With Injuries Mounting on the Defensive Line, the Saints Will Need to Prove Their Depth Wasn't Merely of Perception
Look, this news sucked…
…and this news, while sucking more than enough in its own right, makes that news suck even more….
The former begs questions about the long-term durability of a blossoming, endlessly athletic freak whose career will inevitably be defined by the return on the investment that ‘two firsts’ has come to be both fondly and sarcastically known by. The latter begs questions about a super-skilled pocket-penetrator's ability to regain his form as the shockingly fleet-of-foot destroyer of worlds he developed into prior to a previous season-ending setback as he heads into a contract year.
What neither should beg, however, is questions about the Saints’ ability to fulfill their Super Bowl aspirations this season. As simplistically dismissive as the following reads, injuries inevitably happen to every team in NFL. Therefore, while you’d prefer they don’t afflict starters down the stretch, the best case scenario is that you suffer them at readily reinforced positions. Everyone was basting their turkey to the Saints' defensive line depth on Thanksgiving, and I regret to inform you that depth isn’t only an amazing thing to have when it's allowing you to flagrantly fondle yourself to an embarrassment of available riches.
Let’s not forget, there were people that thought Trey Hendrickson was a better player than Marcus Davenport earlier this season. Granted, those people were prisoners of the moment and/or future inhabitants of an insane asylum, but it even being up for dumbfounding debate speaks to the evolving capabilities of a third round pick whose annually exciting August audition finally resulted in him earning an impactful role in meaningful games. Shy Tuttle might be lesser known, regardless of his starring role in a timeless GIF, but rest assured that his overall play of late is anything but bashful...
With Cam Jordan routinely causing chaos as a catastrophic combination of consistency and production, the Saints’ pass-rush is in good hands, whether or not all hands are currently on deck.
I don't mean to undersell these injuries. Losing both Davenport and Rankins for the year on the heels of a likely last-second loss of homefield advantage to their most complete in-conference competition definitely does feel a lot like the Saints stubbed the hell out of a toe or two while stumbling around recovering from a stomach-churning gut punch.
Still, the truth of the matter is that this team already passed its most trying and torturous test with flying covers. The defense held up its end of the bargain when it largely served as Teddy Bridgewater’s emergency floatation device as he soaked in the sun during an undefeated stretch as the starting quarterback. Now, it is the turn of an offense that just smacked around the best defense in football like it refused to pay its gambling debts, despite their most recurring matchup nightmare looking as though he was busy daydreaming, to pick up the slack.
If the rest of the linebackers get healthy enough to free up the dog that is Demario Davis, a lesser sheltered secondary gets its shit together, and Drew Brees continues creating chemistry by making good on the disguised blessing that was a throwing arm made fresh by over a month free of football then offsetting a decided drop in quarterback pressures shouldn't be a remotely unreasonable ask. Two of the three were presumed strengths of this team before the season even started, so it's quite fitting that they'll have to show exactly why for the New Orleans Saints to prove themselves to their fullest potential as they approach the postseason.
Act Surprised, Because it Appears as Though John Hynes Wasn't the Only One Fueling the Raging Dumpster Fire That is the New Jersey Devils
For what it's worth, what was an abominably brutal display of hockey just so happened to also serve as the perfect microcosm of a season that only can't be described as lost because you can't lose something that you never had a remotely firm grasp of in the first place.
An inexcusable early goal that could almost solely be attributed to the type of net-minding you'd expect from a drunk, narcoleptic shrimp boat captain...
An unnecessary insurance tally that was counterproductively created by a breakout as unsightly as that of a teenage fast food addict by a team that looked allergic to the puck while somehow managing to treat their own blue line as its electric fence...
Two periods of such a one-sided atrocity that it actually exhausted the aggressors into a state of excessive indifference during the third period...
Credit to Mackenzie Blackwood for keeping it depressingly dramatic for the box score watchers. However, the Devils' performance against a Dallas Stars team that was reeling from having their coach suddenly canned for undisclosed impropriety was the exact opposite of climactic in feeling like a recurring rewind of the world's least compelling movie. Ken Daneyko referred to them as "a little out of sync", but I'd argue they were very much in sink, as that's about as much of an understatement as saying the Titanic merely sprung a leak.
Be it due to him juggling lines so steadily that it could make a street performer fearful of his job security or him inexplicably benching Pavel Zacha or Jesper Bratt whenever he needed to let off some steam, instead of screaming into his pillow like a responsible adult, I too soured on John Hynes. That said, there is a reason the rest of the hockey world has come to the consensus that he's, at the very least, a pretty good coach while Devils' fans have deemed him the anti-Christ. That reason, of course, is that the rest of the hockey world doesn't desperately feel the dire need to convince themselves that a painstaking rebuild doesn't have the structural integrity of a house of cards.
If incessantly hammering John Hynes is what kept you off the ledge in regards to a hopeless and hapless team that - as currently combusted - is uncompetitive, unhinged, uncouth, and un-(_insert literally any positive adjective here_) then by all means transfer that small-minded spite to his utterly screwed successor. That said, I feel it my responsibility to tell you that you have a RADICAL misunderstanding of how important coaching is during a sport that requires you to read-and-react during a continuous, free-flowing run of play.
Unless Alain Nasreddine has his players role-playing rendezvouses between "complete strangers" like a couple that is trying to spice up their doomed partnership, there is nothing he is saying or doing during the practices they supposed partake in that has this group taking the ice with the rhythm, reason, and relation of anxious assholes boarding a crowded train around Christmas. Never mind a puck, the only reason this team can't turnover a goddamn sewer grate with ease is because it would require them to work together in unison. So scream about "adjustments" into your echo chamber if you choose, but he could have painted the Sistine Chapel of a full-scale systemic renovation and it would look like nothing more than a discolored ceiling through the partially blind eyes of beholders that can't currently string two routine passes together.
Honestly, we've reached the point in which I appreciate Alain Nasreddine more than I appreciate any single player on this team. I haven’t the slightest clue of his effectiveness behind the bench, but his bluntness in being befuddled by these bozos is both relatable and the most honest effort I've seen from anyone employed by the New Jersey Devils in weeks...
It took until the beginning of the third period for anyone to show any fight whatsoever on Tuesday night, and - wouldn’t ya know - it came in the form of P.K. Subban taking back-to-back, beyond stupid penalties. That is what Alain Nasreddine was left to praise, because almost everything else they did (or, more accurately, didn’t do) was ridiculously irredeemable.
Maybe something changes throughout the next…::checks standings and sobs uncontrollably::…FIFTY-TWO games of presumed futility. Maybe the ass end of the elephant in the room inevitably exits and gives them some space to take a deep breath and get back to basics. However, I refuse to highlight hypotheticals, celebrate mildly moral victories, or entertain visually unsubstantiated lines of feel-good bullshit (like below) in extending an unlimited pass to NHL players that switch between being demonstrably dumb and hardly half-assing it...
This circus act could currently make any coach look like nothing more than a ringleader, and I’ll begin to believe otherwise when I consistently see a bargain basement level of…::insert eye-roll::…brotherhood and brain function amongst professionals that are routinely stretching the limits in just barely qualifying as such.
You Are, Quite Literally, Better Off Tending to Your Mediocre Meat Than Questioning Sean Payton's Aggressiveness
Let’s start with indisputable fact. Sean Payton, for all his ingenuity, is not always right (::insert audible gasp::). What he is, however, is right far more than often enough to justify his unconditional and unwavering belief in just about every decision he’s ever made.
I’m not sitting here and saying that the pit that was already in my stomach didn’t develop a pit in its stomach when the Saints lined up for a two-point conversion early in one of those sick-and-twisted games whose fate feels like it’ll inevitably be decided by its result. I am sitting here and saying that in the sizable scrotum required to drop 46 points on the skull the best defense in football, largely without the help of two of your biggest matchup nightmares (Cook due to concussion and Kamara due to undisclosed ineffectiveness), reside the nuts to never look at one single yard as an actual obstacle.
Simply put, questioning Sean Payton is a fool’s errand. Not because all his calls are entirely beyond reproach, but because his answer is always going to be made smug by a stupefying success rate. We are talking about one of the most unapologetically aggressive coaches in all of sports. Someone who sparked a second half Super Bowl comeback with the most fearless onsides kick in NFL history. Therefore, and I feel like this hardly bears mentioning, you are undeniably better off staring down at the shitty slab of meat in your hand - be it inferior, expired, infantile, infertile, or impotent - than asking for an explanation from an absolute authority on offensive football. No matter how confident you are in your beef, it’ll never come remotely close in grade to the stake that a crazed competitor like Sean Payton has in his unrelenting plan of attack for the New Orleans Saints.
