Monday Morning Thoughts To Chew On
Some Monday morning musings:
1. Boy, Otis Taylor must be having a heck of a year: It's been easy to forget over the past, oh, four decades that the Kansas City Chiefs were once an NFL powerhouse driven by a very influential owner. Similarly, the last few years in Philly made it very easy to forget that Andy Reid was regarded as one of the finest minds in football. Now the Chiefs at 7-0 and Reid looks brilliant again, with Chip Kelly finding all sorts of problems with the Eagles.
2. We'd all like to get "shut down" like that: The Broncos scored 33 points and Peyton Manning threw for 386 yards, yet the talk today is how the Indy defence really stepped up for this one. Which it did. But it shows have everything is relative. This one also showed that as soon as you think some NFL team's doing something nobody can stop. . .somebody puts a stop to it.
3. Nobody's talking about it because nobody wants to talk about it: Maybe the worst Monday Night Football matchup ever tonight? The 1-4 Vikings visit the 0-6 Giants, and it's not hard to understand why Sunday Night Football may now be the pre-eminent evening NFL broadcast of the week. No point to watch this one between two teams with a combined .090 winning percentage, the worst at this stage of the season in MNF's 44-year history. Just drive on by. Three compelling NHL games - San Jose at Detroit, Penguins hosting those upstart Avs, and the Flames at L.A. - should make much better viewing. Even if you don't like hockey. Like, at all.
4. Let's look at this from the most positive angle. . .for a moment, anyway: Troy Smith is a pretty compelling story, so his strong performance for the Alouettes on Sunday as the fourth Montreal quarterback to win a game this season is intriguing news. He looked mobile and poised in his first CFL start, and maybe now gets to take the Als into the post-season. But seriously, that Hamilton team? Is it a really good team or just a lousy team? Somewhere in between, probably, but my goodness after beating the Grey Cup champions twice Kent Austin's group sure laid an egg. This is the CFL's most erratic squad. Again.
5. There are some basic parenting rules that apply here: Patrick Kaleta gets his day in appeals court today, which is fine, and certainly the absence of an appeal mechanism before the last CBA was totally unfair for NHL players. This 10-game sort of feels like a career achievement award for one of the NHL's dirtiest players, who was fined or suspended six times in four years before this one. Which is sort of the point. Brendan Shanahan and Colin Campbell before him always try to be lenient at first, try to give players a chance to go forth and sin no more, but they get burned by guys like Kaleta who just use the system to play their particular "brand" of the sport knowing they can keep stretching the envelope (memories of the artist once known as Matt Cooke). If Kaleta had been hit harder before, maybe he wouldn't have got to this point. For example, hit Dallas forward Ryan Garbutt hard now - start with 10 - for his hit on Dustin Penner, and you won't be seeing Garbutt over and over and over. Its a pretty easy concept. By the way when, pray tell, is the NHLPA going to take a stand against one of the game's worst predators - Kaleta - rather than defending him?
6. Creating a little more room to operate: Spent some time down at South Bend on the weekend watching some football and taking in a couple of games at the magnificent, $53 million Compton Family Ice Rink where the Fighting Irish play hockey. What a place. Most interesting? When they designed the rink, they made it 95 feet wide, which is somewhere in the middle between the NHL's dimensions (85 feet) and the bigger international rinks (100 feet). ND hockey execs just thought it fit the kind of hockey program they wanted to run. You wonder if an NHL team will ever make that kind of spacious choice. Or would be allowed to.
7. Just the facts without the pomp and circumstance: Watching the Broncos and Colts one was reminded just how good Cris Collinsworth is at his job. Certainly the best analyst in football, and probably in sports. Or maybe neck and neck with tennis' John McEnroe. Anyways, with Collinsworth there's never any need for goofy gimmicks, he never plays the "when I played" card and his ability to create conversation around offensive and defensive plays despite having been an offensive player is extraordinary. Collinsworth isn't about flash. He's just damn good.
8. A Panther to keep an eye on: One of the players the Maple Leafs have been eying from afar over the past couple of seasons is defenceman Dmitri Kulikov of the Florida Panthers, and Kulikov might just be more available now than he was because of the wreckage of Florida's early season play. He's only 22, but already has four full seasons in the NHL. A couple of problems. He won't come cheap. He's in the last year of a contract that comes with a $2.5 million hit and will be looking for a significant pay increase this summer. And he shoots left, with the Leafs more in need of a right-handed shooting blueliner. Like Mike Kostka. Oh, never mind. . .
9. Leafs would like a mulligan on that one: Toronto's had very good luck using the trade market to acquire offensive players in recent years, so it's probably fair that a few have backfired, as well. So when you look at the NHL scoring stats this morning and see former Leaf first rounder Alexander Steen tied for the NHL lead in goals with seven, it's a sombre reminder of the dangers of making decisions too early on players before they're full formed. Interim GM Cliff Fletcher shipped Steen and defenceman Carlo Colaiacovo to St. Louis in 2008 to get what he hoped would be a proven scorer in Lee Stempniak, who instead had the deer-in-the-headlights look the moment he arrived in town and didn't stay long. Steen is unlikely to stay at or near the top of NHL scorers. But he's become a very important player for the Blues.
10. The value of losing: By most estimates, the Leafs weren't even in the game on Saturday night against the Hawks, which should surprise absolutely no one. One of the league's youngest teams, a team that's been playing with fire for a while now, gets undressed by the champs. Makes sense, and now, surely, Randy Carlyle has his team's attention. Still, before the season started, Detroit GM Ken Holland said by his estimation to make the playoffs with any sort of margin for error you have to consistently win six out of every 10 games. Well, the Leafs have six wins in nine games despite injuries and suspensions, and have a chance to make it seven wins in 10 tomorrow night against the sizzling Ducks. Panic if you want, but it hardly seems the time.