That’s so Gay

 

What?!  What did I say?  I’m talking about a basketball player here people, I don’t know what you think I mean by that but I’m talking about one of the best in the NBA right now.  Get your heads out of the gutter.  Actually, keep them there because my writing is usually in their as well…

People around the NBA really questioned this deal when it first happened.  Rudy Gay was overpaid and Memphis was essentially dumping him for cap purposes only.  But a couple things got overlooked in that deal (not by all, but some).  One was that Gay is a guy that was used to being the go to guy and he had that role ripped from him in Memphis.  And two is that the Raptors can’t get anyone to come to Canada, so what is the point of having all that cap space available if they can’t use it on anyone useful?

He has completely transformed the Raptors.  They’re now 7-3 with him in the lineup with wins in Indiana, on the road and at home vs the Knicks, at home against Denver, and even though the score didn’t look like it in the end they played the Heat tight for most of their game on Super Bowl Sunday.

This team lacked that go to guy.  Andrea Bargnani is far from that guy (hell at this point he’s far from a decent 12th man), Kyle Lowry is a nice point guard but he isn’t that guy, DeMar DeRozan is an amazingly athletic player but he isn’t that guy either.  Gay is.  He has that “give me the ball and get the hell out of my way” attitude that every team in the NBA needs to succeed. 

That was on full display last night against the Knicks.  26 of his 32 points came in the 2nd half of the game.  He put the team on his back, especially in the 3rd quarter.  He is the alpha dog that this team hasn’t had since Vince Carter.  Sure Chris Bosh was an all-star, but he was never going to be the kind of guy that could put a team on his back and carry them deep in the playoffs. 

Gay, if he has the right pieces to play with, could be that guy.  Now, that’s not to say that he could lead this team the finals, in fact I highly doubt he could.  But get them to the Eastern conference finals in the next 2 or 3 years?  I think that’s very possible in the East.

Bryan Colangelo with this one deal went from being on his way out, to having built something really nice.  Gay is still pretty young, Kyle Lowry is young at the point, DeRozan is developing into a great 2 guard (and has meshed well with Gay, some thought that could be an issue), and if they wanted to move DeRozan they have Terrance Ross developing, and then they have Jonas Valanciunas who might be the player benefiting from this move the most as he can just quietly develop his game with little pressure/urgency to do so.

So now we get to see if this team can in fact get in the dance.  They’re closing very fast on the Bucks (now 4.5 games back), although the Sixers somehow have 4 games in hand on the Raps and are a game in front of them so they’ll be chasing them as well.  BUT…they’re very much in it with the way they’re playing right now.  I wouldn’t expect much from them if they got in and played the Heat.  A successful season at this point would be getting in the playoffs and taking the Heat to 6 games.

But it does appear weather they make the playoffs or not that FINALLY good things are on the way for this franchise.  What is in the water in T.O. these days?!  Raptors playing great, Leafs playing great, Jays looked primed for the playoffs and the Argos won the Grey Cup!  I guess Toronto FC sucks but that’s ok because soccer (much like wrestling) isn’t real…

 

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Cheap…but necessary

 

Hear me out on this.  First off I don’t like doing a lot of Oilers stuff on here.  But I went to my editor (me) and asked him if it would be cool.  He agreed, as long as it was cool with the owner.  So he went to the owner (me) and asked if Soups (who is all 3 of us) if I could do a piece on the Oilers.  After a long discussion, had a meal together, watched some hockey together, showered together, slept together….we finally decided it would be cool.

The Edmonton Oilers so far this season have been terrible.  Now this is by no means a finished product.  This team is weak down the middle (oh yes, don’t think I’m not going to bring up Gagner again), they’re awful in their own zone (it’s not just on the blueline), and they lack veteran leadership.  But this team is way too talented to be THIS bad.  Just 2 wins now in their last 10 games.

