NHL Round 2 Preview: Western Conference Preview

thBy Kim Dunning

The Western Conference Semi-Finals begin on Wednesday Night. Four teams that vaulted their way into the series all in different ways.

Two teams swept their first round opponents. The other two pulled what some experts believe to be major upsets.

So without further ado, here is the Western Conference Round 2 Preview.

Western Conference

9778013-nhl-nashville-predators-at-st.-louis-bluesBlues vs Predators

The St. Louis Blues defeated the Minnesota Wild to seal their second round bid. Goal tender Jake Allan was on fire during the series.

The Nashville Predators pulled off the sweep of the favorite Chicago Blackhawks. They Predators held Chicago to three goals in four games.

Goaltending is definitely going to be the way of this series. Both Allan and Predators goalie, Pekka Rinne was lights out against the Hawks. The Hawks have a high powered offense.

This series will be low scoring and full of defensive battles. Actually, it will be a typical Western Conference playoff game. Expect lots of hitting, little scoring and goaltending to boot.

Should both these goaltenders play the way they did in Round 1, this will be a defensive battle. The nod should go to the Preds as they did knock off the favorite.

r202452_1296x729_16-9Ducks vs Oilers

The Aniheim Ducks swept the Calgary Flames to advance to the second round. The Oilers defeated the defending Western Conference Champion, San Jose Sharks, to advance.

Edmonton has a young but good team. They also have this kid named Conor McDavid who is something special. If you don’t watch this series for anything else watch it for him and admire the youth movement in the NHL.

The Ducks have experience and have been resting for longer than the Oilers. Sometimes rest can be bad for a team, but for the Ducks it gives their star player Cam Fowler time to heal.

If Edmonton can come out and play the Ducks like they did the Sharks, this could be a 7-game series. Otherwise, look for the Ducks to advance to the Western Conference Finals.

Playoff hockey is the best time of year. If you aren’t watching you should be! Anything can happen, as we saw in the first round. Enjoy the second round and good luck to your club.

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NHL Round 2 Preview: Eastern Conference Preview

thBy Kim Dunning

The NHL playoffs started on April 12, 2017 this year. It has been a wild ride. Round 1 was unforgettable this season. To the surprise of many hockey fans, some clubs did not move on as expected.

We started roughly about two weeks ago with 16-teams. We are down to eight left, all vying for the coveted title of Stanley Cup Champions.

The Chicago Blackhawks were the team to beat. After getting swept out of the first round, there is no clear cut favorites now, except Pittsburgh.

So without further ado, here is the Eastern Conference Round 2 Preview.

Eastern Conference
th (1)Rangers vs Senators

For only the second time in playoff history, The New York Rangers will play the Ottawa Senators. The last time these two teams played each other, New York won the series four games to three. Both teams defeated their opponents in the first round four games to two.

When you think of Ottawa you think of Erick Karlsson and his stellar defensive play. Karlsson played the first round with fractures in his foot. He still managed to get a lot of ice time and performed very well.

When you think of the Rangers, you think of their four line rotation. New York has added to their speed game during the off-season. They roll four lines well and do not have a true first line.

Goaltending for both clubs evenly matched. Henrik Lundqvist for the Rangers has found his niche and played excellent in the first round. Craig Anderson also played well in the first round and has become an emotional leader to the club.

This series will come down to how well the Senators defense matches up to the Rangers four lines. The nod should go to the Rangers because they are playing well on the road. The Rangers are looking like the defending Champs last season.

9830438-nhl-washington-capitals-at-pittsburgh-penguins-850x560Penguins vs Capitals

This exciting series is a rematch from last season. The Penguins defeated the Capitals in six games to go on to win the Cup. This could be the most exciting series of round two, at least in the Eastern Conference.

For the tenth time, these two will meet in the playoffs. These two clubs are arguably the best two in the NHL.

In the first round, the Penguins advanced with a 4-1 series win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Capitals had a bit of trouble with a young Maple Leafs team and won their series 4-2.

Washington has a history of second round bounces, but they have a different feel to them. The Penguins have a history of beating the Capitals in the playoffs, having won 8 out of 9 meetings.

