Just Be Honest

1297761397934_ORIGINALDon’t know how many of you know this, but we have 2 NHL teams in Alberta.  Well…I use the term “NHL” loosely, but they are technically in that league.  Both are very young.  Both are in great situations moving forward and look like they’ll be among the league powerhouses within 2 or 3 seasons.  But both are currently going in very opposite directions.

 

I’ll start with the Flames since I just got done watching their game against Ottawa.  Now, I didn’t watch it closely.  It does look as though the Flames carried the play outshooting the Sens 38-23.  So that’s a big positive for them.  But damn, ONCE AGAIN, and I’m going to sound like a broken record, the Flames seemed to catch a lot of breaks.  Kris Russell made it 3-2 Flames on as bad of a goal as you’ll see, and they tied it on a PP that they simply had zero business having.

 

This team isn’t good right now.  But that’s not my beef.  My beef is with seemingly everyone in the media refusing to acknowledge that last season was an aberration.  Even most Flames fans would admit they got a large majority of the bounces, and while I’m not a fan of the analytics community (I’ll touch on that in a bit), I do fully believe analytics are a vital tool to use when looking at a teams performance.  They were awful analytically last season.  Yet when seemingly ANYONE in the media is asked about the Flames this season, they all seem to think they are going to get it together and be alright.

 

Hey, I said the Flames would make the playoffs.  But I also said that I didn’t love any of the Flames, Canucks or Sharks in the Pacific and that whoever ended up in the 3rd spot would be a reflection of poor depth in the division.

 

Nobody in the media wants to look at last year logically.  Career years from 9 players and that isn’t including guys like Monahan and Gaudreau who are obviously still too early in their careers to call it a career year, or Jonas Hiller who matched a career low G.A.A.  9 guys!  And they barely snuck in!  We’re serious here that we expected another season like that and expected this team to make the playoffs?!

 

Some in the media were asking the question before the season if the Flames were ready to contend!  Like give your FREAKING heads a shake!  And I know how this looks.  Oiler fan ripping on the Flames, and I’m about to praise the Oilers so I know that isn’t a good look.  It’s one I look to avoid.  But I’m just being honest about it from as objective of a view as I can.  And it isn’t taking any pleasure in the Flames struggles, it is mostly to do with (as most of my pieces are) the media as a whole being so ridiculous.

 

And why is it always the hockey media?!  As a huge fan of the 4 major sports, the hockey media far and away knows their sport the least.  Maybe I’m just too close to it.  But when you hear guys talking about how players who are only 1 dimensional snipers are among the best players in the league….like you never hear about how Chris Davis is among the best players in baseball, yet he led the majors in home runs.  You never hear about how Carmelo Anthony is among the elite in the NBA, yet he’s one of the best scorers.  Julio Jones isn’t going to be top 15 or so in MVP voting, yet he’s a touchdown machine.  The reason is that the media in those sports understand that the impact these players have is limited.  Yet the NHL media sees someone putting pucks in the net and apparently nothing else matters.  Just because it’s the most difficult thing to do in the sport, doesn’t mean it’s the only thing a player needs to do.

 

As for the team up the highway, they are only 1 point better in the standings.  And I by no means am going to suggest they are about to take off.  But Jonathan Willis wrote a piece yesterday that really bothered me.

 

It basically talked about how the Oilers are no better than what they’ve been, and in some cases they worse this season than any of the last 5 through 10 games.  Willis is a big time analytics guy.  I love these guys.  Willis isn’t bad, but most of them have this belief that nothing else in the game matters, you can simply read what the analytics tell you and that is all you need to go off of.  As I said before, I’m a BIG fan of analytics!  But I can’t stand the “analytics community”.  And this article was a big reason why.

 

You see, all Willis did was take the Oilers analytic numbers on the season and say “they’re just as bad if not worse than normal”.  Yet in the article, there was something conveniently left out.  What was the strength of schedule over the Oilers first 10 games in those other seasons?  I couldn’t find this in his piece, likely because it would dispel the piece.  Pretty conveniently for him that this information was left out.

 

Had he done this….

 

2010-11, 7 of their first 10 games were against teams that hadn’t made the playoffs the season previous, and missed that season as well.  3-5-2 over that stretch, which easily could have been the start this season as well against a MUCH tougher schedule.

 

2011-12, 6-2-2 start.  4 of the 10 opponents didn’t make the playoffs that season, 4 of the 10 missed the previous season.  And most Oiler fans will recall that they were getting even better goaltending to start that season than this.  I want to say Nik Khabibulin’s Sv% was around .960 at one point!

 

2013, 4 wins in their first 10, only 1 of which was in regulation.  4 of the 10 games were against teams that missed the playoffs that season, 3 of those 4 had also missed the season prior.

 

2013-14, 7 of the first 10 were against teams that missed the playoffs.  In fairness, only 2 of those teams missed the 2013 playoffs, but the record was 1-6-1 in the first 8 before winning in Ottawa and Montreal (Eastern conference teams, and we all know it to be the weaker conference).

 

2014-15, won 4 of their first 10.  All 4 at home and against Eastern conference teams.  7 of the 10 games against teams who hadn’t made the playoffs the previous season, but in fairness only the Coyotes and Hurricanes were the real weak spots on the schedule.

 

Now finally we look at this years first 10 games.  St.Louis x 2, Nashville, Dallas, Calgary, Vancouver, Detroit, Washington, LA, and Minnesota (is it awesome or humiliating that I knew that off the top of my head?)  2 of those teams missed the playoffs last year, and those 2 now lead their divisions (and while the Kings didn’t make the playoffs LAST year, I think we all know what they have done in 2 of the last 4 seasons).  To this point, Calgary is the only weak spot on that list.  Only 2 teams out of the East, 1 of which is a serious threat to win the Cup.

 

This year is FAR AND AWAY the toughest schedule through the first 10 games that this team has faced.  And they have been in every game.  Even the Washington game, the Caps pulled away in the end but the Oilers were hanging in there for the majority of the game.  They haven’t been GREAT, but watch the f***ing games!  They are a much better squad.  Better positionally, grittier, much improved team speed, and more balanced.  They SHOULD be at least 4-5-1 if not 5-5, but they are only 3-7.  If you watch them play you can simply see they are a much better team.  But leave it to a die hard analytics fan to attempt to discount that with his numbers.

 

The Oilers next 4 games…all at home.  3 against Eastern conference teams and Saturday against the struggling Flames.  I BET their analytics are better in those games, just a hunch.  If they aren’t, fine.  Jonathan Willis piece holds a lot more weight.  But let’s try to be better at our job, shall we?  I’m sure Jonathan is smarter than that, and likely just did it for clicks which is disgusting in it’s own right, but if I noticed this convenient omission then I’m certain most others did too.

 

Both of these teams, the Flames and the Oilers, are on the right track to be powerhouse teams.  Not just good, powerhouses.  The top teams in the West.  I would put the Avs in that category, but it is starting to appear that they are spinning their wheels just as bad as the Oilers have been (speaking of them, where is the NHL media now talking about how much winning helped their development?)  It is ironic.  The first part of this was ripping the media for standing by the Flames, the second part of this was ripping Jonathan Willis and analytics people for ripping the Oilers.

 

Maybe I just don’t like anyone?!

