Why aren’t they questioned?

 

This is a touchy subject that many, many, MANY more qualified people than I should be writing about.  But they aren’t.  So I guess I will be that guy and if nothing else maybe it is a good read and makes you think a little.  But I was sitting here a few weeks ago (January 12th) watching 60 Minutes and their piece on the Alex Rodriguez.  It was pretty damning, some of it pretty shocking.

 

But I couldn’t help but wonder that if this stuff can happen in baseball, why can’t it happen in hockey?  Why is the NHL not increasing testing?  It might not “be the culture” in hockey, but if I’ve wondered “why not” for hockey players to use PED’s before, then surely someone either in the NHL or on the cusp of the NHL has thought about and likely followed through on it.  “It’s not happening in hockey that’s why” is what a lot of people will say, and to that I say A) you don’t know that, and B) it’s happening in SPORTS, and the last time I checked, hockey is a sport.

 

Now this is just an example (trust me, he isn’t doing ANYTHING!) but if I were a guy like Sam Gagner I would be heavily considering taking something to enhance my performance.  Gagner is likely going to be dealt from the Oilers more so than anything is because he doesn’t produce nearly enough for what the Oilers need.  He is too small, not quick enough, and not strong enough to get the job done as their 2nd line center.  So if I’m him, I’m considering doing something to help me get an edge.  Now maybe that’s just me and I’m a horrible person, but way too many athletes have gone down this road before and an NHL player could start using PED’s right now and likely get away with it.  They don’t have harsh testing, they don’t get questioned by fans or media, and they have Don Fehr watching their backs as Union head.  Of course Don Fehr perhaps deserved the most blame for the steroid era in Major League Baseball.  He kept everything swept under the rug for the players as best he could until he couldn’t any longer….and then bailed on the MLBPA.

 

Gagner of course is just one example, there are literally hundreds more you could give where guys would have to take a serious look at doing PED’s, especially those in contract years looking to give their families security.  These players only have a small window of their lives where they have this chance to make 7 figures a year.  You can throw the morality argument at me all you want.  When it comes to providing for and possibly setting up your family for life, a lot of your moral’s are going to be thrown out the window.

 

There is a player that I believe has some major red flags, and I can’t understand why more questions aren’t asked about him and that is Martin St.Louis.  Now, let’s not confuse asking the question with accusing.  I’m not saying “see, he obviously is doing something”.  Not at all.  But with baseball players, if there is a player who can barely stick in the league and then all of a sudden after bouncing around a bit becomes one of the best hitters in baseball.  That’s basically THE story of Jose Bautista, and the questions won’t go away with him.  Well Marty St.Louis may have been undersized, but more so than that he wasn’t a very good player in Calgary.

 

He gets put on waivers, picked up by Tampa Bay.  If that is me, and I’m having trouble sticking in the league then I know I’m looking for something to help me not only get in the league but stay in the league.  Maybe I’m just a garbage human I don’t know.  But when millions are at stake and the chance to set your family up for life, I’m guessing a lot of you would have the same line of thinking as I do, and as a lot of baseball players did, and plenty of other athletes as well.  Of course as we all know, St.Louis starts putting up great numbers in Tampa and goes on to lead them to the Stanley Cup and a Hart trophy in 2004.

 

Add to that, at 38 years old he is the Art Ross winner….at 38.  David Ortiz hits .700 in the World Series at 37 and I know I’m asking questions.  Again, not accusing the man, but I can’t help but ask the question.  Now of course to compare St.Louis to Ortiz isn’t fair.  Ortiz has tested positive before, and St.Louis hasn’t really had the dips in production that Ortiz had.  But again the point is if St.Louis were doing this in a different sport there would be a lot of media and fans questioning “how the heck is this guy doing this?!”  Yet in hockey….I haven’t heard anyone ever raise the question.

 

There is one more red flag for me with St.Louis as well.  I couldn’t help but notice what a shock it was he wasn’t on the Canadian Olympic team.  Although in hindsight I do look at it and say a guy like Jeff Carter is bigger, as fast, younger, and does his damage in the West which is the far tougher conference.  Nonetheless there is still a big argument to be made for St.Louis yet even his very own GM wouldn’t take him.  Could it be because he would test positive for something?  We all know drug testing in the Olympics is on a completely different level than the NHL.  Again, I’m not accusing St.Louis of doing anything, but it is a great example of how there are signs we notice in all other sports yet ignore in hockey.

 

I do believe it is time the questions start getting asked though.  Not because guys are doing anything.  I’m sure there are at least a few guys doing SOMETHING they shouldn’t be to stay in the league.  Again I’m FAR from the right guy to be talking about this, but someone has to because while it might not be any kind of issue right now, that doesn’t mean it can’t become a major issue down the road.  Why wait for your house to get messy before you clean it?  Just simply make sure it stays clean.

 

Follow me on twitter @TJ_Soups

Super Bowl XLVIII Preview (and pick ATS)

 

Believe it or not without any assistance I knew that roman numeral.  Thank you Super Bowl and Wrestlemania for teaching me roman numerals!  Well this is it.  The season is done as of Sunday night, and I want to cry.  Thankfully, for a sports wack job like myself it is an Olympic year so I have something to fill that February gap.  But still, it is going to be another LOOOOOOONNNNNNG wait until September.  Even a longer wait this year until the draft too that is I believe 2 weeks later than usual.  Ok, time to suck it up and get to the game.

 

Well this is the matchup that most predicted at the start of the season.  I try to look for the game that nobody expects but seems logical.  I’m NEVER right about that.  Now, this is extremely rare too that it is in fact the most likely matchup at the start of the season playing in the Super Bowl.  But these predictions have a much better shot at being right the rare time that they are.  Of course, the most obvious pick next year won’t happen, because as I said this rarely happens.

 

Regardless of all that, we have a potential great game on our hands.  Best offense vs best defense.  And these are all timer’s in my books.  The way the rules are now everything is skewed, but the Broncos offense would have been great in any era, and so would the Seahawks D.  The Seahawks D is to be feared by opposing teams and the last time I remember a D like that you would have to go back to the 2002 Bucs.  This is such a tough game to pick, but I’ll do my best.

 

Seattle vs Denver

Denver -2

Over 47.5

Anyone who claims they have a good feel for this game is lying to you.  But for me, the weather was the big detail.  As I write this, it is supposed to be 40 and very little wind at kickoff.  That means that Peyton Manning should be able to throw it.  Of course that is the marquee matchup, Manning and the Broncos passing game against the “Legion of Boom” secondary of the Seahawks.  I do like Manning having 2 weeks to prepare for them, and getting pressure on Manning could really take him off his game, but I believe that matchup will be a wash.  Peyton will put up decent numbers, but be limited in what he can do.

 

A more intriguing matchup that has been talked about more and more this week is Marshawn Lynch against the Broncos run D which ranked 7th in the regular season.  ESPN radio host Colin Cowherd said on Monday that in talking to one NFL scout he was told that Broncos DT Terrance Knighton has been the best D-lineman in the 2nd half of the season.  Remember, the Pats run game looked amazing heading into the AFC championship game and was a complete non factor in the game.  So while the Broncos D hasn’t been that great this season, they can take away the Seahawks strength on offense.

