Saturday, November 26, 2011

The NFL A-Jen-Da: Week 12 Picks

Vikings @ Falcons: Falcons
Must I really explain this pick? It would take a Thanksgiving miracle for the Vikings to win this one.

Bills @ Jets: Jets
Although the Bills had a strong start to the season, they have won a game since week five. Yes, the Jets haven't been living up to the expectations that Ryan has set before his team, but the Bills have taken everyone by surprise and now have settled back to lackluster form. Not to mention, the Jets are 4-1 at home while the Bills are 1-4 away.

Browns @ Bengals: Bengals
Part of my decision for picking the Bengals is because I still have a soft spot for Cedric Benson. Maybe I just feel nostalgic since I remember that 2005 draft. Then as I looked at the stats, the Bengals seem to be the stronger team. Both teams give up about 20 points a game. However, the Bengals score an average of 24 points while the Browns only score an average of about 15 points. The Bengals have a superior offense, and it's no wonder considering the year that Dalton has had. Cleveland has a slight edge on defense, but they could hardly outperform the Bengals defense.

Buccaneers @ Titans: Titans
This pick I based on stats. Hey, it works for me! Well, sometimes. First, the Titans are 3-2 at home while the Buccs are 1-3 on the road. Second, the Titans give up an average of 20 points a game and score about 21 points a game. Living on the edge I guess. Meanwhile, the Buccs give up about 27 points a game while only scoring about 20 points a game. Hence, their 4-6 record.

Panthers @ Colts: Panthers
I think this is going to be a huge win for the Panthers. Don't let that 2-8 record fool you. Considering that the Panthers have a rookie quarterback and have a rather difficult schedule, this is a pretty good team. They should steamroll the Colts who seem to not be a team without Manning. Wondering if they need a Harbaugh because it isn't that the Colts lack talent, they just lack a star quarterback...

Cardinals @ Rams: Cardinals
Although one of my good friends is a Rams fan, I have this funky feeling that the Cards will surprise and win. Sorry! Even though the Cards will most likely be without Kolb and have to use Skelton, I feel confident in Fitzgerald and Wells to carry the offense. The Cards looked miserable last week against the  49ers, but then again, they were playing the 49ers. The Rams are definitely not that team. I think Bradford has the motivation to play well considering his dismal performance last week, frustration seems to be setting in, and that mental blockage might hinder him again. The Rams are the better team in this match-up, and there is a very good chance that this a bad pick. I'm admitting it, but every week has a surprise.

Texans @ Jaguars: Texans
Even though Schaub is out and Leinart is making his first appearance as a Texans starter, he's playing the Jags. Not to mention, with Johnson, Foster, and Tate, how badly can things go? The Texans D is pretty solid when they have it all together, so if they do their job and Leinart can make some good plays, this is a done deal. And in no way am I influenced by the fact that I have Foster and Tate on my fantasy team.

Bears @ Raiders: Bears
Raiders fans seem to think, "No Cutler, no problem." Casual football fans think, "Oh, the team without its star quarterback won't win." I think they are high off their fanny. For what are the Bears best known? It's DEFENSE!!!! In fact, there are a couple games I can recall that the defense won the game this season. Look at the Lions game from only a couple weeks ago. Yes, Forte ran one in and Bennett caught another TD, but the rest was all defense. Yes, Cutler is a huge part of the offense, which I don't think is topping any NFL lists. Yes, it's going to hurt the offense not having him. However, the Raiders will still have to shut down Forte, which is not easy. But can Palmer and the ailing Raiders offense handle Urlacher and Co.? Now, if the Bears were missing Urlacher, then I would worry. He has such a presence on the team based on his talent as a player and as a leader, the Bears fall apart when he isn't playing. In my opinion, he would be more of a key departure. What the Bears also have going for them is that at some point, the Raiders will be kicking to Hester. I see another return for a touchdown in the future. I think this will be number fourteen? Not to mention, Hanie is hungry for this win. Sure, it won't be a smooth performance since he hasn't played this season and had an injury himself last year. But he wants to prove he belongs in the NFL and has a place with the Bears, especially since they just signed McCown. He's knows what's on the line. So for all those Raiders fans who think this one is in the bag, you better think twice. And I would be proudly wearing my Urlacher jersey at the Coliseum if I didn't have to fear for my life. I saw that preseason 9ers game, and I know what the Black Hole is!