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

Victims of Their Own Success

B8tSYj-CQAAC4H2You know I get asked all the time “Tyler, where does the inspiration come from?”  Wow, that is an amazing question.  I don’t think of my work on here as writing as much as I do art.  And being that it’s art, I believe my inspiration really comes from the beauty of the world.  And beauty is all over, including from within.

 

Douchy enough for you?  That’s my douchy way of saying my buddy Miller and I were texting the other day….

 

Miller is a Seahawks fan.  And he’s obviously discouraged with how they’ve started, as a lot of you are I’m sure because the Seahawks are and always have been a pretty popular team in Western Canada.  And actually, though I didn’t do it quite as douchy as the opening, it did hit me what the biggest issue is facing the Seahawks, which is that too many teams are now built just like they were.

 

When they drafted Russell Wilson and first emerged as a powerhouse football team in 2012, the NFL was all about the passing game.  QB numbers were going through the roof, and it was thought that because of the new rules implemented over the previous 8 seasons that there was no way to defend.  So teams would find their QB, make sure he has an O-line to protect him, and then just find him WR’s.  Screw the running game.  Screw the secondary.  First team to 40 MIGHT win.

 

The Seahawks and the 49ers both said “if everyone is built this way, we’ll go the other way and be a matchup nightmare for all those teams”.  And what do you know, those 2 were the best teams in the NFL from 2011-2014.  San Fran went to 3 straight NFC title games including winning it in 2012, and of course the Seahawks went to back to back Super Bowls, winning the first and should have won back to back.

 

Now I had been noticing something in the first 6 weeks of the NFL season.  Games just aren’t as interesting.  They aren’t boring, but there doesn’t seem to be as much going on as there was in 2011 and 2012.  More running the ball, tougher D, most teams have copied the Seahawks and Niners model.

 

So now that huge advantage which the Seahawks once had is now gone.  3-4 after Thursday night, but it’s not looking great for them right now.  Look who they have lost to:

St. Louis – built like the Seahawks

Green Bay – still pass happy but much improved running game and D

Cincinnati – built like the Seahawks

Carolina – built like the Seahawks

 

3 of the 4 losses have been against carbon copies of what they have been.  Then look at who they’ve beat:

Chicago – pass happy, awful D

Detroit – pass happy, rebuilding D

San Fran – ….well…they don’t really do ANYTHING…An NFL Europe team

 

And the Lions game as we know they caught a HUGE break or else they easily could be 2-5.  Then again, they were very much so in every game they lost.

 

But you can look at the D and say it isn’t what it was, that’s somewhat true.  You can say Marshawn Lynch hasn’t been 100% and that’s true.  You can say that what happened in the Super Bowl is now in their heads, and that might be true too.  But I really believe all that has gone on here is that the rest of the league has caught on.  This is the way to build.  And it’s nothing against your team Seahawk fans but for a guy who doesn’t have a horse in this race known as the NFL it makes for a BORING watch!  At least compared to 4 years ago.

 

But enough about a team that has already played in week 7, lets discuss the teams who are playing today.  That’s right, it is time for my picks ATS to go absolutely horrible.  Actually this season both in NFL and college ball I haven’t been paying real close attention to my record on the season, but I’ve had a ton of either 3-2 or 2-3 weeks.  I’m picking them a lot better on here then I did in the actual games I bet and while I don’t want to give away too much, let’s just say I’m down 100 bucks.  Damnit, I said the quiet part loud and the loud part…I didn’t even type.  Shit it’s 1:18 AM, here are your picks.

 

Minnesota at Detroit

Vikings -2

I’m not huge on the Vikings like some others are.  But the Lions just aren’t that good of a team right now, even though they got their first win of the season last week at home against the Bears.  Swallowing 2 points is nothing.

 

NY Jets at New England

Jets +7.5

The Jets are good in case nobody notices.  This will be a low scoring game, Pats win, but it’ll be within a touchdown.

 

New Orleans at Indianapolis

Colts +4

I’m not huge on the Colts, but I’ve REALLY soured on the Saints.  And with this game at home, and having their D playing a lot better of late, I’m thinking the Colts win this one comfortably.

 

Oakland at San Diego

Raiders +4

Rivalry game, Chargers coming off a tough one in Green Bay, Raiders coming off a bye.  In case we all forgot, the Raiders are pretty solid this season.  So I really like this bet.

 

Dallas at NY Giants

Cowboys +3.5

So this feels like a low number.  The Cowboys maybe should be bigger dogs in this game.  But I’ve been burned a lot lately by getting away from the Vegas bait.  My initial inclination was to take the Giants.  “Way too low of a spread”.  Cowboys are off a bye, new QB, and as a Christine Michael fantasy keeper league owner…the Cowboys have seemed hell bent on making him the starting running back.  So perhaps he’s the fit they need behind that O-line, and if he is then life should be much easier in Matt Cassel’s first start.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

What a Run

Division Series - Texas Rangers v Toronto Blue Jays - Game FiveWhat an awful title.  This is going to be one of those blogs where I just go pretty corny about all this.  I think I did after the 2014 gold medal game in Sochi, and I did after the Bobcats playoff run that same season, and I’m sure a few other times.  They are well received, I just don’t know that they’re well written.  Anyway, here comes another one that everyone in Canada will be on board with.

 

Actually I’ll start with a corny little story.  So Thanksgiving Sunday, Jays are down 2-0 going into game 3 in Arlington.  I’m the biggest Jays fan in the family.  Just about everyone is a baseball fan, but I’m THE Jays fan.  Yet everyone there was 100% invested in that game.  All 11 of us there, sitting in my parents living room and a massive cheer when Tulowitzki hit that massive 3 run shot to essentially clinch that game.  The whole country was all in with this team.

 

So anyway, I’m starting this at 10:38 PM Friday night.  The loss is still VERY fresh.  But as I just texted to a few of my buddies, had you told me around July 25th or so that the Jays would make it to game 6 of the ALCS with runners at 2nd and 3rd and Donaldson up, I would have totally signed up for that!

 

It was all gravy after Texas.  Bautista’s home run in the bottom of the 7th simply felt like the signature moment of the season.  And it’s not like the ALCS was without it’s great moments.  Game 3’s offensive explosion.  Marco Estrada throwing that amazing 3 hitter in game 5 to keep the season alive.  And of course Bautista again tonight.  Should they have tied it in the 9th?  Yep.  At least 3 times in the game they should have cashed and didn’t.

 

Let’s be honest, there were far too many moments that were too big for the Jays bats.  Josh Donaldson for the most part got shutdown.  Ben Revere up until tonight gave them nothing from the lead off spot.  And Russell Martin…YIKES.  Russell Martin was without a doubt the worst Jay in the series and likely the playoffs.  Not just at the plate.  It took him until 2 homers in game 6 to figure out that David Price wasn’t putting the Royals away with his changeup.  I don’t think it was any coincidence that Marco Estrada was incredible with Dioneer Navarro behind the plate.  Martin is better defensively, and better at the plate.  But I would say Navarro calls the better game.

 

Of course there was also the Goins play in game 2 they got the Royals going.  That one hurts, because you know it should have been 3-2 Jays going into this game.  You don’t KNOW that, but we saw it all series.  That Royals lineup lived off momentum.

 

But you have to be honest about it, the Royals were the better team.  Much better suited for playoff baseball.  Contact hitters 1-9, and a crazy dominant bullpen.

