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...
The Ducks Flew Together...In Migrating From the Front of Their Own Net to Start a Stupid Fight While Getting Scored On
What some of you might see is an objectively hilarious instance of professional hockey players engaging in bantam-league bullshit and instantaneously disregarding all their on-ice responsibilities in sacrificing a largely uncontested goal in order to exact vengeance for an entirely legal bodycheck. What…ahem…you people (shoutout Don Cherry) clearly don’t understand, however, is what would come of the NHL if the principle behind throwing pointless punches as punishment for run-of-the-mill physicality was officially put out to pasture. Could you even imagine watching a violent sport in which the all-world athletes of ever-increasing talent worried more about playing through heavy contact and maintaining the flow of elite competition as opposed to breaking to bring vigilance justice to every player who dares to knock someone down? Whew, I shudder to think.
In all seriousness, I get standing up for a fallen teammate, especially in the wake of an illegal hit from either behind or to the head. However, we’ve reached a point in which every single semi-substantial collision is followed by the hand-to-hand combat of pushing and pissing matches that feel far more obligated than organic. Just watch the Anaheim Ducks flock behind the net, thus leaving an opponent all alone to collect the puck, his thoughts, his dreams, and at least one paycheck before firing one home against a team that was too busy showing “support” and "solidarity" via shoves. Now tell me it’s not a prime example of how patently ridiculous, regular, and regimented revenge has become amongst professional athletes that should, at least most of the time, be able to differentiate between a dirty play and a textbook dumping.
Though, I suppose with how overreactive and immature the league has collectively become in retaliation I should just be glad they haven't resorted to other middle school tactics like spitting on each oth...oh no...
The Idea That Colin Kaepernick Doesn't Want to Play Football is, Impressively, One of the Dumber Narratives Surrounding This Never-Ending Saga
So let me get this straight, Colin Kaepernick has been waking up everyday at 5AM to workout for the last three years and looks like he's been sprinkling protein powder on every piece of hate mail he's ever received and devouring it in between sets for... what purpose, exactly? On the off chance that Fuck the Police Weekly comes calling for a shredded cover athlete for their next issue?
To believe that Colin Kaepernick doesn't want to play football is to believe he woke up the morning of his suspiciously-timed workout, stretched, blew three years dust and rust off his right arm, and proceeded to launch deadly accurate darts up, down, and all around the same type of field he's been shunned from 2016...
The guy still wants to play football or he wouldn't be in absolutely stellar shape to play football.
Now, whether he wants to swallow his pride in suckling on the teet of the league that not only haphazardly threw this shit together last minute, but also threw it together years too late in a lame attempt to appease a celebrity sellout and slither around a future law suit like the snakes that they are is a much, much different question...
More importantly, it's one whose answer the NFL has long been made privy to since Colin Kaepernick first prioritized principles ahead of playing a sport run by those entirely complicit in letting him be made a pariah out of a peaceful protester by those repeating their annoyingly contrived nonsense with the frequency of a 'Tickle Me Elmo'.
The detractors so "desperately" (i.e. disingenuously) wanted Colin Kaepernick to speak of his intentions. Then, when he finally did, they were shocked that he didn't take the opportunity to tickle the taint and powder the ass of the money-hungry operation that was guilty enough of colluding against him that they agreed to pay him millions of dollars in defeat?
That's honestly only surpassed in stupidity by telling yourself that he doesn't want to play football.
Colin Kaepernick didn't make sure to keep his spiral tighter than a virgin asshole just to exterminate the MAGAtes that, for years, have fed shamelessly off the false notion that a former Super Bowl QB's athleticism and arm talent evaporated quicker than this country's collective mental capacity. That may be all he ends up accomplishing after refusing to sign up for what sure sounded like a booby trap of a litigious loophole hidden behind the "shield" that protects only the same exact people that let his name and reputation be skewered for 30-some-odd months. It's likely he did cost himself whatever small opportunity existed for him to become a backup quarterback by following up his workout with an insubordinate assertion of a readiness that was all-too-apparent in his performance. He probably did speak too audaciously in challenging the cowardly, thin-skinned, Caucasian corpses taking time away from running NFL organizations to bankroll the re-election campaign of a "man" that called him (and others) a "son of a bitch".
