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Indifference…

…is my impression of the Boston Bruins’ moves at the trade deadline.

Sorry, that’s the best I can come up with.

What, you guys are fired up about Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson?  Doubtful.

Look, getting veteran players and putting them in places where the rotating group of kids not named Jake DeBrusk or Danton Heinen weren’t getting it done is probably not too bad of a thing.  Maybe they can be a lot more helpful.  They can’t be worse.  I think we can say that much.

Popular opinion was that the Bruins needed a third line center and a second line winger.  Again, the Sean Kuraly/Noel Acciari/Chris Wagner line is now really the teams’ third line, but we will go with them as still the fourth line since everyone else is.

Technically, Coyle and Johansson can fill those slots.  Fine enough.  Could they have aimed higher?  Surely.

But I will say that General Manager Don Sweeney did a pretty good job of not giving up roster players in his attempt to improve the team as well.  The only player given up was Ryan Donato, who had played 34 pretty uneventful games for the big club earlier this year but was down at Providence at the time of the deal for Coyle.  A fifth round pick was tossed in for Coyle, as well as a second and a fourth for Johansson.

People rail on Sweeney for giving up picks and generally tossing them around like the what the patrons at Orchids of Asia toss around down in Jupiter, FLA.  We even mentioned it in the last Bruins piece here, where we talked about the trade for Coyle.

But come to think of it, how many draft picks has Sweeney used in recent years, acquiring all these kids that were supposed to blossom?  And are STILL supposed to blossom?  They are all still here, other than Donato.  Well, in Providence anyway.  So why does he need a fourth and a fifth?  And then the second can be chalked up to the cost of doing business.

He really doesn’t.  Especially if very few of those previous picks ever pan out.  We don’t want Donnie Hockey blowing any more of them in that case.  But that is a story for a different day.

So give Sweens props for not giving up much.  Though Donato has 4 points in 3 games with the Wild.  That will bear watching.  As previously noted here, Ryan was the kid we probably least likely wanted to trade.  Because he showed something last year.  Could be an impressive offensive player, especially in today’s NHL.  Then again, if he doesn’t put on weight, he may not last in any kind of NHL.  Seems like he got pushed around a little bit, especially in the playoffs last season, where everyone’s flaws are usually exposed.

But let’s not bad mouth Donato here, because yes, we would still have liked to hold onto him to see how he developed over time.

So should Sweeney have swung for the fences here?  Depends on who you ask.  And depends on who was available.  The Bruins have plenty to offer in the form of young talent.  But undeveloped talent that may never make it.  And who wants that?  Perhaps no one really did want some of that supposed “young talent”?  Boy, that would be a telltale sign.

If they were truly going after REAL difference makers, then are you talking about giving up roster players such as DeBrusk and Charlie McAvoy.  No thank you.  And who else is on the actual roster are you giving up in a trade?  No one that will actually bring anything back.  Torey Krug?  Very useful piece, but probably not getting a ton in return.  Despite what people may want to tell us.  Offer up Kuraly and Wagner (and Backes!!) all you want, but they ain’t bringing studs back either.

Also consider the fact that, despite the Bruins having the 3rd best record in the league, they are light years behind the Tampa Bay Lightning.  Sure, in the playoffs, anything can happen.  But, barring injury or something else catastrophic, this may be Tampa’s year since they are so far ahead of everyone.

Plus…what are the odds that Tuukka Rask gets hot like a goalie can and steal you a Cup?  You know what I think…

So give Donnie Hockey some credit there too.  Why empty the cupboard when your available talent to give up is either too far along to trade, not ready at all or may never be ready.  And when you may not have a chance based on a juggernaut existing in the league.  Especially when you are probably relying on a goalie that has no stones anyway.

Let’s not even revisit what we spoke about last time as well…David Pastrnak’s injury.  How long will it take to come back and what he will look like when (if?) he does.  Does the team know something we don’t?

In any event, all we can do now is see how it plays out.  I mean, the team is 10-0-4 in its last 14 games.  Seems pretty good.

