Reid Fischer's World of Rants

Looking at the sports world through orange colored glasses

Archive for May, 2008

Hockey anyone?

Posted by mizzou1028 on May 23, 2008

How many of you out there know that the Stanley Cup Finals begin tomorrow?  Is anyone out there aware that this could be as exciting a series to decide hockey’s champion in quite some time?  There is no question that hockey has been an afterthought on the sports landscape for quite some time, particularly since the lockout that wiped out the 2004-05 season.  It is hard for the game to get exposure when the national telecasts are relegated to Versus instead of being on ESPN, especially when many fans still have a hard time finding Versus on their cable system, or in some cases still haven’t heard of the channel.  ESPN is much more interested in pumping the NBA on Sportscenter, making a big show of the NBA playoffs while giving the NHL a tiny fraction of time, even with the Finals being on the horizon.  In some ways I can’t blame them, of course they’re going to promote games that they broadcast.  That being said, the lack of coverage given to the NHL is downright alarming sometimes.  I have a hard time finding just a simple highlight many times during the regular season.  The networks say this is because hockey ratings are low, but I say it’s a two way street.  Ratings are going to be low if people are not familiar with the product.  Blame of course falls on the league marketing department as well, but it can’t help the NHL that it’s listed below NASCAR and golf on ESPN.com.  As a fan of the game, I want to see it given the treatment of the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball in terms of national coverage.  It is my hope that this Stanley Cup Finals matching the Red Wings and the Penguins, a matchup with considerably more sex appeal than the previous three combined (Ducks-Senators, Hurricanes-Oilers and Lightning-Flames before the lockout), will be a kick start of sorts for the league.  I believe this matchup is quite a bit more entertaining than the NBA Eastern Conference Finals between the Pistons and Celtics, and will be compelling enough that the casual sports fan will want to at the very least take a look.  If nothing else I have two words that makes this series a must see: Sidney Crosby.

In short, Crosby is by far the best player in the league.  He’s already in his third season with the Penguins despite being just 20 years old, and has already scored 99 regular season goals in his young career.  He is arguably the best player the game has seen since Wayne Gretzky.  I got the chance to seem him in person in November when the Penguins made an early season visit to the Pepsi Center to play the Avalanche, and needless to say he lived up to the hype, scoring two goals, both in spectacular fashion.  If the NHL were smart, they would be promoting his presence in the Finals everywhere because if they can get people to watch this series which is guaranteed to be exciting, the league just might be able to actually take some positive momentum into next season.  The fact that he and the Penguins are going against the best team in the league in Detroit makes the series even more compelling.  The Red Wings have plowed their way through the playoffs, and as one of the league’s Original Six franchises carry a lot of cachet to the series themselves.  This is not a ho hummer matchup folks, this will be a series that will be exciting because of the players on the ice, but also because it matches two of the more popular franchises in the league, two teams with a lot of tradition who have large fan followings compared to other teams. 

For the record, most experts are picking Detroit in a runaway.  I am picking the Penguins in seven, not because I just want to go against the grain, but because I think people are taking the Penguins for granted.  Sure, they’re young, but no one so far has had an answer for not only Crosby, but also for Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal.  The Red Wings have dominated this postseason no question about it, and have all kinds of firepower themselves with Henrik Zetterberg leading the way.  I do believe that they would have had a tougher second round matchup against Colorado had the Avalanche not had half their team (literally) sidelined with various injuries and ailments (Full disclosure: I am an Avs fan, and while I don’t think they necessarily would have won the series, it would have been minimum six games had the Avs been healthy).  The player that really tore up the Avs, Johan Franzen, is out for the first two games against Pittsburgh and maybe more with an injury, so the Wings will be down one of their top playoff scorers.  Granted, the Wings rolled through the Dallas Stars without him, but the Stars don’t have near the offensive prowess the Penguins do.  The Penguins have rolled through their competition too and so far their so called playoff inexperience has not been a problem.  I see no reason why it would suddenly affect them in the Finals. 

Seriously, do yourself a favor and watch this series.  It might just make you (and the networks) realize that hockey belongs with the major sports.  Anyone who knows me knows I watch and follow the NFL, NBA, and MLB very regularly, and I love each of those leagues.  I just don’t feel that any of them are infinitely more exciting than the NHL to the point where hockey should be considered second tier.  To me, the NBA and NHL should be equal in coverage based on the time of year each league plays.  Particularly if the NBA Finals is Spurs-Pistons and the boring brand of basketball that comes with those team’s styles, it shouldn’t be a mystery to any sports fan why Wings-Penguins would be more exciting.  If the Penguins can win this series, perhaps Sidney Crosby can lead the NHL renaissance. 

