Thursday, July 19, 2018

Revis Island Closing

Players come and go in the game of football, that's part of the game. But few leave a lasting legacy on the game by the time they hang the pads up. Darrelle Revis was one of those guys. Considered by many to be one of the greatest cornerbacks to ever play football has called it a career after eleven years in the NFL.

Revis broke into the NFL in 2007 with the New York Jets, the team he played for until 2012. After that it was a stop over in Tampa Bay for the 2013 season, a Super Bowl winning year with New England in 2014, tow more years with the Jets in 2015 and 2016 before playing out his final year (three games to be more exact) with Kansas City last year. During his eleven year career, Revis was a seven time Pro Bowler (2008–2011, 2013–2015) and a four time First-team All-Pro (2009–2011, 2014).

Some people can make the argument he will go down as one of the greatest players to ever throw on a Jets uniform. What Broadway Joe did for that team's image from an offensive perspective, Revis did on the defensive side of the football. He made a lot of noise on and off the field but he also had the talent level to be able back up his talking. Revis could go out there week in and week out and shut down the best receiver that the opposition could throw out there. Most of the experts have gone on record to say that during Revis peek in the league, which would span from 2008 through 2011, he was the best defensive player in the league and the greatest cornerback to play this game that wasn't named Deion Sanders. He couldn't be beat during the best years of his career. He heleped take an average Jets team at best and made them a real threat when they went to back to back AFC title games in 2009 and 2010. He had the ability to dominate and control a game like so few could from his position. Anybody who tries to debate that is just fooling themselves.

Once 2012 rolled around, and Revis had to deal with injuries (the biggest one being the ACL injury in his left knee during the 2012 season. He was still a good defensive back after the injury, there's no argument. But you could tell by watching him that he wasn't the same after his injury. He was getting burned a bit more then he had in his dominating years, a sign of both the times and his injury catching up to him. Still, when you take everything into consideration, it seems as if he's got a ticket punched to Canton.

The argument can be made that he had a low interception total, as Revis managed to collect just 29 in his career. Some like to think that having a high interception total is the mark of a great corner. To a degree it does. But what made Revis different is that he was so good at his position that opposing quarterbacks didn't want to throw to him at all, which is a true testament to how great a corner he was during his prime years.

The only thing that I think rubbed people in the game the wrong way was how he handled himself. meaning he rubbed a few people the wrong way. When he started making his comments about his contracts and what he wanted from the Jets or from other teams didn't make that many people happy. At the same time, it usherd in a new wave of brash cornerbacks. I don't really think we'd have somebody the likes of Richard Sherman in this game if it wasn't for Darrelle. He could talk a big game, but he could also back it up. Don't believe me? Ask the Likes of Randy Moss, TO and Dez Bryant from Revis first couple of years in the league. They will all say the same thing in that he was one of the very best to ever play the game.

So thanks for visiting Revis Island! We hope you enjoyed your stay, but the park is now closed for good!

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

AL keeps On Rolling

Records were flying all over the place at the 89th All Star Game in Washington last night. For the sixth straight year and the 2nd straight year in extra innings, the American League came out on top in the mid summer classic! This turned into a historic slugfest in the American League's 8-6 win, as the two teams combined for an All-Star Game record of 10 home runs, thus shattering the old record of six, which was set in 1951, 1954, and 1971. Baseballs were flying out of Nationals Park like it was going out of style.

Aaron Judge of the Yankees got things started with a shot off Max Scherzer. Mike Trout followed with a shot off Jacob deGrom to give the AL a 2-0 lead. Willson Contreras and Trevor Story then followed with homers for the National league to even the game at two.. The seemingly decisive blow came off the bat of Mariners shortstop Jean Segura, who went deep on Josh Hader in the eighth to turn a 2-2 tie into a 5-2. Should have ended earlier in the at bat, but Joey Votto mishandled a foul pop by the dugout. The NL wouldn't go away quietly. Christian Yelich pulled the National League within two runs, then in the bottom of the ninth, Reds second baseman Scooter Gennett cracked a two run shot to get the game even and send it to extra innings.

