• Predictions on the NHL award winners

    Just as Nostradamus prophesied the end of times (with the help of misinterpretations and mistranslations by us), I will skillfully predict the end times of the NHL. 

    No, just kidding. After covering five NHL veterans who will make a big impact with their new teams last week, my NHL season preview will wrap up today with predictions on the award winners of this upcoming season.

    Calder Trophy: Jonathan Drouin, left winger, Tampa Bay Lightning

    Coming into this season, Drouin possesses both hype and a proven track record. While playing with the Halifax Mooseheads in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League last year, he scored 29 goals and 79 assists, while proving himself to be an offensive threat. This year, he'll have to prove himself to be capable of producing at the NHL level. I think he'll be able to do that next to All-Star center Steven Stamkos on the first line.

    Selke Award: Patrice Bergeron, center, Boston Bruins

    Bergeron winning another Selke would be no surprise. This award, given to the best two-way forward in the NHL, was won by Bergeron last year. He posted 30 goals and 32 assists while having the best overall season of his career. On a team where some of last season's offensive production was not replaced, Bergeron will have to bear the brunt of the goal scoring. Thanks to this, I foresee him having an even better season than last year with a full-season of Brad Marchand and Reilly Smith on his line.

    Hart Trophy: Sidney Crosby, center, Pittsburgh Penguins

    Despite being regarded as the best player in the league, Crosby has only won two Hart trophies (the NHL's MVP award) through nine NHL seasons. His health has hampered him at times, but his production has not suffered a decline. Last year, he finished with 36 goals and 68 assists, leading the league in both assists and points scored. Crosby's performance and team record (51-24-7) were good enough for Crosby to win his second Hart trophy last year. I think he'll be able to win another this year thanks to good health, continued production at the highest level, and more responsibility as the leading scorer on the Penguins.

    Vezina Trophy: Carey Price, goaltender, Montreal Canadiens

    Along with defenseman P.K. Subban, Carey Price was integral to the Canadiens (and the Canadians in the Olympics) success last season. He had his best statistical season last year with a .927 save percentage and a 2.32 goals against average. While I don't think he'll surpass those numbers, thanks to continued high production on a great team, he'll get more recognition as a top goaltender. 

    Norris Trophy: Drew Doughty, defenseman, Los Angeles Kings

    Through Doughty's six NHL seasons, he has four top-10 finishes for the Norris Trophy. But this year, I'm predicting he'll finally get over the hump and win the trophy for himself. Last season, Doughty's performance as an offensive-minded defenseman was integral to the Los Angeles Kings' Stanley Cup win. He held his own and proved that defensemen don't need gaudy offensive statistics to be hugely effective for their team. Thanks to Doughty's incredible 2014 performance in the Stanley Cup playoffs, he'll have the momentum necessary to be recognized as the top defenseman in the NHL.

    Stanley Cup: Boston Bruins

    Last season, the Bruins were defeated by the Montreal Canadiens in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. For the winners of the President's Trophy (the NHL's best regular season team), being knocked out of the playoffs so early was a disappointment. Due to salary cap constraints, the Bruins were unable to retain right winger Jarome Iginla and were forced to trade defenseman Johnny Boychuk this off-season. However, I think the Bruins will come back strong this year thanks to their Holy Trinity (center Patrice Bergeron, defenseman Zdeno Chara, and goaltender Tuukka Rask) and a weak Eastern Conference.

  • Longhorns look to rebuild team through offensive line commits

    Following a season in which the Longhorns failed to win more than nine games for the fourth year in a row, culminating in a 30-7 defeat against Oregon in the Holiday Bowl, new head coach Charlie Strong came into the offseason looking to bolster its program in a multitude of ways.

    For Strong, one key way to improve the program was to upgrade the talent level coming to the team. In an increasingly competitive state featuring vastly improved programs such as Baylor and Texas A&M, Strong focused on building the team through the offensive line in his recruitment of the Class of 2015.

    Currently, the Longhorns have 17 commits for the Class of 2015, five of those commits being offensive linemen. This is the highest number of offensive line commits the Longhorns have had in four years. The five commits on the offensive-line -- offensive tackles Connor Williams, Ronnie Major and Toby Weathersby and offensive guards Patrick Vahe and Garrett Thomas -- will come to a Texas team that has recently seen mass changeover on its offensive line in the first year of the Strong era. 

    Of the changes at offensive line, the first came during the season opener, in which senior center Dominic Espinosa broke his ankle during a 38-7 Longhorns win. Prior to the injury, Espinosa was viewed as the anchor of the Texas offensive line -- and the Texas offense as a whole -- as Espinosa had started 40 consecutive games for the Longhorns, dating back to the beginning of the 2011 season. 

    After the departure of Espinosa, the offensive line was dealt another blow when Strong suspended senior offensive tackle Desmond Harrison and junior offensive tackle Kennedy Estelle for violating team rules. Estelle was eventually dismissed from the team on Sept. 23, making him the ninth Longhorn dismissed from the team during Strong’s tenure as head coach. 

    The injury to Espinosa and the dismissal of Estelle dealt large blows to an inexperienced Longhorns offensive line, that minus Espinosa had only nine career starts coming into the season. With an offensive line that has lacked any true sense of cohesion thus far, the Longhorns are  currently ranked 106th in the nation in points per game, averaging under 16 points per game in their last three contests.

