Sunday, May 31, 2009

Wings go for 12

Ok, time to do a stanley cup finals preview, especially after the wings took game one from the penguins and miss cindy last night. I'll fully admit I was a bit concerned going into this game. The wings have injuries and the short rest and the three games in four days that raised the possibility of things getting out of hand in a hurry. And I'll also admit the victory was pretty ugly, a couple of strange bounces led to Wings goals and the insurance goal came from our fourth line guy who scored his first NHL goal an awesome play where he grabbed his own rebound and sent it flying past the Pen goalie Flurry. It was a gritty win. I love what a gritty team the Wings have become. And winning game 1 is huge. As I learned last night, 78% of the teams that win game one go on to win the Finals...Not much of a preview but there it is.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

My Obsessive Lions Thoughts Part 1

I have this awful habit of obsessively reading the comments on the Mlive Lions stories. There lives an opinionated and misguided bunch of Lions fans who are severely damaged by following such a lousy team. This is my response to a lot of what they've written about the Lions recent new general manager and head coach and the draft and everything else.

Let's start with the fired Matt Millen. Even back in 2001, William Clay Ford Sr. was at the back end of the days in pro sports when the charming but over-matched ex-jock is put in charge. While teams like the Oakland A's and Boston Red Sox in baseball were hiring super smart people to create new systems and statistical models to sees things objectively and win with less or spend a lot smarter, the Lions left it up to the wisdom of Millen's mustache and gut. Millen lurched from one cascading poor decision to the next, making mistakes from the get go like firing the experienced coach he inherited and then hiring the first hugeley under-qualified coach he interviewed. He never really ever put a plan or system into place, drafted horrifically and then insisted that his coaches play those players (most famously QB Joey Harrington). After the disaster of the west coast system, they brought in the tampa two but both these systems - practiced by the respective coaches in their purest form were already passe in NFL circles. Needless to say, after Millen was fired, and the team went 0-16, we have hit a monumentally low point. Maybe the lowest point ever.

Of course they should blow it up, fire everybody, yada yada yada. But the Lions kept the promotions in-house and so far I have to say Martin Mayhew, Millen's GM replacement, is doing a good job. First this guy does not appear to have the ego of a Matt Millen. He is not putting this thing on him. He is instilling a system and a philosophy and understands this is going to be a long term rebuild. He has already swung three pretty good trades (which are rare in the NFL) kick starting the rebuilding process with a 1st and 3rd round pick from the Cowboys for Roy Williams, shipping off had it with Motown QB Jon Kitna for secondary help and trading under-performing and overpaid Cory Reding for a much needed all pro linebacker (and former Spartan!) Julian Peterson. I get the feeling that if he makes a decision or is wrong about the player, he will cut his losses and move on. I don't think Millen had this in him.

His coaching hire was top notch and not many fans have complained about Jim Schwartz. He has a bit of a southern everyman charm but I think this guy will always be thinking 3 or 4 steps ahead. Perhaps the most controversial decision was drafting Matthew Stafford #1, the potential franchise QB out of Georgia. To say Lions fans were not happy would be a bit of understatement. We've seen this movie before. (Great, we go from Joey to Matthew) But given that we are starting fresh with a new head coach and offensive coordinator, we can now build our team and system around a guy who did pretty well as a SEC quarterback. I think this has a good chance of working out. Not sure why everybody wants to call him a bust before he starts his first training camp.

We have to draft defense! That's what the angry masses post. And this is true, our defense was monumentally and historically bad last year. We started the season with three straight games of being down 21-0. In the last two years, we've given up 50 points on multiple occasions. That's Oklahoma vs. Slippery Rock stuff. So we are looking at a long term rebuild. It's like a horrible financial position, we need to let this unwind before rebuilding. We need veterans (which they have signed) to fill the immediate holes and we need to have our new coaching staff figure out if some of these young guys who did not play so well did so because they suck or poor coaching.

Rebuild the O-line I was a bit confused by the Lions 2nd selection when it happened. A tight end? I know that position has been a disastor forever for the Lions, but we have such larger needs. But we did get a "stud" here and when you think about it a tight end is an offensive lineman/receiver hybrid. So this guy can help out the line and also help out our new quarterback. Our offensive line - like our defense - is a long term rebuild. I watched some lowlights of the Lions on the NFL network and it was amazing how out of position our offensive line was to make plays. I know we know what we have with Jeff Backus and Domenic Raoila - they will need to be upgraded in the future - but for now they will have to do. Hopefully our first rounder from last year Gosder will put it together and Daniel Loper, the free agent from the Titans who followed Coach Schwartz here, will contribute in a big way. All we got was projects on the offensive line, so that's what it will be, a huge project.