That's when it turned into the Astro Show! Game MVP Alex Bregman hit a go ahead solo shot off Ross Stripling of the Dodgers. Then it was followed up by Astros teammate George Springer. Capping off the scoring for the AL was Michael Brantley hitting a sac fly scoring Jean Segura. Joey Votto of the Reds got the NL within two by hitting a solo shot in the bottom of the tenth but that's all the NL would get as they ran out of time, falling for the 6th straight year. Because he was able to hit the tie breaking home run in the tenth, Bregman was named MVP of the game.He became the first Houston player to cope the award in the games 89 year history. He also became the 4th 3rd baseman to ever win the award, joining Brooks Robinson in 1966, Tony Perez in 1967 and Bill Madlock in 1975 as the only 3rd baseman to capture the award.

As a result, the AL prevailed for the sixth straight year and for the second straight year in extras. The overall series tally remains impossibly tight. The AL now leads 44-43-2, and over that span they've outscored the NL by just two runs.

Next year's All Star game will be held on July 16th at Progressive Field in Cleveland!

Monday, July 16, 2018

MLB First Half Look Back

We have arrived at the All Star Break in the 2018 Major League Baseball season. Looking back on the solid start there was to the 2028 campaign, there have been quite a few surprises and, at the same time, quite a few disappointments. The way things sit right now, things are taking shape for the October push. Four AL playoff teams from a year ago look like they are heading back there again this year, while three of the NL teams from last years playoffs look like they're heading back. Sitting on top of the NL East is a big surprise, while the team challenging in the AL West is also as big of a surprise. Teams are surging on strong, while others have started to fault. Lots of things have gone down in the first half of the season. With that being said, here's a look back of some of the things that have gone down in the first half of the baseball season, along with handing out, for my money, the midseason award winners.

At the break, three teams have hit sixty or more wins and they all reside in the American League. The Boston Red Sox lead the charge with 68, followed by the New York Yankees with 63, and last but not least the Houston Astros with 64 victories. Just by looking at the standings in the American League in the first half, things look, at least at the top of the divisions, the way they ended last year. Both the Red Sox and Yankees are playing up to snuff, as are the Cleveland Indians and Houston Astros. One of the big surprises so far has been the play of the Seattle Mariners. Seattle finished last year in 3rd place in the AL West with 78 wins. Now they sit in 2nd place in the division with 58 wins at the break, and the M's are trying to do something they haven't done in 17 years, make the playoffs. You would have thought that the M's would have started slipping when Robinson Cano got suspended for steroids and missed time with a broken hand. Nope, the M;s keep right no moving along. As a matter of fact, the Mariners, a second place team in the AL West, have a better record then the ENTIRE NATIONAL LEAGUE. Let that fact sink in for a second. Kyle Seager, Jean Segura, Mitch Hanniger and Nelson Cruz have all been stepping their games up and are playing at a very high level. This is also a team that has Felix Hernandez, who's one of the best pitchers in the game, is having an average year at best. For a guy of his talent level, I had higher expectations.

Another team in the American League that's been a surprise is the Oakland Athletics. Oakland is 13 games over .500 at the break. They aren't setting the world on fire, but for a team that finished in last place a season ago with 75 wins, it comes as a bit of a surprise. Kris Davis, Jed Lowery and Matt Olsen have been killing the ball this year that's been helping power Oakland to where they sit right now in the AL West. If they can, somehow, keep this pace up, the A's may stay in contention for a wild card team. While the A's have managed to hang around, the Minnesota Twins have to be viewed as a disappointment so far in the American League. Minnesota won 85 games a season ago, which came as a big shock, and made the Wild Card game, before blowing a lead and losing to the Yankees. Now, they've fallen back down to earth and look like the Twins teams that everybody was expecting them to be. Eddie Rosario has been the lone real bright spot for this Twins team and they are going to want to try and build around him for the future if the Twins want to get back to picking up any real success in the future.

As far as the National League is concerned, you can put four of the five teams in the East on notice. Both the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Philles have come off as major surprises. Both teams were looking at serious rebuilds and they have come here faster then a lot of fans and baseball people expected. With the Braves, look at a guy like Ronald Acuna Jr, who's been a huge bright spot since his call up early in the year. Cap him with Ozzie Albies and Ender Inciarte as leading the young core. While that core is developing, Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis are killing it to lead the charge. Markakis is having a career year and is hitting the cover off the ball. Same thing with Freeman, who leads the team in RBI's again this season. All that thrown together has the Braves sitting on top of the division. Same argument can be made with the Phillies. Mikal Franco has really started to emerge as the leader on this Phillies club. Rhys Hoskins has been jumping on that bandwagon too and is starting to really come into his own. They've also gotten resurgance from Carlos Santana and Jake Arrieta.

