Tag Archives: sidney crosby

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.


Another Classic

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You all know that out of all five of the NHL Winter Classic’s this one sparked my attention most of all.

I was so excited to watch my New York Rangers under the lights at Citizens Bank Park against the hated Philadelphia Flyers that I said to hell with any football being played on Monday.

I didn’t get out of bed until an hour before face-off. At this point Ohio State was down at the half to Florida, Penn State was getting creamed by Houston and the Big Ten was having another horrible New Years bowl day… So?

New Years Day used to be about sitting in front of your TV and veging out to a smorgasbord of football games. It was awesome getting to watch about ten bowls in one day culminating with the Rose Bowl at five and the Fiesta, Orange and Sugar Bowls all at eight on three networks.

Well once the BCS came to fruition and spread out every bowl up until ten days after the New Year it rendered January 1st useless. Also with the SEC on top of all things football I’m not interested in watching the Big Ten get creamed in three games at one time.

Bowl season and January 1st used to mean something, instead the day turned into meaningless now that you can watch any one of 69 bowl games in a span of three weeks.

Then five years ago out of nowhere the NHL began a new tradition almost out of the blue. The inaugural Winter Classic was done without fanfare or much knowledge due to the NHL’s dwindling popularity after the NHL lockout.

I remember turning on my TV in the middle of the afternoon before work to see Pittsburgh take on Buffalo in a snow storm in front of a packed Ralph Wilson Stadium. I was shocked at first because I didn’t know that this game was supposed to be scheduled. If I would’ve known that Sidney Crosby was going to play in front of 73,000 people on New Years Day you best believe I would’ve cleared my schedule.

My eyes were fixated on the entire scene, the crowd was raucous throughout the entire game, the snow added an awesome prop to the game even though the snow caused a ton of ice problems, the classic jerseys were so cool I actually thought about buying a light blue Crosby jersey (then I came back to earth and realized I’m a Rangers fan). The game was a spectacle, and after Crosby scored the winning shootout goal I walked to work and couldn’t stop talking about the game.

The inaugural Winter Classic was something I had never seen before and as a huge hockey fan it had me wanting more. The NHL had discovered something, it had an event now that it could call it’s own and something that it could be known for. The question then became “what next?” Where could Gary Bettman take this game and make it bigger and bigger each time it was played? I think he figured it out and very well.

The next four classics have all been better than the previous one because Bettman has focused on keeping the games in hockey crazed cities and has featured his marquee players and teams.

The second classic featured the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings from Wrigley Field in a shootout that got to show the Blackhawks continue their resurgence to relevance oh and Patrick Kane’s silky game.

The third featured The Boston Bruins against the Flyers in a ultra physical matchup that ended with Milan Lucic scoring the overtime winner under the lights and led the NHL into an awesome Olympic tournament.

Last years Classic was a matchup of modern rivals and the leagues biggest star players Alex Ovechkin’s Washington Capitals and Crosby’s Penguins from Heinz Field. It was another physical matchup that featured the Classic’s first fight and unfortunately the beginning of Crosby’s concussion problems. It was also the highest rated Classic because honestly were people going to watch Ovie versus Crosby or Oklahoma against UCONN in the Fiesta Bowl?

Then came this year’s Winter Classic. Once it was announced that my Rangers were battling the Flyers I immediately looked for every leak I could find from jerseys to legends game possibilities. When you have a team involved in such an event it pushes your interest into psycho mode.

My original plan was to go to the actual game with my buddy Scully who’s a huge Flyers fan. That changed once I saw how much tickets were in stubhub. $500 bucks a pop sounds about right for this type of game but not out if my pockets.

Instead waking up at 2 p.m. and throwing on my Rangers jersey and Starter jacket (yeah I have one if those still) would have to do.

The scene was more electric than all other Winter Classics except Buffalo. Say what you want about Philadelphia fans but they bring energy to their team’s games. It also helped that the Rangers and Flyers hate each others guts so there was a little bit more behind those Let’s Go Flyers chants than at a normal game.

The jerseys were the most simplistic of all of the Winter Classic events with the Flyers going with a darker orange color with really cool captains tags. The Rangers took it back to the early 20th century with a skinnier version of their shield logo and cream colored sweaters. Once I find a wholesale site that sells those I’m all over a Callahan #24.

The game itself was the most competitive of the five Classic’s. Both team’s were playing at the highest level possible and no one was slowing up at all. Brandon Dubinsky hit everything that moved in the first period with Scott Hartnell and Claude Giroux countering for the Flyers.

The Flyers kept the puck in the Rangers zone for most of the first two periods but couldn’t break through on Henrik Lundqvist until rookie Braydon Schenn scored the first goal of the game off of the game. Minutes later Giroux found the back of the net on an odd-man rush to put the Flyers up by 2.

One minute later Mike Rupp cut the lead in half using a Flyers defenseman to shield Sergei Bobrovsky from seeing the puck as he ripped a wrist shot past him. He was booed lustily by Flyers fans not just for the goal but for imitating Jaromir Jagr’s goal salute after.

( Side note: I thought we were headed for a brawl at this point. There was so much aggression from both sides and the crowd was so into it that I thought someone was going to throw a punch a spark an on ice riot. The Rupp celebration almost did it. Rupp and Hartnell started barking at each other at the beginning of the third over the salute and it seemed like they were going to go. Unfortunately nothing came to fruition but that anticipation hungover for the remainder of the game.)

Once the third period began the Rangers began to make their move. They seemed to have fresher legs and got to every loose puck as the Flyers looked a little flat. The hard work paid off as Rupp scored again and tied the game at 2.

Flyers fans started getting nervous as the once raucous crowd grew silent and Rangers fans let their voices be heard amid the silence.

The Flyers play became erratic and they began to panic. Defenders overplayed the puck and it’s carrier and minutes after Rupp tied the game Brad Richards stood alone in the corner and was the only person near a rebound off of Callahan’s missed shot. Richards fired it into the net to give the Rangers a 3-2 lead and send the Rangers bench and yours truly into a frenzy.

As the Flyers tried to mount a comeback they were once again stalled by Lundqvist who was his normal brilliant self in this day. Lundqvist looked every bit like the gold medal winning goalie that he was at the 2006 Olympics as turned away the Flyers time and time again.

