So, any hockey news in Toronto this week?
Treated with the same coverage as a presidential assassination attempt, the Leafs fired Randy Carlyle this week, apparently to his relief. The team has looked horrendous on the ice since their 10-1-1 run ended last month and the worst kept secret in sports is that everyone knows it was not Carlyle’s lack of coaching but his inability for the team to listen. In the days since, a couple of the players have admitted that most of the team only wants to play offense and is not willing to make the extra sacrifice in the defensive end. That is just sad. As a hockey player, kids are taught to play both ends of the rink. Obviously every kid thinks he’s Gretzky and wants to score but as you mature you have to realize that isn’t how it works. When you are getting paid an obscene amount of money to play a kid’s game, you play for the name on the front of the jersey, not the back. As Brendan Shanahan just completed his state-of-the-union press conference, he made it clear that the team has not been consistent enough, every player and coach is being evaluated and “we’re going to learn a lot about our core in the coming weeks.” For anyone asking why Shanahan waited so long to do something or change something, it is very clear: he’s been evaluating everything this season so he has first hand knowledge of the whole situation come this summer. By firing Carlyle he has now made his players completely responsible for the next three months and if nothing changes Shanahan will ensure the roster is drastically different next season. He’s a smart guy and he he’s won a Cup so he knows what it takes. I also like having Peter Horacek as the interim coach as he was a longtime assistant of Barry Trotz who is absolutely the best coach in the NHL. What he did with a nothing roster in Nashville for the last 14 years was amazing and he is now doing it in Washington where Ovie is having his best season in years. At the end of the day, I hope the Leafs miss the playoffs as that would get this less-than-mediocre core broken up and they can start rebuilding with the right pieces.
The effort was better but the result was the same with the Raps last night as they dropped their 4th in a row to Charlotte. The defensive play was slightly better but the team couldn’t buy a basket or a foul call in the 2nd half and it cost them. A lot of discussion has been on the play of Amir Johnson this season. He is an absolute beast and the longest serving Raptor for a reason but as I noticed last night, he is just not in sync this season. I know his ankles are shot but he has always played banged up and pushed through. I am convinced that the frontcourt is a huge issue and will be the thing that holds the Raps back from a deep playoff run if not addressed. JV is too soft under the basket and Amir has not been the same cleanup presence that has helped the team through that glaring issue the past two seasons. JV either holds the ball too long or goes up for a soft layup instead of a slam and gets his shot blocked or watches it roll off the rim. He also needs to work on boxing out defenders when he is in the paint because for a big guy he is a terrible offensive rebounder. Amir Johnson is a warrior and I love everything about him as a player and a person but he needs to step it up. He has bailed the Raps out so many times over the years but basketball isn’t a game of payback so he needs to keep doing that and fight through the injuries because there’s one thing I can tell you for sure: as the roster stands, the Raps will not reach their potential unless Amir is successful in his role. Simple as that.
Okay, after five days of the NFL apologizing about all the missed calls in the Lions-Cowboys game, the Cowboys are still in and are heading to Green Bay. Now, being a Lions fan, my disdain for the Cowboys goes back to the “Barry vs Emmitt” argument of the early 90s (in my opinion, there was never an argument because Barry Sanders is the greatest Running Back of the past 25 years) and my disdain for the Packers goes back to 2002 when the NFL realigned and they became divisional opponents of Detroit (although I disliked Brett Favre for a long time). This game is a worst case scenario for me because of my feelings (or lack of) for both teams. However, with Dallas going to the frozen Tundra of Lambeau Field where Aaron “Paul Pierce” Rodgers dominates teams (the nickname is for his dramatic carted off the field injury vs Lions where he returned to finish the game) there is no chance of a Dallas victory so I am choosing the Packers to win by 10.
I know anything can happen in the playoffs but I have to believe that the other three games go the home teams as well. Baltimore in New England? Brady will pick the Ravens D apart and win by 14. Carolina in Seattle? They won’t need their “12th Man” in this one as the Seahawks D destroys Cam Newton although this will be a low scoring game. Indianapolis in Denver? It’s past vs present as Peyton meets his old team against his successor Andrew Luck. I’m reminded of the classic joke about the old Bull and the young Bull staring down the hill at the sheep…the old wise one always knows better. Broncos by 10.