• Flames showing promise in Western Conference

    Have you ever decided to treat yourself and get a disgusting and gluttonous fast food concoction?  And, how you manage to discover, against all odds that these culinary creations are really good, despite the source? Well, a quarter of the way into the NHL season and the Calgary Flames are actually are pretty good team, despite being the Calgary Flames.

    The past five seasons have not been nice to the Flames; they've haven't made the playoffs in any of them. That being said, being a winning team in the Western Conference is no easy task given the fact that the Stanley Cup winner has emerged from that conference four out of the last five seasons. In addition to their playoff troubles, the Flames were also forced to trade away the best player in their history (and future Hall of Famer) in Jerome Iginla so that he could have the opportunity to actually win a Cup. So, it's clear that the Flames have had a rough go of it recently.

    So, how is it that they're third in the Western Conference? 

    Well, some would say that they're this year's Colorado Avalanche. That is to say that they're just a young team, defying the odds, and playing perfect hockey at an unsustainable rate. However, I beg to differ.Instead of the high-flying, offense-first game the Avalanche played last year and continue to play this year, the Flames choose to lead with fast-paced defense. And, as we all know, defense wins championships. I mean, am I right or am I right?

    Regardless of whether or not that sports truism is actually true, I actually think the Flames success is sustainable. They're a solid goal scoring team, scoring about 3.05 goals per game with contributions from everywhere on their roster including 17 goals out of their 59 coming from their defensemen. In fact, their leading point scorer is actually captain defenseman Mark Giordano with a staggering 21 points, good for sixth in the league and a full 15 spots ahead of the next defenseman.

    If you're wondering if their defenseman can actually defend and not just score, well, they can. They're 14th in the league with a 2.6 goals against average while only giving up 29.3 shots per game, which is 15th in the league. While these stats are solidly average, their starting goaltender Jonas Hiller is solidly above average with a .922 save percentage and a 2.3 goals against average, which are both in the top 35% of the league.

    Through these statistics and the defensive-mindedness of their team, I think the Calgary Flames are a surprise worth paying attention to.

  • As golf gears up, focus is placed on Tiger Woods' remarks

    A lot has been going on in the golf world.

    U.S. golfers Charley Hoffman and John Hahn have had good starts to the season.  Hoffman won his first tournament in over four years Sunday at the OHL Classic in Mayakoba, Mexico, while Hahn, who participated on the European Tour, shot a 58 in the final round of the Q-school. 

    Even Donald Trump made news in the golf world by announcing he wants to change the Turnberry’s championship Alisa Course 9th hole from a par-4 to a par-3.  Turnberry has hosted the British Open Championship four times and this change is not setting well with golf traditionalists.  However, if they are concerned about this change, be prepared for more to come.     

    Needless to say, no one cares what the golfers and Trump are up to.  All that matters to most fans currently are the issues between Dan Jenkins and Tiger Woods

    Dan Jenkins, former Sports Illustrated reporter and author, wrote a parody for his monthly article in Golf Digest. 

    Jenkins wrote this article based on a fake interview he created with Tiger Woods and nothing was off limits.  From poking fun at Woods’ lack of winning, to being a bad tipper, firing coaches, and being narcissistic about his performance being the only great moments in golf.  One might argue Jenkins covered just about everything with Tiger.

    Jenkins' work though got under the skin of Woods. Woods published a piece for The Players’ Tribune, a website owned by Yankees great Derek Jeter, by decrying the fake interview and sending a separate letter to the Golf Digest asking for an apology. 

    "[Jenkins] has no idea how I think or feel about any of the things he claims to know about, which is why he had to make things up," Woods wrote. "All athletes know that we will be under scrutiny from the media.  But this concocted article was below the belt.”

    Whether Woods admits it or not, the relationship between he and Jenkins has been tainted since he entered pro golf.  Jenkins has covered more than 60 straight Masters and over 200 of golf’s biggest tournaments and entered the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.  Yet with all of that, he has never done a sit down interview with Woods since his arrival in 1996. 