Drafting Another Safety in the Second Round This was the third out the last four years in the draft that the Lions drafted a safety. We already spent high picks on a safety, why do it again? Although, again, the Lions have a lot of needs I like they are building on a strength here. The Lions drafted two young safeties who appear to be working out and now we have third. Let's build on a relative position of strength. Plus, we got the top safety in the draft and one pick after ours New England took a safety. Maybe we do know something now.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Red Wings Flag Flies in the Desert

This is why hockey won't work in Phoenix, or Southern California or most points South. Because anybody who is a hockey fan and lives in Phoenix, most likely grew up somewhere else and likes the team he followed as a kid. And chances are if they did grow up in Arizona, they are not hockey fans and are not likely to follow a perennial loser like the Coyotes.

Gretzky lives in the swank Phoenix suburb of Scottsdale. A sports bar not far from his house flies several sports flags from its awning.

But the Phoenix Coyotes flag is nowhere to be seen. In its place ruffles the flag of the Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings.

Nobody's Taking that Stanley Cup from the Red Wings

It just feels damn good to be a Red Wings fan right now. The team is playing well and finding ways to win and getting goals from their role players. The Stanley Cup is still out there a ways in the distance but it's becoming clearer, just seven wins to keep that thing in Detroit for another season. Two consecutive decades where we've won the cup back to back. That just rocks.

This playoffs has seen the next generation of Wings players assert themselves. Hard to believe, Kirk Maltby and Chris Chelios are healthy scratches (maybe not so much for Capitain America, the dude is just old) and Kris Draper needs to be put out to pasture. Sorry, Drapes. But that is the truth. ("You see this quarter, it used to be a nickel.") They've got all these young dudes who fly. All with much more complex and foreign names to learn and pronounce (ok, Cleary and Franzen not so hard) but as long as they wear the wing wheeled of the Red Wings, it's all good.

Even though the NHL is run by a bunch of dudes who could not sell water in the desert (or at least hockey), they got themselves lucky with the original six match-up this round, the Red Wings vs. the Blackhawks. The seasoned veterans vs. the young kids from Chicago. This is storied, I heard this it was the 704th game the teams played on Sunday. A re-match of New Year's Day Winter Classic.

No predictions from me, except that the Red Wings will win. I'm pretty sure the Blackhawks are pretty happy they got as far as they have. They were not even in the playoffs for the past few seasons (maybe longer - too lazy to do research) And I don't know how you can possibly predict how many games a hockey series will go. I just hope the Red Wings don't make it close, give em' any hope.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Acceptance...It's Going to be a Long Road to Mediocrity

I took a look back at the Lions schedule and realized I witnessed their last win (at home vs. Kansas City December 23, 2007 - a real uninspiring victory) and their last win on the road (against the Bears at Soldier Field on October 28, 2007.)

That's right. It is very possible, and probable, that the Lions could go two years without a victory on the road. Which, by the way, is not even close to their record. Remember they went 2001, 2002 and 2003 without wins on the road. Three seasons!

Before they lost seven of their last eight in 2007, the Lions actually won two road games. Which, if you are aware of the recent history of the Lions, is a monumental achievement. Let's take a spin in the recent way back machine.

2008 - Didn't win nothing nowhere.
2007 - 7 wins two on the road (Oakland, Chicago)
2006 - 3 Wins for the season and somehow beat Dallas on the Road
2005 - 5 wins and two road victories at Cleveland and New Orleans
2004 - 6 Wins. A Golden age for the 00s Lions on the road with wins at Chicago, Atlanta and NY Giants.
2003 - 5 wins. Lost all 8 road games
2002 - 3 Wins. Lost all 8 Road Games
2001- 2 wins. Lost all 8 Road Games.

So our road record for the past 8 seasons is 8-56. That makes the 31-97 overall record over that same span look downright respectable.

Unfortunately I have become addicted to the Mlive Lions forum and it is insane how some of these people think the Lions are going to win 6 or 8 games. Make the playoffs, etc,

Think about this. We average less than four wins per season and one win on the road in the last eight years. I know past failures don't necessarily mean we can possibly suck this bad in the future...but let's get real...we got to crawl before we can walk.