You do have to appreciate the passion of each and every member of the Who Dat Nation. That said, if you find yourself feeling particularly inquisitive while in a random postgame meat-and-great with a revered risk-taker….either beat it (figuratively or literally) or be ready to get grilled by the master, because Sean Payton has made far smarter people look stupid in...ahem...butchering the doubts of his naysayers.
The Dallas Stars Canned Coach Jim Montgomery Out of Nowhere for an "Act of Unprofessionalism", and the Details of This One are Sure to Be Dirty
While it’s obviously bad news that yet another hockey coach was fired for inappropriate behavior of past or present, the silver lining is that we’ve reached the stage in the righting of wrongs process during which NHL teams take impropriety seriously enough to both self-report it and act on it. The fact that whatever Jim Montgomery did wasn’t only punished after being leaked long after the fact by either a player or executive that no longer felt sworn/strong-armed to secrecy is a sign of slight progress. After all, the Mike Babcock and Bill Peters cover-ups were even more symptomatic of the culture around the sport that was a breeding ground for their self-important, overbearing, and manipulative bullshit than their actual "crimes".
Speaking of, what in the hell did a coach of a ridiculously resurgent playoff team have to do to get canned, effective immediately, after an internal investigation that was so expedited that it ended with an unceremonious ousting before the public even knew it began? The Dallas Stars clearly found his behavior to be unforgivable, but whatever they are hesitant to say (or legally inclined to not say) has got to be about 100x more tame than the results of the investigation conducted by my imagination...
It reportedly wasn’t against the law, but jay-walking is technically illegal and I have a strong sense that whatever cost him his livelihood, in the midst of its success on the highest level, was far worse than turning his nose up at oncoming traffic.
With the dirty deeds we now know hockey teams to have swiftly swept under the rug, you can’t help but wonder the size of a skeleton that was presumably too big for the Dallas Stars’ closet while the rest of their house was in outstanding order. My mind immediately went to him stuffing a much more literal skeleton under the floorboards at team facilities, which is only as much of an indictment of how much time I’ve committed to Criminal Minds as it is an indictment of a sport that has apparently been complicit in creating monsters out of mentors and vice versa. With his (now former) team having recovered from a disastrous start and currently being in place to compete for a ring, it stands to decades of ass-backwards "reason" that they thought the underage prostitution ring he was potentially advertising on the back page of the team programs would eventually cut into his prep-time come the postseason.
Dark humor aside, I’m glad that a team got out ahead of either personal or professional misconduct from one of their most forward facing representatives, albeit vaguely, instead of biting their lip, crossing their fingers, and greasing the gears on the PR machine in case of emergency (i.e. unexpected exposure). Still, one would think it has to be pretty goddamn for an NHL franchise that is flourishing on the ice to forget about hockey and take it upon themselves to uphold organizational good off of it.
The Saints Defense Looked Slightly Drunker Than the 49ers in What We May Look Back on as a Highly Intoxicated Preview of the NFC Championship Game
I'm not sure I can conjure up the appropriate words to fully describe a back-and-forth, seatbelt-less roller coaster ride of a game. If I can then I probably already did countless times over the course of a HoF career throughout which Drew Brees has been left to carry his team up-and-down the field while dragging the dead-weight of a dysfunctional defense.
I guess what I am trying to say is that, in being a game that was unlike any other, it had a hell of a lot in common with so many of the Saints' others over the years. To most, it was odd to watch two of the better defenses in the NFL this season get curb-stomped. However, an offensive acid trip - complete with a couple dumb luck turnovers, some top-notch trickery, and...as has become completely customary…a dick kick or two from astounding officiating - had the Who Dat Nation suffering through cold sweats six different ways to Sunday, circa 2014-2016.
In typical be-careful-what-you-wish-for fashion, it took the Saints' otherwise dominant defense displaying the rhyme and reason of players being aimlessly led by electricity for the passing offense to explode out of the shell of itself that it has been stuck in this season. Being without multiple starting linebackers against a revolutionized offense that feasts on the middle of the field with misdirection can partially explain how they got completely devoured, as you can't scheme sideline-to-sideline speed out of an old, rusty replacement like Craig Robertson. However, Marcus Williams' bi-annual, head-in-hands undoing of his overall improvement as a player is the type of inexcusable idiocy that was all-too-common in tarnishing what was a vintage performance from both Drew Brees and his offensive line…
When it comes to playing complimentary football, the Saints offense and defense might as well be taking turns standing on opposite sides of the sideline going barb-for-barb in a roast battle. If acts of service is their love language then they've made a compelling argument that they genuinely despise each other. Even with Deonte Harris playmaking and peacemaking on special teams, they remained as stubborn to being constructive co-habitants of the same locker room as emotionally constipated college roommates.
Never mind a theatrical reversal of roles that might have been too over-the-top for Wife Swap. During a game in which stopping absolute anything, even if it was only the damn clock, was considered a monumental moral victory, the Saints needed a 55-yard FG to redeem any points whatsoever on an absolute gift of an interception to start the second half. As if that wasn’t ironically obnoxious enough, Alvin Kamara immediately stole a rare opportunity for Saints’ fan to safely take half-a-breath by putting the ball on the turf during the first play after the forced punt that followed. The Saints' defense made just barely enough plays to allow Drew Brees a chance to do what he does best in leading a late, "game-winning" charge...annnnnd he predictably proved too efficient in leaving what the entire churning-stomach of a stadium knew to be more than enough time for him to be let down. On one hand, those are all signs that this team is still avoiding putting together their best, most complete game. On the other, it’s getting pretty late in the season to just assume that they conveniently will when it matters most.
The truth is, aside from playoff seeding, I don’t know that we can make out all that many broad strokes from the big picture of yesterday’s game. Credit to Sean Payton and Kyle Shanahan, but not even those two offensive ninjas could could draw their swords and out-duel what was a flat-out dissection of each other's defense if these two teams were to meet again. I think a ever-so-slightly sedated second half speaks to that.
That being said, I personally think (with only a hint of bias) that New Orleans’ offensive performance is more replicable than that of San Francisco. Despite having to abruptly erase Jared Cook from a game-plan that might as well have had his face on the cover, being unable to solve the mystery of whatever is now blatantly missing from Alvin Kamara’s game/glamour, and whiffing on almost every gimmicky haymaker they threw, the Saints still managed to move the ball methodically enough to keep pace with the chunk yards that Kyle Shanahan kept pulling from up his sleeve and out his ass for Jimmy G. Impossible is nothing, especially if it involves an organization that was a flare for downright foolish fatalities, but the odds alone say that he won’t be able to lean so heavily on executing through smoke and mirrors with a 100% success rate in the postseason.
Honestly, it feels like nitpicking to overreact to the result of an early two-point attempt whose failure immediately foreshadowed a mathematically fucked finish. It’s a bit much to whine about Sean Payton’s middle-schooler-playing-Madden-like approach to using Alvin Kamara to chisel helplessly at an edge that was cemented by Nick Bosa ad nauseam. Wondering what the far more effective Latavius Murray did to become the team’s resident red-headed stepchild is fair, but also too firm considering the 46-point output. You can crucify a referee for being fooled into throwing an eventual 4-point flag by Kyle Juszcyzk, whose presumably broken brain apparently regenerated in time for him to back on the field catching passes the next drive, but it's not even worth treating bullshit officiating as anything other than an unavoidable occupational hazard at this point in the season...
I suppose you could also crush a promising young player for making the rookie mistake of missing on a desperation dive that, for all intents and purposes, cost his team the game, even if he did have little business being left 1-on-1 with the Hulk-like creature that is George Kittle with the game quite literally on the line...
However, trying to pick one negative thing to harp on from what was basically a 3.5 hour anxiety attack is a fool's errand that should teach us the one thing that could actually have been learned from that game. That, of course, being that NFC Champion might damn well be decided by a figurative (or literally, who even knows) coin flip with the margins being as microscopic as they were yesterday.
The Saints suffered a tough loss that should leave them with plenty of room to self-reflect on the mistakes that kept them from winning in said margins, but it wasn't necessarily a bad loss that should have them fearing a potential trip to San Francisco in January.
Raheem Mostert Has Apparently Taken His Hearing for Granted, as He Believes the Niners are Playing on a "Neutral Field" Tomorrow
I gotta be honest, this just doesn't move the needle for me in terms of motivational material. Maybe it's the fact that Sean Payton had already pre-set Sunday's sound to deafening with his bi-annual incitement of the home crowd's most hysterical behavior...