    But as Woods continues to fall in the world of golf, he found a way to be in the spotlight again, this time not for the right reason.     

  • Why do we play Fantasy Football?...and Week 12 rankings

    A great friend (and fantasy addict) approach me with the following question for today’s article-- why do we play fantasy football? We both follow all the important NFL writers, text back and forth hundreds of times a week, and watch upwards of 10-12 games every weekend. But for what? Why are we obsessed with this game? Why did Fortune.com say businesses lose approximately $13.4 billion annually because of employees devoting work time to setting their lineups? Today I want to try to make an attempt at explaining our obsession. By no means is this the be-all and end-all of an explanation for why we love it. But here’s my opinion:

    ·      Trash Talk

    o   Nothing is better than getting a league email from a guy you just played, complaining about how unfair fantasy football is and how he obviously should’ve won, rather than losing by 2 points. The second you see this; the trash talk rebuttal begins stewing in your brain. You will do everything in your power to never let him live this down. You want him to go to sleep at night agonizing over those 2 points. The majority of fantasy leagues are played with people you know. Be it friends, relatives, or co-workers, trash talk takes the league to another level. It adds fuel to the fire; emotion to the game.

    ·      Rivalries

    o   Piggybacking on trash talk is the rivalry aspect of this wonderful game. If you have been in any league for more than one year, chances are you have that one guy (or girl) you absolutely want to crush. You could lose every other game all year long, as long as you demoralize that hated enemy. Your effort level for the week leading up to the massive matchup is unmatched. For example, in my favorite league, I play with some guys that are about 10 years older than me who all went to a college I didn’t go to. (Another story for another time). Anyways, after I sent out a lengthy trash talk email last year, he responded with an email of his own and from there the rivalry began.

    ·      Interest in Every Game

    o   Fantasy adds entertainment to your entertainment. There are plenty of fine folks who watch many NFL games without the added pleasure of fantasy football, but they must not know what they’re missing. It seems like most weeks, every single game has fantasy implications. You love Andre Johnson this week but you also have the Bengals D so you’re put in a conundrum. You have so many ties in every game, it makes each and every play seem of massive importance. Before you know it, you’ve watched 8 games that don’t include any teams you root for. And you better believe the NFL knows (and absolutely loves) this. The NFL is one of the most powerful organizations in America and it has fantasy football to thank.

    ·      Get to be a GM

    o   Most of us will never work in an NFL front office. Even fewer will ever reach the peak of NFL player management, becoming a General Manager. The 32 GM spots aren’t exactly easy to attain. But with fantasy football, suddenly the unattainable is at your fingertips. You get to be the GM of your own team. Your power limited only by fellow GMs who refuse to trade with you. This idea of completely controlling every aspect of a team is the overarching theme of fantasy football. Each and every one of us gets to run our organizations in any manner we please. Want to own 3 kickers? Go for it. Want to own only Oakland Raiders players? Go for it (but be sure to start praying). Fantasy gives us the unique ability to put together a team and watch it perform on a weekly basis. As GM, we get to prep months for the draft, pick your dream squad, and trade them all away the next week.

    With the fantasy season is quickly coming to a close, enjoy it while it lasts and remember it’s ultimately about having fun (and winning along the way). But I ask you: Why do you love fantasy football? Email me at FantasyDecisions@gmail.com and tell me why you love it. And if you have any lineup dilemmas or need waiver wire wisdom, send it my way.

    Onto the rankings!