While those two teams have been a surprise, the two teams behind them, the Washington Nationals and New York Mets have been a major disappointments. In Washington, Bryce Harper, who's in a contract year, has been playing like an average guy. Sure, the power numbers are there for Harper, no doubt about that, but I'm just getting this vibe that he isn't really having that break out big kind of year that you would expect from a guy who's going to possibly have a big payday when he hits the market this winter. Juan Soto has been a very nice addition to this Nationals team since his call up, but the rest of the team, outside of Max Scherzer, feels as if they've been underachieving. Same thing with the Mets, but its a little different with them. Injuries have killed things for New York, along with subpar play in Queens. It feels like that 11-2 start that the Mets got off to at the beginning of the year is almost a forgotten thought.

As for the rest of the National League, the Milwaukee Brewers have come on as a big surprise this season. They have the same number of wins, with 55, as the Chicago Cubs, but sit two and a half games back in the Central. Still, with guys like Jesus Aguliar, Travis Shaw, Christian Yelich, and Lorenzo Cain. Josh Hader has been a nice surprise for this Brewers team, being one of the better relief pitchers in the game today. And as much of a surprise as the Brewers have been, you can make the same argument that the Colorado Rockies are coming in as a bit of a disappointment. Nolan Arenado has been keeping up the numbers you'd expect for him, but the rest of the Rockies offense has seemed to come back down to earth. There was a lot of hope for the Rockies to try and keep push with both the Diamondbacks and the Dodgers out West. Colorado is still kind of in it, they sit in 3rd place with 51 wins, but they don't have that vibe that they had from a year ago.

Through the first three and a half months of the baseball season, there have been some players that have hit major milestones. From a pitching perspective, we have had three no hitters thrown. The first was on May 4th as Sean Manaea of the Oakland A's tossed a no hitter against Boston. The second one came on May 4th when Walker Buehler, Tony Cingrani, Yimi Garcia, and Adam Liberatore of the Dodgers no hit the Padres. Finally, on May 8th as James Paxton of the Mariners tossed a no-no against the Blue Jays. On June 18th, Bartolo Colon became the winningest pitcher in Major League history from the Dominican Republic. His 244th career win passed Hall of Famer Juan Marichal. The biggest mark set by hitters came on May 4th when Albert Pujols became the 32nd player in baseball history to reach the 3,000 hit club, joining Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Alex Rodriguez as the only players in history to reach both 3,000 hits and 600 home runs.

Lets hand out the hardware. Here's who I got for midseason award winners.

NL Best Manager:  Brian Snitker (Atlanta Braves)
What Snitker has been able to do with this young Braves team and have them sitting on top of the NL East at this point in this season say a lot about the first year manager. He's got an impressive collection of young talent and veteran leaders. They're all clicking at the right time and playing grate baseball.

AL Best Manager: Scott Servais (Seattle Mariners)
Argument can be made here with Servais because he was able to rally the team together and keep Seattle at least within striking distance of the Astros. He's been able to get Mitch Haniger, Nelson Cruz, and Jean Segura all to play at a high level and helped keep the team moving without Robinson Cano.

NL Top Rookie: Brian Anderson (Miami Marlins)
Hey the guy has been the top bright spot for the worst team in the National League in the Marlins. He leads all NL rookies with 49 RBI's, six ahead of Christian Vilanueva of the Padres. You could make the argument for Ronald Acuna or Juan Soto, both of whom would be deserving, but Anderson has really made an impact as a rookie in a poor Marlins lineup.

AL Top Rookie: Gleyber Torres (New York Yankees)
He has the 2nd highest slugging percentage in all of baseball among second baseman, behind only Javy Baez of the Cubs. He's also hit more home runs (15) and driven in more runs (42) then any other rookie in the AL. Would have been at the all star game tomorrow had he not gotten hurt.

AL Top Pitcher: Louis Sevireno (New York Yankees)
A lot of times in this category, the award goes out based on wins and losses. Well Sevireno leads the AL with 14 wins and has a pretty decent 2.31 ERA. You could argue that it should go to Just Verlander of the Astros or Chris Sale of the Red Sox because of their lower ERA numbers and lower opposing batting averages. But Sevireno has really been the best pitcher in the Yankees staff and has kept them at the top of the divisional race.