...but Raheem Mostert's words, that were ignorant at best and idiotic at worst, hardly feel remotely realistic or relevant enough to be worthy of a spot on anyone's bulletin board.
The SuperDome? A neutral field? I'll consider fielding slights when are at all neutral, because thinking Niners fans will get so much as a word in tomorrow is almost as objectively stupid as having the basis of that claim be that they felt at home in Los Angeles, which is basically a Bed & Breakfast to all opposing NFL fans.
Bill Gates wouldn't let it interrupt him swimming laps in his infinity pool of profit if someone called him a broke ass bitch. Zac Efron wouldn't so much as turn his chiseled cheekbone for a double take if someone said he had a fat face. By the same logic, New Orleans need not waste even a single decibel in justifying with a response the idea that they are anything less than highly hostile hosts to the soon-to-be hearing-impaired.
I know he was just kissing the collective ass of San Francisco, but Raheem Mostert would have had a better chance of preying on the insecurities of Saints' fans if he said that the 49ers had an edge at quarterback tomorrow. I can't imagine there's anyone deathly afraid of Jimmy Gee-I-didn't-even-see-that-linebacker outplaying a future first ballot HoFer on his own turf, but at least there is a world in which such an outcome is possible. I'm assuming Raheem Mightstart spent the last week trying to stay in the top half of the depth chart, as opposed to collecting DNA samples from all over the greater New Orleans region and sewing shut the mouthes of sixty-some thousand voodoo dolls. Therefore, the same can't be said of the 49ers' faithful taking center stage in a building that the Who Dat Nation hardly needs outside instigation to test the structural integrity of...
Joe Thornton Provided Goaltenders Everywhere an Unpleasant Reminder That Wearing a Mask Doesn't Necessarily Make Your Face Unpunchable
Like most, years spent watching guys get jumped by crease caretakers for making even incidental contact with the last line of defense has ingrained in me the long-standing belief that it's best avoid getting into it with goaltenders.
For that reason alone, I think everyone who has ever strapped on a pair of skates, crashed the net like they were told, and just barely gotten beaten to a rebound by a quick glove, a quicker whistle, and the quickest of slashes owes Joe Thornton a thank you for reminding puck-stoppers everywhere that, at the end of the day, they are just more highly protected players. A throat jab that would bring a self-satisfied smirk to the mouth of Mr. Miyagi might have been slightly excessive, but it's about time someone put a sizable dent in either the figurative or literal trachea of a stick-wielding puck-stopper and their self-conceived cloak of invincibility. Especially if we, as a hockey community, expect to cut down on their sword-like swings.
As far as I'm concerned, an elder statesman whose beard commands respect, connotes unquestioned wisdom, and speaks to his ability to age more ruggedly than the dustiest bottle of whiskey in your liquor cabinet simply restored order. It's too bad it had to be at the expense of Petr Mzarek's windpipe, but at least his frat-like group of heavily-padded peers while have to reflect on their own positional mortality next time they go ahead and start some shit with the expectation that literally everybody else will finish it...
LeBron James Damn Near Anointed Himself in His IG Response to the Jazz Announcers That Found it Odd That He Hopped Feet From the Paint During a Live Game to Celebrate While Shoeless
Imagine doing your job at the highest level to where youâre not needed anymore, giving your shoes to a lil girl and boy who you inspire and hoped you made proud that night, then cheering on your teammates cause you love seeing them succeed more than yourself only to be criticized while doing it. People itâs the world we live in and you canât let it ever stop you from your purpose in life. Negativity, bad energy, hate, envy, etc etc will try to bring you down throughout your journey and itâs up to you on how you handle it. I handle it by simply saying âThank Youâ with a ð on my face and continue to push forward while doing it! LIVE.LAUGH.LOVE ðð¾â¤ï¸ð
While we're in the imagination station, let's all take a second to imagine that being gracious enough to sign a pair of your sneakers for some young fans absolves you of any and all obnoxiousness once they've been removed....
To be clear, if LeBron James had put the game out of reach in the first five minutes he could have headed back to the locker room for a shit, shave, and shower before returning to the court for the second half only to auction off his game-worn uniform in the tunnel for all I care. There is no shortage of sideline antics I am cool with. Unfortunately, venturing egregiously far from the bench during live play, regardless of whether or not you look like you are one black leather jacket short of trying to incite a sock-hop in the process, cannot be considered a sideline antic...
I'm all for NBA extracurriculars but let's not go spitting in the face of the forefathers of the 'And 1 Mixtape Tour' by acting like celebrating a mid-game play with the flooding of a live floor isn't a timeless display of disrespect. â
âI don't care that LeBron James actively chose to strip and tease the Utah Jazz in the final minutes of a complete blowout anywhere near as much as their announcers do. In fact, I admittedly find it pretty funny. What's not nearly as funny is the sanctimonious social media post that clears him of any wrongdoing in having the situational will power of a 5-year-old with a full bladder.
I'm all about the bullshit, especially throughout the league that wholeheartedly embraces it, but LeBron's failure to own his after the fact gives it a decidedly unpleasant stink.
A 49ers Broadcaster Was Suspended for, More or Less, Implying that Lamar Jackson's Blackness is a Cheat Code
“He’s really good at that fake, Lamar Jackson, but when you consider his dark skin color with a dark football with a dark uniform, you could not see that thing,” Ryan said on air. “I mean, you literally could not see when he was in and out of the mesh point, and if you’re a half step slow on him in terms of your vision, forget about it, he’s out of the gate.” (h/t SFChronicle)
Let’s just pretend that people weren’t already sensitive to Lamar Jackson takes because his potential at a position at which he won awards and excelled in college was doubted, ad nauseam, due to the fact that he’s highly athletic, obnoxiously elusive, and…well…at least indirectly...umm...come close, I don’t want anyone to hear me….REALLY FUCKING BLACK! Let’s just pretend Bill Polian never developed dementia while en route to a meeting of the 'Good Ol’ Boys Club' only to accidentally wander onto an ESPN set and start drooling out antiquated drivel and slobbering stereotypes through his spittle. Let's just pretend that the idea of dark skin being an asset to a young NFL quarterback wasn't all we needed to hear to have officially heard it all.
This local...wait for it...color commentator, who - in all "fairness" - probably thought he was just doing his job in eliciting eye-rolls by going the extra mile to shamelessly excuse the home team’s missteps through half-assed and hackneyed homerism, is still guilty of publicly speaking a suspendible amount of stupidity. Somewhat impressively, the racial overtones of undermining the excellence of a player who is unapologetically African American by pointing out that his shade of brown is comparable to that of a pigskin through the “trained eye” of someone watching through 6-inch spectacles from the nosebleeds are actually outdone by the pure, unadulterated idiocy of this opinion.
Never mind how rare it would be of a trusted football voice to go full-galaxy brain in belittling the brilliance of a white pocket passer who made every single NFL organization, including his own (people forget Baltimore initially passed on their savior for their back-up tight-end), look stupid by defiantly defying the doubters. Forget that no one has ever claimed that a starting pitcher who depends on SPF 7-and-a-1/3 to keep him off the IR with sunburn is especially unhittable because the ball is hard to pick up coming out of his pasty white southpaw. Thinking a common contrast is remotely close to a noteworthy aspect of the Ravens’ rushing attack, when you could and should be talking about an insanely innovative scheme and a transcendent talent with an overwhelming arsenal at his disposal is actually not what I would consider thinking at all.
Truth is, we don’t even have to race to make an inherently racial comment about race. The ball could be bright pink - because the NFL found a new way to monetize breast cancer, obviously - and Lamar Jackson would still have his opposition desperately biting on play fakes like they’ve been made delusional by spending 3.5 quarters starved for a second-and-long. He could be wearing a Klan outfit instead a jersey and carrying a Tiki torch instead of the rock and he’d still be chopping up defenses for chunk yardage. If you can’t tell the difference between a black dude, a pitch-black jersey, and a brown football then you should, in theory, also think that Joey Bosa's painfully white ass matches his gold pants. Simply put, you are too goddamn dumb, tone-deaf, and blind to analyze a sport as fast and deceptive as football, never mind play it.
Even if you’ve been exhausted by sports’ topics becoming black vs. white, your thoughts on this should be as black and white as it gets. Objectively speaking, it takes a unpaid vacation-worthy amount of ignorance to think that the kryptonite of what is statistically one of the most dominant defenses in NFL history is the camouflage of melanin, regardless of said melanin being treated like a scarlet letter under center until all-too-recently.