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More Random Thoughts

Posted by mizzou1028 on May 12, 2008

Sometimes I wonder if the national networks realize there are other baseball teams we might want to watch besides the Red Sox and the Yankees.  ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball game last night featured the Red Sox and the Twins, which is fine, it’s a good matchup.  Thing is, ESPN is showing that matchup AGAIN this evening, despite several other good games on the schedule.  It is not in any way a shock that next week’s Sunday night game will feature the Yankees and Mets.  The TBS Sunday afternoon schedule has been similar so far.  Of the first eight games on their schedule in April and May, five involve either Boston or the Yankees.  It is fairly obvious why the networks like big market teams, among the chief reasons being that a game involving two large market clubs is likely to garner a larger audience and therefore more advertising dollars.  Still, it seems appalling to me that my Colorado Rockies have been shown on national TV exactly ZERO times so far this year the season following a World Series appearance.  Now, clearly their start this season hasn’t been worthy of much national air time, but a World Series appearance should guarantee at least some national exposure during the first month of the following season.  With the exception of one Saturday regional broadcast on Fox that was shown to less than a third of the country, the Rockies have not been shown any respect by the national MLB broadcast partners, while they continue to shove the same teams down our throat every week.  I realize that some teams have more sex appeal than others, and it goes without saying that certain teams will receive more exposure than others.  That being said, as a true fan of the game I want to see the best teams, not the ones with the most tradition or star power.  It might surprise you who has the best record in the National League right now.  I’ll give you a hint, it’s a franchise that’s won two World Series since 1997, but they’ve also had exactly zero national tv appearances this year and aren’t scheduled for any in the future.  Go ahead and guess, I’ll wait.

The answer would be the Florida Marlins, who are 23-14 and have a three game lead in the NL East, better than the mighty Mets, Phillies and Braves, all of whom are loaded with national TV appearances this year.  Now, as a fan of the game, I just might want to actually watch a Marlins game once in awhile if they really are that good.  Thing is, I have no idea because I haven’t had a chance to see them.  Yet I’ve been saddled with a number of games involving the Detroit Tigers, who made a big splash in terms of offseason spending and currently sit in last place in the AL Central, behind the mighty Kansas City Royals.  It might also surprise you to learn that Tampa Bay is 21-16, only a game and a half behind Boston in the AL East.  Or how about the Oakland A’s, pretty much coming out of nowhere to lead the AL West at 23-16?  Again, I don’t know much about either team except for the stats that I see because they’re never on TV either.  It was quite amusing actually to watch the national announcers embarrass themselves last October trying to announce the Rockies’ games as they made their run to the World Series.  It was clear some of them weren’t at all prepared and hadn’t watched the team play all year, even though they proved to be a legit playoff team.  It will be amusing if the networks find themselves in the same position again this year.  I just wish the networks would vary the teams they show on occasion.  I would imagine most fans would agree they don’t always want to be stuck watching the same teams every night.

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ESPN.com has released it’s NFL power rankings based on where they feel the teams currently stand after the draft and other acquisitions.  I find it inexcusable that the Giants are down to number six after they won the Super Bowl.  To me, they should be number one at least until they play a real game in September, unless they were to completely blow up the roster, which they haven’t.  It also interesting they have the Colts at number two, ahead of the Chargers at three, even though the Chargers beat the Colts on the road in the playoffs last year.  Strangely enough, I’m not that surprised they have my Broncos at 23, because on paper it does seem like there are questions regarding multiple parts of the roster.  Many national folks don’t seem to be big fans of the team’s draft, although i think they did a good job filling roster needs, even if it’s impossible to actually evaluate the draft until these guys have played multiple seasons.  Frankly, the power rankings are fun to talk about, particularly for someone like me who is constantly in football withdrawal during the offseason, but they really mean nothing.  There will be several teams that will end up better than advertised and there will be several that will be worse than advertised.  Still, it does provide for some interesting discussion, nothing more. 

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The Glass is Half Full

Posted by mizzou1028 on May 2, 2008

I guess it’s not really a surprise that things came to such an abrupt end for the Nuggets and Avalanche this week.  The Nuggets at least gave something resembling effort in their final game on Monday night, and even though they didn’t win at least they seemed to have a desire to not go down quietly.  I still stand by what I said that changes need to be made in the offseason, although I am somewhat encouraged by George Karl saying he’s going to change his approach next season and be more demanding.  It will be interesting to see what direction the Nuggets take as they try to take that next step.  As much I want them to start by unloading Kenyon Martin, it is also realistic to say that no other team will want to absorb his ridiculous contract.  While the team’s quick exit is disappointing, it is better than the 11-71 days.  Hopefully with Karl’s new approach they can figure out what it takes to win a playoff series. 