In the final minute with the Flyers clinging to their last life two calls drove me absolutely bonkers and looked like Gary Bettman made a personal call to the refs to make sure there was overtime.

The dive call on Callahan was dreadful as the replay showed he was clearly hooked from behind by Kimmo Timonen. It gave the Flyers another opportunity to have an extra attacker with it being 4 on 4 and Bobrovsky on the bench.

With the extra attacker the Flyers threw everything that they could at Lundqvist and with 20 seconds a shot almost squeaked through until Ryan McDonagh stopped the puck from crossing the line by sitting on it. By rule you can’t do that as a defender and the refs awarded Philadelphia a penalty shot. Imagine my face when this happened. I almost through my beer glass at the TV but harpoon is pretty pricey so I calmed down.

Of all of the Flyers to take the shot it had to be Daniel Briere. Briere has a knack for coming through when the Flyers need it most (case in point last years first round versus Buffalo) and with the game on the line who else could’ve taken it for them.

Briere skated in as the entire stadium, 47,000 people to be exact, rose to their feet. Briere tried to go five-hole but Lundqvist did what he did for most of the night, he turned the shot away and ended the Flyers last chance to extend the best game of 2012 in it’s early stages.

The Rangers 3-2 victory was easily the best of all 5 of the Winter Classic matchups. The game play was faster, more physical and had you on the edge of your seat up until the end.

So once again the question is, now what?

Who’s next to play in the NHL’s new spectacle? If it were up to me these five matches would make the most entertaining Winter Classic’s:

1. Detroit VS. Toronto from the Big House in Ann Arbor.

A great original six matchup in hockey hungry Michigan

2. Minnesota VS. Vancouver from Target Field.

Minnesota is a very competitive team and Minnesota has a great hockey history.

3. St. Louis VS. Chicago from Busch Stadium.

The city matchup says it all.

4. Washington VS. Tampa Bay from Nationals Stadium.

D.C. has grown into a good hockey town, plus Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos would light up the scoreboard.

5. Anaheim VS. San Jose from AT&T park.

A California Winter Classic? Hear me out on this. Start it at 8 pm when the temps hit 45 degrees. Northern Cali loves it Sharks and a matchup with Anaheim in a budding west coast rivalry would be a hit for the west coast market.

Whoever gets the opportunity next they have a lot to live up to. This year’s edition of the Classic pushed the game to a new height and left another great memory for those that got a chance to see it.

The Winter Classic has become the new way for sports fans to ring in the New Year and it looks like it’ll stay that way for awhile.

You can watch bowl games whenever you want. The Winter Classic is a treat that you look forward to once a year and continues to deliver.

Let’s hope Bettman doesn’t mess this up the way that college football did and add more outdoor games. Too much of a good thing isn’t always a good thing.


Thank God Hockey’s Back (NHL Preview)

It's been an offseason to forget in the NHL

If you thought the NBA offseason has been hell then you don’t have the slightest idea about rough. The NHL’s offseason has been a public relations nightmare. The summer was supposed to be about the celebration of the Boston Bruins winning the Stanley Cup after 40 years of futility. Instead every other day there was a tragedy on the ice.

Rick Rypien, Wade Belak and the KHL Lokomotiv franchise’s plane crash that killed all passengers aboard including former NHL-ers Ruslan Salei, Pavol Demitra and Brad McCrimmon to name a few cast a shadow of the sport and brought sadness to everyone over the sport.

Add that to the fact that Rangers bruiser Derek Boogaard died towards the end of last season and you understand the somber mood that the NHL might seem to be in.

When looking at ESPN fashion guru Paul Lukas’s annual uniform design review there were less designs for jerseys and more decals and patches for fallen players. It’s like the NHL has become a graveyard instead the coolest game on earth.

If any sport needs to start their season and get back to the brilliant play on the playing surface it’s this league. Ever since the lockout 0f 2004-05 the NHL has been on a roll. The talent on the ice is the highest that it’s been since the mid to late 90’s with the emergence of the Paul Kariya’s, Keith Tkachuk’s and Mike Modano’s of the world.

The NHL has so many great players playing at a high level that it’s becoming hard to keep up with all of them. At first it was the hype of Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby and Dion Phaneuf. Then came Steven Stamkos, Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan, Patrick Kane and Ryan Kesler. Now we have kids like Ryan Nugent- Hopkins, Taylor Hall, Tyler Myers and others who are crowding the ice and making noise.

The Bruins are ready to repeat.

It’s not like the NBA in terms of star power but it’s a beautiful thing to watch when the games are flowing. There are great players on every team in the league and most are under the age of 27.  Every night in every city there is a reason to watch a game just to catch one of these young studs whether it’s Drew Doughty in Los Angeles or Jeff Skinner in Carolina. Even with the sports brightest star status still in doubt (Sidney Crosby is still having post-concussion issues) the league is as strong as it’s ever been and is staring one of its most competitive season in decades in the face.

This year there is no real clear cut favorite. Gone are the days of Detroit being the front runner in the league every year, nowadays they’re not even the favorites in their own division. There are 10 to 14 teams that have a realistic chance at winning the Stanley Cup this year whether it is because of their goaltending, offensive prowess or just the fact they have all of the right pieces in place to make a run at the cup.

The right pieces meaning the right balance of youth and experience. In the modern NHL the young teams win championships as seen with the Penguins, Blackhawks and Bruins in the last three years. Yes I know Tim Thomas is old as dirt and Zdeno Chara is no spring chicken, but the work put in by guys like Milan Lucic, Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand helped this team win the Stanley Cup last year. Unlike in other sports where the older teams win the titles the young ones take the crown in the NHL.

So who has the best shot at winning the crown this year? Well in order…

NASHVILLE PREDATORS

Now I know what you’re thinking… who the hell will score goals for them? Their leader in goals had 23 and their points leader scored 50. The Predators are the NHL version of the Baltimore Ravens in the 2000’s, they can’t score to save their lives, but no one can score on them. The backline led by Shea Weber along with Vezina finalist Pekka RInne were in the top 5 in goals allowed per game and the teams tough defensive play gave teams fits. If they get two goals a game they could win another 44 games and find themselves fighting for the crown.