The Capitals are a dominate club building their team around beating the Penguins. The question is: Can Washington get over the mental block that seems to hit them when they play the Pens?

This series should go to seven games. This will be a hard fault battle between two good quality hockey clubs. The edge would go to Pittsburgh because this club has been there before. Washington seems to have a curse when it comes to the second round in the playoffs. Not to mention, they struggled with the speed and youth of the Leafs and Pittsburgh has the same type of club.

Should be an interesting match-up and the winner of this series will be the favorite for the Cup finals.

The Eastern Conference is shaping up to be a fun, interesting and exciting series. For those who have a horse in the race still, hang on to your seats and good luck to your club!

 

Stay tuned for the Western Conference preview.

 

NHL Round One Breakdown

nhl-stanley-cup-playoffsBy Kim Dunning

The National Hockey League finished up the regular season on Sunday.  There are 16 teams that are vying for the most coveted professional sports trophy: the Stanley Cup.

The fun thing about the NHL playoffs is that no matter who gets into the playoffs, you can pretty much guarantee, the winner of the Stanley Cup is usually the least likely suspect, unless it is the Chicago Blackhawks.

Last year, no Canadian team made it into the playoffs.  This is only the second time that has happened.  This year, all Canadian teams except two made it in.  These young Canadian teams are dangerous now but with the young talent they have, they will become even more dangerous as the years continue.

The first round starts on Wednesday night and airs on NBCSN and USA networks.   Let’s take a look at the teams who have made the playoffs, this year.

The Eastern Conference

The Eastern Conference boasted one of the most dominate divisions this year in the Metropolitan Division.  Four teams in the Metro had over 100 points.  Sadly, because of a flawed playoff system, at least one 100+ point’s team will have a first round exit.

joffreylupul-696x463The Washington Capitals once again took the President’s Trophy for having the most points in the NHL, they had this last year and were considered the favorite for the Stanley Cup.  This year, the Capitals will square off on Thursday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs.  The Leafs are very lucky to have a playoff berth this year.  They clinched the final playoff spot with 1 game left to go in the season.  While most feel that the Caps will dominate the Leafs, there is a chance that these young kids like Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner will step up big and pull an upset.  The thing about Toronto is they are a very young and unpredictable team.  If the Leafs pull an upset, it will be nothing unusual for Washington to have an early post-season exit after a dominating regular season.

041414_jacketspensOne of the more intriguing matchups of the first round is the Pittsburgh Penguins versus the Columbus Blue Jackets.  The Pens finished second, slightly ahead of the Jackets.  The Penguins are also the defending Stanley Cup Champions looking for a repeat for the first time since Detroit did it back in 1997/1998.  The Jackets are a very physical young team with a veteran coach in John Tortorella.   The Penguins are based upon speed, power plays and offense.  They have a young net minder in Matt Murray who has struggled at times during the playoffs.   This series could go either way.  Pittsburgh may have a slight edge with having home ice advantage, but Columbus isn’t a team to be taken lightly.  Columbus has playoff inexperience and Pittsburgh is the veteran team coming into this.  This game could quite possibly go to 7-games.

Lundqvist-PriceThe fourth and final Metropolitan team to start their first round is the New York Rangers.  The Rangers surprisingly have struggled at home and have become the “road warriors” of the NHL playoffs.  They will face the Atlantic Division winners, Montreal Canadians.   This match-up has two great goaltenders in Cary Price (for Montreal) and Henrik Lundqvist (for New York).  Both goalies can step it up and carry their team if need be.  The Canadians made a mid-season coaching change and that seems to have complimented their team more.  The Rangers have been bit in key positions with injuries.  Montreal can be hot and cold and with them having home ice, the nudge should go to the Rangers in this series.

167730536_slideThe final Eastern conference matchup features the Boston Bruins and the Ottawa Senators.  The Bruins are back in the playoffs after a brief hiatus and the Senators are the home ice favorites in this one.  The Bruins have the talent to keep up with Ottawa and it wouldn’t be surprising to see them take the series in less than 7-games.   The Senators swept the Bruins in the regular season, but the Bruins have talented veterans in David Backes, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand that can step it up when the playoffs call for.  This matchup seems kind of on the drab side, however this could be more exciting than the average hockey fan imagines.