Let’s see where Pasta ends up when he comes back too.  There could be some mixing and matching.  Does he go back to his normal spot with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron?  Does he pick up where he left off on the David Krejci/DeBrusk line?

I’ll tell you one thing:  If Coyle plays on the line like he did last night, with David Backes and Joakim Nordstrom, then it won’t matter how good Coyle is.  That third line is still going to stink.  And Danton Heinen may be better off playing with Marchy and Bergy, because you may then get something out of him.  Backes/Coyle/Heinen could stink too.  And Heinen didn’t exactly work out well with Krejci and DeBrusk either early in the season.

Sssssoooo…time will tell…just like with anything else.  But I raised the question last time, to ask me Monday night (or I suppose anytime right after the deadline) if I thought the Bruins were true contenders or not.

The answer?  I still don’t know.  They are better than before the deadline.  But they need Pastrnak to come back full strength.  And of course, no other injuries.  Major ones anyway.

But to get off the fence, I would normally say that, yes, they are true contenders.  I feel like this team can make a run.  But then I remember that Rask is in net.  And I have zero faith in him come playoff time.  Unless Tuuks really craps himself down the stretch, he will be the guy in April.  And that scares the bejesus out of me.

I am hoping that if Tuuks is bad at any time in the playoffs, Coach Bruce Cassidy will have no hesitation in going to Jaroslav Halak.  Cassidy seems to be the type of guy that will have no problem pulling the trigger.  But that remains to be seen when push comes to shove.

Then again, if a team is juggling goaltenders in the playoffs, that cannot bode well…

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Train Wreck?

I admit, I can’t really watch much anymore.  I can’t…and I don’t really want to either.

The Boston Celtics that is.

It’s kind of a shame since basketball was one of my top two sports growing up.  Granted, that was during the Larry Bird era.  Kind of a good time to start following the local team, I will allow.

But still…

The game has changed since those days…and I’m talking more than just the short shorts that the players wore back then.  THAT is one of the positive changes over the years, no doubt.

Many people will tell you the game has changed for the better since the 1980s.  That’s completely their right to have that opinion.  But they would be wrong.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again…repeatedly, for sure.  Too many threes being jacked up.  Too many one on four breaks…and when there is a four on one break, one of the four pulling up for a three pointer.  Boxing out, rebounding, passing and many of the fundamentals of the game have deteriorated, in my opinion.  Sure, there can be some decent passing…but generally with four guys around the three point line.  Guys passing up layups to throw it out to the three point line.  Too much “Showtime” and guys still wanting to see themselves in the highlight reels.  Etc.

Again, my opinion…and perhaps I just don’t watch enough basketball.  The skill level of the players is certainly higher than in past eras…maybe even exponentially so.

But the quality of the actual game?  Inferior.  Sorry.  And I am not even including the debacle that was on in the background where I was on Sunday…the NBA All-Star Game…which we know is not a real game.  But atrocious nonetheless.

In any event, this piece really wasn’t supposed to be about the state of the NBA in my eyes.  But the state of the Boston Celtics instead.

The C’s were SUPPOSED to be the Eastern Conference’s representative in the NBA Finals this year.  I mean, didn’t we all think that?  Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward added back to a team that lost in seven games in the Conference Finals last year.  LeBron out West now.  Toronto, even with Kawhi Leonard being added to the mix, having a poor playoff reputation.  Teams like Milwaukee and Philadelphia, though possessing talent, not being quite ready to take that “next step”.

Welp, so much for THAT.  I mean sure, it could still happen.  But who feels confident in that now?

Certainly not I.

The Celts still do have all that talent.  Though Hayward clearly isn’t the same guy as he was before his gruesome injury, at least thus far.  But as we have seen this season, there appears to be a problem in the locker room.  And is Coach Brad Stevens finally showing some cracks in the armor?