TL;DR - If you think you're having an original thought on how an MVP candidate's skin color might influence his performance...don't, because it's not remotely as revolutionary as it is a much less favorable r-word.
Um, k. Cool? I guess.
Credit to Ray Shero for doing what he was given absolutely no choice but to do, but it kinda feels like he managed to troll an an already furious fanbase in the process. No matter who received the world's least satisfying promotion, this was always going to be a bandage-on-a-bullet-wound-type solution until the offseason. However, going with Alain Nasreddine, whose head many fans long had fit for a spike before baldy became their boot mat, might as well be a novelty band-aid that reads "hA!Ha!hA!". Simply put, it is not going to silence all the mind-numbingly naive screams about "the system", like it is some terminal sickness, for which the entire staff were hosts, that was solely responsible for the Devils performing like they were playing through Polio.
I don't know that being unable to channel his inner-Larry Robinson and coax a top-flight first pairing defenseman out of a 30-something-year-old Andy Greene for years on end does or doesn't speak to someone's inability to fix a mentally FUBAR'd hockey team. I do, however, know that someone who was either rightfully or wrongfully viewed as a John Hynes' yes-man, in being attached at his hip for the last decade, isn't going to be given the blind vote of confidence offered to most in-case-of-emergency interim coaches, regardless of whether or not he's been granted the help of a pro scout with first-hand experience running a bench.
In my entirely-too-simple mind, Tom Fitzgerald would have been the most suitable stop-gap, as his presence behind the bench happened to coincide with this team's pathetic "peak" of floating in NHL purgatory and his departure happened to coincide with a familiar flush-like spiral back into the septic tank of the league. However, the truth is that it doesn't really matter who took over.
The team's feet have officially been put to the fire. Criticize the coaching, or even the management, all you want, but Ray Shero is dead-on-balls accurate in saying that not one player is currently playing to expectations...
This is a last resort-level wake-up call, and does anyone truly care who, exactly, it is yanking off their blanket when they are getting a bucket of cold water dumped on their face? The "newness" of the voice can be questioned, but the message it is sending is loud and clear.
Long story short, handling the puck like a hot potato - much like Will Butcher did twice in a manner of seconds as he basically forechecked himself better than the Golden Knights ever could in singlehandedly creating the possession during which they tied the game - is not a holdover from the Hynes playbook (which, fair warning, we will likely see successfully broken out on NHL ice again in the future)...
I'll start concerning myself with how it differs, in the nuance that everyone loves to ignore, from the Nasreddine playbook when this team starts putting two passes together in even a semi-professional manner.
Last night's loss was a clear improvement, though that's not exactly a ringing endorsement of anyone involved, since the Rag-dolling at home and the beatdown in Buffalo basically buried the bar in the plot next to the one already dug out for John Hynes' job security. Still, it'll be interesting to see if this godforsaken team can do what they've scoffed at doing all season in actually building on the type of relative improvement that you'd need a microscope to pick up on this weekend. I'll believe it when I see it, but if I don't then I won't be bitching and moaning about a scheme until I see the most basic of fundamentals executed at a high enough level for one to even be run in the first place.
I'm absolutely certain that the combo of Nasreddine and Horachek isn't perfect, as patchwork Plan B's rarely are, but I have never heard of a full-time hockey hypnotist. That is the only person - not named Jacques Lemaire, of course - decidedly more qualified to deal with the magnitude of psychological dysfunction and fractured fortitude that has this group of individuals stuck in a mental maze. Unfortunately, they, themselves, have no other option but to come together to find their way out of if they don't want to spend an entire cold, dark winter wandering aimlessly through it, because - as uninspiring as this change may be - you can only play the can-the-coach card once a season.
The Devils Somehow Burrowed Out a Basement Beneath Rock Bottom, and All Eyes Should Now be Fixed Firmly on Their General Manager
For what's it worth, it was an impressive display of self-fulfilling a futile and fatalistic prophecy. I didn't think things could get worse than the Devils somehow uniting their own fans and Rangers' fans in shared hatred by putting forth a putrid product that managed to get outscored handily in fifteen minutes of powerplay time. Yet, in less than 7 minutes of game time, they truly outdid their own embarrassing ineptitude with impeccable efficiency by going down 3-0 before the ice was anything less than immaculate against the Buffalo Sabres. I'd say last night was their "hold my beer" moment, but they certainly didn't have the look of a team that was interested in putting in an effort as small as passing over the booze to focus on proving anything about themselves. A five goal first of which goaltending that was horrific enough to induce violence against inanimate objects, but somehow not horrific enough to be more than a mere footnote to almost every unrelentingly dumbass decision made in front of it...
A meaningless second. A pointless third. I vastly underestimated how cold, dark, and untenable rock bottom can be, because the hopeless place in which the Devils resided late Saturday afternoon feels like a balmy beach day in comparison to where they are this morning.
We can scream about John Hynes, as if he's the one leaving Jack Eichel alone to scratch his balls and tickle the twine in front (Sami Vatanen), or missing on bantam-level breakout passes (Jesper Bratt), or falling down on partial breakaways (Taylor Hall), or compounding countless acts of clumsiness in making a solid argument that the yips are an internally-contained epidemic throughout the entire organization. The truth is that he absolutely should have been granted a merciful dismissal before yesterday. Stubborn X's and O's?Highly questionable usage? A fairly firm leadership style that potentially squeezed the life out of its welcome? An underachieving and immature roster of delicate defeatists whose chemistry and confidence compares favorably to that of someone with IBS sitting in the furthest corner from the bathroom at a crowded two-star Indian restaurant? Some insanely unpalatable combination of all those things? Whatever it may be, John Hynes' largely unforgiving tenure in New Jersey quite clearly ran its course and crossed the finish line in exasperated disappointment during the Rangers' debacle.
For that reason, I hold Ray Shero personally responsible for everything that happens on the ticking time bomb of his head coach's waning watch from here on out. By not making a change behind a bench that is psychologically as fragile as fine China after the disgrace that was Saturday's suckfest, Ray Shero basically got beat over the head with a sign of the apocalypse that read "ACOPALYPSE AHEAD IDIOT" by someone crawling away from a fiery blaze with their legs incinerated and just kept whistling to himself while waltzing undeterred into complete cremation. Asking John Hynes to walk into a complete buzzsaw of a building that will be half-filled with fans who solely showed up to boo his ass out of it tonight is a cruel and unusual punishment for a guy who, like him or loathe him, deserves better than to be kept employed to work double-duty as a dead horse and a scapegoat. It's just a no-win situation for anyone, much less a "team" that barely fits the description who deals with damnation (Taylor Hall bitching about boos...) and distraction (...while making it clear his bags are already packed) about as well as an adolescent with ADHD and an attitude problem.
This battered and beaten fanbase currently cares more about whining than winning, and seeing as the most noticeable thing to have changed between getting a touchdown put their on ass in Buffalo on both October 5th and December 2nd is the weather, I can't even really blame them. At the risk of joining the "please, just do something" crowd, I beg of Ray Shero to take heed of what happened when he showed undying loyalty to Dan Bylsma and take the only realistic action available to him.
Bad has already become worse. Worse has already become something that honestly doesn't belong on an NHL ice surface. Things might not improve regardless, for if they truly did actively quit on their head coach - which I will afford them the personal and professional courtesy of highly doubting - then this is a team of toddlers that needs a hell of a lot more help than the breath of fresh air accompanying a new voice to be any better than dysfunctionally doomed. I'd prefer to think that's not the case, so I would argue that even a slight possibility of catching so much as a glorified static shock in a bottle is beyond worth an entirely risk-free, short-term leadership change. If doesn't even matter whether or not it is a long shot at this point, seeing as they didn't even fucking register one of those before the game was put laughably out of reach last night.
Ladies and Gentleman, The World's Biggest Douchebag has Come Forward With an Allegation That He was Once Kicked by Former Head Coach Marc Crawford
NYPost- “Marc Crawford kicked me once,” Sean Avery told The Post, before relaying details of the incident that took place during the 2006-07 season when they were together in Los Angeles.
“This was right after I [messed] up a drill and dumped the puck into the wrong corner, and it landed on Crow’s head and cut him for six [stitches],” Avery said. “He kicked me during a game.”
“Oh, so he kicked you during the next game because of the drill?” I naturally inquired.
“No, he kicked me after a too-many-men-on-the-ice call I took,” Avery said. “He didn’t have me serve it, we got scored on, and he let me have it.
“You know how I stand at the end of the bench? He came down and gave me an ass kick that left a mark.”