BUFFALO SABRES

They can score in bunches thanks to Thomas Vanek and Drew Stafford. Tyler Myers heads a steady backline and Ryan Miller is one the game’s best goalies. They failed to take care of the Flyers in the first round of the playoffs last year but if Miller stays on top of his game they can go very far.

MONTREAL CANADIENS

Team Teemu and the Ducks have a shot at the crown.

 

Once upon a time the Habs had more titles than the New York Yankees after raising their 24th Cup in 1993. Ever since they’ve been one big roller coaster, which has included numerous changes in net and on the bench and they haven’t had a real identity for a long time. Now they seem settled on Carey Price who came through big for them last year shaking off an up and down 2009-20 season that had him on the bench in the playoffs. This team isn’t too loaded with playmakers but it gets the job done with guys like Tomas Plekanec and Mike Cammalleri as well as dark horse Norris candidate P.K. Subban patrolling the blue line. They can make a run as long as they can hold onto a lead unlike how they did last year against the Bruins.

SAN JOSE SHARKS

I don’t care what they do in the regular season anymore. I don’t care if they win the Pacific division, if Joe Thornton scores 200 points and Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture score 90 goals. This team should’ve won a Cup by now and their time is running out. If they don’t get it done this year then they never will.

PHILADELPHIA FLYERS

Is Ilya Bryzgalov finally the answer in net for the Flyers? He better be. The Flyers let go of fan favorites and team leaders Jeff Carter and Mike Richards to clear space for Bryzgalov. Sure they acquired L.A. Kings power forward Wayne Simmonds (who Flyer fans will love) and Brandon Schenn  (who from preseason reports looks like a beast) but you don’t replace Richards toughness and Carter’s skill overnight. I’m still not a fan of either trade but if the Flyers get back to the finals then it proves that maybe I really don’t know anything about hockey.

LOS ANGELES KINGS

I probably jumped the gun last year in making them Stanley Cup favorites, but they are close. Acquiring Richards from the Flyers gives them a much needed veteran presence in the locker room and they have Doughty, Jack Johnson and Anze Kopitar flying around and making things happen. The only question is will Jonathan Quick be their full time net minder or will it be Jonathan Bernier?

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS

Without Crosby the Pens had 98 points last year and took the 4th spot in the East (without Malkin also) so once Crosby comes back how do you think this team will fare?

(This Crosby injury by the way is really bad in both a game play and P.R. sense for the NHL. The league needs Crosby on the ice because he is the NHL. Crosby is the league’s most recognizable face and its best player. The league needs him on the ice as much as it needs Ovechkin. When Crosby is on the ice the game changes. He is the best passer and best scorer in the league and can change a game at the drop of a hat. If the Pens had him healthy in the playoffs they may have hoisted their second cup in three years. Once healthy the Pens once again become the league’s scariest team and might be the best team in the league… once he comes back.

His injury is the reason why Brendan Shanahan has been so harsh when it comes to physical play. This isn’t like the NFL where Roger Goodell is turning the game into flag

40 and still going strong.

football, the suspensions that “Shanaban” is handing out are necessary in order to change the culture of the game and protect the players. After the injuries to Crosby as well as Nathan Horton and Marc Savard it has become clear that the league needs to crack down on these types of hits. Hopefully it discourages this type of play and quick. Because if Steven Stamkos gets a Crosby type of injury then the game will really be in trouble.)

DETROIT RED WINGS

I mean when are they not a player for the Cup?

Also let’s pay homage to Nicklas Lidstrom. This is probably his last season in the league and it looks like he can play another five. At age 40 Lidstrom is still better than most of the defensemen in the league and is probably the front runner for his 8th Norris trophy. What he did in replacing the irreplaceable Steve Yzerman as captain in Detroit and leading them to another title in addition to all that he’s done in his career has to put him in the top 10 players all-time right?

NEW YORK RANGERS

I probably just jinxed my team putting them in the top 7 and I’m probably overvaluing the acquisition of Brad Richards (which will help immensely) but after watching this team play together for two years I think that they will contend for a title this year. The Rangers youth movement has been a huge success with Ryan Callahan, Marc Staal and Brandon Dubinsky leading the way. The Rangers are a tough team that is defense driven but can score goals when needed. They just needed more consistent scoring and a veteran to get them over the hump. Enter Richards. Richards was a member of John Tortorella’s 2004 Tampa Bay Lightning championship team and is one of the game’s best scorers. His presence will help Marian Gaborik get back to scoring a ton of goals, should push Cally and Dubz to the 30 goal mark and should keep the Rangers ship steady in those late months. I’m saying they’ll win it all, but they will be a serious contender.

WASHINGTON CAPITALS

Hey Bruce Boudreau, you don’t get it done this year then you may want to update your resume.

VANCOUVER CANUCKS

The thought of Daniel Sedin taking four shots to the face and Roberto Luongo falling flat on his face in key situations is still fresh. If they didn’t get tougher this offseason then they’ll be done in a hurry.

CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS

The trades after the title killed their chemistry for the first half of last year. Once they got it going they looked like a machine. The key is Corey Crawford in net. We know Kane, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp will score, but the reason they were able to turn things around was because of Crawford’s play in net. He is primed for a breakout year and the Blackhawks are looking at a return to the Cup.

BOSTON BRUINS

With Richards the Rangers can contend.

 

Okay, your city won its 7th title in all four major sports in 10 years… now go away. That wasn’t really analysis more like I’m sick of Boston and its championship reign.

ANAHEIM DUCKS

No one, and I mean no one will stop them from scoring goals especially of Ryan Getzlaf stays healthy all season long. The Perry-Getzlaf-Ryan line is the scariest line that the NHL has seen in a while. They can all go for 50 goals and 100 points and they make it easy. It helps when your 40 year-old second line winger can still get you 30 goals and 80 points to help back you up. I don’t know what fountain of youth Teemu Selanne has been drinking from but he needs to share it with others. However it always comes back to goaltending and Jonas Hiller decides whether I’m right about this team making the Cup finals or not. With him in net last year they would’ve won the pacific division. In that period in between before Ray Emery almost saved them the Ducks could’ve scored 10 goals a game and it wouldn’t have mattered because they still would’ve lost. Hiller’s health means so much to this team because they have no real second option behind him. It also doesn’t help that he is one of the top 6 goalies in the league. This team’s title hopes hinge on him, if he’s healthy then put them down for a June reservation. If not, then it’s another first round exit.

TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING

Yep, I just picked the Lightning to win the Stanley Cup. They have a 41 year-old goalie, I don’t know if their defense can stop the puck from going in the net and Vinny LeCavalier is still possible trade bait… and I don’t care. This team could’ve made the Stanley Cup Finals last year if not for a road game 7. This year I think Stamkos and company won’t fade late in the season like they did last year, which ultimately cost them home ice. They are settled in net and Roloson is a big game goalie who knows how to win also they can score with the best of them. Steve Yzerman put this team together in his image and if that’s the case then I have no doubts that they will be tough enough to get to and win the Stanley Cup.

The first puck is set to drop in a few hours and I’m more than excited. After a long offseason with so much tragedy and heartbreak it will be a welcome relief to see some of the best players in the world on the ice and making magic happen.

The league deserves some good news and good times after a few months of so many bad ones.

ATLANTIC- RANGERS

Stamkos is ready for a run at Lord Stanley.

NORTHEAST- BRUINS

SOUTHEAST- LIGHTNING

EC PLAYOFFS- CAPS, HABS, SABRES, FLYERS, PENS

ECF-  LIGHTNING- BRUINS

CENTRAL- BLACKHAWKS

NORTHWEST- CANUCKS

PACIFIC- DUCKS

WC PLAYOFFS- SHARKS, KINGS, PREDATORS, RED WINGS, BLUES

WCF- DUCKS- BLACKHAWKS

SCF- DUCKS- LIGHTNING

HART TROPHY- STEVEN STAMKOS

VEZINA- HENRIK LUNDQUIST

NORRIS- NICKLAS LIDSTROM

CALDER- RYAN NUGENT-HOPKINS

SELKE- JONATHAN TOEWS

JACK ADAMS- JOHN TORTORELLA


Baseball Preview Day 4: Concussions In Baseball

This was the play that ended Justin Morneau's season.

Justin Morneau was 0-10 in live baseball games this spring up until this week. He was hit by a few balls and took a few good cuts, but he just couldn’t seem to get going.

 

Recovering from a concussion in baseball may be harder than one would ever think.

 

Morneau hasn’t played since July 7th of last year when his head met the knee of Blue Jays infielder John McDonald during his attempted breakup of a double play. At first it was supposed to be a mild concussion that was going to keep him out for one-maybe two games.

 

Then the All-Star game past… then August… September… the playoffs… and a month of spring training. Morneau had not had an at-bat in over 90 games of live ball due to that one seemingly harmless play that has hurt him in the short-term and possibly could effect him for the long haul.

 

It’s also raised awareness about the severity of concussions in Major League Baseball and what the future holds for players who could end up like Morneau.

 

Concussions as you know have become a hot topic in football and hockey circles recently. Head injuries have been moved to the forefront in light of devastating injuries that have occurred recently to Sidney Crosby, Austin Collie, Marc Savard and a slew of other players.

 

Crosby’s case is similar to Morneau’s in the sense that the hit he took he took in the Winter Classic seemed relatively harmless but has kept him out for nearly 4 months.

Concussions have been a major cause for concern in the NHL and NFL.

The difference in the cases of the NFL, NHL and now the MLB is that football and hockey are much more physical sports with a higher risk for injury. The NFL reported that this year had the number of recorded head injuries in the history of the league. The news has made the league more cautious of how to handle head injuries and it is going over guidelines on how to make the league safer for players.

 

You wouldn’t think that Major League Baseball would have the same cause for concern. Even in instances when we do see a player hit in the head by a pitch or by a line drive the severity of the injury is relatively low.

 

There have been instances where I’ve seen players hit in the head by wild pitches and the fall, get up, shake it off and act like nothing happened.

 

The dynamic changed four years ago when Mike Coolbaugh, a first-base coach of the Texas league’s Tulsa Drillers was killed by a line drive in the ninth inning of a game. Ever since then first and third-base coaches have to wear batting helmets as a mandatory guideline mandated by the league.

 

However, most batting helmets protect against a certain level of speed that a ball is thrown. Most Major League batting helmets to tend to protect against speeds that hit only up to 80 mph (even Barry Zito’s fastball hits 80… sometimes). But for the most part there’s no way that those helmets are going to be useful if a Justin Verlander fastball goes AWOL and knocks a guy out.

 

In recent years, helmets have been designed to protect against 90 mph and Rawlings introduced the S100 helmet, which can protect batters against 100 mph fastballs. The thing is that these helmets are not required to be worn by teams. Simply put, baseball’s motto is, wear a helmet, it doesn’t matter what kind it is as long as you got one on. The reality is that the S100 should be a mandatory piece of equipment worn by Major league Baseball teams.

 

Then there are other instances where head injuries can occur.

Jason Bay's season was also cut short after running into a wall.

 

Mets outfielder Jason Bay suffered a season ending concussion by running into a padded wall at Dodger Stadium on July 23rd. Anyone who watches baseball knows that those walls have as much padding as the Mets have good luck. Very little.

 

Up until the Bay injury no one has ever really though of how to make those walls safer. Now they may want to. Padded walls have led to injuries suffered by Ken Griffey Jr. and Aaron Rowand amongst others. In Bay’s case losing a guy to a concussion by running into a cement wall with 3 inches of foam padding might be cause for greater concern.

 

We always see players give up their bodies to make plays to keep a game in their favor. Now those types of plays can knock a guy out for long periods of time. I’m not saying the MLB should make outfielders wear helmets incase something were to happen, but they have to view their options before someone gets seriously injured again

 

These are issues that should be made relevant by players in the CBA talks, which will be ongoing all season as it is set to expire in December.

 

Player safety in baseball should be just as equal of a concern as it is in the NFL and NHL. Before MLB starts having the same issues as the other two sports they need to act now. They can’t afford to have many more incidents like the Morneau and Bay cases before it becomes prevalent in the national.

