Monday, February 24, 2020

Devils deadline deals- Vatanen, Simmonds, Domingue move on

The New Jersey Devils were thought to have finished most of their dealings before the trade deadline but made three minor moves at the deadline day with players that will be free agents at the end of the season for the proverbial "something beats nothing" return for moving players to new locales'.

The Devils traded Wayne Simmonds to Buffalo for a fifth-round draft pick in 2021 that could become a fourth-rounder, should the Sabres rally and make the playoffs.
Simmonds scored six goals with sixteen assists for the Devils this season after signing with the team for this season but was unlikely to return to New Jersey for next year.
I get the Devils doing this one as even a fifth-rounder is something for a non-contender, but I don't understand Buffalo making this trade, who is still unlikely to make the playoffs and yet traded a draft pick for a player unlikely to re-sign.

New Jersey then sent backup goaltender Louis Domingue to Vancouver for goaltender Zane McIntyre.
Domingue played in sixteen games for the Devils after being obtained earlier this season from Tampa Bay for a seventh-round draft pick as the backup to Mackenzie Blackwood.
Domingue's record was 3-8-2 with a GAA of 4.03 and was unlikely to return next season with the Devils, but Vancouver was looking for a veteran backup after the recent injury to their starter Jacob Markstrom.
McIntyre will join AHL Binghamton and can also walk at the end of the season.
New Jersey will save a few hundred thousand for doing the Canucks a favor, but I would have hoped they might have gotten the seventh-rounder that they traded to Tampa Bay for that favor.

The biggest deal of the day was announced after the deadline had passed as the Devils traded Sami Vatanen to the Carolina Hurricanes in return for minor leaguers Janne Kuokkanen, Fredrick Claesson, and a fourth-rounder that can become a third-rounder, should Vatanen recover from his current injury to play an unnamed amount of games.
Vatanen scored five goals and eighteen assists in 47 games but missed chunks of time in each of the last two seasons and was somewhat of a disappointment after being obtained in the trade that sent fan favorite Adam Henrique to Anaheim.

The Devils don't have picks in the second or third rounds in the upcoming draft as they traded the second round to Nashville for P.K. Subban and the third to Las Vegas for Nikita Gusev, so I was hoping Vatanen could at least bring one or the other of those picks, but he'll have to get healthy to add that third-rounder.

The centerpiece of the deal is 21-year-old left-winger Janne Kuokkanen, who was the Hurricanes second-round pick from Finland in 2016.
Kuokkanen has played most of the last three years with AHL Charlotte but played eleven games with the Hurricanes in the previous two years without a point.
Kuokkanen scored twelve goals with thirty assists for the Checkers in 52 games, can play center or wing and is regarded as more of a playmaker than a scorer.
Kuokkanen has been mentioned as a player that was blocked by the Hurricanes depth rather than a fringe prospect, so perhaps the Devils did gain something out of the trade.

Defenseman Frederic Claesson has spent time in the NHL with Ottawa and the Rangers, playing 113 games over four seasons with four goals and sixteen assists during that tenure.
The 27-year-old Swede has spent the entire season with AHL Charlotte, scoring three goals with 16 assists in 47 games, but at 27 years of age, Claesson is considered a depth piece at best and is headed to New Jersey to replace Vatanen on the roster to finish the season for the Devils.

This isn't a poor return for Tom Fitzgerald and the Devils, as Fitzgerald navigates a rebuilding process while at the same time trying to stake his claim to the permanent general manager's position.
Janne Kuokkanen seems like a prospect that could help the team next season and should Sami Vatanen play enough to bump the fourth-rounder to the needed third, the trade looks even better.
The 2021 fifth-rounder for Wayne Simmonds isn't a ton, but it's something for a guy that wouldn't be around next season anyway, but I still can't figure out why New Jersey couldn't even get a seventh for Louis Domingue from a team in need as Vancouver currently is.

Still, looking at these deals in addition to the trades with the Islanders (Andy Greene) and Lightning (Blake Coleman), Fitzgerald and the Devils did pretty well on the overall, so I'm fairly pleased.
Now the Devils pretty much know what they have unless they make a move or two near draft day and the question becomes how will they use those assets to improve a disappointing team with a fan base that could be beginning to forget what winning hockey is like in New Jersey.




