April 2, 2013

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Why NHL Realignment Makes Sense

By: Tyler Vespa

With the NHL realignment approved for next season, the league will now feature four divisions instead of six. These would be the Midwest, the Pacific, the Central and the Atlantic. The Midwest and Pacific divisions would makeup the Western Conference, while the Central and the Atlantic divisions would make up the Eastern Conference. The Central and Atlantic divisions will have 8 teams each, while the Pacific and the Midwest will each have 7 teams.

The Red Wings will say goodbye to the Western Conference and move to the East nest season.

Here is what the NHL will look like next season:

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Midwest

Chicago Blackhawks

Colorado Avalanche

Dallas Stars

Minnesota Wild

Nashville Predators

St. Louis Blues

Winnipeg Jets

Pacific

Anaheim Ducks

Calgary Flames

Edmonton Oilers

Los Angeles Kings

Phoenix Coyotes

San Jose Sharks

Vancouver Canucks

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Central

Boston Bruins

Buffalo Sabres

Detroit Red Wings

Florida Panthers

Montreal Canadiens

Ottawa Senators

Tampa Bay Lightning

Toronto Maple Leafs

Atlantic

Carolina Hurricanes

Columbus Blue Jackets

New Jersey Devils

New York Islanders

New York Rangers

Philadelphia Flyers

Pittsburgh Penguins

Washington Capitals

The playoffs will still feature 16 teams, eight from each conference, but will not be division based with a new wild-card feature. The top 3 teams from each division will make up the first 12 teams in the playoffs The final 4 places will be filled in by the next two highest placed teams in each conference, and will be based on regular season points, regardless of their division. This means one division could send 5 teams while another could only send three.

Regular season points will also determine the seeding of the teams. Meaning, the division winner with the most points will play the wild card team with the least points, and so forth.

This plan is exactly what the league needed after two lockouts in the past 8 seasons. Something needed to change. As you can see the only two teams changing conferences will be the Detroit Red Wings and the Columbus Blue Jackets. Detroit has been crying for this move for years.

With that I give you 4 reasons this plan for realignment is a win-win for the league and everybody associated with it:

Geographic simplicity: We will see fewer issues with time zones and travel. Teams in the same conference will enjoy easier travel simply because they are now crossing over fewer time zones.

More Original 6 matchups: Detroit is now in the same division with 3 other teams from the Original 6: Boston, Montreal and Toronto. Also, the Red Wings and the New York Rangers are in the same conference.

New Playoff Format: With the imbalance of teams in each division, there is talk of a “Wild Card Format” being added to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. This could mean a play-in game where two teams play one game to become the 8th seed in the Western Conference. Another win or go home game would be genius.

Dream for Television: The Eastern Conference would have a rivalry game almost every night. Teams in Canada will get awesome exposure, with a myriad of Canadian vs. Canadian rivalries. New rivalries and big matchups will be made out West such as with the 3 California teams; San Jose, Anaheim and Los Angeles. Even more Canadian exposure is bred with Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Winnipeg.

January 22, 2013

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

San Francisco 49ers to meet Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl: The San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens advanced to the Super Bowl after wins over the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots, respectively. Both teams have played well this season, but it is a bit interesting that each road team won since home field advantage is so important. The game now sets up, of course, the Harbaugh Bowl as 49ers’ head coach Jim Harbaugh will square off against his brother John, the coach of the Ravens. Be prepared to hear this particular angle played out ad nauseam over the next two weeks.

The Baltimore Ravens will play the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl.

Hall of Famers Stan Musial and Earl Weaver pass away: Baseball lost two Hall of Famers last week when Stan Musial and Earl Weaver both passed away. At 82, Weaver died while on a cruise (a cause of death wasn’t immediately known). He went to four World Series and won one in 1970. Musial also died over the weekend at his home at the age of 92. Stan the Man was a Hall of Famer, but you could actually argue that he was a bit underrated when it came to his pecking order on the list of the sport’s all-time best players. Often overlooked for flashier names, Musial won three MVP awards, three World Series and racked up more than 3,600 hits and nearly 500 home runs. He wasn’t just a Hall of Famer or the face of a franchise, but an absolute icon.