    Week 12 Rankings

    QB

    1.     Andrew Luck

    2.     Aaron Rodgers

    3.     Drew Brees

    4.     Peyton Manning

    5.     Jay Cutler

    6.     Tom Brady

    7.     Colin Kaepernick

    8.     Tony Romo

    9.     Philip Rivers

    10. Ryan Tannehill

    11. Russell Wilson

    12. Josh McCown

    13. Matthew Stafford

    14. Matt Ryan

    15. Ryan Mallett

    16. Kyle Orton

    17. Mark Sanchez

    18. Zach Mettenberger

    19. Joe Flacco

    20. Andy Dalton

    RB

    1.     DeMarco Murray

    2.     Jamaal Charles

    3.     Matt Forte

    4.     Arian Foster (if active; if not, Alfred Blue would settle in around number 8 on my RB list)

    5.     LeSean McCoy

    6.     Eddie Lacy

    7.     Marshawn Lynch

    8.     Justin Forsett

    9.     Denard Robinson

    10. Isaiah Crowell

    11. Jeremy Hill (if Gio is inactive; if not, both Hill and Bernard would be in the low teens for me)

    12. Mark Ingram

    13. Andre Ellington

    14. Rashad Jennings

    15. Frank Gore

    16. Steven Jackson

    17. C.J. Anderson

    18. Trent Richardson

    19. Chris Ivory

    20. Tre Mason

    WR

    1.     Jordy Nelson

    2.     A.J. Green

    3.     Demaryius Thomas

    4.     Calvin Johnson

    5.     Dez Bryant

    6.     Brandon Marshall

    7.     Josh Gordon

    8.     T.Y. Hilton

    9.     Randall Cobb

    10. Mike Evans

    11. Jeremy Maclin

    12. Alshon Jeffery

    13. Roddy White

    14. Sammy Watkins

    15. Julio Jones

    16. Torrey Smith

    17. Jordan Matthews

    18. DeSean Jackson

    19. Andre Johnson

    20. DeAndre Hopkins

    TE

    1.     Rob Gronkowski

    2.     Jimmy Graham

    3.     Antonio Gates

    4.     Larry Donnell

    5.     Jason Witten

    6.     Coby Fleener

    7.     Martellus Bennett

    8.     Austin Seferian-Jenkins

    9.     Travis Kelce

    10. Mychal Rivera

    11. Owen Daniels

    12. Charles Clay

    13. Marcedes Lewis

    14. Kyle Rudolph

    15. Vernon Davis

    D/ST

    1.     Bills

    2.     Chiefs

    3.     49ers

    4.     Packers

    5.     Eagles

    6.     Seahawks

    7.     Cardinals

    8.     Broncos

    9.     Colts

    10. Texans

    11. Chargers

    12. Bears

    13. Cowboys

    14. Patriots

    15. Jets

    FLEX 40

    1.     DeMarco Murray

    2.     Jamaal Charles

    3.     Matt Forte

    4.     Jordy Nelson

    5.     Arian Foster

    6.     A.J. Green

    7.     Demaryius Thomas

    8.     Calvin Johnson

    9.     Dez Bryant

    10. Rob Gronkowski

    11. LeSean McCoy

    12. Brandon Marshall

    13. Eddie Lacy

    14. Marshawn Lynch

    15. Josh Gordon

    16. Justin Forsett

    17. Jimmy Graham

    18. T.Y. Hilton

    19. Randall Cobb

    20. Mike Evans

    21. Jeremy Maclin

    22. Denard Robinson

    23. Isaiah Crowell

    24. Jeremy Hill

    25. Alshon Jeffery

    26. Mark Ingram

    27. Andre Ellington

    28. Roddy White

    29. Rashad Jennings

    30. Sammy Watkins

    31. Frank Gore

    32. Steven Jackson

    33. Julio Jones

    34. C.J. Anderson

    35. Antonio Gates

    36. Torrey Smith

    37. Jordan Matthews

    38. DeSean Jackson

    39. Larry Donnell

    40. Jason Witten

  • Tennessee LB sends twitter into chaos- Will he be at Texas next fall?