 

The good news is that last night Justin Morneau smacked two doubles against Boston Red Sox last night and that his fielding has been superb all spring training.

 

The Twins need him to make a deep postseason run this fall. Let’s hope he’ll be healthy enough to be there.


A Banged-Up NHL Midseason Review

Injuries are ravaging the NHL as teams are playing without their best players.

We’re in the NHL’s second half; you know what that means… a New York Rangers second half slide… I mean the NHL Midseason awards.

 

Look I shouldn’t be shocked that the Rangers are having another January swoon. The Rangers are like Tom Coughlin’s stepchild but only worse. They do this every season, start fast, struggle in November, get hot in December and then go on a two-month bender of not scoring goals, losing one goal games and cause Henrik Lundquist to wonder about the benefits of committing Hara Kiri.

 

I should be used to it by now, but I’m a New Yorker, I’m crazy. I want the Rangers to play consistent hockey and I’ve wanted it for years. However, you see the beginning to this piece. The difference in this year’s team is that I can see the drought coming but not from inconsistency. This time it’s injuries. Right now the Rangers are missing 6 starting forwards including leading goal scorer Brandon Dubinsky. Due to the injuries the slide began last week as the Rangers lost three out of four games and dropped to seventh in the Eastern Conference.

 

With the Rangers struggling to score goals, losing our number one guy isn’t exactly the best news in the world right now.

 

If think its bad for us how do you think the Penguins are feeling? Sidney Crosby took a head shots from David Steckel in the Winter Classic and then from Victor Hedman several days later and has been out since. Before his injury the Pens were the best team in hockey and Crosby was Megan Fox in a thong hot since then they’ve been 3-3 and fell from 1st to fifth in the Eastern Conference.

 

Same for the Detroit Red Wings; name a Wing and he’s banged up, Tomas Holmstrom, Dan Cleary, Chris Osgood, Jimmy Howard (yes, both goalies) and Pavel Datsyuk all missed their recent loss to the aforementioned Pens and 3 of their last four.

 

The Colorado Avalanche lost leading scorer at the time Chris Stewart 18 games ago and slipped, The Blackhawks lost Jonathan Toews for three weeks and have had a devil of a time staying in the playoff race, The struggling Kings just lost Wayne Simmonds and have been banged up all year, Montreal… IT AINT SAFE PLAYIN HOCKEY I TELLS YA!!!

 

Fact is if you can stay healthy then you’re hard to beat. Philadelphia, Vancouver and Tampa Bay are all examples that if you stay healthy you stay on top. Right now it’s a toss up between the Canucks and the Flyers for the title of best team in the league. I got a front row look of each team last week as each of them faced the Rangers and I really like the Flyers.

 

Granted there are goaltending issues (It’s Philly there’s always goaltending issues) but the team they have is loaded with guys all playing their best hockey. Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Claude Giroux and company are leading a balanced attack that could get better when Chris Pronger returns. They’re proving that last season’s cup run was no joke and that getting back there and winning is all that’s on their mind.

 

I do not doubt the Canucks at all though, not with Daniel and Henrik Sedin playing at a high level and Ryan Kesler scoring goals like crazy. The Sedins are in the top five in scoring and Kesler is number five in the leagues with 25 goals. What does worry me about them is Roberto Luongo tends to give up a few softies in goal. Luongo was the reason that the Canucks lost their Western Semifinals series versus the Blackhawks last year in one of his worst stretches ever.  So to say everyone is a little worried about him possibly sliding back into that form is like saying the Trail Blazers are a little worried bout their entire lineup being injured (Sorry Marcus Camby).

Why is Vancouver number one in the league right now? Ask these guys.

Then there’s Tampa freaking Bay in third place in East (thank you Washington slump in late December.). They couldn’t stop a goal from going in until they acquired 41 year-old Dwayne Roloson, and outside of Ryan Malone, Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos they have gotten NOTHING from anyone. However, the guys have all been healthy outside of Vinny Lecavalier (not that it matters because he’s been dead weight.), and Simon Gagne (which doesn’t matter because no one expected him to play more than 50 games anyway.) and they have played consistent hockey and have played within their skill set. No one is being asked to go out of his way to do things that they can’t do and it’s worked.

 

Stamkos has returned to form after a quick start and slow stretch in December and has returned to the MVP that I thought was all but guaranteed in November. If the Lightning are going to be active in the trade market then he should be getting some help to move him closer to the Hart trophy and the Lightning to the playoffs.

 

Speaking of awards at the mid-way point who has the upper hand in the most of the major honors in the league? Well…

 

Hart Trophy- Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

Now you know I love Stamkos, and I have been watching the Sedin twins, but none of them had a 25 game point scoring streak and had 49 points during the streak. Without Crosby the Pens are a totally different team and it shows. If they want to win it all they need Sid the Kid at 100% and nothing less.

 

My Bad: Stamkos, both Sedins and St. Louis

 

Norris Trophy- Dustin Byfuglien, Atlanta Thrashers

Ok, so Lidstrom might win the thing, but how about the job big buff has done in going back to his natural position in Atlanta? He’s got 41 points, which is second amongst defensemen, and he’s brought the Thrashers alive with his toughness and energy. I actually want to watch a Thrashers game now just because of him (well him and Evander Kane, just saying.).

 

My Bad: Lidstrom, Zdeno Chara and Kris Letang

 

Vezina Trophy- Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins

So much for Tuukka Rask taking his job. That’s not happening with Thomas leading the league in GAA and save percentage and is fourth in wins. Because of him the B’s are sitting pretty in second place in the East.

 

My Bad: Henrik Lundquist, Jonas Hiller and Carey Price

Tim Thomas is zeroing in on his second Vezina with the Bruins.

Calder Trophy- Jeff Skinner, Carolina Hurricanes

So right at the end of October the Hurricanes come to the Garden and from what I remember from last year I’m thinking this is an easy win. Then comes this Jeff Skinner kid with a three-point game that totally kills us and leaves me stunned. I’m thinking that was a fluke… yeah, um, no.

 

He leads all rookies in points, second in goals to San Jose’s Logan Couture and looks like a great number two to Eric Staal. I guess I was looking at a sign of things to come.