Redskins @ Seahawks: Seahawks
As much as I love Sexy Rexy (are you seeing a trend yet?), I think the Seahawks are going to win. These teams are fairly evenly matched, but two factors sway in the Seahawks's favor. First, they are finally getting their act together and playing well while the Redskins seem to be crumbling. Second, it is a home game, and the Redskins are 1-4 on the road.

Broncos @ Chargers: Broncos
What can I say? I believe in Tebow. Oh, that and Cutler has beef with Rivers, so I don't like him either. That's pretty much my reasoning. I realize that the Chargers might be the stronger team when looking at the stats, but I have a hard time rooting for San Diego. Not to mention, Tebow has been outstanding since taking over for Orton (surprisingly, no love for him, only aberration in trend).

Patriots @ Eagles: Patriots
Again, do I really need to explain this one? Just one thing. Last week, Kansas City couldn't do anything. The one thing they did do was shut down Welker and forgot about everything else. At least I got points out of Gronkowski (very wise draft choice). I need fantasy points, so Eagles defense, do what you do, but I would very much appreciate it if you didn't have to clobber the guy! Thank you.

Steelers @ Chiefs: Steelers
I saw some people pick the Chiefs. Ummmm... I'm not sure the knew they were supposed to pick the winners... If last week is any indication of this week, I expect the Chiefs defense to go after Wallace and not do much else.

Giants @ Saints: Saints
Anytime you're playing the Saints in the Superdome, you're going to lose.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The NFL A-Jen-Da: Thanksgiving Games

Packers @ Lions: Packers
If not for the Harbowl, this would probably be the most anticipated game of the day. Ford Field will be in pandemonium, and only the bravest Packers fans will risk donning their Rogers jerseys in the city. If the Packers are to be defeated this season, this could be the game to break the amazing win streak, but I don't think it will be this game. The Lions aren't particularly strong at home, barely breaking the 500 mark at 3-2, and the Packers have been strong on the road. Looking at the stats, both teams give up about 21 points a game. However, the Packers average about 35 points a game while the Lions only average about 30. What the Packers have going for them is obviously Rogers and the unbelievable year that he's had, which has made him the forerunner for MVP. On offense, the Packers outscore the Lions in yards rushing and total passing. What works in favor of the Lions, is that they can run the ball slightly better than the Packers, and with Starks being questionable, the scale tips even farther in the Lions' favor. The Lions have a slightly better defense, but I don't think it will outperform Rogers & Co. This is going to be a close game and an interesting game, but I think the Packers will come out on top.

Dolphins @ Cowboys: Cowboys
Although the Dolphins struggled considerably more, both of these teams had their struggles to start the season. Both are now on a win streak of three games. The Dolphins seemed to have found a way to finish games now with Henne out of the picture. I remember early in the season, the Cowboys found flukey ways to pull out a victory, but their last few games have been from playing great football. While the Dolphins will put up a good fight, I think the Cowboys will prevail because they seemed to have found their stride. Romo has a 64.5% completion rate, which isn't far from Rogers's 70%. He's thrown for 2800 yards, and defending the pass isn't one of the Dolphins's strong suits. The Cowboys do have a hard time establishing their running game, but I think their passing game will more than make up for it.