 

I’ve seen great bullpens in the playoffs before.  Too young to remember physically watching the Nasty Boys for the Reds, but know all about them.  They were only 3 guys.  The 96 Yankees pen was great, especially with Rivera setting up and Wetteland as the closer.  02 Angels had a great pen, but outside of K-rod emerging that season and Troy Percival being a real good closer (not elite by that point), the pen wasn’t scaring anyone.  This Royals pen, without their closer Greg Holland, is amazing.  Unhittable for the most part.

 

So the Jays didn’t lose to a team they should have beat, they didn’t lose on a fluke play, they just got beat by a better team.  I enjoyed the hell out of it, and I know you all did too.

 

But life rolls on, and already I’m looking at next season.  You see, this won’t be the last time for the Jays.  They are set up for the long run, even with all the prospects shipped out at the deadline.  I fully expect Rogers to be willing to stretch the payroll to 150 million or more after the money they will have raked in this season.

 

So first question: Will David Price be re-signed?

I think it’s a lot closer than some do right now.  I would guess it’s 50/50.  Off the top of my head I would say the Cubs and Dodgers will be hard after him.  But what the Jays have going is that he isn’t the only pitcher available in free agency.  Far from it.  Zach Grienke, Jordan Zimmermann, Johnny Cueto, Yovani Gallardo, Scott Kazmir, John Lackey, Mat Latos, Mike Leake, Jeff Samardzija, there are a ton of either quality arms or intriguing arms available.  So if they choose not to re-sign Price, I doubt Jays fans will have to worry.  Add to all this, 20 million is coming off the books with Buehrle and possibly another 12 million if they choose not to pickup the option on R.A. Dickey.

 

Will they re-sign Marco Estrada?

This one I think is a little easier.  He got it going here, he won’t be as much money or term because he’s only had this year as his big season, it’s tough to say what would do it but I have to think 10-12 million per over 3 or 4 seasons.  He’ll be 33 next season, but Estrada is a pitcher, not a thrower.  It’s a lot like when Alex Anthopoulos had a decision to make on Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion.  They had career years and needed to be re-signed (extended, weren’t free agents).  He did and look at what sweetheart deals those have turned out to be.

 

Fixing the pen

It got better, but still needs some work.  You can’t get caught in the same situation again with the lefties.  Cecil is great as a setup man, but he can’t be your only reliable guy.  Tony Sipp, Antonio Bastardo, and Manny Parra are the best guys I can find who will be free agents this winter.  No GM in baseball likes sinking much money into their bullpen, but you simply can’t go into next season depending on either Brett Cecil to be your only lefty, or Aaron Loup to essentially make Brett Cecil your only lefty.

 

You’ll also need to replace Aaron Sanchez, because they’ll likely put him back in the rotation.  So while that’s great, it leaves a pretty big hole with your number 1 setup man gone.

 

Other holes

I don’t know if it’s a hole, but I personally would like 1st base shored up.  People might laugh at this notion, but I’m going to put it out there.  I could see Joey Votto at 1st to start next season.  The Reds are rebuilding.  Votto has a monster contract which the Jays could afford to take on.  The Jays lack a big left handed bat.  The Jays lack a guy who’ll hit for average in the middle of the order.  He’s a former gold glove winner.  And for ownership to sign off on bringing such a big contract in…he’s a Toronto born player.  It is totally just a hunch, I haven’t even seen Votto’s name mentioned in rumors.  But Anthopoulos has pulled trades out from seemingly nowhere a few times before, and this would make sense.  To do it, Encarnacion would have to be dealt (which then saves 10 million).  You could essentially flip what you get for Encarnacion for Votto (not exactly, but essentially).

 

Before the playoffs I would have said that Jose Bautista is in his final days as a Jay as well.  Not anymore.  You can’t trade a guy who after the game tonight has cemented himself as a Jays legend.  You probably don’t like his act, I know I haven’t in the past.  But he’s a huge bat, a clutch bat, and there is just no way they’ll move him.  I just hope they don’t go overboard on an extension.

 

I wouldn’t be SHOCKED if Ben Revere is dealt, more so because Dalton Pompey is close.  He wasn’t this season, but after going down to AA and getting his game together he went back to AAA Buffalo and was outstanding.  Then you saw what his speed can do.  More than likely he’s the 4th outfielder and they use him a lot.  But the option is there to move Revere, perhaps for that lefty they need in the pen.

 

Another possible move is at 2nd, where Ryan Goins and Devon Travis both have a spot.  It is possible that the guy they move isn’t either, but rather Troy Tulowitzki with Goins moving to short.  But I can’t see it.  You don’t bring that guy in, only to move him 3 months later.  You can go with a Travis/Goins platoon to start next season and see how that goes.  It would also allow you to DH Tulowitzki some and keep him fresh.  Or you move Travis who would have pretty good value with the first half he had.  Or you move Goins who would also have pretty good value with how great he was defensively on the big stage.  A lot of options.

 

And finally of course the organization has the biggest decision of all.  Do they re-sign Alex Anthopoulos?  He’s a free agent.  He needs to be locked down and with Paul Beeston leaving and Mark Shapiro coming in as the new President of the club.  I have to assume after the job Anthopoulos has done that he’ll be back, but you just never know.  It is going to be a BUSY offseason for this ball club.  The Jays won’t be leaving the news anytime soon.

 

For a guy who has been a Jays fan through the last 22 years (by the way, doubt anyone mentioned it but the Jays hadn’t made the playoffs since 93 until this season), that was so sweet.  A lot of dark years.  Awful crowds, some awful players, and even a 8 year stretch with AWFUL uni’s.  J.P. Riccardi, Carlos Tosca, Miguel Batista, Josh Phelps, Ted Lilly (we always got sold how Ted Lilly was a good number 2 behind Halladay), Lyle Overbay, Russ Adams, Craig Grebeck, no chance of knocking off the Yankees or Red Sox, like it was just horrible!  So this was sweet.  It sucks they lost.  Heartbreaking.  It was such an amazing ride and while they’ll be back, it likely won’t be duplicated.  But man, wasn’t that awesome?!

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

Let’s Hope This is the Final Chapter

Colts-Andrew-Luck-and-Patriots-Tom-BradySunday night, the game people have been talking about since the NFL schedule came out back in April.  It’s the story that nobody would shut up about.  Can you imagine had Tom Brady’s suspension held up what a circus this week would have been???  Thankfully it didn’t, not because I’m a Pats fan, but because it was well beyond absurd.

 

Having said all this, this is still a story heading into week 6.  I am surprised it isn’t a bigger story heading into week 6, but it still is a story.  And it’s tough not to believe that the Patriots are going to obliterate the team that “ratted them out”.

 

But that shouldn’t be why they blowout the Colts.  They should blow them out because they are miles ahead of them as a football team.  You can play up the “they’re pissed off and going to run it up” card as much as you want.  But the fact is that the Colts just dominate their division.  They are that good of a team.  This was known coming into this season.  I picked the Colts to go to the AFC championship, but said in the write up that it was mainly because they would dominate the South again, and then win the divisional game because of home field.

 

The Pats are better than I thought they would be though.  I thought for sure with Revis and Browner gone, that secondary was in big trouble.  I thought even though they got incredible value taking Malcolm Brown at the 32nd pick in the draft that it would be a year or so until he was giving them the same level of play that Vince Wilfork had.

