2010 Infusion of Youth: Installment #2

In my first installment of the “2010 Infusion of Youth” series I discussed the Patriots’ desperate need for an outside (rush) linebacker.  In my esteemed opinion that is by far their most desperate need.  The Pats’ lack of a consistent pass rush exposed a young secondary and made the defense vulnerable to many big plays.  Just because an outside linebacker is their biggest need, we all know that with Belichick at the helm that might not be the direction in which they go.

Other needs that the Patriots have are at wide receiver, inside linebacker, offensive line, defensive line, tight end, and quarterback.  Now, my proclamation of some of these team needs may lead you to believe that I have lost my mind, but hear me out.  I don’t know if anyone can argue that the Patriots do not have a serious need for talent at wide receiver.  Granted they still have Randy Moss and Wes Welker, but Moss has struggled with injuries over the past 2 seasons (mind you with a bad back and shoulder in the 2009 season, Moss still managed to put up nearly 1,300 yards and 13 scores…and people say he’s washed up?) and Welker may miss the entire 2010 season because of a torn ACL (and even if he does return, injuries to the ACL usually take two years for a player to return to their initial form).  Besides those two, the Patriots have yet to establish a viable option at the third wide receiver spot since Dante Stallworth left after the 2007 season.  Since the end of the 2009 season everyone has been jumping on the Julian Edelman bandwagon.  Sorry ladies and gentlemen, but I am not hopping on for a ride, nor will I ever be.  I understand he performed relatively well in Welker’s slot position while Wes was hurt, but that’s all that Edelman is, an injury substitution that knows the playbook and can catch the ball when he is open.  If I was a defensive coordinator and Edelman was playing in place of Welker, I would let Edelman catch the ball every single time.  He is no threat to break a play deep.  He is still learning to play the position, which means his ability to block in open space and get off of pres coverage is limited.  The kid just isn’t good enough to play every down.  Sam Aiken is still a member of the team and he filled that third wide receiver spot for the majority of last season, but quite frankly, Aiken is no more than a special teams player.  Matthew Slater has hands like feet and will never see consistent time at wide receiver.  Brandon Tate probable has the most promise out of the group, but his inability to stay healthy has severely hindered his development to this point.

In this installment, I will highlight possible wide receivers that the Patriots could select within the first two rounds of the 2010 NFL Draft.  In my next and final installment in the “2010 Infusion of Youth” series I will highlight any remaining players that the Patriots may consider.  Here are some possible wideout candidates:

Arrelious Benn, WR Illinois

Two years ago, Arrelious Benn was being touted as one of, if not the best receiver in college football.  At nearly 6’2” and 220 lbs, Benn has the physical size accompanied by strength (20 reps of 225lbs at the combine) to be an elite wide receiver in the NFL.  Questions surrounding Benn revolved around his desire and his speed.  Arrelious silenced the questions about his speed at his pro day when he posted a very impressive 4.36 40 yard dash.  Before Benn’s pro day, he undoubtedly would have been around at pick 22, but now that his 40 yard dash time has improved, it might be a stretch if he is still available.

Golden Tate, WR Notre Dame

A lot of people are not as high on Golden Tate as I am.  When I watch him play I for some reason cannot get Anquan Boldin out of my head.  He is not as big or as strong as Boldin, and may not even be as talented, but he can certainly play football.  Sometimes during NFL draft time, these so called “analysts” get so caught up in workout numbers that guys like Vernon Gholston and Darrius Heyward-Bey get drafted in the top 10, while other players that were exceptionally productive in college (but didn’t post the workout numbers) get pushed out of the first round, like LeSean McCoy and Shonn Greene.  There were serious questions about Tate’s speed, and at 5’10” 199 lbs there wasn’t much wiggle room for him to not post a good 40.  But, he ended up posting a 4.42 at the combine and accompanied that with 17 reps at 225, which in my opinion supplants Tate solidly at the end of the first round.

