No Big Z…no chance?

Well, one may argue that the Bruins had no chance BEFORE Zdeno Chara got hurt yesterday, based primarily on Peter Chiarelli’s lack of activity this past offseason.  Ok, no chance may be overstating it a smidge…or a ton.  Admittedly, Pete’s moves (or non-moves, mind you) since the end of last season do leave a lot to be desired.  And the early season performance of the squad has been kind of putrid as well.  But let’s not go overboard.  The Bruins should still have a very competitive roster.  And with the reigning Vezina trophy winner in net, that should give them a fighting chance, barring unforseen catastrophe.  It’s too early to go nuts about anything.

Is Chara’s injury that unforseen catastrophe?  I actually do not think so.  Love the Big Guy, but it has been no secret I have proposed dangling him in trade talks over the past couple of years.  Not that I want to unload him for a bag of pucks.  Don’t be silly.  The fact is though, Z is 37 (38 in March).  He is on the hook for 7 mil a year through 2016-2017 and then another 4 mil in 2017-2018.  Claude insists on playing him upwards of 25 minutes a game in meaningless regular season games, which many feel has caused him to wear down in the playoffs the last two years.  He would have trade value and it wouldn’t be so bad to take advantage of that before he really starts to decline.  Etc.  Let’s see what is out there.  I’ll say the same thing this upcoming offseason.

But back to now.  Chara being hurt can’t ever be considered a good thing.  But one good side effect of it is that Claude will not wear him out early in the season, as referenced above.  Hopefully the team will take it’s time bringing him back and then get him ready for the stretch run.  Of course if they fall too far back in the standings, then that is another issue entirely.  But I don’t expect that to happen.

The truth of the matter is that having 9 NHL-caliber D-Men should help ease the sting of losing Chara.  Oops.  Make that 6 now…in Pete’s eyes, that is…he said it originally, not me.  Chara and Kevan Miller are hurt and Johnny Boychuk is on Long Island.  Of course, part of Pete’s 6 that are left are 2 offensive d-men that have questionable D skills (Torey Krug and David Warsofsky…and who knows even what Warsofsky’s offensive skills are, in reality).  The 6 also include a 3rd pairing defenseman at absolute best in Adam McQuaid.  And a probable 3rd pairing defenseman at best, who has had a number of defensive lapses already in his brief NHL career in Mark Bartkowski (not to mention Pete has tried to deal him more than a few times…telling you his true value).  So that leaves Dennis Seidenberg and Dougie Hamilton as theoretically their only reliable D-men…as I see it.

As an aside, to revisit the Boychuk trade since I’ve never commented on it…I would not have made it.  Of course it is easy for me to say now with what has transpired.  But what was the need to make the trade?  Pete said he had 9 NHL caliber D-men.  But with all the question marks listed above (plus Seidenberg coming off major injury), why not keep a Top 4 guy around?  Especially if you think your team can make a run at a Stanley Cup?  Salary cap?  There were other ways to clear salary.  Some combination of McQuaid, Bartkowski, Chris Kelly, Greg Campbell or Daniel Paille should have been enough.  Those guys are all replaceable.  Especially with all the “kid” forwards that are supposedly on the cusp…Ryan Spooner, Seth Griffith, Justin Florek, Matt Fraser, Alexander Khokhlachev, Matt Lindblad, etc.  For a team that is based on defense, keeping Boychuk and integrating a few of the kids on the 4th line made all the sense in the world.  Plus when you factor in the return for Johnny, the measly pair of 2nd round picks…that’s the best they could do?  Unnecessary.

Of course now they need a guy like Griffith on the first line, in place of a real goal scorer, since they couldn’t re-sign Jarome Iginla, or someone of that ilk…but that’s another story.  Hey, Jack Edwards said recently that Griffith had 100 goals in 190 games in juniors…then another 20 in Providence last year…so I guess they have that going for them.  That being said, even with the loss of Iginla, they should have enough “firepower” on the top 3 lines, that on a team based on defense and goaltending should be able to make a run deep into the playoffs.

Truth be told, as much as I am interested in giving some of the aforementioned forwards a chance, I’d like to see some of the kid defensemen as well.  I’m sure Zach Trotman can be just as average as McQuaid or Miller.  And this Joe Morrow kid.  Let’s have a look-see.  I believe that this dude was the true key to the Tyler Seguin trade.  Everyone wanted to focus on Loui Eriksson…even though he was like 7 years older.  And Fraser and Reilly Smith are nice pieces.  But Morrow is a 21 year old former first round pick.  Had a feeling he was the real prize.  Of course I have absolutely no proof and am completely guessing.  But regardless, let’s see what he has.

