Wednesday, December 31, 2014

End of the year!

I may be back later tonight with a look back at the year that saw TRS hit many highs.
All time hits,All time posts and the Boxing Challenge among them.

If I have a chance,I may be able to do that,but I also hope to see the Devils vs Detroit (tonight) with some luck and maybe (again with luck) some coverage of the Fiesta Bowl with Boise State vs Arizona...

If not,enjoy the new years eve and I have some ideas that I want to add for next year that I'm excited to give a shot to!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Devils pop Penguins 3-1

The lowly New Jersey Devils had more than just two points on their mind against the powerhouse Penguins from Pittsburgh-they had revenge from a cheap shot from Robert Bortuzzo in their last encounter as well.

The Devils would get both-Bortuzzo would battle Jordin Tootoo twice and New Jersey would pull a 3-1 upset at the Rock.
Adam Henrique (10),Jaromir Jagr (6) and Travis Zajac (5 power play) scored the Devils goals.
New Jersey next plays against Detroit on Wednesday....

Hell Raisers

1) I know that many people dislike the fighting aspect of the game and think that it is meaningless,but in this game,it meant a lot.
Robert Bortuzzo's cheap shot on Jaromir Jagr in the last game set the tone as Jordin Tootoo vowed to accumulate payback in Pittsburgh's next visit.
Tootoo's two (say that fast now) fights against Bortuzzo set the tone,inspired the Devils and I think allowed the Devils to think they could get this done.
A lot depending on a fight,huh?

2) Travis Zajac finished with a goal and assist and showed signs of a breakout.
Sometimes a coaching change can reinvigorate a struggling player and Zajac would be a prime candidate for such a turnaround and that would be a nice start to having some of those bucks on an expensive extension gain some value...

3) It wasn't all gumdrops for the Devils,who have lost Stephen Gionta for a while with a broken hand.
Gionta attempted to block a shot from the circle and succeeded in hitting the puck with his healthy hand going with it.
No word on how much time Gionta will miss...

4) Cory Schneider was very good,especially two late in the first period shot from pinpoint range.
Schneider's only goal allowed was one of those that you just shrug your shoulders and say "what can you do".
Sidney Crosby skated around a well defending Andy Greene,dodged Peter Harrold attempting to help and flinged a backhander over Schneider's opposite shoulder and into the corner of the net.

5) Joe Whitney and Tim Sestito were recalled from Albany.
I'm not against players like these getting some time,but it shows the weaknesses of the teams depth and the less than strong state of the farm system....

Monday, December 29, 2014

Browns lose in Baltimore-Finish 7-9

The Cleveland Browns gave a valiant effort in Baltimore all things considered,but an exhausted defense finally cracked as they allowed 17 points in fourth quarter play in a 20-10 Ravens victory.
Terrence West rushed for 94 yards and the only Cleveland touchdown,while Connor Shaw finished with 177 passing yards with a touchdown and a fumble.
Cleveland finished the season at 7-9,losing their final five contests and now have a bye until next September...

Brownie Bits

1) I'm going to try to stick to this game and news on the B.B's today with thoughts on the season on the upcoming season in  reviews,but there is a lot of news before this game,so this may be the longest B.B. ever....

2) Jimmy Haslam announced after the game during a press conference that both Mike Pettine and Ray Farmer would retain their positions for next season.
There had been some speculation that one or both could pay for the late season collapse,but both are safe.
I was in favor of keeping Pettine,50/50 on Farmer,so I'm OK with the decision.
For good or bad,there needs to be some continuity right now and despite some questionable decisions by both,I'll chalk that up as part of the learning growth and hope for better days...

3) No Josh Gordon,No Justin Gilbert and Johnny Manziel placed on IR in order to avoid suspending him.
Gordon missed a Saturday walkthrough,Gilbert missed a Saturday team meeting and Manziel skipped a rehab session for an injured hamstring.
I was fine with all of those decisions.I'll discuss what I think should be done with each of those three in the season review,but the most upsetting thing was no more than a day or two before this,Manziel and Gilbert were telling the media how they had gotten the message and were ready to act like professionals etc.
The new era for those two lasted about 48 hours.
You want to change the culture in Cleveland? Everyone is accountable.

4) Including Ray Farmer.
Again,the Browns have Gilbert (who was my top rated corner) and Manziel (who I was in favor of trying,although I felt he was a boom or bust pick) and their attitude/commitment issues because of Ray Farmer.
I was talking to a Browns fan yesterday before the game and he asked me what corner I wanted before the draft-I wrote it and I stick by it-Justin Gilbert.
I watch a lot of tape,I also consider myself pretty draft savvy as my long time friends know,but I don't have access to players,friends,coaches etc of prospects.
I only know what I see on the field,the Browns have far more access to those things than that and to not only take two of these type guys,but to trade up for them shows either the lack of insight or inexperience on Ray Farmer's part to think he can change them.
8 times out of 10,the lazy,immature,troubled player doesn't change,this franchise cannot have another draft of those types of chances.

5) Connor Shaw showed me enough to say that he could be a good backup in the league,but as seems to be typical of Cleveland QB's lacks arm strength.
All things considered,Shaw did exactly what you would have hoped for a player in his situation-didn't put the Browns in a huge hole via mistakes and gave them a chance to win...

6) The defense was as valiant as you could have expected in a game that the Browns had nothing to play for and the opponent did.
Put what Mike Pettine said before the game about 8-8 aside,I doubt that was a huge thing to play for.
The defense fought their heart out and some of those guys that we never heard of before the last two games may be factors for jobs next year-namely defensive tackle Jamie Meder and linebacker Scott Solomon.

7) Joe Haden played well despite a flu battle,Torrey Smith made one big play against him,but Haden wasn't beaten-the throw was perfect and the bigger man grabbed it.
Other than that,Haden showed a lot of guts in the game.

8) Terrence West ran hard and played well as the fulcrum of the offense,but keep in mind that he was extremely motivated as he is from Baltimore.
It was encouraging to see West run well,but considering the circumstances I'd hesitate to put West completely off the immaturity list quite yet....

9) Even though Connor Shaw played passably,that didn't mean it was easy.
The offensive line allowed four sacks and it could have been twice that without Shaw's mobility.
More on this in the season review,but once again and it seems like I write this every year-right tackle is a need position....

10) John Hughes returned from the DL with one game to go and finished with seven tackles.
Give Hughes credit-he could have said he passed on a meaningless game to get ready for next season.
Hughes played and played well..

11) The Browns have plenty of questions and near the top of the list is the lack of depth.,
Ray Farmer traded picks to move up four times in the 2014 draft and as a result drafted just five players.
The Browns have two 1's,two 4's and two 6's in the next draft.It'll be interesting to see how much they move up this time.

12) The Browns first round picks will be in the 12 spot and the 19 notch from Buffalo.
Right now,the big deal from last draft looks like Sammy Watkins for the Bills,Justin Gilbert,the 19 and a Buffalo 4th rounder for the Browns.
I like the Buffalo end better currently....

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Devils lose to Rangers 3-1 in new era debut

The co-coaches era started in Madison Square Garden against the rival New York Rangers for the New Jersey Devils,but it ended the same way as most games lately as Derek Stepan of the Rangers scored goals in each period in a 3-1 Rangers win.
Steve Bernier scored the Devils only goal (3) in the second period.
New Jersey will next face Pittsburgh on Monday...

Hell Raisers

1) The new coaches had just one practice before this game,so you would expect some things to still remain the same and it was.
What remained the same was being outplayed.
Nothing changed overnight,,but lets give it time...

2) Derek Stepan's three goals were very efficient .Why?
They came on three shots including his empty netter at the end of the game.

3) Stepan's best play was his first as he tipped the puck away from Travis Zajac,broke away from the pack and beat Cory Schneider for a shorthanded goal.
Schneider gambled on a pokecheck,failed and was dead meat for Stepan thereafter...

4) The best thing the Devils did all night was their only goal as Eric Gelinas made a terrific pass to a cutting Steve Bernier,who then fired the puck into the net.
So,it wasn't all bad....

5) Cory Schneider was good in net.
Not great-great would have meant not being so terrible on this first goal,but he was otherwise good.
Schneider is not at fault in any way for this loss as without him this could have been far worse.
It was Schneider evening that kept this game as close as it was....

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Pigskin Picking Machine

The NFL regular season ends with the PPM and we'll have some bowl game action as well..

