Fallen Star


The Chicago Blackhawks hockey team has had a long period of sustained success over the past decade. This includes winning multiple Stanley Cups. The team has had a backbone formed by defenders Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith. The season is into the home stretch and Chicago has clinched a playoff spot but they have now lost the backbone of the defense. Seabrook is out through injury which was causing Keith to play an even bigger role than before. Now that Keith has let his anger get the best of him by doing one of the dumbest thinks he could have done he could be out for a while.

For those of you that do not know what I mean I am talking about the incident from last night’s game with the Minnesota Wild where Keith fell down and then deliberately swung his stick towards the head of Wild player Charlie Coyle. Keith’s stick hit Coyle in the face drawing blood and Keith we ejected on the spot. With the league trying to protect the heads of players now more than ever before Keith should receive no less than a 25 game suspension. It should not matter that he is a key player on a playoff team. He made his choice, undoubtedly a poor one, and he should have to live with the punishment.

The NHL has given Keith the opportunity to have his hearing in person since the Blackhawks do not play on Friday. This incident will definitely show how hard the disciplinary committee is willing to come down on a high profile player for an extremely dangerous attack on another player. Undoubtedly the NHL will mess up this decision and will fall under scrutiny from fans and members of the media for not having the balls to discipline a star player.

Time For A Change

US soccer crest

In the hours after the USMNT’s loss to Guatemala on Friday night there were the familiar grumbles that Jürgen Klinsmann should be fired. This was followed by a statement from former US star Landon Donovan calling for Klinsmann to be fired. The only real saving grace for Klinsmann was that the U 23 squad still had a chance to qualify for the final spot in the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio. If they could qualify it would show that the Americans had started to make some progress after missing out on the 2012 Olympics in London.

Tuesday was a day that Klinsmann needed to have good showings from the senior side and from the U 23 side. The first game was the Senior team and they definitely responded to the loss on Friday to Guatemala by making the same opponents look like the weaker side that they should be. The game Friday was a complete embarrassment and a total step in the wrong direction for a country that should be easily qualifying for the World Cup. On Tuesday the team looked much better and controlled the game from start to finish. The 4-0 victory had a little more significance for one young American. Seventeen year old Borussia Dortmund midfielder Christian Pulisic came on late in the encounter as a substitution and while he did not make much of an impact he is now cap tied to the USMNT. This is significant due to the fact that his father is Croatian so he could be eligible to play for them and because he actually gets playing time with the Dortmund first team and that should allow him to progress well in the years to come.

After the joy of victory that came from Columbus the scene shifted to Frisco, Texas for the second leg of the U 23 Olympic Qualifying Playoff. In the first leg the Americans escaped Columbia with an important away goal and a 1-1 draw. They looked like a team with confidence at the back and had the ability to maintain possession in the midfield. On Tuesday a completely different US side showed up. The team was shaky at the back and could not complete a pass to save their lives. Columbia scored early and the Americans looked very dispirited. They did not have an actual shot on goal until late in the game but were aided by a Columbian own goal to level the score. then the wheel fell off and the team had a massive defensive lapse which allowed Columbia to take a 2-1 lead and a 3-2 aggregate and the lead on away goals. The US would have to score 2 goals but had not yet even taken a shot. Manager Andi Herzog switched to a 3 back set and brought in Luis Gil who within 10 minutes of being brought on was sitting in the dressing room after picking up two yellows. Then the poor defending continued to show and in the 89th minute Matt Miazga hauled down the Columbian defender and received a straight red card. The team was outmatched the entire game.

Without their loss to Honduras back in November, the U 23 team would not have had to be in this situation and now Sunil Gulati should be wondering whether or not the US Soccer Federation has the right man in charge of the program to lead US Soccer into the realm of the England’s and the France’s or are they going to continue losing to weak CONCACAF opponents. If the federation does not see any improvement in the level of play over the past few years the Klinsmann should be replaced.

RG25: The Last Resort

RG3

After a couple weeks of free agency it was beginning to look like the latest front office for the Cleveland Browns finally made their first big signing. A young Quarterback who has had experience winning with a team that was not very good. Robert Griffin lll was once thought of as the savior of Washington, however after running one coach out of town and having multiple knee surgeries he was forced, by the team, to miss all of last year. Now after not being heavily looked at by many teams in free agency RG3 signed a 2 year deal worth $12 million with $6 million guaranteed with the Browns. Both parties have the ability to win in this deal.