By no means am I looking to fire the coach already, but Ralph Krueger thus far has done a simply awful job.  Like I say it’s early, so don’t get me wrong here but this team has no structure in their game at all, and come out flat a lot more often than not.  This was a guy who was hired because he was both a strong technical coach and a hell of a motivator.  He’s been neither.

The one thing this team has lacked for a long time now however is a guy that was willing to go out and do something about it.  Now, Hall’s hit was dirty.  It wasn’t knee on knee, but he was looking to do some damage.  And this isn’t about how it couldn’t have happened to a better guy (although I’m pretty sure most hockey fans outside of the “State of Hockey” were all saying the same thing: “Karma’s a bitch bud!”).  But while most people aren’t going to go around saying “this is what a leader does”, because it was cheap….but this is what a leader does.  Mark Messier would do the same thing.  Mess would likely use his elbow, but he would do the same kind of thing.  Brendan Morrow would do it, Dustin Brown would do it, Doan would do it, Iginla would do it (a lot of wingers are captains).  He was a player who was flat out disgusted with practice hero’s like Matt Cullen running their show because he’s fearless when playing the Oilers and decided to do something about it.

This team is fully capable of being a playoff team this season, but they need to get their act together because with a 9 game roadie coming up they’re in danger of picking yet again in the top 5….which is now unacceptable in Edmonton.  Sure, 5-10 years down the road Oiler fans might be saying “that 1 extra top 5 pick was so worth that bad 48 game season”, but at some point you have to take the next step.

I’ve been a guy who has been a lot more patient about the rebuild than most.  Most don’t understand that the actual rebuild didn’t start until the 2010 trade deadline.  Most don’t understand that the Oilers were a much bigger mess than most franchises (Jason Gregor compared the Habs to the Oilers this week, does he not realize that the Habs have a franchise goaltender, franchise power forward, and franchise d-man already in place?!).  In fact, the Oilers at the start of this rebuild didn’t even have a competent farm team to develop guys.  Hardly any money was invested in developing players, and they didn’t have any truely valuable pieces already in place.  This was as close to an expansion team as any team has ever got.  So I’ve understood this would take a while.  But this team needs to be better than this by now.  Maybe not a playoff team this season, but definitely competing for a playoff spot.

Which brings me back to the Hall hit.  While it was cheap, and he might be suspended for it, this team needed a wake up call and he tried to deliver it.  You might not like it, in fact I’m sure most won’t.  But his intent out of it was to say to his teammates “maybe we should start to give a damn about how awful we’ve been playing?”  It was a message that needed to be sent to this team.  I’m sure its been discussed at length in the room quite a bit over the last 10 games, but that wasn’t working.  A new message has been sent, we will see if this team gets it.

 

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Where O’where will he go?

 

Well it is all but confirmed now that Ryan O’Reilly has played his last game for the Colorado Avalanche.  Of course he has, leave it to Greg Sherman to screw it up with a kid who is 21, great defensively, had a 55 point season, great in the dot, and a leader.  With Scott Howson now out in Columbus, this guy is going to step up as Jay Feaster’s greatest challenge as the worst GM in the league.  He is a worthy foe no doubt, but Jay is the champ.  As they used to say in the WWE, Feaster doesn’t have to beat Sherman, Sherman has to beat Feaster.

Anyway, back to O’Reilly.  In doing some extra research for this I found a great stat.  You can’t hide your kids on the road in the NHL and you have a disadvantage in the faceoff circle on the road since you have to put your stick down first (a little thing, but its an advantage for the home team).  O’Reilly was still 51% in the dot on the road last season at 21 years old (52.8% on the season).  55 points and only -1 on a team that didn’t make the playoffs and he had to matchup against every teams top line.  This kid is a coaches dream!

So the question now is weather or not the Avs will trade him this season, or wait until the draft?  I don’t know the answer to that.  But I do know teams should be lined up to get him, so I will take a look at what I believe should be the top 10 teams looking to trade for the kid.  Just doing this alphabetically, no particular order.