The Western Conference

While the Western Conference during the regular season seemed to just coast along, there is a bigger difference than the Eastern Conference.  The Western conference did not have as many ties as the top teams in the East did.  The Western Conference road to the Stanley Cup is never boring nor is it ever disappointing.

ap_16365203189783The Chicago Blackhawks won the Central division and will play the Nashville Predators.  Every NHL fan that isn’t a Blackhawks fan wants this upset.  Chicago is a team that will coast through the regular season and turn it on hot when it comes to the post season.  With Chicago getting bounced out in the first round last year, they will be looking for redemption on their way to the Cup that you can almost feel sorry for the Preds.  The Predators aren’t a push-over team but they’ve been hot and cold all regular season.  They are also looking to get further after their second round out courtesy of the San Jose Sharks.

cc2c8d200c0c26568b8d180a4eb649beThe Minnesota Wild will start their first round quest against the St. Louis Blues.  The Blues were the team that everyone thought would go to the Stanley Cup final last year after they knocked off Chicago.  Both the Blues and Wild are looking to advance further than last year.  The history between Minnesota teams and the Blues is still ingrained in the minds of the Wild and Blue fans and these teams do not like each other.  Minnesota boast one of the top defenses in the league and the Blues came on strong after their fired their head coach.  Mike Yeo, the interim coach for the Blues, has ties to Minnesota as well.  So this series isn’t just for the advancement but maybe for bragging rights.  Minnesota should be able to handle the Blues but this is one of those series you shouldn’t bet money on.

calgary-flames-vs-anaheim-ducks-2015-stanley-cup-playoffs-game-3The Pacific Division winner Anaheim Ducks will face the Calgary Flames.  When these two teams met in their regular season finale, fireworks were everywhere.   Flames defenseman Mark Giodano’s knee-on-knee hit sidelined the Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler.  This may have a carry-over into the playoffs as each team will be running high on emotions.  The Flames have a younger group of guys that their veteran goaltender in Brian Elliott may have to pick up the slack for a game or two.  They also have the very dangerous rookie, Johnny Gaudreau, that when he gets the puck you never know what’s going to happen.   The Flames have struggled at the Honda Center, so with the Ducks having home ice advantage in this could spell a one and done for the Flames.

Edmonton-Oilers-vs-San-Jose-Sharks-Hockey-Prediction-3-24-16The final first round match-up is the defending Western Conference Champion, San Jose Sharks against the very young Edmonton Oilers.   This series is a must watch because Conor McDavid is really that exciting.  McDavid at only 20-years old won the Art Ross Trophy (for most points by a player in the entire NHL).  This series is the young versus the old.  San Jose is stacked with veterans who are hungry to go back and win the Cup that the Penguins stopped them from winning last year.  Edmonton is looking to get back to the “glory days” when Wayne Gretzky played for them and took them too many championships.   During the season, the Oilers owned the Sharks 3-1-1, and this again does not translate to the playoffs.  The Sharks are not only older but they have a few key injuries in Joe Thorton and Logan Couture.  This series may go to six or seven games but with the health and age of the Sharks, Edmonton could move on to the second round and once again have a very young, unpredictable team to watch.

The NHL playoffs are set for the first round.  This is the most exciting time in the NHL as they are presented on the bigger stage with NBC and their affiliates covering the entire playoffs.  Hockey playoffs are always non-stop action and so much can and will happen.  Happy Playoff Hockey and Good luck if your team happens to be one of the 16.

Closing Out a Forgettable Season

762c38e136cb2a326ed4758d696c4507Seth Haahr

The 2016-2017 season has been disappointing for the Coyotes. After what appeared as a promising campaign to build off the year before there have been several hurdles. Lack of scoring from second year winger Anthony Duclair, a drop in production and play from defenseman Ekman-Larsson, and the struggles in net by Domingue as a backup are all contributors. Sure much may have been different had Richardson not been injured early on, or had Max Domi not broken his hand, but it’s hard to imagine them sniffing the playoffs even had those two not gone down with injury. The Coyotes as of this moment sit in 29th place with 63 points in 77 games played. It’s not as bad as it may seem, or at least it could be worse. They are within a reasonable striking distance two teams (Devils and Canucks) which would require them to get back on track for their remaining 5 games but as few as two weeks ago they were on a tear of points in 7 of 10 games winning 5 of them. This will be difficult with a game against Washington, finishing the season series with Minnesota, LA, Vancouver, and Dallas. The realistic view is they may only win one or two of their remaining games with a potential of sneaking in a win against Minnesota with their recent struggles.

