Monday, December 28, 2009

Red Wing Pavel Datsyuk on what he enjoys most about hockey

"I enjoy the passing game the most, when you don't just take the puck, dump it and then chase it, but when you have this understanding with your partners on the ice and create a great move... Just like the old style Soviet hockey. It doesn't happen very often, but it does happen."

From a now classic Puck Daddy blog interview with Pavel Datsyuk. (Part 1 and Part 2)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Week XV Picks

Week 14 was my return to form. A double digit win total (10) is always impressive when picking NFL games against the spread. So I hope to keep it alive in Week 15, although it does get tougher as the season goes on. Almost makes more sense to have your pet monkey make the picks.

Colts (-6.5) vs Jaguars - Lost this one although the latest line was Colts -3 so if that was correct put one in the win column. Better question is how a 13-0 team can surrender 31 points to Jacksonville. That may not get them too far in the playoffs.

Cowboys (+7.5) vs Saints - I love the Saints. They are my team now. But can't quite get on the right side of the line with these guys lately. This is a going to be a high scoring affair but hoping the Cowboys can keep it within a touchdown.

Cardinals (+10.5) vs Lions - Will be a track meet and relay race for the Cardinals. So many injuries for the Lions and such a porous secondary. Should be brutal. And I will be there to witness it.

Bills (+7.5) vs Patriots - Where once this game was the quick and the dead, now it's the dead and the dead. Bills come through for me. You've been good to me this year.

Dolphins (-3.5) vs Titans - Dolphins got more to play for. A real chance at the playoffs and all. So if they don't win there's something wrong.

Browns (+2.5) vs Chiefs - As a Lions fan I hope the Browns win so the Lions can move into the 3rd spot for the 2010 draft.

Texans (-9.5) vs Rams - Their season now irrelevant, the Texans can now beat up on the women and children.

Falcons (+6.5) vs Jets - The Jets may win this game but they will not cover, or at least that's what I'm hoping.

Eagles (-7.5) vs 49ers - Kind of a big spread but the Eagles are now a scoring machine and the 49ers not so much although the Eagles defense is not so good either.

Chargers (-6.5) vs Bengals - The Chargers are for real and the Bengals should play well but long trip and an emotional week. RIP Chris Henry.

Broncos (+13.5) vs Raiders - This is so many points to give away to the Broncos but the Raiders will be starting their 3rd string quarterback and the Broncos have been beating up on their AFC West brethren all season.

Packers (+.5) vs Steelers - The Packers may be for real. They could run the table the rest of the year and they are only two seasons removed from their Conference Championship home loss.

Seahawks (-7.5) vs Buccaneers - Seahawks are completely non-competitive on the road yet win at home.

Vikings (-7.5) vs Panthers - Two in a row I take teams that are more than touchdown favorites. I must be crazy.

Redskins (+3.5) vs Giants - Fighting some inner compulsions here, but the Redskins got the spoiler smell about them.

Last Week: 10-6
Season: 111-97

Friday, December 11, 2009

Two Touchdowns In (Week 14 Picks)

A rare Thursday night win for me. Not only did the lowly Cleveland Browns cover they beat the now reeling Steelers. I'll let that victory set the tone for my picks. Go with the underdogs.

Ravens (-13.5) vs Lions - Looks to be another dismal Sunday for the Lions. Rookie Stafford will not be playing making the game not worth watching.

Saints (-9.5) vs Falcons - This is a pretty steep line but the Falcons got smoked at home by a team that is not nearly as good as the Saints last week.

Colts (-7.5) vs Broncos - It's just never wise to bet against Indy. Can't see the Broncos able to keep up with all the scoring.

Bills (-.5) vs Chiefs - Gotta pick one team.

Jets (-3.5) vs Buccaneers - I don't think the Jets are going to the playoffs but I'm pretty sure they will have no trouble beating Tampa on the road.

Dolphins (+2.5) vs Jaguars - Dolphins are a strange team. Hope they keep their recent December winning streak alive.

Seahawks (+6.5) vs Texans - Texans are done.

Bengals (+6.5) vs Vikings - Hoping for a low scoring affair.

Panthers (+13.5) vs Patriots - New England is winning this game. Just not convinced it will be a blowout. But if it is I would not be surprised.

Rams (+12.5) vs Titans - A lot of points for the Titans. Too many.

Raiders (+1.5) vs Redskins - Gotta pick one team.