However, to be surprised by his refusal to bend over backwards in/on the same field where he knelt away his job security on behalf of a cause more critical than a completion percentage is to have actively paid less than zero attention throughout this extended ordeal in blindly and deafly pushing a political agenda where one was never, ever intended to exist.
Unfortunately, we're already nauseatingly familiar with the stink on that all-too-common load of crap. Colin Kaepernick having his clear and concise message consciously convoluted to make him out to be the one predominantly responsible for his continued unemployment? Same shit, different day. Dude clearly wants to play football, he just doesn't need to if an entirely hypothetical chance to carry a clipboard is dependent on the submissive concession of his dignity.
Ah, now that's more like it.
Another record-setting dose of Michael Thomas, a hyper-active injection of Alvin Kamara, a dusting of Jared Cook, and an unglamorously effective amount of Latavius Murray. Mix it all up and serve it with a defense that's proven itself to be something damn close to dominant and....VOILA!...you have whatever ailed the Saints as much as Terron Armstead's flu last Sunday, regardless of whether or not the person under center already has a spot cleared for him in the Hall of Fame.
To put it in more matter-of-fact terms, until we see otherwise, the fate of the 2019 New Orleans Saints isn't riding on the arm of Drew Brees. That was made pretty clear when their record went unscathed with Teddy Bridgewater taking the wheel. The health of the most accomplished of helping hands certainly gives the offense increased efficiency and the entire roster more margin for error, but Sean Payton had to learn the hard way that there's a limit to the amount of air his arsenal can raid nowadays. I say the following as a positive, but it's not 2011 anymore. No matter how much the mad scientist schemes, a balanced attack is the only thing that is going counteract the predictability of the 'AK & the UnGuardable' show. Fear not, however, because it's the exact type of offense that pairs perfectly with a defense that apparently needs not its premier corner to routinely force offenses off the field by hook or by crook.
The absence of another proven and reliable pass-catching option will continue to seem annoyingly avoidable, as you'd need the very bottom of the box scores to be in brail to at all feel the impact of a Saints' receiver not named Michael Thomas. However, if this team plays to where its bread has been buttered then it shouldn't matter that every opposing secondary isn't already considered toast. It is probably a fool's errand to discount the killer instinct of the galaxy brain shared by Drew Brees and Sean Payton and assume them incapable of throwing it back and emasculating an opponent with a patented SuperDome shit-kicking, but it's far from the sheer certainty that it once was. I had to pinch myself in bringing myself to type this, but this team is driven by its defense...even if its fearless leader and the two most dynamic weapons at his disposal repeatedly creep up from the backseat to heavily "opine" on its direction.
Look no further than yesterday for proof. Don't let the garbage time stats fool you, because the secondary - sans Marshon Lattimore (and led by the Eli Apple of his eye) - occupied the entirety of the void his absence left under Mike Evans' skin...
Chris Godwin got on the board against an overmatched rookie in CGJ, but ultimately snagged less passes from Jamies Winston than the Saints' defense did. Cam Jordan didn't so much as slow down in running right over whatever "Speedbump McGee" was put in front of him, and a highly potent downfield passing attack was forced to play into Demario Davis' torture chamber by checking down as they tried, and completely failed, to avoid turning the ball over. The early production of the offense was aided by the quick work of the defense and when the former slightly slowed the latter made damn sure it didn't much matter...
To this day it seems weird that simply possessing the ball is even remotely as important to a Sean Payton-led team as putting up points, since the Who Dat Nation has been pessimistically programmed to think of any one punt as a concession of defeat. However, running the ball is complementary to a passing offense with limited options, that is in turn complimentary to their unconditionally undeterred defense. That's what we've learned since Drew Brees has come back, and it is fortunately a lesson that - historically speaking - bears its best results through December and beyond.
Louis Domingue Has Been Called Up and Cory Schneider is Likely Headed Down, as a Wavering Career Has Officially Been Met with Waivers
The writing was on the wall. I presume most Devils' fans were much like myself in not considering it priority reading while keeping their eyes trained on the distraction that's been a largely disappointing start to a much anticipated season, but the writing was definitely on the wall.