Lance Armstrong confesses to doping: In an interview with Oprah last week, Lance Armstrong finally confessed to what many had accused him of over his career – doping during his races. Regardless of what you think about Armstrong, it was a sad day for cycling. The number of clean cyclists decreased by one and Armstrong was the biggest name in the history of the sport. The fact that he cheated isn’t what likely has most steaming – some fans could forgive him for that. Armstrong’s biggest problem is that he was so adamant about not cheating for such a long time.

Manti Te’o involved in girlfriend hoax … or not: Ever since the regular season ended, Manti Te’o has had a rough time of things. His Notre Dame team was rolled up by Alabama in the BCS Championship and he didn’t have a strong game. But last week, things got markedly more embarrassing for the star linebacker as he was involved in a strange situation. By now you’ve likely seen the report, but the gist of the story is that Te’o either made up a story about a girlfriend dying or was the victim of a hoax. We may never know the true story, but one thing’s for certain – Manti’s draft status is sinking like a rock. Some team will take a chance on him, but with a poor national championship game and girlfriend-gate, his stock is falling.

NBA All-Star starters named: The NBA’s starters for the All-Star game were named and Kobe Bryant was voted as one for the 15th straight time – a league record. If you needed any more proof that a handful of teams dominate the fans’ consciousness, look no farther than the two rosters. Four of the league’s premier teams, the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat, and Boston Celtics each had two players. Carmelo Anthony of the Knicks and Kevin Durant of the Thunder were the other two players to make it. As far as snubs go, Paul Pierce or Chris Bosh probably deserved to start ahead of Kevin Garnett. But all in all, the fans did a reasonably good job.

The NHL is back: The NHL got underway with a slate of games over the weekend. The highlight was seeing the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers, two favorites to reach the Stanley Cup finals, square off on Opening Day. It wasn’t the crispest of games and the play was a bit sloppy, but the players will quickly round into shape. The important thing is that with the football season winding down, hockey is getting underway just in time to give sports fans another option.

Mayor injures himself before Ray Lewis dance (seriously): Denver mayor Michael Hancock, having lost a bet to Baltimore mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, had to pay up. After the Baltimore Ravens knocked off the Denver Broncos, Hancock was forced to do Ray Lewis’ famed warm-up dance. An original report stated that he injured himself actually practicing for the performance. Later, it was reported that he injured himself at a western stock show of all places. Either way, the mayoral bets are a bit ridiculous and we’d all be better off if they just went away. But as for the origins of the injury (which, by the way, is so severe that Hancock can’t actually perform the dance to pay off the bet), I’m going with the first report – it just makes for a better story.

No. 1 Louisville dethroned: For the second time in as many weeks, we’ll have a new No. 1 in college basketball after the Louisville Cardinals were upset by Syracuse on Saturday, 70-68. Duke is once again the #1 team in men’s college basketball. The bigger question is for how long?

February 10, 2012

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Sports Viewing Schedule

By: Junior

If you followed our schedule last week, you got to see some amazing games last weekend. On Friday, Florida held on to a 2-1 lead to edge the Jets. Saturday, our Mid-Major game came through HUGE, with Northern Iowa hitting a buzzer beater to upset #12 Creighton. Plus, we were the only blog that let you in on our little viewing secret, the Super Bowl on Sunday night. Hopefully you have learned to trust our viewing schedule, because we have another great weekend in store for you.  (All times EST).

Friday Night

Los Angeles Lakers at New York Knicks – NBA  – 8:00pm

Coming into this season, who would have thought that with all the stars that will be on the court in this game, the biggest storyline will be: Jeremy Lin. Lin has the Knicks on a 3 game winning streak and has gotten big so fast he already has a Fathead. If the Knicks can pull off a win against the Lakers, Lin-sanity will explode. The Lakers will be playing their 5th straight game on the road, while the Knicks will be rested and returning to an electric Madison Square Garden. This game should provide an amazing start to the weekend.

A spot normally reserved for Kobe Bryant, Jeremy Lin will take center stage Friday night.

Saturday

#6 Baylor at #4 Missouri – MBB – 1:30pm

Again?! You may remember a few weeks ago we had this game on the schedule when they were ranked #3 and #5, respectively. That game did not disappoint at all, coming down to an 89-88 Missouri win. Now, Missouri is ranked higher, and welcomes Baylor to their house to see if they can once again pull out a victory. These two teams can both score at will, so expect another shootout that goes down to the wire. This will be a fast, action-packed game to get our Saturday moving in the right direction.