The locker room thing appears to be a case of the veterans versus the young guys.  And as much as a lunatic Kyrie can seemingly be at times, I think I end up falling on the side of the vets.  Jayson Tatum appears to be a future superstar.  Jaylen Brown could possibly be as well.  Terry Rozier?  Not in my mind.  But he thinks he is already.  And it appears the other two dudes do too.

The rumors tell us that the kids feel like they didn’t need Kyrie and Gordo last year to advance as far as they did.  So they feel like they don’t need them now.  But the pair came back and have been kind of ruining the kids’ mojo.  Truth?  Not so sure about that.  Adding a superstar and a pretty good player when he was at full health should not hurt the situation.  Yes, “having too many cooks in the kitchen” can sometimes be detrimental.  We have talked about that a number of times before.  But that’s where Stevens should make his presence felt.

But is he?  Or HAS he?

Seems like this is the first time Brad has faced any adversity during his NBA coaching tenure.  And I am not sure it’s working out the way he wanted…at this time anyway.  I know I wouldn’t mind seeing…or hearing…more noise around him.  Meaning, what he is doing to try to make things better.  But also maybe putting more heat on him to figure it out.  But yeah, yeah, yeah…he keeps it all “in house”.  So we may never know what Brad is doing behind the scenes.  But whatever he is doing hasn’t manifested itself in public.  And Stevens seems still mostly to be in the honeymoon stage with the fans.

The C’s are currently tied for 4th in the East, six and a half out of first with 24 to go.  They are playing .638 ball, which sounds ok…until you realize that it’s only good for 52 wins in an 82 game season.  Plus that 14-13 road record ain’t so appealing.

Barring a catastrophe, they will not finish worse than 5th.  They are a game out of third place coming out of the All-Star break.  And it would seem to behoove them to finish in third so they can play whatever flotsam finishes in 6th.  Rather than finishing 4th or 5th and having to play the Pacers or 76ers in the first round.

The Celtics can conceivably not make it out of the first round this season if the latter scenario unfolds.  Think about that for a second.  If the C’s get dumped in the opening round, how does that affect the team next year?

Welp, that could mean Kyrie’s official exit.  Wait, he committed to Boston in the fall, right?  Ummmmm…maybe?  Based on how this season has gone, it would not shock me if he took off this offseason.  But wait, Danny Ainge can trade for Anthony Davis and Kyrie will stay and all will be good, right?  Well…sure.

At this point, nothing would surprise me.  I also actually think that the C’s will make the trade for Davis this offseason.  I feel like that since New Orleans did not trade AD at the deadline, therefore creating a difficult atmosphere in THAT locker room the rest of this season, that the Pelicans were almost telegraphing a trade to the C’s during the summer.  I say this because, although I am sure they got some decent offers at the deadline, they probably thought that the Celtics would have the best offer in the summer.

Sure, another team could make a great offer in the offseason.  Absolutely possible.  But the way Ainge lusts after Davis and the amount of “assets” that the Celts COULD offer the Pelicans…isn’t this almost like a foregone conclusion?

I feel that way.  Then again, the Pelicans just fired their general manager.  So who the F knows what happens now?

Either way, there’s a good chance Davis gets traded to Boston, then hits the road to the Lakers when he can after one year in town.  So there’s THAT.  And that ain’t gonna keep Kyrie in tow.

I guess we won’t worry so much about the offseason until the offseason.  Let’s get back to the outlook this season.  In which again, I am not confident.  All the above we already spoke about.  Marcus Morris had some words to say, while he hasn’t been the same player as earlier this year.  Marcus Smarts’ shot has (predictably) stopped falling.  Trade rumors, free agent rumors, etc.  Add it all up and it doesn’t look good.

And then Danny did nothing at the trade deadline.  Feels like that is unusual.  Well, he did trade Jabari Bird for absolutely nothing.  Wait, who?  Bird is a guy that hadn’t played a minute for the team all season.  With good reason too, as he really should be in prison.  Why?  I don’t have the energy.  Just trust me on that one.  Or Google it if you like.