 

So that’s what we got coming on Sunday night.  And after the Pats win, can the idiotic “Deflate gate” shit be done with for good?  PLEASE?!  I have never cared less about a story, and it made no sense how it was even a story beyond a couple of fines being handed out much like the Falcons got for pumping in crowd noise to the Georgia dome.  Did you even know about that?  You may have heard about it or seen it cross the wire 1 freaking day, that’s it.  This was only a story because people hate the Pats.  Which is fine, but find a good reason to “get them”.

 

Anyway, my picks ATS which I missed doing last weekend.  No issues with the site or anything, I just flat out forgot.  With harvest, regular job, family in town for Thanksgiving, life gets busy and writing about picks that MAYBE 4 people will use isn’t a high priority.  But it’s a pride thing with me.  I want to be that guy who gets so hotter than Hansel…picking games that is.  I just made a 15 year old movie reference.  Man I’m old!

 

Denver at Cleveland

Broncos -4

Feels like a bait pick, I can’t lie.  But logic just dictates the Broncos even though they’ve looked bad for an undefeated team will still win this game going away.  The D is elite and the running game is getting better.  And the Browns don’t stop the run.  And the Broncos will shutdown the Browns running game.  Josh McCowan isn’t to be trusted so eat the points.

 

Miami at Tennessee

Dolphins +1

Bye week, new coach, Titans aren’t good at home, the Dolphins really shouldn’t be underdogs in this football game.  They’ll win this one.  That’s it.  I really don’t know what else to say.

 

Carolina at Seattle

Panthers +7

The Seahawks are great at home as we all know, but are they in anyway deserving of being 7 point favorites right now?  They aren’t, especially not against an undefeated team.  The Seahawks could easily be 1-4 right now.  It’s just not the same team.  Maybe they get it going this week, but you can’t bank on that.  Plus the Panthers are off a bye and the Seahawks just played a real physical game in Cincy.

 

New England at Indianapolis

Patriots -10

It’s a huge number, but as I laid out in the blog this doesn’t have much to do with the theory that the Pats are pissed off.  It has everything to do with them being that much better than the Colts.  They don’t just beat the Colts, they DOMINATE them.  Until the Colts show they can compete with New England, you have to believe that the same thing will continue to happen.  Plus, how healthy will Andrew Luck be?  It sounds like they could be rushing him back for this game.

 

NY Giants at Philadelphia

Giants +5.5

WHAT?!  The Eagles aren’t good at home, they haven’t been near as consistent as the Giants this season, none of this number makes sense to me.  Vegas is basing this off a big win against a bad Saints team?  The Giants are winning this game outright.

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

Players With Bad Contracts, Get Ready For the Draft!

Crazy Streets of Las VegasSo prior to writing this piece, I’ve been doing some online shopping.  I’m not a big fan of shopping when I have to stand around and go store to store and sort through things to find what I want.  But I’m pretty good at doing it from the comfort of my living room online.  My big thing right now is I like to find retro sports t-shirts and team them with a hat from that same city.  So for example I’m rocking a Mariners hat right now, while wearing my Seattle Supersonics 1979 NBA champions t-shirt.  NHL.com has some pretty deadly retro t’s, so I’m sorting through every team.  I go through the Yotes merchandise.  I’m thinking “how deadly would a faded purple or green t-shirt with a faded original Coyotes symbol and Roenick or Khabibulin on the back look?!”  Not only do they not have an item like that, they don’t have ANY item’s with the old Coyotes symbol.  Nor do they have ANY item’s celebrating anything from the past.  Guys, I’m not in marketing.  But last time I checked, keeping your merchandise trendy is a way to market your product.  Just a suggestion.

 

Of course I bring this story up because the Coyotes SHOULD be on the move.  But they aren’t, and won’t be, and for some reason Garry Bettman continues to force them into our lives.

 

Regardless of the mess that is known as the Arizona Coyotes, who can’t even get a jersey change right, it is the right time for the NHL to expand.  As I talked about a few weeks ago, hockey is booming everywhere.  Canada has never pumped out such high end talent, major talent is starting to emerge from non traditional markets like Arizona (Auston Matthews) and Texas (Max Gildon), the Czech Republic is on the comeback trail after some down years, Sweden remains a power, Finland is always consistent, Switzerland is improving every year, Austria, Latvia, Germany, they’re coming from more places than ever before.  And the 30 teams in the league are on as level of playing field as they’ve been.  It’ll have been 17 years since expansion once we see it again, and 32 teams just works better than 30 does.  16 teams to each conference, half the league misses the playoffs, 8 teams in each division, it just rounds everything out.

 

Now you may remember what expansion is like.  It’s a lot of bad hockey for a lot of years for these teams.  Even when they do emerge early, it’s only by playing an optically awful style.  3 years into their existence, both the Panthers and Wild went on deep playoff runs.  But nobody was pulling for them.  They were AWFUL to watch.  And they were 1 off’s.  Neither team remained as a factor.  So the argument might be made that expansion teams will lead to 5 years or so of really bad hockey.  This WAS true.  But this is the cap era, and teams have good players they want to shed.

 

Who are teams going to make available in the expansion draft?  Are they going to expose 2 or 3 younger roster guys, or are they going to expose 2 or 3 of their worst contracts?  It’s the latter.

 

So think of some of the bad contracts with term right now.  They’ll likely be taken off the books by expansion teams who’ll have to get to the cap floor, I would assume anyway.  Maybe they’ll be given 1 or 2 years grace at a lower floor.

 

Take Phil Kessl for example.  I’ll never say Phil Kessel sucks, he just isn’t a player you build a team around and with the Pens such a top heavy team I would say there is a good chance Kessel is a guy who is made available at that time.  If the Pens can’t move him, they can just expose him in the expansion draft and he’ll likely be taken.

 

Here is another one.  Some are wondering why the hell Tim Murray would give Ryan O’Reilly so much term on his extension when he has Eichel, Reinhart and Girgensons as an impressive 1, 2, 3 down the middle for the future.  Well if he can’t move the O’Reilly deal after 3 seasons, he can make him available in the expansion draft.  That easily could have played into Murray giving him such a huge deal.  Of course another thing that played into Murray giving him that deal is not being a good GM.

 

Jason Pominville will have 2 years left at a 5.6 million dollar cap hit, so he’ll likely be made available.  Scott Hartnell, David Clarkson, Andrew McDonald, Dustin Brown, Marian Gaborik, Travis Zajac, Dion Phaneuf, Matt Niskanen, there will be SO MANY big contract players on these new expansion teams.  Which is good, because it’ll make them instantly relevant.

 

As for who the 2 cities will be, well we all know Vegas is going to be one of them.  I can’t see Vegas succeeding but they seem hell bent on putting a team there.  The second city SHOULD be Quebec City, but if Bettman has his way it won’t be.  Seattle?  Much more likely.  Kansas City?  Much more likely.  Portland?  Much more likely.

 

So why is this?  Well frankly it is as ridiculous of a reason as can be imagined, but the commissioner wants the 2 teams to be in the West so that they won’t have to take a team from the East and put them back in the West like Columbus or Detroit.  I can’t roll my eyes hard enough at this notion.  But it sure sounds like that’s the mindset of the league.  Who cares how profitable Quebec City will be hey boys?!  Just as long as you don’t make Mike Ilitch cranky by moving his Red Wings back to the Western Conference.  And this isn’t me trying to be cute, this is ACTUALLY WHAT THEY’RE THINKING!

