Another work week is just about in the books, and as is usually the case, the sports world has given us plenty to talk about. Here’s some brief thoughts on what’s gone on, starting with…
Marc Bergevin as Habs GM. Without knowing the guy, or much about his body of work, I really like the hire. He comes from a winning organization and was an integral part of transforming it from a laughing stock to a recent Cup winner. Here’s hoping that he brought a lot of knowledge with him so that he can do the same in Montreal. He has oh so much work to do, and not a lot of time to do it in. Read more on what I think he has on his task list here. Did the Habs get the best man for the job, regardless of politics? Hard to say, but given the realities (self-imposed realities or not) of the Montreal market, you’d be hard-pressed to find anybody who doesn’t like the hiring. He made a terrific first impression at his press conference, and seems to be the opposite of the life-sucking Pierre Gauthier, which already is an improvement.
L.A. Kings roll. Raise your hand if you thought the Kings would not only beat the President’s Trophy winning Canucks, but be on the verge of sweeping the third overall St. Louis Blues, the league’s best defensive team. What the Kings are doing is nothing short of remarkable. Of course, any team with Mike Richards, Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Drew Doughty, Jonathan Quick, and Dustin Brown should never be written off, but it’s the lesser known role players who are chipping in at key times, which is critical in the playoffs. Are they a team of destiny? They are poised to dump the Kings, and whoever advances between Nashville and Phoenix is going to have their hands full. Let’s look ahead to a future that sees the Kings knocking off the Rangers in the Cup finals. It would be the most remarkable Cup win in history (or one of the most remarkable). Who else could boast knocking off the top 3 teams in the league during the regular season? That said, the last 15 consecutive Cup winners started the playoffs with home ice advantage, so the smart money is still on any of the remaining 1-4 seeds.
Shame on Radulov, Kostitsyn. No, I’m not going to play the “they’re Russian / Belarussian, what did you expect?” card. That’s nonsense and if you subscribe to that theory, kindly take the down the Don Cherry poster that is hanging from the ceiling above your bed. Still, these two offensive talents were brought in to add scoring punch to a lineup that has everything else. That they decided to break curfew in order to stay out drinking – on the eve of a playoff game – is a supremely arrogant and selfish act. It shows disrespect to the team and organization that put their faith in them at the most critical time, and it’s a slap in the face to teammates who would probably also to prefer to be out having a good time, but put the team first by adhering to the team curfew. The Predators are equipped to go all the way, and now these two selfish turds have put their coach and GM in a really tough spot. They won game 3 handily without Radulov and Kostitsyn, and the popular refrain is that you do not alter a winning lineup in the playoffs. Another loss will push the Preds to the brink and at that point you’ll see both back in action. But it would likely be too late. Depending on your point of view, Coach Barry Trotz has an easy call in front of him – let them sit in the press box. Should the Preds lose tonight, however, there will be no shortage of people who say the punishment extended beyond it’s original definition, and that Trotz hurt the team. In the end, the blame falls squarely on two players (one of whom I defended quite vehemently) who put their Coach in a position he should never have to be in come playoff time. Here’s hoping they both land in the KHL next season, which is where their selfish actions will likely land them anyway.
Unfitting end of a great career? I’m no Yankees fan, but when I heard that Mariano Rivera, hands-down the greatest closer to ever play the game blew out his knee, I was really sad. I can’t think of a more unfitting and unfair end to a stellar career than shagging fly balls in Kansas City. Yet another reason to loathe the perpetual machine of failure called the Royals. Could he not have done it falling awkwardly off the mound instead? At 42 years old, it’s hard to imagine Rivera will want to put in the hard work required to rehab a shredded knee, just to play another season. He was already contemplating retirement after this year and this injury may have forced his hand. It’s a pity. He deserved to go out to a chorus of cheers at Yankee Stadium, in the post-season after striking out some hapless, knee-buckled chap with his devastating cutter pitch. That likely won’t happen now, and baseball is the biggest loser for it.
Powerless Pujols. The last time Albert Pujols went this long without hitting a home run, he was in his mother’s womb. I don’t think I’d be concerned if I was an Angels fan – yet. He’s still this era’s most feared hitter and it’s just a matter of time before he finds his stroke. He’s only hitting .204, which is way, way, way below his standard of excellence but again, this guy is a beast and will get it back. He’s patient, poised, has a great eye, a terrific swing and has been as consistent as it gets. If he doesn’t get it back, the Angels will have another 9 years to figure out what to do with him, and it would be an even more mysterious drop in an elite level athlete than Tiger Woods’ own collapse. With the Angels scuffling at the bottom of the AL West, the pressure will continue to mount on Pujols as his power outage drags on. But if there’s one guy who can weather this and then carry a team on his back, it’s Pujols. Hey, at least he hasn’t made an error yet, right?
Junior Seau’s suicide. Not much is sadder in sports than learning about the death of one of the greats. Usually we hear about them passing away at a ripe old age after living a full life, but in recent years it seems that players from hockey and especially football are dropping like flies – by their own hand. That’s even more tragic. The connection between head trauma caused by contact, punches, collisions leading to eventual depression and finally suicide is going to be mentioned again and again, and while leagues try to cover their butts, it’s becoming clearer and clearer that they are facing a serious issue that they need to get to the bottom of. Because if they don’t do it by voluntarily, there’s a little thing called the government that will make them do it, and then we’ll be really unhappy. The NFL already has a boatload of lawsuits against them to deal with. There will be more. Many more. They can’t avoid this forever, and the NHL would be wise to get out in front of this issue instead of trying to preserve what seems to be rotten.