NHL Shootouts Are Ruining Hockey

Posted: March 25, 2015 in Ian Bonner

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The last five minutes of a basketball game take roughly 15-20 minutes. Timeout, foul, made field goal, foul, timeout, miss, foul, make, timeout, and on and on we go. The last five minutes of a hockey game can feel as though its 15-20 minutes if you’re nursing a one goal lead and your goalie is facing what feels like an endless barrage of wrist shots and one timers from the blue line. The difference? The pace of play is drastically different in hockey because it’s fast, hard-hitting, intense, and gut wrenching all at the same time. The previous 58 minutes of hockey are out the window and assuming the two teams are evenly matched, it becomes a battle of will, execution under pressure, and intestinal fortitude. Dump and chase, win the battle to the puck, possess a strong forecheck, keep the puck in the offensive zone, make crisp passes, and take advantage of that sliver of open net, if you’re lucky enough to get it. In many instances over the course of an 82 game regular season, 60 minutes is not enough to determine a winner.  If you thought the last few minutes of the 3rd period was exciting, try taking two players off the ice and increasing the implications. 4 on 4 normally lends itself to an up and down type of game with a game winner just seconds or a missed check away. Up until this point, I don’t have one complaint with the structure of the NHL. It’s physical, exciting, and rarely interfered with by the refs.

After five minutes, the players lick their wounds and prepare for a shootout. If tying is like kissing your sister, or so the old adage goes, than losing in a shootout is like doing something that would be better served for a more inappropriate blog.

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After 65 minutes of a hard fought hockey game, we are subjected to a glorified skills competition. As a hockey fan, the idea that the owners implemented the shootout on the heels of a season long lockout makes me feel used. Like a divorced parent showering her child with superficial gifts to compensate for their broken family, this feels artificial to me. The (sometimes) brilliant hockey minds in the front office of the world know this is stupid and elementary. Shootouts cheapen the game. Pink hats love it, real fans hate it. It’s a ratings ploy. It needs to end. Playoff seeds are inherently determined over these shootouts. Detroit and Ottawa are separated in the standings by eight points. Each has 11 OTL. 11 times they have lost because their goalie stopped less breakaways than their opponent. This could ultimately be the difference between going to the playoffs and missing the playoffs in some cases. And in a sport where the #8 seed can win and has won the Standley Cup (2012 Kings), these regular season points mean everything.

The shootout was first implemented in the 2005-2006 NHL regular season. Last season, there were 307 games requiring extra time: 128 were decided in the five minute overtime period and 179 were decided in the shootout (58.3%). Thus, roughly six out of ten games that require overtime are determined in a shootout. This is a travesty.

Last week, the NHL met down in Florida around this very issue (although this article was coming before I had knowledge of this). They ultimately decided that change is necessary and agreed upon two different options. The first option is five minutes of 3-on-3 and a subsequent shootout if no one scores. The second option is a seven minute overtime. The first four minutes would feature the traditional 4-on-4 before transitioning to 3-on-3 after the first whistle after the three minute mark. It’s positive that changes appear to be imminent.  It’s discouraging how long it took.

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Interestingly enough, the AHL, (the NHL minor league affiliate) adopted the seven minute sudden death period this season which features both 4-on-4 and 3-on-3. Thus far, 76.3% of AHL overtime games have been settled in the overtime period as opposed to the gimmicky shootout. Moreover, of the 171 goals scored in overtime, 42.7% of those goals came in the 3-on-3 period. The math cannot be clearer; the decision is obvious.

The NHL needs to make this right. They owe it to their players, fans, coaches, and any other stakeholders. Fundamentally, this sport is predicated on tenacity, patience, and opportunistic hockey. Never are these three pillars of success more evident than in overtime. Sudden death is one of the more captivating and entertaining components in all of sports. It’s why we watch. It’s why we believe. Moving forward, it appears as though change will come. I think I speak for all hockey fans when I say that this is a positive move for a sport marred with ratings, domestic popularity concerns, and stiff competition from other sports. However, hockey will be better off with either of the proposed changes, but more importantly, so will its viewers. As a fan, knowing that one turnover or move of the stick could result in a joyous celebration or devastating loss is why we watch. We watch sports because it is one of the few forums where expecting the unexpected is normalcy. Now let’s hope the NHL will let us get back to just that.

30 for 30 in the Making

Posted: March 19, 2015 in Old Sull

In a lifetime, there are a handful of moments that are so impressionable, that you remember exactly where you were when they happened. I can distinctly remember, the Bruins comeback against the Maple Leafs in 13, the Sox comeback in 04, and I believe Malcolm Butlers pick will stand the test of time as well.  These moments are extremely rare because in all of these events, what you were watching was so astounding, you wanted to remember everything that went into it.  This Kentucky basketball team is 34 wins in the making of this moment.  Although there is no way to tell which game this moment will take place in, what we do know is that the Wildcats are can’t miss television. With every win the pressure compounds on itself.  IF they win it all and cut down the nets, it will be the most impressive championship ever in my opinion.  There has not been an undefeated team in Men’s Basketball since Bob Knights 75 Indiana team.  This team however, only required 32 wins to complete the perfect season (which Kentucky has already surpassed).

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There are many other factors that make a perfect season by Kentucky even more impressive.  For one, the college landscape at that time.  What I mean by this is, in 1975 there was a lot less parity.  There were not as many formidable opponents as they are today.  At the time, there were a few traditional powers in which all the high school talent went, and the rest of the colleges were at a huge disadvantage.  Today there is much more parody and talent is widespread throughout the country.

Additionally, these players now have to deal with the constant media attention that would have been unfathomable at the time.  Not to make this a Kentucky blow fest but it really is impressive how Coach Cal has been able to keep this team off of social media, the news, and without providing “bulletin board material”.  These kids are constantly made aware that they are pursuing history that has not been achieved in nearly 40 years and there is no hiding or sheltering them from that.