 

It’s always made much more sense to me that they relocate 2 teams (if not more) and give 2 expansion teams to the Canadian markets (Quebec City and Southern Ontario whether that is Hamilton or another team in Toronto).  The thinking being that it’ll be much easier to draw fans in these none traditional markets like a Vegas or Seattle with teams who are competitive.  If you give them expansion teams, you’re starting off way behind the 8 ball.  Even with good players likely headed to these teams, it is still a brand new situation for all involved and will likely take them a year or 2 to challenge for a playoff spot.

 

In Quebec City it would be just like Winnipeg.  They’ll be so pumped to have a team back in the city, they won’t be that worried about wins and loses for a year or 2.  In Toronto, it would be the PERFECT time to bring in another team with the Leafs admittedly going through a pretty big rebuild.  If you get an expansion team in there by 17-18, they may still be able to compete with the Leafs.  And with a ton of pissed off and under served Leaf fans craving something new, they’ll sellout while the organization gets it’s feet under them.

 

I guess at the end of the day it is good that they’re finally expanding.  I mean, I’m all for the league going down to 24 teams, but that’ll never happen.  Businesses of this magnitude are only ever going to look to grow their product, not downsize it.  So 32 makes the most sense.  Everyone expects Vegas to be one of the cities who gets a team.  Let’s hope that it’s Quebec City who gets the other.  But if your team is in cap trouble or has a gross contract that is unmovable, the expansion draft is coming in a few years so your problem could be solved.  It’ll be extremely interesting to see what’ll shake down when (or if) the 2017 expansion draft rolls around.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

15-16 NHL Season Preview

matt-beleskey-nhl-stanley-cup-playoffs-chicago-blackhawks-anaheim-ducks-850x560Sports are back!  From about mid July to the end of August, I just can’t be bothered to write stuff.  Even when interesting things happen, such as the Jays trade deadline followed up by there emergence as the best team in the American League, I just didn’t feel like writing about it.  And I don’t get paid for doing this.  And hardly anyone other than you are reading this.  Anyway, now I’m starting to get the urge to write again.  It is October.  Football is in full swing, MLB playoffs are starting up, and your favorite…the NHL is back.  So why dick around?  Here is my season preview/prognostication.

 

*Wildcard teams

 

Pacific

Anaheim Ducks – They’re winning the Cup.  All my fears about this squad were put to rest during last year’s run to game 7 of the West final, and they’ve only improved this offseason.  Loaded everywhere, and all the assets and then some to improve by the deadline.

 

Los Angeles Kings – This SHOULD be the case.  They SHOULD bounce back.  But man, what train wreck this team has been since winning the 2014 Cup.  I’m not sure Lucic will improve them much, they’re kind of the last team that needs a player like him, but they should be back in the playoffs as long as more off ice issues don’t come about.

 

Calgary Flames – Not to piss on Flames fans, but this is more a result of being the best of the rest in this division.  The honest, non Oiler fan way I can look at things is that I don’t think they’re that good.  Watched them a ton last season, and they just got every single bounce.  When that starts to happen, a team gets a ridiculous level of confidence which is what happened here.  Then the offseason moves are getting a bit overrated.  Dougie Hamilton WILL BE a number 1 guy, but he’s not there.  East is far less physical than the West, he was really inconsistent last season despite good numbers, he’s young.  He will be a number 1, he’s just not there.  And I’m a huge Frolik fan, but he’s a 3rd line guy.  So this is more of a result of a division that lacks depth then a stamp of approval of the Flames being good.  Also I said it before, say it again, Bob Hartley’s track record is he has a shelf life of 3-4 years.  I do like though that a fast team might be faster with Hamilton, Frolik and Bennett so that will be tough to handle.  Playoff team, but not a good playoff team.

 

Vancouver Canucks – It always seems as though I’m giving the Canucks more of the benefit of the doubt than anyone else.  I believed that in 2013 they would finally emerge as a playoff power, they got swept.  In 2014 I believed Torts would actually work short term, he immediately was a disaster.  I’ve believed they’ve been solid at the draft table in years past, they have not.  Yet here I go again.  I don’t think they’re AS BAD as most are making them out to be.  Yes, they are not what they were.  Yes, the Sedin’s and Ryan Miller are on the back 9 in their careers.  But they have some good young pieces stepping in this season, I don’t feel like they downgraded much this offseason, I believe Bieksa is well past his prime, and that this is a well coached group.  Remember, Calgary needed all the bounces in the world to get in, while the Canucks cruised to a 101 point season.

 

San Jose Sharks – They’re better than the Oilers up front, and much better on the back end.  But they downgraded behind the bench, in net (in my opinion), and they’re getting pretty old.  Again, the Sharks could be 3rd in the division.  But they could be 6th.  I’m saying 5th but I would be lying if I said it was anything more than a hunch.  I’m not a Peter Deboer fan at all though and I’ve heard the book on him is that he doesn’t simplify things for his teams.  The Toronto media seems to enjoy overrating this style of a coach.

 

Edmonton Oilers – This rebuild got a total mulligan when they won McDavid.  Combine it with a high end coach and GM coming in, a goaltender who was analytically one of the best in the league last year, a bit of an upgraded D, and the kids all a year older.  So it should be a massive improvement, but massive improvement is what was needed to just be in the playoff hunt let alone in the playoffs.  I just have to be honest about it, and that is that 5 teams in this division are still better than they are.  Until 2 of Nurse, Klefbom and Reinhart are established as top 4 D-men, I just don’t see them getting in the playoffs.  I will say though that they should have an elite PP, and Justin Schultz is a massive X factor for them.  If Schultz gets his game back to where it should be, it’ll be a major boost for the Oil and at least have them playing meaningful games come March.

 

Arizona Coyotes – Stay down for 1 more year and hope you strike gold in getting Auston Matthews.  He would be incredible for this drastically failing franchise.  An Arizona born and raised kid playing for the Yotes, perfect.  I will say though, I don’t like picking a Dave Tippett coached team to finish last in the division.  Watch for the goaltending to just be the worst you’ve ever seen because as we all know Sean Burke was the greatest goaltending coach of all time and Dave Tippett’s system in no way contributes to good goaltending numbers.

 

Central

St. Louis Blues – They haven’t figured out the playoffs yet, mainly because Doug Armstrong can’t figure out that Hitchcock can’t hide his shitty goaltending in the playoffs like he can in the regular season.  If he goes and actually improves the goaltending, they’ll win in April too.  As of writing this, I would suggest Jonas Hiller makes sense.  He’s at least an upgrade over Elliot and Allen.  They have everything else needed to succeed.

 

Nashville Predators – They’ll start declining under Peter Laviolette, as it’s just what teams do under him.  But his shelf life is 2 or 3 seasons, so they’ll be good again this season as long as Pekka Rinne stays healthy again.

 

Minnesota Wild – I really don’t know what to make of them.  Devan Dubnyk started to show cracks already in the playoffs of being back to what he has been in his career which is an ok goaltender but not a legit number 1 guy.  I really believe Dubnyk is either a great backup or an ok starter, but that’s it.  As for the rest of the team, when they signed Parise and Suter, they were largely depending on their system to develop the surrounding cast which at the time was being praised (take note Jets fans).  Half the guys Chuck Fletcher traded, the other half either hasn’t become what was expected, or is taking their sweet time.  This roster is good enough to be in the playoffs, but not good enough to go far.

