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Hockey Is Starting Already?!

I’m not ready.  Period.

Feels like last season just ended.

And we know how disappointing that end was for Boston Bruins fans.  I suppose we do not need to cover that again.

Speaking of disappointing, the Bruins transaction activity this offseason.  Sure, they re-signed Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo…and I suppose Danton Heinen if you will.  But the team did not sign any new acquisitions…none of any note anyway.

We also know they didn’t lose much in Noel Acciari and Marcus Johansson.  Sure, Marcus would have looked nice on the second line with David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk.  But we also knew the B’s were not going to pay him.  Well, because they had to pay Carlo and Chaz.  And they had to keep Tuukka Rask on the roster.  And of course, they NEEDED to retain David Backes…sigh…

But, once again, that is a big part of the problem.  Bringing essentially the same team back after a long championship run is not a recipe for success.  Ask the 2011-12 Bruins themselves.  Or the 2019 Boston Red Sox.

But Team President Cam Neely and General Manager Don Sweeney obviously feel differently.  So there is not much anyone can do about it.

So where do we go from here?  What kind of preview of the 2019-2020 Boston Bruin season can we give, if the same team is basically the same from last year?

Not much.

Similar to the 2011-12 team, I expect a much shorter run from the team this year.  First round playoff loss seems about right.

Why do I say that?  Well, let’s dig a little deeper.

The first line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak remains intact.  You know, the same first line that disappeared in the Stanley Cup Final?  Ok, maybe that is a little unfair.  But while Pasta should continue to grow, how much more upside is there for the other two?  Marchy broke 100 points last year, can he do it again?  Bergy is now 34 years old.

Listen, these guys won’t be the problem.  They will most assuredly enjoy productive regular seasons, barring injury.

But once again, is all the scoring going to be on that line?  Well, you’ve got David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk anchoring the second line.  Krejci enjoyed a bit of a scoring renaissance last season.  But at 33 years old, already banged up even before the season starts and once again, without a decent right winger, what does his season look like?  Hopefully Jake keeps trending up.  But…who is the other winger?

All indications were that Karson Kuhlman would at least start out in that role.  BUT…he was shipped to the minors yesterday.  Some sort of procedural move?  Perhaps.  You find hockey teams doing things like this all the time.  Maybe he suits up tonight in the end.  But as I write this, he is not on the team.

So who is the winger in this case?  Backes?  Brett Ritchie?  Par Lindholm?  Based on the roster as I write, those are the options.

Take your pick.  There are only 12 forwards listed on the current roster.  So they will all play.  Unless there are roster shenanigans, as I said.

Heinen and Charlie Coyle make up the rest of the third line.  Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner the fourth.

I will say that none of those last 3 lines excite me.  Will Coyle play wing on Krejci’s line?  Doubtful.  But I wouldn’t be opposed to it.

So I just wonder who is going to score.  Especially if the old guys get older and the injuries become more prevalent.

Reinforcements in the minors?  I don’t know.  Sweeney had stockpiled the minors with “prospects” for years.  But have (or will) any of them pan out?  So far, just DeBrusk…and I suppose we have to count Heinen.  But there have been many, many more that haven’t (or will not make it).

Peter Cehlarik was once a popular name.  But he just cleared waivers.  That should tell you all you need to know about his prospects.  Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson signed with a Swedish team even before their Cup run was over last season.  Anders Bjork always comes with some hype.  But he was shipped out again.  Kuhlman?  Maybe.  Jack Studnicka?  Pavel Shen?  Samuel Asselin?  Yeah, we will see.

I know one thing:  I am not counting on any of the kids to come up and light things on fire.

So we shall see where the goals come from.

The defense should be solid with all the returnees.  Chaz, Carlo, Torey Krug, Big Z, Matty Grzelcyk…John Moore and Kevan Miller when they are healthy…Connor Clifton…wait, he just got demoted too.  Oh yeah, Stevie Kampfer is back!  And Jeremy Lauzon and Urho Vakakakakakaeienen may soon be ready to contribute too.  I’m not worried about the defense, no matter how old Big Z is.

But you know who I AM worried about?  TUUKS!!!  I am sure you are shocked.  He did play well for most of the postseason.  Speaking of shocking.  Until the end of course.  Which wasn’t shocking.