Fiesta Bowl
Arizona over Boise State 52-40

Cactus Bowl
Washington over Oklahoma State 36-27

Playoff Semis
Alabama over Ohio State 24-14
Oregon over Florida State 35-27

Ravens over Browns 31-10
Saints over Buccaneers 26-7

Games of the Week-All games that have division titles or playoffs on the line
Chargers over Chiefs 24-20
Falcons over Panthers 31-21
Packers over Lions 35-21
Steelers over Bengals 30-20

Last Week: 3-2
Season: 93-35

Devils bring back the college of coaches

In a decision that can only be called puzzling,the New Jersey Devils announced that Lou Lamoriello will be taking the reigns as head coach for a undetermined amount of time with Scott Stevens and Adam Oates being brought in as 'co-coaches' for the rest of the season.
Stevens will be given "complete control of the defensemen" with Oates having the same power with the forwards.
Mike Foligno and Chris Terreri were retained as assistants,while Dave Barr was relieved of his assisting duties.

The title line was a reference to the Chicago Cubs ill-fated "College of Coaches" idea where coaches rotated among themselves for a certain period of time and then rotate.
The Devils plan isn't exactly like that,but the similarity is that you have five coaches running around,two of them with equal authority,but neither running the show.
I have no idea how well Scott Stevens and Adam Oates get along or like each other,but they had better get along well because this has the potential to divide and explode a locker room.
What it also could do is possibly lead to a power struggle between the two for the full time job.
I'd would have preferred Lou Lamoriello to pick one or the other and then the assistant given extra duties in their area of expertise.

What I also wonder about is just how the Devils are going to handle the buildup to the trade deadline.
Is this a desperate move to try to pull a playoff run out of nowhere?
Is this Lamoriello using Oates and Stevens to get a close look at the team for an analysis of who is a building block and who should be jettisoned at the deadline to bring in whatever they can get for the guys that aren't part of the future?
Could this be (I think this is only a remote chance) that this is a shell game to distract from a possible chance of falling through the floor for a shot at Connor McDavid?

I don't have any of the answers to these questions as those will be answered on the ice and in the locker room,but to me this smacks of a desperate move by Lou Lamoriello.
I'm all for keeping Scott Stevens in a high profile role in the organization and I respect Adam Oates a lot,but this seems like a too many cooks and not enough waiters situation.
This will either be an innovative move or a ridiculous one.
I lean towards the latter,but hoping for the former....

Cavaliers rally in Orlando for 98-89 win

It's been  a while for a Cavaliers report between Devils games and the holidays,but I finally had time to watch a Cavaliers game!
LeBron James led Cleveland with 29 points and dragged the Cavaliers to a 98-89 win in Orlando over the Magic.
Kevin Love added 22 points with Dion Waiters finishing with 17 off the bench.


1) First,a little catchup from games that I didn't write on.
The loss of Anderson Varejao to an achilles tear for the season is one that the Cavaliers will have to address sooner or later.
Cleveland already had problems in the paint and those have just become massive.
Now for why Varejao was signed to such an expensive long term deal with an injury history?
I'll save that story for another day.

2) Kyrie Irving banged up a knee in the Christmas Day loss in Miami and missed the Orlando win with the injury.
Irving is another player with a long term contract with injury issues that I hope doesn't bite the Cavaliers in the playoffs...

3) The win over Orlando brought back memories of the days that LeBron James would put the team on his back and carry them to victory.
LeBron made the big shots and in the second half was clearly the dominant player with his aggressiveness in taking the ball to the basket,
LeBon outscored Orlando alone in the fourth quarter 15-14.
When James takes the bull by the horns and plays with aggressiveness (which is different than playing hard),there is no better player in the game..

4) Kevin Love did score 22 points,but did not play at all in the 4th quarter.
The reason? Love was having issues in stopping Nikola Vucevic.
This means that the Cavaliers are going to have playoff problems to solve with inside defense.
Cleveland is going to have to do something to address this and soon...

5) The defense was strong in the fourth quarter as noted above,but here is the key number-5 of 21 from the floor.
Sometimes this game is about more than scoring and with no Love or Irving,the Cavaliers can put a better defensive team on the floor...

Friday, December 26, 2014

Devils fire Peter DeBoer

Rachel and myself received one final Christmas present (not counting Ryan's next week) as the New Jersey Devils fired Peter DeBoer as the teams head coach today.

DeBoer's highlight came in his first season in New Jersey as the Devils reached the Stanley Cup Finals,where they lost to the Los Angeles Kings.

Things spiraled downward after the finals appearance as the Devils would miss the playoffs over the next two seasons and stumbled to the point of making another non-playoff appearance almost inevitable.

DeBoer was noted for his issues with fiddling with lines,having trouble developing young players and most notably his inconsistent manner of dealing with players.
I'm kinda of surprised the move came this late as the Devils (if they were going to make such a move) should have done it before the team reached the point of almost no return for the playoffs,but I am still pleased because in a lost season,the Devils need to play players with an eye for the future,not aging veterans for a playoff run that isn't going to happen.

I'm not saying DeBoer is the entire reason that the Devils are so miserable,but it is a bone towards an unhappy fan base and it isn't going to hurt things either.
The replacement will be announced tomorrow and I haven't heard a thing on who it is.
If it was me,I'd promote Rick Kowalsky from Albany for the rest of the season and see what happens.
Kowalsky knows the younger players and is willing to work with them and it keeps the full time job open for the off season if the Devils want to have a veteran for next year.

It may be too late,but good news is still good news!!!!

Merry Christmas and....

Just a few words to hope all of you had a Merry Christmas and I hope it went well.

I got some very nice gifts and I'll write more about how two of them meant so much in two different ways sometime,but I also wanted to point out how as great as it is for some,it isn't that great for all..

Some have suffered losses in their families over the past year,some have family issues and others have few or anyone to spend time with during the holidays.
Try to keep those people in mind and don't be afraid to reach out with a kind word or two.
Money doesn't mean caring ,you cannot buy a terrific family life and not everyone has one of those two things let alone both.

I'll talk more on another day,I hope you all had an enjoyable day and I'll be back with some thoughts tonight on something or other!!!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Five Fights that I'd like to see in 2015-Part 2

We move to part two of fights we would like to see in 2015 with fighters 140 pounds and below.
Some of the divisions are quite weak,so you'll see no fights at lightweight (135) or junior lightweight (130).
They also aren't always the most important fights or even my top five fights to see-just five that I would like to see...

Lucas Matthysse vs Ruslan Provodnikov

This bout might happen for the vacant WBO title,if Matthysse "advisor" Al Haymon does not get into the way.
Provodnikov held this title before his robbery of a loss via split decision to Chris Algeri in one of many awful decisions in 2014,
The WBO stripped Algeri for some reason when he was last seen being bounced off the canvas like a basketball against Manny Pacquiao when he challenged for the 147 pound title and Algeri is their number one contender.
However,Provodnikov is 2nd and Matthysse is 3rd,so if Algeri steps aside (other than maybe Provodnikov no one wants to see Algeri run away for another 12 rounds),this could happen.
One word describes this fight-Violence.
For action-this might the best bout in the game...

WBA-WBO Featherweight title unification
Nicholas Walters vs Vasyl Lomachenko

This bout looks to be on in spring/summer,assuming that both win their tuneup fights.
Walters is a lanky puncher against the technically sound and decorated amateur Lomachenko,who loves to dig to the body.
Both of these fighters have star potential and could be a HBO staple with a convincing win.
This could be an exciting bout and one that decides the best fighter in the division....

WBC-IBF Featherweight title unification
Jhonny Gonzalez vs Evgeni Gradovich

 Since we are working on unification,how about this one?
Gonzalez will next face Abner Mares in a rematch of Gonzalez's stunning one round starching of Mares and a Mares win would also be interesting to see him against Gradovich with two pressure styles.
However,Gonzalez is a fighter that throws power from the outside against a pressuring Gradovich that might be another fun fight to watch.
Gradovich might be the next fight for the Walters-Lomachenko winner,so we could have 3 of the 4 recognized titles held by one fighter....

WBC-IBF Jr.Featherweight title unification
Leo Santa Cruz-Carl Frampton

Two young pressure fighters meeting in the middle of the ring?
Ireland's Frampton vs England's Scott Quigg would be a huge fight in Europe and might have been next for Frampton if not for an injury to Quigg that will keep him out until 2015.
WBA champion Guillermo Rigondeaux would likely defeat either one of these two with his superior skills,but the fight would be tedious and wouldn't be very popular with the fans.
The winner of this bout would own two belts,be an exciting winner and the second best fighter in the division,
That's pretty good stuff there...