 

So that means that Russell Wilson will have to make some throws.  I personally am shocked that people are questioning this kid’s ability coming into this week.  I honestly haven’t noticed the “struggles” he’s had the last month or so.  He’s looked fine to me, and I’m not a stat guy.  Now, the whole “he wins” argument gets disgustingly over blown at times.  Tim Tebow was an awful QB who happened to do enough to win for about 8 games.  But Russell Wilson IS in fact one of these guys.  He reminds me a ton of Tom Brady in 2001.  The Pats had a great D and Brady didn’t do anything flashy.  But he had amazing composure and made all the throws he needed to.  This is Wilson.  He has basically nothing to work with in the passing game yet he still gets the job done.  I could care less about his numbers, he’ll be great.

 

But having said that….I just think the Broncos are a little bit better, and with the line less than 3 points I always simply pick who I believe will be the winner of the game.  I have been dead wrong on the Seahawks this season.  Not a Pete Carroll fan but he has done a great job and I completely get why players love playing for him.  So it isn’t anything against the Seahawks fan (nor is this explanation for those of you who are true Seahawks fans or even those who have jumped on their bandwagon…which are a lot of you).  But I just believe at the end of the day the Broncos are a little more well rounded, a little more trust worthy away from home, a little more experienced, and there for will just be a little bit better on Sunday.  I just hope it lives up to the great game it should be.

 

Follow me on twitter @TJ_Soups

We’re Getting Owned

 

I keep running out of titles for the Oilers pieces.  But this one feels pretty good so I’ll roll with it and see if this comes together the way I’m hoping it will.  Now, ironically I started this piece on Sunday night.  I had no clue what was coming on Monday afternoon.  And then I debated doing anything because let’s face it…not like everyone doesn’t know what a sh*t show it currently is in Edmonton.  But in the end I just couldn’t resist but run my mouth about the team I love to love and hate.

 

Whether this is on owner Daryl Katz, or on President of Hockey Operations Kevin Lowe, the fact is that things have gone unbelievably awful since this combo came to be in the summer of 2008.  The Oilers at that time were coming off a thrilling playoff push that came up just short.  They went from 14th in the West at the trade deadline and all but dead to finishing 9th and not being eliminated until game 81 was over.

 

On one hand I find myself agreeing with most others in that Kevin Lowe needs to be fired ASAP and Katz needs to bring someone in who is actually qualified to run an organization.  It is no secret that Katz and Lowe were good friends prior to Katz buying this team, and all Katz has done essentially is just let his buddy sit back and run things into the ground.  Is that how Daryl made his billions with Rexall?  Letting his buddies run the show and doing whatever they wanted?  I somehow doubt it.

 

But while that is the simple answer, what makes this so much more complex is that this organization is DESPERATE for some stability.  This is a first year GM, who while he hasn’t made the “bold moves” he promised when he was introduced as GM, he has made more good moves than bad.

 

The David Perron deal that I honestly thought was a bad deal at the time for the Oilers because they got smaller and figured they overpaid for a guy the Blues pretty much had to deal…as usual in 2013 I was horribly wrong.  The Andrew Ference signing has been solid.  I know some people don’t like that Ference had as big of an impact on the team as they may have expected, but if you expected him to magically turn this blueline around you’re an idiot.  This blueline in general isn’t that bad, but without a legit number 1 and no help from the fowards defensively they are improperly slotted and hung out to dry.

 

While I believe he could have got more for Smid (I’m not in anyway a believer in Brossoit, but he has been good thus far), the fact of the matter is that this team had 3 guys who were 4/5’s and moved the one who was the worst puck mover and probably had the lowest IQ of the 3.  The Bryzgalov signing has been well worth the risk from all accounts (although didn’t help), and the way I seen last week’s moves was that he gave up a 3rd round pick (that he’ll get back at the trade deadline) for an upgrade in net and to get bigger.

 

Now there is no doubt the move that has looked like his worst thus far is the hiring of Dallas Eakins.  I’m stunned at how poor of a job Eakins has done to this point.  He was the hottest coaching candidate this offseason, everyone around hockey was a big believer in this guy to become one of the top head coaches in the league.  He was known in the AHL for being amazing at making in game adjustments.  Yet in Edmonton he has completely failed….to this point.  Maybe I’m bias because he is the type of coach I like (no BS, grinder, detail oriented, etc), but I’m not ready to throw in the towel on him and again I don’t think they can.  These players desperately need stability especially behind the bench.  Now that doesn’t mean you can’t make some changes.  Buchburger and Smith need to finally be shown the door.  I would guess MacTavish will attempt to bring back his old buddy Charlie Huddy who did an incredible job not just with the D core’s he had in Edmonton, but everywhere he has been.

 

But then I come back around to the Katz and Lowe show and just what a mess that is.  Rumors of them hiring a PR firm to go onto Oilers message boards as Oiler fans and defending management.  And of course the “apology letter”.  Talk about a guy who just doesn’t have a “get it” quality.  Kevin Lowe is indefensible right now, and here he is coming out telling fans how they need to cut Lowe some slack.  No they shouldn’t, the organization has made the playoffs 3 times in what will now be 13 seasons with him in the front office.  That is so far beyond ridiculous that the man still has a job that…I don’t even know what to say to be honest.

 

Lowe should have been fired a few times by now, yet he not only remains at the head of the Oilers organization but it would seem that he has total immunity.  They’ve been the worst organization not just in the NHL but in pro sports since Katz bought the team and let Lowe completely ruin the franchise.  And while it might be unfair to pin it all on Lowe, this organization has seen GM’s come and go, seen PLENTY of coaches come and go, and hardly anything has changed with the exception of Kevin Lowe.

 

So really there is no easy answer.  A new head of the franchise would either be another Oiler favorite of Katz and the same old, same old would occur.  If he shocked us all and actually picked someone competent, it would likely mean a house cleaning and the kids who have already had to go through 3 coaches in 4 years would be subjected to their 4th coach and 3rd GM in 5 years.  There already is a theory out there not just from Dallas Eakins that this club is so dysfunctional on the ice because of all the turnover.

 

Believe it or not there are a couple of things Oilers fans can hang their hats on this season.  No, not with this club in general.  But we’re FINALLY seeing this organization draft well and pump out some prospects.  Mark Arcobello, Martin Marincin, Tyler Pitlick, and Taylor Fedun have either come up and stuck with the team this season or in the case of Pitlick and Fedun looked solid while here.  Add to them, in their 1st season in the AHL both David Musil and Martin Gernat have been better than expected this season in Oklahoma City.

 

Not a big accomplishment for most organizations, but developing players has been the number 1 issue for this franchise in the last 5 years.  Of course this finger can be directly pointed at Kevin Lowe, when for some reason he decided player development wasn’t important for the Oilers.  They didn’t have an AHL team of their own from the 05-06 season until the 10-11 season.  Add to that they never had a director of player development.  Words can put into context how utterly stupid this was, and really is the main reason this team is where they are right now.

 

They also under MacTavish are looking like they want to quit rushing players into the league.  Andrew Cogliano, Sam Gagner, Magnus Paajarvi, Anton Lander, and Ladislav Smid were all kids who were in the league WAY too early.  They all needed to start their rookie season’s at the AHL level and instead were rushed on to the team, with the exception of course being Gagner who should have been sent back to London at least for the 08 season.