NL Top Pitcher: Max Scherzer (Washington Nationals)
Again, like in the American League, you can argue that win totals play a factor here. Mad Max is tied with Aaron Nola of the Phillies and and John Lester of the Cubs with 12 wins each. But Mad Max is doing it on an underachieving Nationals team. Most would also argue that another guy worth of consideration should be Jacob deGrom of the Mets, who does have the lowest ERA in all of baseball at 1.68. Only thing is, he only has five wins, which is sad considering how good a talent he is and how poor at the moment a team he plays on.

AL MVP: JD Martinez (Boston Red Sox)
Mike Trout of the Angels is usually at the top of the discussion for this trophy but JD has the best bet at the moment for the award. He is tied for the baseball lead with 29 home runs and leads baseball with 80 RBI's. Boston is still good with Mookie Betts in the lineup. They are playing at another level with JD in the lineup. He's playing at a level above all others this year as well, which is kind of bad news for the rest of the American League heading down the stretch.

NL MVP: Freddie Freeman (Atlanta Braves)
Freddie has been hitting at a different level. He's in the top ten in the triple crown categories in the National League. As a matter of fact, Freeman is ranked in the top 10 in the NL in average, OBP, slugging percentage, total bases, doubles, home runs, RBI, and runs scored. His 100 hits rank third behind teammate Nick Markakis and Scooter Gennett. Sure, there are some people who are going to place the fact that he isn't leading the league in some of these categories as the reason to snub him, but consider this. If you take him, with the way he's been hitting and playing overall, out of the Braves lineup, they aren't as good of a baseball team over the long haul. He's one of the best players in the game and is having a first half of the season that is dictating it.

Monday, July 9, 2018

MLB All Star Rosters Announced

It's the one night of the summer where the best players in Major League Baseball gather for a fun exhibition. The 89th All Star Game will be taking place at Nationals Park in Washington DC on July 17th. The players have been picked (except for the final roster spots which are up for fan vote). Every team has to have representation, so all thirty teams have at least one player going to the game. While all of the players selected to the game are deserving of being at the mid-summer classic, there's a few players who got left out in the cold. We'll get to that later. First things first, here's a look at the rosters for this year's game.

American League:
Starters:

Catcher Wilson Ramos, Tampa Bay Rays (2nd appearance)
1st Base José Abreu, Chicago White Sox (2nd appearance)
2nd Base José Altuve, Houston Astros (6th appearance)
3rd Base José Ramírez, Cleveland Indians (2nd appearance)
Shortstop Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles (4th appearance)
Outfield Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox (3rd appearance)
Outfield Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (7th appearance)
Outfield Aaron Judge, New York Yankees (2nd appearance)
Designated Hitter J. D. Martinez, Boston Red Sox (2nd appearance)

Reserves:
Catcher Salvador Pérez, Kansas City Royals (6th appearance)
1st Base Mitch Moreland, Boston Red Sox (1st appearance)
2nd Base Gleyber Torres, New York Yankees (1st appearance)
Shortstop Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians (3rd appearance)
3rd Base Alex Bregman, Houston Astros (1st appearance)
Outfield Michael Brantley, Cleveland Indians (3rd appearance)
Outfield George Springer, Houston Astros (2nd appearance)
Outfield Mitch Haniger, Seattle Mariners (1st appearance)
Outfield Shin-Soo Choo, Texas Rangers (1st appearance)
Designated Hitter Nelson Cruz, Seatle Mariners (6th appearance)

Pitchers:
Trevor Bauer, Cleveland Indians (1st appearance, replacing Verlander)
José Berríos, Minnesota Twins (1st appearance)
Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees (5th appearance)
Gerrit Cole, Houston Astros (2nd appearance)
Edwin Díaz, Seattle Mariners (1st appearance)
J. A. Happ, Toronto Blue Jays (1st appearance)
Joe Jiménez, Detroit Tigers (1st appearance)
Craig Kimbrel, Boston Red Sox (7th appearance)
Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians (3rd appearance)
Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox (7th appearance)
Luis Severino, New York Yankees (2nd appearance)
Blake Treinen, Oakland Athletics (1st appearance)
Justin Verlander, Houston Astros (7th appearance, won't play due to start last game before break)