The incident can be traced to the Dec. 23, 2006, match at Nashville in which the Kings were assessed a too-many-men penalty at 19:18 of the second period, 36 seconds before J.P. Dumont scored the Predators’ sixth goal in a 7-0 victory.
On Feb. 5, 2007, Avery was sent to the Rangers for the first time.
“You think that incident was the reason you were traded?” I asked.
“No, no,” Avery said. “That was because I squared off with and tried to fight Mark Hardy, who was one of our assistant coaches, on the ice.
I was going to wait for clarification and/or corroboration on this one. After all, my gut - like that of many others, I'd imagine - tempted me to do nothing more than shrug my shoulders, as compassion falls about 400th on the list of things I feel for someone who was a shameless shithead on the ice and has proven to be a proud and public harasser of the homeless off the ice.
Luckily, attention will always come well before sympathy on Sean Avery's list of priorities, so I can confidently consider all parties involved in his story to be irredeemable assholes who love punching (or, for the sake of this argument, kicking) down...
With the stink of some cringeworthy burials leaking out from under the NHL's floorboards over the last week and change, I'm not at all ready to doubt that a member of the NHL's old guard, like Marc Crawford, is capable of being a crappy person with a insatiable power complex. On the other hand, with the person on the receiving end of that complex defending it in a way that jives pretty perfectly with his douchey demeanor and fake tough guy image it kinda feels like both people will ultimately get what they deserve.
For Marc Crawford, it's a long overdue investigation into his allegedly tyrannical tactics that apparently didn't begin and end with his foot meeting the crack of a complete prick....
...and for Sean Avery, it was the disappointingly literal ass-kicking he had coming to him for the entirety of his adult life.
All's well that ends well, I suppose. Especially if it ends with the NHL cleaning up their coaching circles and maintaining safer workplace environments than those apparently preferable to a sycophant like Sean Avery, in part because he was to thirsty for relevance to keep his fat mouth shut about getting booted after having spent the vast majority of his career ducking exponentially more justified jumpings.
In Utterly Embarrassing Themselves Against the Rangers, the Devils Torched Whatever Remained of John Hynes’ Seat in a Way That Should Have Ray Shero’s Ass in a Full Sweat
This season was supposed to be the dawn of a new day for the New Jersey Devils. As if the implication of the most erection-inducing offseason in franchise history wasn't enough, it was by their own admission that the time to compete was now.
So, I guess my only question is why, exactly, do they, as an organization, keep hitting the snooze button in avoiding the use of the only tried and true wake-up call as said season tosses and turns into the type of day-long nap that is symptomatic of the chronic depression that is ever-present in the Devils’ body language whenever they give up an inexcusable goal and their empty eyes whenever they try to "excuse" it in the postgame media scrum.
I was willing to give John Hynes a longer leash than most as he got comfortable with a roster that was given the type of makeover that makes the ass on an Instagram model seem unaltered. That, of course, is not saying all that much since his new and “improved” team forced the finger to the trigger for his firing before the fucking leaves even totally turned. Still, I can't imagine that his methodology as a coach is to caution against confidence while prioritizing unforced turnovers, undisciplined defense, and operating a powerplay with the sophistication and adaptability of a child repeatedly sticking metal utensils in active electrical sockets. You can yell about a "system" that you're in too much of a blind rage - and understandably so, might I add - to worry about studying up on. Not recognizing that it is being executing with the precision of projectile vomit by professional athletes that need to schedule an emergency double-session with Stuart Smalley, on the other hand, is a pretty massive pass to give a group of players that can't currently make or catch a routine one...
All that being said, it is undeniably John Hynes' responsibility to adjust the game plan in a noticeable and impactful way (aside from randomly picking a young, skilled scapegoat out of a hat/the lineup). It is his continued ineptitude in failing to configure a structure and foster a climate that allows for even the seedlings of chemistry to take sprout amongst a roster that is hardly devoid talent that has him on the borrowed time equivalent of crippling debt.
Honestly, I’m just not sure what Ray Shero could possibly be waiting for. If there were ever a rubber-meets-the-road moment then it was the afternoon of a holiday weekend that typically serves as a checkpoint, against a run-of-the-mill rival who was starting a backup goaltender. The Devils found just about the most deflating way possible to find themselves stranded on four flats in flunking that litmus test, despite basically being offered a cheat sheet by insanely favorable officiating, as they got shutout while flat-out gifting a bad penalty-killing team multiple shorthanded insurance goals...
The most impassioned people wearing red and black in The Rock on Saturday were those in the stands letting “Fiiiire Hynes!” ring in unison and drumming up more defiant distaste for their own team than the most obnoxious of opposing assholes even had reason to...
It was a result that was sadly far, far more embarrassing than it was surprising, and that speaks volumes of what everyone has come to expect of a sinking ship of a Devils' team whose rare successes (See: somehow beating Montreal while giving up NINETY shot attempts against) have the feel of tying a pool noodle to the Titanic. A "look what we found lodged in our rectum"-type victory over Buffalo tonight would be like taking a 60-minute piss on a raging forest fire and I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be anywhere close to as satisfying. The standalone wins feel like losses in prolonging the otherwise imminent, and that is an unrelenting purgatory to find yourself stuck in as a fan of a floundering franchise that's being more cowardly in refusing to shoot the only defensible and uncontestable shot left wide-open for them than Ben Simmons.
I probably differ from most inherently emotional fans in believing that John Hynes will be a good NHL coach somewhere down the line, but that somewhere is definitely not here, as his primary and predictable form of damage control is as desperate as Pavel Zacha and Jesper Bratt are for a coach that believes in them for more than a shift at a time. His message, whatever its motif may be, is obviously stale and apparently as clear to a young team, whose future in New Jersey is pretty well-spoken for, as the English lessons of the teacher in Charlie Brown.
I don’t know that there is an intriguing long-term replacement currently available, but we’re also not exactly looking for Scotty Bowman’s successor. I would suspect that Tom Fitzgerald makes the most sense as an interim, but the truth is that doesn’t really matter who the (somewhat) fresh face belongs to. Its unsupervised presence alone communicates a level of urgency that, if judging off dispirited performances that look to be sponsored by Prozac, its predecessor proved incapable. Even if their style of play remains somewhat similarly snooze-worthy (which it very well might), something absolutely has to change and making an underachieving head coach, who is far less accomplished than others that have suffered this same fate, the sacrificial lamb for the innumerable missteps of so, so, so many others is a time-honored tradition in pro sports.
If having the Prudential Center made relatively Ranger-friendly by beyond fed-up and frustrated fans who had the entirety of their ire turned to the usual suspect behind their own bench wasn’t rock bottom then I don’t know what the hell is. If that wasn't the breaking point then the only logical conclusion was that everything was already well past broken and the adhesive on the entirely transparent bandaid that is the line change lottery finally wore too thin. I personally can’t think of a worse feeling than the one festering in the pit of my stomach during the last 14 minutes or so, as it felt as though the lost-seasonal depression and the upcoming apathy of yet another uncompetitive April were joining forces to kick the last leg out from under whatever false hope I was left balancing on.
I don’t know that this roster, as impressive as it was in theory, wasn’t constructed of volatile pieces that fit together about as seamlessly as the oft-unsightly and irredeemable wreckage they appear to implode into on a regular basis. I do know that Ray Shero only has one way of finding the fuck out. We’ve reached the point of no return, where the more stubborn he is towards exhausting his only option, the less benefit of the doubt he’ll receive after he inevitably does.
This team will look different next year regardless, as we’re mere months away from finding out if Taylor Hall’s uninspired play (which, as of today, has him playing in thebottom six) is a PTSD-like byproduct of what has become an Edmonton-esque environment...
Common sense says (and the standings nod alone in firm agreement) that you might as well get a head start on a potentially unforgiving evaluation process by at least trying to spark a fire under their ass prior to an upcoming offseason that will almost unavoidably be spent conducting a thorough head coaching search. Yes, even if all it does is begin to burn up the only optimism left...which has somehow already been limited to that of the complete unknown.
Akim Aliu's Story Has Been Corroborated and Bill Peters Looks Primed for the Unemployment Line, as the Surface Has Merely Been Scratched on Half-Witted Hockey Culture
TSN- Speaking publicly for the first time since he made the allegation on Twitter, the Nigerian-born Aliu said Peters made the remarks in the AHL’s Rockford Ice Hogs dressing room before a morning skate during the 2009-10 season while the 20-year-old Aliu controlled the team’s music.
“He walked in before a morning pre-game skate and said ‘Hey Akim, I’m sick of you playing that n----- s---,’ ” Aliu told TSN, with Peters, who was then the Ice Hogs head coach, referring to Aliu’s selection of hip-hop music. “He said ‘I’m sick of hearing this n-----s f------ other n-----s in the ass stuff.’