But with all these additional challenges, the fact remains, without 6 more wins none of this matters.  I hate to take away from all these players have accomplished but history will not remember them as the team who won 34 in a row, but rather the team who choked when it mattered.  The team that could not lose, the team that had TWO starting rosters, lost.  The team that flirted with destiny, is now mortal like the rest of college basketball.  Either way the implications entering this tournament are incredible and as a sports fan I cannot wait to see it unfold.  Either you see the biggest upset in recent memory or the greatest college basketball team ever.  Seriously, think about it.  This team’s position in history are such black and white extremes that I still can’t even wrap my head around it.  Not to make this about Boston sports (but to make this about Boston sports) but this reminds me of the super bowl this year and Tom Brady.  He either went to 3-3 in the super bowl with 0 wins since spy gate or solidified himself as the G.O.A.T.  Both instances present such extreme realities that I don’t think you can fully fathom the options until you are forced to accept one as reality.  I am not sure which reality we will be forced to face in terms of this Kentucky team, but either option is amazing (especially for a D grade blogger who likes to write instead of doing homework.

What makes this story even more remarkable is how far this team has come in the last 3 years.  I know they are Kentucky so they were bringing in top recruits year in and year out but think back with me.  2 years ago at this time Willie Cauley-Stein, this year’s SEC player of the year and conference tournament player of the year was a freshman.  At that point though, he was not preparing for a March Madness run but rather the NIT opening round against Robert Morris (no that’s not a player that’s a college).  I reached out to WCS for an interview about the journey but he declined*.  Kentucky ended up losing to the NEC team by 2 and was the laughing stock of the NCAA.  Especially for a team that opened at #3 in the college rankings to start the year. From national champs to a first round bust in the NIT to Robert Morris. I don’t know how I am the first one to realize this (looking at you ESPN) but it is remarkable and mind-blowing that this electric player we see today was on the court during debatably the lowest point in the Kentucky dynasty. In that game he played 36 minutes and scored 9 points with 4 turnovers.  An inconceivable game by his present standards against a roster with the talent of Robert Morris.

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Now flash back to a year ago.  Kentucky is an 8 seed.  An 8 seed, let’s all remember that.  With a win in their first game they are given an opportunity to play an undefeated one seed #1 Wichita State team.  The Wildcats then went on to beat #1 Wichita State along with the talented teams at #4 Louisville, #2 Wisconsin, and #2 Michigan.  Each game was better than its last in terms of theatrics.  Kentucky stunned teams and silenced student sections with devastating last second 3’s to win their last 2 tournament games.  Ultimately the miraculous run fell short and Cardiac Cats lost the National Championship game to UConn.

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But here we are now.  Two years removed from an opening round NIT loss, to now being the number one overall seed with an opportunity to be the first undefeated team in 38 years.  Somehow everyone has forgotten about that this program lost to a Robert Morris in the NIT’s, or even that they were an 8 seed last year that required buzzer beaters round after round to advance.  People strictly remember that they played for a championship last year. The tidal wave of momentum from that run last year has blinded the general public and hypnotized into them into thinking that this is where Kentucky generally is this time of year in terms of being a 1 seed in the tournament.  But it’s not, just ask big Willie.

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It is truly incredible and mind blowing to think about WCS’s college journey.  To being the biggest joke on campus his freshman year to possibly being the best player on the best team ever. WOW. Maybe it is just me that is enamored with the historical implications but I can’t wait to see how this all unfolds.  Will they choke? Or will they be the best ever? It truly is that black and white.  This Kentucky team has survived scares, but has never been taken down to the wire.  Never challenged for a full 40 minutes.  I am still not sure which way I want the cards to fall but I can guarantee I will be watching every second of every one of their games and I recommend you do as well.

*Hahahahah yeah cause I could get ahold of Willie to get a quote.

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The New England Patriots ended the 2014 season with 53 players on their roster. They will start the 2015 season with 53 players on their roster. There is a seven month period that will tell a different story.

Of the 53 players on the roster for the Super Bowl, 13 are headed for free agency. For those doing math at home, that means there are 40 players that were on the 53 man roster signed thru next year. Now consider this.

13 players due to hit FA + Ridley + 7 players who ended the season on IR: Buchanan, Dennard, Dobson, Easley, Gaffney, Mayo  + 8 draft picks + Free-Agents the Patriots may sign (Assume the Patriots lose as many as they gain in free agency) That leaves New England to determine 29 players for 13 spots. Still think you can be an armchair GM?

With that in mind, put the homer aside and understand a few things:

  1. There will be some GOOD players that you LIKE who will not be back (Wilfork, Amendola, Mayo, Ridley, Mccourty, etc.
  2. The Patriots are likely to trade picks to move up in this years’ draft or stock picks for future drafts
  3. The Patriots have to spend money but are tight against the cap; expect them to compensate their cap inflexibility with guaranteed money and term
  4. Their practice squad will have some good players on it
  5. This will be an incredibly deep, talented roster 1-53

I broke the 14 free agents to be into three tiers. The top tier will garner the vast majority of media attention, rightfully so, but it is the second and third tiers that New England consistently does an outstanding job of managing. I will likely be incorrect on many of my picks, but this is how I see the internal free agent picture shaping up.

Tier I

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Darrelle Revis

Revis has dominated headlines in recent weeks. While he is under contract, his pending $25 million cap hit for 2015 renders him a free agent for all intents and purposes. The 9 year veteran joined New England after seven seasons with the New York Jets and one extremely forgettable season with the lowly Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He came to New England eager to prove he had fully recovered from his torn ACL injury from 2012 and to win the elusive Lombardi Trophy. Mission accomplished. Revis and the Patriots won Super Bowl XLIX and did so thanks large in part to Revis’ dominant coverage all season long.