WBA & WBO-WBC Flyweight title unification
Juan Francisco Estrada vs Roman Gonzalez.

This rematch from a excellent fight at light flyweight that saw Gonzalez win a deserved decision and since then Estrada moved up to grab two titles at 112 pounds,while Gonzalez won the lineal and WBC versions of the crown.
This might happen as the first fight was good,the winner would have three belts and Top Rank is looking for someone to eventually headline vs Zou Shiming,who will likely have the fourth title (IBF) soon.
Plus HBO is interested,which says a lot because they rarely are interested in the below 126 pounders.
I think this happens and the winner will either be the target for Shiming or maybe even avoided by him....

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Boxing Challenge Concludes

The Boxing Challenge concluded as I gained a point on R.L.Malpica,but fell a point short as the final tally ended at 94-93.

We both picked winners of 7 of 8 fights with the split decision by Jo Jo Dan over Kevin Bizier the only bout that we missed.
I gained three points with Artur Beterviev's second round flattening of Jeff Page,but Andre Dirrell's decision win (I picked Dirrell by KO) gave R.L the extra point and the difference for the year.

Congrats to R.L,this was fun and I hope to reverse the score next year!!!

I'll be back later with another post or two!

Another imperfect night-Devils shot down by Carolina

The New Jersey Devils needed Cory Schneider to be perfect after scoring him one goal.
He wasn't as the Carolina Hurricanes scored one goal in the third period and scored another one in the shootout.
That was enough for the last place Hurricanes to take a 2-1 shootout win and the two points at Newark.
The Devils did get a point for forcing extra play for whatever that's worth.
Stephen Gionta scored the only Devils goal (3) in the first period,while Cory Schneider finished with 32 saves in the defeat.
The Devils are now off until Saturday and a visit to the Rangers....

Hell Raisers

1) Best player in red? Cory Schneider.
Schneider kept the Devils in the game and it was his play that gave the Devils a point.
Schneider's robbery on Ron Hainsey's breakaway was sublime and the only goal he allowed in regulation was off a leg,
A super performance that went unrewarded...

2) Not only the goal by Gionta,which was a bit lucky,but the line of Gionta,Tuomo Ruutu and Steve Bernier played reasonably well.
I'm so stretching here.

3) Outshot 33-19 and 15-3 in the second.

4) Mike Cammalleri and Adam Larsson returned.
Neither had a huge impact,but I'll give rust as a legitimate excuse,especially to Larsson..

5) What a terrible game.
I felt bad just watching this.
I'm not sure how much more I can take...

Merry Christmas Eve everyone.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Giants trade for Casey McGehee,Pirates win right to negotiate with Korean star

Two notes from the baseball world,one that is a few days old and the other from yesterday with both having the potential to affect seasons in San Francisco and Pittsburgh....

First,the Giants made two moves,the team addressed their third base situation with a less than scintillating addition in my opinion as the team traded two minor league pitchers to the Miami Marlins in return for veteran Casey McGehee.
I thought I had seen the last of McGhee after a disappointing half season as a Pirate that frustrated me to no end and that saw me happy to see him leave to the Yankees in mid-2012.
McGhee would spent 2013 in Japan before winning National League Comeback Player of the year last,albeit over a very weak field.
McGehee did hit .287,but hit just four home runs in 160 games and making me wonder if a team thirsty of power has added any at all.
The Giants traded Kendry Flores and Luis Castillo to Miami,so the cost for McGehee wasn't extreme.
Flores had an excellent 2013 in Augusta,but his numbers dipped a bit at High A San Jose last season while Castillo has good stats last season out of the Augusta bullpen.
Neither are top prospects,but I'd be surprised if Casey McGehee was the answer to the Giants third base questions in 2015.
Even if he is,McGehee is a free agent at the end of the season,..

The Giants also re-signed Jake Peavy to keep in their pitching rotation for two years at 24 million.
Peavy pitched well for the Giants after being acquired from Boston in his twelve starts as a Giant (2.12 ERA) and 12 million isn't excessive (which says so much about the state of the game) and even though there are some questions,I'm OK with it since there is such a dearth of middle level pitchers on the free agent market.
There were a lot available at the top and always a lot at the bottom,but few at the middle level,so I'm ok with the contract,although I wouldn't be surprised at all if this does not work out.

Meanwhile,the big surprise came from Pittsburgh as the Pirates were the surprise winner of the posting bid and the right to negotiate with the Korean MVP shortstop  Jung-Ho Kang.
Kang hit .359 with 39 homers and those are tremendous numbers,but keep in mind that Korean baseball is lower than Japanese baseball and on the whole is roughly on the AA to maybe low AAA level,so who knows how good Kang really is.
Is he a full time shortstop and battle Jordy Mercer? Or his talents more of a third baseman or even a utilityman?
I couldn't tell you,but the Pirates thinking progressively and trying to sign Kang is the type of risk that I like to see teams like the Pirates attempt to make.
It'll be interesting to see how this plays out in both the board room and the baseball field.....

Monday, December 22, 2014

Browns pitiful vs Panthers in 17-13 loss

Johnny Manziel was injured after an ineffective first half and the Cleveland Browns still had a lead in the second half before surrendering a final drive that resulted in a Carolina Panthers touchdown and a 17-13 Carolina win..
Brian Hoyer did come off the bench and gave the Browns the lead at 13-10 with a 81 yard touchdown pass to Jordan Cameron with ten minutes to play in the game.
Not a lot of highlights other than except for new kicker Garrett Hartley drilled both of his field goal attempts.
The now 7-8 Browns travel to beautiful Baltimore to finish their regular season....

Brownie Bits

1) Number one thing about this loss that has been little noted in the recap is one play that a horrendous call that cost the Cleveland Browns a victory in  Charlotte.
Billy Winn tumbled to the ground with an interception with no Panthers around.
Without being touched,Winn tossed the ball back to Jordan Poyer (I think it was Poyer),who ran the ball into the end zone.
The referees gave the ball to Cleveland but said Winn "Had given himself up on the ground" and the ball was blown dead.
One-Why would Winn do that with no Panthers close enough to touch him?
Two-If he had,why would have he pitched the ball to another player?
The Browns lost seven points in a game they lost by four.

2) Johnny Manziel has a lot of work to do if the Browns are to get anything out of the first rounder that they spent on him.
I'll admit that it was the gamble in the draft that most intrigued me (I was fine with the gamble,but knew from the start there was a huge risk),but most rap the arm strength of the Texas A&M Aggie.
I think that's underrated,but what might be overrated?
His speed and quickness.
He had huge problems being able to run away from the pass rush-for a running quarterback that is a huge problem...

3) Brian Hoyer threw the long bomb to Jordan Cameron and did give somewhat of a spark to a dull game,but was wiped out on a pass rush.
Hoyer stayed in the game with the injury,but is considered unlikely to start in the finale in Baltimore.

4) Isaiah Crowell finished with 55 yards on 16 carries,but 26 of those yards came on one carry,
Crowell got the bulk of the carries as Terrence West didn't play due to "a bad week of practice".
I'm tired of that phrase.
I have more to say about that in the season recap,but I will say this-I wonder why the Browns are drafting guys that don't want to practice....

5) Give Karlos Dansby tons of credit for guts as he returned from injury when he still isn't at full speed to play in a meaningless game. Dansby was all over the field and finished with 12 tackles (solo and assisted combined).
That is the leader that this team needs and why the Browns brought the veteran to Cleveland...

6) Really like what I've seen from fourth rounder Pierre Desir in the last two games.
Desir had been inactive until the game last week,but shows the signs of having the potential to be a solid corner.
Desir made one excellent play in the end zone knocking down a fade pass to Kelvin Benjamin,
If Desir can continue to progress next season,he may make for the failure (for now) of Justin Gilbert.

7) Scott Solomon came out of nowhere to post a strong game including a sack against the Panthers.
Solomon reminded me a little of the 49ers rookie Chris Borland....

8) Carolina rushed for 209 yards against the Browns increasingly soft run defense.
Phil Taylor's loss as a run stuffer might be the Browns defensive answer to the loss of Alex Mack on the offense...

9) The offensive line didn't exactly help the Browns quarterbacks as it seems they were under attack all day from the pass rush.
Joe Thomas might make the Pro Bowl,but he hasn't had that type of season.
Thomas has been clearly a cut below his normal standards this season..

10) With one game to go,the Browns would have the 13 and 16th (from Buffalo).
It still has some time to play out,but as of now the deal shapes up as Justin Gilbert and the Bills 1 and 4 next year for Sammy Watkins.
Looking at Gilbert's play-I like the Buffalo end better....