“He then walked out like nothing ever happened. You could hear a pin drop in the room, everything went dead silent. I just sat down in my stall, didn’t say a word.”
Two of Aliu’s Rockford teammates who were in the room at the time of the alleged incident, Simon Pepin and Peter MacArthur, independently corroborated Aliu’s account to TSN on Tuesday.
"I think everyone should be held accountable for their actions or words spoken," Pepin said.
Aliu said Rockford team captain Jake Dowell later confronted Peters about the incident in the coach’s office. Dowell declined to comment, but said he would cooperate in any investigation conducted by the NHL or the Flames.
When Peters then called Aliu into his office to talk about it, Aliu said Peters did not apologize. Instead, Peters again expressed his displeasure in Aliu’s choice of music for the dressing room, with Aliu saying Peters said: “You know, I’m just sick of this n----- s---. It’s every day. From now on, we need to play different music.”
When asked why he waited nearly 10 years to step forward, Aliu pointed to former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick as a reason to stay quiet.
“This isn’t me being bitter. I sat on this a really, really long time. It broke my heart, I think it made my career go downhill before it started,” Aliu said. “
This isn’t to the degree of Kaepernick by any means, but if you play the race card, it’s most likely the end of your career.”
Aliu said he did not confront Peters at the time of the incident, nor in the private meeting that followed in Peters’ office.
“What am I going to say? I was 20 years old and a first-year pro. I was too scared to speak up,” Aliu said. “I beat myself up every day over it.”
Aliu said he believes that incident with Peters “ruined my career before it started.” Aliu already began his career with the public reputation of being a difficult player, stemming from his refusal to participate in a hazing ritual with the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires that would have forced him and other rookies to stand naked in a bus washroom.
“Look at the numbers. I was on pace for 20 goals in my first pro season and I wasn’t getting any power-play or penalty-kill time. Zero special teams,” Aliu said. “I feel like this ruined my career before it started. I don’t think that can be disputed. Then you get sent down to the ECHL, then traded to another organization and it’s an uphill climb from there.”
“There isn’t much that you can do or say to me that I can’t accept an apology for,” Aliu said. “He wasn’t man enough to apologize to me and move on.”
So instead, Aliu admitted that he “turned sour against” Peters in the days and weeks that followed, ultimately leading to his demotion to the ECHL.
Aliu said two or three weeks after the incident, Peters snapped at him during a drill in practice and Aliu responded by saying: “Don’t f------ talk to me” to Peters. Within two hours of practice ending, Aliu says he was demoted to the ECHL.
“It’s tough to sit here while he just keeps climbing the ranks. After that incident, I got zero opportunity,” Aliu said. “I’ve made peace with it. I hope he’s honest and admits what happened.”
So, to recap...
A supremely-talented Nigerian-born prospect, who - as a teenager - was labeled an irredeemable rebel for having the gall to refuse to slip off his skivvies and get packed dick-to-ass into the bathroom of a bus, that held multiple future NHL coaches, for the entertainment of older teammates in the midst of a heterosexual identity crisis, was chillin' in his stall and minding his own business to the backdrop of some beats.
Then, his curmudgeon of a coach, who apparently takes his social cues from David Duke, decided to stroll on through and casually - pardon the pun - drop the mic with a bunch of targeted n-bombs that left his locker room in stunned silence. After being reprimanded on the matter by the player he elected captain, said coach proceeded to call said prospect into his office to double and triple down on his racist rhetoric, as opposed to apologizing. When going the extra mile to remind that prospect of his skin color's suppressed and stunted standing in the whitest of painfully white sports was oh-so-shockingly met with a grudge, that prospect had his then promising career path detoured out of spite.
The coach, on the other hand, went on to quickly rise through the ranks, reinforcing his resume by taking notes alongside another recently relieved coach whose team full of future Hall of Famers even thought he was a pompous prick. The student has become the teacher, as Bill Peters is coaching his second NHL team, despite his first one hating his fucking guts and making the playoffs exactly zero times in four underperforming years before undeniably improving as an exponentially more unified "bunch of jerks" immediately upon his departure.
That, of course, could change as soon as today, since it sure as shit appears that he's finally facing his first (and hopefully fatal) repercussion after a decade of being a divisive dictator, a discriminatory dickhead, and an abusive asshole...
However, if you don't think the timeline above speaks to how cancerous hockey culture can be then I regret to inform you that you've already contracted it, as stating the blatantly obvious does not make you any less of a hockey fan. As a matter of fact, I'd even take it a step farther. Defending the breeding ground of intolerance and toxicity that is the cesspool of insecure entitlement in which old, blubbering blowhards tread water while failing to evolve with the sport that keeps gifting them golden opportunities proves you are actively against the growth of a game that you view in a light bright enough to blind you to its ugly truths.
I'm not saying that every long-time hockey coach is, for lack of a more accurate term, a piece of shit that deserves to get run over and left for dead by the high horse they rode in on, nor am I saying that every player is suffering from the sports' equivalent of Stockholm Syndrome. Since the time Akim Aliu went head on with his head coach's hate speech, I'd imagine quite a few progressive steps have been taken in that regard.
That being said, if two insanely high-profile figures governing the highest level of hockey in a crazed media fishbowl of a country could have their fascist ways of counterproductively abusing both their pro players and their power fly under the radar for this long then it stands to reason that similar bullshit is still an epidemic in less supervised leagues.
This sad tale of Akim Aliu and a career at least partially undercut by the insatiable ego of someone that represents almost everything that is hatable about hockey is undoubtedly on the more asinine end of the spectrum. However, if you think this is the last skeleton in the closet of a community that, in part, was still worshipping every nonsensically nationalistic noise Don Cherry bellowed while glorifying brawn at the expense of brain, in a language that could only be translated by the nearest racist grandpa, then you might be in for a #MeToo level surprise.
Hopefully the Babcock backlash, as well as this story and its ramifications...::refreshes to see if Bill Peters has been fired (into the sun) yet::...
...serve as the distasteful saline solution that hockey has to choke down before a culturally constipated sport has its colon cleansed of decades worth of deeply embedded and inevitably nasty crap. Those that either have or plan to devote their lives to playing it (or were bullied out of doing so) will be better off for it, even if the over-inflated reputations of some of its most "revered" taskmasters won't be able to say the same.
Times have changed. Generations have changed. Membership to the Good Ol' Boys Club clearly hasn't. We're finding out there's a price to be paid that's long overdue, and - if the last week is any indication - the interest could prove pretty goddamn eye-opening.
The Saints...Passed...on Letting Suspect Officiating...Interfere...in What an Undeniably Ugly and Torturous Win Over the Panthers
In a season that is very much Super Bowl or near-suicidal seasonal depression, it’s hard to feel great about sneaking out a victory against a team that realistically didn’t belong on the same field as the Saints in a game that, pretty much out of nowhere, seemed doomed for a disastrous fate. Simply put, there was a lot to dislike about blowing multiple double-digit leads and needing to summon a little late-game wizardry between #9 and Magic Mike to strip the Panthers of a potential upset and just barely claw out a win in the SuperDome.
PJ Williams doing his absolute best (i.e. worst) to make November 24th ‘Marshon Lattimore Appreciation Day’. The defense appearing to think the term “running back” was more of a rigid restriction than an antiquated name for a versatile position in looking at Christian McCaffrey as if he were a flying pig every time he exited the backfield to run an uncontested passing route. Sean Payton letting the long-overdue excitement from Jared Cook’s coming out party turn him so hysterically pass-happy that you’d think he had too much cake and was suffering from a sugar rush in having a 40 year old arm repeatedly sling it downfield. The devil on his shoulder apparently slapping Latavius Murray’s first half stat-line out of the hands of the angel on his other shoulder in forming the makings of a pretty good malpractice suit for a guy whose usage hasn't exactly added up given what he showed in his midseason audition for the vacated role of Mark Ingram. A collective amount of discipline that you'd sooner expect to see from a third grade classroom on Halloween, as highlighted by Cam Jordan taking out the frustration of early-season slipped sacks out on a defenseless QB with a ferocious forearm shiver that kept alive both a dead drive and any hope whatsoever for an overmatched rival...