Historically, Revis has “chased the money”. I have a problem with the notion that players should sacrifice money to win but owners shouldn’t. The salary cap makes it more difficult on the owners but players who have high market value in a league where the average player lasts 2.5 years should never be crucified for electing to reward the highest bidder with his services. A mercenary, a “player-agent”, a money-grabber are all terms that preceded Revis when he was first signed. Interestingly enough, fans and experts remember the Wes Welker and Logan Mankins contract situations far better than another trend. The Patriots pay elite talent with elite money. Tom Brady, Logan Mankins, Richard Seymour, Vince Wilfork, and Rob Gronkowski are or were all one of the highest paid players at their respective positions. How quickly people forget. Thus, in a passing league with a down CB market and few viable options in the draft, the Patriots will get a deal done with Revis. He will be signed with term and big money. STAYS.

Devin McCourty

Devin McCourty

The Patriots drafted McCourty in the first round out of where else, but Rutgers in 2010. As a rookie, he started every game and recorded seven interceptions on the way to earning a Pro Bowl nod. Unfortunately, he hit a woeful sophomore slump inspiring the coaching staff to move him to Safety. Since that time, he has thrived in his role and transformed himself into one of the best safeties in the NFL. A recipient of the Man of the Year award, McCourty is a high character individual who is very involved in local charity work. He has been adamant about his desire to stay with New England and why wouldn’t he? In his five seasons as a Patriot, he has appeared in four AFC Championships and three Super Bowls. On Monday, he expressed to Josina Anderson that he was surprised he did not get the franchise tag which would have kept him on a one year deal worth roughly $9.6 million. This situation is an interesting one: McCourty is a player who is unequivocally the best player at his position this offseason. He is due to field some lucrative offers but he ultimately wants nothing more than to stay with a team who knows this and plans to sign him but at their cost and their cost only. Quite the predicament. The safety free agency market is incredibly weak and the draft is worse if that is possible. McCourty has never cashed in on a big deal having only played his rookie deal. The 27 year-old has a difficult decision to make: money or Super Bowl contention (and in a few select cases, he could potentially have both). His market is anywhere from $8-12 million and it would be surprising if the Patriots went any higher than $8 million annually. One interesting thing to note is that the Patriots are one of the few teams below the mandatory cash spending threshold while in a struggle to stay below the salary cap. I expect the Patriots to make up for their less than market value offer with more term and guaranteed money. It won’t be an easy round of negotiations (McCourty is an agent’s nightmare) but I think McCourty comes back to New England on a slightly player friendly deal. STAYS.

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Shane Vereen

One of the heroes from Super Bowl XLIX did himself and his agent a big favor with his 11 catch, 64 yard performance. The second round product out of California has seen increased snaps over the past three seasons and filled the role that the Patriots love: a third down, change of pace back with good hands, pass protection ability, and situational running. Kevin Faulk and Danny Woodhead are the two that come to mind and Vereen is certainly in that group. While recent contract history has not been kind to running backs, Vereen is different because of the variety to his skill set. There are not many players hitting free agency at his age with his skill set. Guys like C.J. Spiller and Ryan Mathews have injury problems and guys like Reggie Bush are a little bit older. Vereen is 25 and is about to hit his prime. I do not think Vereen is a top priority for New England because they have a wealth of running backs on their roster and have never valued the position. With that said, they will certainly make him an offer because of his success in their system and Brady’s comfort level with him but the offer will be below market value and test Vereen’s desire to remain with New England which by many accounts, is high. Unfortunately, I think Vereen walks to a team like the Giants or Jaguars for a contract around $4 years, $14 million. LEAVES.

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Stephen Gostkowski

The Patriots applied their Franchise Tag on Gostkowski this past Monday which raises his salary to roughly $4.1 million this season. That figure seems high for a kicker but keep in mind that Gostkowski is an elite kicker and the tag gives New England until July 15th to work out a long term deal. Gostkowski had enormous shoes to fill after taking over for the three time Super Bowl Champion Adam Vinatieri but since he arrived in 2006, he has been a steady presence. He hasn’t been asked to make many big kicks but the three time pro bowler has been excellent over the past three years. He has made 73/78 kicks including 6/7 from 50+. I don’t know if the Patriots will negotiate a deal now or next offseason but he will be kicking for New England in 2015. Just ask Detroit what it was like to not have a reliable kicker. STAYS.

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Dan Connolly

The 32 year old guard has been a regular starter since 2010 but never was his impact more realized than this year. In the three games he missed, the Patriots offensive line struggled mightily. He is not a sexy player, what OG is for that matter, but he has good chemistry with his linemates and remains an above average guard. One of the Patriots biggest priorities this offseason is upgrading their offensive line. Connolly was making roughly $4 million in 2014 so it is entirely possible that he gets replaced by an early round rookie with a much smaller salary. Between Connolly and Wendell, I believe only one will be with the team in September. Connolly is a slightly better player but Wendell is four years younger and makes half as much. LEAVES.

Tier II

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Alan Branch

After Sealver Siliga got hurt in late October, the Patriots signed the 6’6 324 pound Alan Branch to fortify their run defense after they were gashed against the New York Jets among others. The former second round pick never earned substantial playing time but certainly strengthened the Patriots defensive line depth especially after Easley was put on IR. Having played with three teams in three years, Branch will be a fairly cheap option. With that said, if the Patriots sign Siliga and feel they can upgrade in the draft, Branch will become expendable. My gut tells me that they let Branch walk to a team desperate for some interior line help. LEAVES.