This late season surge has been received with mixed reviews among fans, some preferring better odds at the lottery picks, others wanting to see this young core grow. While both have merits it would be far more beneficial for the likes of Dvorak, Chychrun, DeAngelo, Perlini, Crouse, and maybe even Domi, Duclair, Rieder, and Martinook to finish this season strong and learn how to win against teams fighting for playoff lives and playoff seeding. There’s also the benefit of having the recently turned pro Keller gain valuable NHL experience to give him an idea of what he needs to prepare for to make the roster next season. The benefits of growth paired with the uncertainty of the potential ceiling for Nolan Patrick and maybe Nico Hischier, in addition to the lottery process that the Coyotes have had zero luck with it is far more important to control what they can, which is how these young players finish. It will already be hard enough to get needed free agents in the offseason with the well noted off ice issues.

It does get better though, this isn’t your typical NHL season. We have the expansion draft. The Coyotes should be cognizant of the potential difficulties in signing any (underwhelming) free agents this offseason and use the expansion to their benefit. They don’t have that many players they must protect since most of their roster is lacking the required experience to be exposed in expansion. The Coyotes could and should leverage their asset of roster space to acquire some vulnerable teams. Anaheim may have to expose one of their promising young defenseman or even RW Silfverberg, Nashville could be in a similar situation and as could Minnesota or Chicago. To be clear I am not saying they should do conditional trades where they take on a player and give back for a future draft pick, they should exploit these teams fear of losing a quality player for nothing. The common consensus is the Coyotes will lose one of Schenn, Connauton, or Richardson to the expansion draft, if that is the case they could easily trade their extra first round or potential other picks depending on the quality of player coming back. An example scenario would be instead of Anaheim surrendering Silfverberg, a proven commodity, for nothing they may be able to get back Duclair and a mid-round pick if the Coyotes give up on him, or they could try for a player like Vatanen or Fowler and give up a draft pick and send a player like Connauton their way. Due to the likely difficulty in bringing in a player in free agency this may be the best tactic for the Coyotes to use to help get their partner for OEL or to get a solid right winger.
The only thing that is certain is the remainder of the regular season and everything up to free agency could be an exciting time for the Coyotes organization.

Which Active Players in Each of the 4 Major American Sports Most Deserve to win a Championship?

By Leo Silbert

Sometimes fate in the sports world can be incredibly cruel.  Some of the best talents ever like Ted Williams in the MLB, Dan Marino in the NFL, Peter Stastny and Marcel Dionne in the NHL and most NBA stars of the 90s who weren’t on the Bulls like Patrick Ewing and Charles Barkley were never able to ascend to the highest place in their sport because of the team they were on wasn’t very talented after them or because they were blocked from winning because they played during an era of a dynasty.  This still holds true today when 3 out of the 4 major sports are going through eras of historic parity (while the NBA finals can already be predicted fairly reliably now in February).  So out of all the stars in each of the sports who hasn’t won a title to this point in their careers, who in each of the 4 major sports deserves to win a title the most?