Damian Williams, WR USC

There are very few things that scare me more in this world than the thought of the Patriots drafting a wide receiver out of USC.  Williams’ stock has dropped recently because of a mediocre combine performance, accompanied with the lack of NFL production by USC wide receivers.  I think that if desired, the Pats could certainly pick up Williams with one of their second round picks, probably even the second of their three picks (47th overall) in the second round.

Re-sign Beckett Now!

Two days ago a story broke across the Boston media outlets that the Red Sox have offered Josh Beckett a "lucrative" four year contract extension.  The news that the two sides are sitting down and trying to iron out a deal is exciting. The picture alone gets me pumped for baseball season to start and even more fired up that the Sox should lock up Cy Beckett for the next 5 years.   However, I remain skeptical about this.  In my humble opinion Theo Epstein very much likes to play games with his players.  He is cognizant of the strong fan base and the critical media in Boston.  He has become an expert at making "cover your ass" offers to his players that are good enough on paper, yet he knows they will not sign it.  He does this in an effort to keep the fans happy and the media at bay (no pun intended).   I have a strong problem with this.

See Josh Beckett is not Theo’s "guy."  Theo was not in office when the Red Sox traded Hanley Ramirez for Beckett.  This trade led to the 2007 World Series title for the Sox and Beckett was the hero.  It’s been widely speculated that Theo never wanted to part ways with the stud shortstop.  But Beckett brought his big game experience to Boston and the Fenway faithful embraced him as one of their own, a Yankee killer no less.

Theo already covered his bases this off season by signing John Lackey to a 5 year $80 million deal.  For some reason Theo won’t give the same 5 years to Beckett, who is a year younger than Lackey.  Theo’s strategy? Offer a Beckett a serviceable offer, when he rejects, he can say he did his best and always had Lackey to fall back on.  No Theo, not this time.

This off season the Red Sox brass has shifted their mindset to one of putting the best pitching and defense on the diamond they possibly can.  I believe that if they are going forth with this strategy they should stick with it and sign Beckett to the five year deal he wants.  This would give the Sox Lester, Beckett, and Lackey for five years as their 1-2-3.  They have an embarrassment of riches with Clay Buchholz and Dice-K being the ideal 4 and 5 (Both would be a 2 or a 3 on other teams). 

I have grown tired of seeing the Red Sox spend dead money. That is, money on people that aren’t even on their roster (See Lugo, Julio and Renteria, Edgar).  Spend the money on Beckett.  This is not a "Varitek" or "Lowell" situation.  What I mean by that is there actually are other teams out there that will pony up loads of cash for Josh Beckett.  There will be no "Boras-ian bidders" out there.  The Yankees would love to bring Beckett in behind CC Sabathia and in front of AJ Burnett.  Maybe for that reason alone the Sox should resign Beckett immediately.

Next off-season will feature a weak free agent pitching market.  They will not be able to replace Beckett for lesser money within that market.  Beckett is a proven bulldog on the mound.  Someone who has grown accustomed to pitching in the American League.  Despite being injured in the last two post seasons he still battled through 6 innings a game and was able to keep the Sox in the games he pitched.  He is still, in my opinion, among the best big game pitchers in baseball.

The Red Sox will regret not resigning Cy Beckett.  Give him the extra year.  Pitching is not easy to come by and when you have a stud in your lap you take care of him.  Give Cy Beckett what he rightfully deserves and keep the fan base happy and the team competitive for the next 5 years.

Bruins 3-2 Loss Not Attributed To Lack Of Effort

On Monday night the Bruins took to their own ice and lost to the division leading Buffalo Sabres 3-2 in regulation.  Many fans today are disappointed by the defeat but I am not.  I’m a little dissatisfied by not taking two points but not about the loss itself.  I think the Bruins found themselves a little bit during the game and I am hoping that good ole Claude has learned who the man between the pipes should be from here on out.