National League:
Starters:
Catcher Willson Contreras, Chicago Cubs (1st appearance)
1st Base Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves (3rd appearance)
2nd Base Javier Báez, Chicago Cubs (1st appearance)
3rd Base Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies (4th appearance)
Shortstop Brandon Crawford, San Francisco Giants (2nd appearance)
Outfield Nick Markakis, Atlanta Braves (1st appearance)
Outfield Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers (3rd appearance)
Outfield Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals (6th appearance)

Reserves:
Catcher Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants (6th appearance)
Catcher J. T. Realmuto, Miami Marlins (1st appearance)
1st Base Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks (6th appearance)
1st Base Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds (6th appearance)
2nd Base Ozzie Albies, Atlanta Braves (1st appearance)
2nd Base Scooter Gennett, Cincinnati Reds (1st appearance)
3rd Base Eugenio Suárez, Cincinnati Reds (1st base)
Shortstop Trevor Story, Colorado Rockies (1st appearance)
Outfield Charlie Blackmon, Colorado Rockies (3rd appearance)
Outfield Lorenzo Cain, Milwaukee Brewers (2nd appearance)
Outfield Christian Yelich, Milwaukee Brewers (1st appearance)

Pitchers:
Patrick Corbin, Arizona Diamondbacks (2nd appearance)
Jacob deGrom, New York Mets (2nd appearance)
Sean Doolittle, Washington Nationals (2nd appearance)
Mike Foltynewicz, Atlanta Braves (1st appearance)
Josh Hader, Milwaukee Brewers (1st appearance)
Brad Hand, San Diego Padres (2nd appearance)
Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers (3rd appearance)
Jon Lester, Chicago Cubs (5th appearance)
Miles Mikolas, St Louis Cardinals (1st appearance)
Aaron Nola, Philadelphia Phillies (1st appearance)
Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals (6th appearance)
Felipe Vázquez, Pittsburgh Pirates (1st appearance)

Of course, there are a few players in the game who are having outstanding years who have been left off the rosters, for the moment at least. Lets start with the American League. Look I know every team needs to have representation, to try and get television ratings from every market in the country to watch their player play in the game. Which is why Joe Jimenez is playing for the Tigers. Hey, nothing wrong with him being there, he's put up solid numbers in his 44 games (2.85 ERA lowest on Tigers staff). But there's two guys who might have better numbers and deserve to be there more then he does. One is Charlie Morton of Houston. Morton is 11-2, which is the 4th most wins in the AL this year. I mean, to be fair, Verlander and Cole are both going to the game, and rightfully so, but still Morton has a better record and has opponents hitting .199 off him this year. Another pitcher left off the roster, who should be there, is Blake Snell of the Rays. Snell is one of the few true starters that Tampa has and he's won 12 games (tied for 2nd most in AL) a 2.09 ERA and opponents hitting .189 off him. He deserves to be on the roster more then Jimenz, Happ, or Jose Berrios. Hell Jose Berrios hasn't even been the Twins best player this year, Eddie Rosario holds that distinction. The only thing is, because the outfield is so loaded in the American League that Rosario had to get added to the final fan vote to be nominated for the game. Final note on the AL, it looks like Jed Lowrie, who should have been selected, might get to play. Lowrie leads the Oakland A's in batting average (.296) and RBI's (62). The reason he got snubbed is because Torres of the Yankees is having a slightly better year. Since Torres is hurt, that may open the door for Lowrie to get into the game for the A's.

As for the National League goes, reputation matters a little bit. Because if it didn't, then Jesus Aguilar of the Brewers would be playing in the game. This is nothing against Goldschmidt or Freeman, but Aguilar has had better numbers. The only thing Freeman has on Aguilar is batting average (Freeman leads NL 1st baseman with a .315 average, while Aguilar is hitting .306) Aguilar leads the NL in Home Runs (22) and RBI's (62) among first baseman. How he isn't here is a bit of a shocker. You can make the same argument for Albert Almora Jr. of the Cubs. He's only tied with Gennett of the Reds for the leading hitter with a .326 average. Almora could have easily been there ahead of Yelich of the Brewers, who's having a good year, but Almora is having a better one in Chicago.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Winners And Losers NHL Free Agency

It happens every single summer. Once July the fist rolls around, it becomes Christmas in July for us hockey fans. Its Free Agency! The prospects of what players might end up on what teams. Who moves where? What team makes the biggest splash? What teams end up staying put? It's all very exciting and a lot of the big time movement happens within the first week or so that free agency begins. With the first week having come and gone already, here's a quick look at some of the winners and losers during the beginning of the free agency period.