 

Of course they also have a lot of kids yet to enter the AHL that fans should actually be pretty pumped about.  Mitch Moroz is having a great season for the Oil Kings and if I had to project it right now I would say he is on pace to be an Ethan Moreau type, but will need at least a full season in the AHL before he is ready.  Bogdan Yakimov and Anton Slepyshev were both very good in the WJC this year.  Yakimov is the big 2 way center the Oilers have been so desperate for since….well forever!  Too soon to say he can be a 2nd line C, but he is expected to sign this offseason and play in Oklahoma City next year.  Slepyshev will still be difficult to get over here, especially if they end up moving Yakupov in a deal.  And finally Greg Chase has been great for the Calgary Hitmen this season.  Chase still has another year in Calgary (by a day), but I would guess that at least the hope with Chase is that he can become the Oilers version of Andrew Shaw.  Again, I don’t know if this would be anything to be excited over for most franchises, but for this team getting back to being a competent NHL team is huge.  Yes I know, it’s sad.

 

Finally, the Oilers can’t screw up this 1st round pick if they place 30th.  A top 2 pick in this draft would land them a player they desperately need….should the top 2 remain the same (I guess Bob McKenzie will shed some light on that later tonight).  Aaron Ekblad has top pairing ability and Oiler fans are drooling at the thought of having Ekblad and Nurse anchor the blueline in 4-5 years.

 

And I’m just as high on them picking Sam Reinhart, although for the fans who want to put everything into black and white terms “the Oilers don’t need ANOTHER forward!!!”  Well, they need a 2 way center who will be 6’1-6’2, 210-215 pounds who is essentially a poor man’s version of Jonathan Toews.  I don’t think fans realize how difficult it is to find a great 2nd line C, how vital it is to have a great 2nd line C, and how much better defensively THIS TYPE of 2nd line C can make a team.  The game is played 5 on 5, not 3 on 2 and the biggest issue on the ice for the Oilers is that they hardly have any forwards who know how to play in their own zone.  He is also a RH shot which coaches love to have in the middle.

 

So to sum that part up, the Oilers can’t go wrong with either kid.  Now simply people will say that the Oilers should deal that pick.  A) who says you have to rush a kid into the league?  And B) teams won’t give up anyone of serious value for high end picks which is why there hasn’t been a player for pick swap in the top 5 of the draft since 2002 (the Flyers also gave the Lightning two 2nd round picks, but essentially the 4th pick for Ruslan Fedotenko).  Would a 3rd line winger turn the Oilers around?  Come on.

 

In my opinion they will need to package up your prospects and either Yakupov or Eberle with those prospects if you want to go after a Shea Weber for example (whom some expect to be available this summer).  For Weber I would guess you are looking at giving up one of Yakupov or Eberle, one of Marincin or Oscar Klefbom, Jeff Petry, a B level prospect like Teemu Hartikainen (currently playing in the KHL) and maybe something still on top of that.  Steep price, but the Oilers can afford it and need to pony up and do a deal like this.  Don’t give up something you desperately need like an Ekblad or Reinhart.  If they weren’t to have a top 2 or 3 pick, then maybe you think about it.  Nick Ritchie and Jake Virtanen are 2 other prospects who fit perfect for the Oilers, but they likely won’t be top 5 picks.  If Sam Bennett moves into the number 1 spot as CSS currently has him, I would look to trade down a spot or two.

 

But now I’m rambling on and playing GM.  The fact of the matter is that since 2008 the Oilers have been the biggest embarrassment in the NHL.  When they started the rebuild and people would point out how this type of rebuild doesn’t work for all teams, I was quick to point out that those teams (Atlanta, Columbus, the Islanders) all had brutal ownership/management.  Well, the Oilers rebuild doesn’t appear to be working (although I wouldn’t call it a failure yet, see Colorado who picked 1st last draft and started their’s a year before the Oilers), and the finger needs to be pointed at Katz.  Calling into pre game shows to tell everyone the coach isn’t going anywhere, allowing Steve Tambellini to let coaches twist in the wind for months before finally firing them, allowing Kevin Lowe to do whatever he wants and take zero accountability for the results, giving an empty threat to the city that he would move the team to Seattle while negotiating for the new arena (even though I defended it at the time), and now the letter.

 

How does he become a billionaire yet he can’t get this right?  Don’t know, but it happens all the time in pro sports (Daniel Snyder, Jerry Jones, Donald Sterling, there are plenty of them).  This guy is just a terrible owner at this point, and that isn’t fixable.  As fans, all we can do is hope that some people in this organization over come the way he is running things and pull this franchise from the ashes…but at this point it sure doesn’t seem likely.

 

Follow me on twitter @TJ_Soups

Beauty Day!

 

What a show put on by CBC and the city of Lloydminster this past week.  For those who don’t live in the area, it is fashionable for the locals to bash the city.  Not to be anything of a hypocrite, I find myself doing it from time to time.  Hey, I want to fit in with the cool kids at school….which isn’t easy for a 30 year old wannabe like myself!  But the truth is while it is a small town and definitely has it’s warts, the good far outweighs the bad.  And while I put up with some of the local bashing, when I hear it I also take it a little bit personal despite speaking up.  That’s where I grew up, my family lives, the large majority of my friends are from the area, I don’t really get a thrill out of hearing it to put it nicely.  ANYWAY, it’s nice to be able to stick the chest out a little and brag it up.  Hockey Day in Canada has allowed me to do just that.

 

Not in anyway a shock to me that this thing was such a huge hit.  And it was actually a hit.  Sometimes you hear that stuff from the people involved and the bigger names who come for it.  You HAVE to say those things no matter how the events go, nobody is ever going to be the guy that says “hey Lloyd, that was terrible, and the city should be ashamed of itself”.  But I got the chance to hang around Saturday night after the Bobcats game and talk to some of the alumni players and media members from out of town and off the record they were still singing the praises.  Greg Sansone now of Sportsnet was raving about it and said privately all the guys were as well.  That stuff really is great to hear and know that those guys aren’t just saying it because they have to.

 

IMG_0453
Tuesday morning’s unpleasant surprise

Obviously the concern on Tuesday was when the one corner of the outdoor rink blew down.  The thing that shocked me was how shocked everyone from out of town was that they were able to get the rink put back up in time.  Maybe I’m just used to that kind of work ethic from the community.  I mean I’m a guy who puts in 12 hours a day, 6 days a week, tries (sometimes successfully, sometimes not) to get a workout in and possibly to post something that’s worth your while to read on here at some point after work.  Yet there are a lot of days where I question my work ethic because I’m flooded by people who do that and then some every day as well.

 

Rusway had a big part in putting the rink back together.  Well my dad and Uncle’s company (Valley C, for whom I work for as well) do just about every job along side Rusway.  Very rarely a day goes by that there isn’t a Rusway/Valley C combination on a job site.  There are days where I talk to their foreman Bert more than I talk to guys I work with!  But anyway the point is it just never ever crossed my mind that it wouldn’t get done.  That’s because that is what I’ve grown up in.  Everyone chips in, things get done, they done quickly, and they get done right.