Ripped to Shreds! Defenders slammed in L.A 39-9

At the end of the first two weeks of the XFL season, the D.C. Defenders had a case for being the class of the league with the Houston Roughnecks as the only teams to win both of their games.

I agreed with that viewpoint, but I pointed out last week that we couldn't be sure as the Defenders would have to prove it on the road.
They didn't.
The previously winless Los Angeles Wildcats rolled over, up, and through the Defenders on their way to a 39-9 win in Los Angeles.
The only Defenders touchdown didn't occur until late in the fourth quarter on a 39 yard run by Nick Brossette.
Cardale Jones threw four interceptions and finished with only 103 yards passing with Nick Brossette finished with 75 yards on the ground to lead the Defenders.
D.C. drops to 2-1 overall and with St.Louis defeating New York earlier in the day, the two teams are now tied for first in the Eastern Division.

Defensive Deflections

1) If the stat sheet was the entire story, you might think this game was reasonably close.
However, there is more to games than only stats and the Defenders offense seemed very out of sync on offense from the start.
D.C. didn't cross mid-field until their final drive of the first half, threw three interceptions, lost a fumble, and punting three times before their only score of the half on a 32 yard Ty Rausa field goal.

2) And one week after I crowed about the Defenders defense as being the best in the league, they allowed 39 points to a winless team.
The defense didn't play well, but three of the six Wildcat touchdowns were with great field position off turnovers.
They weren't great, but the loss cannot be totally placed on them.

3) The first half "fumble" on the scoresheet may have noted as such, but it was really a stuffed punt when punter Hunter Niswander had no chance to get the punt into the air, took a hit from a Wildcat and turned the ball over at the four-yard line.
Zero blame for Niswander there, but plenty of blame to the blocking unit.

4) There was a brief moment when I felt that maybe the tide could be turning in this loss.
The Defenders kicked a field goal at the end of the first half and at 27-3, it was unlikely, but the Defenders took the kickoff and put together an impressive drive in moving into Los Angeles territory.
I was just starting to think "a quick TD here and a stop, who knows?"
Then Cardale Jones threw interception number three.

5) Cardale Jones didn't play very well.
Four interceptions already said that, but the entire passing game was out of sync.
Some of this goes with Jones, but I saw far too many passes hit the turf without a receiver in the area.
That's a lack of communication and can be spread around to many persons, but it looks worst on Jones.

6) I wonder how much the Anthony Johnson for Bradley Sylve trade affected the Defender offense?
It was just two weeks ago and who better than a defensive back that works against a quarterback every day to know their tendencies?
I wonder how much Sylve was able to prepare the Wildcats for what the Defenders were likely to do?

7) The Defenders ran for 200 yards in this game and lost by 30.
I don't have the statistics on how often that has happened in football, but I'd bet not very often.
Think about this- if a team rushes for 200 yards, they usually are eating clock, rolling up points, and often both.
That keeps the other team from having the ball as often and for as many possessions, so logically it should be difficult to win by 30 and allow 200 on the ground- Unless the losing team turns the ball over often and gives up touchdowns off short drives.
We have a winner.

8) Nick Brossette led the team in rushing (eight carries, 75 yards) with most of it in garbage time, but Brossette showed a lot of wiggle and he was the only Defender that showed inspired play in the fourth quarter.
If I'm Pep Hamilton, I'm rewarding Brossette with more playing time next Sunday in Tampa.

9) One week after smashing every New York Guardian quarterback in sight with sacks and hits, the Defenders didn't register a sack and rarely pressured Josh Johnson.
It's not fair to say the Defenders are overrated, but they looked awful in this loss.

10) The Defenders travel to Tampa to play the 0-3 Vipers and you would think that playing the only team that hasn't won a game yet would be an excellent chance to rebound from this loss.
However, Los Angeles hadn't won a game either and look at how that resulted for D.C.
Still, the Defenders should be favored and a win would put them at 3-1 and should New York lose next week,  the Defenders could have a two-game lead for a playoff spot with six to go.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Boxing Challenge: Fury tames Wilder!