Winner:
Toronto Maple Leafs

It's pretty obvious that the Leafs were going to be the big winner out of free agency. Think about it, they already had a good lineup, in the scoring department when last season ended. With players like Mitchell Marner, Auston Matthews and William Nylander at the head of the class, just to name a few, the Leafs looked like they were already in good hands. Now the team manages to go out and land the best player available on the market, the hometown boy in John Tavares. Sure the Leafs did lose a little bit of talent, but they brought in the best player on the market back home to what is an already loaded core. This team has made the playoffs in each of the last two years and now added a guy with the talent level of Tavares could help them take that big step to the next level. Tavares has been in the top ten in the league in a number of offensive categories the last few seasons, which speaks to how much of a generational talent he is. If Toronto can address the possible issues of beefing up the defense and goaltending, then they would be an even greater threat as a Cup contender. Even with what they have now, this team is going to be a bigtime threat in the East

Loser:
New York Islanders
The team that had the most to lose with this whole Tavares thing was the Islanders, who just lost their best player and the face of the franchise. During his tenure in New York, Tavares leaves in the top ten in goals, assists and points in Islanders history. He also leaves the team with a bit of a hole. They have solid options with Matthew Barzal, but otherwise I'm not feeling much confidence about the depth up the middle with this team. Yes, Lo Lamoriello made some moves in the opening week of free agency. He traded for Matt Martin, bringing him back into the mix. He also went out and signed Leo Komarov, Valtteri Filppula, and Tom Kuhnhackl up fromt. They re-sigend Thomas Hickey to a four year deal and brought in Robin Lehner to play goal, since Jaroslav Halak is now in Boston. This was a team who three years ago won a playoff series for the first time in almost a quarter century/ Since then, they have taken steps backwards and now look like they are a few more years away from coming back into a contending team again. I just really hope Islanders management knows what they doing and can manage to pull a rabit out of their hat and make something happen this year. Because right now, after losing Tavares, the prospects don't look that good.

Winner:
Calgary Flames
So besides Tavares being on the market this summer, one of the other big names to hit free agency was James Neal. Key word in that sentence is was. Neal is off the board, having signed a five year deal worth $28.75 million to go play for the Calgary Flames. This coming after the Flames had dealt away one of their top defensemen, Dougie Hamilton, in a package that brought back Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm. The big prize for the Flames was Neal, who's scored over 21 goals in a season ten times in his NHL career, and that includes 25 or more goals in each of the last five years. He brings a good scoring touch and a lot of veteran leadership to a young Flames team who was a playoff tea So to make up for it, Vancouver got right to work adding players.m just two years ago. Calgary wants to get back to the post season this year, and adding a guy with the skill set and leadership qualities of a James Neal will help them take more steps in that right direction. This also means a little job security for Neal, who has a long term deal after playing for three teams in the last three seasons.

Loser:
Ottawa Senators
There's trouble brewing in the Canadian Capitol. Ottawa, who in 2017 was within one win of reaching the Stanley Cup Finals in an improbable run. This past season, the bottom dropped out, with the Senators only picking up 28 wins on the year. To make matters worse, the Sens aren't getting any better. Bobby Ryan is gone via the trade route and all signs are pointing to the fact that the team could soon be trading the captain and face of the franchise, Erik Karlsson. Should the Senators do that, which from every indication I've heard that is probably going to happen, it will really set the franchise back. Good luck to Ottawa, because it looks like this season could go down as a lost cause of a year.

Winner:
St. Louis Blues
St. Louis is a good team that only got better. David Perron is back in the mix with the Blues for the 3rd time in his career. He was originally drafted by the Blues, was sent to Edmonton, came back two years ago as a free agent, before being nabbed by Vegas in the expansion draft last year. After recording a career high 50 assists and 66 points in Vegas, he's back in St Louis once again. Oh but wait, that's not all. Tyler Bozak was brought on board, as was Chad Johnson via free agency. They lost Patrik Berglund and Vladimir Sobotka via of the trade route with Buffalo, but it did net them Ryan O'Reilly, Buffalo's second leading scorer from last year, in return. It's been a busy summer for the Blues, who are hoping to build off 44 wins last year, which caused the Blues to just miss out on the playoffs in the West. With the talent that the Blues brought in, plus the core of guys like Jake Allen, Alex Pietrangelo, Alexander Steen, and Vladimir Tarasenko, its scary to think how potentially good the Blues might be in a tough Western Conference next season.