49ers @ Ravens: 49ers
This is probably the most anticipated game of the week, or it is at least drummed up to be that way. Although the Ravens are the slightly superior team, I have to give this one to the 49ers. There is absolutely no sensible reason for it, but I feel that they will come out on top. Or maybe I buy into the local hype? The 9ers haven't been constantly dominating teams all year; they have had some ugly wins. What they seem to do well is play to their strengths. Alex Smith is not a superstar quarterback, and the media has railed on him since he started. What seems to have changed is Harbaugh. He's like the quarterback whisperer. It's not that Smith has become an elite QB (and if you've been watching you'd know this), but he's not making the errors that he had in the past. He's tightened up his game and has been part of the reason the 9ers have been winning. The defense has been excellent, and I think they can handle Flacco, whose stats are not all that impressive. Yes, I realize that the 9ers have an incredible record partly because of their schedule, but they did beat the Lions by playing some really great football when the Lions were still undefeated. Most people won't remember that and focus on the controversial handshake which was pretty much the only thing that anyone seemed to find newsworthy. What the 49ers also have going for them is that this is a team that has found some solidarity and unity under Harbaugh. The team bonding retreats have really paid off, and it seems to show on the field. This is a huge game for their coach, and they will do whatever it takes to bring him that win. I have a feeling they will.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A New Perspective on Goalies: Part Two

Yes, this is a real "part two" in the sense that if you didn't read or weren't paying attention to "part one," you will have no idea what I'm talking about and should go back to read the first segment or just skip both of these posts entirely. I'll discuss some of the goaltenders outside of the top ten that have significant discrepancies between their DIGR and NHL standings. Again, there are some big surprises.

For example, Jaroslav Halak ranked 32nd with a 0.910 SVP and 27 wins of 57 games played. According to DIGR, he placed 14th with a 0.9178 SVP. The Blues have had their struggles having missed the layoffs the last two years and only making the first round of the playoffs in 2009. What can be gleaned from this DIGR status is that, those struggles have not come from Halak. He boasted seven shutouts last season, fourth most in the NHL. Considering his DIGR value, this is very impressive and adds to his value on the team. If the Blues are looking for a move that would put them in a playoff hunt, keeping Halak should be a priority. They should think about adding some offensive firepower to their roster because they have solid D with Coliacovo, Pietrangelo, and now Shattenkirk. However, there is a significant dip in points after their top scorer Backes. Although the Blues may be facing some financial troubles in terms of the franchise, they should take a page from Brian Burke and make some key trades.

The only other goaltender who also has a much higher DIGR value than NHL ranking is Ondrej Pavelec. In the NHL, he ranked 26th with a 0.914 SVP and 21 wins of 58 games played. However, DIGR ranked him 16th with a 0.9177 SVP. The former Thrashers only had 34 wins last season, and 21 of them occurred with Pavelec between the pipes. When you consider his stats and that this team had ranked 25th in the league, it becomes clear that this netminder is an essential part of the team's success. Yes, the Thrashers had great defense with Byfuglien, Enstrom, and Bogosian, but Pavelec's DIGR proves that his name should be right along the likes of Rinne, who ranked just 12th on the same list. If the Jets want to have a successful run, they're going to have to add an elite scorer. Ladd, Kane, and Little aren't enough to give this team a rise in the standings.