The fight for the WBC heavyweight championship appeared to be a 50-50 proposition entering the fight as Tyson Fury had won his first fight against Deontay Wilder on the scorecards of most, despite the official verdict of a draw, but Fury didn't look great in his last fight against Otto Wallin and Wilder had delivered a one-punch knockout of Luis Ortiz since their first fight.
Add to that, the memory of Wilder's knockdown of Fury in the final round of their initial bout and that made the betting line close, but it seemed like most of the media was leaning towards Wilder, with many tossing high compliments toward the champion such as "the hardest punching heavyweight ever".
I didn't see anyone select Wilder via decision and no one picked Fury by knockout, which appeared to be the least likely outcome.

Since this is boxing, the least likely outcome is exactly what happened as Fury battered Wilder throughout, knocked him down twice and after the second round pawed Wilder around such as a cat with an injured mouse before forcing Wilder's corner to throw in the towel in the seventh round.
The win likely moved Fury to the top of the division and gained him the WBC title, which was the only one of the four that was not taken from Wladimir Klitschko in Fury's first title win.

I'm not sure you could have designed a more impressive win for Fury, who won all but the second round (which I circled as a round that could have been given to either corner) on my scorecard by backing the bomber up, stuck him with power punches that damaged his ear with Fury's domination so total that the fight could have been stopped anytime after the fourth without a critical word.
While I gave Wilder the second round, the beginning of the end appeared to come with the final seconds winding down as Fury landed a strong right that rocked Wilder.
Wilder didn't hit the mat from that punch, but my guess is that punch caused the damage to Wilder's inner ear and he would never recover.
The only things that Fury did wrong were losing a point in the fifth (after dropping Wilder from a body shot) for hitting Wilder behind the head and lick the blood off Wilder in the sixth to surge Fury to the lead for sickest sports moment of the year.

Wilder has thirty days to activate his rematch clause and he's likely to take it, even if it is to the detriment of his chances to win.
Wilder would be better suited to a fight or two to prepare for the third fight, but the contract won't allow such a decision and from a financial standpoint, taking the rematch would be far more lucrative than several fights against low to mid-level contenders with the PBC, who lacks anyone to get excited about to fight Wilder.
Unless a 3rd Ortiz fight or the limited Adam Kownacki does something for you, which they certainly do not for me, Wilder would be trapped on the 'wrong side of the street' with Fury likely moving onto other money fights and it might take years for Wilder to get the third fight.
It's not a great spot to be in, but even if Wilder's chances in an immediate rematch aren't very bright, I think he almost has to take it.

As for Fury, he showed a new aspect to his game under new trainer SugarHill Steward and proved that his power could be better than expected, should he commit to digging in and popping power shots.
I say could, mainly because I've never been convinced of the quality of Deontay Wilder's chin.
Other than being badly hurt by Luis Ortiz in their first fight, Wilder had never faced a good puncher before and I couldn't ever shake his knockdown and survival against Harold Sconiers to take my suspicions away.

The fight everyone is now asking for is Fury against Anthony Joshua, who holds the other three titles, in an event that could rival the best of royal events pitting two Britons for the undisputed championship.
I'd favor Fury slightly against Joshua, but I certainly think Joshua would have a chance against Fury.
Joshua is a big puncher, although not quite to the standard of Wilder, and like Wilder also has questions about his chin after suffering his KO loss to Andy Ruiz.

Finally, who was the biggest winner other than Tyson Fury on this night?
It just might be Otto Wallin, who gave Fury all that he wanted in losing a decision last September as an unknown quantity and might have been a media misstep away from the upset after he gashed Fury gruesomely over the right eye from a left.
Fury's corner believed the cut came from a headbutt and ESPN notified his team that it was from a punch, which allowed them to tell Fury he would not be able to rely on the headbutt to win on the cards.
Wallin returns to the ring in March against faded former contender Lucas Browne and with a good performance against Browne with the success against Fury, Wallin could be in place for a big fight.