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Nightmare Season-Why the Devils are in trouble

If you are here for the Devils coverage,then you have either watched much of the disaster that is the New Jersey season or have been reading the posts here about the season and that cannot be fun.
I know that it hasn't been fun writing about it and what I worry the most about is that this franchise may get far worse before it gets better.

Lou Lamoriello has done so much for this franchise in building a tradition of championships,contention and high level hockey,but some of his recent decisions has made me wonder if the man who once set the gold standard from general managing wizardry has,like an aging pitcher,lost a few miles off his fastball and hasn't been able to adjust to the new competition.

Let's start with the biggest issue-the age of the roster.
The Devils are the oldest team in the league and they are hooked onto several long term contracts with players that have various issues that make things difficult to change things.
Mike Cammalleri has been the Devils best offensive player this season,but was looked at as having problems staying healthy before signing a five year contract at five million per year.
Sure enough,Cammalleri has missed several games already this season and with that long contract waiting down the road-I already wonder about that wisdom...
At least,Cammalleri has been productive,last season's signing of Ryane Clowe was questionable when the signing was announced with a history as long as your arm of head injuries/concussion issues.
Signing Clowe to anything more than a year or two or least an incentive based contract should have given any team a flashing neon sign that said-DANGER!!!
The Devils instead tossed Clowe a five year deal at 4.85 million per year and then watched as he predictably started missing time with-you guessed it-Head issues....
Clowe played only half the season last year and the Devils got 13 games out of him before he hit the injured list this year and who knows how long before he returns.
Add in the mind-blowing contract with Travis Zajac that has this year and SIX more years to go at just under six million a year and the Devils are paying a ton for less than average production with cap clogging contracts that Drano couldn't unplug.
Patrik Elias played well for one night against Tampa,but often has looked like he's lost two steps and nearing the end of the line.
Elias is being paid five and a half million for this season and next as well and despite all of his contributions to the franchise,is way overpaid for his tiny statistics thus far.
No team is taking those contracts let alone Dainius Zubrus ( this year and next ),Marek Zidlicky and Bryce Salvador ( this year) at roughly three million a year.
Every one of these have questions now and all looked questionable when they were signed.

I won't complain too much about locking Adam Henrique up long term,although four million per year seems to be somewhat of an overpayment and I wonder a little about Cory Schneider at this year and six more at six million a year.
The Devils are all in on Schneider and if he becomes what they hope,that is a fair enough deal with some risks to it as well.
Andy Greene's five year extension at five million per after what may be his career year might be looked at badly when the contract is over,but I'll defend the team on that one as the need to keep a quality veteran defenseman around with a team with tons of young prospects at the position was important and I might have done the same thing.

There aren't a lot of contract bargains on this team.
Scott Gomez has played well in his 10+ games,but even if he is productive at his low cost,he could either walk (free agent at seasons end) or even worse have the Devils give him a huge raise.
The fourth liners are productive enough for their costs,but no other forward other than maybe Jaromir Jagr (3.5 million,free agent at end of season) could be looked at as worth their cap hit.

Lou Lamoriello will have money to play with at seasons end,but with the noted deals above,can we as Devils fans, feel confident about his ability to spend it properly?
The Devils will have around nine million in contracts that expire from forwards if the team decides not bring back any of these free agents to be-Jaromir Jagr,Michael Ryder,Martin Havlat and Steve Bernier.
I'd bring back Bernier as he won't cost much,but the rest?
Jagr might retire or want to play for a winner at this stage of his career,Havlat has been a disappointment and Ryder is so deep in the doghouse,he is starting to get scratched.
That nine and another just under seven million in defensemen that could all be lived without in Bryce Salvador,Marek Zidlicky and Peter Harrold gives the team roughly 16 million to play with.

What scares me most right now is that the Devils seem to be in this situation.
Lou Lamoriello is 72 years old and he is trying to do the most difficult act in sports management-rebuilding on the fly.
Lou knows that he has no time to mess with a rebuild because his time is running out and that means veterans to keep that ship afloat,but sometimes you need to burn it to the ground and let the grass regrow.
The Devils do not seem to want to do that.
New Jersey has had two top ten picks in the last fifteen years and used them on Adam Larsson,(who has been badly mishandled by Peter DeBoer,more on him soon) and traded the other for Cory Schneider.
This is not a management group that appears to be in favor of rebuilding with youth.
Why is that besides the reason noted above?
Because of the market in which they play,the Devils (and the Islanders as well) need to be a playoff team in order to draw fans and when they are bad,attendance plummets.
A three team market enables fans to go to where the winners are and with the high price of NHL tickets,no one wants to go to see a loser when they can see a winner.
A young team is often a losing team,but sometimes you can get fans to buy in with hopes of a future worth following.
This Devils team is neither entertaining or good-they are the worst combination that you can have as a fan.
Old,Slow and Dull is not the way a fan wants go through the hockey season and yet the New Jersey Devils have decided to build their team around just that premise.

Add to that a head coach that has overstayed his welcome in Peter DeBoer with head scratching decisions and a lack of dedication to playing the few young players on the team that need playing time to develop (Check the revolving door of scratches for Adam Larsson and Eric Gelinas over the last two years) has made DeBoer the most polarizing member of the franchise.
Well,if polarizing means 95% would like to see him removed,then he is polarizing.
Yet,Lou Lamoriello stubbornly sticks to a coach with a losing record that doesn't like young players and is overwhelmingly despised by his fan base in hopes that suddenly Peter Harrold will become Scott Niedermayer and lead the Devils to a miracle run.
Would firing Peter DeBoer turn this team around?
As much as I would like to see him go,no,it would not.
The roster is too old and flawed,but it would be the first sign of a commitment to rebuild and a sign of good faith to a fan base that slowly is losing interest in Devils hockey.

SO what would I do besides remove DeBoer?
Well,to start,much of this team is simply untradable because of either low value or bad contracts,so I'm not going to waste your time with ridiculous trades that have no chance of happening.
That never makes sense as this guy that shows up on Rachel's Devils page with these posts of "8 moves that the Devils must do" with stuff like the Devils trading Dainius Zubrus to Boston for Milan Lucic and other moves that would be wonderful if the Devils got them done,but have zero chance of the other team agreeing to them unless they were drunk and dumb.

However,the Devils could get a little value by the trade deadline for guys like Jaromir Jagr,who could plug a hole for a contender or maybe even Marek Zidlicky for a team that could use power play help.
The Devils should also consider moving one of their three young defensemen (Larsson,Gelinas and Merrill) to a team with a surplus of young forwards as other than maybe Reid Boucher there is little scoring help at Albany.
None of those deals will bring a bounty of help,but they could add a prospect here or a draft pick there that couldn't hurt any in the rebuilding process.
Keeping those players through the deadline in a futile attempt to make the playoffs accomplishes nothing instead of adding something to jump start the process.

As much as I'd love to see Connor McDavid as a Devil,that's unlikely without lottery luck.but this team does need to draft and develop some scorers.
The best scorers do not want to come to New Jersey to play for a bad team with a less than interesting style,so they need to be cultivated and they are not drafted by mediocre teams-they are drafted by terrible teams.
Are the Devils willing to pay the price by being terrible in the short term?
The Devils new owners have been willing embrace that with their basketball team (The 76ers) and might be willing to do that here,but is Lou Lamoriello?

The Devils are a franchise in flux right now and unless someone acts soon,the team will hit the bottom of the league with a thud not a bounce.
Problems are not created or solved overnight,but the longer the team continues to shovel them in the corner and hope they go away,the longer it takes for the needed cleaning up to start.
It needs to start and soon....

Clunker vs Capitals in 4-0 Devils loss

The New Jersey Devils followed up a losing streak snapping win with a effort that calling it lazy would be charitable on my part.
The 4-0 loss to the Washington Capitals was so bad that I switched over to Bowling Green in their Camellia Bowl appearance on another channel.
New Jersey takes a few days off until Tuesday at the Rock against the almost as awful Carolina Hurricanes...

Hell Raisers

1) Cory Schneider did stop Alexander Ovechkin on a penalty shot.So we got that going for us..

2) The Ovechkin goal was one smooth shot after backhanding the puck between his legs and trucking right on past Jon Merrill.
When the player makes a move like that,you just have to shake your head and move on-nothing anyone's doing about that....

3) Seth Helgeson did try to turn things around with a glove dropping with Michael Latta,so that's something.
I guess..