Loser:
Vancouver Canucks

It has been a tough start to the offseason for the Canucks. First, they missed the playoffs for the 3rd year in a row. Then, to make matters worse, they saw the retirement of the two faces of the franchise in this century, the Sedin Twins. Its obvious that the Canucks were in need of top tier talent, guys who could carry an offense from the top two lines. So what do they go out and do? They go out and give four-year deals worth around $3 million annually to both Jay Beagle and Antoine Roussel. Both guys are solid hockey players, but lets be real here, they're bottom-six role players at best. They also snatched up Tim Schaller from the Bruins for two years at a little over $3 million. Again, he's a solid hockey player, but I don't feel he got the skills to really be a contributor above being a 3rd liner. The team hasn't been a playoff team in three years and are trying to get back there. Vancouver is trying to build through free agency by adding depth and character players, which any good hockey team needs in order to succeed. But the way and rate that Vancouver is going out and doing it is a little bit alarming. Throwing around a lot of money to guys who are good but not top end talent is scary. This could be a bad sign for Vancouver.

Winner:
Philadelphia Flyers

Philadelphia is one of those teams that seems to be right on the edge of being a playoff team in the East. Maybe they're one move away from being the team they need to be to make it to the playoffs. Well it started off on the right foot in free agency. They signed a pretty big fish at the outset of the period. bringing back James van Riemsdyk on a five year deal with $35 million. His first three years in the league were spent playing in Philly. The price tag maybe a little high, but JVR has that dynamic ability to be able to change a game in one or two shifts. With the talent that the Flyers already have assembled, it could spell trouble for some teams in the Eastern Conference. Philly's banking on his big output from two years ago in Toronto and they should be able to get it this year. Philly is going to be a tough test this season.

Loser:
New Jersey Devils
This hockey team surprised a lot of people with what they were able to accomplish this past season. For the first time since the 2012 Cup run, the Devils made the playoffs, on the strength of Taylor Hall's MVP year. You would like to think that General Manager Ray Shero would go out and try and make a big impact in free agency to sure up and build upon his team's playoff run. That's not exactly what happened. Quite the opposite. Brian Gibbons, Micheal Grabner, John Moore and Jimmy Hayes all left new Jersey. Those guys counted for 132 combined points this year, which was a decent chunk of change on offense. Shero did sign a few players. Eric Gryba, John Ramage and Kurtis Gabriel all were brought on board to join the Devils. Those three guys combined for just two points last year. What the what. New Jersey is trying to build off of what they just did in make the playoffs for the 2nd year in a row, something the team hasn't done in a decade. This is how they go out and start to try and make it happen? Unless Jersey can find a lucky charm in free agency, it looks like they're going to have to find supplies from within to really make this thing happen this year.

Monday, July 2, 2018

LeBron Hits Hollywood

Ah, Hollywood. One of the biggest markets in the United States. Its the one of the biggest media market in the country, along with New York. Aside from being home to some of the biggest stars in television and film, it's also home to some pretty big sports franchises, with the Los Angeles Lakers at or near the top of the list. LA has been home to some of the biggest names in basketball, guys like Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kobe Bryant and Shaq just to name a few. Now the Lakers have another big name to add to that list. He's only the best player in the game of basketball today. Some guy named LeBron James. This not only has an affect on the Lakers, but on the rest of the league with free agency as well.

When LeBron made this announcement, which was a four year deal worth $154 million, he showed another level of maturity in making this announcement. He didn't have to go on TV for an hour long special, he didn't have to go to Sports Illustrated to write a full story on the deal. He just made a simple announcement that he was going to the Lakers. The fourth year on the deal is an option year, so it could really be a three year romp in Los Angeles. Look at what this does for the Lakers. They also added Kentavious Caldwell-Pope on a one year deal. Los Angeles is also having reported conversations/ties with Lance Stephenson, Nerlens Noel and even possibly JaVale McGee. Luol Deng could be on his way out. So with the way things are projected right now, the Lakers lineup has LeBron, Caldwell-Pope, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and Lonzo Ball. Depending on what other pieces the Lakers are able to bring in during free agency, on paper, this Lakers team looks like it could be a top contender in the Western Conference.