The anticipatory trade to bring in a somewhat proven player at the position. The back-to-back starts given to a 22-year-old assumed starter of a team whose back is somehow already against the ropes. You'd have to have kept your head down longer than one of the poor bastards in a Scott Stevens' greatest hits highlight package not to notice the potential end of NHL days coming for Cory Schneider. Your ears may have instead picked up the boisterous bitching of a fanbase made frustrated by those actually playing, but the Devils' reliance on Mackenzie Blackwood (who - to his credit - has steadily improved since looking about as out of sorts as his disheveled surroundings in early October) spoke volumes of their hesitancy in giving their six million dollar man even one more chance to prove himself playable.
That, however, doesn't make today's news any harder to hear. Regardless of whether or not you've remained one of the few battered and beaten Cory Schneider apologists over the last couple of seasons (as I have), his demotion should be treated as a somber chapter in the insanely under-appreciated career of a player who hasn't passed a single buck while being dealt more unrelentingly crappy hands than a first-time father. The truth of the matter is that the prime of an elite talent at the goaltender position died for the sins of a franchise that refused to rebuild despite being given no other viable option. The trade that brought Cory Schneider to New Jersey in the first place made the hole he had to help dig out of even deeper. Yet still, nary a finger was pointed by a consummate professional whose finest hours were as phenomenal as they were forgettable, since they were mostly spent cleaning up an irredeemable mess that was of anything but his own making.
I still don't think we've gotten the whole story on the "cramp" that he suffered in the season opener. Ever since a guy who ended last season on a high note and continued to ride it into a pretty damn impressive preseason was pulled on what ended up being a completely fucked foreshadowing of an evening, he's looked far closer to the same player who was as likely to find a timely save as he was to collect an unprecedentedly elusive win for a full calendar year. Whatever the case may be, some catastrophic combination of physical (lower body) and mental (lower confidence) injury has him suffering a fate that is only as earned as it is unfair. The latter obviously comes part and parcel with professional sports, but if justice were as poetic as it claims then it should be on its way to intervene and save #35 from riding a goddamn bus in Binghamton.
It's more possible than ever before that we've seen the last of Cory Schneider in a (New Jersey) Devils' jersey. His immediate future is far more dependent on a bunch of factors unseen and third-party performances ahead than it is whatever explanation was offered in what sure sounded like a Repunzel-esque saving of a proud veteran's face...
You don't send someone making 12 million dollars over the next two seasons through waivers if you give a damn about them being picked up off them (regardless of how fiscally irresponsible it would be for another team to do so). The Devils can paint the toilet gold but they can't totally suppress the stink of the shit in it. This was done for the short-term benefit of a team that's going to need to give Mackenzie Blackwood a break at some point, not the benefit of a netminder who has been steady in only his struggles as his opportunities have mostly been met with personal and organizational failures.
Cory Schneider needed a fast start even more desperately than his team did, and I'd say they each played their own counterproductive part in creating the type of awkwardly extended impasse that is typically seen via strangers trying to pick a side in a narrow and crowded hallway. Mackenzie Blackwood pushed on through and provided some help in getting the Devils out of their own way, and in doing so has made expendable someone whose leadership alone can't validate his price tag. That is why the clear contingency plan that was Louis Domingue has already been called into action, not because a 33 year-old needs more game-like practice reps.
Again, it's impossible to know where the relationship goes from here. However, as this particularly thankless page in it gets turned, I won't allow someone who was absolutely alone in dumping buckets of water on a franchise that was in about as much flux as a raging forest fire to go without gratitude. It certainly trending strongly in the direction of Cory Schneider's once-promising career being made a blatant casualty of Lou Lamoriello's outright refusal to push a reset button instead of the snooze button in the wake of an alarming need for a new era of New Jersey Devils' hockey. Therefore, if we are getting as close to goodbye as it appears then I'll be damned if I let anyone consider the loss of a long-dedicated leader anything remotely close to a good riddance.