 

*Chicago Blackhawks – All of a sudden people are thinking nothing has changed with this team and it’ll be same old, same old.  Back to the West final, top of the Central division, nothing to see here.  Hey, I loved how Stan Bowman handled the cap situation.  Didn’t off load guys for picks, just for lower cap hits.  Plugged a lot of holes.  Farm system looks good, roster is in it’s prime, looks good.  But it’s still A LOT of change, and the Patrick Kane saga isn’t a dead issue.  That’s still likely to be a distraction.  I think they’ll make the playoffs, but it’ll be down to the wire.

 

*Dallas Stars – Everyone just LOVES what this team did this offseason.  But, come on.  Don’t look at the noise, look at the results.  Improved defensively?  No.  Improved the blueline?  No.  Goaltending better?  Not really.  So how is this team going to be so much better?  I like them a little better than the Jets and Avs, but splitting hairs.  I think they’re good enough to get in the playoffs, but they won’t go far.  IF Tyler Seguin decides to grow up and develop a 200 foot game, then it would be massive for the Stars.  But as of right now I believe they’re in a group with the Jets, Avs, Canucks, Flames, and Sharks fighting for the final playoff spots in the West.  All of those teams can get in, none of them can go far.

 

Winnipeg Jets – I hope this isn’t the case, but much like the Flames, the Jets are a lot more likely to fall back this season than to take another step or maintain the success they had.  Then, Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien need new contracts.  Can Pavelec and Hutchinson play as amazing as they did last season?  That’s the big question.  Nik Ehlers, perhaps Josh Morrissey, and another step from Mark Scheifele could off set that though.  Again, they could finish as high as 5th and in the final wildcard spot, MAYBE 4th depending on how the Patrick Kane things plays out in Chicago.  But right now, they’re stuck in that group.

 

Colorado Avalanche – They would be a playoff team in the East.  They are even with the 3-5 teams in the Pacific.  This is much more about how tough this division is than the Avs not developing.  The blueline is still a work in progress, and while Beauchemin is a good signing for them, he slows this team down even more which I believe was their big problem last year.  All the teams that seem to buck analytic trends (the Leafs, Avs and Flames) all have teams that can fly, and last year the Avs brought in vets thinking they were helping but likely hurt them as a team as the vets slowed them down.  They are building a powerhouse though.  Luckily for them they had the 2010 and 14 seasons which has distracted observers from believing their rebuild wasn’t moving fast enough.

 

Atlantic

Tampa Bay Lightning – Maybe just me, but I’m not near as high on this team as others.  Not to say they aren’t a top team in the East, obviously they are.  But I don’t see them knocking off anyone who’ll come out of the West.  BUT, if they dealt Stamkos as I laid out a little while back and got what they needed, they could become that elite team many already believe they are.  Still need a horse or two to emerge on the blueline in my mind.  Would also need to get a good 2 way center back in a Stamkos deal.  But make no mistake, this team is going to be the elite of the East for a long time.

 

Montreal Canadiens – Yet another Canadian team that had no business being as good as they were last season.  Carey Price was one of the easiest Hart trophy picks in league history.  Seems like just yesterday I was on an island telling everyone how good he was as idiots proclaimed “you have to go with Luongo, he won in 2010!!!”  Anyway, the Habs tried hard to upgrade their size in the offseason.  But the problem is that they don’t have the horses down the middle.  Tomas Plekanec is OK, but he’s not the answer.  David Desharnais is nice, but not the answer.  Alex Galchenyuk needs to be used there, but he’ll need some time to adjust.  So I hate what they’re running with at center and I believe that’s the real problem.  You can add Alex Semin and hope he can overcome the disappointment label and shine this season.  The Habs still can’t match up with the big boys down the middle and that is vital come playoff time.

 

Florida Panthers – I can’t believe I’m saying this.  So I might be early on calling them a playoff team.  But I just look at the type of guys they’re building with and it’s IMPRESSIVE!  Barkov, Bjugstad, Huberdeau, Ekblad, Gudbransson, Kulikov, Matheson, McCoshen, and now Lawson Crouse in this draft.  We’re talking SIZE, they can skate, and we’re talking about key positions.  Then you add a stud goaltender like Luongo and a very weak division, and I like them to get in the dance.

 

*Detroit Red Wings – If they were still in the West, no way would I put them here.  But they aren’t.  So they’re still going to be on the cusp of getting in.  And they’ll still produce players.  But the combination of Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Kronwall getting on in years and Mike Babcock moving on isn’t good in my opinion.  I think Jeff Blashill is going to be good as head coach, but Babcock is pretty difficult to top.  Something else I don’t love about them moving forward is that while they’re producing good players still, they aren’t producing them in the middle or on D.  Still in the playoffs I’m thinking, but the drop off is coming soon.

 

Ottawa Senators – This is a team that I really don’t know what to make of.  They rode a title wave of momentum in the 2nd half of last season to get in the playoffs.  They’re really well setup moving forward, but I think they were way above their heads last year and will come back down to earth.  Neither Anderson or Hammond will play as amazing as the Hamburgler did last season.  If they are to get back in the dance this season, Curtis Lazar and Cody Ceci are 2 kids who have the talent to take the next step and emerge as stars.

 

Boston Bruins – Too much turmoil I’m thinking.  Still have talent in all the right area’s.  But Julien is a dead coach walking.  Lucic was the heart of this team.  And I just don’t like what’s going on there.  It seems like they want to full on rebuild but have only gone half way to this point.

 

Toronto Maple Leafs – 7th, but I honestly think they might compete for a playoff spot.  Doubt they get in, but they’ll be solid.  They aren’t going to bottom out I know that.  Babcock is too good of a coach, too much talent still on the roster, and no key players are getting too old.  It’s almost as if I could see this playing out that they get back to being a playoff team sooner than expected, but end up not having the high end talent to win a Cup because they never bottomed out.  We’ll see.  I don’t like how many undersized wingers they have coming.  MAYBE Marner makes the jump to being a full time center in London this season, but that’s a big ask.

 

Buffalo Sabres – Much improved, but I still think they end up in the basement of the division.  The East is so bad though that they could be a playoff team too.  They aren’t near as bad as last year, but I just don’t think they moved ahead of anyone in the offseason.  And Dan Bylsma gets a lot of fanfare, but I’ve never been a big fan.  The Pens won a Cup with him behind the bench, and then got worse and worse as time went on.  A lot of this really depends on Robin Lehner who has had an awful preseason.  Obviously Tim Murray believes in him a lot more than I do.  If he is right on Lehner, they contend for a playoff spot.  If I’m right, this is where they end up.  But while they might spend another year at the bottom a lot like the Oilers, they are loaded moving forward and will be among the best in the East before too long.

 

 

Metropolitan

Washington Capitals – LOVE what they did.  Nothing big, but just some nice moves for a team that was already close.  Oshie is an upgrade over Brouwer, Williams is an upgrade over Ward.  And then Wilson, Burakovsky, and Kuznetsov all are on the upswing and it doesn’t look like any of their guys are primed for a drop off.  Add it all up and you have my pick for Eastern conference champs, despite being burned by them many times before.