    Twitter can connect people from around the world with just 140 characters. And in the past couple of years, it has also become a quick and easy tool for athletics to communicate.
    On Monday night, University of Tennessee commit Cecil Cherry went on a Twitter frenzy when the three-star linebacker tweeted out “Hook ‘Em” to his over 2,800 followers a week after taking an official visit to Austin for the West Virginia game. He immediately received backlash – some too inappropriate to print – from disgruntled Vols fans. And over the course of the next three days, Cherry continued to tweet and retweet all sorts of Texas-positive pictures and notions, causing the recruiting world to speculate on his previous commitment to Tennessee head coach Butch Jones.
    If Texas could flip Cherry, it would be another big get for head coach Charlie Strong and the 2015 class. His Hudl film shows that he has good speed for his size, coming in at 6-feet and 230-pounds, which he has been able to display on a few interceptions this season and last. His biggest strength is his hard hitting, however. Cherry has a great ability to square up a ball carrier and hit him with textbook form, plus a little extra ‘oomph’ for good measure. The Florida product could be a great replacement for stud current linebacker Jordan Hicks, though his size could be an issue at the next level. He shows good ability to stay with his assignments in coverage, and keep everything in front of him.
    While he played fullback as well in high school, with some solid numbers, he hasn’t been recruited on the offensive side of the ball. His quick feet allow him to change directions quickly and make tackles in the open field, which will help him get over his size disadvantage.
    Overall, Cherry is a solid linebacker with a lot of upside and little down-side. The biggest issue most see with him stems from his Twitter use, as we’ve all seen what happens when these recruits let the attention go to their head early on and use social media to air out all their dirty laundry.
    Though Cherry has said many times that he’ll final decision will come February 4th, on National Signing Day, at this point I’d be shocked if he wasn’t set on coming to the Forty Acres next fall. Strong’s defensive reputation and ability to recruit Florida, coupled with Cherry’s admittance that Texas is his “dream school,” makes his commitment almost certain, if not announced.
  • NHL season causing chaos early

    Editors Note: All stats current as of Nov. 8

    If the regular season ended today and the playoffs started, everyone would freak out because it's only November and the NHL season just started last month.

    But, in addition to everyone freaking out, four of last year's eight Western conference playoff teams would be out. Those teams include the dynastic Chicago Blackhawks, the star-studded Minnesota Wild, the young Colorado Avalanche, and the bromantic Dallas Stars.

    With all of those teams struggling, people start wondering why that could be. Well, no worries, I got some answers. In fact, I am going to identify a problem and the solution for all of these teams.

    Chicago Blackhawks

    Problem: With 2.43 goals scored per game average, the Blackhawks just aren't scoring enough goals.

    Solution: Mix up the line combinations and put 6' 4'' left-winger Bryan Bickell on the top line so he can screen the goalie and give Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews better goal-scoring opportunities.

    For the Chicago Blackhawks, they are just outside of the top eight with a 7-6-1 record that is good for 15 points. A record like that indicates mediocrity and that's just what the Blackhawks haven't been. Instead, they've been a team that plays great defense with a brickwall (Corey Crawford) for a goaltender. The Blackhawks have been so good on defense that they lead the lead in goals against per game with 1.86.

    That being said, they have an exceptionally hard time scoring the puck. They've been shut out twice in a row at home this season, against the Anaheim Ducks and the Winnipeg Jets and they're also a paltry 2-7 in non-shootout games decided by one goal. So, when the Blackhawks win, they win big, which is the reason why their goals scored average exceeds their goals against average, despite their record.

    My solution of putting big power forward Bryan Bickell in front of the net would distract opposing goaltenders and make seeing the puck almost impossible. This in turn would mean more goals for all-stars like Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. Let's make it happen head coach Joel Quenneville.

    Minnesota Wild

    Problem: The Wild have a 5.3% success rate on the power play, good for 29th in the league. That's a spot away from last people!

    Solution: Play a more conservative, dump and chase style instead of the possession-based style they have been playing.

    The Minnesota Wild's 7-5 record would be good enough for eighth in the Eastern Conference. But that's a totally meaningless statement since they're in the Western Conference in 10th place. The more you know, you know? Anyway, the Minnesota Wild have been a top 10 team in both goals per game, at 2.92, and goals against average, at 2.08. With numbers like that, you would think that the Wild would have a better record than 7-5. However, their power play has been holding them back.