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Jonathan Casillas

In another move prompted by an injury, Belichick traded a 2015 5th round draft choice for Jonathan Casillas and Tampa Bay’s 2015 6th round draft choice. Adding Casillas essentially cost the Patriots one draft spot because New England picks last in the 5th round and Tampa Bay picks first in the 6th round. When Jerod Mayo’s season ended against Buffalo, Casillas provided depth and special teams value. LB Chris White and James Morris could make a bid to earn that utility linebacker spot but if Casillas is willing to come back for a similarly low base salary, a deal could be struck. He will be 28 next season so he has some good years ahead of him and I expect Belichick to bring him back and fight for a spot in camp. STAYS.

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Stevan Ridley

When Stevan Ridley’s season ended in Buffalo, many presumed Ridley’s time in New England was over. His fumbling problems were overstated but still a cause for concern to a perfectionist like Bill Belichick. At times Ridley is a quick and decisive runner with more power than meets the eye. His best year was 2012 when he rushed 290 times for 1,263 yards (4.4) YPC with 12 touchdowns. However, on some occasions he reminds Patriots fans of Laurence Maroney with his inability to hit the hole and fall forward. Unfortunately for Ridley, New England has never placed high value on running backs and they have a stable of cheap, capable running backs on the roster. Jonas Gray, LaGarrette Blount, Tyler Gaffney, James White, Brandon Bolden, and maybe Shane Vereen figures to make for a cloudy running back picture. Additionally, the draft and free agency is loaded with running back talent so an above average, fumble prone 27 year old running back coming off a torn ACL is not exactly a hot commodity. For this reason, it is more likely that Ridley comes back to New England on a one year “prove-it” deal but there are too many teams with too much money to spend. The Stevan Ridley era will end next week. LEAVES.

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Akeem Ayers

Outside of the top tier free agents for New England, Akeem Ayers is the most intriguing to me. The 2011 2nd round draft pick was traded to New England in October when Chandler Jones injured his hip against the Jets. In Jones’ absence, Ayers filled in admirably. He put in extra time to quickly learn the intricacies of the defense and recorded three sacks and many more quarterback hurries. At 6’3, 255 pounds, Ayers has a unique combination of size and speed that makes him very versatile from a schematic perspective. Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio had this to say about Ayers: “He showed his versatility and we were able to use him in a multitude of roles and he was able to benefit the team as a result. We were fortunate that it worked out the way it did.” That is high praise from a high ranking official on the New England staff. Chandler Jones has yet to prove himself as the elite pass rusher that he has been projected to be. Rob Ninkovich has been very dependable and efficient while playing almost every snap from scrimmage over the past three years. A third pass rusher with Ayers’ versatility is desirable, but at the right price. The Patriots used Ayers sparingly after Jones returned and some conspiracy theorists would suggest this was the “Tommy Kelly” treatment in order to diminish his market value and raise the likelihood that New England can sign him at their price. Ultimately I think Ayers’ value is too high for the Patriots to bring him back.  LEAVES.

NFL: Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots

Sealver Siliga

The 300 pound run stuffer came to New England last season as part of the solution for replacing Wilfork’s heavy workload. He only appeared in seven regular season games this year but played a role in all three postseason games and proved to be an average run defender. He, like Branch, is good but not great and his spot is in jeopardy in the event the Patriots bolster this position via free agency or the draft. Easley’s return from knee and shoulder injuries will impact Siliga’s playing time as well. Luckily, Siliga is an Exclusive Rights Free Agent so as long as the Patriots make him a minimum offer, New England is the only place he can play next season. Thus, Siliga will have a chance to prove himself as a regular contributor. STAYS.

Tier III

Chris White

White is a sneaky two year veteran for the Patriots. He has played almost exclusively special teams while providing linebacker depth. However in the event of an injury, the Patriots would make a trade (Jonathan Casillas) before letting White see extended time. Nevertheless, White is an ERFA and will likely be signed to a minimum contract. STAYS.

Danny Aiken

The four year veteran has served as New England’s long snapper in all but one game during that time. Aiken has never noticeably struggled but he has not exactly been a beacon of consistency. Punter Ryan Allen has saved Aiken from more extended criticism from fans and writers. Aiken played through an injury for most of the 2014 campaign and will likely sign a small deal. Similar to last year, expect Belichick to bring in a body to make Aiken compete for his position. STAYS.

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James Develin

The Brown graduate brings a hard hat and lunch pail attitude to practice every day. He has been on New England for three years and contributed in multiple ways. Aside from his few highlight reel touchdown receptions, Develin has paved running lanes for his running back counterparts and earned his way onto almost every special team. He only plays in roughly 15-20% of offensive snaps but serves a defined role. The Patriots are a gameplan offense and his presence allows the Patriots to exploit certain matchups (see Indianapolis). Develin, like White and Siliga is an ERFA so the Patriots would be remiss to not at least sign him to the minimum and bring him into camp. STAYS.

Brian Tyms

Tyms is another fascinating player for New England. He followed an impressive preseason (largely with Garrapolo) with an underwhelming regular season. The 6’3 210 pound wide receiver did have his 15 minutes of fame this year against Buffalo when he snatched a 43 yard touchdown pass between two Buffalo defenders. He has shown flashes of ability but has not always been on the same page with Brady (see Indianapolis and Buffalo). To his credit he was one of the more demonstrative and passionate guys on the sideline all season long, in pads or street clothes. He is another ERFA so the Patriots will likely sign him back to compete for a wide receiver position that will bear monitoring this summer. Assuming LaFell, Edelman, and Amendola are back, Tyms and Dobson will be fighting against each other and any free agent or draft choice that New England brings in. STAYS.