I suppose that opens up a spot for a guy that was bought out.  Yippee!  Greg Monroe, Part II anyone?  If a big guy is going to be the target for that spot, I’d rather give those minutes to Robert Williams.  But Stevens apparently is treating this year as a redshirt year for him.  Why?  I don’t know.  Seems to me that at the very least, the last spot on the bench on the active roster would be ideal for a guy that can block some shots and grab some rebounds if you need him to.  What’s the sense of dressing Guerschon Yabusele instead?  I mean, what does Yabusele bring to the table?  To me?  Zero.

In any event, based on all of the above, I have pretty much lost interest in this season.  Despite the two wins right after Morris did his chirping, including a big win on the road in Philly.  This season has been underwhelming and a big disappointment.  There is time for the team to redeem itself, specifically in the playoffs.  But again, does anyone expect them to?  “Train Wreck” may be a little harsh.  It’s not that bad.  But then again, I am not ruling anything out.

All of this can make you pine for the scrappy days of Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Kelly Olynyk and the gang a little bit, no?  Sad to say, I’ve given it some thought…

Champs…Yet Again…

…surprised?  I am a little bit…actually, a lot.

Sure, the New England Patriots have a ton of talent.  But, on paper, was it on par with teams like the Los Angeles Rams, the Kansas City Chiefs and the New Orleans Saints?  Not so sure about that.  Not to mention having to play the AFC Championship Game in Kansas City.  With that atrocious (for them) road record this season.

But that’s why they play the games, as they say.

Plus…the Pats have Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.  So there is that…

Now, Brady didn’t exactly play his best last Sunday.  But did he need to?  I guess not the way the defense played.  And with how putrid Jared Goff looked.  Then again, it would have been nice to see some points on the board.  And not waiting until about seven minutes left to score a touchdown.  But that’s what happens when you don’t give Brady many weapons.

I’m not sure what happened to Chris Hogan this year.  Hogan had been a fairly reliable wide receiver during his first two years with the team.  But completely disappeared for most of this year.  He supposedly fell out of the “Brady Circle of Trust”.  But seemingly came back in during the playoffs.  Zero for six in the Super Bowl for catches and targets, however.  Disgusting.  And Phillip Dorsett played a good amount of snaps and no one even saw him on the field I don’t think.  James White had one catch on four targets.  Surprisingly not part of the game plan in that respect, but apparently was chipping the Rams’ D-linemen often.  So we will give him a pass.

Other than that?  Just Gronk and Jules.  But I guess that is all you need…Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman.  How could the Rams let those two catch ANYTHING?  Have to let those other stiffs beat you, no?

So the Pats won the game…with running and defense?  What, was this 2001 all over again?

Hard to believe.

When you look back, the running game wasn’t exactly stout the entire game.  154 yards is a nice total.  But it was also misleading.

What wasn’t misleading was the fact that the Patriots ran the ball down the Rams throat when it counted most.  Their last drive.  After Stephon Gilmore picked off a Goff floater inside their own five yard line with about 4 minutes left and the Pats up 10-3, the running game then took it to another level.  They marched down the field running the ball led by a pair of 26 yard runs, one each by Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead.  (Though Michel couldn’t get two yards on a third and about a yard and a half, but we won’t nitpick too much).

That drive obviously sealed the game.  When is the last time that anyone could say the running game wrapped up a game for the New England Patriots?  The Corey Dillon days?  Usually, Brady would be throwing screens to guys like Edelman and White to get 3-5 yards and first downs because they couldn’t run the ball.  Seemed weird.  But it worked.

The Patriot defense? Sure, they played pretty well.  But was the performance overrated?  Perhaps.  Goff was absolutely abysmal, in all aspects.  And Todd Gurley can tell anyone he wants that he wasn’t hurt.  But that can’t possibly be the case.  He HAD to have been hurt.  10 carries in the Super Bowl?  A handful in the NFC Championship Game?  It’s noble for Gurley to deny his knee was a problem.  But we all know it was.