 

IMG_0459
Tomayer and Campbell look good behind that desk, I know you’re reading this Scott Moore…

The week seemingly went flawless, at least I never noticed anything going wrong (after the rink was fixed up), all the events were amazing, other than being windy as hell the weather was awesome which made it easy for people to actually want to go out to the events, and the big thrill for me was getting to join Shane Tomayer in the broadcast booth and do color commentary for the game on FASTHockey.com.  And Shane did an unreal job on the play by play because I’m sure you all seen the Bobcats uni’s for the game…it was NOT easy to see those numbers!!  Add to that, Sherwood Park’s uni’s didn’t have numbers on the shoulders, and it isn’t as if we have a monitor to see the game more clearly than we can from the North East corner of the Civic Centre.  Yet the man was flawless in his call of the game, and does not only a damn good call of the game, but an entertaining call as well.

 

We mentioned it A LOT on the broadcast, but it was so difficult to do with so many distractions.  I can’t think of anything witty in this spot so I’ll just go with the cliche…I was a kid in a candy store!  Craig MacTavish and Mark Napier standing right in front of us during the broadcast.  Lanny McDonald going out of his way to come introduce himself to Shane and I while doing the opening for the game.  Dirk Irvin whom I simply had to go mid broadcast just to shake his hand and say hello while he wasn’t being bothered.  Darcy Tucker during the 2nd intermission doing the same as Lanny did and since we weren’t on the air talked us up for a good 10 minutes all on his own.  Marty McSorley doing the same thing after the broadcast was over.  Greg Sansone from Sportsnet who came down to check out some things for Rogers who will be running that show from now on talked to Shane and myself for probably 15-20 minutes near the end of the night.  And all chatting us up like we had all hung out before.  Now I’m not stupid, they had some “influence” in their system which usually brings the personality out in people….but nonetheless they were all just awesome!

 

Maybe the most relieving part for me was that the Bobcats were able to maintain a high energy level for the full 60 minutes in a 3-0 win.  When it was still only 1-0 after 2, I was pretty paranoid that the Crusaders were going to get that one golden opportunity, and with Devin Green seeing hardly any action all game long they would be able to snipe and take all the air out of the arena.  But luckily Green did a great job of staying focused, made the big save when he had to, and the Tanner Dunkle put 2 home at the other end to seal a huge victory not only because it was on HNIC, but the Crusaders and Bobcats are neck and neck in the standings.  From start to finish, the Bobcats dominated out shooting Sherwood Park 35-15.  Awesome to see!

 

I’m still not sure how after 30 years of being so hockey obsessed that it’s my sister who gets to stand behind Don Cherry and not me.  Just because she was one of the “organizers” and actually put in a lot of work for the event, that’s just ridiculous that she gets rewarded for hard work….in all seriousness that was pretty cool to see, although for myself I was stressing the entire time knowing that she would want me taking pictures of it with HER camera and I didn’t have it…but that’s another story.

 

IMG_0482
Ron and Don during Coaches Corner

Of course I can’t end this without talking about Ron McLean.  Grapes gets all the glory, and understandably so.  But McLean is simply one of the finest Canadians walking the earth today.  Think I’m overstating that?  You can think that all you want, I honestly believe that.  He lives this event every year more than anyone else.  The whole week he is involved in absolutely everything he possibly can be.  The man had to of put in hundreds of hours reading up on Lloyd alone, let alone all the other work he would have had to do to get ready for the event.  He stands on the ice during hockey day and rattles off fact after fact and stories and name drops the local teams and people he had literally just met and does it with no assistance.  No prompter, nobody feeding him this through his earpiece, it’s all him.

 

My buddy Drew Dalby from the GOAT was telling me that when he came into studio last week, Ron had studied up on Drew!  And then name dropped him on the broadcast Saturday!  And while I unfortunately didn’t have the privilege to meet him (despite being literally 10 feet away from him most of Saturday night), anything you ever hear about the man is how genuinely nice of a man he is.  Has all the time in the world for everyone and nobody has one bad thing to say about the man.  He is as hard working, successful, famous and yet the most humble man and I simply cannot say enough great things about Ron McLean.

 

So hats off to not only Lloyd but the entire region.  The people of Kitscoty, Paradise Valley, Marwayne, Lashburn, Maidstone and all the small communities around the region shouldn’t be forgotten.  Easy for me to remember that since I grew up with a Lloyd address and phone number, went to school in Marwayne, and played hockey in both Dewberry and PV (is that mixed race?)  So many people from the area chipped in to put this thing on and did so willingly.  This was a once in a lifetime chance for the city and it sniped top shelf.

 

Follow me on twitter @TJ_Soups

Seattle Down a Bit

 

Another witty pun title, man I love how AWFUL those are!  This will probably be a dead story by the time I post this.  But as I type, this is a pretty big deal on twitter.  It’s getting pretty personal between people as they share their opinion’s, not about the NFC championship game, but the post game interview given by the man who has far and away the biggest chip on his shoulder in the NFL, Richard Sherman.

 

This wasn’t anything shocking to me.  This guy has built quite a reputation for himself as being loud, and he is always looking to build up that massive chip that’s already on his shoulder.  He makes no bones about disliking 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh….his coach while at Stanford.  Never heard of anyone disliking their college coach unless they did something WAY over the line.  His excuse is that Harbaugh didn’t promote him enough going into the 2011 draft.  Now I’m not that smart, I didn’t go to Stanford, but I KINDA think that if he were THAT great of a prospect he wouldn’t have needed Harbaugh to promote him and would have went higher than the 5th round.  But good on him for proving the doubters wrong and evolving into one of the league’s top corners.

 

But it gets tiring with this guy.  “U mad bro?” has become legendary, but at the same time when that picture was snapped of him jawing at Brady it was completely classless and AFTER the game.  Why are you literally going after a QB AFTER the game?  And he did it with Trent Williams after the NFC wildcard game last year, and he did it with Crabtree last night after he mad the awesome deflection that led to the game ending interception.  And then of course the post game interview he says he’s going to shut Crabtree’s mouth for him.  Right, I’m sure the helmets are going to come off and you’re going to throw down because that happens often in football.

 

A lot of people defended his interview.  I know someone (might have even been my buddy Drew Dalby) said something to the affect of “until someone beats him he can talk all he wants”.  I disagree completely.  A) WR’s have torched Sherman before.  T.Y. Hilton destroyed him earlier this season.  Roddy White had a great game against him in last year’s playoffs.  Larry Fitzgerald, Vincent Jackson, there have been enough guys who have gotten the better of him despite being one of football’s best corners.  B) we aren’t talking about tennis, boxing, MMA, etc.  This is a team sport.  The Seahawks aren’t undefeated, they were a bounce or two away from losing both of their playoff games, they aren’t the favorites in the Super Bowl (as of right now).  So I don’t agree with that take at all, plus it will just serve as a distraction for the team going into the big game.