Chargers (+3.5) vs Cowboys - Tough call. Cowboys desperately need this game. But the Chargers are on cruise control.

Eagles (+.5) vs Giants - Could easily go either way on this game.

Cardinals (-3.5) vs 49ers - Taking the Cardinals because I am so disgusted the 49ers lost to Seattle last week.

Last Week: 5-11
Season: 101-91

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Nuggets Visit Pistons (So We Can Witness the Ghost of What Might Have Been)

Hard to believe we're a quarter of the way through the NBA season. And we already have a pretty good idea how it will end. With Kobe and the Lakers winning the championship. The only thing we can hope to break this inevitable finish is injuries or maybe a massive SoCal earthquake.

As for the Pistons, they are a team in search of an identity. The only starter left from the 2004-2005 Finals magic time is Ben Wallace who returns after his prodigal paydays in Chicago and Cleveland. Rip Hamilton and Tashyn Prince are technically still on the roster but injuries have kept them out of the lineup. And the longer they don't play the more it makes sense to trade them. Because in the upside down world of the NBA, it makes more sense to have that season where you bottom out, get a lottery pick and hopefully also have enough salary cap room cleared to bring in a free agent. I assume since Rip Hamilton re-upped last year it could be prohibitive to trade his contract but the guy is a running around pull-up jump shot scoring machine, maybe somebody in the western conference will order that up.

More painful is Tashyn Prince. When we see Chanucey Billups at the Palace with Carmelo Anthony, Pistons fans will see what might have been if Joe Dumars picked Anthony in the 2004 draft rather than Darko. The reason for gambling on the Serbian big man was we already had Tashyn at small forward, and it did make a lot of sense at the time, but Prince seems to have worn himself out the past few years (extended playoff runs and the olympics) and more of a defensive role player than a high scoring superstar like Anthony (40 tonight in Detroit although in a losing cause.) And now he has a bad back. The beginning of the end. A career killer.

The Pistons aren't drawing fans and I have a theory for this. The continuing economic woes of Michigan is the main culprit but fans have a hard time following a team on the decline. In recent years the interest and intensity of fans for their Detroit teams has been strongest for the team on the rise; first the Red Wings, then the Pistons and then the Tigers. The Red Wings are a separate case because they have been so good, so long. And won champions four times across 12 seasons. The Tigers were so bad for so long, and then out of nowhere a World Series appearance and then an aggressive front office to get them back there. The Pistons meanwhile run on the fumes after the over-achieving mid 2000s team. And the much celebrated Joe Dumars may be over-rated. Who built a team that dominated (at times) for an impressive stretch (six straight conference championship appearances.) But now let's blow this up, bottom out and began another rise.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Tigers Trade Granderson

This is why I hate major league baseball. But I suppose it's the same for all professional sports. It's as much about business as the games played. Look at the NBA. When they make a trade they don't really exchange players but dysfunctional contracts.

Yes, it's a ruthless business when you trade your most popular player to the league's most hated team. Where Curtis Granderson became a luxury the Tigers could not afford the New York Yankees see him as a low-cost solution to their need to get younger, have more speed and maintain their lefty power hitting.

In a parallel universe maybe Granderson finishes his career with the Tigers and adds his name to the greats who spent their whole careers with the team. Based on the outpouring of emotion that followed news of the trade, a lot of Tigers fans would have preferred that ending. Now Granderson gets to be a New York Yankee and spend at least the next three years chasing World Series Titles.

Mack Avenue Tigers said it best about the trade and Granderson, "...It's a bit like putting your girlfriend on a bus to Hollywood, as she leaves you to try to break it big in movies. I'm happy for him to get that opportunity, but ... he was ours, and kind of a big deal and important figure in the state of Michigan."

I live in New York City, and hate the Yankees, but to see and hear about them all the time you need to have a game within a game. Players you love to hate and players who though they may be Yankees are not so bad. It'll be nice to follow Granderson as he takes his place in the Bronx.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Wings New York City Road Trip

I unfortunately missed the Wings road trip to New York this weekend. Two games in two nights is a rare occurrence in these parts and the Wings made the most of it. While they lost to the Devils in a shootout at the Prudential Center Saturday night they rebounded Sunday to beat the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. So three out of a possible four points culminating with a fine Jimmy Howard performance Sunday against the Rangers. Not a bad weekend.