When the puck was dropped last night the Bruins were ready to play.  The black and gold came out hitting and they were playing an intense style of hockey, an element that has been absent until a few games ago.  Vladimir Sobotka and Milan Lucic were throwing their weight around and I truly got the feeling that the game was going to go well overall.  The Bruins got on the scoreboard first on a move that belongs on the Krejci family highlight real that showed off how tremendous David Krejci’s hands really are.  However, as the period came to a close the Bruins found themselves down 2-1 despite a spirited effort from most of the club.

Shortly into the second frame after falling behind 3-1, the Bruins world finally learned that the crease officially belongs to Tuukka Rask for the remainder of this season.  The first goal was not Thomas’s fault but the other two should not have been anywhere close to going in the net.  All things considered, had Tuukka started, the Bruins (theoretically) win that game 2-1.  Thomas has been great for the Bruins since he’s been here.  He has shown the hockey community that hard-nosed hard work can get you onto a roster no matter the skill or the style of the player.  However, he peaked last year (with a team performing well in front of him) and with his goaltending style, it will be difficult for him to compete on a team that does not score often.  It’s Tuukka Time!!!

Tuukka Rask gives you the most consistent and reliable effort night in and night out.  He makes difficult saves look simple because he is ALWAYS in position, has ice water running through his veins, and always appears calm during play.  To a fan that has never played the position it appears that he isn’t even trying and that is how remarkable this kid is.  I was lucky enough to work/intern with an AHL franchise that saw the Providence Bruins come to town for a few years while Rask was there and I have been in love with this Rask’s goaltending abilities since day one.  When the Bruins traded Andrew Raycroft to Toronto for Tuukka and I found videos online of this kid from Finland, I knew there was something special to his game.

A downfall to this team’s efforts has been the defensive play of Dennis Wideman.  To this point in the season Wideman is a minus-16 on a team with the best GAA in the league.  He was also a minus-3 last night…i.e. on the ice for all three Buffalo goals.

I know this team probably won’t do anything significant in the playoffs but, with Tuukka in net and Wideman getting limited minutes, this team will at least be exciting to watch.

One of my final pet peeves has been the lack of effort on the penalty shots this year.  In the non-overtime penalty shots Marco Sturm (last night against Ryan Miller) and Daniel Paille (a couple Sundays ago against Henrik Lundqvist) both tried to shoot the puck from in close.  I hate this because it shows a lack of creativity and when it’s in close there is no angle to get the puck past the big and talented NHL goaltenders.  Marco Sturm is more predictable of the two because you know he is always going to shoot because he always does during the game.  He gets to the top of the circle and winds up.  If you don’t see that coming then you’re sleeping.   They need to take a little from advice from Blake Wheeler, David Krejci, or dare I say it…{gulp} Phil Kessel to learn that different moves (shooting and dekeing)  keep the goaltenders on their toes and increase the chances of scoring.  Believe me, when you have no idea what the shooter is going to do I would guess penalty shot/breakaway scoring would increase by at least fifty percent.

Here’s to an interesting rest of the season…

Kevin Durant is the 2010 NBA MVP

Read the title again and let it sink in.  No I didn’t misspell LeBron. To be honest I didn’t even think of Kobe.  When I was asked this question recently I did not even hesitate to answer.  Kevin Durant is the MVP of the NBA this year.  It is so blatantly obvious that he is the most deserving player of this award that I shouldn’t even have to support my argument.  But for those critics out there I will delve into my reasoning and prove without any reasonable doubt that Durant is the man.

First,  Noah Webster defines valuable as being of considerable use, service, or importance.  Based on what the word valuable means, Kevin Durant is the illustration of this definition.  Jump into your Delorean and travel to the beginning of the NBA season.  Take a look at your favorite team’s schedule and tell me that you did not circle whatever date they were playing the Oklahoma City Thunder as an automatic "W."   The Thunder won 23 games last season.  It is fair to say that they are a young team and an improvement over that win total from a season ago should be expected.  But to win more than double the amount of games they won last year? That is absurd.