 

(Side note: I really like this year’s class of rookie forwards. There’s Skinner, Derek Stepan, Couture, Taylor Hall and Brian Bickell and they all look good. For years the young defensemen have bean all of the rage in the league and maybe starting with this class the scorers might catch up with them soon.)

 

My Bad: Stepan, Couture and Hall.

 

Jack Adams Trophy- Guy Boucher

Yeah Peter Laviolette has the Flyers in first, Mike Babcock has the Red Wings playing great, but did you think the Lightning would be in the top 3 in the NHL ahead of the Pens, Caps and Habs this year? Yep, exactly.

 

My Bad: Babcock, Laviolette, and Marc Crawford

 

Presidents Trophy- Philadelphia Flyers

Scary good. They’re clicking on all cylinders with Pronger coming back soon. This may change if the Pens get Crosby back but for right now no one has an inside track on these guys.

 

However, that’s the story of this season so far. Injuries are killing lots of teams right now from my Rangers to the Habs, Pens and Blackhawks. As the races tighten up and the season winds down hopefully guys like Toews, Crosby and Datsyuk get back and return to form quick so these games continue to have great meaning. Well, except for the Rangers. I already know what they’re going to do so I’ll just sit back and not worry about it and watch them battle for the 8th seed. I mean I’m used to it by now anyway.

 


Fun Things Going On In The NHL Thanks To Gary Bettman And Company

The Winter Classic has spawned many new ideas to give the NHL a P.R. boost.

I hate Gary Bettman, I really really really hate him.

He almost ruined my favorite sport next to football with a strike that damn near killed the game of hockey. He’s taken away teams from great hockey cities in Canada and placed them in the hockey hotbeds of Phoenix, Miami, Nashville and Atlanta. For a long time he refused to promote his best players on the ice leaving the average fan with no sense of whom the heck were the best players in the game.

(Seriously he damaged the sport for the longest time. There was a point in the late 90’s where Martin Brodeur, Keith Tkachuk, Teemu Selanne, Mike Modano and Paul Kariya were studs and you wouldn’t have known it because Bettman refused to put any backing behind promoting the players. No one knew about Joe Thornton, Vinny LeCavalier or Jarome Iginla and he didn’t care. I don’t care if your league is indoor lacrosse, you have to have your players featured and Bettman never did it. As you can tell I still haven’t gotten over that.)

There have been so many things that I can run Bettman into the ground for from the strike, the handling of the Coyotes, to everyone one of these gargantuan and ridiculous long-term deals that it makes my head spin.

This is why it’s so hard for me to give the man props for the pop culture revolution that is going on in the NHL and is making the game a better sell for people outside of the die-hard fan.

Since the NHL came from that crippling strike Bettman and his cronies at the NHL offices in New York and Toronto have gone out of their way to make the game more accessible and to bring the game back into mainstream America. At first the ideas were less than impressive (you remember that NBC experiment where they highlighted the best players on each team and let you know when they were on the ice right? FAIL!), however in the last three years the NHL has become imaginative in promoting the game and it has seen great returns from these experiments.

Of course it starts with the Winter Classic. An idea that was spawned thanks to an outdoor game between two Canadian teams (Montreal and

The new All-Star format makes game more intriguing for fans and players like Dustin Byfuglien

Edmonton), which was meant to return the game to its roots of being outdoor on a pond having fun with your buddies.

It’s done that and much more.

The original Classic featuring Pittsburgh and Buffalo was so successful that now the Classic is the main event of New Year’s Day. Thanks to the BCS and its long drawn out games, the NHL has swooped in and made the day all its own, similar to the NBA and Christmas. I mean let’s be real, what was more entertaining this year the Caps-Pens or any of the SEC-Big Ten beat-downs? Exactly.

The success of the game made the NBA try an outdoor pre-season game a while ago but with horrible results. Success breeds envy, never thought Bettman had that in him.

Fast-forward to this year and look at that the new format for the NHL All-Star game. Instead of the tired East vs. West all-stars the league decided to make a pool of the best players (as it should be) and have two captains pick their teams. Its playground hockey in a sense and brings more fun into the game. How cool would it be to see Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos and Patrick Kane on the same line or Anze Kopitar with Alex Ovechkin and Daniel Sedin? The creativity of the best players in both conferences combined is cool to just think about.

The initial reaction from journalists was yeah it is cool, but it would’ve been cooler if the NBA thought of it first. It is a great point, I mean Kobe, LeBron and Blake Griffin on the same team, wow. However the fact that the NHL had the guts to try and experiment with such a cool concept is shocking. They were able to figure out that All-Star games were becoming a bore and pumped new life into it with a simple concept that makes it more interesting and maybe more fun.

(Side note: all all-star games are boring. The NHL had a great idea ten years ago with the North America vs. The World concept which should have been copied by everyone but wasn’t. I mean there are only so many times that I can watch Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash play together before I decide that I’d rather pick up a shift at work than watch the game. Just saying.)

Now the NHL is taking another marketing risk with its Guardian Project, which is the brainchild of Marvel Comic legend Stan Lee. It’s a concept that takes all 30 NHL teams and gives each of them a superhero based on the team name and the personality of the team and its city. It’s been met with some criticism by fans and critics alike but I can’t wait to see what The Ranger looks like.

The Flyers Guardian looks cool, I bet the Rangers Guardian would own him though.

It’s inventive and exciting and draws more attention to the league. While I think it might be a little much for the NHL and it might not make much sense… I can’t wait to see what the Ranger looks like.

Has all of this helped the NHL out? Absolutely. The die-hard fans have returned and the casual fan has gained interest in the league. That combined with the fact that the Original Six have returned to form (yes, Toronto is coming back.) and that ridiculous gold medal game from the Olympics last year has given the NHL a huge lift in ratings and we actually know who the best players in the game are.

People know who Patrick Kane, Mike Richards, Drew Doughty, Ovechkin, Crosby and others are now. Led by Crosby and Ovechkin in America and the Sedin twins in Canada, the league’s best are on display on and off the ice and it’s helping the sport came back into national relevance.

However there is one place where the NHL has to get more exposure, GET THE GAME BACK ON ESPN!!!