On the surface it may seem like the Avalanche gave up last night as they got swept by Detroit.  To think I had (only very very briefly) contemplated shelling out $100 a seat last week to see the renewal of the Avs-Wings rivalry.  The Avs do get a pass in many respects for their quick exit against Detroit because they were after all missing half their team in game four.  Heck, just the Avs scratches on Thursday night would be a pretty darn good team.  I don’t think it’s at all a stretch to say that the series could have easily turned out differently if the Avs had a healthy Forsberg, Stastny, Smyth, Wolski and Svatos.  None of them were anywhere near the ice last night because of injuries.  It is also fair to say that Jose Theodore trying to play game one while battling the flu did nothing for his confidence the rest of the series.  That being said, the Avs were clearly not in the same league as Detroit.  The Red Wings were clearly the best team in the Western Conference all season and that has not changed in the playoffs.  It will be interesting to see what roster moves the Avs make this offseason, starting with Theodore, who does have a big contract.  It is hard to say whether or not he is the answer in goal because he did such a fabulous job in the first round against Minnesota and then did a complete 180 against Detroit.  I also hope that Joe Sakic elects not to retire and comes back for another season because he still is a terrific player and has a lot of hockey left in him.  The Avs took a step forward this season after missing the playoffs last year, and hopefully next year with a healthier roster they can take another step. 

I had promised some thoughts on the NFL Draft.  The pessimistic side of me is slightly annoyed that the rival Chiefs and Raiders seemed to clean up.  The Raiders scored a terrific running back in Darren McFadden, but it will be interesting to see if he actually helps them win more games.  The Raiders have certainly made a big splash with a number of their offseason moves, but it remains to be seen whether they have the leadership to make things work.  I still say the game has passed Al Davis by and that somehow all of their flashy new pieces will not fit together to make a puzzle.  As for the Chiefs, I am still trying to figure out how Glenn Dorsey fell into their lap at number five.  Dorsey seemed to be the unanimous choice for best player available, a defensive tackle who dominated the line of scrimmage at LSU and is expected to make an immediate impact in the NFL.  That steal highlighted what many seem to think is a great draft for the Chiefs.  As for the Broncos, most of the so called experts don’t seem to think they did as well.  While it may not have been a flashy draft, I think they did a good job drafting for need and filling holes.  Mike Shanahan seemed genuinely excited about this draft class, and while of course every coach is going to say they got the guys they wanted all along, Shanahan’s statements somehow seemed more believable this time.  For him to declare Ryan Clady the starter at left tackle from day one is unusual.  Shanahan is typically of the “let them come in and compete” mode.  That right there tells you how much Shanahan is sky high on Clady.  The pick made tremendous sense in the first round because the Broncos need to replace the retired Matt Lepsis at left tackle.  Not to mention Lepsis had a down year last year, so the Broncos want to be sure their franchise QB is protected.  Their second pick also made a lot of sense in Virginia Tech wideout Eddie Royal.  While the Broncos signed Keary Colbert and Darrell Jackson in the offseason and seem crowded at the position, Royal is a great pick because has the speed to make an impact as a kick returner.  The Broncos’ dead last ranking in starting field position had as much as anything to do with their 7-9 record last year.  Now, I’m not saying Royal is going to be Devin Hester, but if he can help the Broncos improve in that area, it will go a long way toward making them a better team.  I also love the selection of Arizona State running back Ryan Torian in the fifth round.  Torian slipped because of health issues, but if he can get healthy, he is the perfect fit the Broncos’ running scheme.  He’s a no nonsense runner and isn’t afraid to get tough yards late in a game.  With Mike Shanahan’s track record at finding running backs, there is no reason to suspect that Torian couldn’t be a huge steal in this draft.  

Truth be told though, the bottom line when trying to evaluate a draft is you can’t.  It will be minimum three years before we can go back and really evaluate how good or bad the Broncos or any other team did in this draft.  I remember hearing great things about Marcus Nash when the Broncos took him in 98, or hearing how George Foster was supposed to be the anchor at left tackle, or how Willie Middlebrooks was supposed to be the cornerback the Broncos were missing.   The draft is a small part in the overall picture of building a championship team, although it is becoming and more important to be able to find guys that will fit into your plans for many years so you don’t have to fill all those holes through free agency.  Call me crazy, but I am starting to get optimistic about the Broncos’ prospects in 2008, even if they still do need to find a kicker. 

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