Ok, enough of that.

Tuuks will be fine…for the regular season.  Splitting time again with Jaroslav Halak will once again “keep him fresh”.  Yup, paying a goalie like a #1 when he can’t play as many games as a true #1 can.

So where does that leave us?  Or the team rather?

Unless some of the youngsters provide some scoring touch.  Or if there is a mid-season acquisition or two that does, I think we are looking at a playoff run, but an early exit.  Tampa Bay is most assuredly looking to redeem themselves after their playoff disaster of a season ago.  Other teams have made improvements.  And the Bruins stood still.

Not good enough.

Leftover Weekend Nuggets…

…some random thoughts on recent events, once again, in no particular order:

*Do we even need to talk about the actual New England Patriot win over the Pittsburgh Steelers this past Sunday night?

Not really.  But I will say a few things.

A little surprising on how easy the win was.  Isn’t Pittsburgh supposed to be a prime contender in the AFC this season?

The defense looked pretty damn good, and that was even playing without linebacker Kyle Van Noy.  There seems to be a lot of bodies out there that can contribute, that’s for sure.

The offense could have been crisper.  I mean, four field goals from Stephen Gostkowski is probably at least two too many.  Though I will take the fact that he made all of them.  He has been shaky at times recently.  And the new holder, punter Jake Bailey, hasn’t always inspired confidence thus far.

Sony Michel supposedly looked very good in training camp.  He did look very good in the very little he played in the preseason.  He did not look so hot in this game, however.  Let’s hope this changes.

But all of a sudden I am not worried about this receiving corps.  And that’s not because of the guy we will talk more about later.  I feel pretty good about Julian Edelman, of course.  I have this gut feeling that Josh Gordon will stay out of trouble this season.  If the team keeps Phillip Dorsett active, I actually feel ok about him.  I mean, I don’t think Dorsett is going for almost 100 yards and 2 TDs every game…let’s not be ridiculous.  But I think if the team doesn’t bury him now, he is trusted by Tom Brady and can be useful.  And Antoni…ok, let’s get back to him in a bit.

I think the team will miss Rob Gronkowski, don’t get me wrong.  But I am not as concerned about the tight end position as most.  There will just be a whole lot more blocking out of that group.  But I think Ben Watson and Matt LaCosse can make at least a few grabs in the passing game.

I would worry more about the offensive line.  But in reality, the Pats have such a soft schedule the first half of the season, I think by Game 7 or 8, Dante Scarnecchia and the boys will have something decent figured out.  Even if that means bringing in more bodies still.

Ok, that was more than a few things.  In the end, it was a good win.  But I am actually not going too crazy about it.  Pittsburgh may not actually be as good as we think.  Plus, I think we all thought that the Pats would be like 7-1 or 8-1 to start out the season…certainly no worse than 6-2.

It may not even be worth commenting more until we actually get some real games…especially the 19-0 talk.  It’s waaaaaaay too early for that nonsense.

*Boston Red Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski got fired late Sunday night.

Questionable timing?  Perhaps.

But I think that is something else we all saw coming.  There has been some talk that maybe Dombrowski “asked for it” because he knew it too and wanted to get a jump on other opportunities that may be available in a few weeks.

I’m guessing the Sox just wanted to bury it, especially after ownership subsequently has refused to talk about it.  That last part is kind of bizarre.

Either way, is it the right move?  Most likely.  There are some moves to be made this offseason and Dombrowski may not be the right dude to be in charge of those.  Primarily because one of the moves COULD be trading Mookie Betts.  And a move of that nature will involve most likely getting a package of prospects…not exactly DD’s strong suit.  He’s better known for stripping down a farm system for major league talent.

And, by the way, I am not advocating trading Mookie.  So pipe down.  But the reality is that if he doesn’t want to sign an extension this upcoming offseason, you can’t lose a guy like that for nothing the following offseason.  So you HAVE to investigate trading him.  I’ve been pretty clear about this for quite some time now.  I’m not looking to run the guy out of town.  I hope he re-signs…even if it is for a gazillion dollars.  John Henry has the dough, after all.