The Thunder play in the Western Conference in the NBA which is the varsity conference compared to the "jay-vee" Eastern Conference.  Or as my co-writers love to say, "The Big East and then the rest of the NCAA."  While this argument is seemingly as old as time it still holds water.  Consider this: At the time of this writing, the Toronto Raptors hold the eight seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs if the season were to end today with a record below .500 at 35-37.  On the other hand,  the Portland Trail Blazers have the eight seed in the West with a 45-29 record.  In the East, Portland would be a five seed!

The point of these facts are that the Oklahoma City Thunder play more competitive teams more often thus making it more difficult to do what they are doing.  The Thunder have the stranglehold on the 6 seed in the West and are 3.5 games out of the 2 seed. Their ring leader? Kevin Durant.

The elephant in the room pertaining to this argument is LeBron James.  There is no doubt that LeBron is the best player in the NBA.  But I argue whether he is the most valuable.  Would Cleveland be a number one seed without Lebron? Hell no.  Actually would anyone know that Cleveland was a city without LeBron? Debatable.  I am willing to bet however, that without LeBron, Cleveland would still be good enough in the East to at least make the playoffs.  If Kevin Durant was not a part of the Thunder, they would be more likely to be entering the "John Wall-Evan Turner" sweepstakes come June.  Instead they are looking at potential match-ups with Denver or Utah making their draft position of little importance.

Now while the biggest winner of the genetic lottery known to man (LeBron James) is putting up stats make Dick Vitale speechless, (29.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 8.6 apg) Durant is doing more with less around him.  Durant’s stat line is nothing to sneeze at either (29.6 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 2.7 apg.)  Compare LeBron’s supporting cast to Durant’s.  LeBron is surrounded by players with unique skill sets and experience. He gets solid guard play and 3 point shooting from Mo Williams, Anthony Parker, Delonte West, and Daniel Gibson.  The Cavs acquired a legit second option for LeBron in Antwan Jamison.  Sideshow Bob Anderson Varejao is a player that opposing teams have to hates because he will get every loose ball, irritate the opposition to the point of getting them T’d up, and brings energy off the bench.  JJ Hickson has proven to be more than a solid contributor who will rebound and work hard defensively as well.  Oh yeah, then the Cavs have a wide load coming back from injury in future Hall of Famer, Shaq.  The team is quite and is the best in the NBA and it’s not even close.

Durant’s Thunder? Yeah, they have Russell Westbrook who will might be developing into another Chris Paul or Deron Williams right before our eyes.  After that? Look at this roster and don’t laugh. I dare you.  Jeff Green is ok at best. Then Nick Collison? Nenad Kristic? The more I list off names the more perplexed I become thinking how the Thunder are as good as they are.  Then I remember. Kevin Durant.  He has played in all 72 games so far this season because he has no other choice.  Oklahoma City does not have the luxury that Cleveland does of sitting LeBron down a few games just to rest him. (LeBron was able to sit for 2 games last month for rest. They went 1-1 beating San Antonio and losing to Milwaukee.  Jamison dropped 30 and West 27 against the Bucks.)

Take LeBron off the Cavs and they are still a formidable team although not great.  Take Durant off the Thunder and expect them to be in the draft lottery every year.  It is not opinion. It is a fact. Kevin Durant is the 2009-2010 NBA MVP.

2010 Infusion of Youth: Installment #1

Ladies and gentlemen, we are quickly approaching my favorite time of the year.  I enjoy this spectacle more than the World Series, Super Bowl, and even March Madness.  The 2010 NFL Draft is officially 24 days away, and quite frankly, I’m pumped.  There is nothing I love more than the infusion of young talent onto an NFL team.  The excitement of a high draft pick and the expectations that come along with that.  The possibility of a first round bust, or a late round gem.  Filling team needs with young players that have nothing but upside.  All of these things keep drawing me in to the NFL Draft.  But, aside from my excitement in regards to the Draft as a whole, I want to take a more in depth look at the Patriots’ team needs for this year’s NFL Draft.

