Monthly Archives: March 2012

Is Evgeni Malkin Pittsburgh’s Most Important Penguin?

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For the second time in his career Evgeni Malkin has had to the man in Pittsburgh…

For the second time Malkin has made me ask myself this question, who really is the most important Penguin in Pittsburgh?

Three years ago during the Pens title run Sidney Crosby missed 28 games due to injury and the Pens didn’t miss a beat. It was mostly thanks to Malkin who did his best Crosby impersonation by racking up points and making life miserable for defenders.

Malkin finished second in the league in scoring to Alex Ovechkin and was a Hart trophy finalist also losing out to Ovechkin.

Fast forward to this season and here we are again. Same scenario just a different year. Crosby has missed the majority of the last two seasons thanks to a concussion suffered in last year’s Winter Classic. The Pens were supposed to falter, they were supposed to be a middle of the road team without the league’s biggest star…

So how in the hell are they 1 point back of the New York Rangers for the best record in the Eastern Conference with they’re second straight 100 point season and are the hottest team in the league?

Geno Malkin of course.

This year more than ever Malkin has proven himself to be considered a franchise alpha dog and even the best player in the league. He leads the league in points, is second in goals behind Steven Stamkos and has turned James Neal into a premier goal scorer on his line.

The Pens have done more than not lose a step without Crosby, in fact they have taken a giant step. With Malkin steering the ship Pittsburgh has maintained its elite status and looks just as invincible as if Crosby never left. Even if they don’t overtake the Rangers for the best record in the East you would still have to say that they are the favorites to represent the conference in the Stanley Cup Finals.

There’s no player hotter than Malkin in the league, Marc-Andre Fleury is finally playing at an elite level on a consistent basis, and Kris Letang, Neal, Pascal Dupuis and Jordan Staal have to be the most explosive role players in the league right now.

Adding Crosby to the mix now that his concussion has subsided makes them the scariest team on the ice right now.

However, down the road if you are Pittsburgh you have to ask yourself, is Crosby or Malkin your most valuable player?

Yes Crosby is a former MVP, gold medal winner, and captain of the Penguins, but is he their most important player?

Crosby has now missed big parts of the seasons due to injury. In all three seasons the Penguins have secured home ice for at least one round of the playoffs and Malkin has been the reason for two of those three occurrences.

Last year’s early playoff exit you can’t blame on Crosby’s injury or Malkin’s for that matter, but rather the lack of production from the wings. With the emergence of Neal and others the Penguins are cup contenders this year with Malkin leading the way and without Crosby on the ice.

If the roles were reversed could Crosby do the same?

Could Crosby make his teammates around him this good? Could he make the Pens a contender with Malkin? Could his goal scoring match his passing skills and get the Pens out of jams like Malkin?

Honestly I don’t think so.

I think this is Malkin’s ship and Crosby is along for the ride. If I’m Dan Bylsma I wouldn’t mess with the chemistry of his top line by inserting Crosby back in. Yes you aren’t supposed to lose your starting role do to injury but why mess with something that’s working so well?

Watching the Pens over the next few weeks will be interesting. They’re peaking right before the playoffs, their special teams are working and with Crosby back in the lineup it makes them even more lethal.

However, this is due to the play of Evgeni Malkin. Malkin has made them a contender, the most lethal offensive team in the league and has them staring at a second Stanley Cup in the last four years.

He is going to win the points title, he is the MVP of the NHL, and most importantly he’s the most valuable Pittsburgh Penguin on that roster.

They’ve proven that they can live without Sidney Crosby time and time again, if they were to lose Malkin I don’t think the results would be the same.

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Another Bad Jets Move

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The New York Jets just screwed themselves.

Shocker.

Their acquisition of Tim Tebow is a shot in the foot of their entire post Peyton Manning plan.

Trading for Tebow compromises the signing of Beleaguered QB Mark Sanchez who after the Manning chase the team said that they were sticking with as the man they want at QB.

The Jets signed Sanchez to a $40 million extension to ensure everyone of their belief in Sanchez… So if that’s the case then why trade for Tebow who is a lightning rod for attention?

Jets fans are passionate as hell. If Sanchez can’t correct his mistakes you better believe that you’ll be hearing chants of “TEBOW! TEBOW!”