    For a Longhorns offense that has struggled to move the ball both on the ground and through the air, a revamped offense can be expected for the 2015 season. The addition of the five offensive line commits will be an integral part of that revamped offense, and their ability to play together as a cohesive unit will be vital to the Longhorns hopes of returning to the top of the Big 12 in years to come. 

  • Early look at the College Football Playoffs

    When a giant sequoia falls in Northern California, and no one is around to hear it, does it still make a sound? I’d be willing to bet it does, and a pretty loud sound at that.

    On Thursday, the Oregon Ducks fell at home to the Arizona Wildcats, making it the second straight loss to Arizona in two seasons. Unfortunately for the Ducks, many were around to see and hear them fall from their number two ranking.
     
    With Oregon’s loss, the likelihood of having four unbeaten playoff contenders is starting to get very, very slim.
     
    There are now several possibilities for this year’s college football playoff that many had not anticipated earlier this season. With Oregon’s defeat, the number of possible undefeated teams from the Pac-12 dwindled to one, UCLA, until Saturday night when the Bruins fell to Utah. 
     
    The SEC West is by far the most competitive division in college football, boasting Auburn, Ole Miss, and Mississippi State with undefeated records. However,  only one team out of that group can make it to the SEC Championship.
     
    The Big Ten will likely not have an undefeated squad, leaving Florida State, and two Big 12 schools, TCU and Baylor, at the top of the totem poll now that the Horned Frogs took down undefeated Oklahoma.
     
    This year’s matchup between TCU and Bears just got a lot more serious. It has a large chance of guaranteeing the winner a spot in the college football playoff, provided that the winner can stay undefeated outside of the anticipated matchup.
     
    With Texas struggling and Oklahoma State without it’s top quarterback, J.W. Walsh, two major contenders have been moved aside in this year’s run for the Big 12. I’m not discounting these teams’ ability to pull an upset, but their chances to win the conference are unlikely.
     
    The Baylor and TCU control their future. The quest to stay perfect starts now.

  • NFL Draft to move from New York to Chicago in 2015

    Every year, NFL fans from all over the country travel to watch the NFL Draft in hopes of their team selecting the next NFL star. But, next year, instead of booking a flight to New York, NFL fans will be rerouting their travel plans.

    According to multiple reports, the 2015 NFL Draft will be held in Chicago rather than New York City. The NFL Draft has been held in New York since 1965, including at Radio City Music Hall for the past nine years.

    Once the NFL learned Radio City Music Hall could not be reserved for the 2015 NFL Draft, 12 cities showed interest in hosting the Draft.  The list was then narrowed to Los Angeles and Chicago before NFL officials decided the Draft will move to the Windy City.

    The Chicago Bear’s twitter page posted that the Draft will be held at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, which is located on Chicago’s busiest and most popular street, Michigan Avenue. The Draft will take place on April 30-May 2.

    The NFL Draft has always been popular to football fans and the three day event in 2014 was viewed by 45.7 million people surpassing the record of 45.4 million in 2010. Popularity increased last year, in part, over speculation of which team would take Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. Curiosity over Manziel increased dramatically on draft day when he slipped all the way to No. 22 of the first round when he was finally selected by the Cleveland Browns.

    Every year one major goal of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is to further increase fan interest in the NFL’s already incredibly popular offseason. This year Goodell believes the change in scenery might help. He is specifically hoping to strengthen interest in the rounds of the draft and keep the Draft’s TV ratings up.

    "We're talking about different concepts, primarily how to strengthen the last day and whether we should maybe push that back to the clubs a little bit more and allow the clubs to have a little bit more freedom as more of a club day," Goodell said.

    The last NFL Draft not to be held in New York City was coincidentally held in Chicago at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel from 1961-63.  We will find out in April if the move to Chicago is another score for the NFL.

  • NFL Draft to move from New York to Chicago in 2015

    Every year, NFL fans from all over the country travel to watch the NFL Draft in hopes of their team selecting the next NFL star. But, next year, instead of booking a flight to New York, NFL fans will be rerouting their travel plans.

    According to multiple reports, the 2015 NFL Draft will be held in Chicago rather than New York City. The NFL Draft has been held in New York since 1965, including at Radio City Music Hall for the past nine years.

    Once the NFL learned Radio City Music Hall could not be reserved for the 2015 NFL Draft, 12 cities showed interest in hosting the Draft.  The list was then narrowed to Los Angeles and Chicago before NFL officials decided the Draft will move to the Windy City.

    The Chicago Bear’s twitter page posted that the Draft will be held at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, which is located on Chicago’s busiest and most popular street, Michigan Avenue. The Draft will take place on April 30-May 2.

    The NFL Draft has always been popular to football fans and the three day event in 2014 was viewed by 45.7 million people surpassing the record of 45.4 million in 2010. Popularity increased last year, in part, over speculation of which team would take Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. Curiosity over Manziel increased dramatically on draft day when he slipped all the way to No. 22 of the first round when he was finally selected by the Cleveland Browns.

    Every year one major goal of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is to further increase fan interest in the NFL’s already incredibly popular offseason. This year Goodell believes the change in scenery might help. He is specifically hoping to strengthen interest in the rounds of the draft and keep the Draft’s TV ratings up.

    "We're talking about different concepts, primarily how to strengthen the last day and whether we should maybe push that back to the clubs a little bit more and allow the clubs to have a little bit more freedom as more of a club day," Goodell said.

    The last NFL Draft not to be held in New York City was coincidentally held in Chicago at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel from 1961-63.  We will find out in April if the move to Chicago is another score for the NFL.

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