The most glaring need is at outside linebacker.  As I mentioned in a previous post, Julius Peppers and Aaron Kampman (both free agents this offseason) just didn’t seem to me to be a good fit on this Patriots’ team.  They resigned Tully Banta-Cain, which as sad as it sounds, was a crucial move considering he led the team in sacks in the 2009 season.  But, the Adalius Thomas experiment has yet to pan out and it seems as though by the beginning of the 2010 season he will no longer be a member of the New England Patriots.  Therefore, the Patriots have a hole to fill.  They drafted Shawn Crable in the 3rd round of the 2008 draft.  According to inside sources that I have, Crable has dedicated himself to the weight and film rooms, and has looked good in the practices he has been able to participate in.  Sadly, Crable has been unable to stay healthy long enough to get viable playing time, and therefore his ability to become a starter seems to be remote.  Then there is Pierre Woods.  Woods has been a member of the Patriots since 2006 when he was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Michigan (remember the pattern that is being established here: both Crable and Woods played linebacker/defensive end at Michigan).  He has played sparingly, showing the ability to fill in as a rush linebacker when needed, but he has yet to show the physical ability or consistency to be considered as a possible candidate to become a full-time starter.  Considering the Patriots’ lack of talent at the outside (rush) linebacker position on the current roster, it seems to me that they will look to draft a player at this position early in the 2010 NFL Draft.  Here are some possible players that could fit the position:

Brandon Graham, DE/OLB MichiganBrandon Graham

Graham, who played DE at Michigan (senior season: 64 tackles, 10 sacks), is arguably the best hybrid DE/OLB in the 2010 Draft.  At 6’1” 270lbs, Graham posted an impressive 4.72 40-yard dash, accompanied with 31 repetitions at the 225lb bench press.  Throughout the 2009 college football season, and at the 2010 NFL Combine, Graham displayed the ability to take on, and shed, offensive lineman as well as the ability to drop back in coverage and display fluidity in his hip movements.  I believe that Graham is the most plausible selection for the New England Patriots with the 22nd pick.



Sergio Kindle, DE/OLB Texas

Sergio Kindle

Kindle did not become a fixture at the DE position for Texas until the 2009 season, where he moved there to replace Brian Orakpo (13th overall pick of the Washington Redskins in 2009).  In my eyes, Kindle failed to establish himself as a dominant enough pass-rusher to warrant a top 20 pick in the draft (compiling only 55 tackles and 6 sacks for the Longhorns).  Kindle posted a 4.71 at the combine accompanied by 25 bench press reps, and at 6’3” 250lbs, he was not very effective in pass coverage drills.  I think that Kindle is the “Brandon Graham back-up plan.”

Jerry Hughes, DE/OLB TCU

Jerry Hughes

Hughes, in my opinion, is a high risk, high reward type of prospect.  He was one of the dominant defensive ends in college football for the last couple of years.  The problem with Hughes is that he has yet to play linebacker in a game.  Unlike Kindle, who played both linebacker and end at Texas, Hughes has never taken his hand off the ground.  But, even as an undersized end at 6’2” and 250 lbs, he has consistently shown the ability to get to the quarterback.  Whether or not he has the ability to drop into pass coverage are where the questions lie.

In my next installment I’ll highlight some other positions and players that the Patriots could look at drafting with the 22nd pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.