Then there’s this quagmire; the Jets were interested in Tebow to run the wildcat offense and to help improve a toxic locker room that has turned there offseason into a soap opera. Upon hearing about the team’s interest in Tebow starting cornerback Antonio Cromartie sent out a tweet saying that the Jets “sell out every home game. Let him go to Jacksonville or Miami.”

Let’s see how well this goes over in mini camps.

Cromartie also sent out a tweet saying “why don’t we get more weapons to build around Mark Sanchez?” I mean he has a point.

Sanchez has only Dustin Keller and Santonio Holmes to throw to. Maybe going after Mike Wallace or Vincent Jackson was something the Jets should’ve looked at. Instead now Mike Tannembaum has made a move that will lead to a QB controversy.

Great, like the Jets need more controversy.

The Jets never learn their lesson. After watching the Giants solidify themselves as New York’s team through great drafting and development the Jets pull another publicity stunt to gain attention and that makes little sense.

Tebow time is about to hit Broadway, which means more controversy, more speculation and much more hype that the Jets can’t match.

Good job Mike Tannenbaum. Way to blow it again.


The NFL Puts A Hurting On The Saints

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Yes, bounties have been happening for as long as anyone can remember in the NFL.

Yes, violence is apart of the game and always will be.

And for those wondering… Yes, Roger Goodell did the right thing with his punishments handed down to the New Orleans Saints this afternoon following “Bountygate.”

The NFL suspended Saints coach Sean Payton for the entire season as well as new St. Louis Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams who was the man behind the controversy.

The league also suspended Saints GM Mickey Loomis for 8 games and assistant Joe Vitt 6 games.

All suspensions are also without pay… I hope Sean Payton’s been saving his money because he’s now out $7.5 million this year.

Goodell who has developed a reputation of coming down hard on players for their transgressions maintained that rep when it came to those in authoritative positions in this case.

The suspensions handed down were fair and balanced. Payton was responsible for allowing these practices to commence right in front of him and didn’t attempt to stop them.

Williams instituted a system that was about bringing injury to all of his opponents and he had been doing it for years dating back to his days in Washington. If anything Williams should have received two years as punishment for paying players to willingly injure others.

I’m also pretty sure that Loomis was well aware of Williams actions and did nothing to cease them as well.

Everyone involved was wrong and now they have to pay.

It leaves the Saints and Rams for that matter in a bad predicament.

Williams was supposed to take charge of a young Rams defense that has lots of talent but couldn’t flourish under former coach Steve Spagnuolo.

Williams turned the Saints into a defense built on causing turnovers and could’ve turned this unit around very quickly with staples like Chris Long and James Laurinitis already in place.

For the Saints it’s huge because Payton was not only their head coach but play caller as well. Payton was at the head of the Saints offensive juggernaut that torched defenses on the regular last season. Without him Drew Brees and company may trouble producing the same results even though most of their best parts still remain on offensive.

The Saints may have just gone from a Super Bowl contender to a team that will be in the chase for a Wildcard spot.

However, none of this is Goodell’s concern. Goodell has been preaching player safety and has been coming down hard on players in the NFL to follow his lead.

Today he let coaches and the heads of the front office have it. Follow what I say or get burned.

Today the Saints went down in a four alarm blaze.


Shaka Makes A Smart Decision

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You’re probably asking yourself why did Shaka Smart turn down another big conference deal in the last calendar year.

Because he’s, well, smart… Duh!

Turning down the Illinois job was a brilliant move by Smart because frankly the Illinois job just isn’t worth the trouble.

Let’s be real about Smart’s last two offers from Illinois and Missouri. Yes they are big money conferences who can give him more money and a larger talent pool to choose from.

However, these are middle of the pack schools in their own conferences. Illinois and Mizzou are mid-level major schools (get it, mid-majors?) who would look for Smart to elevate them to Ohio State or Kansas status and if it doesn’t happen then he’d be fired in three years.

If he left VCU to go to either if these schools then it’s high risk and low reward. It’s rare that Illinois is at the top of the Big 10 save for the “Flying Illini” of 89 or the 2005 final team lead by Derin Williams.

It’s a middle of the road team that hardly contends for titles no matter what kind of talent they get.