There is one easy way for RG3 to win this deal. Win football games and play well in the process. Then after the two years he will either be resigned by the Browns with a bigger contract and as the face of the franchise, or he will be able to re-enter free agency and command a larger salary with another team. This opportunity that the Browns have given to RG3 is possibly the final one he will receive in the NFL.

The Browns have already started winning this deal from the moment RG3 signed it. This is because the $6 million in guaranteed money is all in the first year so if the RG3 experiment does not work out they can cut him after a year. However if the deal does work out then the Browns may have just found their franchise QB at a minimal cost for the first two years of his time in Cleveland. Plus even if it does not work out between the two parties, it would give the QB they draft this year, they still need to draft a QB this year, at least a year to learn the offense and to get bigger, quicker and stronger without taking a year or two of NFL bruising to damage his confidence. If you want to see examples of a QB being played too soon look no further that the 1999 Browns with Tim Couch, or the expansion Texans with Derek Carr.

In every deal made in NFL free agency there is a chance it could end poorly, however there is also the same amount of chance that it could be a great thing for both sides. It may take a year or two to figure it out and the fans of the team must hope the players and coaches are given the time to figure everything out before they are let go.

Quest for the Cup

Caps

The NHL season is a long perilous journey that culminates with the best teams from each playing for the trophy that each and every player has dreamed about their whole life, Lord Stanley’s Cup. With a few weeks left in the season, fans of the Washington Capitals can breathe a sigh of relief after their team became the first in the NHL to clinch a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Having won 50 of their 69 games this season, the Capitals are almost a shoe-in to win the Presidents trophy for having the most points at the end of the regular season. Even more impressive is that Left Wing Alexander Ovechkin is on pace to win the Rocket Richard trophy as the league’s top scorer. At the moment Ovechkin is only four goals ahead of Patrick Kane who is having the type of season that can win a player the Hart trophy at the end of the season. The incredible thing for the Capitals and for Ovechkin is that this year is not much different than any other year. The Capitals are usually in the running for the Presidents trophy and Ovechkin is due for 40-50 goals. That kind of consistency is what many teams dream for, however for fans of the Capitals, consistency is not enough anymore. The next goal is to win the Stanley Cup.

This year may look like they year of the Capitals on paper but just ask the 2010 Capitals what winning the Presidents trophy will get you come playoff time. The NHL playoffs are a completely different animal from the regular season. Each individual game means a lot more than they do in the regular season with each team only needing to win four times in seven chances to advance. One of the strengths of this years Capitals team could be the best thing for them come playoff time. The play of netminder Brayden Holtby has been incredible this season and he has shown in the past that he can be cool in playoff situations. If Holtby can continue his impressive play in net and Ovechkin can maintain his goal scoring run then there is a good chance that the Capitals can make a deep run into the playoffs and maybe even win Lord Stanley’s Cup.

Out Foxing the League

Leicester

Back in August when the English Premier League season had just started most fans as well as the media had one of about four teams as their next champions of the league. As the season has played out and March rolled around there was no Chelsea, no Arsenal, no Manchester United, and no Manchester City atop the league table. Nope, the leaders for the majority of the year has been one of the most extreme underdogs. At 3000-1 odds before the season, Leicester City now has the greatest chance to win the league with a five point lead over Tottenham Hotspurs with only eight games remaining.

How did this happen? This time last year the team was one of the worst in the league and in the process of performing their great escape from relegation under manager Nigel Pearson. Then over the summer while the team was in preseason camp in Thailand three players were involved in a sex scandal which resulted in their dismissal as well as the dismissal of Pearson. The Foxes then hired manager Claudio Ranieri, previously of Chelsea and Greece, who brought in a more counter attacking style of play. Ranieri brought in some signings what would prove to make the difference in the form of N’golo Kante and Riyad Mahrez, who only cost the team $400,000, and they have combined to make the team into a fantastic side. Mahrez is actually the most productive player in the league so far this term because he has the most combined goals and assists out of everyone in the EPL. This has had rumors of a possible summer sale to include prices in the $30 million range.

One of the biggest reason they are top of the table at this point in the season is because of the goal scoring prowess of far travelled striker Jaime Vardy. His pace is what makes him perfect for Ranieri’s system and when he gets in the box he has the calm nature to place the ball into the back of the net. He displayed this so well over the beginning of the season that he actually broke the record for most consecutive games with a goal, 12, that was set by former Manchester United player Ruud Van Nistelrooy.

These are just a couple of the reasons why Leicester City are in front of the Premier League and will remain there until they lift the winners trophy at the end of the year.