The Ten Year Collapse of the Boston Bruins, and Its Recent Endgame

On Sunday, March 21st, the Boston Bruins defeated the New York Rangers 2-1, and for the first time in ten years, I could care less. Recently, in a manner of dissapointing precedence, the Bruins managed to draw negative attention to themselves throughout the world of hockey for their lack of physical play and for their lack of heart. I have been a sympathetic advocate towards their “inabilities” and short comings throughout the years,  however I need to take a step back, after the Matt Cooke incident on March 7th, where a notoriously dirty player on a notoriously clean team elbowed Bruins’ star Marc Savard, a notorious “embelisher”, a diver of sorts, in the head inflicting upon him a second grade concussion, and putting him out for the season. Tom Cruise himself can’t fake a medically certified second grade concussion, and Marc Savard is no Oscar winner. That being said, what we witnessed on the 7th, was a legitimate breaking of the rules, an unjust and unwarranted display of physicality, with an obvious intent to injure. We witnessed a penalty gone un-penalized; a suspendable offense gone without suspension; an act of violence on a teammate, gone without retaliation or justification. We witnessed the collapse of a franchise, the death of a history, and to add even another level of completely justifiable drama, an inexcusable embarrassment, in which a team cannot possibly come back from, within this season, or in my tarnished opinion, ever, with this current lineup. That being said, player by player, who do we keep, and who can we dispose of. The argument is no longer, “is this a team that can win”. That argument became meaningless when they proved not to be a team at all.

There is something to the argument, which I agree whole heartedly with, that Ovechkin beats out Crosby as the best in the game. I believe it is 50% of the game’s objective to play physical, issue a level of physicality, and not have to play protected. I do believe Crosby would fight if his team gave him the opportunity, but somewhere along the lines, lost within the annuls of hockey history, the art of intimidation and violence lost its cool. Teams learned newer, trendier ways of proving themselves to each other, and asserting their camaraderie. Winning was one way, and the Bruins had that last year, quickly losing it in the wake of injuries, spoiled youth, and a blatant disbelief in their Vezina winning goaltender. Winning is not an option.  The other is bringing in a coach that could preach the ways of camaraderie to the team, spoon feed them chemistry. They had this last year as well, and lost it due to the exact same reasons as previously stated. Claude Julien also completely lost control, and apparently lost focus on what team history he is upholding, and what his objectives are game by game. On March 8th it was not Captain Zdeno Chara who had the responsibility of picking his team up, and it was not Shawn “I only have one fight in me a game” Thornton. It was their Coach, their glue, their voice, Claude Julien, and he failed, not just himself, but his players, the franchise, the progress made last season, the 1970 squad sitting in their luxury boxes disappointed and betrayed, and the history of the Boston Bruins. Claude, if I wanted Dave Lewis to come back, I would have shoved a cactus up my ass to prepare for this season.

(Side Note: In 1979, current Bruins analyst, than player, Mike Milbury climbed into the stands at the Madison Square Garden and beat a fan with his own shoe. The times are no longer changing; they have officially changed.)

The Bruins did not spend this season without a goal scorer. They did not play this season without a strong defensive core. They did not play this season without a number one goaltender. They played this season without heart. I have avoided calling it for the past ten years, and though I despise when Ray Bourque brought his Colorado Avalanche Cup to Boston and paraded it around the Hub and will never forgive him for this, the heart left with him and with Neely and has not been able to ever again reemmerge. I have watched teams nearly succeed in this time, and always fail. I have watched hits go unfinished, this season more so than any other, and the March 18th game more than any game this season. To avoid finishing a check in a game that meant nothing more than vengeance and justice, is avoidance to come to terms with a complete lack of chemistry, and this is not built by one or two players, this is built over time. The Bruins built their team to last season, and it did not add up. The equation must start over again, and this means a revamping of the lineup and its personnel.

Side Note: I can’t deny the heart of some of my favorites to ever play for the Bruins, but Donato, Heinz, Dafoe, Murray, Guerin, Lapointe, Sweeney and P.J. Axellson are long gone, and there are only a few shimmers of light left to spark even the remote amount of interest I have left, in this team; and this remote amount will never fade away, and that it is said to confirm that this post is not the death of my fandom, only the suggestions necessary to keep its fire lit.