The undercard was as dreadful as I thought it would be and it's barely worth mentioning.
Former IBF heavyweight champion Charles Martin knocked out Gerald Washington with a 12 to 6 left in the sixth round to end a boring fight.
Washington barely beat the count, but referee Tony Weeks stopped the fight anyway.
I had Martin ahead 48-47 (3-2) in a fight that featured little more than slow-motion sparring.
The win may put Martin in a spot to eventually challenge Anthony Joshua in a rematch of their 2016 fight when Joshua snuffed out Martin in two rounds to win the IBF title.
I'm thrilled.

Emmanuel Navarette wasn't as sharp as usual. but dominated every round before stopped Jeo Santisima in the eleventh round to retain his WBO junior featherweight title.
A Navarette-M.J. Akhmadaliev fight would result in three titles being unified and would be one of the more exciting fights that can be made in boxing.

In the boxing challenge, Ramon Malpica picked up a point on me in scoring five points to my four.
The Charles Martin knockout was the difference as Ramon cut my lead in the season standings to 33-30.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Boxing Challenge

The boxing weekend is set in Las Vegas with the main event as good as boxing can put forth and an undercard that isn't good enough to be part of a good regular cable show surrounds it.

The main event puts WBC heavyweight champion, Deontay Wilder, in a rematch vs the "lineal" heavyweight champion Tyson Fury in a PBC vs Top Rank contest for arguably the top spot in the heavyweight division along with WBA/IBF/WBO champion Anthony Joshua.

Their first fight was interesting, if not exciting and I thought Fury deserved the decision rather than the official draw, but it wasn't a robbery.
Tyson Fury fights are usually interesting for reasons other than Tyson Fury's punches and Deontay Wilder is a devastating puncher, but not an overly active one, so this fight may not be filled with action, but to the end, the fight will have plenty of anticipation due to the possibility of Wilder landing that one shot to close the evening.

The rematch is more anticipated than the first match, mainly because of Wilder's final round knockdown that looked to have pulled a fight out of the loss column with a dramatic KO before Fury rose in what would become the boxing meme of the year.
Both fighters have reasons that you think could give them victory.
Fury has the unusual slick style for a fighter of his size and his skills are better than those of the sometimes limited Wilder, but Fury has never fought a rematch before and could it be possible for Wilder to figure out what Fury could do?
If that happens, Fury doesn't have the power to take out Wilder unless Wilder's jaw, which I've questioned since he barely avoided being knocked out by journeyman Harold Sconiers, is softer than he has shown in his most recent fights.
Wilder can knock out anyone that he hits but in his fights against Fury and Luis Ortiz, Wilder has become even more one-dimensional as he has become reluctant to do anything more than wait for the chance to throw that right hand.
Sooner or later, someone will survive the right and Wilder will be out of luck and that fighter could be Fury.
It's a difficult fight to call because there are compelling reasons to pick either fighter to win.

I wish I could say the same for the undercard because when you display garbage, people are likely to say it stinks.
With Top Rank and PBC each selecting a fight for the undercard, one could wish that two inter-promotional matches could spice the lineup a bit.
I'm not saying Spence-Crawford or Lomachenko-Davis, but decent fights could be made and instead, each company kept their match in-house with the battle apparently down to which crap smells worse.

The PBC fight is a pairing of mediocre heavyweights as Charles Martin faces Gerald Washington.
Martin, who has a strong case for the weakest heavyweight champion in history, has exactly one win over a top 30 fighter (his vacant title win over Vyacheslav Glazkov was via third-round TKO when Glazkov tore his ACL) and Washington, who has a few wins over top 30 fighters, but none against a top 15 level fighter, might be best remembered for fighting Deontay Wilder on even terms for four rounds before being stopped in the fifth, make a match that might have been tolerable for the opening bout, but lacking for a PPV.
The winner could move into consideration for a future IBF title shot ( Washington is ninth in their ranking and Martin is eleventh) which doesn't exactly send my heart racing for that possibility.
The fight could be entertaining with two fighters of the same level with less than sturdy chins, but it still shouldn't be on a card of this type.