While Versus has become a very good hockey network it still doesn’t have the national audience that ESPN has and that the league benefitted from in the 90’s and early 2000’s. I don’t mind it if the games stayed on Versus Mondays and Tuesdays, but in order for the league to get back to where it was in the mid-90’s during the Red Wings-Avalanche rivalry days the game needs a larger audience and ESPN is perfect for that.

Until then what Bettman and the league has done to promote the game isn’t a bad starting or pushing point. The All-Star game is in late January, the playoffs are around the corner and excitement is building as the Western conference race is tighter than a can of sardines and the best in the East are on collision courses. It’s a fun time to be and NHL fan, now let’s see if Bettman and company can continue the good work and keep it going.

I’m not ready to forgive him for all of the bad things he did to the league but getting a glimpse of The Ranger will be a nice start.


So Long 2010

The Blackhawks cup win was one of the many great moments in 2010.

So this is it for 2010. We watched the Blackhawks return Chicago to a hockey town, and the Bruins feeling the Yankees pain.

We saw the Giants of Baseball break long title spell since their days in New York, and the Giants of football have another meltdown against the Eagles.

We saw Peyton Manning and his legacy take a hit while Tom Brady rose up again.

We had the revival of Vick and the fall of Favre. The #2 at Auburn became everything the #2 at Columbus should have (though both have had their share of bumps in the road).

There were perfect games and imperfect calls (thank you Jim Joyce). There was Butler almost shocking the world, and Boise having there world shocked.

Then there was LeBron… pause.

Indeed 2010 was a year in sports that we haven’t seen in forever. The glamour in what makes sports great shone bright while the wolf in sheeps clothing  were revealed. The Favre’s and LeBron’s came out as snakes in the grass when all along they were made out to be deities and superheroes. The real heroes were the New Orleans Saints we revived a city and captured the heart of a nation, Sidney Crosby who lifted a country all the way back to the top of their, the Dustin Byfuglien’s and Duncan Keith’s who sacrificed their bodies and teeth to breathe life back into a once hockey crazed city. The angels spread their wings this year while the devils brought themselves down.

There were also some pretty interesting jesters and magicians that showed us how much fun sports can be and how silly we take the game. There is Derrick Rose cutting up point guards every which way, Steven Stamkos scoring at will welcoming all challengers, John Wall showing off his muscles on the dance floor and at the rim and Felix Hernandez crippling bats while his own team’s bats crippled him.

There was Ron Artest partying all night in his uniform after winning a title, Luis Suarez pulling a Diego Maradona, and John Isner and Nicholas Mahut unable to decide a match in the span of three days (no really it took three days to decide).

We had the torch passing from Roger Federer to Rafael Nadal as tennis’s best player, the rise of Kobe Bryant in the all-time rankings and Tiger Woods falling from the number one ranking.

Madison Bumgartner and Kyle Brotzman became household names for different reasons; Bumgartner the 21 year-old left handed rookie pitched the game of his life in leading the Giants to their first world title in 56 years and becoming the game’s next great lefty. Brotzman cost the Broncos a game, a possible title and lots of money when he missed two chip-shot field goals that cost the Broncos a season that what was hyped since the end of the Fiesta Bowl in January and cost Kellen Moore the Heisman trophy (no seriously. When Moore heaved that ball downfield and Titus Young somehow got ahead of the coverage and leaped to haul in a 50 yard grab I yelled out at the bar HEISMAN! That was Moore’s moment. He had it all in front of him and it got yanked from his grasp like The Dude’s rug that tied the room together. Moore may never admit it but you know he contemplated going into Brotzman’s room and stabbing him MacBeth style. And I’m serious).

World meet Madison Bumgarner.

A nation fell in love with soccer (again) as Landon Donovan saved team USA time and time again, and I fell in love with Blake Griffin. Scratch that, Youtube, ESPN, you, me and highlight fanatics LOVE Blake Griffin. There is an app on my phone where I get ESPN scores and highlights and there is always a dunk of the night caption and I swear nine times out of ten that I’ve seen its been Blake. Its so silly now that the other day the caption read “Dunk of the night: Guess Who?”, yep Blake. This guy has no comparison for ridiculousness of athleticism and awe-factor. The Knicks game was the best (yeah I know what you’re thinking), he had 44 points, 15 rebounds, 7 blocks and 4 dunks where his genitals were planted squarely on some member of the Knicks forehead. The worst was Tim Mozgov who took the full on T-bag where even I had to laugh. The guy is a freak, please god if you’re out there make him last 15 years at least in the league please I’m begging you.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg for this crazy year. Coming up with a top ten list is silly for this thing because there are is 12 months of craziness that I have to condense into ten moments that really stood out. There’s no way I can put this in any type of order except for number one which should be number one for all reasons necessary so without further ado here are my top ten moments of the year.

The John Isner- Nicolas Mahut tennis match

In particular the fifth set or should I say fifth set epic. Eight hours and thirty minutes, 138 games,  over 100 aces  and just absolute insanity. The match was already in its second day due to darkness concerns the night before and thanks to the third set barnburner it carried over into the fourth day of the tournament.

Besides the gaudy numbers and mind-numbing play on the court, the look of the players was just mesmerizing. Mahut and Isner played each point like it was their last. They ran down each ball until their legs were spaghetti and picked themselves up again and again. It was torture but neither player didn’t want to be the one to lose the longest match in Wimbledon history.

Unfortunately one person did have to lose and it was Mahut. When Mahut sent his return volley long Isner hit the floor like he just won a championship and held his head in disbelief. A roar from the crowd and a handshake between the titans brought a fitting end to an amazing match. Isner over Mahut 6-4, 3-6, 6-7, 7-6, 70-68.

Even though he lost the no-no, The way Armando Galarraga handled the situation should not go un-noticed.

The year of the pitcher

7 no-hitters (and yes I still am and forever will count Armando Galarraga’s 1 –hitter as a no hitter because that’s what it was wrong call or not), and all of them were done in ways that range from impressive to stunning to dull.

Ubaldo Jimenez walked 6 batters versus the Braves while throwing 128 pitches and only 72 strikes in his 4-0 no-no in April. It’s cool but he walked 6 guys so that dulls it down. However it doesn’t take away from the start that he had.