Anaheim – The Ducks are playing great to start this season.  Big win in Chicago last night, they’re leading the tough Pacific division.  But they’re thin down the middle.  If the Ducks can hang onto Ryan Getzlaf, then they’ll have a great 1-2 punch at center moving forward.  If they can’t, then O’Reilly would at least be able to soften the blow as they rebuild.  Richard Rackell, Emerson Etem, Peter Holland, lots of trade chips for the Ducks to make a deal.

Buffalo – This is a team that has been very aggressive about improving at center for a year now.  The Hodgson trade, drafting Grigorenko and Girgensons in the 1st round of the draft, they know to compete with Boston and now what Ottawa has going on at center that they have to be loaded there.  Either one of Grigorenko or Girgensons could go in a deal, as could Luke Adam.

Calgary – For the 2nd year in a row they might have a chance to get a young center that could not only help them now, but is a great building block moving forward.  Jay Feaster wouldn’t man up to get Kyle Turris, so I don’t think he will when it comes to O’Reilly either….but he should.  Mikael Backlund has had a great start so he might be of interest to the Avs in a package, perhaps with a prospect who has his value through the roof right now like John Gaudreau.  Tough to trade in division so the Flames would have to pay more than most teams, but this kid is well worth it.

Chicago – Why would the best team in hockey want to make a move that could disturb what they have going on right now?  Because we are only 1/4 of the way through a season.  A center like O’Reilly playing behind Toews and in front of Dave Bolland would give them a group of centers that would rival the Kings for best team down the middle in the West.  Lots of trading chips in Chicago as they’ve down a nice job keeping the system stockpiled despite being an elite team.

Edmonton – How many times have I said the Oilers desperately need to upgrade down the middle?  I’ve never seen what was seemingly a one sided trade won so lopsidedly by the team that seemingly lost the deal (you follow that mess?)  But that’s how it went when the Oilers sent Stoll and Greene to LA for Visnovsky, who later became Ryan Whitney.  The Oilers badly need a guy like Stoll, and ironically that is who O’Reilly was compared to when drafted.  O’Reilly would allow the Oilers to move Gagner to the wing where he belongs.  They have lots of chips to deal and like Calgary would have to overpay but it would be worth doing.

Florida – Stephen Weiss could be leaving as a UFA after this season.  They have kids like Huberdeau who is currently playing the wing, and Bjugstad who is still in college at Minnesota, but if Weiss left they would be REALLY thin there for at least a few years.  Like most of these teams, lots of chips for the Panthers to play with and make a deal to the Avs liking.

Montreal – I said it in my latest mock draft that if they drafted Frederick Gauthier he would be the perfect guy to play behind Alex Galchenyuk.  Well so would O’Reilly.  Again, they’re in a rebuild but O’Reilly fits into that seeing he just turned 22 last week.  Montreal has guys that I’m sure they wouldn’t be heartbroken to deal, but at the same time would interest the Avs like Lars Eller and Louis Leblanc, so the Habs could be my top contender to land him.

Nashville – They don’t NEED O’Reilly, but he would fit in perfectly with how the Preds are built.  I know Colin Wilson is playing well to start this season but it would be just like David Poile to pull the trigger on a guy like this.  You can never have too many good 2 way centers.  Fisher, Legwand, Gaustad.  You slot O’Reilly in with those 3 and it would make it miserable on the rest of the Western conference come playoff time.  A package around Nick Spalling might make the Avs bite on a deal, plus lots of young D-men who the Avs SHOULD be interested in.

Toronto – If I’m Dave Nonis, I offer the Avs my 1st in 2014 and 2015 along with a 2nd rounder in 2014.  Hey, at least this time they would be getting a kid that has a few dimensions to his game!  This isn’t as vital for the Leafs as it was coming into the season with how Nazem Kadri has played.  I still don’t know if I’m a big fan of Kadri, but he’s played very well.  But O’Reilly would still really improve this club provided its the right deal.  Nonis might be gun shy to do anything with how this team is rolling right now though.