We no doubt will be improved with competent coaching and new players but we have a long ways to go. To paraphrase former Lions coach Marty Morningwhig (5-27 record over the 2001-2002 seasons) the bar is low. Let's take the wind.

Four wins would be incredible. Seriously. Expectations could not be lower.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Wings was Robbed

"If it ain't rough, it ain't right."

That's what the Pistons used to say but now it's happening to the Red Wings. (BTW look at Chauncey Billips and the Nuggets making it look easy against the Mavs in the NBA playoffs.)

Last night the Wings lost game three to the Ducks and find themselves down 2 games to one. The Ducks took back the home ice "advantage" after a late Wings goal was disallowed when the referee lost sight of a clearly loose puck. So not only did the Wings lose, but they lost in a pretty demoralizing way. If that goal had been properly allowed, we'd be looking at overtime (again) and the Wings with the momentum.

To be honest, and this might be blasphemous, but this is shaping up to be a exciting series. I am looking forward to the Wings battling back and winning this thing. As nice as it was to win the Stanley Cup last year, no team ever gave them a good fight. There was only a spell in the first series with the Nashville Predators where a team threatened to take control of a series. After they put out that fire they rolled onto victory.

Since the game last night was on the west coast and started late, I fell asleep way before the ending, so I did not have that full emotional investment in the last minute debacle. But I think this will give the Wings "us against the world" attitude they will need to win this series and continue on to the Stanley Cup.

Of course all that being said, the Wings absolutely need to win this next game. It's a must win. We can't be going down 3-1. That would be really bad. But this next game will be huge and I can't wait to see how the Wings respond and win this game.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

2008 Lions Calender Update

This is a repost. As a gift for Christmas 2007, I received a 2008 Lions Calendar. Thankfully this past Christmas I was spared that gift. Let's take a look at who was "featured" and where they are now.

Lions 2008 Calendar Update:

January - Jon "10 Win" Kitna Traded to Dallas March 2009
February - Kenoy Kennedy Released March 2008
March - Jeff "False Start" Backus
April - Boss Bailey Not re-signed. Signed by Denver Broncos March 2008.
May - Mike "Call Me' Furrey Released February 2009
June - Ernie "You See, the Lions Can't Mess Up All Their First Round Draft Picks" Sims
July - Dan "Are You Sure He's on the Team" Campbell Released February 2009
August - Cory "Better Step Up This Year" Redding Traded to Seattle March 2009
September - Kalimba Edwards Released March 2008
October - Kevin Jones Released March 2008
November - Fernando Bryant Released February 2008
December - Roy "Not Here Much Longer" Williams Traded to Dallas October 2008

Lions Let Their Dead Wood Float Away

I'm not sure how the Detroit Lions new free agent signings and draft picks will turn out but I do like who they are getting rid of.

The latest was Brian Calhoun, a third round draft pick in 2006. As Al pointed at the Wayne Fontes Experience, Calhoun who always seemed to be injured, finishes his 3 year career with the Lions with a grand total of 99 yards from scrimmage. He was more successful as a kick returner, with 221 yards in returns. Talk about Another One Bites the Dust. This leaves only Ernie Sims and Daniel Bullocks from the 2006 draft, though both are starters making it one of the most successful drafts in recent Lions history.

This comes after the release of 2008 free agent signing disasters CB Travis Fisher and TE Michael Gaines, who were let go after they began participation in off season workouts. Sorry guys.

And then there was the big purge on the first day the Lions could get rid of players, done went CB Leigh Bodden, TE Dan Campbell, T Jon Dunn, WR Mike Furrey, G Edwin Mulitalo, S Dwight Smith and LB Anthony Cannon. MLB Paris Lenon, DT Shaun Cody,RB Rudi Johnson, QB Dan Orlovsky and WR Shaun McDonald were not resigned. In better news, Jon Kitna was traded to Dallas and Cory Redding to Seattle for actual football players.

The way it looks now, the Lions will have at least six new starters on defense this season, (Free Safety, 2 Cornerbacks, Middle Linebacker, Strong Side Linebacker, Defensive Tackle) with the potential for more.

Also interesting was the signing of WR Steve Sanders on January 5th. It turned out after the Lions acquired free agent wide receivers Bryant Johnson and Ronald Curry and drafted Derrick Williams, he was no longer needed. He was released on May 4th.