    In the NHL, where every player has talent and a good ethic and games come down to the bounce of a puck, excelling when you have a one-man advantage is extremely important. And as I said earlier, the Wild just haven't been doing that with their 38 power play opportunities. So far, they've only found the net on two of those PP chances thanks to some bad luck plus poor strategy and play.

    Playing a more conservative dump and chase style would allow the Wild to keep the puck and get into position on the power play. With great offensive players like left-winger Zach Parise (who is currently out with a concussion), fellow left-winger Thomas Vanek, and offensive-minded defenseman Ryan Suter, one would think that a possession-based style of play would be better. However, that has clearly not been the case. So, maybe going conservative would be the Wild's best bet because something has to be done if the Wild want to make the playoffs again this year.

    Colorado Avalanche

    Problem: In almost every major team statistic category, the Avalanche are ranked in the bottom third of the league.

    Solution: Mix up the line combinations so that the struggling sophomore Nathan Mackinnon has less pressure on him, while paying attention to what made last year's team successful.

    Last year's Colorado Avalanche exceeded everyone's expectations last year when they made the playoffs by winning the Central Division with 112 points. This year, they have yet to discover the magic they had last season. Their record of 4-6-5 this year illustrates that fact. From goals per game (2.40) to goals against per game (2.93) as well as their power play (14.6%), the Avalanche have struggled through almost every facet of the game.

    The Avalanche could just be regressing to the mean after their incredible success last year. However, that doesn't mean that head coach Patrick Roy should just stand pat and expect failure from his team. In interviews, Patrick Roy has stated that he wants his team to continue playing fast, offense-minded hockey, so their last resort appears to be changing up the lines.

    Last year, Nathan Mackinnon scored 63 points on 24 goals and 39 assists as a rookie, which was good enough to win the Calder Trophy. In addition, last year's Avalanche had completely different lines that depended more on chemistry than ability. I suggest that the Avalanche should go back to the lines that made them successful last year while at the same time allowing Mackinnon to play against second and third line centers of the opposing teams.

    Dallas Stars

    Problem: Their 3.38 goals against average is 28th in the league. That number indicates poor defense and terrible goaltending.

    Solution: Find better backup goaltending, whether from current backup Anders Lindback, their AHL team, or the waiver wire.

    Out of all of these teams, the Dallas Stars have the worst record at 4-5-4. They're currently 14th in the Western Conference, which is one measly spot above the beyond atrocious Edmonton Oilers. The Stars have only won once at home and are only .500 on the road at 3-3. Their team statistics point to a team that has been able to score, at 2.8 goals a game, but not do much else. Their 17% success rate on the power play is 19th in the league and their 77.1% success rate on the penalty kill is even worse at 25th in the league. All of that being said, their defense has been atrocious with 3.4 goals given up per game. That number is 27th in the entire NHL.

    That's a lot of numbers in one paragraph. But the Stars have all the pieces needed to succeed in the NHL. So, using numbers helps me comprehend just why they've lost so many games early in the season. Center Tyler Seguin continues to score and Jason Spezza has dished out the assists. The defense hasn't been that good, but the Stars have been a team focused on offense, so that's to be somewhat expected. Really, the only explanation for the Stars' terrible record has been the goaltending.

    Kari Lehtonen, the Stars starting goaltender, has lost five games straight with a 2.94 goals against average that is 49th in the NHL. That being said, Lehtonen is the starting goaltender and those aren't exactly easy to come by. Especially when your backup hasn't exactly picked up the slack. Anders Lindback, former Tampa Bay Lightning starting goaltender, has not been able to stay in front of the puck this season. He has played in only two games this season, but he has given up nine goals already. These goaltending issues signal a team that needs to find a goaltender that can give this team a chance to win.

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