NFL: New England Patriots-Press Conference

Last week, I noted Bill Belichick’s worst offseason trades and signings: http://thefullcourt-press.com/2015/02/18/bill-belichicks-top-5-worst-free-agent-signings-trades/. This week, I wanted to start off the week on a more positive note. With the NFL Free Agency period only 8 days away, this article should serve as a reminder that there is plenty of reason to trust the Patriots brass to make the right decisions for the organization. While the Patriots have built success through the draft with players like Tom Brady, Vince Wilfork, Asante Samuel, Matt Light, Richard Seymour, and Rob Gronkowski, they have made numerous prudent, low risk-high reward moves in the offseason. Just over a year ago, Belichick signed three veterans who made the Super Bowl run a reality: Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, and Brandon LaFell. At this point in time, all signings could be considered a success based solely on the fact that they helped bring the Lombardi trophy back to New England. However, I have left those three players off the list because they have only been here one year and cannot yet be compartmentalized for various reasons. However, they are worth mentioning before looking back at Bill Belichick’s top 5 offseason signings and trades.

Brandon Browner (2014)

Browner was brought in from Seattle for 3 years and $17 million to help establish a physical, ball hawking secondary. Browner, at 6’4” 221 pounds has consistently wreaked havoc on receivers’ ability to get a clean release and execute timing patterns. Browner plays with a chip on his shoulder and his hard-nosed style of play was infectious. The Patriots defense possessed a swagger and toughness that was devoid since the days of Tedy Bruschi, Rodney Harrison, and Willie McGinest.

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Darrelle Revis (2014)

A quiet, confident, “lead by example” locker room presence, Revis was the consummate pro on and off the field. He was a key piece to the defense and his ability to lock down opponents’ top receiver allowed defensive coordinator Matt Patricia the flexibility to present different defensive looks and schemes. The top story line of the 2015 offseason is what the Patriots will do with Revis who, for all intents and purposes, signed a 1 year $12 million deal as his 2015 cap hit is $25 million.

Brandon LaFell (2014)

When the Patriots signed Brandon Lafell for 3 years and $9 million, it did not exactly send shockwaves through New England. LaFell quickly earned Brady’s trust en route to a pleasantly surprising 2014 campaign. LaFell caught 74 passes for 953 yards and 7 touchdowns. Moreover, in the 3 playoff games, he caught 13 balls for 119 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Now, Bill Belichick’s top five best free agent signings and trades.

5. Mike Vrabel (2001)

Mike Vrabel was one of first players Belichick added and he proved to be an incredibly important piece to New England’s stout defenses of the early 2000’s. The Ohio State alum was signed to a team friendly 4 year, $3.7 million contract after four uninspiring years in Pittsburgh. Under Belichick’s tutelage, the 1997 3rd round draft choice played eight seasons in Foxboro. In that time, he accrued 48 sacks, 11 interceptions, 13 forced fumbles, and 411 tackles. He played outside linebacker in the 3-4 and inside in the 4-3. His versatility, dependability, and big play ability were hallmarks of Vrabel’s tenure with New England. In 2007, he was earned All-Pro honors with 12.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, and 55 tackles. Additionally, Vrabel made an impact on the offensive side of the ball. He was inserted into New England’s goal line package and his impact was realized instantly. Vrabel caught 8 touchdown passes on 11 targets including two in Super Bowl victories (2003 & 2004). Both touchdowns came in the second half and gave the Patriots the lead. Vrabel was a consummate Patriot and the three time champion proved to be a special signing by Belichick.

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4. Corey Dillon (2004)

After the Patriots won the Super Bowl in 2003, their second in three years, Belichick wasted no time upgrading his roster. Rather than rest on his laurels, he identified a weakness and filled the void with a bang. Incumbent starting running back Antowain Smith was 31 and his rushing yards, YPC, and touchdowns had declined for the second year in a row. Belichick declined to re-sign Smith and instead dealt a 2004 2nd round draft choice to the Cincinnati Bengals for Corey Dillon. The 6’1, 225 pound three-time pro bowler, locker room malcontent was a player with high upside but a fair amount of risk. In 15 games in 2004, Dillon rushed for a whopping 1,635 yards (4.7 YPC) and 12 touchdowns. He helped form New England’s offense into a true dual threat. While Dillon amassed 1,738 yards and 13 touchdowns from scrimmage, Tom Brady tossed 28 touchdowns and 3,652 yards. New England went on to win Super Bowl XXXIX and New England has Belichick to thank. Dillon went on to play two more seasons and while neither was as effective as his 2004 campaign, he was a steady force in the backfield.

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3. Wes Welker (2007)

The loss to Indianapolis in the 2006 AFC Championship Game and devastating drops by the then-#1 receiver Reche Caldwell confirmed that the Patriots needed a drastic upgrade in the pass catchers department. Belichick wasted no time in the spring of 2007 acquiring the versatile slot man Wes Welker from division rival, Miami for 2007 2nd & 7th round draft choices. In his first season, he contributed immensely to one of the most dominant NFL offenses in league history. He hauled in 112 receptions for 1,175 yards and 8 touchdowns. Brady leaned on Welker heavily over the years and with good reason. Welker’s gritty style of play and willingness to go over the middle was not lost on teammates who spoke highly of Welker. In six seasons with New England, Welker averaged 112 receptions, 1,243 yards, and 6 touchdowns. Unfortunately, Welker’s drop in the 2011 Super Bowl is one of the lasting memories of Welker. Nevertheless, Belichick got a five time pro bowler and two time all-pro for a 2nd and 7th round draft choice. Advantage: Belichick.