There's more to it then just this. Los Angeles still has moves that they want to make to get better. The biggest one being the sweepstakes for Kawhi Leonard. It's worth noting, for a cap perspective, that Kawhi is set to make nearly $20.1 million this season, which could be something of interest for LA to make a move. Its no secret that Kawhi wants out of San Antonio, that's been well documented for the last number of months now. Leonard has stated he wants to go play in Los Angeles, which is going to cost the Lakers quite a bit as far as a package. San Antonio won't be happy with this deal, because Gregg Popovich has stated that he doesn't want to try and trade a player to somebody in the conference. It would make sense for the Spurs to make the move so they can get something for Leonard before he leaves as a free agent. The fact that LeBron is now in LA is going to play a factor as to where Kawhi ends up landing, which is one reason this signing is big for how free agency is going to play out.

LeBron made this decision with his family in mind, from what I've been reading. LeBron wants to try and help get his son Bronny into a good school to further his basketball career. He also wants to try and get a few things set for when his basketball career is over, and Hollywood is the best place to try and get things squared away. He's looking to try and set his future post basketball and LeBron sees Los Angeles as the best place to do that.

While the Lakers seem to have a near future set for a championship chase, where does this move leave Cleveland? Kevin Love is the leader on this team, who, just an FYI, has an opt out option after this upcoming season. They also have George Hill, Tristan Thompson, J.R. Smith, Jordan Clarkson and Kyle Korver, all are signed through 2020. Cleveland has some working pieces that could be decent, but one has to wonder if this group is going to be good enough to have another deep playoff run in them. It's a step backward, but it could be good to help them move forward and possibly having to start figuring out long term success without LeBron there.

LeBron made a big statement by going to Los Angeles and now added even more of a shift in power towards the Western Conference.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Thank You JT

If you're like me, a fan of the New York Islanders, today is a very sad day. John Tavares, the Islanders captain and face of the franchise since the day he arrived, is no longer here. Earlier today, Tavares signed a seven year, $77 million deal to go play for his hometown team the Toronto Maple Leafs. A tough pill to swallow for Islanders fans, and for the organization I'm sure, but there's been a lot of good that was done by Tavares playing his first nine years of his career with the New York Islanders. A lot of memories made by Tavares here on Long Island, but now he's heading home.

In 669 games in an Islanders sweater, Tavares scored 272 goals, added in 349 assists for a total of 621 points. His goal total is 7th in Islanders history, his assists totals are 5th all time, as are his point totals. He could carry the team for stretches, that's how good he was. He kind of helped save a franchise a bit, put them back on the map. He was the guy that other teams looked at and said "uh oh, we got a big problem on our hands" When a guy has that kind of talent level you try and go as far as he can carry you.

After his first goal, in his first game, on opening night against the Penguins in 2009, you knew he was going to be a special player. He could make fans jump out of his seat with a great move (go back and watch his set up of Josh Bailey's overtime winner against the Flyers from last November as a perfect example). He could pick corners from in close, which he did quite often. He might not have been the fastest skater in the league, but boy could he make up for it with his stickhandling ability, playmaking ability and shot. Oh and then there's his leadership qualities. He didn't say too much, but when he did, it spoke volumes. His words didn't have to do much, sometimes he just let his play do the talking.

When you talk about John Tavares with an Islanders fan, two goals will come tom ind faster than any other he scored in his career. Both came in overtime and both came in the playoffs.

First up, was game three, April 19th, 2015. Islanders hosting the Capitals, when this happened:


The other goal is a personal favorite of mine, as I'm sure it is for many of my fellow Islanders fans. The date was April 24th, 2016. Game six of the opening round series against the Florida Panthers. Tavares stole the show again with this:


Both of those goals made Tavares a made man in New York. He gave everything he had to this team. The team I feel failed him. They had an all world player and they failed to build around him. Its a shame really what happened and how things went down. One report was that Tavares was so torn between going home to Toronto and staying here in New York, he couldn't stand it. At the end of the day, he chose to go home.

I just want to take this moment to thank Tavares for all the great memories. I was in the building at the Coliseum for two of his hat tricks. one against Buffalo and another against the Rangers, both fun games to watch. He made many lasting memories as an Islanders fan, some that will stay with me the rest of my life. I thank him for everything he did for the New York Islanders franchise and I wish him nothing but the best of luck in Toronto.