who has also been linked to going to Detroit (so you can add that to the possibilities). Adams has come through as the clear-cut best defensive prospect in the Draft, and their ends, Simeon Rice and Greg Spiers, are getting up there in age, and the Bucs were shopping Rice throughout last season. With Adams, they get an instant upgrade to their defense, who, now that I think about it, are really starting to age a lot in general, and not just at the ends.
  5. Arizona goes #5, and they want Joe Thomas. The Cardinals need to sure up their line, and no one fills that need better than Thomas. He will not fall past here. If Thomas is gone, I would expect them to draft Jamaal Anderson.
  6. And then, there are the Redskins. Almost a month ago, the 'Skins were linked to Russell, and had him in for a visit. After Jason Campbell had a bit of a shaky go at it last year (again, it was his first time starting, so a couple of kinks here and there are expected...they can't all be Vince Young), Washington was a little unsure about the future of the franchise. Could they possibly take Russell here and put the screws to Campbell, a guy they traded up for just two years ago? Washington has been linked to Gaines Adams and Jamaal Anderson the whole time, so, if he's still there, Anderson could be the pick. Or, will they be willing to try and fill their hole in their secondary by drafting LaRon Landry? And then, there's the other possibility of them trading down, then targetting a guy like Adam Carriker or Jarvis Moss at end. Remember, Washington does not have a pick until the 5th round after this, so any way they can pick up more selections would probably be appreciated.
  7. Minnesota drafts here. They would be looking at Russell and Landry. Again, if both are gone, the Vikings could be looking at a guy that they have shown a lot of interest in: Ted Ginn, Jr. After his pro day, he put to rest most of the concerns about any lingering problems with his foot (I say most because it started bothering him after he did about twenty or so reputations) with a 4.38 40 time. Ginn has supplanted Dwayne Jarrett for second best receiver, so it would not be out of the question to see him go here. Again, if the Vikes like Quinn as much as it has been rumored, then Minnesota could try and move up to #2.
  8. Atlanta moved up to #8 after trading Matt Schaub to Houston. This is the one team that will probably go unaffected by everything that has happened before this. Landry is gone before he can even get here no matter what happens (whether Minnesota takes him, or someone trades up to take him to get him). So, I would think Atlanta is an enviable situation. They can either take Leon Hall here (which could be a little high), or they can trade down to somewhere in the middle of the first round. At this point, they really have their pick of anyone (including Hall perhaps). Reggie Nelson is starting to rise up the boards again after an impressive workout, and will be available most likely until #17, when Jacksonville picks. Also, fellow safety Michael Griffin would be a solid choice in the late teens-early twenties. Or, if they went the corner route, they could draft Chris Houston, Aaron Ross, Darrelle Revis, or Marcus McCauley.
  9. Miami would be the big winner if all shook down to the point that everyone had cooled on JaMarcus Russell. The Dolphins have been targetting Russell for a long time now (apparently they're not completely turned off with former LSU Tigers), and if he slips here, and no progress is made in the Trent Green offerings, this is about as much of a sure thing as you can get. Russell is in the Daunte Culpepper mold, but he's healthier and younger than Culpepper, and considering the Dolphins were so enfatuated with Culpepper, you have to believe that Russell would be perfect for them.
So, I think that's as far down as it's going to go. However, with the trades that could go on, it remains to be seen how much impact the Johnson pick will have, but as you can see, you're looking at a guy who has been basically pencilled in at the #1 slot since the Sugar Bowl falling all the way to #9. I understand Aaron Rodgers' decent down the board was more extreme, but as you can tell from above, the Raiders taking Johnson would cause a major chain reaction that could wind up affecting the entire first round. Interesting times for sure.

The NHL Playoffs started up with little-to-no fanfare, which I really don't get. I mean I am fully aware of the lack of popularity of the NHL, but this is the Playoffs. These are the best players in the world competing in the fastest game on Earth. Even if you're not a fan, I'm telling you, watch maybe five minutes (this is of course assuming you get VS., which can be viewed by about 50% of households...yeah, not so good) of a playoff game. To me, it's riveting TV. The games are even faster now, the hits are harder, the moves are better, the intensity is at its peak, and the beards get progressively bigger as the playoffs wear on. With all of that being said, I am going to do a brief playoff preview (really, if this was going to be the main point, you would have skipped it right?...well, you might skip this anyway, but at least give it a shot for my sake). I am going to try and do each round (I'm going to try and do the same for the NBA, but in both cases, I can't guarantee anything). So, here is the first round:

Eastern Conference:
(1) Buffalo vs. (8) New York Islanders: Rick DiPietro, the Islanders' goalie, is recovering from effects of a concussion, and he has been listed as doubtful to play in any of the first-round games. With that being said, the Sabres have one of the better netminders in the game in Ryan Miller. In additon, they probably have the best defense in the league in terms of speed and overall ability. In the end, the Isles, who have a shaky defense to begin with, will not be able to handle the aggressive Saber offense

Pick: Buffalo in 5

(2) New Jersey vs. (7) Tampa Bay: Even if you're not a big hockey fan, there's a good chance you've heard of the name Martin Brodeur before. This guy is simply outstanding. Easily the best goalie in the league, Brodeur is up for the Vezina (best goalie) and Hart (MVP) trophies. I give the advantage to the Devils for that reason, because when you look at the other side of the ice, the Lightning do not have a solid goalie in their lineup, choosing instead to rotate between Johan Holmqvist and Marc Denis. While Tampa certainly has some firepower in Vincent LeCavlier, Brad Richards, and Martin St. Louis, and also, they have a defenceman, Dan Boyle, who is up for the Norris (best defenceman) Trophy, their goalie situation really has me second-guessing their chances. Although they did win the regular season series 3-1, in the playoffs, having a solid goaltender is huge, and I can't get around the fact that Brodeur is one of the best to play all-time.