Not having a healthy Gurley was a huge blow for the Rams…and don’t give me “well, C.J. Anderson was lighting it up after they signed him…”.  Anderson isn’t Gurley.  I think we can all agree on that.  A player isn’t on three different teams in one season for no reason.

I’m sure this factor has been talked about ad nauseam this past week.  However, I have not been able to listen to a lot of the chatter, unfortunately.  But Sean McVay got taken to the woodshed in the game.  Simple as that.

According to people who watch film, and all the other information available that has been analyzed and re-analyzed, it appears that the Patriots had two different calls for the defense for every play…or a majority of them anyway.  One to show the Rams a look before the 15 second mark on the play clock and another for after the 15 second mark.

Why the 15 second mark?  Well, you have all heard about this too.  McVay can talk in Goff’s ear until then.  After that, the line of communication is shut off.  So McVay helped Goff before the time limit, then Goff was helpless thereafter.  Because the Patriots changed things up and Goff had no idea what to do.

My main question is:  How come no other team has figured that out?  I guess teams “do what they do” and don’t strategize to that degree.  Kind of a mistake I would say.  But then again, when you have the same coach and the same systems in place for almost two decades, I guess that makes it easier for a team to do.

My second question would be:  Wow, is Goff really that inept that he can’t figure things out on his own?  Makes you wonder if he is really a franchise type guy.  Not our problem I guess.  But worth noting nonetheless.

So there is your story:  Coaching, defense, running game…and maybe a dash of special teams.  Stephen Gostkowski did have 7 of the teams’ 13 points after all.  Yes, a little shaky.  But the job was done nonetheless.

For all those people who thought the game was boring?  I understand.  If you are not a fan of the teams, I imagine that more offense would have been what you wanted.  If you were like most of the country, wanting the Patriots to lose, well, having the Rams score only three points couldn’t have been that exciting for you.  And…we know that offense is now the name of the game.  See the 54-51 game between the Rams and Chiefs earlier this year.

The fact is, the Patriots should have scored more points.  How many times were they into Rams territory with nothing to show for it?  Plenty.  But defense is still a part of the game.  And fans should have been paying attention to that.  Wasn’t a boring game for the Blowhard.  Then again, being out in a pro-Patriot crowd while enjoying some (many?) adult beverages will often help that, I will allow.

In any event, the New England Patriots are Super Bowl Champions for the 6th time.  Deal with it.  I’ve said it before and I will say it again:  People, for some reason, fail to remember the years before Robert Kraft owned the team.  Many failures, few successes, lots of laughable moments.  Drug scandals, head coaches in the playoffs creating distractions by taking other jobs before the season is over (Chuck Fairbanks AND Bill Parcells), sexual harassment scandals (Lisa Olson), a bogus roughing the passer call (Sugar Bear Hamilton), the Rod Rust (1-15) era, the Sullivan’s and their decrepit stadium, Matt Millen punching one of the Sullivan’s, James Orthwein, Victor Kiam, etc., etc., etc.  The list can go on.

Patriot fans should make no apologies for the past two decades of dominance.  Because we all know the other side of it…and how fast things can change going forward.  Who knows what this organization will look like once Brady and Belichick retire?  I believe that as long as the team remains under the Kraft’s ownership (which should be a significant amount of time, as undoubtedly Jonathan Kraft will take over for his father Robert at some point), I expect no 2-14 or 1-15 seasons.  But that does not mean they will continue winning Super Bowls.

Let’s enjoy this run, ignore the haters…and go for the seventh next year!

Which leads me to what’s next for this Patriot’s team.  Welp, seemingly a lot of roster decisions.  A whole slew of free agents of varying importance.  And we will cover that in due time…

Week (against the spread):  1-0

Week (straight up):  1-0

Season (against the spread):  147-120 (55.1%…1.5% better than last year!)

Season (straight up):  171-96 (64.0%…3.4% worse than last year…yikes!)

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