I know I'm arguing with a small segment of fans who are more than likely being made to sound prepubescent and stupid by the idea of their team losing its most impactful defensive player for the rest of a season that probably already felt a lot like being led into a room blindfolded on your birthday and having the surprise be yet another kick to the genitals. The Cleveland Browns hardly got to bring any happiness before they got humbled, so I'd imagine their sad sack supporters have difficulty feeling sympathy for anyone else that hasn't felt the unrelenting pain of decades of Doomsday-esque dread, Mason Rudolph included.
That being said, going the "he started it!" route, as if we are talking about a push-for-push shoving match on a playground and not one man reacting to a relatively run-of-the-mill tussle with what could be considered attempted murder in up to 10 states, is beyond idiotic. Even if Mason Rudolph did indeed "start it", I double checked the math and it turns out that one wrong plus one felony do not - in fact - equal a right.
Never mind Myles Garrett reacting in such an insane fashion that people automatically assumed slur and had their race cards out more prematurely than a kid waving a $20 from three rows back at a college bar. What Myles Garrett did was so egregious and shocking that I initially missed Maurkice Pouncey kicking him in the head as a retaliatory defense of his quarterback. With that being the case, you can surely deduct that my eyes didn't spend too much time trained on the helmet tug, or even the groin "kick", that prompted it.
Sorry, but this third grade logic doesn't apply to a sequence of events that compares favorably to trying to burn someone's entire house down because they flicked a lit cigarette at you. It just doesn't, and I presume that would be pretty obvious if the worst case scenario were to have come at all close to playing out last night.
Sure, Mason Rudolph could have given Myles Garrett a slight crick in his neck and a rising stomach pain, but Myles Garrett could have turned Mason Rudolph into an absolute vegetable of a patient that's in a perpetual state of drooling. Even in a sport that used to celebrate the type of brutality that we now know broke human brains, one of those things is simply not like the other in reaching a degree of senseless violence that not even the most psychotic of superhumans sign up for. I'd say that is best encapsulated by a quote that couldn't possibly state something more obvious...
I'll concede that Mason Rudolph is not anywhere near as innocent as he let on...
However, he also couldn't potentially be found guilty in a court of law (not that this incident should go anywhere near that far), so excuse me if I consider the "case" against him to be about as pressing as an alternate side parking ticket. Anyone that's played sports knows the retaliatory act always gets more attention, and I think that saying probably applies a wee bit more when the retaliatory act is an attempt to cave in an opponent's skull.
Speaking of Myles Garrett...
I question whether he thinks he participated in some sort of 'Instant Classic' last night. When "what happens in 8 seconds" is the type of assault that typically causes blunt force trauma then it overshadows the result of a shitty Thursday Night Football game between two largely boring teams in the same way that an unexpected hurricane might overshadow the taste of the wings at a beach party. There's not a coach or teammate in the Browns' locker room that had the tone or temperament of someone that just won a football game, and it's because said football game was just evvvvvver-so-slightly less rare than the attempted bludgeoning that brought it to a barbaric end...you goddamn lunatic.
Leave it to Grayson Allen.
By "it", I do not mean the Lexus that was probably passed down to him to he could whip around his high school parking lot with his collar up, his windows down, and his insanely punchable face on full display in all its infinitely douchey glory. By "it", I am instead referring to the first, and probably only instance in which I will ever even think about siding with a foul-mouthed fan who cowardly disparaged a professional athlete from the safety of their own seat.
Perhaps my brain is a little too familiar with his lack of playing time on a bad Memphis team and does, in fact, now recognize Grayson Allen as more of a bitch than a basketball player. I can only imagine the visual of him in the uniform he was truly meant to cry into after his days of prepubescent deviancy at Duke - a suit with sneakers - is only a hindrance to my eyes' inability to identify him as anything other than a bitch.
Realistically, it's probably just the smugness that likely got stuck across his face eternally the first time he threatened to sue someone over a skinned knee. Him approaching that maniacal seeker of 15 seconds of internet fame with a nose so turned up that it is out of reach to the stink of his own shit is definitely what has my fingers refusing to type up the same basic level of respect and decency I'd offer almost any other athlete in any other sport.