It's been a tough road for the Wings since that horrible night in June when they dropped game 7 to the Pittsburgh Penguins. My heart and thoughts go out to fans of any team that makes it to a game 7 and doesn't close out the championship. You go all that way with your team only to watch another team take it all. For Detroit fans it turned out to be the second time in 4 years that not only did our teams lose a game 7 championship but came one game short of being back-to-back champions.

And things haven't improved for the Wings since then. They continue to get older and lost key players to free agency and started this season with a number of injuries to their top line forwards. Though it's still early, the Wings are on the playoff bubble at 9th place in the conference standings.

But hell it's only been five months since the Wings finished their Stanly Cup run. We still have a good 5 months before the 2009-10 season regular season is over. It's hard to get your head into hockey or basketball when football is still playing. I'll meet you there in February.

In better news, and hopefully given for what the Wings are instead of what they have been, Coach Mike Babcock and GM Ken Holland were named #1 respectively as coach and GM of the decade by the Yahoo Puck Daddy Blog.

Mike Babcock honors include his stint with Anaheim. I know there are rumblings that the players don't like Babcock but he has picked up where Scotty Bowman left off and is a more fiery presence than the docile Dave Lewis.

Kenny Holland proved that he could win both with money swinging big trades and in the salary cap era. His moves are further proof of my own hypothesis that often the best business and monetary decisions lead to the best results on the rink. Of course it was tough to lose Marian Hossa who the Wings might have kept had they had salary cap space. But the way Holland has drafted, and the way the organization takes the time to season the prospects in juniors and the minors before they join the team has meant the Wings have not lost a competitive step the whole decade.

Sometimes You Eat the Bar and Sometimes...

Perhaps the gods sensed my sarcasm when I titled my picks post 'Lucky Week 13'. Because as it turned out I had no luck or maybe it's I got no skill. Because I'm licking my wounds after a disastrous Sunday. The secret to my fine record this season is consistency. Never doing great but slow steady results, In fact, this is only my second losing week of the season. But both have been epic. While not quite as bad as my 3 win week 8, this could turn out to be only one game better.

Analyze. Where did I go wrong? First of all I was an idiot to choose so many big favorites. Basically any team that was an 8.5 points or higher favorite did not cover and I picked all of them including the Bengals (won by 10, spread 13.5), the Bears (won by 8, spread 8.5), the Saints (won by 3, spread 8.5), the Steelers (lost by 3, spread 11.5) and the Chargers (won by 7, spread 12.5). Why I picked all the favorites with such high point spreads I'm still trying to figure out. But that's the killer right there. The difference between a good week and an epic fail.

Then I broke one of my golden rules: never bet against Indy. They easily covered 7 in beating the Titans. And then I took the Texans. Huh, did I really do that. They were done last week after blowing the lead to Indy.

Which leaves the rest of the games? The four I did win (Eagles, Broncos, Dolphins & Giants) and shoulder shrug losers Vikings to Cardinals, 49ers to Seahawks and Bucs to Panthers.

Better luck and more research next week.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Lucky Week 13

This is the big week where I can cross the threshold of 100 games picked correctly and get closer to that magic .500% and over line of 128. However, I find myself down a game already because as per this season I was on the wrong end of picking the correct winner/line of the NY Jets game Thursday night. I thought the Bills would come through (after they let me down and beat the Dolphins this past Sunday) but the Jets were able to win the field goal contest (4-2) and grind out a 19-13 victory.

That's ok, I'll just have to think a little harder for my Sunday picks, which are:

Cincinnati Bengals (-13.5) vs. Detroit Lions - Quite the point spread against my beloved Lions but I know we're always capable of losing big. I think the Bengals are going to let Carson Palmer air it out even more than usual and should have a career day against the Lions secondary.

Philadelphia Eagles (-4.5) vs Atlanta Falcons - Back and forth on this game given the injuries to both teams. Impossible to predict how the Eagles will play from week to week. But they need to grind out a victory this week and Atlanta is without their starting quarterback and have a weak defense.

Chicago Bears (-8.5) vs St Louis Rams
- I've been picking the Rams the last couple weeks to cover and it's never come through. And with the over-rated toothless Bears on their schedule you would think's it's the week for them to do it. But I think Jay Cutler takes out the frustration of the whole season on the Rams and wins this one pretty easily.

Tennessee Titans (+ 6.5) vs Indianapolis Colts
- Finally going underdog with the Titans even if does violate my golden rule about never betting against Indy. Just want to keep the Titans winning streak alive and see Chris Johnson makes some spectacular runs.