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2. Rodney Harrison (2003)

Similar to Vrabel, Harrison was one of “Belichick’s guys” who helped reinvigorate New England’s defense with a fearless attitude and hard-hitting style of play. After nine seasons with San Diego, many NFL front offices feared the 31 year-old Harrison did not have much left in the tank. Harrison visited Belichick in the offseason and left with a 6 year, $14.45 million contract. Harrison played out his contract and won two Super Bowls in his first two seasons. With Harrison as the backbone of the secondary, New England reached three Super Bowls and four AFC Championships in his four healthy years with the team. He was limited to three games in 2005 (lost in Divisional round) and 2008 (did not make the playoffs but worth noting that Tom Brady missed the entire season as well). Coincidence?  Unlikely. In 2003, Harrison earned All-Pro honors and solidified a defensive unit that lost Lawyer Milloy. Similar to Welker, Harrison is remembered by many as the one who was unable to break up “The Catch” by David Tyree in Super Bowl XLII. Regardless of a miracle reception by Tyree, Harrison was excellent in his time with New England for roughly $2.5 million per year. One of Belichick’s best.

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1. Randy Moss (2007)

The crown jewel of Bill Belichick’s personnel moves. In April of 2007, Belichick sent a 2007 fourth rounder to the Oakland Raiders for the enigmatic, supremely talented, narcissistic wide receiver. After several outstanding seasons with Minnesota (five pro bowls in seven years), Moss wore out his welcome. He was dealt to Oakland and in two full seasons, his performance was underwhelming for a player still in his late 20’s. Belichick saw the potential for Moss to revive his career in a winning culture, something that had eluded Moss for most of his career. Moss responded with the greatest single season by a wide receiver in NFL history. En route to a 16-0 regular season, Moss caught 98 passes for 1,493 yards and 23 touchdowns. Over the next two seasons, one with backup quarterback Matt Cassel, Moss averaged 1,136 yards and 12 touchdowns. In other words, the Patriots received unthinkable results for a mere fourth round draft choice. Despite his colored background which is phrasing Moss’ prior transgressions quite nicely, Moss was well behaved during his time in New England. He was dealt in 2010 after four games and retired two years later. The Patriots never had a receiver with the big play ability like Moss and have not filled his void in the five seasons since he left. There may be another receiver like Randy Moss in his prime. And there may never be a better trade. Advantage: Belichick.

Honorable Mention:

Aqib Talib (2012)

2012 was a dark time for the Patriots secondary. The trio of pass defenders (that term is used loosely here) at the outset of the season was comprised of Kyle Arrington, Marquice Cole, and Alfonzo Dennard. Enter the embattled malcontent, Aqib Talib. On November 1st, 2012, Belichick traded a 2013 4th round draft choice for CB Aqib Talib and Tampa Bay’s 2013 7th rounder. Talib instantly turned the secondary around and helped the Patriots reach the 2012 AFC Championship Game. Unfortunately, Talib only lasted two series against Baltimore before injuring his thigh. Patriots fans have nightmares about the subsequent series of events, namely Anquan Boldin catching 5 balls for 60 yards and two touchdowns on the undersized and outmanned Marquice Cole. Talib returned to form in 2013 and proved that he possessed the talent to compete with the best receivers in the NFL. In 13 games, he finished with 4 interceptions, 13 pass deflections, 38 tackles, and a forced fumble. The Patriots filled a massive void with their signing of Talib. Unfortunately, Talib left both AFC Championship Games with a lower body injury and cost his team a potential trip to the Super Bowl.

Rob Ninkovich (2009)

A three year castoff veteran out of Purdue, DE Rob Ninkovich was picked up by Belichick in 2009 for 3 years and a measly $2.185 million. He later earned a 3 year, $13.65 million extension in 2013 after consistent play in New England. When Belichick signed Ninkovich, he saw in him something that few other General Manager’s saw. After spending a year learning the defense and improving his game, Ninkovich has accumulated 34.5 sacks in his past five seasons. Additionally, he continually manufactured big plays in key moments. He has 9 forced fumbles, 13 fumble recoveries, and 5 interceptions in his career with New England. Ninkovich has provided consistent production in his time with the Patriots, appearing in his last 80 regular season games and posting three consecutive seasons with 8 sacks.

R.I.P Court Storming

Posted: February 26, 2015 in Old Sull

What can you say about court storming? He* was a hell of a guy.  The type of guy that you hoped to end every game with.  He was a blast and the source of memories at every level of competition across the world.  He had great intentions and had never harmed a soul.  From doing it prematurely:

MOEN

To random moments of pure jubilation:

CS1

CS2

CS4

I will never forget the time I met court storming.  Yes I met this legend.  I was at the Division 2 NCAA Men’s Basketball Finals in 2007.  Winona was the defending national champion and had won 57 consecutive games.  They were up 6 shooting free throws with 47 seconds left and then it got real.  PLEASE watch how the events unfolded in the link below.  Hands down the best game I have ever witnessed.

Anyways it was at this point that I met court storming and boy was it electric.  14 year old me was king of the world running around the Mass Mutual Center in Springfield, MA.  And like all great stories I embellished the shit out of it the next day in my 8th grade class.

But you are gone now court storming. Gone but never forgotten.  RIP.

Anyways, I know what you are thinking “Old Sull, why on gods earth did you just make me read 199 words of a fake eulogy to court storming.”  Because reader, court storming is coming to an end at a rapid pace for two reasons.  One, because it poses a great risk to the players on the opposing teams.  I know that sounds soft but the truth is it is unavoidable that someone attacked an opposing player.  Although this week’s incident at the Kansas vs Kansas State Men’s Basketball game:

RUINING IT

Did not cause any serious injury, it is exactly the spark that the NCAA needs to ban something they disapprove of anyway.  It was only a matter of time before some drunk co-ed attacked a player which would be inevitably followed by a law suit.  So, although court storming is not dead yet I wanted to practice writing my eulogy because the writing is on the wall.  It sucks, but court storming is a dead man walking.

*Yes I made court storming a male because like most of the court storming’s have been at male events by males.  Also cause it just didn’t feel like a she.  Sorry feminists.