 

Bruce Arthur who as some of you may know is one of my favorite writers was also one of those people defending Sherman.  I responded to a few of Arthurs tweets that were basically saying “we need more of this in sports”.  I understand that side of it (especially for guys who are looking to get a great quote and having things to talk about for a living), but just because someone does something like this, or something like P.K. Subban last week (which Arthur was also in favor of), doesn’t mean that you don’t want more entertainment in sports.  A sick celebration after a big goal in hockey is fine, but there is a line (which isn’t to say I had an issue with Subban’s celly).  A post game interview taking a shot at Michael Crabtree is fine, but THAT was over the top in my opinion.  There is such thing as winning with class and Sherman didn’t do that.  You can be candid and be emotional, but you can do it AND keep things relatively professional while doing so.

 

I don’t recall if Arthur retweeted it or said it on his own but I know at one point Muhammad Ali was brought up and something to the effect of “if you think that was bad, I hope you don’t google Muhammad Ali and see what he used to say”.  You know what?  He’s not playing for a team.  He could make it all about him, because it WAS all about him.  It is apples to oranges and a terrible example.  Bruce also said something to the effect of “the guy just made a huge play 5 seconds ago to win the NFC championship and everyone expects him to all of a sudden settle down”.  Well, considering guys have done so throughout the history of the NFL being broadcasted…yeah.  At least it didn’t have to go to the level it did.  I just couldn’t have disagreed more with Arthur on this and as I said to him on twitter “Raw starts at 6 every Monday night if you wanna check it out…”

 

I didn’t hear this opinion when Sean Avery was in the NHL.  Was he just being entertaining with his “sloppy seconds” comment in December of 2008?  There is entertainment, but there is also a line.  For me, Sherman crossed it and acted like a complete jackass.  I thought it wasn’t genuine at all and was a total “look at me” moment.  He talked about him and Crabtree.  I don’t care how much I may loathe someone, if I’m on a team that just made it to the Super Bowl, and I had a microphone immediately put in my face, I would MAYBE bring that up.  The guy is awesome but part of what fuels him is what is going to make him cross everyone’s line someday soon.  He’s one of the elite players in the game, he’s a very bright kid, and I love that he does give great quotes and doesn’t just give the cliche answer.  But he needs to scale it back a bit.  It’s more about Richard Sherman than the Seattle Seahawks and that gets old real fast.

 

In closing, lost in this story is the fact that the Seahawks are on their way to their 2nd Super Bowl.  A great season by most teams Super Bowl favorite entering the season.  They had a target on their backs all year and yet still had the number 1 seed in the much tougher NFC and going to the dance.  They sure proved me wrong as I tried to go against the grain (and stand by what I believed) in saying they wouldn’t even make the playoffs.  Pete Carroll and his staff don’t have the easiest pack of dogs to look after as Sherman demonstrated last night, yet they kept this talented crew on track all year long.  Seattle and Denver, the number 1 offense vs the number 1 defense, it has the ingredients to be a classic!

 

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NFL Picks – Championship Weekend

 

So this is being STARTED at 2:18 AM on Sunday morning.  Better late than never?  I would rather not do it, but I don’t want to be the guy who does something half assed!  I feel bad enough that I didn’t give all 4 of you terrible picks for the last 2 weeks of the season.  I can’t quit after I’ve had my first winning week in what felt like years.  Well it’s been said a hundred times already this week, but unless you have a horse in this race you couldn’t have asked for 2 better matchups than Brady vs Manning, and the 49ers vs the Seahawks.  One of the most legendary rivalries in NFL history, and what is currently the best rivalry in NFL history.  I beg the football gods both these games somewhat meet expectations.  I don’t know anyone that isn’t pumped sky high for these 2 games, and if just 4 great teams isn’t enough and you need to throw a little cash on them….here is who I got this weekend ATS.

 

New England at Denver

New England +5

No Gronk, Thompkins, or Dobson this weekend for the Pats.  So they’re in for it obviously….wait a minute.  Let’s go back to week 1.  What was everyone saying about the Pats in week 1?  “No Welker, Hernandez, or Woodhead.  So they are severely weakened and won’t be the powerhouse they have been.”  Right, because it has always been about the playmakers on this team, never about having one of the best coaches and best quarterbacks in NFL history.  Nope, the Pats won those Super Bowls because of Troy Brown, and Deion Branch, and David Patton, and Antonio Smith.  The Pats went to the 06 AFC Championship on the backs of Jabar Gaffney and Reche Caldwell (whose eyes are still bugging out of his skull).  Brady and Belicheck are amazing, and that run game last weekend was ridiculous and don’t think they can’t do that to the Broncos as well.  Anyone of Ridley, Vereen or Blount could be a feature back for any team in this league, and they work well as a unit which isn’t easy for RB’s because it is difficult to get into a rythem that way.  Anyhow…5 points is too many to give to the Pats.  Not saying they win outright, but the SMART MONEY has to be with the Pats who have much more experience than the Broncos (proving to be a BIG deal in these playoffs especially), and while I don’t blame Peyton for many of his 11 postseason loses, you can’t deny that Brady is the more trustworthy QB in the big spot.

 

San Francisco at Seattle

Seattle -3

You know last week Colin Kaepernick made me look like an idiot.  So here I was thinking that I had him all figured out.  He looks great against weak D’s but when teams play him tough he folds.  And then he goes out against maybe the best D in the NFL this season, on the road, 10 AM start for the 49ers which is always difficult for West coast teams, and he beats the Panthers soundly.  Now, the Niners D did play a big part in that win, and Kaepernick proved me right through the first half, but give credit where credit is due.  HOWEV-A….as Stephen A. Smith would say…..I still can’t trust him in Seattle.  This was the story last time the went up to CenturyLink.  This time things would be different, the Niners are prepared THIS time, on and on and on.  And what happened…they got smashed again.  Seattle is banged up.  Russell Wilson isn’t playing that well.  Pete Carroll acts like a complete knob on the sideline (yeah I said it!)  But the Seahawks home field advantage is ridiculous, and while it might not be the blowout that the last 2 games have been in Seattle between these 2 teams, I can’t see Colin Kaepernick being the QB who walks in there and knocks them off.  Added to this, the Niners have now played 2 pretty tough, physical playoff games (is there a physical game that isn’t tough?)  And yes, I consider that Packers game to be pretty physical.  Eddie Lacy and James Starks were wearing the Niners down in that football game.  Meanwhile the Seahawks had a buy, then had the Saints.  And they are on an extra day rest, and didn’t have to fly cross country this week.  It is a LOT of factors I know and I apologize for going on and on and on about this, but there are only 2 games to talk about.  ANYWAY….lay the points and take the Seahawks.  Hey look at that, only took be 20 minutes to write this.

 

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NFL Picks – Divisional Weekend

 

Didn’t know what else to call it and didn’t want the title to be too long.  Ok, so for the 3rd year in a row I did not win a game on wildcard weekend ATS.  It is the worst weekend on the NFL schedule to bet games.  If you had a big weekend on wildcard weekend, congrats…it proves you are lucky, not smart.  0-10-2 or whatever I am over the last 3 years on that weekend proves I’m unlucky, not dumb.  Its been a bad season and quite frankly since about week 13 I’ve had no desire to write these at all because up is down and right is left this season and its just been a season impossible to pick games.  But I’m going to see this through even though I realize I missed the last 2 weeks of the season, but that was because of website issues, not a lack of doing them.  If you want to pick the over/under this weekend, take the over in all of these games.  I don’t know what the over is, but the over on this weekend has won 11 of the last 12 divisional playoff games (thanks to Phil Steele for that tip).