One goaltender I absolutely loathe to admit has a serious drop between the DIGR and NHL lists is Jonathan Quick. I am a diehard Kings fan, and I'll admit that I was lukewarm on Quick when he first started. However, I have grown to love this guy and wish this weren't so! Quick is an up-and-comer in the NHL who has taken the experts by surprise and is quickly becoming a favorite. In the NHL, he ranked 16th with a 0.9180 SVP with 35 wins in 65 games. On DIGR, he ranked 37th with a 0.9091 SVP. One thing that is specifically mentioned in Schuckers' analysis is that Quick faced easy shots. Considering that the Kings boast arguably the best Canadian defenseman in DD and the best American defenseman in JMFJ, it would be reasonable to assume that the D is shutting down the angles that would make it difficult for Quick to stop or something along those lines. One thing that is noted is that Quick does go on streaks. During last season, the Kings were almost bipolar in their wins and losses, and part of it was due to Quick's performance. It seemed as though there were some confidence issues or mental blockages that would surface from time to time. He would make some great acrobatic saves, which is in tune with his athletic style, but he would also allow some bad goals that provoked frustration for him. However, when he got hot, he stayed hot for a while. Quick ranked fifth in goals-against average with 2.24. He also led the league in shootouts winning all ten. Looking to this season, the addition of Richards from the Flyers was key to add firepower to Kopitar. If the Kings want to be successful, Murray will have to tune in to Quick's ups and downs and not sit him out when he's on a roll and not be afraid to send Bernier out more frequently when Quick begins a downward slide. This is much easier said than done, especially from afar.

Recently on the NHL Rush with Brodie Brazil and Drew Hoffar, they described the Red Wing's goaltender as "elite." (For those of you Wings fans, I am not using the quotes as mocking air quotes but actually quoting the radio hosts. Just wait until you read the rest of the paragraph to get red.) Howard ranked 33rd in the NHL with a 0.908 SVP with 37 wins in 63 games played. Considering that he was third in wins just below Price and Luongo had 38, this stat is impressive. However, on DIGR, Howard ranked 40th with a 0.9064 SVP. Schuckers' study does compare the goalie's DIGR with that of an average goalie. In Howard's case, the average goalie would have a 0.9137 SVP. Yikes! So how is it that Howard has so many wins yet a less than average SVP? Well, when you play on a team that has Zetterberg, Lidstrom, Datsyuk, Franzen, Holmstrom, Cleary, and Rafalski, it isn't that hard to figure out how they win. Many of the Wings's games last season were high scoring. Despite the fact that Howard had a 2.79 GAA, it was the Wings's offense that kept the team winning. Yes, I think Howard deserves to be a number one goaltender (heck, he was on my fantasy team last year), but I wouldn't begin to compare him with Thomas or Luongo. And yes, in case Drew and/or Brodie is reading this, "Texter Jen" is me.

One name that I was surprised to see on the list was Mikka Kiprusoff. The experts love to rave about this goaltender. In the NHL, he ranked 34th (just below Howard), with a 0.906 SVP with 37 wins (same as Howard) in 71 games. On DIGR's list, he ranked 45th with a 0.9020 SVP. Again, like Howard, Kiprusoff's SVP was lower than the average goalie would would have had a 0.9198. This is a goaltender who commands a $7 million salary (like Rinne). He is a good goaltender, but given his stats from last season, he underperformed. To command the salary that he does, he is going to have to make more stops. However, as the discrepancy between DIGR and the NHL demonstrated, part of his success came from having Giordano, Bouwmeester, and Reghr on D. The Flames were just shy of the playoffs last season, so they'll need Kiprusoff to do a little more to make it this year.

One last goaltender that should be mention is Niklas Backstrom. He ranked 20th in the NHL with a 0.916 SVP and 22 wins of 51 games. He ranked 33rd on the DIGR with a 0.9120 SVP. When most people think about the Wild, they probably first think of Mikko Koivu then Backstrom. He's an essential piece of the team. However, his success was partially due to his defense. Burns, Zidlicky, and Barker created opportunities for him to make the saves. This season, it will be interesting to see if there is a drop in his SVP considering that Burns and Barker are no longer with the team. This does give Zanon and Schultz a chance to step up and make the big defensive plays which will be key to the team's success.

Monday, November 14, 2011

A New Perspective on Goaltenders: Part One

Last week, Peter Keating of ESPN Insider wrote an interesting article that sited a study on a new way to evaluate goaltenders. Similar to how it is difficult to evaluate a quarterback because of the quality of his wide receivers and running backs, it is not easy to determine the success of a goalie because of a team's defensemen. Michael Schuckers created a system that issued a Defense Independent Goalie Rating (DIGR) to each goaltender. The study examined every shot that each goaltender faced during the 2010-2011 season. Factors that were considered included from where the shot was taken, the type of shot, and the quality of the opposing team.