#12 Michigan State at #3 Ohio State – MBB – 6:00pm

We thought you might need a nap after what is sure to be an intense game. We give you until 6:00pm, when two of the top teams in the Big Ten battle for the best record in the conference. Michigan State would love to be able to get a victory against a Top 5 opponent to boost its tournament resume, but Ohio State has yet to lose at home this season. While these teams can score, expect a hard-fought defensive battle in a typical Big Ten game.

Vancouver @ Calgary – NHL – 10:30pm

The Calgary Flames are currently two points out of the playoffs, while the Canucks are one point from being the #1 seed in the Western Conference. Calgary would love to take a game from the Northwest division leader, but the Canucks are playing great hockey right now. Vancouver is 3rd in goals (1st in power play scoring), 7th in goals against and 6th in killing the power play. If Calgary can get a win against Vancouver, it could be the boost they need to make a run at the playoffs.

Sunday

Chicago at Boston – NBA – 3:30pm

We know there are always errands to run and chores to do, so wake up early and get them done so you can be in front of the TV for this game. Young vs. Old. Offense vs. Defense. This game has many storyline, but most important could be 1 vs. 7. That is the difference in playoff standings right now, and Boston needs to start making up some ground while they are still fresh. Boston is an aging team, but they are playing the best defense in the league right now. 1st overall in points allowed, they will be looking to shut down a young, explosive Bulls team that is 9th in scoring and has the best record in the East. Boston is catching Chicago at a great time though, as this is the final game of the Bulls 9-game road trip. Seeing how all of these storylines play out should make for a great game.

Philadelphia at Detroit – NHL – 7:30 pm

As of today, Detroit has an 18 game home winning streak going. If they don’t lose Friday night, this game would be to tie the NHL record. The Red Wings haven’t played the Flyers yet this season, and they split a pair of games in the preseason. Philadelphia is 2nd in the NHL in scoring and will test Jimmy Howard often throughout this game. Howard should have some support though, as the Flyers give up close to 3 goals a game. The key to this game is the Power Play, as Philadelphia is very effective with the extra man, while Detroit has struggled short-handed. This game should be great regardless of if the record is in play or not. If the record is on the line, Joe Louis Arena should be electric and a great way to end the sports weekend.

February 9, 2012

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Detroit Red Wings Home Winning Streak

By: Junior

When it comes to the Detroit Red Wings, people have grown to expect the continued success they have had in the NHL. Having won four Stanley Cups in the last 14 years and having not missed the playoffs in the last 20, winning in the regular season normally wouldn’t make headlines. That being said, their newest winning streak is above and beyond even what Detroit fans have come to expect from their team.

The Red Wings have won their last 18 games at home, adding more meaning to the nickname “Hockeytown”. The Wings play their next 5 games at home, so how long can this streak continue? I break down each game and see which one of them could be the end of the streak.

Anaheim Ducks - 2/10

Detroit won both previous contests with the Ducks, 5-0 and 4-2, respectively. Detroit is the first stop of a long, 8-game road trip for the Ducks. Anaheim will look to win early in that trip, before the road takes its toll, so look for Anaheim to be aggressive. However, the Ducks haven’t been able to keep opponents from lighting the lamp, and Detroit has proven they can do that frequently against Anaheim. I don’t think the record ends here.

Philadelphia Flyers - 2/12

The Red Wings haven’t played the Flyers yet this season, and they split a pair of games in the preseason. Philadelphia is 2nd in the NHL in scoring and will test Jimmy Howard often throughout this game. Howard should have some support though, as the Flyers give up close to 3 goals a game. The key to this game is the Power Play, as Philadelphia is very effective with the extra man, while Detroit has struggled short-handed. This game is scary, and I think the streak could end here.

Jimmy Howard will have his work cut out for him when the Flyers visit Joe Louis Arena.

Dallas Stars - 2/14

Since I am known to be wrong, we will continue just in case my Philly prediction is incorrect. Dallas has been a worthy opponent to Detroit this season, losing two contests by a goal each, 5-4 and 3-2 in a shootout. The season is winding down, and at this moment Dallas is 2 points out of the playoffs. This game would break the NHL’s all-time home winning streak record, so the Red Wings will be fighting just as hard. If the Red Wings get this far in the streak, I think they will pull this one out. 