In any event, how much blame does Dombrowski get for this year?  A piece for sure.  But I don’t think it is as much as people want to lay on him.

Not getting a closer has been beaten to death when pointing fingers at DD.  And that’s valid, for sure.  He didn’t have to re-sign Craig Kimbrel for a jillion dollars.  But getting SOMEONE that had ninth inning experience would have been nice.

But what else?

People like to point to re-signing Nathan Eovaldi to 17 mil per (4 years) and Steve Pearce for 6 mil this year.  And that hurt them acquiring more bullpen help.

I say that’s bogus.  Pearce was short money and he SHOULD have formed a nice platoon at first base with Mitch Moreland for this year.  Then they both go elsewhere next season.  It is a lot of money for Nate, who never stays healthy and doesn’t have a tremendous track record (other than the playoffs last year).  But someone was going to give him some dough.  And having some starting rotation depth is never a bad thing.

To top it all off, you hear more about those contracts now that both of those guys barely played this year.  Only a few naysayers on them when they were handed out.

The Chris Sale extension?  Stupid.  But I think most of us would have given him good money over 3 years (instead of the 5 he got) though, no?  And that extension starts next year, so it has nothing to do with his performance this season.  Plus…I think ownership may have had quite a bit of say in handing that one out.  My opinion.

The bullpen?  Kind of in shambles.  But doesn’t that describe the bullpen for many major league teams?  And isn’t that why these guys are in the bullpen in the first place?  They can’t start, they can’t close and they are inconsistent from year to year.

Matt Barnes is no closer, but he should be a capable bullpen arm.  So should be guys like Brandon Workman, Heath Hembree and maybe even Steven Wright.  But Wright got hurt again and Hembree missed a chunk of time as well.  Relying on Ryan Brasier was probably foolish, but then you had guys like Marcus Walden, Josh Taylor and Darwinzon Hernandez pitch pretty well instead.  Typical of the year to year inconsistencies of most bullpen arms.

The point is, Dombrowski could have gotten more bullpen arms for sure.  But would they have even worked?

I suppose the fact that he did nothing at the trade deadline may have been one final straw.  I think he should have sold.  Others think he should have bought.  But in the end, he sat on his hands.  The consensus is probably that he should have picked one way or the other and made something happen.

But I don’t believe he should have the lions share of the blame.  Manager Alex Cora then?  Some to him as well.  He hasn’t been as good as last year, but how could he top that?  We need to realize that he is just a second year manager and will make some mistakes.  I think he has acknowledged a great deal of the mistakes he has made.  He will presumably get better the more experience he gets.  I’m not blaming him a ton either.

This all lies on the players.  Some of them are putting up gaudy numbers.  But SOMETHING has been missing all year.  There is plenty of talent on this team and it should have made the playoffs.  Injuries to Sale, Eovaldi and David Price, of course, did not help.  But this roster should still be a lot better.

And Dombrowski put together that roster.  So I guess it’s all his fault…

*So the Red Sox are 9 games out of the wild card with 17 games to go.

It’s over.  We know that.  We have known that for a while.

But you still have to compete until you are officially eliminated.  Use all your best players…even if you have to use 8-10 bullpen arms because that’s all you have.

Not sure why Xander Bogaerts wasn’t in the lineup last night, but whatever…

That being said, once the team is officially eliminated from the playoff race, since the team dumped Dombrowski early, maybe they can dump a few more dudes early too?

I mean, why are we bothering with guys like Gorkys Hernandez, Chris Owings and Josh A. Smith for?  They can also let Moreland and Rick Porcello walk soon for all I care.

Let guys like Darwinzon and Marco Hernandez, Travis Lakins, Sam Travis, Trevor Kelley, Mike Shawaryn and Bobby Poyner play more.  Call up some dudes that they have to add to the 40-man roster this offseason and give them a taste.  They may not even be overwhelmed since there are plenty of minor leaguers in the majors at this time of year.

And why no Rusney Castillo?  Gorkys, Rusney, what’s the difference?  Rusney’s salary won’t hurt the luxury tax at this time of year.  May as well see if you can get SOMETHING in return for that investment.

Even if it’s a couple of late September hits.