Comparison of the Top Ten
NHL Rankings                                                      DIGR Rankings
1. Tim Thomas  0.938 SVP, 35 W/57 GP                1. Tim Thomas  0.9312 SVP
2. Pekka Rinne  0.930 SVP, 33 W/64 GP               2. Cory Schneider  0.9285 SVP
3. Cory Schneider  0.929 SVP, 16 W/25 GP            3. Roberto Luongo  0.9269 SVP
4. Roberto Luongo  0.928 SVP, 38 W/60 GP         4. Jonas Hiller  0.9269 SVP
5. Jonas Hiller  0.924 SVP, 26 W/49 GP                 5. Ilya Bryzgalov  0.9234 SVP
6. Semyon Varlamov  0.924 SVP, 11 W/27 GP        6. Cam Ward  0.9232 SVP
7. Carey Price  0.923 SVP, 38 W/72 GP                  7. Marc-Andre Fleury  0.9227 SVP
8. Henrik Lundqvist  0.923 SVP, 36 W/68 GP        8. Devan Dubnyk  0.9224 SVP
9. Cam Ward  0.923 SVP, 37 W/74 GP                   9. Corey Crawford  0.9219 SVP
10. Tomas Vokoun  0.922 SVP, 22 W/57 GP          10. Carey Price  0.9218 SVP

The top five goaltenders are more or less the same. Tim Thomas still reigns supreme on both lists. Although the Bruins have excellent defense, Thomas was, and continues to be, very much the MVP of this team. If he had played at this level in 2010, he would not have taken the number two position and may very well have again beaten Luongo in the battle of the goaltenders.

Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo were still the best goalie tandem in the NHL no matter which system of evaluation. I remember watching Schneider in his first game of last season while Luongo was going through a funk and knew the Canucks had something special. This guy is going to have an incredible career in the NHL, with or without the Canucks. I'm sure teams are watching Schneider and will be jumping at the chance to get him should he ever become a free agent while the Canucks are still locked in with Luongo.

Jonas Hiller also remained in the top five and rightfully so. He seemed to have faltered a bit during the beginning of last season, but he wasn't the only one underperforming. The Ducks took a slow start but once they began to become a cohesive unit, Hiller was outstanding. On a team that boasts 70-plus point scorers Perry, Selanne, Getzlaf, and Ryan along with the top scoring D-man in the league with Visnovsky, one would think that a top goaltender would be irrelevant. However, Hiller was, and is an integral part of the success of the Ducks.

One name that is noticeably NOT on the DIGR list is Pekka Rinne. He was rated second in the NHL with a 0.930 save percentage and 35 wins of 57 games. On the DIGR rankings, he took the 12th slot with a 0.9204 save percentage, which was still higher than the average goalie who would get a 0.9160. For most of last season, the experts had been singing Rinne's praises, especially on how the Predators would never have made it to a postseason had it not been for the team's goaltending. Although I whole-heartedly agree with this evaluation considering that Rinne has often made remarkable saves that kept the Preds in the game with their weak offense, it is undeniable the type of defense that Trotz has built for that team. One cannot undermine the value of Weber and Suter for that team. However, this DIGR study does make one question if the Predators might have rethought signing Rinne to a $7 million a year contract over the next seven years while Thomas is only making $6 million? But perhaps this is steal considering Luongo's $10 million salary.