Nashville Predators - 2/17

Nashville is playing solid hockey lately, going 14-4 in their last 18 games. Add to that they should be well rested heading into the game, and this could spell trouble for Detroit. The Predators and Red Wings have split a pair of games so far this year, each winning on their home ice.  This rubber match could have significant playoff implications for both teams, as the Western Conference is a tight race. Again power plays could become a factor in this game as well, as Nashville is deadly on the power play, but doesn’t do a great job of killing them. The third tough opponent in a row, I think this could be a game that ends the streak, if it hasn’t been already.

San Jose Sharks – 2/19

If things weren’t hard enough, San Jose presents yet another problem for the Wings. A team that has already beaten Detroit twice this year, the Sharks would love to end the Red Wings home streak if the opportunity presented itself. San Jose is very similar to Nashville in that they are strong on the power play and would love to gain some points on Detroit in the playoff race. Antti Niemi has done a good job keeping Detroit out of the net, and Joe Thornton has scored 4 goals against Detroit this year. However, I think it is hard to win three in a row against the Red Wings, and I think Detroit will come out ready to rebound from one of the previous losses I predicted.

July 5, 2011

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Jaromir Jagr’s Road Ends In Philadelphia

By: Anson Whaley

When former NHL star Jaromir Jagr announced he was open to returning to the league, it was one of the few hockey stories that could cause a stir during the summer. Usually during this time, sports fans are discussing the MLB All-Star game, the NBA Draft, and NFL training camps (or, more importantly, Fantasy Football drafts). But this year, with two ongoing lockouts, the NHL found its way into the spotlight.

The Jagr tale is a curious one to be sure, having so many twists and turns that a compass would be needed to accurately follow it. It didn’t always look that way, though. Jagr appeared headed back to Pittsburgh near the end of the process without much controversy. He played the majority of his career with the Penguins, still has a home in the area, and had talked to owner Mario Lemieux (who he credits for his successful NHL career) about a possible return. But leave it to the enigmatic star to cause some drama and we should have all known it would never be quite so simple.

It all started with rumors that three teams were involved for Jagr’s services – the Penguins, Detroit Red Wings, and a mystery team. Various reports, including one from the reputable Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, spoke of a possible contract being in place even before Jagr’s flight landed in the U.S. as he traveled from Russia. But from there, it got murky – he didn’t arrive on time and his agent reportedly didn’t even know where he was for a brief time. The deal with Pittsburgh that seemed to be in place dissolved. From there, more teams got involved in the bidding, the Penguins and Red Wings both pulled their initial offers, and Jagr was off to the Philadelphia Flyers for a one-year deal worth more than $3M.

So what kind of impact can the former All-Star have on next year’s Flyers team? It’s safe to say that anyone expecting the Jagr of the 1990s will be disappointed.

While still a serviceable wing (and one that could have greatly helped a team such as the Penguins who are desperate for pieces to play alongside centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin), Jagr’s game has predictably seen a steady decline. In his last three years in the NHL, his scoring plummeted from 54 goals to 30, then to 25. While 25 goals is still worthy of first-line minutes, the quick decline he had from those three years from 2005 – 2008 needs to be noted. And despite playing in the KHL, a Russian hockey league that isn’t on the same level as the NHL, his scoring further declined over the past two seasons. Jagr’s 2010-11 total of 19 goals with KHL club Avangard Omsk was the first time in his career that he dipped below 20 since joining the NHL as a rookie in 1990.

Now at the age of 39, Jagr will be hard pressed to score much more than 20 goals next season. Joining the Penguins would have meant playing alongside Crosby or Malkin and the Red Wings’ Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk could have been ideal fits as well. Either team would have offered innumerable scoring opportunities and a 25-goal season might have been within his reach – not to mention a legitimate chance to play for a Stanley Cup. But Jagr is joining a Flyers team which has cleared house this offseason, dumping nearly 80 goals in production by dismissing centers Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, and forward Ville Leino. What does it all mean? With fewer scorers, Jagr should have more chances with the puck, but in losing its top two centers, he will be left trying to score on his own creativity. And at 39, that will be a bit tough to do.

Mix in the fact that Philadelphia is a big-time hockey town and one of the major media centers of the U.S., and Jagr will be feeling an enormous pressure to score.

When you add it all up, I’m not sure it spells disaster. But there were certainly better fits for Jagr than Philadelphia