And…I’m fairly certain I am the only one thinking about this…

*Last, but certainly not least?  Antonio Brown!!

If I still have you after 1,500 plus words, thanks for being here!  If not, well then I guess I successfully “buried the lead”.  Or is it “buried the lede”?  Either way, I’m not sure “successfully” is the proper word either.  Let’s move on…

I’m actually not going to talk much about him here.  I mean, everyone else has been talking about him non-stop.  How much more can I really add?

In a football sense, I have decided that I am ALL IN with this dude.

Make no mistake, the guy is an arseclown.  The stuff he was pulling this summer up to and including this past weekend has certainly been juvenile.  You know the list of stuff he pulled in Oakland, so we don’t need to rehash it here.  He apparently has been doing that kind of stuff his whole career.  Including the videotaping stuff in the locker room.  And how last year ended in Pittsburgh…etc., etc., etc.

I don’t THINK  he will get away with that stuff here.  I mean, one never knows, but I would think before any kind of nonsense would get to Bill Belichick, guys like Brady, Devin McCourty, Matthew Slater, Dont’a Hightower, etc. would squash most things.

The Pats paid Brown a lot of money, so he will get more than one chance.  It’s not a risk free move, as some have been saying, but for one year it is worth the gamble.  As fans, we just have to hope he keeps in line for this one year.

Listen, I’m never going to hold any athlete as a role model.  Most of these guys are total jackwagons.  Even Brady can act bizarre at times…you know, the concussion water, avocado ice cream, etc.

I make no apologies for adding great players.  None.  Just like I make no apologies for the Patriots winning ways the past couple of decades.  People forget (or don’t even know) the doormats they were their entire existence before then.

People also compare Brown to past Patriot “headaches” such as Randy Moss, Corey Dillion, Adalius Thomas, et al.  They forget that there is one dude on the roster right now that has the potential to be a loose cannon…Michael Bennett.  There’s probably more in that locker room as well.  They just aren’t a superstar like Brown.  And as good a player as Bennett is, he’s not at Brown’s level either…I don’t think anyway.

You’re gonna have some crazies in any locker room, no matter what team you are.

What’s one more?

UNLESS…the story that broke last night about Brown being accused of rape is true.

Sadly and unfortunately, I am skeptical of a lot of those stories, especially when they come out of the blue like this one did.  And I am hoping that the story is not true of course.

But what if it is?

Now we are talking Tyreek Hill territory.  And that’s not somewhere you want to be.

As I said above, Brown has done some juvenile things over the years that kind of makes him look like a jackass.  So he’s kind of an idiot.  But is any of the stuff that has gone public really all that harmful?  Probably not.  He’s just kind of immature and pretty much a tool.

But if these new allegations are true, that changes EVERYTHING.  And Brown should be in jail, not ever on the field at Gillette Stadium.

Also, unfortunately, we may not know the truth until Brown has already played his year in New England.  So at this point maybe the only thing we can do is accept him as a player on the field.  Or at least try to.  Until that truth comes out.

Won’t be the first time this is the case for an athlete.  Which is another sad state of affairs…

Summer Is Over…

…bummer.  But you know what that means?

THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE IS BACK!!

Ok, I’d kind of like a little more summer.  But I guess there is nothing I can do about it, sssssooooo…

The defending champion New England Patriots do not actually open the season on Thursday Night Football.  That honor belongs to the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears.  Hey, they’ve been playing each other for almost 100 years, and the NFL is 100 years old this season, so I think we can all live with that.

We will get to that game in a smidge.  But let us follow up on the recent Patriot roster projection columns with some random comments on what the final roster actually looks like.  Not to mention other random NFL thoughts as the season gets set to begin.  Once again, in no particular order:

*3 years, 12 mil (9 mil guaranteed) for Brian Hoyer in Indy??  Yikes!!  Throw in the Colts jacking up Jacoby Brissett’s salary, that is…crazy.  Welp, guess they had to spend Andrew Luck’s salary on someone.