One name that broke the top 5 on the DIGR list but was not even included in the top 10 of the NHL is Ilya Bryzgalov. Although most of the experts, whomever you would like to consider them to be, would consider him a top goaltender, he has never been one of the sexy names of the NHL. Perhaps this is a factor of playing for a struggling franchise such as the Coyotes. Many of the same experts never gave the Coyotes much of a chance when they did make the playoffs, but Bryzgalov is never left out of the conversation when there is a discussion of the team. Maybe it's a factor of being a bottom two in a division, albeit the Pacific which is arguably the most competitive division in the league. Reexamining the DIGR ratings against the new contract that Bryzgalov just signed during the offseason with the Flyers, it seems the Flyers have a deal. For a franchise that hasn't had a winning goaltender for almost as long as the Chicago Bears haven't had a winning quarterback, Bryzgalov is every penny and more of the $5.67 million a year. This is even a steal for a 0.9234 SVP which can be matched with a team that has star D-men Carle, Meszaros, Pronger, and Timmonen with snipers Giroux, Briere, rookie Coutrier, and up-and-coming JVR, it is highly likely that the Flyers will go deep into the postseason... unless there really is a goalie curse in Philly...

Marc-Andre Fleury is another name that surprised me as to not make the NHL top ten. Last season, he ranked 15th in the NHL but ranked 7th on the DIGR. This 2009 Stanley Cup winner was been stellar between the pipes with 36 wins in 65 games played last year. The Pens may have missed Crosby and Malkin for the last stretch, but Fleury had stepped up and was making the big plays that the team needed in order to make it through to the postseason. This year, the Pens continue in their winning ways and Fleury has been a huge part of it.

One last name that was not included in the NHL top ten or even top 15 but ranked 9th on the DIGR is Corey Crawford. Perhaps he has flown under the radar because he was a rookie goaltender, and the media were, and are, still enamored of 2010 Stanley Cup Blackhawks (now Sharks) goalie Antti Niemi. During the postseason after that Cup win, no one could believe that the Hawks were letting Niemi go. The media were about as astonished over this move as when Gretzky was traded to the Kings (okay, this is a blatant exaggeration, but you get the idea), and all the experts were already giving up on the Hawks going to a postseason in 2011. However, looking at these DIGR ratings, this was an ingenious move. The Hawks already knew they were looking at salary cap problems once they won the Cup, and they were unwilling to release players like Kane, Toews, Keith, Seabrook, Sharp, and Pisani (okay, that was a joke). However, they probably knew that Niemi was a piece that could be replaced since he had not been the starting goaltender for a part of the season, and they were developing Crawford. According to DIGR, his save percentage was 0.9219. He ranked 17th in the NHL with a 0.917 SVP with 33 wins of 57 games played. On the other hand, Niemi ranked 26th on the DIGR with a 0.9138 SVP, but he took the 13th slot in the NHL with a 0.920 SVP and 35 wins in 65 games played. If we take the DIGR numbers, Crawford comes out on top as the better goaltender. He is able to stop more pucks no matter the defense. Looking at his numbers, it is no wonder the Hawks are taking the West by storm to start the 2011 season.

On the other hand, there are names that are highly valued on the NHL list but not on the DIGR list, like Rinne as discussed above. One name that stands out in my mind is Henrik Lundqvist. He's one of the other sexy names in the NHL. The Rangers had their struggles throughout the season and barely made the playoffs. However, their one saving grace was often Lundqvist. He led the league in shutouts with 11. Although all the praise has gone to Lundqvist, DIGR forces one to take a second look. According to DIGR, Lundqvist ranked 13th with a 0.9180 SVP, a bit of a dip from his NHL 0.923 SVP. I'm a huge fan of King Henrik, so it pains me to say this but looks like he needs to give a bit of a shout out to his D-men. And this is true, considering the Rangers lacked true fire power (which made this offseason's move to acquire Brad Richards a must for the team), their wins had to come from star defensemen like Girardi, Staal, and Eminger. Rookie Michael Sauer also played a large role for the D. While a great puck-handler in his own right, he does attribute some of his success to the Rangers defense.