The Bruins are off to a slow start, no question about it.  But take a look at the stats.  Chris Kelly leads the team in points.  Does anyone expect that to last?  The Patrice Bergeron line with Reilly Smith and Brad Marchand is a combined minus 8.  Does anyone expect that to last?  Tuukka Rask’s goals against average is 2.91 and save percentage is .880.  Yikes!  But does anyone expect that to last?  We are 9 games in folks.  And it hasn’t been pretty.  D-men are going down.  But give it time.  It will all come together.  Hopefully Chiarelli will provide better in-season acquisitions than Corey Potter and Andrej Meszaros this year though.  Then Big Z will come back later in the year with less wear and tear.  And the team will be on it’s way.

At least that is my wishful thinking…

NASCAR!!

Since I am having trouble digesting the Patriots pathetic performance the other night, the miserable season of the Red Sox is now mercifully over, the Celtics should be average at best this year and then their best player breaks his hand “in the shower” and the Bruins seemingly have some issues in shaping the roster just a scant few days before the season opener…well, what better “sport” to talk about than NASCAR to let the other topics simmer for a bit?!

So the Tony Stewart case has been completed and filed and…NOTHING!  Listen, no one but Stewart knows if he was trying to intentionally hit Kevin Ward Jr.  That much is for sure.  But to have the case wrap up as quickly as it did, with absolutely no penalty whatsoever is mystifying.  And then to throw out that Ward was under the influence of marijuana, enough to impair his judgement, seems to be adding insult to injury.  I’ve said before that Ward was an idiot to be running out to the middle of the track to confront Stewart, even if the cars were under caution and slowing down.  But how is it that everyone else saw Ward and avoided him, but Stewart didn’t?

Anyway, when this all went down, I had spoken to an old college friend who used to be a HUGE racing fan…maybe the only one at school.  We’re talking about a guy who was all depressed about a rookie driver (Rob Moroso, and yes, I had to ask him what the name was) that was killed in 1990, not at the track, but in a drunk driving incident.  And he didn’t even like him!  Just thought he had a promising future.  We’re also talking about a guy who had a quilt on his bed in his dorm room, made by his Mom, that included fabric pieces autographed by various celebrities including a few NASCAR drivers.  His Mom mailed fabric pieces to these guys and they signed them and mailed them back.  Pretty impressive for his Mom to do, I have to add.  Kudos to her.  Anyway, Dale Earnhardt was on it, along with his favorite driver, Phil Parsons (WHO??  Sort of a scrub driver, he says).  He used to get really upset when anyone even sat on it.  I mean…REALLY upset.  Was hard to fathom his anger, since a) it was college, b) it was only a quilt and c) only the Good Lord knows what his roommate was doing to it.  But I digress and needless to say, the dude is a credible NASCAR source, no question about it.

We had a little back and forth about the Stewart thing, outlined below:

BB (Billerica Blowhard):  Flat out, do you think Tony Stewart hit Kevin Ward Jr. on purpose?

CQG (College Quilt Guy):  My gut is that Tony was trying to send the kid a message by buzzing him as he went by.  I don’t agree with people saying Tony didn’t see him.  I think he saw him – as Tony came back around, his car was a lane higher than the car in front of him and I don’t think his view was obstructed.

BB:   What are your personal feelings toward Stewart as a fan?  Primarily before this incident?

CQG:  He’s been my favorite driver over the last 10+ years.  But he definitely has an “I’ll show him” edge to him.  The accident happened because Tony ran this young driver up to the wall, basically being a hardass on the racetrack and putting the less experienced driver in a bad spot.  That’s Tony.  That’s how he is.

BB:  Why do you say, “That’s how he is”?  Can we look back in the past and see some similar type of behavior?

CQG:  Hell, Tony himself got out of a wrecked car in ’98 or ’99 and walked on the track waiting for the offending driver to come around. He’s not above it. He likes to be the top dog and after the wreck this time, I don’t think he wanted to let this guy (Ward) show him up with the pointing and yelling. So he buzzed him.

BB:  Final thoughts?

CQG:  Obviously I don’t know what Tony saw.  In all seriousness, there’s no way to know what he saw unless he tells someone the truth.  The truth may indeed be that he didn’t see the guy.  I just find that hard to believe and I think he misjudged the situation very badly.  Though I absolutely do believe Tony had no intent of any physical harm.