 

Pittsburgh Penguins – In the regular season they’ll be fine.  Kessel will boost Sid’s numbers, the PP will improve, and they shouldn’t be hit with the injuries as hard as they were last season.  But I don’t believe in Mike Johnston as a coach, and I really don’t believe in Jim Rutherford as a GM.  He’s now sunk three 1st round picks into wingers and he’s only been there for 18 months.  That’s…not good.  But again, they are built for the regular season.  They aren’t built for the playoffs though and as I once said on twitter I’ll say again: When are we going to start noticing that the Pens are wasting Sid’s career?

 

NY Rangers – Does anyone notice that they’re a model franchise?  I think everyone still sees them as a big spending, big ego, Rangers of old.  But they have faded further and further away from being that team to the point now where when they lose a guy, they have a guy ready to go as a replacement.  It’s really impressive.  Best blueline in the East, solid down the middle, and we know the goaltending is there.

 

*Columbus Blue Jackets – This team is getting far too much love.  They are really well rounded, but people talked about the Saad pickup as if it was the final piece to the puzzle.  Sure.  Who needs a good blueline, hey?  This is a very good team.  They aren’t a great team.  They’re a playoff team, and the type of team which will give higher seeds problems when they get there.  But they aren’t what they are getting made out to be, much like the Wild weren’t the next big thing that they were getting made out to be at this time last season.

 

 

NY Islanders – On the rise for sure, but management scares me.  I feel like they got over on the Oilers at the draft, but was ANOTHER forward really the way to go?  Barzal was far and away the BPA, but I just don’t know if that was the right move for them and then they traded up again to 28 to take ANOTHER forward.  And again it was a kid I personally loved in Anthony Beauvillier, but still.  The only concern I have for them repeating last season is if Halak can stay healthy, and I don’t think he will.  If he does, I’m going to be proven wrong because then they’ll likely get in.  But I’m not betting on it.

 

Philadelphia Flyers – Of the last 3 teams, the Flyers are the best situated.  Ron Hextall has them going in the right direction.  That D is going to be awesome in 2-3 seasons, and I love that they aren’t rushing any of those kids.  Giroux is still young enough to go through this rebuild and Couturier is one of the best 2 way center’s in hockey, so they look real good down the middle.  But as for right now, they just aren’t a good team.  A year at the bottom and possibly landing a top 3 pick wouldn’t be a bad thing at all for this organization.  But that’s going to be tough to do with Jersey and Carolina in the same division.

 

Carolina Hurricanes – They are much like Philly in that the blueline moving forward now looks awesome.  But the thing is that they don’t have the horses up front that the Flyers do.  Add to that, Eric Staal could be on the move by next summer.  And if he goes, I’m guessing Jordan would be dealt because let’s be honest about it; he was only brought into appease Eric and he isn’t worth what he’s getting paid.  Jeff Skinner has had concussion issues, but there was also the issue of him getting pretty overrated after his rookie season.  This is a dog franchise right now, but that’s not on Ron Francis, it’s the mess Jim Rutherford left.  As brutal as it looks, Francis has them going in the right direction.

 

New Jersey Devils – Now we’ll REALLY see how good of a GM Ray Shero is!  He’s not stepping into the same situation he did in Pittsburgh that’s for sure.  Pavel Zacha isn’t Sid Crosby.  Adam Henrique isn’t Evgeni Malkin.  Travis Zajac?  Well, he COULD be Jordan Staal.  The problem here for the Devils is that Cory Schneider might be too good for them.  They really need to fully tear it down and rebuild, and Schneider will keep them in games.  It’s always a catch 22.  You want to be bad enough to pick high, but you don’t want to allow a losing culture to creep in.

 

Western Conference Final

Anaheim vs St.Louis

I HAVE to think Doug Armstrong finally goes and gets the Blues a goaltender.  Even if the Hawks get back into the playoffs, I don’t see how there big guns wouldn’t gas out after so many deep playoff runs.  And the Blues are built for the playoffs, they just need to get a real goaltender.  But even if they get one, they aren’t getting past the Ducks.  The guys they added, and how much talent they have coming, and how much better that blueline can get, it’s Anaheim’s year.

 

Eastern Conference Final

Tampa Bay vs Washington

This will be just about everyone’s pick I’m sure.  I seen TSN had it the other night as theirs.  I’ve had the Caps since about July 5th.  They only made a couple of moves this offseason, but I felt like they were so close last season, and now Kuznetsov and Burakovsky are a year older, Orlov will replace Green on the blueline, and as I said previous Williams and Oshie are both nice upgrades.  Tampa is just pretty clearly the best team in the Atlantic.  The Caps have 3 or 4 challengers in the Metro, I don’t see anyone who can give the Lightning issues in the Atlantic except maybe Carey Price…and he’s a goaltender, not a team.

 

Stanley Cup Final

Anaheim vs Washington

I’ve been burned by the Caps plenty of times before.  But I’m going with them again to get to the final.  But they won’t beat the Ducks.  They’ll pose a TOUGH challenge.  The Caps for years now are the 1 team other than Boston in the East who would match up well with the size and speed of the West powerhouses.  So in no way do I think this would be a cake walk for the Ducks like it has been for the Kings and Hawks the last 2 years.  But in the end, I just think it’s the Ducks year.  They proved themselves last season, and they are really improved this year.  Barring major injury problems, I don’t see how they don’t win it all in 2016.

 

Awards

Hart – Sidney Crosby

With all the assets they’ve sunk into getting Sid scoring help, he’ll put up massive numbers.

Norris – Drew Doughty

The morons who didn’t vote for him last season will make up for their horrific mistake last season.  Well, it wasn’t a mistake.  Morons do moronic things.

Vezina – Carey Price

He should come back to earth a bit, but he’s still elite and I’m proud to say I was one of the very few outside of Quebec who noticed before the 2014 Olympics.

Adams – Todd McLellan

This award is for the coach who’s team surprises the most.   So I’m saying McLellan because if the Oilers rise up, he would get a ton of credit.  But I don’t think they will…it’s a tricky award to predict.

Selke – Anze Kopitar

He’s overdue to win this award.  The Kings will rebound this year, and he SHOULD finally get it.

Calder – Connor McDavid

I’m tempted to say Eichel, just because I feel like as an Oilers fan I’m jinxing this.  But he’s going to put up big numbers, especially being on a high end PP.

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

They Aren’t Just Your Favourites

jd4.jpg.size.xxlarge.letterboxDid anyone catch my rant on Twitter last week about “patio drinks”?  That was gold.  I don’t know if everyone, or even anyone felt that way, but I know it was.  You know why I know that?  Because it was spot on.  It isn’t a thing to do, it’s a location to drink.  You enjoy patio drinks?  Awesome.  So you don’t drink ANYWHERE else?  I bet you do!  I bet you enjoy restaurant drinks, or house drinks, or arena drinks, or out of town drinks, or bar drinks, or tailgate at a bush party drinks.

 

Hey speaking of bush parties, how bout them Jays?!  (nice segway hey?)  A dream season for most Jays fans.  A pretty standard season for Cards, Dodgers, Yankees, or Tigers fans, but when you haven’t seen the playoffs in 22 years, it’s a pretty big deal.