Roy Halladay pitched perfect game in the regular season and a no-no in the postseason. Both Masterful, both breath-taking adding to his case for the best pitcher in the game.

Dallas Braden became the newest guy you never heard of to throw a no-no joining A.J. Burnett when he was in Florida. Was it a great performance ? Yes. Is he still a bum for calling out A-Rod? absolutely.

Edwin Jackson, eight walks, 149 pitches… that’s all I’ll say.

Matt Garza finally showed us what he’s capable of his in his gem. Maybe now he can step up his game and fulfill the potential we all think he has.

Then there was the no-no that wasn’t, Galarraga’s. In less than two hours Galarraga pitched the performance of the year unmatched of any of the other pitchers. For 86 pitches in an hour and 50 minutes Armando Galarraga looked like Greg Maddux. He worked efficiently and fast. Yet it was the call by Jim Joyce that we’ll always remember when he called the runner safe at first base when he was in fact out. But Galarraga’s demeanor and class ruled over the missed call. Instead of screaming in horror he simply smiled, went back to the mound and finished off his one-hitter. Bud Selig doesn’t have to correct the mistake, I will, it was a perfect game and will be forever in my eyes.

The Blackhawks Triumph

Big Buff, Tazer, Kaner, toothless Keith and the whole gang brought hockey back to the Chi. I’ve written on this enough this year so I’ll keep it short. This is what the NHL needs, the original six teams back at the top of the standings and playing well. Hopefully the Blackhawks triumph can lead to similar stories in New York and Boston.

Rafa’s Reign Begins

It’s his world now. I love Roger Federer and everything that he has done for the game of tennis, but this is Rafa’s time now.

After returning to glory at the French Open he showed how far his game has come and that his knees should be ready for the long haul in the next 4 or 5 years that he’ll be at the top of his game.

His wins at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open brought his game together and officially shed his moniker of being just a clay court player. He dominated the Open and left no doubt that there is no one close to him in the game. It guarantees that unlike at the beginning of the 2000’s where men’s tennis had no dominant figure it will still have a gold standard now that Federer is in decline. Well done Rafa, well done.

The Blake Show

WOW!!! Not LeBron, not Kobe, not Kevin Durant, not none of em (yeah incorrect English) have the awe factor that Blake Griffin has. Kobe has aged, LeBron is now evil and Durant while ready to replace Kobe in the That Dude category nobody can draw a crowd like Griffin.

It’s similar to the effect Vince Carter had on the league after the dunk contest except we haven’s seen Blake in that type of stage yet, and we don’t need to.

Sportscenter is his stage. The Knicks are his props, and other players are blocks in his way of another highlight. I’m looking at Youtube right now for another silly Griffin dunk,

(God please get him out of L.A. May I suggest Phoenix, Dallas or New Jersey)

Thomas Morstead executed the gutsiest call in Super Bowl history.

The Gutsiest Call Ever

With the Super Bowl hanging in the balance early in the second half Saints Head Coach Sean Payton did the dumbest silliest most brilliant thing ever… he went for an onside kick… and it worked.

He grabbed the momentum and never let it go as the Saints took control of the game en route to a 31-17 win and completing a comeback of epic proportions in New Orleans. It was a call you’ll always remember and gave you more respect for a head coach than you would ever think off of one play.

The Revival of Josh Hamilton

The turnaround was completed. Josh Hamilton is now officially vindicated from all of the wrongs that almost ended his career in the early 2000’s. His MVP and World Series run brought him full circle from the drug addiction and alcoholism that plagued him in his Tampa Years.

Hamilton is now a role model, hero and one of the best outfielders in the game like it always should’ve been.

The Death of THe Boss

The Greatest owner in the history of the sport. He cared about winning and only winning. He did things his way and never cared about what anyone thought.

His passing left baseball without one of its greatest figures and the Yankees with a little less PR to deal with.

His Monument in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium is fitting of who George was. It was bigger than other plaque and towered over them all. Kind of how George hovered over Yankee Stadium with that watchful eye and towered over other competition. Thanks George, I’ll miss you.

U.S. vs. Canada- Game Of The Year

The most important hockey game since the Miracle On Ice 30 years earlier. Two of the biggest hockey nations battle to bring their nation to the front of the fold again.

It was a physical game that showed the best each country had to offer. ROberto Luongo and Ryan Miller shined in net, Patrick Kane was a monster with the puck skating in open ice, Jonathan Toews showed the poise that has made him the league’s most respected captain at 22, Jack Johnson became my new favorite American player with his physical play, and Zach Parise saved a nation with his late tally to send the game into overtime.

Then the king responded. Sidney Crosby did what he’s done ever since he entered the league in after the NHL strike, he game up big and took the sport to new heights. His goal on a redirect from Jarome Iginla placed him on a plateau that not even he thought was possible, national hero. He saved Canada, won the gold and never has to pay for a drink again. It was a fitting end to what was the best game of the year, even if the result made me want to drown myself in the Olentangy River.

What if...

#1 Duke vs. Butler

Imagine if Gordon Haywood takes a little off of that shot.

Imagine if it went in. Imagine the chaos, the pandemonium.

Imagine the story of the new Hoosiers with Brad Stevens playing Gene Hackman and Butler as the little guy that pulled off the greatest upset in the history of the game.

Imagine if Butler Beat Duke. Imagine the shockwave of finally seeing that the little guys are just as good as the big guys.

Imagine if that shot were two inches lower, because if it was all of this would have happened. Butler would have ushered in a new era in the NCAA, recruiting might be a little different but more so teams like Northern Iowa, VCU, Dayton and others could be logical national title contenders. They could get fair seedings, their conferences could get more teams in the tournament while bubble teams like the Clemson’s and Notre Dame’s of the world go to the NIT.

Instead the shot missed. The NCAA breathed a sigh of relief and everything was status quo like it should be in there eyes. But man, what if  that happened?

That was 2010 one the most imaginative, honest and fun sports years that we’ve had in a longtime. So many memories that will stick in the eyes and hearts of fans, writers and spectators everywhere. Here’s to hoping that 2011 can come close to matching what we witnessed this past year.