4) The Devils aren't very good as we've noted,but coming off a win,does anyone have an answer for why after a win that snapped a long losing streak,Peter DeBoer decided to revamp the lineup?
I don't have one,so if you do-let me know....

5) I noted in a Q and A,that I watch this awful mess instead of a winning Cavalier team because of sharing them with Rachel.
Right now,it seems like I'm sharing a tuna salad that's sat out in the sun for a week.
This is so bad that it makes me feel bad having her watch this garbage.
I'm used to watching bad teams-After all,I root for the Browns among others,but this seems like it is going downhill in a hurry.
I'll offer more next week in what will be a scathing indictment of this team what's wrong with it and what could be done to start fixing things-Because this product is just beyond bad....

6) I'm not sure the Devils are in the Connor McDavid sweepstakes yet,but I can dream.
The Devils would draft fifth right now with 30 points.but they have played more games than the teams below them.
I can see them getting passed by Buffalo and Arizona,but they still have 8 more points than Carolina and 10 more than Edmonton.
I can hope they can get to third and pray for lottery luck.
McDavid is the type of player that the Devils have never had-Tell me we land him and I'll live with this trainwreck that I'll have to watch for another 47 (yes 47) games......

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Pigskin Picking Machine

The PPM continues and this week,I'll be adding a bowl game.


Camellia Bowl
Bowling Green over South Alabama 35-26


Panthers over Browns 17-10
Saints over Falcons 30-21

Games of the Week

Steelers over Chiefs 26-21
Colts over Cowboys 40-31

Last week:4-1
Season: 90-33

Friday, December 19, 2014

Kinkaid notches 1st NHL win as Devils down Tampa

The New Jersey Devils snapped their losing streak with a surprising 3-2 win in the shootout over the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Rock in Newark.
Patrik Elias scored the only goal of the shootout and scored earlier in the game (4) as well.
Adam Henrique (9 power play) scored the other goal for New Jersey.
Keith Kinkaid finished with 26 saves in net in earning his first NHL win in the victory.
The Devils will host Washington tomorrow night..

Hell Raisers

1) Very happy for Keith Kinkaid in net in his first NHL win.
Kinkaid was not only strong in net (loved those shootout stops!),but he showed poise after allowing the game tying goal with under a minute to go.
When we met Keith in Hershey,he was one of the nicer guys on the team and it's always nice to see good guys do well...

2) I've already seen some words about Kinkaid sharing the goalie job with Cory Schneider.
Let's not be too premature yet.
Cory Schneider will be given every opportunity to play himself out of the position considering the price paid (a first rounder in the top ten),the public relations hit (the thoughts of some (not me) that Schneider pushed Martin Brodeur out the door) and the contract (a long term one).
And he deserves those chances-the goaltending is not what ails this franchise.

3) What a pretty goal by Patrik Elias in the first period with a spin move around Matt Carle and then the shot over the shoulder and into the net.
For now,that's the Devils goal of the year..

4) What I didn't like was a lot of standing around on defense on both goals allowed by Keith Kinkaid.
Andy Greene and Jon Merril didn't clear the crease on the first Tampa goal and Peter Harrold and Greene again on the second one.
I'm a little more flexible on the second goal due to the six on five,but that is just lazy hockey.

5) The Devils fought off a four minute penalty when Michael Ryder's high stick cut Victor Hedman.
The penalty was not intentional and a bad break,but the penalty kill against a strong power play was a plus.

6) I really try to like Peter Harrold because he seems to be such a good fellow,but Peter DeBoer puts him in positions to fail.
Harrold is the 7th defenseman on a team and is playing due to Adam Larsson's mumps issues,so he moves up to play.
Fine,that is why you have depth.but why does Harrold of the bunch find the ice with under a minute to play with the Lightning thundering (like that play on words?) down with the goalie pulled in a gusty attempt to tie the game?
It's not fair to the player who is overmatched in that situation and it sets him up to fail.....

Boxing Challenge

The first ever Boxing Challenge completes this weekend with two cards from Showtime.
R.L.Malpica leads me by two points at 83-81.
Our selections for the winners are all the same,it's just a matter of how they get there.
I have a tough row to hoe in these two cards to make up two points


WBC Lt.Heavyweight title.12 rds
Adonis Stevenson vs Dmitiry Suthotsky

R.L;Stevenson KO 4
TRS:Stevenson KO 2

Super Middleweights.12 rds
Andre Dirrell vs Derek Edwards

R.L:Dirrell Unanimous Decision
TRS:Dirrell KO 9

Welterweights 12 rds
Kevin Bizier vs Jo Jo Dan
Both:Bizier Unanimous Decision

Lt,Heavyweights.12 rds
Artur Bieterbiev vs Jeff Page

R.L:Beterbiev Unanimous Decision
TRS:Beterbiev KO 2


Featherweights, 12 Rds
Jesus Cuellar vs Ruben Tamayo

Both:Cuellar Unanimous Decision

Featherweights,10 rds
Gary Russell vs Christopher Martin

R.L:Russell KO 5
TRS:Russell KO 7

Junior Middleweights. 10 rds
Julian Williams vs Jamar Freeman

R.L. Williams KO 9
TRS:Williams KO 5

Super Middleweights ,10 rds
Julius Jackson vs Jonathan Nelson

R.L;Jackson KO 4
TRS;Jackson KO 2

Cleaning out the inbox-Mostly Non-Sports Edition

We clean the inbox out with a mostly non-sports edition today....

We start with a look at a true Presidential child rebel in Alice Roosevelt Longworth,
Politico had an article on the daughter of Theodore Roosevelt after the controversy involving the Obama children and their less than thrilled appearance at a Thanksgiving photo op.
Alice was quite wild in her day and her romps through Washington were not only scandalous,but entertaining as well!

I follow Amity Shlaes on Twitter,the author of a biography of Calvin Coolidge that I want to read soon
Shales recently mentioned the SONO-a noise canceling device that works with your windows to dull down the outside noise and add to the quiet.
As someone that is greatly aggravated by outside noise,I'd love to have this and make an attempt to see if SONO works.
The premise seems sound (pun intended),but I'd bet its expensive....

As a board game guy as a kid,I found this article of Grantland's to be quite interesting.
I had never heard of the game called Diplomacy,but it seems like the type of game that isn't as much fun to play as it is challenging.
Not sure that I'd give it a try,but interesting to consider...

Another Grantland article discussed pro wrestler C.M.Punk and his reasons for leaving the WWE.
Not sure who and what I believe as pro wrestling has always been a con game on many levels,but a thought-provoking read as Punk talks the medical treatments and injuries along with the other issues with the WWE.
The piece was written before the announcement of Punk signing with UFC and their mixed martial arts league...

We finish up with a note sent to me by my friend Denise Nicarry of the death of Sy Berger at the age of 91.
Who was Sy Berger?
As the article states,he was the father of modern day baseball cards as the man behind Topps and their baseball card dynasty.
If you ever were into cards at one time or another-you owe a thanks to Sy Berger.....

That cleans out the box for now,Back tonight with the Devils.....

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Five Fights I'd like to see in 2015-Part 1

Time for a boxing post,where I talk about five fights that I'd like to see in 2015 and I'll leave the top two fights off the list as Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao likely will not happen and Miguel Cotto-Canelo Alvarez probably will.
Part one will be 147 pounds and higher,while part two will be under 147..
These aren't in order of preference,but would all be fights that I'd like to see happen...

WBC Heavyweight Title
Bermane Stiverne vs Deontay Wilder

This will get the year started right as it has already been signed.
Wilder is a huge hitter that has fought little competition and Stiverne hits pretty well himself.
This could be short and explosive and the winner sets themselves up for a huge unification bout with Wladimir Klitschko.
I would think Klitschko-Stiverne is more likely to be made than Klitschko-Wilder as Wilder is managed by Al Haymon,who will likely try to find more weak opponents for Wilder,should he win...

WBA and IBF Lt.Heavyweight Titles
Sergey Kovalev vs Artur Beterbiev

For a guy with just six fights,one would think this would be a mismatch,but Beterbiev was so impressive in his two round destruction of Tavoris Cloud,that short of Sergey Kovalev against Adonis Stevenson to unify all the belts in a bout that Stevenson doesn't seem interested in taking,that Beterbiev might be the only real threat to the Krusher.
Beterbiev fights his 7th fight on Showtime Friday,so an impressive win could get this made by the years end or 2016.
Keep in mind Beterbiev fought Kovalev twice in the amateurs and came out the winner both times.
Looking for a Kovalev conqueror? This might be your guy...