Whatever the case may be, I'm just glad that I don't have to feel like a hypocrite, as I am near certain that heckler tripped over a precariously placed leg soon after he published his recording.
Russell Westbrook Could Have Done Much Better and/or Said Much, Much Worse in His Criticism of Patrick Beverley
Look, the truth is that I'd probably harbor the type of unwavering disdain that proves that hate can be demonstrably more blind than love if someone ever tore my meniscus making an entirely idiotic play on the ball, thus bringing my championship run to an abrupt end with a substantial limp...
Never mind the rest of their extensive, antagonistic, and...well...hilarious history with one another...
Russell Westbrook was granted a free pass to say whatever and whenever in regards to Patrick Beverley as a player the second the latter's unrelenting recklessness threatened the longevity of the former's career. Hell, if he wanted to take an unexpected shot at his personal life - sans family - during a press conference I still might call it low blow-for-low blow in the long run.
That doesn't mean he's always right, with last night's pettiness being a perfect example...
....but it does mean he'll forever be justified in unconditionally crapping on the defense of someone that is - and I presume he will take this as the compliment it is intended as - universally considered a shameless prick of a provocateur outside of his own locker room.
Personally, I probably would have pointed out that Patrick Beverley is the "James Harden" of offensive fouls, in - more or less - creatively using (or, more accurately, flinging) his body to manufacture them out of thin air where they might not otherwise exist...
Seeing as that wouldn't sit well with the person in the stall next to him, I can totally empathize with Russell Westbrook strongly implying that the Clippers' skin-breaching specialist is no more than an aimlessly hyperactive hack.
It's not anywhere near true to say that Pat Bev just runs around in circles and has no impact at his own end of the court, but - with it being an exaggeration that likely brought a sinister smirk to his face - I figure it's pretty fair in its falseness. Especially when you consider that the source owes him a damn near limitless amount of physical or verbal swipes on a grudge card that's not running low anytime soon.
In between bouts of choking back the acidic taste that typically preempts projectile vomiting, it's becoming very difficult to find original ways to criticize a team that has only been consistent in finding sickeningly original ways to give away both leads and games at an obnoxious rate. The Devils might be a far cry from the unwatchable band of buffoons they were in starting the season by putting an almost immediate end to all optimism, but there's only so many encouraging pats on the ass you can give to a team of professionals who have only shown the killer instinct of manic depression with their only victims being anyone that is emotionally invested in their success.
The expected goals model might tell you that you've predominantly been watching a slightly above average hockey team for roughly the last ten games. What the advanced analytics don't take into account, unfortunately, is that the first month and a half of the Devils' season have basically turned a failure to meet any and all expectations into the bleakest of performance art. Not to pin the blame on one player, never mind one whose bags are reportedly packed and whose days are reportedly numbered, but Taylor Hall's Miles Wood-like success rate on the goddamn gift basket of breakaways he's received recently is the perfectly excruciating example of just how efficient they are in making bad on a good thing.
No "clutch gene" of which to speak, and yet the Devils' engine still manages to stall out when it comes to continuing to manually manufacture positive plays when they matter the most. Whether it has been bad goaltending, inexplicable turnovers, or the type of defensive zone coverage that makes even the smallest of co-pay seem outrageous in being unable to insure any sort of lead, the only thing anyone should actually expect from this team is the type of disappointment you can set your watch - or, more accurately, the game clock - to.
Last night it just so happened to be the latter. One stoppage after being bailed out by an incredible glove save from Mackenzie Blackwood....
...PK Subban had the look of the world's most expensive parking cone as his man was about as inconspicuous as a 6,000-watt motion sensor in casually gliding to the backdoor to tap home the game-winning goal...
Still, while Matt Tennyson tests the following conclusion almost every time he takes the ice, the truth is that there's not one particular person to perpetually point the finger at when it comes to the Devils' half-witted hobby of hunting for ways to lose.