Pick: New Jersey in 6

(3) Atlanta vs. (6) New York Rangers: Wow, all three NY teams in the playoffs. Maybe this has happened recently, but still, it's quite an accomplishment. The Rangers have finally dug themselves out of salary cap hell (well, not all the way out, but they are looking a whole lot better than they did after Gretzky retired) and put up a very respectable season this year. Led by Jaormit Jagr, the Rangers have been red hot heading into the postseason. Meanwhile, when you talk about the Thrashers, you have to talk about Ilya Kovalchuk, one of the best young scorers in the game. Along with Keith Tkachuk, Scott Mellanby, and Marion Hossa, Atlanta has produced their best season in franchise history. However, with that being said, I'm going to ride the Rangers hot streak and pick the upset.

Pick: New York in 7

(4) Ottawa vs. (5) Pittsburgh: With perhaps the greatest young duo in the history of the NHL (Crosby and Malkin), the Pens are trying to put the talks of a move to Kansas City behind them as they face the Senators in the first round. This is a classic case of old (Ottawa) vs. new (Pittsburgh). Ottawa has scorers in Daniel Alfredson and Dany Heatley who have been to the postseason before and know of the pressures that come along with it. However, I like the upstart Penguins here. Keep in mind that in four meetings this year, Pittsburgh won three, including two in Ottawa last month. I think the Pens will have more legs under them, as, to me, this is going to be a series that goes all the way to a 7th game. One of the keys will be the effectiveness of Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, because if he breaks down, it won't matter how much stamina Pittsburgh has. Ottawa has some scary offensive options, so Fleury will have to do his best to contain them.

Pick: Pittsburgh in 7

Western Conference:
(1) Detroit vs. (8) Calgary: Of all the teams Detroit would want to face in the first round, Calgary has to be at about the bottom of the list. The Flames have the best pure scorer in the game in Jerome Iginla (yes, even better than least for right now), the best defenceman in the game in Dion Phaneuf, and one of the better goalies in the league in Miikka Kiprusoff (who you may recall carried the Flames on their postseason run last year). However, Detroit just has way too much depth to handle. They start off by playing their young guys, then they bring in their core group of veterans to give the young guys plenty of rest. This is a very potent combination, as they have proved all year long (113 points, tied with Buffalo for most in the NHL). Also, I can't see me betting against Dominik Hasek anytime soon, I don't care how old he is. He is battle-tested, which is a huge plus when you're making a push for the Cup.

Pick: Detroit in 6

(2) Anaheim vs. (7) Minnesota: Anaheim went out last offseason to make their weakness last year their biggest strength this year: defense. With the additions of Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermeyer, the Ducks have the best blue-line in the entire league. Plus, a huge surprise was the play of Temmu Selanne, who scored 94 points (48 goals, 46 assists) in his 13th season. Jean Sebastian Giguere has taken time off to care for his new son, so backup Ilya Bryzgalov, who is quite capable, will be in net for the time being. For Minnesota, Marian Gaborik has fueled the resurgence of the Wild, who were on the outside looking in for most of the year. Also, star goalie Manny Fernandez, who has been sidelined with a knee injury, is questionable to return during the playoffs, but once again, Minnesota also has a very capable backup in Niklas Backstrom, who produced a sub-2 GAA in 41 games this year. One of the keys will be Pavol Demitra, as he has been battling leg problems and was forced to sit out the final game of the year. If he is healthy, I really like the upset in this one. I feel that Selanne will not be able to carry the offense by himself, and the Wild have been red hot.

Pick: Minnesota in 7

(3) Vancouver vs. (6) Dallas: In a matchup of two of the best goalies in the league, expect every goal to be very hard to come by. In their four matchups this year, all the games were decided 2-1, one ended in ovetime, and one had to go to a shootout (series was tied 2-2). I love Vancover's depth on their scoring lines, with the Sedin boys (Henrik and Daniel...not sure if they're related), Brendan Morrison, and Markus Naslund, their first two lines are extremely dangerous. Dallas will counter with a cast of veterans, including Captain USA Mike Modano and Jere Lehtinen up front, with Sergei Zubov and Darryl Sydor on D. Again, I believe it will all come down to the matchup of goalies, where I give the slight edge to Vancouver, because Roberto Luongo (Vancouver) is a bit younger than Marty Turco (Dallas). Also, the Canucks have more scoring options than Dallas.

Pick: Vancouver in 7

(4) Nashville vs. (5) San Jose: It was has to be considered the most intriguing matchup in the entire first round, the Predators and the Sharks will most likely be competing in a wild west (no pun intended) shootout. Nashville went out during the season and got Jason Arnott and Peter Forsberg, who is considered by most to be the best player on Earth. When you add Paul Kariya into the mix, you are looking at a devastating crew up front. Their goaltending has been questionable at times though, and their defense is also rather young and inexperienced. The Sharks will counter with all-world center Joe Thornton (you're welcome), who has been reunited with former Boston linemate Bill Guerin. Also, with Patrick Marleau and Jonathan Cheechoo, the Sharks are even more dangerous than the Preds in this regard. Plus, when you throw in the fact that San Jose went out and got experience on the blue line in Craig Rivet, and Evgeni Nabokov in goal, who became a star in last season's playoffs. San Jose is going to be a tough beat for Nashville, who had one of the best home-ice advantages all year long. In the end though, I like the Sharks, but it's going to be tough, and they will have to win all their games in San Jose to do it, but I think they have the firepower and the talent to get by here.

Pick: San Jose in 7

Well, hope you enjoyed as much as you could possibly stand. I'll see you on the flip side. Thanks for reading. Peace.


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