The NFL:larry-fitzgerald

Being split into 2 separate conferences also shows a split in level of parity.  Since the year 2000, 12 of the 16 teams in the NFC have made it to the Superbowl with only the Panthers (2 times) and Giants and Seahawks (3 times each) have gone more than once.  The only NFC Teams to not make it to the Superbowl since 2000 are the Cowboys, Redskins, Vikings and Lions.  The same does not hold true for the AFC.  Since the year 2000, there have only been 6 teams to make the Superbowl from the AFC side with the Patriots making it 7 times, the Steelers making it 3 times, the Ravens, Colts and Broncos making it twice (the Colts and Broncos did so with Peyton Manning as their quarterback to lessen the parity even more) and the Raiders made it once in 2002.  Still though, the NFC with all the turnover they have shown has the player in the NFL who most deserves to hoist the Lombardi trophy in Larry Fitzgerald.  Fitzgerald already has all of the credentials for a wide receiver to make it to the hall of fame.  He is 3rd all time in Receptions, he is 9th all time in yards, and 8th all time in touchdowns.  He even has a heartbreaking loss in the lone Superbowl he was in where he had a great game catching 7 passes on 8 targets for 127 yards and 2 touchdowns, only to lose on one of the greatest plays in Superbowl history with Ben Roethlisberger throwing his lone touchdown of the night to eventual Superbowl MVP Santonio Holmes in the back corner of the end zone.  Fitzgerald’s Cardinals have never made it back to the Superbowl despite making the NFC championship game in 2015 where they lost badly to the Panthers.  He is also one of the great men off the football field in the NFL, being the co-winner of the Walter Peyton Man of the Year Award this year.  Fitzgerald is nearing the end of the line for his hall of fame career and winning a Superbowl would be a great last stop for him before he sets off on his way to Canton.

Honorable mentions:

Philip Rivers is stuck in the AFC with the Patriots and for most of his career Peyton Manning so he hasn’t had much of a chance to make the Superbowl and now his team doesn’t have much talent around him to help him win one in his final few years in the league.

Frank Gore was stuck on bad 49er teams for years and came very close to winning it all in 2012 when his team lost after his team passed the ball 3 times from their own 5 yard line within the game’s final 3 minutes.

Jason Witten and Antonio Gates are both top 5 tight ends of all time, but they have never had a good enough team around them to get over the hump.  If Witten returns this year he might have a good shot with the Cowboys but it seems like Gates is stuck in the same boat as Philip Rivers.

Joe Thomas has been on of the best left tackles in the game ever since he stepped on the field.  Unfortunately for him, the team he has been doing that for is the Cleveland Browns who are in the middle of their sixth head coach during his tenure trying to rebuild the team.

Julius Peppers just passed Michael Strahan for 5th all time in sacks and he made it to the Superbowl in his 2nd season in the league, but he has never made it back there during his 15 year career.

Major League Baseball:adrian-beltre

Throughout the history of baseball, many all time great players have been unable to capture a World Series victory such as Ted Williams, Ernie Banks and Ty Cobb.  A lot of this had to do with how baseball didn’t have a lot of year to year turnover for most of its history and only had 2 teams from each league make it to the postseason until the 1995 season.  Then from 1996-2000, the Yankees won 4 out of 5 titles which made it even harder for non-Yankee players to win a World Series.  After that though, World Series winners became more unpredictable.  The unpredictability of the sport has led to many of the contemporary greats to win at least one world series, but there are still some who have yet to reach that plateau, the greatest of which is Adrian Beltre.  Beltre has been in the Majors since 1998 and he already has the kind of numbers that can guarantee him a spot in Cooperstown after he retires.  Beltre is going to hit his 3000th hit this season, he has a career WAR (wins above replacement level player) pf 90.2 which puts him at 30th all time in major league history.  His 1571 RBIs and 445 home runs him at 43rd and 41st all time while he sits at 25th all time in extra base hits.  He came very close to winning a World Series in 2011 with the Texas Rangers, but a loss in game 7 was the last time his team made it to the grandest stage in baseball.  He still has another season or two left in the tank and the Rangers are a competitive team, so he may get what he deserves if everything breaks just right.

Honorable Mentions:

Carlos Beltran: Beltran is another guy who started in 1998 and has put up potentially hall of fame credentials already but the one thing that would push him over the top as a lock would be winning a World Series.

Ichiro: Ichiro is one of the greatest hitters of all time and is returning to the Marlins in 2017.  He has over 3000 hits since debuting in the majors in 2001 and if you include his numbers from Japan, he has the most hits in professional baseball history.  He is already a lock for Cooperstown but a ring would be a great way to end a great career.

Felix Hernandez: It is hard to imagine that King Felix is only going to be 31 this April since he debuted all the way back in 2005.  It is also hard to imagine that in his 12 seasons in the major he has never even made it to the playoffs.  The Mariners are once again a popular preseason pick to make the postseason and once there anything can happen, but it is time for the Mariners to help their king finally get his ring.