Don't give Top Rank too much credit for their match either, although exciting WBO junior featherweight champion Emmanuel Navarrete is far more worthy of his spot than Martin or Washington.
Sadly, instead of facing a tough contender, Navarrete will face unknown Jeo Santisma.
Santisma has never fought outside the Philippines, nor against a familiar name in his twenty-one fight career and is a prohibitive underdog against Navarrete.
Unless Santisma has been a secret star and hidden away, and there have been fighters from the Philippines in the past that have burst on the scene with similar records, this appears to be a showcase fight for Navarrete.

In the boxing challenge, I lead Ramon Malpica 29-25

WBC Heavyweight Title 12 Rds
Deontay Wilder vs Tyson Fury
R.L: Fury Unanimous Decision
TRS: Fury Majority Decision

Heavyweights 12 Rds
Charles Martin vs Gerald Washington
R.L: Martin KO 5
TRS: Martin Unanimous Decision

WBO Junior Featherweight Title. 12 Rds
Emmanuel Navarrete vs Jeo Santisma
R.L: Navarrete KO 8
TRS: Navarrete KO 6




PPM

Week three of the XFL steams on with the D.C. Defenders leaving the Nation's Capital for the first time in their existence as the main game for the week.

Last Week; 3-1
Overall: 181-82

Houston over Tampa Bay 23-13
Dallas over Seattle 20-16
St.Louis over New York 18-9
D.C. over Los Angeles 24-15

Friday, February 21, 2020

Cleaning out the inbox

We start to clean the inbox with Benjamin Hill's article on the four stadiums that have been moved aside by new stadiums in their city and by teams that have moved away to new cities.
I've been to two of the four (Kannapolis, pictured to the left and Potomac/Woodbridge) with the other two being out of my area in states that I have never visited (Mobile, Alabama and New Orleans, Louisiana).
I've often said Kannapolis was the hottest ballpark that I have ever visited, but in Hill's article, he mentioned Woodbridge as the stadium that lacked shade, which I thought was interesting.
I haven't heard very much about the future of these facilities, although I'd bet that Pfitzner Stadium in Woodbridge will wind up as a host of high school, American Legion, etc. games as it is located in a facility that is surrounded by softball fields.

ESPN writes of the start of a fan revolt against the Buffalo Sabres, who are on their way to missing the playoffs for the ninth year in a row and their owners Terry and Kim Pegula, who also own the Buffalo Bills.
For all the talk about this place or that place is "Hockeytown USA", for my money- it would be Buffalo.
Even as the Sabres are in such a playoff drought, the team's attendance this year "dropped" to 90.8%, which shows the fan base is strong and interested despite the poor product (other than the phenomenal Jack Eichel) on the ice.
I remember "Hockey Towns" such as Detroit in the pre-Yzerman days being dragged down with poor teams and attendance and for all the hype over Pittsburgh, check their attendance out between Mario Lemieux and Sidney Crosby.
Fan protests make excellent soundbites and they give media plenty of chances to discuss franchise issues, but they make little change in the organization and other than showing that the fans are still passionate, they don't prove very much.
Buffalo does deserve better from the Sabres.

I've written before of my political standing as that of a centrist and I often read and listen to the site and podcast of The Bulwark, which is edited by centrist radio host Charlie Sykes of Wisconsin.
You'll be seeing links from Bulwark in the COTI and this is the first as Ed Condon takes on Major League Baseball and their recent rule changes.
I loved the title of "MLB is like a drug cartel trying to kill its customers" and it's a pretty accurate title to me when you take the panoramic view about the actions of MLB and its Gordon Gekko-like leader Rob Manfred.

The Bulwark also sent me this via the Chicago Tribune as the Tribune held its own taste tests of various hot sauces involving the more popular mainstream sauces.
I didn't agree with all of their results, most notably Tabasco being spicier than the others. but it is interesting in seeing how these stack up against the others from an unbiased observer.
While I love trying different sauces from smaller batch companies and have many in the house at all times, Frank's Red Hot and its Buffalo version are the house staples here of the sauces that are carried in most grocery stores.