Of course, that is probably why most fans are unconditionally pointing theirs at the man whose responsibilities are approximately 75% strategy and 25% scapegoat. I can't imagine John Hynes spends every second intermission drawing up a reverse course on what got his team the lead on a dry erase board, but an offense with more than enough talent being unable to extend it for 30-some-odd minutes against a shitty Senators' team at home is undoubtedly a reflection on him. I personally think he's a pretty good coach who'll eventually have success in the NHL, but with each passing gag you need a more powerful telescope to see that success coming behind the Devils' bench. This team probably requires intrusive group therapy and/or an exorcism to combat their late-game demons more than they require a new voice, but - with the schedule not allowing time for the former - the latter is starting to seem inevitable.
Maybe that changes if they are finally able to capitalize on whatever chances they have been creating. However, we're far enough into the season to believe much more strongly in their ability to defy odds in disastrous fashion than their ability to regress to a much more merciful mean. Therefore, I'd strongly advise double-bagging whatever this team has you barfing into as their season trends disgustingly close towards something that could realistically be titled 'Final Destination 3: 1st Overall Pick'.
And just like that, Jamaal Williams has a fan in me. While there is nothing worse than being cued up to answer a question that got so muffled in the clouds while making its way to your head that it might as well have been spoken in Swahili, there is nothing better than being reminded that professional athletes are - at least off the field - just like us.
Honestly though, has there ever been a better instance of the truth setting someone free? I can both relate to and appreciate him showcasing a Barry Sanders-like change of direction in jumping from an extended and uncertain utterance to a lame attempt at crafting a crappy excuse. However, his full disclosure of his dismissiveness shed the building tension of the social awkwardness with such ease that you'd think the latter played linebacker for the Chiefs.
As the saying goes, you don't bullshit a bullshitter, and if the era of content overkill has taught us anything it's that a fair amount of media availability is predicated on prompting professional athletes with nonsense narratives. Credit to the Jamaal Williams for rapidly recognizing the need to open himself as an outlet to be laughed with instead of laughed at, as it required a level of candor that we should all aspire to reach when trying to complete a conversation that we have no interest in having. Ironically, while he was shockingly inattentive to the group of people sticking microphones in his face, he was highly attentive in detailing a soundbite better than almost any they could have literally asked for during a bye week.
Ilya Kovalchuk is Reportedly Being Released From the Los Angeles Kings a Day After They Deemed Him an Indefinite Healthy Scratch
Oh, no. What a shame. If only someone could have predicted such a fall from grace by a player whose game was heavily reliant on his skill, speed, and athleticism covering for his occasional lack of effort before he spend five years (including the remainder of his prime) aging up and beating down on overmatched opponents overseas. Maybe that would have saved the Los Angeles Kings from going full-AARP on an already elderly roster by weighing down someone whose sole motivation is money by dumping nearly 19 million unconditional dollars into their lap.
In all seriousness, nothing pains me more than to see Ilya Kovalchuk harshly humbled while the organization that "benefited" from him patiently waiting out the Devils' control over him as an asset watches the return on their investment turn red so fast that it might as well be wearing a Putin jersey. My heart truly aches for all those involved in placating to the tire-pumping of a point-producing pariah, as it is almost beyond comprehension that giving a no movement clause to a known mercenary proved so poetically unjust. Truly and deeply just tragic that the underlying numbers of a 36-year-old, puck-dominant defensive liability made him virtually unplayable in a slow, suppressive system during an era in which we actually pay close attention to those sorts of things.
While I do appreciate the humor in the Kings making it clear that he is still allowed to practice, as if that empty gesture didn't immediately make him homesick, I must offer thoughts and prayers to all grief-stricken parties in this time of mourning the slow, expensive death of a (35+) contract as shameful as the person who signed it is shameless.
Wait, what? Two and a half years later and only now is the NFL open to offering the very same workout that could have at least offered them a defense, albeit one that makes the Buccaneers' secondary look solid, against the collusion case they were ultimately ecstatic to pay away?
Never mind this being suspiciously set up as nothing more than a formality, as I can't imagine how good Colin Kaepernick would have to look throwing against air on four days notice on the busy eve of a midseason Sunday for his case for a roster spot to be made any organization's priority. I think both stubborn sides of an argument that somehow takes the cake and eats it too as the divisive overlord of the inherently stupid "stick to sports" bullshit can finally agree on one thing, and that is that the timing of this beyond idiotic.