 

New Orleans at Seattle

New Orleans +8

This game and the New England game scare me because I can see them being tight and I can see them being blowouts.  And normally I say “when in doubt, take the dog” but that theory has been crushed every time I’ve gone to it this season….literally every time.  But I like the Saints being highly motivated because of what happened a month ago in Seattle, and having confidence having just won a big game in cold weather.  I don’t know if the Seahawks are making the right move dressing Percy Harvin either.  I could see that being more of a distraction for OC Darrell Bevell more than helping because he’s dressed but he likely isn’t close to 100%.  I don’t know, maybe I’ve just been looking for reasons to go against the Seahawks all season than pick them like everyone else, but I do think they’ll win…just don’t see it being a blowout this time.

 

Indianapolis at New England

New England -7

I understand the line here, because it’s a dome team going outside.  I love the Colts, but you can’t ignore that.  I believe strongly that this line is meant to make the public take the Colts getting points.  The Pats have been AWESOME on this weekend in the last 2 playoffs.  And the Colts coming off that big comeback will have the public believing that they’ll ride that momentum into the AFC championship game.  I don’t buy it.  I think the Pats are a totally different animal.  Experience never gets talked about in the NFL, but in the playoffs it matters a lot.  The Colts came back on an inexperienced Kansas City team, but they got destroyed last year by an experienced Baltimore team, and the Pats are even more experienced than the Ravens were.  So dome team going outside, better QB (not for much longer), better coach, more experienced, and add Talib locking down Hilton.  Pats cover the huge number.

 

San Francisco at Carolina

Carolina +1.5

This was at Carolina +2, it actually has moved to a pick’em, but I got the Panthers at 1.5 so that’s what I’m calling here, although Carolina is winning this game regardless.  First of all, when has Colin Kaepernick beat an AVERAGE defense in the playoffs?  He is 3-1 postseason.  The teams he beat?  Packers twice (horrible D) and the Falcons (just as horrible if not worse).  When he plays tough or even decent D’s and he is forced to think a little more he fails.  Last 2 games in Seattle he was dreadful.  Seattle is great at home, but he has looked as bad as anyone facing them.  Even when he’s beat the Seahawks he hasn’t been too good.  Meanwhile when he faced the Panthers this season….at home…he was horrific.  Cam Newton on the other hand, even though I’m not a big fan, has got the job done against tough D’s this season.  Carolina has all the motivation in the world.  They started this week off as the underdog, everyone in the world is picking the 49ers, they’re rested while the Niners faced a pretty physical run game last week in Green Bay, and the deciding factor for me is that it’s a West coast team going East for a 10 AM PST game on Sunday.  Panthers take this one outright.

 

San Diego at Denver

San Diego +9.5

Now I don’t think the Broncos are getting upset again this year, but I do believe this one will be a struggle for them.  The Chargers have NOTHING to lose.  Their Super Bowl was getting in the playoffs, and last week they played as loose as a team possibly can and this week they should play the same.  The Broncos will be a bit tight I’m sure, but at the end of the day Peyton will be HIGHLY motivated to win this game and I doubt he lets the Broncos lose.  Plus, they lost to the Chargers last time out in Denver.  Pretty tough to beat the same team 2 times in a row.  So the Chargers cover, the Broncos win.

 

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5 Long Years

 

Well I can’t say I didn’t see this one coming.  Even with some of the guys who were screwed over from making this team, we weren’t going into the World Juniors this year with a team that had earth shattering talent.  No Nathan MacKinnon, no Sean Monahan, no Morgan Rielly, and even when we had all hands on deck in 2013 the best we finished was 4th.  We are in a World Junior slump right now, and there isn’t much we can do about it.

 

Looking back, this now seems to be the trend of this tournament in the last 20 years.  When things are rolling for Canada at this tourny, despite the fact that it is virtually a different team every single season, when things are rolling our kids can play loose and it shows.  But when they haven’t won in a while, and the big moments come, they feel the weight of having not won in a while.

 

This isn’t just something that holds weight in this tournament.  Think of Tiger Woods.  Most golf experts will tell you the biggest difference between Tiger 10 years ago, or even 5 years ago, and Tiger now is that other golfers were intimidated by him.  There was a feeling that he was unbeatable.  So when he felt he wasn’t going to lose, and nobody else felt he wasn’t going to lose, he wasn’t going to lose!

 

The NY Yankees had this same thing going on from 1998-2001.  There were teams a lot more talented than the Yanks, but nobody believed they could beat them.  Then once the Diamondbacks knocked them off in 01, they all of a sudden were beatable.  So despite having MUCH more talented teams in the following seasons, teams weren’t intimidated by the Yanks anymore.

 

The best example of this right now in sports might be the Seattle Seahawks at home.  Yes the crowd is a factor, yes the Seahawks are a damn good team.  But when teams go up there to play, the Seahawks KNOW they will win, the whoever is playing them fears they will lose.

 

This is what Canada had going for them in the WJC from 1993-1997.  You look at the first few teams to win during that gold medal streak and they weren’t dominant at all.  93 and 94 they just barely won.  But in 95 and 96 they steam rolled everyone.  By 1997, the Americans were the favorites to win it all yet Canada still beat them twice and won gold yet again.

 

Then once they lost that swagger, even teams that should have won couldn’t get the job done.  In 02 against the Russians in the gold medal game they crumbled as the game got tighter.  In 04 they collapsed against the Americans, blowing a 3-1 3rd period lead.  Then they won in 05 and the pressure somewhat lets off.

 

So here we go again with another gold medal streak.  In 06 they knock off more talented teams like the Americans and Russians.  In 07 they tie the Americans in the 3rd of the semi final and seemingly have ice water in their veins during the shootout.  In 08 they’re composed as can be after blowing a 2-0 lead and giving up the tying goal to Sweden late in the gold medal game and still win it all.  In 09, the NYE game against the Americans they trailed 3-0 early, and of course against the Russians they had the Eberle goal.  Even 2010 the comeback to tie it late against the Americans again in the gold medal game.  They weren’t gripping.  But once the choke job of 2011 happened, this team started gripping again in the big moments.

 

I heard Bob McKenzie say the same thing the other day, only he used the term froze.  Doesn’t matter which term you use, that is far above anything else is what’s happening.  These kids are all UNDER 20 years old, and I think people forget that.  They see these kids play with such poise so often in the tournament and show such skill that they forget that the pressure of a nation is on their shoulders.

 

You can go back and look at my last 2 autopsy’s of Team Canada from the World Juniors, much of it would apply this time around.  Nurse should have been on the team, especially when you see Sutter not even giving SHIFTS to Chris Bigras.  We can look at all the skill that got left off the team, but we have a ridiculous amount of options in this country, far more than any other country.  We can look at goaltending which hasn’t been the BEST, but has been good enough to win in most of the last 5 years.  We can look at doing something different with our coaching for this tourny.  Perhaps Hockey Canada looks to get a coach in Europe for the tournaments oversea’s (like Doug Shedden who has coached the Spengler Cup team the last 2 seasons).  Or perhaps they look for someone not currently working in the NHL to not only coach the team but have a heavy input into scouting and selecting the players (Paul Maurice could have done that this season).