Clayton Kershaw: Kershaw is one of the best pitchers in baseball history already at the age of 28 and he is still improving.  He has the chance to be in consideration for the best starting pitcher of all time if he continues his career trajectory, but what would be the best thing for him to be able to lay a claim to that is a World Series ring.

Mike Trout: Yes, he is only 25 and has many, many more years to eventually win his first world series but he has a few things putting him here.  First off, his historical comparisons aren’t guys like Ken Griffey Jr. or another one of the 50 best players of all time, but instead he gets compared to Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays, who are all top 10 players of all time.  After only 5 full seasons and 40 games in 2011, his WAR is 48.5 which is more than half way to Beltre’s in one-third of the amount of seasons.  He is also stuck on one of the worst teams in baseball with a contract that has him signed through his age 31 season.

The NHL:

henrik-lundqvist

The NHL is the most unpredictable of the major sports leagues in America.  Sure, recently the Blackhawks and Kings have won 5 out of the last 7 Stanley Cups, but they haven’t been able to go back to back and it isn’t uncommon for low seeds to upset higher seeds in the playoffs.  The Eastern Conference has produced 6 different conference champions in the past 7 years with only the Bruins repeating an appearance.  One of the teams who has made it but wasn’t able to get over the top was the New York Rangers in 2014 led by all world goalie Henrik Lundqvist.  Lundqvist has been one of the best goalies in the NHL since his debut in October of 2005.  Since his debut, he has only missed the playoffs one time, he became the fastest ever goaltender to reach the 400 win milestone with getting his 400th win in his 727th game, and he is one of 2 people in the top 5 of all time save percentage in the NHL who has started 400 games.  Now Lundqvist throughout the early part of his career was carrying the Rangers to the playoffs year in and year out with little help.  He has finished in the top 3 for voting on the Venzia trophy (best goaltender award) 5 times, with winning the awards in the 2011/2012 season and he has only not been given votes for the award last season where he had a relatively pedestrian .920 save percentage.  He has also finished with at least 30 wins in every season he has played that wasn’t shortened by a lockout.  Even when he missed an extra 20 games more than his average due to a bruised vein in his neck in 2014/2015 he was able to get 30 wins in only 46 games played.  The Rangers are once again contenders for the Cup this season and Lundqvist is starting his normal late season heat up so he can win one this year, as long as his team is able to meet him half way.

Honorable Mentions:

Alex Ovechkin: Ovechkin is one of the great goal scorers of all time, and he falls to second on this list to fellow 2005/2006 rookie classmate Lundqvist because Ovechkin hasn’t been able to lead his team to the playoffs as often, but now the Capitals are the team with the best record in the league so if they can get over the hump in the playoffs, he may win his first title.

The Sedin Twins: Henrik and Daniel Sedin have been tied to together since birth and both were drafted to the Vancouver Canucks with the 2nd and 3rd overall picks in 1999.  They are both within 31 points of each other with Henrik at 1004 and Daniel at 973.  They were able to reach the finals in 2011 but they ended up falling to the Bruins in 7 games.  Now, the Canucks are 10th in the western conference and don’t seem to be threats at bringing home Lord Stanley’s Cup anytime soon so if they want to win their first cup, they will need to orchestrate moves out of Vancouver.

Jarome Ignila: He has played the most games of anyone in the league currently to have not won a Stanley Cup.  He also happens to play for the worst team in the NHL.  He made the finals in 2003/2004 but his team couldn’t help him pull out the win before the lockout lost season of 2004/2005.  He signed with the Avalanche trying to capture a late career cup, but the Avalanche have regressed in each of his seasons there.

The San Jose Sharks Duo of Joe Thorton Patrick Marleau: They along with now former Shark Dainius Zubrus were all so close to winning their first championship together.  Zubrus has since retired and now it is only Thorton and Marleau and they are trying to get back to the finals for the second year in a row.  Thorton leads all NHL players in assists since he entered the league in 1997 while Marleau has over 500 goals and assists since 1997.  They are first in their division and 3rd overall in the west so they may very well have another shot this year.