As mentioned in the last projection, I would’ve cut Hoyer too.  No way did I think the Pats would do it though.  And Tom Brady seems a little upset about it, judging by his comments in recent days.  When is Brady going to realize that he can’t play forever and that the Pats will need to get younger at QB someday?  And the sooner the better.  Sometimes he seems to just act like a big baby over stuff.  Once he retires and is running the whole TB12 nonsense he will have to manage people himself, no?  Then he may really understand what it is like to “run a business”.  Can’t wait for that.

In any event, the Pats wouldn’t be winning a Super Bowl with Hoyer if something happens to Brady.  They won’t with Jarrett Stidham either.  But wouldn’t you rather give the experience to the kid anyway?  Seems like a no-brainer to me.  Then you get someone of Hoyer’s ilk off the street to back Stidham up.  Guys like that are a dime a dozen out there.

Which makes Indy’s contract to Hoyer kind of silly, no?

Good for Brissett to cash in a little now that he is the starter.  But a jump that huge may be a little much.

Wait…if Brady gets hurt, they can always bring back Matty Cassel right?  Will that make Tommy happy??

*Speaking of Luck, kudos to him for leaving the sport if that’s what he wanted to do to help maintain his long term health.  Honestly, he could have just been placed on Injured Reserve and missed the whole year…thus collecting his entire salary for the year.  And then retired at the end of the season.  But he passed all that dough that up.  Gotta give him some credit for that.

But boy, the timing left a lot to be desired, no?

A part of me doesn’t blame the fans for being pissed that he retired a couple of weeks before the season.  They will get over it.  But it would have smacked me right in the face as well.

Wonder what his teammates think?  They probably have seen him suffering over the years.  And they also know what it’s like to play in the league.  The sacrifice it takes.  So even though the Colts’ chances decreased after Luck left, my guess is that the players are ok with it.

Maybe not the front office though…and perhaps the coaches.  But again, they will get over it too.

And maybe Patriots Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels saw the writing on the wall when he ended up declining the Colts gig a year and a half ago?  That may be a stretch.  But you never know…

*Speaking of retiring early, is anyone else sick of seeing Rob Gronkowski now?

Kudos also to Gronk if he retired thinking about his health and his future as well.  And if “football was bringing him down” as he said last week.

And now that he is outside of the strict hand of Bill Belichick, he can act however he wants.  Good for him.

But PLEASE stop with the whole “I could come back if I wanted to…” thing.  I hated when Roger Clemens would pull this crap every year.  Take the year off, do your CBD thing and if you want to come back next year, do it.  Already tired of the “will he or won’t he come back” talk.  Not to mention his pimping of the CBD stuff.  But I guess he needs something to do.

Though the Pats could use him, no doubt.  None of the 27 tight ends they brought to camp inspired anyone…

*Was anyone really surprised that Demaryius Thomas was cut and immediately brought back?  Shouldn’t have been.  That was a done deal all along.

It allowed the team to put receiver N’Keal Harry on the injured list in-season.  Meaning he can come back if the team deems him ready about halfway through the season.  And with the injury uncertainty with Julian Edelman, the suspension uncertainty with Josh Gordon, the “what does he have left in the tank” uncertainty with Thomas, along with the very average Phillip Dorsett and the two kids after that, it buys the team time to get Harry fully healthy, while evaluating all else above.

Thomas didn’t show much last year.  Then he hurt his Achilles.  Sure, he played well in the last preseason game against guys that aren’t playing anymore this week.  But there was zero chance of flight risk.

*Speaking of the two kids at receiver, I fully expect Jakobi Meyers to be a healthy scratch every week, despite his huge preseason.

Why?  Well, he didn’t really mesh with Brady in their short stint together in the third preseason game, for one.  He did return some kicks in the preseason, but I don’t think he is much of a special teamer overall.  He came out of college a little raw.  Probably needs some more time to develop.

It actually wouldn’t shock me to see the Pats try to quietly move him to the practice squad at some point when they need a body elsewhere.

You heard this here first.

*…and GUNNER!!  Great story.  Actually surprised he ended up making the team.  Looks like another team would have claimed him and he would not have snuck down to the practice squad.  Hard for me to believe even that.  But that has to be why he made the final 53.