Fortunately, those reasons can all be overlooked. As unsatisfying as it was to barely beat a .500 team whose back they repeatedly had against the ropes in their own building, it was even more satisfying to beat a ridiculously one-sided group of officials who gave the Saints the ironic middle finger the entire football world was patiently waiting for with the biggest “fuck you for holding a grudge and making us do our jobs competently after we boned you raw" call of all-time. You can't convince me this gets overturned against anyone other than New Orleans in New Orleans (as evidenced by Jared Cook's phantom offensive PI being upheld earlier in the game), nor should you even want to waste time trying if you’ve watched officials blatantly big league far more egregious challenges all season…
And yet, as the Saints were pushed into the shadow of their own end zone with the score tied and time ticking down, a defense that had been dismantled on the day stepped up and snapped that finger clean off with a scoreless stop that may have, in the moment, increased Marcus Davenport’s value to three firsts...
....then handed it off to Drew Brees so he could do the honors of delivering it down the field for Wil Lutz to boot directly up the collective ass of a crew that clearly had it out for them in bearing false witness to a game whose penalty discrepancy reads like the description of a 3.5-hour mugging...
Never mind the Panthers best shot, the Saints also withstood a blatantly bullshit low blow from refs whose transparently spiteful message quickly got crumbled up and thrown right back in their stupid face.
Hard to feel too, too bad about decisions and mistakes that are, at least in theory, easily correctable and injuries that are presumably quick-healing when the most impactful fix was the one they managed to overcome when every penalized push was met with an "enough is enough"-style shove once the game was truly on the line.
If John Hynes' Desperation and Tom Fitzgerald's Departure from Behind the Bench Are Any Indication, the Devils Are Pretty Much Sucking on the Last Straw
Hand up. I remained a John Hynes' apologist until a largely aloof home loss to the lousy Ottawa Senators all-but-sealed his eventual fate as a duck as lame as his all-too-predictable over-reliance on scapegoating young skill to a luxury suite whenever his sleep-walking team needs a kick in an ass that has to damn near desensitized by now. I still think just as much blame falls on a talented enough roster that often looks completely lost in learning from their mistakes about as well as the token comedic relief in a sitcom of your choosing. Unfortunately, if they canned every player that has made a habit of horrid decision making they'd need a dumpster the size of the nearby landfill, so - by process of elimination - the clock simply has to be ticking louder and louder on the tenure of a coach whose message appears as stale as whatever entirely boring brand of hockey he has the Devils playing.
I thought that before the call-up of Brett Seney and the insertion of John Hayden once again left Jesper Bratt and Pavel Zacha on the outs, but getting an indication that one win over the only in-conference team that looks more lowly than themselves has guaranteed that an actively hamstrung lineup will be iced again on Tuesday has only reinforced that belief...
At this point, John Hynes isn't just desperately throwing shit against the wall in hopes that something sticks, he's also treating everything that stays up for even a second as if it is gospel until it goes splat. To have your decisions even mildly imply that the problem all along has been one of the best puck carriers on the team and/or one of the best penalty killers on the team, who have (at times) looked great flanking the number one center of a team that can't score, is the type of answer you get from a man who is entirely out of them. That, more so than the lack of noticeable adjustments that have been made as the Devils have already uncompetitively and unexcitingly sucked their way into NHL obscurity, has me thinking we're merely a blow out or two away from an upheaval.
Tom Fitzgerald leaving a bench behind which nothing more than absolute mediocrity was "achieved" under his tutelage must be a sign of something. If that something isn't that there will be no more helping hand-holding during John Hynes' last hurrah than I might just go ahead and look into starting a GoFundMe for the sports' psychiatry bills of his favorite punching bag in Pavel Zacha...
Excuse me for not having the wool pulled over my thousand yard stare by the first mildly comfortable win of the entire season coming at the expense of the only doormat the Devils can currently wipe their feet on, but beating a bad Detroit team felt like the delaying of the inevitable. Far be it for me to root for losses when it looks like another short spring will provide plenty of opportunities to engage in that disturbingly annual act of self-loathing. However, until they start coming more than one or two at a time in between depressing and demoralizing defeats, the wins won't feel like they are leading up to anything other than yet another week of inexplicable scratches and hopeless hockey.
Never mind the writing being on the walls, because everything about the current situation makes it seem like the walls are closing in on the guy that was gifted 4+ years of the company card with the understanding that he'd be the one paying the price if long-overdue expectations were met with an all-too-familiar fate of franchise-wide failure.
John Hynes getting sent packing isn't going to instantly fix everything, but piling on the easy targets by sitting young talent isn't fixing anything. The Devils need to give a shot to the one potential solution left at their disposal, even if all it does is turn the angst and attention to the persisting problems that a head coach, whose lineup decisions appear to be stunned stupid, certainly seems doomed to at least partially take the fall for.
Robert Bortuzzo is Lucky to Have Only Received a 4-Game Suspension for his Bush League (and Semi-Successful) Attempt to Break Viktor Arvidsson's Back
Of all the sports’ topics discussed, ad nauseam, the one I enjoy engaging in the absolute least is subjectively splitting hairs, as passionately as Robert Bortuzzo tries to split spines, in regards to the length of suspensions. To be quite frank, I think trying to understand Player Safety’s pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey-like process in dishing out supplemental discipline, so you could have told me the Blues’ resident lumberjack got anywhere between one and thirty games for clearing a casual observer from the crease by way of blind-sided brawn and I’d have nothing other than a shoulder shrug to offer.
That being said, I did put about six seconds of thought into the aftermath of an act that was born of the type of frustration one might feel when they double down on their own idiocy by breaking an inanimate object in an overly emotional fit of destructive deflection and I came to the following conclusion. The easy and poetically just course of action would be to suspend a repeat offender of on-ice “road rage” for the same amount of games that his victim spends nursing an injury that was solely a result of his own jackassery…
That may seem excessive for a level of violence that can be seen, without a whistle being heard or an arm being raised, on a game-by-game basis. However, with said act of violence being entirely outside the spirit of a sport that is dangerous enough as is, I just don’t really care much about precedent in punishing someone who thinks a successful attempt to do nothing other than injure is the right retaliation for what he personally deemed to be an offensive overreaction by the innocent bystander he blasted from behind.
Admittedly, Victor Arvidsson did go down rather easily, but if that was a premeditated dive then it’s one that should have been taken into an Olympic pool, as the spatial awareness necessary to instinctually make sure his face cleared an unforgiving metal bar by mere inches is the type of stuff that 9.9’s are made of. Regardless, with the lower back falling in a not-so-distant third behind the brain and the balls, in terms of vulnerability, the additional shot that Robert Bortuzzo thought through and then delivered to the prone one that belonged to a guy who, at most, was guilty of embellishing the "retribution" for standing harmlessly in a somewhat arbitrary marked area of the offensive zone was unforgivable.
I don't know, I'd probably be relinquished from jury duty in this case, because it's my biased belief that it matters that no one that doesn't bleed blue & yellow and does appreciate the NHL catering to minds more creative than those of cavemen would miss Robert Bortuzzo. It's not fair to take his into account his lack of high-end skill when deciding on his suspension, but it's also not fair that a player who is more intriguing in just about every way possible will spend far longer on the shelf than the bag of trash that tried to permanently scar him with a tramp stamp of a tattooing by turning his body into an accordion.
Therefore, I would have been all in on the NHL saying fuck fairness and sending an unmistakable message to the loathsome brutes whose on-ice impact only slightly extends beyond that of a career thief watching over a dark alley in the dead of night. Maybe then we wouldn't have to wait 15 seconds for station identification every time an "enforcer" took a ludicrous amount of liberties in treating the crease like it was the nest of their young.
This Story of Mike Babcock Going Full ‘Mean Girls’ with Mitch Marner During his Rookie Season is a Massive Indictment of Him as a Coach, Never Mind a Person
To anyone with a mind that hasn’t long been afflicted by a disease that’s damn near as antiquated as smallpox, with that being the cancer that is half-witted hockey culture, the important thing to note here is that Mike Babcock, while being one of the most “well-respected” coaches in the NHL, had the social grace of Regina George while filling the role self-important professor for the Toronto Mean Gir…I mean, Maple Leafs.
Above all else, asking a rookie to create something that’s the sports' equivalent of a “Burn Book” with an unspoken intent to share its contents with the veteran teammates with which you, yourself, harbor a grudge is the type of asinine crime against human etiquette that’s resourced Larry David’s writing process for going on ten seasons post-Seinfeld. It was a clear (and obnoxiously-timed) abuse of power from an old stubborn bastard who failed to adapt and evolve psychologically as a sport that has an odd obsession with ornery assholes passed him by. That’s what we should be directing our focus to.