One other name that ranks high on the NHL list but lower on DIGR is Vokoun. He ranked in the tenth slot but only 15th on DIGR with a 0.9177 SVP. To me, Vokoun sneaked onto the NHL list since Florida has such a struggling team, so no one really talked about them. The have missed the playoffs for at least the last five years and was only able to get 72 points last season. Vokoun had always been a player to watch when discussing the Panthers, but his value was perhaps only slightly inflated. Some of that success can be attributed to the D. During the offseason, the Panthers have been aggressive in shaking up the team and have acquired Campbell and Jovanovski to bolster their D, and they have let Vokoun go and acquired Jose Theodore from the Minnesota Wild. Apparently, the Panthers must have felt that Vokoun was no longer part of their path to the Cup.

Along the same lines, Semyon Varlamov, who spent last year with the Capitals, ranked 6th in the NHL with a 0.924 save percentage and 11 wins of 27 games. According to DIGR, he would have been placed at 19th with 0.9170. It should be noted that Varlamov was not a starting goaltender for the Caps, but the Avs have placed him in that position for this season. It is difficult to assess Varlamov since he only played in 27 games, but it seems that the Caps defense is a large part of his success. The top D stars Green, Alzner, and Erskine attributed to Varlamov's high value in the NHL as opposed to DIGR. However, the Avalanche certainly made the improvements they needed when snagging him. In what I considered the least impressive trade of last season, the Avs sent Craig Anderson to Ottawa and received Brian Elliott. Anderson slightly dipped in DIGR with a 0.9121 save percentage which is slightly worse than the average goalie who would have a 0.9182. In the NHL, he ranked 28th with a 0.913 save percentage and 24 wins in 51 games. Elliott ranked 47th on DIGR with a 0.900 save percentage, which was worse than the average goalie who would have a 0.9160. In the NHL, Elliott ranked 43rd with a 0.893 save percentage and 15 wins in 55 games. In both cases, the defense is a factor in the success of the goalies. For the Avalanche, inking Valamov during the offseason was definitely a push in the right direction... and of course selecting Landeskog 2nd overall in the draft definitely didn't hurt either.

Link to study:
Link to NHL rankings:

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Greatest Players to Have Never Won Anything

For those not in the New York or San Jose markets in which this story has probably been hashed and rehashed and probably rerehashed, I will recap. When the Rangers defeated the Sharks 2-5 in a game on October 31, Joe Thornton, the captain of the Sharks, commented that the Rangers were a "soft" team. John Tortorella, the coach of the Rangers, did not take kindly to this statement and fired back saying that Thornton lacked class for his comment and is one of the great players in the league to have never won anything. Maybe it's the Florida connection (Tortorella coached the Tampa Bay Lightning to their Stanley Cup win in 2004), but this made me immediately think of Dan Marino... which lead me to think if Joe Thornton never wins a Cup, how accurate might this statement be?