Would you rather have that job or stay at VCU where after your Final Four run last year you have high job security and no worries?

For Smart the only jobs that make sense for him to take are bigger schools who have a shot at contention no matter who is there.

Imagine if Jim Calhoun leaves UCONN in a month or Ben Howland steps down from UCLA. Those are the jobs Smart should wait on, big schools with high expectations and that want results.

With the possibility of this actually happening it is best that Shaka Smart said no to Illinois.

As a successful mid-major coach, Smart should not settle for a Mid-Major job. He should bring his talents to a big enough school so that he can add to his Final Four credentials.

That’s the Smart thing to do, and hopefully his patience will lead him to that.


Why Peyton Manning Should Be A Baltimore Raven

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So Peyton Manning has narrowed his choices for his new home to two teams it seems.

The Denver Broncos and the Tennessee Titans are in the final leg of the Peyton Manning sweepstakes jockeying for position to land one of the greatest quarterbacks in league history. Landing Manning would make either team a playoff contender and would make them an attractive destination for free agents to come to.

However, you can’t say that if Manning becomes a Titan or a Bronco that they would be a Super Bowl contender. Both teams have defensive deficiencies that would prevent them from going farther than where they could go.

What is shocking is that there is one team out there that has all of the pieces in place on offense an defense that would make them extremely attractive to Manning and would ensure him a shot at an elusive second title.

Ladies and gentlemen I present to you the Baltimore Ravens.

Yeah, they drafted Joe Flacco to be the QB of the future but let’s not kid ourselves about him. Flacco is not and probably will not be an elite QB. Flacco is not even in the tier of QB’s that are next in line to be great.

He’s not Matt Stafford, Jay Cutler, Andy Dalton or Cam Newton. Flacco is another in the long line of game managers under center that have worn a Ravens uniform in its short history.

Yes I know he’s won playoff games and almost went to two Super Bowl’s in his first four seasons, however even in this year’s playoffs it was clear that Flacco was just there to make sure he wasn’t trying to blow it for the Ravens defense.

Look at the Ravens-Texans matchup in round two this year. The Ravens almost lost to T.J. Yates in his fifth career start even though he threw three picks which allowed the Ravens to score 17 early points.

Flacco was sacked five times, was unable to move the ball on a long field, couldn’t gain a third down and often looked inept under center.

And this is your franchise QB?

The Ravens have lived and died by their defense ever since they drafted Ray Lewis. It has been a championship caliber defense that has only one ring to show for its effort and has only a handful of playoff appearances. The reason? Trent Dilfer, Anthony Carter, Elvis Grbac, Kyle Boller, Joe Flacco and a cast of other subpar QB’s.

The window for the Ravens to win another title is closing. In order to win another ring they need a better QB.

So why not go after Manning? And if you’re Manning why wouldn’t you play in Baltimore?

Ray Rice, Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith, Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta are better than anything Denver and Tennessee has to offer in your arsenal.

Plus this would be the first time in Manning’s career that he has a defense that wouldn’t put more pressure on him to do too much. For years the Colts defense was either too banged up or too weak to support the offense in Indianapolis and that prevented the Colts from being more successful than what they could’ve been.

In Baltimore he wouldn’t have to worry about having to score time after time. Not with Lewis, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata make life miserable for other offenses.

This would be a perfect marriage. The Ravens and Manning want another ring. Lewis and Manning are in the twilight of their careers but have more than enough left in their tanks to make another run. The arrival of Manning would make Baltimore the favorites to win it all.

Yet Baltimore is content with Flacco under center and Manning hasn’t given them a look.

As Manning narrows his choices and comes close to a decision I think he’s missing out on a huge opportunity in Baltimore as are the Ravens by not inquiring about him.

If they were both serious about winning another title then Baltimore would trade Joe Flacco and Peyton Manning would sign on to wear the purple and black.

It’s right in front of their eyes, I just wish that they would see it how I see it.


Orange Crushed

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On Tuesday afternoon, March 13th, 2012, 2:47 pm I ripped up my NCAA tournament bracket.

That is the earliest in the history of the NCAA tournament that anyones bracket was considered useless.