Super Middleweights
James DeGale vs Gilberto Martinez

Since Andre Ward bores people to sleep when he fights and rarely bothers to climb into the ring and Carl Froch is aging rapidly,there is some jostling for the future of the division.
DeGale is a former gold medalist and has looked very good since his only loss to George Groves.
Martinez is a huge puncher that is crushing all in his path.
This would be an exciting fight and one that could produce a strong challenge for Froch or Ward.
DeGale is the mandatory contender for Froch,so he will more likely have a title shot before any other serious bouts against contenders.

WBA Middleweight Title
Gennady Golovkin vs Andy Lee

Gennady Golovkin is not only the best 160 pounder,he likes to collect belts.
Golovkin stopped Marco Antonio Rubio to gain the WBC's minor belt in order to make the Miguel Cotto-Canelo Alvarez winner have to fight him by the end of 2015,but in the meantime,Golovkin might want to grab the WBO's minor belt after his fight with Martin Murray in Febuary.
This two were scheduled to fight last year in a bout that was canceled due to the death of Golovkin's father and with Lee's knockout of Matt Korobov to win the vacant WBO belt,it could be revived.
Golovkin would be a heavy favorite,but Lee has a punchers chance...

Amir Khan vs Keith Thurman

In a battle of guys that I've always felt were overrated,the winner of this one would be shoved to the top of the division.
Khan looked impressive against Luis Collazo and Devon Alexander,but both have become gatekeepers to the division,neither would threaten Khan's questionable chin and Khan didn't come close to stopping either.
Thurman has fooled people into thinking he's a huge hitter with wins over past their prime guys like Julio Diaz and face first come forward guys such as Jesus Soto-Karass and I thought he stunk up Las Vegas against someone named Leonard Bundu.
The winner would put themselves solidly at the top of the non-Mayweather Golden Boy welterweights and set themselves up nicely...
Stylewise,this should be a good mix,but I doubt it happens.
Khan is near the top of the Floyd Mayweather derby and Thurman being Al Haymon managed won't fight anyone that has a chance against him until he absolutely has to.

Part two will feature fights in the Jr,Welters,Feathers,Jr.Feathers and Flyweights....

Still no offense in Devils loss to Ottawa

The New Jersey Devils were booed throughout their 2-0 loss to the Ottawa Senators at the Rock after Kyle Turris scored both Ottawa goals..
Cory Schneider finished with 15 saves,but it only takes one when your team doesn't score.
The Devils have now lost five games in a row.

Hell Raisers

1) Patrik Elias said that the team didn't deserve to be booed and they were the better team.
That's all well and good,but five losses in a row,fading playoff hopes with 50 games to go in the season-what would you expect?

2) 0 for 5 for the Devils power play against Craig Anderson,who played well.
What's worse was that the team didn't have a lot of even good chances on the man advantage.
That's disappointing after the Devils had seemed to be turning the corner on the PP...

3) The Devils did put 34 shots on net against Anderson and the difference did come down to one bad break-the Kyle Turris goal was a odd redirection.
Ottawa got a break,the Devils didn't,It does happen...

4) The defense played well and really was the dominant part of the game.
Eric Gelinas was very good and Marek Zidlicky was better than normal.
Andy Greene was solid as well.
The Devils cannot blame the blueliners for the loss...

5) Craig Anderson was spectacular,but Cory Schneider was fine as well.
The Devils really did control the game and the effort was there.
The problem is that this team just isn't that good.
I know I've been promising a feature on the team and it's coming,but until then this and it pains me to say this-this team's fault just might be more than Peter DeBoer...

Monday, December 15, 2014

Run over by Bengals,Browns lose 30-0...

In the biggest game of their season,the Cleveland Browns went out and played their worst offensive game of the season in a 30-0 loss to the revenge-minded Cincinnati Bengals in Cleveland.
There were no offensive numbers worth mentioning that weren't,well,offensive in a different way,but Johnny Manziel tossed two interceptions in the defeat that saw him fail to reach even the pedestrian number of 100 yards passing for the day.
The now 7-7 Browns will finish their season on the road in Carolina and Baltimore.

Brownie Bits

1) I was fine with the decision to start Johnny Manziel over Brian Hoyer.
Hoyer had been so bad that I felt it was worth a try.
Manziel was disappointing and there is blame to spread to around .
Manziel seemed overwhelmed and borderline unprepared.
If Manziel is going to play in this league-he has a long way to go.

2) The big question-Do the Browns win this game if Mike Pettine had started Brian Hoyer?
No.I just don't see it all things considered,but if you would have preferred a 30-14 loss,Ok.
Hoyer might have engineered more offense,but I think this was a rearend kicking in the making and the starter didn't matter other than maybe some garbage points...

3) The play calling didn't help Manziel much either.
In a game that you were down quickly and early,the Browns didn't throw the ball enough (18 passes) and when they did,it looked like a return to the three yard pass day of old.
Manziel threw just one pass of over 15 yards for a completion (32 yards to Josh Gordon) and allowed the Bengals to play press coverage....

4) More than Manziel was bad in this game as the run defense allowed the most rushing yards to a team this season as the Bengals blew the Browns off the line of scrimmage to the tune of 244 yards,with 148 of them to noted wordsmith Jeremy Hill.
Hill had spouted off after the Browns win in Cincinnati about not being impressed with the Browns.
If he wasn't then,wonder what he thinks now???

5) By the Browns not being able to stop the run,the Bengals were then able to spot Andy Dalton and not force him to win the game.
Dalton's numbers look light (117 yds and a INT) and they are,but they were able to not have to throw the ball to win,keeping those numbers down...

6) Five first downs and 1 of 10 on third down.
Ugh,Kyle Shanahan didn't help Manziel with makeable third downs with run up the middle calls on 1st and 2nd down,especially once the Browns got down 20,but this is still a bad number.

7) Jeremy Hill was able to add something the Bengals needed-a power runner between the tackles.
Hill gained most of his yardage that way and I'll address this more in the off season,but the Browns miss Phil Taylor immensely and if Taylor doesn't appear ready to start next season,Cleveland will need a defensive tackle in the worst way.

8) The Browns lost Joe Haden and Justin Gilbert to injury and no word if they will play against Carolina yet.
The Bengals didn't need to throw much,but considering the big picture,the pass defense could have been far worse..

9) The Browns waived Billy Cundiff and added former Saint Garrett Hartley,who never touched the field as Spencer Lanning did the kickoff and only once did the Browns threaten to score.
Johnny Manziel threw up a floater off his back foot that was snared in the end zone by a Bengal ending the Browns only serious scoring threat...

10) The offensive line was not the answer either to any prayers as they were beaten often off the line by Bengal rushers that left Johnny Manziel throwing off his back foot with little time to throw.
Center has been an issue since the loss of Alex Mack and Mitchell Schwartz is a player degressing not progressing at right tackle.
Right tackle has been a Browns achilles heel for years and it needs to be fixed...

11) Finally,some are ready to give up on Johnny Manziel.
I'm not,but others are saying the Browns are saddled with Manziel for next season too.
I disagree,sometimes one needs to cut loose a mistake and if after three games,the Browns are convinced this is a disaster-I wouldn't be against a QB.
I think it would be premature,but if the last two games are disasters similar to this,you have to at least consider the possibility....

Boxing Challenge Results

The Boxing Challenge took some twists and turns last night in Las Vegas,but after it was all said and done,R.L.Malpica still held a two point
lead at 83-81.

The HBO portion of the show gave R.L. one point and me none..

The first fight saw Mauricio Herrera in a great bout with a bad decision as Jose Benavidez won a unanimous decision.
I scored the fight 116-113 for Herrera...

Neither of us earned points for Timothy Bradley's draw vs Diego Chaves.
I thought this one was pretty clear cut too with Bradley winning 116-112 on my card.
Bradley griped afterward about the decision,which I cannot blame him for,but considering I had him losing to Manny Pacquiao,Ruslan Provodnikov and Juan Manuel Marquez and he got the call,so I'd might rack this up to karma....

R.L.earned a point for Andy Lee's upset sixth round KO of Matt Korobov.
I had Korobov ahead 49-46 at the time of the stoppage,which I thought was a little premature considering Korobov was never floored,but he was hurt and I've seen worse stoppages....

Down the Vegas strip for Showtime,R.L. moved his lead to four points with Abner Mares winning over Jose Ramirez,when Ramirez's corner stopped the fight after the fifth round.
R,L added two points for the Mares win and KO,while I picked up just one for the win..