Denver Broncos (-4.5) vs. Kansas City Chiefs - Maybe in weeks past I'd go for the dog here, but Denver is a streaky team and they've had extra rest after their Thanksgiving night dismantling of the NY Giants.

New Orleans Saints (-8.5) vs Washington Redskins - Same deal here as for the dogs and the Redskins solid defense but the New Orleans appears to be on a mission this year and hopefully will be all business for this game.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+6.5) vs Carolina Panthers - One game I will not be watching. Carolina is tough to pick - for or against. But Tampa has been better in recent weeks in their covers and I expect them to come through against a divisional foe.

Houston Texans (+.5) vs Jacksonville Jaguars - What is up with these half point spreads. Just make them a pick em. Hope I get the Texans on a Sunday when they're on. (I now hypothesize that the half point spreads have something to do with the ESPN software not being able to handle straight up pick -em's)

Pittsburgh Steelers (-11.5) vs Oakland Raiders - Big point spread for a team like the Steelers but they seem angry and desperate. And the Raiders are terrible (even if they did come an endzone dropped pass from covering vs the Cowboys)

Miami Dolphins (+6.5) vs New England Patriots
- Normally I'd pick the Patriots coming off a big loss to blow out their next opponent but they got beat so bad on Monday night might be tough for them to come back.

San Diego Chargers (-12.5) vs Cleveland Browns - Could be trouble with a west coast team flying east to play in the cold but the Chargers are lighting it up lately and I'll stay with the team on a good run.

San Francisco 49ers (+.5) vs Seattle Seahawks - San Fran may be a ready for a late season run and I can't help but continue to think the Seahawks suck.

NY Giants (+1.5) vs Dallas Cowboys - Another game I've been back and forth on but the NY Giants are at home on a long rest and absolutely need to win and the Cowboys and Tony Romo, with a chance to put the Giants away, will choose the hard way.

Minnesota Vikings (-3.5) vs Arizona Cardinals - This is point spread must be wrong. The Vikings are on a roll right now and can score points. Could be a shoot out but I see the Vikings getting timely stops and pressure and sacks on Kurt Warner.

Green Bay Packers (-3.5) vs Baltimore Ravens - Packers another team on a good run and need to win this game to control their fortunes for a playoff spot.

Last Week: 8-8
Season: 96-80

Oh Canada

Great article in the NY Times this week about how the Canadian NHL teams are doing better financially than their U.S. counterparts with the narrowing of the exchange rate between the Canadian and U.S. Dollar since 2002.

In fact, some of the most valuable franchises are those in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, which is to be expected. We're talking large global metropolises with plenty of hockey loving fans.

Of course you get into the article and the good news is tempered by the idiotic thoughts of Gary Bettman who talks of expansion. While putting franchises in Quebec City, Winnipeg and another Southern Ontario is a great idea, the league needs to contract, and give up this dream of spreading to the sun belt.

The NHL should go something like this:

Original Six

Boston Bruins
Chicago Blackhawks
Detroit Red Wings
Montreal Canadians
New York Rangers
Toronto Maple Leafs

Original Expansion
Buffalo Sabres
Pittsburgh Penguins
Minnesota Wild (formerly North Stars)
Philadelphia Flyers
St Louis Blues
LA Kings

Canadian Teams
Calgary Flames
Edmonton Oilers
Quebec City
Ottawa Senators
Toronto (2nd Team)
Winnipeg (maybe)
Vancouver Canucks

The Rest
Colorado Avalanche
Columbus Blue Jackets (pains me to keep this franchise but it does make some sense.)
Dallas Stars (We hang on to this Red State team by virtue of their Stanley Cup championship)
San Jose Sharks
Kansas City (NY Islanders should move there. Sorry NY fans but three hockey teams in one area is too many.)
Washington Capitals
NJ Devils
Carolina (move their asses back to Hartford)

Lose Nashville, Atlanta, Tampa Bay (deserve to find new home because 2003-04 Stanley Cap Champions), Miami, Anaheim (I guess they stay too with their Stanley Cup. Damn this is tough) and Phoenix. If the old folks down in Florida want to see some hockey, let's send them the Charleston Chiefs.
Do this and then you'd have something to work with. Of course this will never happen because all the money the owners paid out (and were paid) for these expansion teams and six less teams is 120 + less professional hockey players.