 

I personally liked that they didn’t have a selection camp this year and used that time to allow this team to gel more as a unit.  But it didn’t work out because countries like Finland, the United States, and Russia aren’t intimidated by Canada right now.  But we go nuts, Canada has lost a total of ZERO games in regulation in the round robin of this tournament in these last 5 years.  The 2 loses they have were both in shootout’s.  So when the pressure isn’t as intense, they beat everyone.

 

It SUCKS, I know.  But everyone is livid and wants answers, and there probably are a few.  But for the most part it is simply a case of not having that swagger that they need, and other teams having the belief that Canada is beatable.  The reason we hate this explanation is that we can’t fix that, nobody has any control over that.  We just have to hope that our teams get it back and Canada goes back to dominating this tournament.   Just look forward to enjoying the Connor McDavid show next year in Montreal/Toronto and let’s hope he can raise the level of Team Canada and carry them to gold at home.

 

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NFL Picks – Wildcard Weekend

 

Well after a horrendous season and a 2 week hiatous, I am back at it for the playoffs.  Last year I was horrible on the opening weekend of the playoffs.  The year before was the first time I took a shot at doing picks and I went 0-4.  So I’m not doing these expecting to win.  I’m simply doing this to see how I do.  If ANYTHING, you should do the opposite of what I do.  An absolutely miserable season picking games not just for me but for many people.  It was about as unpredictable of a season as I’ve ever seen.  Atlanta and Houston were some experts picks for the Super Bowl and they are both picking in the top 5 of the draft!  Oh well, maybe things will change in the playoffs….but I doubt it.

 

Kansas City at Indianapolis

Indianapolis -2.5

If this were -3.5, I would have a tough time making a pick here.  But for some reason, favorite’s have dominated wildcard weekend the last few seasons and the Colts with the home field should take this game and if I like a team to win a game then I’m not worried about them giving less than a field goal.  The Chiefs are a good team, but they aren’t as good as the first half of the season indicated.  The Colts smoked them in KC, and they are a much better team at home than on the road.  The Chiefs on paper are the better football team, but they just aren’t a better football team.  I do believe it will be a tight game, but the Colts take it 23-17.

 

New Orleans at Philadelphia

Philadelphia -2.5

Basically this is the same story as the Colts game.  The difference here is that the Saints are probably the better team.  But they are a completely different team on the road and in the elements.  I questioned a few weeks back weather or not the Eagles could handle the elements against the Lions.  But they pulled that one out in a blizzard.  The Eagles have a more balanced offense than the Saints do, and I believe Shaddy McCoy will be the big difference in this game.  I’ll say the Eagles take this one 31-27.

 

San Diego at Cincinnati

Cincinnati -7

San Diego has no business being in this game.  They needed pretty much EVERYTHING to break their way, and still could barely beat a Chiefs team who were essentially sitting all their starters.  The reason this line isn’t bigger in my opinion is because the Bengals have yet to take that step into the elite teams of the NFL.  But at home, looking for their first playoff win since 1990, and playing an average/warm weather Chargers team in January should be a recipe for a big Bengals win.  27-10 Bengals.

 

San Francisco at Green Bay

Green Bay +3

The only rematch of last year’s postseason, where the Niners and Pack played a tight first half, and then the Niners boat raced the Pack in the second half.  There is no logical explanation as to why the Packers should win this game.  The Niners have won the last 3 games these 2 have played, the Niners are much better equipped for playoff football, and Colin Kaepernick has destroyed the Pack in their last 2 meetings.  But I just have a feeling the Packers are going to carry that momentum from their big win on Sunday into the playoffs.  The favorite in the NFC are the Seahawks and rightfully so.  But the Packers to me are the most dangerous team.  The D is nothing special, but that offense with Lacy, Rodgers and Cobb all in the lineup is lethal.  I like the Packers outright here, 34-31.

 

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2014 Pt.4

 

The 4th and final chapter in my Canadian Olympic team prognostication series.  I didn’t know how many of these I would end up doing, but to be honest this last one has just kind of snuck up on me during the holidays.  But I figured this would be as good of a time as any with CBC airing their behind the scenes documentary about the Canadian brass putting this team together.  By the time many of you read this in fact that will have likely already aired.  But anyway I wanted to get this in before hand so I didn’t have any influence.

 

Now, I’ve run long on these before.  I’m going to try not to do that this time.  But what I am going to do is show 2 versions of this team.  The team that I would select, and the team that I believe they will select.  As of typing this I have no clue what either will look like to be honest.  But I know there will likely be 5 or 6 differences between the 2 teams.  I hope I don’t prove them wrong in the end, although to be brutally honest I believe we will see something similar to what happened in Torino in 2006.  There is so much travel, so little time to build chemistry, not anywhere near the same amount of intensity, have to get used to playing on the big ice, and all things just add up to a huge mountain that they’ll have to climb.

 

But having said that, our boys are still going over there and Steve Yzerman’s group is going to attempt to pick a team that can surprise me and a lot of other fans and bring home a 2nd consecutive gold medal.  Before that, as always with this thread if you want to see how I had my first 3 additions of team Canada here are the links:

 

http://soupsonhockey.com/2012/11/12/2014/

http://soupsonhockey.com/2013/07/29/2014-pt-2/

http://soupsonhockey.com/2013/11/21/2014-pt-3/

 

Here is the forward group I believe they will take to Sochi:

 

John Tavares – Sidney Crosby – *Steven Stamkos

Eric Staal – Jonathan Toews – Martin St.Louis

Logan Couture – Ryan Getzlaf – Corey Perry

Mike Richards – Patrice Bergeron – Rick Nash

Claude Giroux, Patrick Sharp

 

Now, is that how the pieces will fit…I really have no clue.  First things first, I had Chris Kunitz on this team.  I bought into what the media has been saying and thought “yep, they’ll be that stupid”, and while I do think Chris Kunitz is underrated playing in the NHL, he’s not on “this” level.  But the more I looked at things, the more I couldn’t find a spot for him.  You can take him, but then who are you leaving off?  Claude Giroux?  He’s maybe been the best Canadian forward the last 2 months and is a PPG player the last 3 seasons.  Mike Richards?  All that International experience left at home?  Logan Couture?  Younger, faster, higher skilled and versatile?  So I don’t see a spot for Kunitz, but still won’t be shocked if they pull the trigger on taking him.

 

As for the rest….Matt Duchene might be the biggest ommission.  This wasn’t easy.  At one point I left Eric Staal off, one point I left Martin St.Louis off, one point I left Logan Couture off, at one point I left Rick Nash off.  But at the end of the day I feel like they leave Duchene off because of his lack of experience.  I believe it will be one of Duchene, Couture or Sharp who get left home.  The rest of the forwards were either on the 2010 and even though the brass will claim they aren’t being loyal to those guys, hockey guys can’t help but be loyal.  That is also why St.Louis is here.  He’s obviously great, but the biggest reason I’m betting he makes it is because Yzerman pretty much will HAVE to take his guy.