Each of us added one point for Keith Thurman's boring win unanimous decision over Leonard Bundu.
Thurman disappointed fans (not me) that think he is the future of the division (Not me again) with a boring bout that only saw Bundu dropped in a flash knockdown in the first round...
I scored Thurman a 120-107 winner.

Amir Khan saved the day for me and kept my hopes of a comeback alive with a unanimous decision over Devon Alexander.
Khan dominated the bout giving me two points for picking him and zero for R.L. and his selection of Alexander.
Khan;s win brought the lead back to the starting point of two with the win and I would bet that it will likely get him a bout with Floyd Mayweather next year...

Next weekend's next two cards on Showtime will end the 2014 challenge and decide this years winner....

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Pigskin Picking Machine

With the college season in bowl hiatus.
I've decided to have two games of the week....

Bengals over Browns 24-17
Saints over Bears 41-34

Games of the Week

Best: Eagles over Cowboys 27-20
Worst:Jets over Titans 20-10

Last Week:7-2

Season: 86-32

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Boxing Challenge

The Boxing Challenge continues with a big weekend of bouts on both HBO and Showtime.
Both R.L. Malpica and I each earned two points last night for Erislandy Lara's unanimous decision win over Ishe Smith...


Welterweights.12 rds
Timothy Bradley vs Diego Chaves
Both:Bradley Unanimous Decision

Middleweights 12 rds
Matt Korobov vs Andy Lee
R.L: Lee Split Decision
TRS:Korobov Unanimous Decision

Jr Welterweights.12 rds
Mauricio Herrera vs Jose Benavidez
Both:Herrera Unanimous Decision


Welterweights.12 rds
Amir Khan vs Devon Alexander
R.L:Alexander Split Decision
TRS:Khan Unanimous Decision

Welterweights 12 rds.
Keith Thurman vs Leonard Bungu
R.L:Thurman KO 3
TRS:Thurman KO 8

Featherweights,12 rds
Abner Mares vs Jose Ramirez
R.L:Mares KO 8
TRS:Mares Unanimous Decision

Friday, December 12, 2014

Boxing Challenge Update

R.L.Malpica won the pivotal bout and took a two point lead over me at 78-76 going down the stretch in the boxing challenge.

The differing bout was Canadian middleweight David Lemieux's stoppage of Gabriel Rosado in the tenth round.
R.L.picked up two points for the Lemieux victory and moved to his lead after this in the HBO main event.
There has only been two times this year that I had second thoughts about a selection before the bout (right or wrong) and both involved David Lemieux.
Lemieux would win both bouts and might be the difference in winning or losing this event....
HBO looks to be moving Lemieux to a summer 2015 bout vs Gennady Golovkin,which will be entertaining with Lemieux's hitting power and less than strong defense.
I don't see Lemieux having much of a chance vs GGG,but it might be fun to watch while it lasts.
As for the game Rosado,I'd like to see HBO and Showtime pass on his fights against upper level fighters.
Rosado will fight hard,fall behind and just as Rosado is turning the tide in the fight,the bout gets stopped because his face is too busted up,so what's the point??

R.L would get a point on Thomas Dulorme's close split decision over Hank Lundy.
Dulorme dropped Lundy in the first,but Lundy was taking over and if this would have been a 12 rounder and not 10-I think Lundy would have pulled this out.

I got that point back with Hugo Centeno's one punch KO over James De La Rosa in round six and set the stage for the Lemieux win...

I'll have some picks up later today for a big weekend of boxing and the boxing challenge.

Failing in Philly-Devils lose 4-1

The New Jersey Devils entered this game in Philadelphia against a tea, below them in the standings with two needed points on the line for both teams.
The Devils came out slow,battled back and then flattened out again in a disappointing 4-1 loss to the Flyers.
Martin Havlat's goal (3 Power Play) in the second period was the only New Jersey goal.
The Devils next game sees them travel to Dallas Saturday night.
Considering the 8;30 start,I doubt that I will have coverage of that game...

Hell Raisers

1) Start with the good news-Scott Gomez assisted on the Havlat goal for his third game in a row with an assist.
Gomez's passing skills seem to be a good fit with Jaromir Jagr and Martin Havlat-guys that are shooters not playmakers....

2) The penalty kill went 4 of 5,which continues its uptick in the PK stats among teams.

3) The power play giveth and taketh away as the Havlat goal was a plus,but a botched Marek Zidlicky shot led to a Philly breakaway and goal shorthanded by Sean Couturier.

4) Zidlicky was bad and so Jon Merrill as both basically could each be faulted for a different goal.
Merrill is still learning,Zidlicky is just bad...

5) Cory Schneider was OK,not awful,not terrific.
It's not his fault,three quarters of the team couldn't be bothered to play...

6) Big question-How long does Peter DeBoer survive this crap?
I don't know,I would have fired him last year,but Lou Lamoriello sees something in him,but I will say this-between injuries,lack of talent and the oldest team in the league-this is not all his fault.
I'm still in favor of a coach that likes to deal with young players (I'll get more in detail on this one slow day with a massive Devils article that I have planned),but this not all on DeBoer.
Even though I'd love to blame it on him.....

7) I really like the fourth lines play-Gionta,Bernier and Ruutu are always scrapping and considering the way the higher lines are playing,I would not be against them getting more ice time against the opposition's higher lines...

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Rule V Results

Very little to report as none of the three teams made a selection in today's Rule V draft.

The Pirates did lose hard throwing lefthander Andrew Oliver to the Phillies in the major league portion of the draft,which means Oliver will have to stick all season or be offered back to the Pirates.
Pittsburgh also lost two pitchers in the AAA portion of the draft,which means they lose them for good in return for a modest cash payment of $12,000 dollars.
Tampa selected Luis Urena,who has been pitching for just one season and St.Louis took Tyler Waldron,a decent prospect that has been passed by others in the system....

The Indians lost no one at any level and did select Delvi Francisco from the Phillies in the Triple A portion.
Francisco's numbers were nothing to get excited about at short season Williamsport and low A Lakewood,so there must have been something that I'm missing that the Indians liked.

The Giants were at 40 men on the big league roster,so they could not participate in the upper draft,but did take two players in the AAA draft with one of them being a once big name in the prospect game.
Former Cubs first rounder Brett Jackson problem has always been contact not power,so Jackson might be a pick to bolster the Giants new AAA affiliate in Sacramento.
Ramon Del Orbe was taken from the Marlins to provide depth for Augusta or San Jose as looking at the 22 year old's stats-I cannot see any other reason to project him as a prospect.
Del Orbe spent most of the last two seasons with low A Greensboro and never rose above that level.

Back later with the Devils vs the Flyers....

Q and A

Time to answer a few questions from a few of you on the Q and A.
Keep in mind that I keep questions in mind when I talk/write to people,so these aren't always formal questions...

Q-What did you think about the baseball hall of fame not inducting any players from the "golden era"in their latest vote?

A- Disappointed that Dick Allen and Tony Oliva fell one vote short.
I've always been concerned about the HOF becoming the "Hall of Very Good" and some really good players were on the ballot this time.
I've been a proponent of Dick Allen for years and with the greater base on advanced numbers,Allen's case will only grow.
I'd even go this far-if Allen was on the regular ballot today,he'd get in eventually.
Luis Tiant has similar to better numbers than several guys in the HOF and Christina Kahrl has swung me to supporting Minnie Minoso as well.
One final point on this-if it's acceptable for the HOF to hold a vote every year,is it too much to ask for this committee to meet every year rather than every three?
Considering the age of the candidates in the cache' and the outrage over Ron Santo not getting in until after his passing,I believe that this group should meet once a year,just like the regular voters.

Q-What do you think about the Hagerstown Suns staying for another two years?

A-I'm happy of course,but I still have questions about the teams long term viability here.
The team is locked in for 2015 and 16 and that's more than I would have expected.
However,the team has many bridges to rebuild in the community and as long as there are political hacks (and I have words that I'd rather type ) like Kristin Aleshire out there on the city council,I still don't feel safe in saying that we are out of the woods yet.

Q-Why does the Cavaliers coverage come and go?

A- Simply this.If the Devils and Cavaliers play on the same night.
I watch the Devils.
Now you may be asking just why I watch non-playoff hockey when I could be watching a title contending basketball team?
Easy,I watch it with Rachel.
I won't have her forever and the time I spend with her now,I can't get back later.
Even if it means I sit through some awful hockey...

Q- Where's more autograph talk?

A-I still have tons of cards sitting around and I just don't feel it.
I'm really looking forward to baseball season and all,but still not feeling the graphing bug yet...

Q- What do you do over the winter?