In big bold red print on ESPN my favorite team and my favorite to win the national championship was done. The print read “Syracuse Orange Center Fab Melo ruled ineligible for the NCAA tournament.”

I walked into the kitchen at my job, pulled my work shirt over my head and put my head in my hands.

Call it howarding.

The loss of Melo completely changes the dynamic of this tournament. Syracuse was considered at minimum a favorite to make the Final Four and by others including yours truly to win the national title.

After going 31-2 and winning the Big East regular season crown it would’ve been hard to bet against them. Syracuse had its best all around team since their title run in 2003.

It was Jim Boeheim’s deepest team with four guards capable of running the point guard position, six players who can light up the scoreboard, and a defensive intimidator in Melo who was almost equal to freshman phenom Anthony Davis in terms of shot blocking.

Melo was Syracuse’s only interior presence an with the kind of production he received from Dion Waiters, Kris Joseph and others that was all Syracuse needed.

Now without him Syracuse is screwed.

Without Melo the Orange go from a title contender to a team that would be lucky to make the Sweet 16.

After UNC-Asheville the Orange have to get through either Kansas State, Vanderbilt, Wisconsin, Cincinnati, West Virginia and Ohio State in some combination and all of those teams have some fore of interior presence whether it be Yancey Gates, Jared Sullinger or Kevin Jones.

Unless Rakeem Christmas or Baye Moussa Keita can put together some sort of inside production then the Syracuse Orange will be the first number one seed eliminated in the tournament.

Jim Boeheim and the Syracuse Orange have overcome two scandals and constant scrutiny to stay at the top of the rankings this season and prime themselves for a run at the national title.

However, the loss of Fab Melo will be the straw the breaks the backs of the Syracuse Orange.

A dream season has now become a nightmare.

Now excuse me while I try to piece this bracket back together.


Please End The D’antoni Era

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I didn’t watch the New York Knicks game yesterday… Didn’t need to.

I just followed the flow of the game on Twitter and filled in the blanks… Jeremy Lin and turnovers blah blah blah… Melo missing shots blah blah blah… Amare Stoudemire with only 9 & 5… Knicks not playing defense… Landry fields torched by Evan Turner… BLAH BLAH FREAKIN BLAH!!!

The Knicks are back as Amare once shouted in his news conference last year to mark his NY arrival, back to playing bad basketball that is. Linsanity was fun for awhile. The Ben & Jerry’s flavors, the t-shirts, the sheer joy and hope that maybe the Knicks were turning a corner, now after a five game losing streak the Knicks are stuck at the eighth spot in the East and stuck in neutral as a team without direction or any energy.

And it’s Mike D’antoni’s fault.

Don’t blame this on Carmelo Anthony who is being fed to the lions as we speak, don’t blame Lin for losing steam because he’s technically still a rookie… This latest stink job is solely on D’antoni and his lack of skill as a coach.

You have two capable point guards, an all world scorer, a team full of talent and you still don’t know how to make it work this late in the season?

D’antoni’s run and gun offense has been a bust in the big apple. After reading yesterday’s stat sheet and seeing Lin lead the team in shots with 18 it’s clear that D’antoni has no clue about what to do with this team.

Which means by the time I’m done with this article the New York Knicks should have told him to kick rocks with no shoes on, seriously.

I’m over the D’antoni era, the lack of defense, control in the offense, and energy from his players at times. D’antoni is not a coach, or a motivator or even a plausible human being at this point (think that’s mean? Go read what’s being said about him by fans and writers alike. It ain’t pretty.).

The Knicks need a new direction. They need someone to instill defense in them, to give them direction, to make them look like an NBA franchise and not whatever this is on the basketball court.

I don’t know if it’s Phil Jackson, or Jerry Sloan, or hell it could be Tom Coughlin for all I care, the point is that the guy currently holding down the coaches chair in Madison Square Garden isn’t getting it done and there needs to be a change.

It needs to be done fast too. The Knicks had promise just two weeks ago and were looking to move up the eastern conference playoff ladder. Now they’re in danger of missing the playoffs all together.

Things need to happen and first on that list is relieving Mike D’antoni of his duties as coach of the New York Knicks.

It’s getting to the point where I don’t have to watch the Knicks to know how pathetic they are doing. Isn’t that enough to get him out?