I hope they use him as a returner.  Especially a punt returner.  No need to subject Edelman to that abuse (unless it is a “gotta have it” moment).  I will say this though:  If I see Gunner Olszewski doing anything on the football field other than returning kicks and other special teams tasks, I will be very, very, very, VERY nervous.

Maybe he turns into something in the future.  But as great a story as he is, he is not ready to be an NFL receiver yet.  Or certainly an NFL cornerback either.

Because, you know, I am an expert!!

*Melvin Gordon wants money and Ezekiel Elliott just got paid.  Good luck with that.  I know, I am a Patriots honk.  But I will never understand why teams spend money on running backs.  Elliott is AWESOME.  But doesn’t Dallas ALWAYS have a great offensive line?  Hmmmmm…Gordon?  He’s good?  But whatever.

I know.  The Pats spent a first round pick on Sony Michel last year.  And he was good last year.  Think he will be GREAT this year.  But still.  By the time his rookie contract is done, he will be discarded.  Make no bones about it.  Take that to the bank.  The Patriots will use him up and let someone else give him a fat second contract.  And let’s not forget about the bad knees going back to college…what will they look like in 3-4 years.

*Houston!!  Keep doing what YOU do!!  Is it this bad while you wait for Nick Caserio to take the reins next year??  Jadaveon Clowney for 20 cents on the dollar.  Then overspending on Laremy Tunsil?  AWESOME!!

By the way, where is that Dolphins “revolt” after the trade of Tunsil??  What a joke.  The ‘Phins are tanking and everyone knows it.  Including the players.  There will be no revolt.

Good luck Brian Flores.

*Antonio Brown.  Has this loser found a helmet yet?  Yes, loser.  One of the most dynamic receivers of this era, this guy is pretty much a laughingstock right now.

Sure, he can come out and make Derek Carr look a lot better than he is this year.

But would it surprise anyone if he went even more off the reservation?

Not me.

I really don’t have much else to say.  His actions speak louder than anything else.

*Final Patriot roster thoughts…in the secondary.  Surprised that Keion Crossen got dealt.  The team seemed to think of him highly.  Not only in the secondary, but as a potential “Matthew Slater replacement”.

Ok, a Slater replacement should not be hard, with all apologies to Bill and his special teams’ cronies across the world.

But still…

On the opposite spectrum, Duke Dawson.

Ouch.

Yet another failure for a second round defensive back in the Billy Belichick drafting queue.

Ras-I Dowling, Cyrus Jones, Patrick Chung (1st time), Eugene Wilson, Darius Butler, Terrance Wheatley, Jordan Richards, Tavon Wilson…and yes, I just looked some of them up.

Some of the other second rounders leave a lot to be desired as well.  But this focus is on defensive backs because this seems to be a real bugaboo for Bill.

Dawson didn’t even play a down for the team.

Yikes!

Let’s just hope Joejuan Williams breaks the mold this time.

I’m not counting on it though.

The chatter on local talk radio this week was that the Patriots swing for the fences in the second round.  Also meaning that they play it safe in Round One.  Then get value in Rounds Three through Seven.

Kind of makes some sense.

But there have some BIG misses in that round.

Gronk, Jamie Collins, Sebastian Vollmer, Matt Light, Deion Branch were hits.  But the aforementioned DBs and some offensive players like Chad Jackson and Adrian Klemm have been big strikeouts.  More K’s than hits.

So maybe there needs to be some change in philosophy?

Ok, I guess they have six rings, so what do I know??

Anyway, the actual Thursday Night game to open the season?

Green Bay at Chicago (-3.5) 

I have no idea, really.  Aaron Rodgers and his new coach, Matt LaFleur, already seem to be at odds on play calling.  But who knows how much of that is actually real?  We do know Chicago still has Mitchell (or is it Mitch?) Trubisky at QB…a good thing?  Don’t think so.  Chicago is at home.

Again, I don’t know.

But one thing I do know?  The Bears had some kicking problems last year with Cody Parkey.  And they replaced him with who?

No idea.  But my feeling on this night is that will actually matter.

Green Bay 24, Chicago 23.

2018 Season (against the spread):  147-120 

2018 Season (straight up):  171-96 

Career (because I love numbers!) (against the spread):  290-244 (54.3%)

Career (straight up):  351-183 (65.7%)

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