Shane Doan: Being the last first round pick of a franchise that is forced to move due to financial reasons can be tough, but Doan was able to do that and stayed with the team after the move and is still there today.  During his tenure, the Coyotes haven’t been a consistent contending team, but Doan has been able to survive the rebuilds and the near contentions and he is still sticking with them to this date, which is unfortunate as he once again finds himself on one of the worst teams in the league.

The NBA:

chirs-paul

The NBA has the highest number of all time greats who have never been able to win a ring.  During the 1960s, the Celtics dynasty blocked out pretty much everyone else, with only the 76ers winning a single championship in the decade to prevent the Celtics sweeping the decade.  The 1970s was probably the most competitive decade for the NBA with 8 different teams winning championships in the 10 year span, with only the Knicks and Celtics winning more than one championship within the decade.  The 1980s was dominated by the Lakers and Celtics, with only the 76ers and Pistons winning a single championship each besides the Celtics and Lakers during the decade.  The 1990s had 4 different teams winning championships, and that number may be as high as it is because Michael Jordan retired for a year and a half and wasn’t in shape for the 1995 championship, and then he retired again before the 1998-1999 season.  The 2000s was the Lakers and Spurs winning 5 and 3 championships each and so far the 2010 seem like they will be dominated by LeBron James and the Warriors.  Some of the all time greats to never win a title are Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley, John Stockton, Karl Malone, Allen Iverson and Elgin Baylor (who retired early in the 1972 season before the Lakers went on to win the championship).  Today, there are plenty of players who are near the best to ever play their position but have yet to lift the Larry O’Brien trophy, none of them have been better than Chris Paul.  Paul may be short and slim for the NBA but in his now 12 seasons he has shown that not only could he make it work, he could be dominant.  Chris Paul was so good that the NBA blocked a trade that would have sent him to the Lakers with Kobe and Dwight Howard because that would have made the Lakers too good for the good of the NBA so instead, he was traded from the Hornets where he was consistently the best of 2 good players on the Hornets, the other being David West to the Clippers to team up with a young Blake Griffin and Deandre Jordan to make lob city.  He’s been good for 18.7 points per game, 9.9 assists per game, and 2.3 steals per game throughout his career while only averaging 2.4 turnovers per game.  And possibly the most important stat working for Chris Paul is that he is first in NBA history in win shares per 48 minutes, beating out even the GOAT Michael Jordan.  Now Paul’s career is getting closer to its twilight and he is stuck on a very good Clippers team in the era of super teams like the Warriors and Cavaliers dominating the league.  He definitely has the talent to be the best player on a NBA championship team, but it seems like for him to have a chance, he needs at least one more star player on his team with an improved bench to even have a shot any time soon.

Honorable mentions:

Carmelo Anthony: Anthony was probably hurt just as much by the Pistons drafting Darko Milicic as the Pistons were by drafting Darko Milicic.  Anthony instead went to the Nuggets who were the worst team in basketball the year before he was drafted and were turned into a playoff team his rookie season behind 21 points per game by Anthony.  The Nuggets eventually proceeded to trade for a past his prime Allen Iverson to put next to Anthony in a move that they thought would put them over the top, but it never led to any more playoff success.  In 2008/2009 he finally got a playoff series win in his final full season in Denver.  The next season he was traded to the Knicks near the trade deadline when Anthony was set to be a free agent the following summer, ruining the Knicks bench for no reason (not Anthony’s fault, this was because of terrible Knicks management).  Anthony is now suiting up for a bad Knicks team that makes more headlines for PR disasters than for wins and the team may be looking to trade him to a contender, which if that happens would finally give Anthony a team behind him that he can win with.

Vince Carter: Carter is still going strong for the Memphis Grizzlies, but at 40 years old you would have to think this will be his final season and it seems inevitable that Vinsaity will be another great and exciting basketball player to retire without a championship.  He arrived in Dallas 1 year too late as they won the year before he arrived and he got close with the Magic in 2010, falling to the Celtics in the finals.