Let’s be honest though, court storming was becoming a little watered down.  It was something that everyone wanted to be a part of so as time went on people began to force the issue and it started to become the “cool” thing to do instead of the appropriate thing to do.

Even though court storming will be gone soon, I wanted to come up with a few quick fast do’s and don’ts for court storming.

  1. You CAN storm the court if you beat a Top 15 team in the country while being unranked
  2. You CAN storm the court if you are from a lesser division, a la Appalachian State or a D2 school beating a Division 1.
  3. You CANNOT storm the court in a rivalry game.
    1. You have played each other enough that this is not warranted. I don’t know this one makes sense in my head.
  4. You CAN storm the court if you win on a buzzer beater.
  5. You CANNOT storm the court if pride your school on its history and success
    1. What I mean by this is don’t claim to be the royalty of the sport and be in the upper echelon of programs and then want to storm the court like regular fans. This applies mostly to Kentucky, UNC, Duke, and Kansas in basketball and Alabama, Michigan, Ohio State, and Notre Dame in football.

That is all that I could think to set in stone right now.  Disagree with me with? Leave a comment.  Want to add to the list? Leave a comment.  Seriously please. I need page views and/or interactions.

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Coming off a 1-4 road trip and with the news of Bruins center David Krecji expected to miss 4-6 weeks and defenseman Kevan Miller out for the season, the panic button has been pressed on the Boston Bruins. The Bruins have been woeful in their own end, Tuukka Rask has been pedestrian more times than not, Chara looks as though he is moving at half speed, and finding the back of the net has been almost as challenging as remembering that General Manager Peter Chiarelli put the Bruins in this very position. The state of the Black and Gold as of February 24th, 2015 is rather bleak.

Which is why I am not worried (yet). The Boston Bruins are currently in the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference. They have 23 regular season games remaining and 12/23 are against teams currently out of the playoffs and the trade deadline has yet to pass. Point being, the team we are (reluctantly) watching right now is not necessarily the team we will be watching in mid-April. In the past, highly successful regular season campaigns have been the foundation for wildly disappointing postseasons. Too many times Bruins fans have overestimated their teams’ potential based on their position in February. Those same fans are guilty of rushed judgment, only this time, they are failing to recognize the potential of this group. The NHL Playoffs are polarizing because the best team does not always win. Seeds don’t matter, home ice does not matter. As long as the Bruins have the ticket to the dance, anything can happen. I have taken a look back on the previous six seasons which strongly indicate that using Boston’s regular season performance to determine their postseason outcome would be a grave mistake.

2008-2009: After finishing 1st in the Eastern Conference, eight points better than the next best team, the Bruins were bounced in the conference semi-finals by the Carolina Hurricanes. The decisive Game 7 loss to Carolina came at home and even worse, in overtime. A dominant regular season was quickly erased by a mediocre performance against a good, not great Carolina team.

2009-2010: This campaign will be forever remembered by two major events: the trade of star forward Phil Kessel for three draft picks (notably Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton) and an epic collapse to the Philadelphia Flyers. After slightly overachieving (the Bruins finished 6th in the Eastern Conference) and the emergence of Tuukka Rask, the Bruins found themselves within a game of the Eastern Conference Finals before blowing a 3-0 series lead to the Flyers (including a 3-0 lead in Game 7 at home).

2010-2011: A 3rd place finish in the regular season was almost spoiled by the Bruins’ arch rival, Montreal, in the opening series. The Bruins failed to capitalize on a 3-2 series lead and needed a one timer from Nathan Horton in double overtime to dispose of the feisty Canadians. Led by a resurgent Tim Thomas and breakout performances from Brad Marchand, David Krejci, and Patrice Bergeron, the Bruins won the Stanley Cup for the first time in 39 years.

2011-2012: The defending Stanley Cup champions showed few signs of slowing up en route to a 102 point, second place finish. However, they ran into a third string goalie Braden Holtby and a gritty, skilled Washington Capitals. The Bruins lost in Game 7 in overtime (a familiar theme), a bitter disappointment after a strong regular season campaign.

2012-2013: In a lockout shortened season, Boston finished 3rd in the Eastern Conference but it is Game 7 of the 2013 Eastern Conference quarterfinals that will forever live in Bruins history. Down 4-1 to the Toronto Maple Leafs with just under ten minutes to play, the Bruins mounted a furious comeback and went on to win on an overtime goal by Patrice Bergeron. Following a near first round playoff exit (and what threatened to be the second in as many years), the Bruins steamrolled the rest of the Eastern Conference and eventually fell to a superb, deep Chicago Blackhawks team in six games.

2013-2014: The Bruins finished first in the Eastern Conference with a gaudy 117 points, eight better than Pittsburgh. The addition of Jarome Iginla fortified their top two lines and provided reason to believe this team was poised for a deep postseason run. After dispatching Detroit in 5 games, Boston fell to Montreal in Game 7 in what was an uninspiring, mind-bogglingly ineffective seven game stretch for the Bruins. Outplayed, outcoached, and outhustled, the Bruins lost the series clinching game in front of the Boston faithful marking the third year in a row the Bruins season ended on home ice.

Postseason success is generally predicated upon strong goaltending, effective penalty kill, a sound forecheck, and opportunistic hockey. This last element is the most difficult to anticipate and predict because it represents what is so endearing about hockey. One deflection, unfortunate roll of the stick, or screen of the goalie can be the difference between advancing and casting a line earlier than one would like. While the Bruins have certainly experienced a far more tumultuous regular season than year’s past, it is important to understand that regular season success has not been an overly effective predictor of postseason success for Boston. Additionally, as much talk as there is about home ice advantage, of Boston’s last five playoff exits, all have come at the Garden including four ‘all or nothing’ Game 7’s. If the Bruins do in fact make the playoffs, they will almost certainly be without home ice advantage.