Washington – This might be the perfect storm, although we will have to see how the big comeback win vs the Panthers last night will affect them.  If that doesn’t give them a jolt, then this is THE fit for an O’Reilly trade.  A) the Caps are loaded with prospects and young players all over the roster.  B) the Caps might need a shakeup as I’ve just discussed.  C) they’ve been looking for a 2nd line center for a long time (don’t think Riberio is the answer).  D) they need more leaders in their dressing room.  E) McPhee and Sherman have done a big deal like this before (Varlamov).  Marcus Johansson, Dmitry Orlov, their 1st round pick, hell I would even say Mike Green is a trade possibility here.  If the Caps want to do a deal here I don’t see how they don’t.

I would watch through this process for the Avs to screw it all up and take a player or players back that don’t amount to anything.  This is a poorly run organization.  They seemingly have no idea how bad their blueline is (it has been rumored they’ve been dangling Shan O’Brien for a center).  Why are you offering Shane O’Brien when your top 4 on defense is Erik Johnson, Ryan Wilson, and I honestly have no idea who is their number 3…it’s THAT bad!  Never the less, this will be interesting to watch.

 

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NFL picks – Super Bowl

 

Well this is it.  After 2 weeks of hearing about the Harbaugh brothers, and Ray Lewis, and how NOW people are noticing Joe Flacco is a clutch player (have I mentioned I was well in front of that?!), and how the head coaches in this game came from the same womb.  We also had 1 week of deer antler talk, that was really sweet.  But now its done, the game is today.  It has the ingredients to be a great game.  2 good teams, 2 tough teams, 2 QB’s who have been very clutch in these playoffs.  It has the potential to be an all time great game.  Lets be honest…while the last 5 Super Bowls have been close games, only the Steelers/Cards game was actually a great game.  Great finishes, the odd classic moment, but its so tough in this game for either offense to get any rythem in their game.  Anyway, I could ramble on for hours but I want to get to bed some time tonight so lets get to this for the last time until September.

 

Baltimore vs San Francisco

Baltimore +3.5

Under 48.5

After rolling with dogs all year long, and literally every pick in the playoffs, why would I change now?!  I went 18 games over .500 in the regular season, and I’ve gone 4-2 ATS in the last 2 playoff weekends.  Yes wildcard weekend went horribly wrong, it was the exception to the rule….not the rule.  But its not just as simple as picking the dog.  Its that half a point I’m getting.  In games where literally any outcome is in play, getting more than a field goal is huge.  So while I really can’t get any kind of read on this game, I do know that I’m much better off betting on the Ravens getting a field goal cushion.

The Niners have been known for having an amazing defense all season long, and all season long the Ravens have been known for having a declining defense that is a shell of it former self.  That is true for the entire season, but I’m looking at the playoffs.  And in the playoffs the Niners defense hasn’t been itself (actually it started when Justin Smith got hurt and hasn’t been the same even when he has played).  Meanwhile, the Ravens held Peyton Manning to 21 points (remember, 14 of the Broncos points were on returns) and they held Tom Brady to 13 points.  They may have looked like a shell of its former self most of the season, but with Lewis back in the lineup it has been the old Baltimore D.

As for the offenses, both Kaepernick and Flacco have been cool under pressure in these playoffs.  But this is where I think the difference in the game will be, Kaepernick.  When betting, it isn’t smart to trust such an inexperienced guy in such a big spot.  Tom Brady was great in his 1st Super Bowl, but Ben Roethlisberger was dreadful.  Also, I believe that the Niners offense really needs to get into a rythem.  It took them a little while to get rolling against the Packers and took them nearly an entire half to get rolling against the Falcons.  This game because of more time spent standing around during national anthems and coin tosses, longer commerical breaks, and longer half times I believe will hurt the Niners more than the Ravens.

So take the Ravens getting the points.  As for the over/under, I got it at 48.5.  I’ve seen in some spots it’s dropped as low as 47.5.  My rule in big games like the Super Bowl, BCS title game, Grey Cup, etc is to take the under.  Again, with so much stuff going on it is just so difficult to get into a rythem on offense.  Also these are 2 of the better defenses that have been in the Super Bowl in a while so while it doesn’t seem like the under is a good bet with how 5 of the last 6 playoff games have gone, this is just a different animal.