The post now moves to this so-called endgame. The endgame of the downfall everyone around me saw coming, except me. “They do not play physical…”, I heard and denied. “They do not have a goal scorer…” I heard and witnessed, and still denied. I denied not the fact, but the necessity. This was a mistake. If a team does not and can not possess physicality and goal scoring in hockey, or match any level of play delivered by the elite teams throughout the league, the consistent teams, the guarantees, than a team can not win. That being said, who do we keep, who can we build a TEAM around, who still possesses this drive and the heart necessary to win in the NHL. Out of the woodwork, and the “tactful” decisions made over this past decade, there are a few that can remain, and a few that can still lead; call them the “last hopes” the Bruins have towards their future as a team, and their future in holding any relevance in regards to New England sports. At this time, I do not blame anyone for turning their heads away, once again, from the Boston Bruins. One March 21st, I did the same.

Players to save; the only ones remaining with the ability to save, what the B’s managed to lose in 60 minutes:

Patrice Bergeron: There is no question who the hidden talent is, and his gold medal as a Canadian Olympian is no charity case, but a testament to this talent. Bergeron, however, has been asked, since his call up in ’03, to play over this talent, play a forechecking, defensive minded role. In an equally as brutal fashion to the recent Matt Cooke incident, Randy Jones from the league assholes, the Philadelphia Flyers, served Patrice up a concussion of his own. Bergeron responded by coming back last year, and putting on an absolute clinic in the first round of the playoffs, as the B’s stepped it up and beat their Canadian rivals. He also stepped it up again this season, amidst the injuries and lack of compete level surrounding him. Patrice Bergeron IS and has been for some time now, the most reliable workhorse the B’s have, and any team in the NHL could build a team around this kid. Steady numbers, a great power-play point man and penalty killer, and finesse and finishing skills which can match any player in the NHL, skate for skate and pound for pound. He will not go anywhere.

David Kreijci: Patience, and European finesse launch this Bruin ahead of any other future candidate the B’s had over the past two years. There is an eerie feel of experience possessed by this sophomore, and a veteran quality, even before during and after his all-star caliber Olympic performance. The center core the B’s have to build on is impressive.

Marc Savard: The third Center position installment, a tenacious and crafty playmaker, he was an offensive steel, and once he fully recovers, he is an important stand out and reliable asset.

Zdeno Chara: The epitome of a captain. When he is healthy, he is a monster.

Tuukka Rask: Young, inexperienced, and an incredible talent. He has some big skates to fill, but a team around Rask can win games.

Tim Thomas: Let him have his contract, let him have his ‘B’, and while wearing his silver medal, holding up his Vezina, and at the age of 39, let him skate off into the sunset. His compete level has yet to be matched by any Bruin, and if there was enough of his heart to go around, this team would be viewed in an entirely different light.

I can’t in my right mind go without mentioning “The Next Cam Neely”, Milan Lucic, or the fiery goal scorer Marco Sturm, right? Well let’s just say I stop at Thomas on my list of player’s to keep, and hold Lucic and Sturm directly over the fence of loyalty and devotion. Lucic needs to either play physical or score goals. When he does neither, he is a liability. When he does both he is a necessity. If he chooses incorrectly, he will become a one “hit” wonder, and fade into the annuls of Bruins fandom along side P.J. Stock. P.J. would win. Marco Sturm on the other hand, can’t seem to match himself, and at any given time, becomes, just another player. If he can turn it up for game 6 of the first round of the 07’/08′ playoffs, and for the Winter Classic in 2010, then he should be able to turn it up every minute of every game. This however, is a Bruins virus, spreading throughout talent, and once it hits, it produces the exact results we are now criticizing, we are now turning our heads away from and the exact results we need to change.

Everyone else can go, and if Wideman isn’t one of them, then the whole world is a joke, and I am the epic punchline.

Looking back on this post, it reads more like the diary of a Bruins Fan scorned. I have heard the recent mantra around me, cries of “heart failure” and “I’m done with them…”, but I am not done. I am, however, inclined to set my standards higher, declare who I believe should be kept, and who I could see disposed of. I feel it my responsibility to finally face reality. I also, however, find the responsibility as a fan, not just to criticize, but ride this criticism directly alongside my hope and my love for this team. I will begin watching them again, avidly and without a wavering outlook on their abilities to be successful. I will watch however, with a relentless “toothbrush in the toilet” tainted taste in my mouth, until the moves I want happen, and until the restructuring of this season’s failures occur.