 

No Jamie Benn, no Milan Lucic and that is mainly because of the big ice.  Those 2 are elite NHL players, but they don’t have elite foot speed and especially in the case of Lucic his game could hurt more than it may help with IIHF officials doing the games.

 

As for the Stamkos situation….IF he can’t go then I believe Matt Duchene is the guy but IF he can’t go, they don’t have to name someone until the night before the tournament begins I believe.  So while it could be Duchene, it could be Taylor Hall, it could be Jamie Benn, who the hell knows who might be the hot player at that time.

 

Now, that was the forward group I believe is going.  Here is the forward group that I personally would take over:

 

John Tavares – Sidney Crosby – *Steven Stamkos

Matt Duchene – Jonathan Toews – Claude Giroux

Logan Couture – Eric Staal – Corey Perry

Mike Richards – Patrice Bergeron – Brad Marchand

Martin St.Louis, Patrick Sharp

 

The team I selected has a little more speed (no Getzlaf who again is one of my favourite players in the league), and obviously as I had in other posts I would still have Brad Marchand.  The guy is miserable to play against, is a winner, is one of the most clutch players in the game, is experienced, and gives you a different dimension than the other star players do.  In fact, I not only think that Marchand should be heavily considered for this team, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the brass is HEAVILY considering David Perron for this team.

 

He has 32 points in 40 games this season, is even on year playing on a horrible Oilers team, and he is a nightmare to play against.  He draws penalties, he stirs the pot, he’s fearless on the ice.  For the actual team, Perron would likely be ahead of Marchand due to Kevin Lowe, Doug Armstrong and Ken Hitchcock all being a part of this process, not to mention he is having a much better season than I like Marchand better because he is more proven, but it is the same idea.

 

No Rick Nash for me, I just think the guy gets overrated.  They see the size and the speed and the skill and people drool.  But he’s never been a guy who has to think the game, and he’s never been too much of a clutch player either.  I don’t hate him by any means, but he’s not without his warts.

 

Now that was the group up front.  The back end and the goaltenders I won’t need to spend nearly as much time on.  I haven’t really wavered on what the blueline will look like.  Although there is one guy who I got CRUSHED for having on my original team who has made a late charge.  Here is what I think they will do:

 

Duncan Keith – Shea Weber

Jay Bouwmeester – Alex Pietrangelo

Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Drew Doughty

Kris Letang – P.K. Subban

 

Now I’m STILL not convinced Subban will be on this team.  But you look at the numbers and Subban has 10 more points and is +10 where Boyle is -2 on a better hockey team.  So it is pretty tough to leave Subban off, but then how do you leave Boyle off when he is that great of a skater, more experienced and plays a safter game than Subban?  You might say “then you leave off Letang or Vlasic”.  Well the problem there is Letang can play both sides which is a huge advantage, and Vlasic is a LH shot which is a big deal to the brass.

 

Speaking of Vlasic, he is the other change I have made and it is simply a case of Marc Staal just now coming back off a concussion.  I believe Vlasic, Staal, and Dan Hamhuis are all the same type of guy and you can’t really go wrong with any of them.  I would take Staal.  He has a bit more size, and has been more of an anchor for the Rangers than Vlasic has been for the Sharks.  But it is splitting hair’s.

 

Of course I have spoken of this many times before, but a guy like Brent Seabrook gets little to no attention simply because of the massive amount of RH shot D already on this team.  I’m saying they take 5 RH shot guys already, and they’ll want as many great skaters as they can have on D for the big ice.

 

But for me, there is a LH shot D-man who I believe will get left off this team and I don’t think he should.  If you have watched him play this season, he has been terrific and without a doubt the MVP of his team.  Here would be my Olympic blueline:

 

Duncan Keith – Shea Weber

Jay Bouwmeester – Alex Pietrangelo

Marc Staal Drew Doughty

Mark Giordano – Dan Boyle

 

No P.K. on my team, I laid it out above as to what Boyle has going for him over Subban.  I love Subban, but people get too enthralled with what they see on Sports Centre (or if they’re idiots….Connected).  The fact of the matter is, Boyle can make all the offensive plays that Subban can, and he is less likely to make the terrible decision at the worst time, OR to throw big hit that the Swedish official deems a head shot.

 

Then you have Giordano.  He is of course the guy who I got crucified over by so many people.  Even though he’s probably not going to make this team, I can proudly say that I was a lot more right about him than the people who tried to claim I had lost my mind and he wouldn’t even be considered.  This guy is a damn good D-man.  Great skater, can play physical, has experience playing on the big ice (played the 06 season in the KHL), is a good defender and can bring a lot of offense.  You may love the Flames or you may hate them, but you can’t deny how much of an impact Mark Giordano has on that hockey club.  Don’t be shocked if he’s one of the 8 D announced on the 7th.

 

Finally as usual we have the tendy’s.  Last time I put Luongo as my starter, and then Price went on a tear.  Last time I finally admitted Cam Ward was likely out of the running, and then he came back from injury and finally started getting recognition.  So I’m scared to say what I really believe because things could backfire on me.  But here we go:

 

Carey Price

Roberto Luongo

Corey Crawford

 

So I still don’t think they’ll take Ward LIKE THEY SHOULD!  But the guy you can’t make an argument against really is Crawford.  What can you say against him?  He won the Cup, he should have been (at least by the numbers) the Conn Smythe winner, he’s not a product of a defensive system, and he’s having another solid season.  So many of the media believe it will be Mike Smith….but why?

 

I admit I had Smith going last time, but I basically just figured the media must know something the rest of us don’t.  But when you look at it, how can the team Canada brass take a guy who basically had 1 big season, and has clearly been a product of Dave Tippett’s system?  Even if they don’t believe he is, he’s never proven that he isn’t.  Don’t forget, Steve Yzerman let this guy walk after the 2011 season.  This season, if you want to compare Smith and Crawford, Smith has a bit better save percentage, but Crawford has a bit better G.A.A.  I’ll take the guy who has the ring and doesn’t have questions about how his numbers are what they are.

 

As for other guys, Josh Harding deserves a long hard look.  He’s been terrific this season!  I personally don’t get why Jonathan Bernier never gets mentioned.  Being in Toronto, I would have guessed more people would be mentioning him as the possible 3rd goalie.  Marc-Andre Fleury is having a very solid season but you simply can’t take him based off his last 2 playoff performances.  Of course my guy is Ward.  Price as my starter, Luongo as the backup and Ward as the 3rd guy is how I would go.

 

At the end of the day, the 3rd goaltender likely won’t be anything of a factor.  Canada has their top 2 guys and they’re 2 guys I believe everyone feels comfortable with heading into the Olympics.  Price should be the starting guy and I’m going to be pretty unhappy if he’s the hotter guy heading in and they go with Luongo based on “well he won for us in 2010”.  Right, and now it’s 2014.  You go with the better goaltender and with how Price has played this season….not including last night….he has to be the starting goaltender.

 

It is going to be a VERY intriguing few days until this roster gets announced.  Some would say you can’t go wrong, but I clearly am not one of those people.  So much attention to detail goes into selecting this team, and a few ridiculous decisions can be the difference between gold and coming home empty handed.

 

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