Like, this bone couldn't have been thrown when the back and forth barking was both daily and deafening? Only now - after millions of dollars have been spent to make this go away, the President is too distracted by an attempt at his ousting, and everyone has debated themselves indifferent - do we get the league taking a single step to check the pulse of a former Super Bowl quarterback before toe-tagging his career?
No matter how disingenuous it may be, I'm happy that Colin Kaepernick is finally getting this opportunity to - at least theoretically - sink or swim based solely on his own athletic merit. On behalf of everyone else, however, I'm fucking furious that we had to scream, yell, bitch, and moan amongst friends, family, and foes about the professional qualifications of an accomplished player for what felt like a damn decade before the most perpetually desperate of prospective employers agreed to stand witness to a single spiral.
The timeliness with which the NFL begrudgingly...well...bended thy knee in offering a solution so seemingly simple makes their process of answering "what exactly is a catch?" seem prompt, which I suppose makes this long overdue and presumably empty gesture foolishly fitting of the league offering it.
Here's a Headline That's Months in the Making: The Clock is Ticking on Taylor Hall's Time in New Jersey as an In-Season Extension Appears Less Likely
Ya know, I was really hoping the stockings would at least be hung by the chimney with care before we were thrown into an inevitable and fatalistic conversation so nauseatingly cyclical that it'll make Devils' fans wish they were instead stuck on a Tilt-a-Whirl while battling pneumonia until the trade deadline. A rough start made it all the more likely that the Taylor Hall trade winds would be quick to blow, but rebounding from said start isn't going to be made any easier by having the rumor mill rigorously rotate around the most impactful player on a ripening roster.
The truth is that no one not intricately involved in the negotiations really knows the truth, because I'm not even sure that the impending free agent in question knows the whole truth at this point. Regardless of the source being more reliable than most, "I think the Devils now know..." is as convenient a qualifier as "It might be the liquor talking...", especially considering the attention-driven platform from which it was all-too-absolutely hear-said.
Of course, what followed wasn't a remotely outlandish assessment. There are a growing number of reasons why a recent league MVP who has sniffed playoff hockey once throughout a professional career that's now going on a decade might want to exercise his right to test his worth to true Cup contenders on the open market. However, if that is indeed as open-and-shut a case as it's being portrayed then there really is no difficult decision to be made.
The Devils quite obviously shouldn't be pushing Taylor Hall out the door, but Ray Shero is far too intelligent to be afraid of letting it hit his best player in the ass(et) if he's already decided his fate lies in free agency. The postseason is still a potential possibility, but with this team - as currently constructed - posing no real threat in it regardless, there should be less consideration given to riding the 9 train to it's bitter, barren end than there is given to letting Miles Wood babysit your children in a house full of expensive China. As much as I wholeheartedly appreciate what Taylor Hall accomplished in dragging the ass of a largely unworthy Devils' team - in a way no other player in a highly successful franchise's history ever has - to a playoff spot two seasons ago, the organization's future is no longer tied by the testicles to his timeline.
That doesn't mean I wouldn't gladly celebrate him signing an 8-year, 84-million dollar extension tomorrow. After all, as a fan who inherently prefers the immediate satisfaction provided by the long-term retention of a star, it is not like it is my cap eventually being crunched by a somewhat shortsighted risk. It does, however, mean that the draft pick, high-end prospect, and flexibility they'd more than likely receive in return for his services might make more sense as complimentary pieces alongside two barely-legal cornerstone centers than a soon-to-be 28-year-old winger with an injury history that is eerily similar to that of another #9 that shall remain nameless.
Aside from bellyaching about boo birds while getting up to speed, Taylor Hall has remained quite far from being anywhere close to the problem right now. The thing is, for approximately 11 million dollars a year, he would damn near need to be the type of cure-all solution he was in 2017-2018. He should definitely want to be paid like him but we have yet to see that same level of player this season, so while it would be the depressing end of a short and polarizing era, Taylor Hall deciding he doesn't want to be in New Jersey for the foreseeable future wouldn't be the end of the world.