There you have it.  I feel the same way.  But since my credentials for talking about racing are nonexistent, I had to ask an expert.  I have to believe a lot of people feel the same way as well.  That leaves me totally befuddled that Stewart is facing basically zero penalty for his actions.  Maybe he pays some sort of financial settlement in a civil case, I don’t know.  But what does that do?  Especially after it seems as if Ward’s name has been dragged through the mud a bit with the marijuana facts?

I get that intent would be hard to prove.  I get that Ward went out onto the track into traffic and kind of set himself up.  I get that racing is a dangerous sport.   I get that Tony has had a tough time dealing with this, as several articles have stated recently.  I get the whole thing.  But it seems to me that everyone involved, save the Ward family, want to sweep this under the rug as fast as possible.  Get a big name back on the track.  Get lots of dough rolling in for the sponsors.  Something’s leaving a bad taste in my mouth about this…and again, I am not even a racing fan.  But in the end, it’s all about the money, right?

 

The Shield

Loved that TV show.  Banged out all 7 seasons last spring on DVD.  Sweet!

But this is no recap of that.  Who wants to talk more Ray Rice?!  OK, most have had enough of it.  As have I.  But the sad thing is that even though Rice is a scumbag, could the NFL and its “leadership” have come across as ever worse in this whole thing?  Hard to believe, but it’s quite possible.  But more importantly, should we be surprised at all of this?

What Rice did was certainly reprehensible.  And the Ravens can certainly exercise their right to release him, which they did.  The NFL can suspend him, which they did.  But he will be back…if he can still play of course.  His 2013 was nothing to write home about, so maybe he can’t.  But some team will likely take a chance on him down the road.  I’m ok with that.  After all Michael Vick, Pacman Jones and various others have gotten second chances.  Everyone deserves a second chance.  People make mistakes (though admittedly, throwing a heavy left cross and then dragging your girlfriend around like a carcass might be stretching it to be called a “mistake”, but…).

But it’s surprising to me that this has blown up as far as it has.  Part of it is the NFL’s role in it, more on that later.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that it should be swept under the rug (again, more on the NFL later).  But Ray Rice is far from the first domestic abuser in the NFL…or professional sports for that matter.  I think the available video has really pushed this into the public eye more.  But where was the outcry when Greg Hardy was found guilty for assaulting his ex-girlfriend in July?  Or when Ray McDonald was arrested in August for allegedly assaulting his PREGNANT fiancee?  Is it because of the video?  But this kind of stuff has been going on since Christian Peter was beating up women at Nebraska and Robert Kraft tried to pull a fast one by drafting him 3 rounds after he was projected.  If it wasn’t for his wife Myra, who essentially made the Pats never sign him, business would have gone on as usual.  Jeez, do we all forget Lawrence Phillips, who was firing women down stairwells with some regularity (among many other despicable acts)?  And countless cases before that most assuredly.

Just surprises me that Rice is the case that is being singled out.  When the league is full of these jokers.  And full of criminals in general.  What does the public expect from the people that play this sport?  Full of domestic abusers, drug addicts, guys that are part of drug rings, juicers, gang bangers, even murderers, etc.  The Rice thing is just another day at the office.  I don’t mean to minimize the situation.  But the league has a bigger problem than Ray Rice.  And I’m not entirely sure it is fixable.  Maybe it’s all the hits to the head and other general violence.  Not sure.  But doesn’t look like things will change.

What’s exacerbating the whole issue is the whole NFL bungle job on the Rice case in particular.  Roger Goodell certainly lied through his teeth.  As anyone else involved with the league and the Ravens most assuredly did as well.  They all wanted to bury it because they know the last paragraph is true.  A lot of bad dudes in the NFL.  So let’s just fire out a suspension and move on.  Suppose I can’t blame them…especially with the money at stake.  “Protect the Shield”.  Something bad goes down, act swiftly and then move on.  Don’t jeopardize all the dough flowing in.

Anyway, the NFL certainly doesn’t handle everything perfectly.  This just looks worse because of the blatant lying.  They should have just got ahead of it and dealt with it then.  Video is everywhere.  How did they not figure someone like TMZ would get a hold of the tape?

So Goodell may lose his 44 million dollar job.  But who cares?  Another figurehead will take his seat.  And what really changes?  Also, if the same type of players keep coming into the league, what really changes there too?

Like I said, just another day at the office…nothing to see here.  Oh look, Adrian Peterson just got deactivated for Week 2.  He is facing charges for allegedly beating his kid…carry on…

 

 

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