Status: Retired                                                 Status: Active
Born in Pittsburgh, Pa                                    Born in Lyndale, Ontario, Canada
Stats: 6'4", 224 lbs                                            Stats: 6'4", 230 lbs (Jumbo Joe)
Draft: Selected 27th overall but first              Draft: Selected 1st overall by the Boston
          for the Miami Dolphins in the                          Bruins in the 1997 draft
          1983 draft                          
Wears #13                                                        Wears #19
Career: 1983-1999 (16 years with the           Career: 1997-2004; 2005: Boston Bruins
             Miami Dolphins)                                            2004-2005: HC Davos (lockout)
                                                                                      2005-present: San Jose Sharks
College Distinction: 1981 National                Juniors Distinction:
             College Quarterback of                            1996 CHL Rookie of the Year
             the Year runner-up (University              1996 OHL Rookie of the Year
             of Pittsburgh)                                            (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds)
Pro Bowl Appearances: 1983 (first rookie    All-Star Appearances: 2002, 2003, 2004,
       QB to play), 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987,             2007, 2008, and 2009 (named
       1991, 1992, 1994, and 1995                             captain)
Super Bowl Appearances: Super Bowl          Stanley Cup Appearances: None; made the
           XIX in 1985, defeated by Joe                     playoffs with the Boston Bruins in
          Montana and the San Francisco                 2002, 2003, and 2004; made the
          49ers; made the playoffs in 1983,               playoffs with the San Jose Sharks in
          1984, 1985, 1990, 1992, 1994,                      2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and
          1995, 1997, 1998, and 1999                         2011             
Awards: 1984 NFL MVP                                  Awards: 2006 Art Ross and Hart
                                                                                Memorial trophies, only player to win
                                                                                the Hart while splitting the season
                                                                                with two clubs
Notable Distinctions and Milestones:            Notable Distinctions and Milestones:
      Played 242 games and started 240              2011: Played in 1,000th game
           of them                                                       April 8, 2011: Scored 1,000th point
      Ranks 3rd in all-time wins with 147                      against the Phoenix Coyotes
      First QB to have six 4,000 yard seasons     2005-2006: 125 points, the highest
              (1984,1985, 1986, 1988, 1992,                          point total for a player during
              and 1994)                                                           a season with two clubs
      First QB to pass for 5,000 yards in a          2006-2007: 3rd player in NHL
              season (5,084 yards in 1984)                           history to post 90-assist
      Played the most seasons for the Miami                  seasons in back-to-back years
              Dolphins franchise                                2010: Won the gold medal with Team
      Has 110 wins with former head coach                    in the Vancouver Olympics
              Don Shula, the second most for a
              coach-QB tandem
      Inducted into the Hall of Fame 2005

Comparing the impressive careers of these two athletes, Dan and Joe are not so different. Each has proven to be a superstar and have reached pivotal milestones. Marino may be able to boast having played in the Super Bowl and won the conference championship, but Thornton still has neither won the conference nor appeared in the Stanley Cup final. However, Joe is not empty handed, for he can raise his gold medal from the 2010 Olympics. It should be noted that Marino would never be able to do so since football is not an Olympic sport, or at least not American football. Although Marino has been featured in the blockbuster hit Ace Ventura: Pet Detective while Joe has yet to make his Hollywood debut.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Week 10: Oakland @ San Diego

My pick: San Diego

This match-up would be more interesting if these teams weren't both struggling. This seems a game of which team won't screw up more at this point. The Raiders have their obvious problems with the absence of Campbell and bringing in a new quarterback who hadn't even played a game since the end of last season. This is compounded by the fact that their star running back is also sidelined with a foot injury. Their kicker along with a few others are also questionable for tomorrow night's game. The Raiders have lost their last two games, and Palmer has averaged three interceptions in each game that he has played. However, given that Palmer did not start the year with the team, or any team for that matter, it isn't unexpected that the Raiders have a struggling offense. And as Player X notes in this month's ESPN, a team's best defense is a good offense. No matter what a defense might do to put the offense in a good position, the offense needs to do its part as well. It isn't fair to immediately expect production out of Palmer given the circumstances, but the Raiders are going to have to hope things run better than they have been. And perhaps what also doesn't bode well for the Raiders is what Coach Jackson deems their "not playing smart football." They have taken numerous penalties, and they currently lead the league with 84 penalties.

This isn't to say that San Diego will have a swift victory. Rivers has been averaging two interceptions a game in his last three, just one less than Oakland's Palmer, and currently leads the league with fourteen interceptions. He has been a player in the blame-game for the team's last three losses. The Chargers may also be without their top rusher Matthews due to injury, but I believe that will be a game-time decision. However, what does bode well for the Chargers is that they play well at home with a 3-1 record this season, and nothing motivates a team, regardless of the sport, than a home win off a losing streak. The Chargers have their problems, but they are not greater than those of the Raiders. Because each team has been sloppy and has not been able to overcome their struggles, I expect this to be a close game and maybe not very pretty.