Russell Westbrook: The angriest man in the NBA is doing everything in his power to make sure his Oklahoma City Thunder can be competitive but since now he is the only star on the team in the era of 3 star super teams, he is fighting a losing battle.  Westbrook is channeling his inner Oscar Robertson in averaging a triple double this season and night in and night out you know that Westbrook is the player who played harder than anyone else that game.  He deserves to win a title for his attitude alone, but unless the Thunder can start luring in fellow stars quickly, it seems Westbrook is doomed to anger his way to one 7 seed worthy season for the Thunder after another, but if he weren’t there today the Thunder would most likely be challenging the Nets for the worst record in the NBA.

James Harden: Another player drafted by the Thunder franchise, Harden was traded away to the Houston Rockets and he has developed into one of the 5 best players on the planet there.  Now with Mike D’Antoni as his head coach he has evolved even further into a Steve Nash on steroids type of player who seems like he was created by some kid on NBA 2k to fit exactly what D’Antoni wants to do on offense.  Harden’s Rockets are currently the third best team in the West and they are the best non-super team in the league, which shows that the Rockets are so so so close to being championship worthy, but they are being held back by 3 of the greatest collections of talent in NBA history.

Kevin Durant: A third player drafted by the Sonics/Thunder, Durant is one of the best pure scorers of all time and he just joined the Warriors’ super team.  He probably won’t be on this list long.

NHL Bye Week

nhl-logoBy Kim Dunning

The National Hockey League has implemented a new rule this season.  They are requiring each team to take a five-day break from playing.  This was so that the players would accept the new All-Star format.

The rules of the bye week are straight forward.  Each team from January 1 to February 28 are required to have five consecutive days off.  This means no team meetings, practices or team activities are allowed.  If a said team has a game on the 6th day, the players may practice but only after 4pm.

This year, the bye came in handy.  As much as fans have spoken their dislike of missing their favorite team for 5 days, the players deserve a much-needed break.  Especially those players who had a shorter than normal off-season with making the playoffs and then playing in the World Cup tournament in September.

Some of the interesting aspects of the bye week is finding out which players took a rest and which players practiced on their own time to keep in shape.

Another thing fans want to watch out for is to see if their team is hot when they go into the bye week and come out the same way.

The Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins were the first to take this bye week.  On Sunday, when they played, everyone was holding their breathe to see how this would affect the team.

The bye week did not seem to douse the momentum the Pens went into the bye week with before the New Year.  The standings did not change much nor did Pittsburgh lose any ground on teams they had on their heels when they went into the bye week.

All that happened were other teams in the Metropolitan Division could catch up on their games in hand and the Penguins players could get a much-needed break.

As other teams begin to take their bye weeks, it will be interested to see who’s a legitimate team and who is pretending right now.  The Bye week could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your team.

For right now, like or it not, it’s something we as NHL fans are going to have to get use too.

 

Team USA Wins Gold

cutBy Kim Dunning

The World Juniors tournament happened over the last two weeks.  For those that don’t know what this tournament is, it is put on by the IIHF each year.  To be eligible to play in the World Juniors you must be male, play for the country he represents, and must have been born between 1997 and 2002.

This year the tournament ran from December 26 to January 5.

This is played a lot like the World Cup was played earlier in the year.  You have a preliminary round, and the four best teams from each group of the preliminary round advance to the quarterfinals.

The last place team from Group A and Group B play each other to determine who get invited back to the tournament next year.

Once against Canada hosted the tournament in Montreal.

The Gold medal game came down to two very familiar foes.  Team Canada versus Team USA.

Canada started the game off strong and was up 4-2 at one point.  Team USA made a comeback and tied the game up 4-4.

The game ended up going into overtime, which is another 20-minute period.  Although both Canada and the US got closed to scoring the game-winning goal for their respective team, both goalies held firm and made some incredible saves.

The game ended up going to a shootout.  With such pride and gold on the line this has been a hot topic of debate.  In the shootout, only Team USA scored one goal out of five rounds.  Tyler Parsons, goalie for Team USA, did not allow a goal during the shootout.

As hard as these kids played during the games, the shootout was kind of a letdown.  Team USA won the gold and the bragging rights.  Much needed after not winning a game in the World Cup tournament earlier this year.

Congratulations to both Team Canada and Team USA on putting on one of the best hockey games anyone has seen in a long time.