A-Work and write.
I do enjoy the relaxing and I am enjoying the holiday season,but I don't DO much of anything.
I have our annual trip to Hershey planned,but otherwise waiting for warm weather...

Q- Any baseball trips in store?

A- Not sure,but I have one in mind that I have never considered,but with gas prices beginning to fall and projected to possibly get to the ballpark of two dollars a gallon,it has been a possible trip.
I don't want to jinx it,but it has moved from very unlikely to possibly if all fell right....

Back later tonight with any news out of the rule v draft and the Devils on the road again.....

Hot Stove Pirates-Antonio Bastardo acquired!

Baseball's winter meetings are just about over and with the Giants not making any moves (although they tried) and the Indians already making their deal to acquire Brandon Moss,that leaves the Pirates,so I thought I would catch up with the hot stove in Pittsburgh.

The Pirates had made a few small moves before the winter meetings,but nothing worth mentioning in a full post,so I'll catch up with them after the biggest trade that was made today and a signing during the meetings.

The biggest news was the team re-signing lefty Francisco Liriano to a three year contract worth 13 million a year.
Most had expected the Pirates to lose both Liriano and Edinson Volquez,so this was a mild surprise.
Liriano notched almost identical numbers in 2014 to his return in 2013 in every category except wins,so I'm comfortable with the deal and it certainly isn't an overpay,but considering Liriano's years before Pittsburgh,I might have preferred a two year deal.

The Pirates made a move to upgrade the lefthanded side of their bullpen with a trade with the Phillies for Antonio Bastardo for Joely Rodriguez.
Rodriguez spent last season at AA Altoona and pitched well in the Arizona Fall League,so he is somewhat a prospect despite a nearly five ERA in the Eastern League.

The real catch is Antonio Bastardo,who at 29,might rank near the top of the list of pitchers most likely to terrify lefthanded hitters.
Bastardo ranks at the top of the league in strikeout to nine inning ratio and brings the heat with the best of the gas throwers in the game.
With the trading of Justin Wilson to the Yankees,there was a gap in the bullpen on the southpaw side and Bastardo not just fills the spot of Wilson,he improves it dramatically.
I've been a fan of Bastardo,since I saw him pitch at the Muni,so I really do like this deal for the Pirates...

The Pirates have been collecting utility infielders this off season as they claimed two off waivers in Jake Elmore from the Reds and Pedro Florimon (former Frederick Key) from the Nationals,picked up Justin Sellers from the Indians for cash and most recently traded for Sean Rodriguez from Tampa for a player to be named later,which will be announced after today's rule v draft.
Rodriguez might be the one that sticks after hitting 12 homers in a little over 200 at bats,despite hitting just .211 and with a career average of .226,I could see him as a power bat in a pinch hitting capacity.
Rodriguez wouldn't be a huge loss if he didn't turn out.

The Pirates claimed an interesting arm off waivers in Josh Lindblom from Oakland.
Lindblom,a one time excellent prospect in the Los Angeles system,pitched in just one game for the A's last season and is coming off an injury,so he is far from a sure thing,but for the waiver cost-I'm intrigued...

Pittsburgh will have Pedro Alvarez shifting to first base this season,but what to do with the platoon from last year?
Well,Neal Huntington was apparently not pleased with either as the Pirates designated both Gaby Sanchez and Ike Davis for assignment.
Davis was shipped to Oakland with the Pirates third international signing bonus slot for the A's first slot,so they got a little something for Davis,who was a disappointment in his one Pittsburgh season hitting .235 with 10 homers after costing the Pirates pitcher Blake Taylor,who was the second round pick by the Pirates in the 2013 draft.
No word on interest in Sanchez as his ten days to be DFAed has not expired as of this writing.

That takes the Pirates off the burner for now and I am at the road office,so I may still hammer out that Q and A that I promised....

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Kinkaid brilliance not enough in Chicago loss

For the second night in a row,the New Jersey Devils received an extraordinary performance in goal,but this time the opposition was better as the Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Devils in the shootout for a 3-2 triumph at the Rock.
Keith Kinkaid finished with 37 saves in his first NHL start in a stellar effort.
Jordan Tootoo (2) and Stephen Gionta (2) scored for the battered Devils,who will be in Philadelphia on Thursday....

Hell Raisers

1) Keith Kinkaid was sensational in his first start and it was even more remarkable when you consider the competition of one of the better teams in the league.
Kinkaid may have been overwhelmed in the shootout by two of the best players in the game (Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane),but otherwise performed very well,

2) Kinkaid was called up earlier in the day from Albany with the Devils playing yet another back to back game set and didn't get there until a few hours before the game.
As far I am concerned,if the Devils want to actually play the backup once in a while,I'd rather see Kinkaid than Scott Clemmensen....

3) Cory Schneider asked for a night off and Rachel (who generally complains about Schneider whenever she can) said that "he wanted to play all the time,he should play".
Asking out of the lineup happens in baseball and Schneider has started every game but one entering last night.
In my opinion,playing Martin Brodeur far too much was an issue in his later years and it appears that it is rearing its head again.
I liked that Schneider asked out (this time) and think it would help him and the Devils to sprinkle Keith Kinkaid in more often....

4) The defense ranged to poor to good,but the penalty killers did kill off a 5 on 3 that looked to have doomed the game.
New Jersey is slowly starting to turn that problem around and must credit where it is do.

5) Dainius Zubrus was injured against Carolina and Reid Boucher was called from the A-Devils.
Boucher was less than remarkable in this one,but the short notice could have been a factor-at least I hope.

6) Travis Zajac and Adam Larsson have been diagnosed with the mumps.
It appears to be on its way out as Zajac has resumed skating,but it took this long to know this for sure?

7) The team needs to work on one final thing that I noticed-the team doesn't clear the puck well.
I lost count of how many times that the puck was just lying there after a interrupted pass and Chicago was able to keep in the Devils zone.
That is not just a problem of the defensemen,that is a forward issue as well and it needs to be addressed..

I'll be around from the road office later tonight with a boxing challenge update and perhaps a Q and A since I haven't had one of those in a while....

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Henrique Goal gives Devils 2-1 win!

The New Jersey Devils were generally outplayed in Raleigh by the Carolina Hurricanes,but Jaromir Jagr (5) and Adam Henrique (8) ended a second period that saw all the goals in the game scored with a eventual 2-1
win over the Carolina Hurricanes.
Cory Schneider was the games star with 40 saves for New Jersey,who returns home tonight for one day vs Chicago.

Hell Raisers

1) Cory Schneider deserves all the credit for the win,
Schneider almost singlehandedly kept New Jersey in the contest with dazzling save after save and somehow after 40 saves,didn't get voted as one of the three stars.

2) Jaromir Jagr wasn't expected to play and yet scored a goal with an assist on the Adam Henrique game winner.
That shows the leadership of Jagr,who should have received some consideration for the captainship,at least in the absence of Bryce Salvador.

3) Have I told you my conspiracy theory on Salvador?
Well,here goes-Considering his poor play,bloated salary,young defensemen that need to play and being the captain all being factors that make him almost untradable-I think that the team may have come up with an injury that would not embarrass Salvador (since he has to be paid anyway) and yet keep him off the ice.

4) Scott Gomez also assisted on both Devils goals.
Gomez might have found a niche for his top skill-passing and if spotted on a line with players capable of finishing,could be reasonably productive.

5) 16 shots on the goal,normally,will not get many victories and even more rarely against a good team.
Carolina is not a good team and the Devils put forth a lazy and uninspired effort (except for Cory Schneider) and were lucky to earn two points..

6) I mixed things up a bit and watched on the Carolina network.
I like to do this once in a while as it keeps the Devils guys fresher to me.
Back in the days of Kathryn Tappen being on NESN in the studio for Bruins telecasts along with Andy Brickley,I would always watch New Jersey-Boston games on NESN.
Hurricane announcers John Forsland and Tripp Tracy were decent enough,certainly not awful,but the big winner was Chantel McCabe.
I've never been a fan of Deb Placey with the Devils,but McCabe showed not only an appealing personality,but some knowledge as well as she diagrammed a play on an erasable board that showed some things that Carolina is doing.
McCabe looks quite young so there is room for growth in her knowledge of the game as well,so there is some possibility for improvement too.
I walked away quite taken with McCabe and the Fox Sports Carolina team and might give them another try when these two teams play.
If I'm MSG Networks,I'm trying to bring Chantel McCabe to work for one of the three NYC area teams.

I'm watching the tape of the Cavaliers and Nets now and if I have time,I'll have some thoughts up later today...