Simply put, you can piece together a legitimate argument that, as talented as he is, Taylor Hall won't be worth whatever overpayment the Devils are undoubtedly offering him sooner rather than later. I'm sure most would consider said argument to be an emotional hedge made as a way to combat the psychosis caused by the clock ticking louder and louder towards the harsh reality of an outright rejection. Hell, they'd almost certainly be right...but that doesn't necessarily mean you'd be wrong in thinking that New Jersey might actually be dodging a bullet in pulling the trigger on a trade aimed at building around the prime of their 1st overall picks as opposed to shooting themselves in the foot by waiting to be left at the alter with nothing more than dick in hand.
The Saints Put Forth a Downright Sinful Offensive Performance in Being Harshly Humbled by the Falcons at Home
I was not naive and/or biased enough to think that the Saints were unlike every other professional sports team, never mind just their NFL peers, in being immune to resting a little too comfortably on their laurels. But man, needing a wake-up call that would make the repetitive, eardrum-piercing iPhone alarms you set for yourself seem tame while coming off the bye week sure seems like odd timing.
Two weeks to prepare for the hostile welcoming of the most hated of rivals. Yet, it legitimately looked like a rejuvenated roster that was fully-dialed in while overcoming the absence of Drew Brees had strongly considering calling in sick prior to showing up with the cross-eyed focus of a 20-something with a long weekend's worth of booze on his breath. To put it mildly, the Saints' performance, specifically on offense, sure made this once appreciable sentiment stink of complacency in retrospect...
Inexplicable, if not unforgivable, L's always have a weird way of being delivered by those with which you are most familiar, so the Saints getting served by the Falcons isn't nearly as ridiculous as their records indicate. The truth is that the Who Dat Nation probably should have known they were in for an absolute anomaly of an afternoon when a run defense with an irrefutable resume of impenetrability let A-Town's pedestrian rushing attack stomp all over their yard on the opening drive. That alone should have been a pretty clear indication that you could crumble up any sort of conventional wisdom and throw it in a pile of pointless precedent that always seems to grow larger during divisional games.
An excuse for an offense that somehow leaned heavier on a 'Michael Thomas or bust' game-plan immediately after being given plenty of time to recalibrate, however, that is not. You want to point to Andrus Peat going down and Terron Armstead playing through the flu to give a pass to a protection plan that would make a used-car salesman smirk then be my guest. However, what was presumed to be a revamped rushing attack that, through a slight squint, could resemble the Alvin & Ingram show was offered all of 11 combined carries (with only 7 coming after their opening drive) to take pressure off a depleted line during a game that a Lattimore-less defense kept within a single score until the 4th quarter. It hardly makes a dent in his otherwise rock solid display of coaching this season, but Sean Payton play-calling was as questionable as the efforts of the wide receivers not wearing #13, who somehow managed as many catches on 45 pass attempts as their coach snagged with his weekend proposal...
Purpose to panic? Hardly, but what we witnessed on Sunday was a cause for the same exact concern that had Saints' fans deafeningly dumbfounded as the trade deadline passed quietly. The offensive line has more than proven to be far better than it was in letting the Falcons' benign front four cripple their game plan, but the complimentary playmakers that got locked up by a suspect secondary while Drew Brees went touchdown-less in the SuperDome cannot say the same. Someone has to step up opposite the the NFL's most unguardable, and it's much harder to believe that's going to happen after failing to take any advantage whatsoever of what should have been a more than merciful matchup at home.
If anything, it's a massive understatement to say that what the Saints suffered on Sunday was a bad loss, but it gave them a good goddamn look at what needs to be improved and/or emphasized if they want to make good on the promise they all seemed motivated to keep while somewhat miraculously heading into the bye week at 7-1. Maybe their midseason form was undermined by a week off, or maybe football is just a fickle, fickle game that is quick to make no sense whatsoever. Whatever the case may be, it's important lesson learned for a team that may have gotten a little too gratified with their grades after acing a massive test with Teddy Bridgewater under center, as they looked undisciplined in suffering a demoralizing defeat at the hands of those least likely to let them forget it.