So you got my picks, I hope for your sake you used them all season and then took wildcard weekend off.  If you win big with these picks today, I want 10-15% of your winnings.  If these lose, nobody put a gun to your head and its all YOUR fault!  Don’t bet what you don’t have, enjoy the game!

 

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Now I got a problem

 

I almost stayed away for a full 2 weeks, but in the end I just couldn’t keep my mouth shut.  All the detached rentina’s, sickness, going away party’s (gonna miss Miller), Royal Rumble’s, and anti gay remarks couldn’t get me back at the keyboard.  But last night I finally snapped.  Logan Couture scores to make it 1-0 as San Jose takes on Edmonton….and let the hypocrisy begin.

What Couture did doesn’t bother me at all.  The NHL needs to get some freakin’ personality in the game.  Its the fact that nobody will say a word about it.  Couture is now in his 4th season, so apparently that makes “Kaepernicking” ok.  Couture and the Sharks will also hide behind it being Super Bowl week so that was just a way of saying “go Niners!” (and after writing this I came to find out that is almost exactly what he said)

Again, I got no problem with Couture doing that.  The problem I have is that nobody will say a word.  His “look at me” celebration is apparently ok, yet the Russian kid shows genuine excitement about tieing up a game with 4.7 seconds left against the defending champs and people like…..I won’t name names…..lets call him Donald S. Cherry….damn I messed that up, oh well.  Anyway, Don is literally searching for a reason to come down on the kid, he had damn well say something about Couture.

He tried to tell a story about how he said the same thing about Fleury’s goal in 91, but he didn’t.  Then he tried to claim that HNIC color anaylst Craig Simpson had told him a story about how the Oilers used THAT celebration as motivation for the 7th game of that series which the Oilers won (of course they did hey Flames fans…)  This is also false.  Simpson said in an interview this week that it wasn’t the O.T. goal in game 6 that motivated them, it was Fleury’s “look at me” slide in the Oilers zone and in front of Grant Fuhr after putting the Flames up 3-0 in game 7 that picked the Oilers up in that game.

He might say something about Couture tomorrow, but even if he does I’m guessing he will have all the excuses in the world ready to go for the Canadian kid.  I just don’t understand how people can be so hypocritcal?!  During the 96-97 season, Harry York scored an O.T. goal for the St.Louis Blues.  In celebration of the goal, York threw his gloves off and if I recall correctly jumped.  He was by himself when he did this.  Grapes goes on air and defends him (as he should!)  So I would love to know what the difference was?

Don’t get me wrong here though, I’m a big fan of Grapes and I’m well aware this isn’t the first time he said something extremely hypocritical.  And he wasn’t the only one spouting off about it, just that he was the most vocal about it.

Yakupov wasn’t showing anyone up, it wasn’t a “look at me” moment, he was sky high that he sniped to tie a game for his team.  There was absolutely NOTHING wrong with it.  The dinosaurs in hockey love to humilate themselves when it comes to things like this.  They were petrified when the redline got taken out after the last lockout.  We all had to suffer through years of garbage hockey in the late 90’s and early 2000’s because the standard set in the 40’s was that it wasn’t hooking unless the player being hooked fell to the ice.  Hockey is right on par with baseball with their lack of progression in the sport and trust me that is not something to be proud of.

I can’t wait to see if guys have a big issue with Couture’s celebration.  This is just like the lone goal Team Canada scored against the U.S. in the WJC semi final game.  It SHOULD have been a goal, but it really shouldn’t have been a goal.  Couture shouldn’t get flack for what he did, but he should because of the standard the dinosaurs decided to set after the Yakupov controversy.  Of course even if they do it will be nothing but excuse after excuse for the 4 year Canadian vet I’m sure.  I really hope I’m wrong.

 

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