To end this year, I believe the Bruins will sneak into the playoffs, and get destroyed by an absolutely unconscious Washington Capitals team. I believe Rask will be the number one, and Thomas will be shopped around in the offseason. If he stays, he will humbly accept the back up role. When Savard returns, the three star centers named above will need a goal scorer a piece to match the lines. I believe Sturm, Wheeler and Lucic can stay if they want, and fit, but they are not these necessary goal scorers. Recchi, Ryder and Satan will be gone, and Paille and Begin have already overstayed their welcomes. (Side Note: I do not and will never trust division rivals. They are spies.) Their defense, aside from Mark Stuart, possibly this Seidenberg character, who has yet to do anything more than Derek Morris delivered, Johnny Boychuk, who given the right amount of time and training has greatness potential, and of course Chara, can be completely unloaded. Claude Julien? I think he will stay. I think the philosophies will remain. I think they will again be successful. But to forget history, to forget the “black and blue” ways of the black and gold, is to forget what team you are coaching. Julien, you are no longer coaching for Lou in New Jersey, you are coaching for a player, Neely, and the teams’ biggest fan, Chiarelli. You are coaching for that 1970’s team. You are coaching for Boston. You are coaching to keep hockey relevant in the Hub.

Somewhere along the line, this Bruins team lost it. Whatever “it” is, I believe they have the tools to build yet again, to achieve it. I can only hope it will happen next year, but in the wake of such embarrassment, and my current indifference, all I have left is hope, and that is the true endgame of fandom, towards any sports team’s collapse.

Papi, Please Clean up!

A little more than a week away from opening day, and for the first time in almost a decade there are questions surrounding the Redsox offense. They have the pitching and defense all set ready to go. However can this line-up stay consistant all season. Can this line-up score runs when they need to. The way this line-up is set up right now i don’t see the redsox being in any type of “slug fests”. Sure 1 through 4 is still one of the best in baseball. Especially if Jacoby Ellsbury really steps up into that lead off role. You know what your gonna get out of Pedrioa and Youkalis. Victor Martinez should be pretty consistant aswell. He is gonna take on more of the catching load this season so that may have an affect on his offense. It has in the past. The Biggest question in this line-up comes from the biggest man in the line-up David Ortiz.

The Redsox now need David Ortiz more than ever. He has to return back to steriod form. Oh i mean 04-07 form. Now it’s ridiculous to think he’s gonna get back to hitting over .300 and hitting over 50 homeruns. However if Papi can get his act together and hit somewhere between .270 to .280 with 30+ homeruns that makes the line-up a whole lot better. The fear that Papi used to install into pitchers is now gone. We can’t settle for Papi hitting 5th or even 6th this year. He absoutly has to get back in that clean-up spot. Him in that clean-up spot gives Ellsbury ,Youk, and Pedrioa some protection. Also with him hitting 4th they can move victor in the 5th spot and give Papi a little of protection. In order for this to happen David Ortiz has to produce. With Papi in that 4th hole producing like he can that makes EVERYONE better. The three players I mentioned before batting infront will see better pitches. You won’t be able to pitch around Youkalis.  Ellsbury and Pedrioa will score a lot more runs. Something the Redsox will be in need of this year.

As of right now I see this offense in the middle of the pack in the American League. That’s a far cry from what we have been spoiled with in the past. However this offense is one bat away. They need someone like  Papi or  Manny to put them on their backs. We have seen Ortiz do this in the past. If he can’t do it anymore then a move has to be made. They need someone to put fear into pitchers so they can’t pitch around hitters like Pedrioa, Martinez, or Youkalis. David Ortiz can be that guy. We have seen a Glimpse of his old power this spring, and he looks to be in better shape. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come.