However, since that seems pretty indisputable and obvious, I think I’d rather focus on what that level of mental manipulation says about him as a coach, as opposed to him as a person. This millennial thinks it makes him a crappy one that is now incapable of relating to players and deserved to get canned far prior to leaning heavily on fourth liners en route to yet another underwhelming playoff exit. Honestly, from a strategic perspective, what was the best case scenario? That, try as he may, he failed to combust his own team’s chemistry by way of wide-spread social sabotage?
The truth is that the goon squad of grandpas governing a league that’s laughably more skilled than the one that damaged the brains of their peers, both physically and mentally, could spin emotional torture as the building of toughness with a little bit of elbow grease. Unfortunately, the fact that we only just heard this story now speaks to how hard of a sell it would have been to claim that a talented team that's been getting bullied, in familiar fashion, by the Bruins every postseason was successfully forged by the fire of over-the-top tyranny.
Aside from this being an act of immaturity you’d expect out of an unsupervised locker room at a highly hormonal high school in an exaggerated TV drama, the job security of a coach almost unconditionally comes down to wins and losses. You don’t exactly need half-a-dozen degrees as a head shrink to conclude that creating resentment amongst your own roster is not the way to get the most out of it. Never mind this story speaking strongly to Mike Babcock being a diabolical dictator and an insufferable infant of an ego maniac. It flat out screams to him being an unqualified leader of young men that are too enlightened to be brainwashed by good ol’ boy bullshit in what's unquestionably been a refreshing new era of sport where we appreciate athletes being afforded a bare-minimum amount of common courtesy from their coaches. I say so facetiously, but - relatively speaking - what a brave new world!
Someone is Lying and No One is Winning in This Ugly Chapter to the Myles Garrett and Mason Rudolph Saga
I haven't the slightest clue what was, or just as likely wasn't, said in sparking a scrum that probably shocked the world a little too much in reminding us that you need to be a certain level of savage to play football professionally. Anyone who either pretends or implies that they do is simply too lazy or biased to re-chisel a narrative that they had already set in stone.
So, while I find it odd that Myles Garrett seems to have conveniently stumbled upon his race card in the back of his wallet, like it was one punch away from earning him a free sub, a full week (or 3.5x the statute of limitations on topical stories in 2019) after Twitter was prematurely begging him to swipe it in expensing his temporary insanity, I'm about 60 shades of melanin away from being at liberty to tell someone how to go about dealing with even highly-disputed racism. I might wonder how none of the other large and predominantly black men within ear-shot happened to pick up on the alleged prejudice. I don't, however, wonder whether or not the guy who took to the podium to put forth an Oscar-worthy portrayal of the innocent victim after inciting the brawl in the first place (which is more a fact than it is even a remote justification) was shameless enough to do so in the aftermath of dropping an n-bomb, or something of the hate.
Point being, while this is all hypothetical, what's not is not that every party is some level of guilty and all sides of this story suck. Myles Garrett for trying to club a quarterback over the head with a blunt object like he was trying to hunt-and-gather hypocrites. Mason Rudolph for being a disingenuous dickhead as the damsel in distress. The NFL for being a league whose braintrust calls for the type of blind and thankless faith of Mike Tomlin going empty backfield on 3rd and long with the blehest of bleh backup quarterbacks under center...
Obviously the slur of all slurs would make for yet another unforgivable ingredient in what was already a highly distasteful recipe for disaster. Unfortunately, it's inclusion (or lack thereof) is a secret that will never truly be accounted (or unaccounted) for, so we're forced to judge on what we definitively know. That, of course, being that we could exhaust every sightline in discussing this situation from every possible angle, ad nauseam, and never find one that wasn't a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad look for the variant degrees of any and all assholes and idiots involved, discrimination or no discrimination.
The most fair-is-fair and balanced account would be that a white player, whose job is literally made secure by black players, instinctually blurted something that reminds them that the tortured history of their ancestors isn't entirely in the past out of football-induced frustration and, in return, had his whole brain put at high-risk by the very thing that is used to protect it. You don't need to be a devoted subscriber to Disney+ to know that the closest thing to vigilante justice is about the furthest thing from the poetic justice of even a happy-ish ending.
For a Devils' fan to have walked into Tuesday's game against the Boston with even a single ounce of confidence would honestly require a half decade of dementia. Patrice Bergeron...no Patrice Bergeron, it makes no difference. I've spent far too many years watching the B's relentlessly swarm Prudential Center's finest, unconditional of either team's lineup, that I'm half convinced that their Providence affiliate could show up and pin the Devils in their own end with the ease of a father wrestling his prepubescent son with a strong pour of whiskey in hand.
For that reason, I have hard time taking too much away from a sloppy game that was far closer in theory than it was in execution, until - of course - it wasn't close in anything but a mutual desire for a merciful conclusion. As they pertain to the Devils, the Boston Bruins are more of a beating stick than they are a measuring stick, so that one could have safely gotten crossed off on the calendar during its production. With this team appearing allergic to improvement and treating forward momentum like it is a myth of modern science, the game was realistically put on ice before a single player stepped foot on it. Simply put, the Boston Bruins were just about the last team to let the Devils kick their sick habit of undoing "all" the good will created during two-game win "streaks" in uncompetitive fashion.
That said, there are some small things I do take issue with, such as their "best players" looking about as close to engaged as 40-year-old virgins, regardless of whether they were playing against an opponent that has a very particular way of making them look prude and unpracticed.
P.K. Subban hasn't been anywhere near as bad as his odd pattern of having a majority of his mistakes be of the "is that guy drunk?" variety makes him seem. However, getting walked to the cross from which he appeared to be nailed by Matt f'n Grzelcyk, of all people, is a blasphemous level of indefensible defense...
I try to steer clear of being a box score auditor when it comes to analysis, so it's not my concern regarding Taylor Hall's inability to find the back of the net with the help of a GPS and his own personal search party that is growing at a rate as alarming as my hope the Devils don't offer him anything remotely close to his inevitably insane contract demand. Rather, it's him looking like a player who can't dismiss of distractions...while - unintentional as it may be - being a never-ending source of distraction. It's him appearing to feel the pressure of playing out a contract year...while said contract year serves as an awfully up-and-down audition that undercuts his value as the asset that he allegedly aspires to be.
I honestly don't even know how to explain what I saw out of Taylor Hall against the Bruins. Falling down unforced. Flubbing 5-foot passes that hit him directly on the tape. Turning the puck over like there was a ticking time bomb attached to it. I would say that he looked like he got body-snatched by Miles Wood, but - depressingly enough - Miles Wood has actually been more consistent in successfully filling his role, albeit a much less demanding one, than Taylor Hall has this season.
I completely understand the latter wanting to explore free agency, especially when you consider how unforgiving his career has been outside an anomaly of an award-winning campaign. What I can't seem to understand is how someone so supremely talented can have moments where he looks so, sooo lost while somehow leading the team in both points and advanc...sorry, force of what was Taylor Hall's habit...I meant regressed analytics...
I am not about to speak ill of the mindset or character of the savior that reminded demoralized and downtrodden Devils' fans what it's like to be happy while watching hockey in wearing his Hart on his sleeve during every single shift of his MVP season. However, if he's not already mentally checked out and blueprinting the packing of his bags then his bi-polar performance definitely could have fooled me. Goals (or lack thereof) aside, whatever cloth he currently looks to be cut from is tearable with two fingers and sensitive to each and every unsatisfied sound his dog ears might pick up from the stands. That's just a painful reality until the product he puts forth has a steady leg to stand on in arguing otherwise.
The truth is, Travis Zajac and Andy Greene are too long in the tooth to lead by prime example in chomping at the bit. This young team needs its most accomplished combinations of talent and experience, such as Taylor Hall and P.K. Subban, to carry the torch in guiding them from the darkness they've dug their way into and stumbling upon at least a glimmer of the brighter days that are hopefully ahead. Whether they plan on being here when the sun eventually shines on this franchise with more frequently than it does a dog's ass or not, the "stars" need to play like the stars. Too often they've been playing like they are entirely overwhelmed by both expectations and a shitty situation that was made possible at best and unavoidable at worst by an impending free agent whose game has manically (and largely scorelessly) dipped between floating on Cloud #9 and being caught with its head stuck in it...
I suppose there is a certain amount of comfort that comes with him knowing full-well that he simply has to be far better on a more unconditional basis. That comfort might compare favorably to being offered a wind-breaker while finding yourself stark naked in a snowstorm when you take into account where the Devils sit in the standings. Still, admitting you've been a (part of the) problem is the first step...especially if you want to viewed as something a bit more reverent than someone else's (extremely expensive) problem when July 1st hits...