I'm generally all for renewable energy, but this article from Bloomberg news does make you wonder about just what it takes to create renewable energies.
The difficulties in finding something to do with the worn-out blades from wind turbines, other than burying them in landfills, are more than unsustainable for the future of windmills.
The blades need to be cut into three pieces by a diamond-encrusted saw just to be able to then be transported on a semi-truck to travel to landfills, so these aren't exactly a treat to take care of.
It will be interesting to check back in a few years and see what type of business could have been created from the leftovers of these blades.



Wednesday, February 19, 2020

John Beilein out in Cleveland

John Beilein is out of work for the remainder of the season as the veteran coach and the Cleveland Cavaliers have negotiated a settlement of his five-year contract that was signed only nine months ago.

The Cavaliers posted a crummy 14-40 record, which has placed Cleveland in last place in the Eastern Conference and above only Golden State in the league standings.
The 67-year-old Beilein entered the league with a reputation as a teacher and as an offensive innovator, yet never was able to settle into either role in his first job in professional basketball.
Beilein struggled in connecting with his younger players and surprisingly his veterans as well with a memorable mid-game blowup on one occasion with Tristan Thompson and having to apologize for misspeaking and calling his players "thugs" in a team meeting, where Beilein is said to have meant to say "slugs" instead.

Beilein started quickly with the Cavaliers winning four of his first nine games and playing with a hustling style that gave fans hope for the future, but the ball quickly rolled downhill from there as Beilein not only struggled with the players off the court with the more relaxed way of dealing with professionals rather than college players but on the court as well.
Beilein appeared to be bothered by the losses, which was surprising for a coach with a five-year contract with an organization that has no delusions about being anything other than involved in a rebuilding process and instead of continuing to play to his strengths as a coach that has used various strategies to attack offensively, Beilein drew into a shell and ran a more traditional NBA offense.
Running a system that wasn't different from the rest of the league played right into the hands of failure as Beilein's inexperience in professional basketball continued to put him behind the curve.

Beilein was also struggling with the career path of his son Patrick, who had been hired as the head coach at Niagara but never coached a game before being resigning for personal reasons and at 67, Beilein likely knew that he was wasting his final few years of coaching in a job that he was ill-suited for and made the decision to step away to not waste even more time.
Beilein will immediately become the most sought-after coach in college basketball in the next few weeks as schools replace disappointing coaches in the 'silly season' for college basketball and with Beilein's background (two NCAA Finals appearances and two more Elite Eight teams), Beilein will likely have himself back on the sidelines with a major conference program next season, should he choose to do so.

As for the Cavaliers, it's J.B. Bickerstaff in as the head coach for at least the rest of the season with a chance to keep the job, should he impress the front office.
The 40-year-old Bickerstaff, the son of long-time NBA coach and executive Bernie Bickerstaff, has coached parts of three seasons with Houston, where he finished 37-34 and led the Rockets to the playoffs in 2015-16 after replacing Kevin McHale, and Memphis, where he finished the 2017-18 season as an interim head coach before being hired for the full-time job for 2018-19 with the Grizzlies.
Memphis fired Bickerstaff after last season after a 33-49 record with another rebuilding team, which made him available to come to Cleveland as the top assistant to Beilein as he learned the league and to help his adjustment to the NBA.

Bickerstaff's main job will be to continue to try to develop his young players such as Collin Sexton, Darius Garland, and Kevin Porter Jr, integrate newly added Andre Drummond into the offense and organization and hopefully keep Kevin Love productive as a part of the team or raise his potential trade value.
In other words, do the best you can and hope for the best, which isn't about wins and losses for the remainder of this season.

Bickerstaff will be the fourth head coach for Cleveland in the less than two seasons since LeBron James left for Los Angeles and he has a mess to clean up with an overpaid veteran (Kevin Love) with a contract difficult to unload, a talented big man in a game that is moving away from dominant big men (Andre Drummond), and players that the team drafted/traded with hope to build around them, but their ceiling could be only to eventually be good players, but not franchise foundational types (Collin Sexton, Darius Garland, Kevin Porter Jr, Cedi Osman, and Larry Nance Jr). and a front office with Koby Altman that could be a better fit for whatever the Browns are doing this year and the consistently inconsistent commitment of Dan Gilbert to whatever plan seems to be a good idea for a few months,  Bickerstaff has his work cut out for him without a doubt.