 

Now I wasn’t going to write this piece the way I’m going to.  I started on Sunday night and it was going to be on the bullpen and how vital it is to teams in the playoffs.  And I will get to that.  But I’m pretty good at looking at things objectively.  Not great, I’ve way overshot the Oilers in my preseason predictions the last few seasons, but pretty good.

 

The Jays are the odds on favourite (Canadian spelling for Canada’s team) to win the World Series.  I don’t think this is the best team in baseball.  The Cards and the Pirates are pretty loaded.  But the Jays road to the World Series is a lot more clear.  The Jays SHOULD win the AL.

 

The Texas Rangers aren’t better than the Jays in any area, and their LH starting pitchers are perfect for the Jays big RH bats.  Now I’ll stress, this is the MLB postseason which is the most unpredictable postseason of them all.  Cole Hammels isn’t your average LH pitcher.  But looking at it objectively, the Jays should win this series, I’ll say in 4.

 

The team that scares me the most as a Jays fan is the Yankees.  Yes, the Yanks who the Jays went 13-6 against this season.  But the Yanks have a dominant bullpen, and Tanaka owns the Jays.  In fact, their RH pitchers have mostly shutdown the Jays bats this season.  But I honestly don’t like the Yanks chances against Houston or KC should get beat the Astros.

 

That leaves the Jays with the Royals in my opinion.  Now the Royals lived off the best bullpen in the Majors last October and much of this season.  But with Greg Holland out, the bullpen has become a question mark.  Couple that with an average lineup and a good but not great starting staff and the Royals are pretty vulnerable.  And even though it was at the start of their run, the Jays were FAR better than the Royals in the 4 game set in Toronto in late July/early August.  Think about this too: if the Jays were in anyway worried about playing the Royals, why didn’t they care about having home field?  I would suggest that they have home field over all the teams they’re worried about.

 

So taking the fan goggles off and looking at things objectively, as much as I hesitate to say it since I am a big time Jays fan, the Jays should get to the World Series.

 

But to win the World Series, that’ll be pretty difficult.  They don’t matchup great with any of the teams in the NL.  Maybe the Dodgers are the best matchup, with a suspect bullpen, they are built a lot like the Jays.  But the Mets have a deeper staff, the Cards have a deeper staff and much better pen, the Pirates have a much better pen, and the Cubs staff is deeper.

 

Getting back to the pen for a minute, it is without a doubt the weakness of the team.  Osuna didn’t look good the last 3 weeks, nor did Sanchez.  Osuna simply stopped hitting the strike zone Saturday night, which made me start to wonder if his confidence has eroded.  He’s not a nibbler, especially against a weak Rays lineup.  And Sanchez is leaving everything up in the zone and getting rocked in a lot of his outings of late.  The team REALLY needs these 2 to get back to form like they were in August.  Was the pressure starting to get to them, or has it just been a poor stretch?  Obviously you hope it’s the latter.

 

Enjoy this Jays fans.  I’m a guy who believes Rogers will step up and sign David Price because of how much money they’ll of undoubtedly made on this season (and how much money is coming off the books) so I do believe this is the start of a 3-4 year window for them, but you just never know.  The Washington Nationals sat Stephen Strasburg out for the 2012 playoffs believing they were about to be perennial National League champs.  So don’t take this for granted.  It could be something pretty special.

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Same Old Bengals

Cincinnati Bengals v San Diego ChargersWow, the Cincinnati Bengals look good hey?!  3-0, huge win in Baltimore, THIS year the Bengals are legit.  Just like we said last year.  And the year before that.  And the year before that.  Wait, soooooo why do they look good?  They don’t.

 

Something I’ve heard Colin Cowherd say a lot on his show lately is that you can’t trust a teams record in September and it is so true.  The Bengals always win, the Colts always lose, the Jags always fail to live up to my expectations of mediocre.

 

It isn’t because this team is poorly coached.  Marvin Lewis is in his 13th season as head coach of that team if you can believe it and has always done a great job with what he has to work with.  Talent is all over the field too.

 

But this is a quarterback league, and the Bengals have a guy in Andy Dalton who is good but nothing special.  If you traded Dalton for Eli Manning tomorrow, Manning would be considered elite, and Dalton would be getting hammered by the NY fans, media, and opposing D-linemen.  He is a result of the talent he has around him.  That O-line is REAL good, and his weapons have size and speed.  A.J. Green might be the best WR in football.  Their run game with Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard is elite.  This team doesn’t have a hole, so pretty much any QB is going to look respectable with all of that around him.

 

But they really are in no man’s land.  Dalton is just good enough to keep around.  And this roster won’t be bad enough to put themselves in position to get a high end QB in the draft.  So what do you do?

 

I don’t have that answer, but what I do know is the Bengals have to win a playoff game or two before I start singing their praises.  They have pulled this shit EVERY. SINGLE. SEASON. for the last 5 years.  I don’t care anymore and the knobs jumping on their bandwagon again after 3 weeks are just that, knobs!  Let me know how you do in January, until then I don’t want to even know you exist.  Nice hair though.

 

Ok so how about I chill for a minute and make some of my shitty picks ATS?!  Another 2-3 week last week, putting me 8-7 for the season.  I guess at the end of the day that’s a solid jump off point, but it’s time to pad the stats and I will admit I feel great about these picks this week.  A lot of times I won’t say anything like this, I’m hesitant.  But there were a lot of games I loved this week.  In fact, I didn’t put the Rams +7 on here but I was damn tempted too (hint, hint).  I think I can safely say, use these.  Just don’t bet what you don’t have!

 

Houston at Atlanta

Texans +6.5

No chance the Falcons win this game by 7.  AIN’T NO WAY.  The Texans aren’t great because their QB play is brutal.  But they’re good, and they’re all wrong for the finesse ass Atlanta Falcons.  So take the points here, Texans may pull the upset here.

 

Kansas City at Cincinnati

Bengals -4

I’m officially off the Chiefs, and I don’t know how they aren’t 7 point dogs here much like they were in Green Bay.  Look, I know I just got done berating the Bengals, but right now they’re elite.  It won’t last, but I trust them here.  Short week for KC, Alex Smith is the check down king, the Bengals will run away with a 13-20 point win here.

 

Oakland at Chicago

Bears +3.5

As much as I’m pulling for the Raiders to make it back to NFL respectability and believe they’re well on their way, they shouldn’t be giving this many points.  Cutler as of writing this I believe is in for Sunday, and the Bears…while bad…aren’t THAT bad with him in.  Add to this it is a 10 AM start for the Raiders, never a good thing for a West coast team going East or an East coast team going West.

 

Cleveland at San Diego

Browns +7

You can’t give a team underachieving like the Chargers currently are 7 points.  I don’t care if the Browns suck and the Chargers at home, it’s too many.  The Browns have elements, namely their D, that can make life completely miserable for a football team.  So the Chargers win, but I believe this score will end up real close.

 

Minnesota at Denver

Vikings +7

If you can’t give the Chargers this many points then I don’t see how the Broncos get them.  Look, I haven’t drank the Vikings Kool-Aid this year like a lot of people have.  They have a good team, I don’t think they’re heading to the playoffs though.  But the Broncos have look awful.  I don’t care that they’re 3-0.  If it isn’t for a pick in the end zone and a poor decision to run instead of take a knee, they could be 1-2.  They beat the Lions in Detroit, so what?!  The Lions offense has completely disappeared this season.  The Vikings will keep this game tight, might even pull out the win.

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