Appreciate and enjoy that the Bruins have made the playoffs six years in a row, with a possible seventh on the horizon. Their 2014-2015 campaign has been marred with injuries, defensive breakdowns, power play ineptitude, and volatile goaltending. With that said, there are roughly 8 weeks between now and the end of the regular season including the trade deadline. Far be it for me to use the Bruins regular season as a means to project their postseason endeavors. As history would suggest, that would be futile.

Nba all star gameFor all 200 viewers of this site I would like to introduce myself. SUP! I’m Old Sull (My preferred nick name is inappropriate) and I am the former host of Show of the Year Jock Talk and Ian asked me to join the staff so here I am.  Some quick facts:

  • No this isn’t my first blog, my internship this summer which paid as much as this blog does ($0/ hour) required me to blog and they’re written in my corporate voice so no I’m not posting a link to them.
  • I’m a Boston Sports Fan
    • Small clause, that doesn’t apply to college sports. For college I am a die hard Wisconsin Badgers Fan
  • I am a degenerate gambler
  • Expect some drogs (new term I’m gonna try to coin for drunk blogs)
  • I plan on writing like I speak so please don’t tell me I spelled something wrong or pretend to be offended by my swearing. This is how I would tell you to your face so that’s how I am going to do it over the internet

SO, for all of you that hate the NBA All Star weekend, I’ll start this blog with the quick and dirty version of the weekend (with lots of pictures).

What you need to know:

Kevin Hart showed up (simply to promote a movie which actually looks good, but that’s a story for another day

Kevin hart 1

He got dominated by the future of UCONN basketball Mo’ne Davis

kevin hart 2

And somehow was able to force enough jokes to win MVP

kevin hart 3Steph Curry DOMINATED the three point contest, confirming what everyone already knew, no one is scarier 30 ft from the basket than Steph

http://www.nba.com/news/2015-three-point-contest-event-page/ (click the link to watch cause we’re poor and can’t figure out how to embed videos)

JJ Reddick pretends he is still shooting from the Duke 3 point line.  But he was a good sport about it as you can see from his tweet:

JJ Redick        ✔ @JJRedick

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Just found out that I set the record for most long 2s in a 3 Point Contest. Ever. Couldn’t be prouder.

12:26 AM – 15 Feb 2015

(Sorry no one screenshotted this tweet. We are learning as we go.  I know I’m not as professional as bone, leave me alone)

Zach Levine (WHO?) won the dunk contest in convincing fashion with moves I couldn’t do with a nerf ball on a 5 foot hoop

dunk 1And finally there was the All Star game aka Carmelo’s last “game” of the season. A game in which no one played defense and Steph Curry stole the show, again.

pass

Best fact from the all star game is in a game when no one plays defense and everyone scores, somehow Carmelo epitomized his career and had 0 assists.

One final takeaway from the weekend is whoever scheduled this event is definitely looking for a new job now.  Why on gods earth you would schedule it on the same night in the same town as SNL 40 is mind boggling.  Me living the blogger life I was forced to watch the whole game just to bring that hard hitting fact to you. So I hope you guys are happy.

Now for the part none of you are looking forward to, my opinion on the weekend and all-star games in general.  I personally think everyone needs to lighten up a little bit.  This is not supposed to be as intense as a playoff game or even a regular season game.  This game counts for nothing (and thank god it doesn’t) so no I don’t expect lock down defense on what is a night off for most NBA players.

To use an overused saying, this weekend is what it is.  There are only so many ways to dunk a basketball and watching someone shoot threes is fun for 10 minutes.  They’ve tried to add events like the rising stars game and skills competition neither have been a huge hit.  But the bottom line is it’s not going to change, so stop acting disappointed every year.  You’re not going to get a high stakes competition.  I will say this does bother me though

group photo

I know I was young, but I miss the days when players hated each other.  I don’t want to get into it cause I get too riled up and I’m in Philosophy of Art and that just wouldn’t fly, but God damn.  You’re competing with these guys for the ultimate goal.  The pinnacle of your sport. A championship!!!!!! Hello?!  You can be friends another time but for now, the guys I want in my fox hole are guys like KG who would do anything to rattle the opponent to win (i.e your wife tastes like honey nut Cherrio’s).  I’m not asking them to spit on each other during an All Star game but you don’t need to take a picture after that looks like the caption should be “friend’s forver”.

I feel like it’s the popular thing right now to just trash All Star games on social media because we are exposed to 3 in the first two months of the year, beginning with the NFL, followed by the NHL, and finally the NBA All Star weekend.  At every single event the public just releases a unanimous groan and bitches about how they’ve seen it all before and no one’s trying.  While I agree with these gripes and I see their point, these fake games are not meant to invigorate you because they are not sporting events.  They do not invoke competition and you rarely identify with more than one or two guys.  So just sit back and appreciate their extreme athleticism and abilities.  Or do not watch and take a break from the sport, like most of the players are. But don’t act like this is a surprise, like I said, it is what it is.

With all that being said I think there are some fun ways to spice up the All-Star games, don’t play the sport.  Take these people out of their comfort zone and have them do events where they look human, are stripped of their arrogance, and they can get competitive again.  Just throw in events that are a joke and do them all day and put it all in one day.  Have a ping pong tournament, a pie eating contest (this mostly applies to the NFL Pro-Bowl), water pong, or even beer pong who knows.  But I love the idea of just taking a break from the sport and joking around because pretending like the game means something is pointless and you can see right through it.  It is not a game, it never will be and the sooner we can all agree on that we’ll all be better off.

PS-I cried writing this blog because February sucks, I have post football depression, and all I want is March Madness.