The Saints Worked Out Antonio Brown This Morning, Which Isn't Anywhere Near as Intriguing as it is Alarming
Wait, what? No. Why?
Is the Saints’ organization just trying to give Roger Goodell & Co. a headache worthy of long-term hospitalization so that they aren’t around to orchestrate, in conjunction with the officials, a second straight subversion of a Super Bowl-worthy season? Is this all just an attempt by one of the league’s least favorite franchises to guarantee that AB will be put on the Commissioner’s Exempt List and thus won’t be available for postseason pickup by any of their potential opponents? Is Sean Payton just trying to break the tension of an upcoming playoff run by gifting his locker room the comic relief of the first-ever live performance of the highly-anticipated hit single ‘NO WHITE WOMAN 2020’?
While I appreciate the middle-finger-to-the-shield aspect of all this, I'm going to need a better explanation than doing "due diligence" on someone that shouldn't even be due internet access in the psych ward where he should be taking up residence. After all, if the question is whether or not New Orleans needs Antonio Brown then we've had the answer since Teddy Bridgewater took over and led a passing offense that was average in everything other than winning percentage to an undefeated record. With Drew Brees looking as though he recently found refreshment in the fountain of youth, the reward of adding a highly talented ticking time-bomb (that is basically destined to be defused by the NFL anyway) to an offense that is finally firing on all cylinders hardly broaches the risk of introducing a plague of a personality into an otherwise awesome locker room.
I don't need all Saints to be saintly, nor am I above celebrating a clutch touchdown scored by a nightmare of a narcissist or a self-sabotaging sociopath. However, with this team being so damn likable and deserving of a championship the last few seasons, sprinkling an alleged sexual assailant who is undeniably guilty of being an insufferable asshole into this team's chemistry would definitely make it a tinge distasteful. Both on and off the field, Michael Thomas is everything that is right about the New Orleans Saints, so to consider complimenting his play with a person who is the YIKES-to-his-yang when it matters most just feels downright dirty.
I was on board with adding another proven pass-catcher (preferably one without a severe psychological complex and/or brain damage) at the deadline, but the Saints' offensive performance of late hasn't just supported staying put at the position, it has been damn near defiant of needing reinforcements. To only now take steps toward addressing it as a need when the need no longer appears present is as flat-out baffling as a potential postseason plug-in of thy preeminent self-destructive distraction is highly concerning.
For the sake of my unconditional faith in Sean Payton, I honestly hope this workout wasn't orchestrated in anything even remotely resembling good faith. Not because Antonio Brown, when/if actually allowed on an NFL field, isn't physically capable of making an already great offense entirely unstoppable. But rather, because the one thing a team whose previous two seasons have ended in odds-defying and soul-shattering defeat doesn't need on their side is the worst kind of juju, and - to AB's dismay - I'm not talking about Smith-Schuster.
Right now, the Saints are only in dire of health, focus, and trust if they want to get where they are more than talented enough, as currently constructed, to go. I'm not sure any athlete has ever done a more demonstrative job of proving they represent none of those things than Antonio Brown, who is one flipped switch away from being back on the bat-shit crazy bullshit that got him quickly cut from an organization that was even able to control the impulses of a literal serial killer for more than ten days. You can't even tell me the last time Antonio Brown went 48 hours without being a problematic pain in the ass. What could possibly be learned during a workout that would make anyone, never mind one of the best coaches in the NFL, believe he could go a whole goddamn postseason without...well...being himself?
Ray Shero Never Discussed a Taylor Hall Contract Extension in Detail Because Neither Side Ever Gave the Other a Real Reason to Negotiate
I'm not going to go as far as saying I wasn't at least somewhat surprised to hear that, in discussing the sense it made for Taylor Hall and the New Jersey Devils to commit to one another for the foreseeable future, the discussion between Ray Shero and Darren Ferris never broached the topic of dollars. One would think that a potential contract, or at least the infancy of its framework, might be of relevance in a meeting whose sole purpose was to supposedly to see where each side stood.
Then again, one would also think that a revamped roster would make it more than six periods into the season before committing arson against every single positive vibe anyone had about its potential. The truth is, the Devils' immediate free-fall to an all-too-familiarly hellish place in the standings gave neither party a realistic opportunity to think that their partnership was anything but doomed.
I'm of the belief that, in a perfect world, both Ray Shero and Taylor Hall were open to the idea of the #9 eventually hanging in the Prudential Center rafters. In that perfect world, however, Taylor Hall would have had to have proven himself a healthy and happy difference-maker for a franchise that was proving it was well down the path to being a perennial playoff participant. I'm probably underselling it worse than the Devils did a superstar, but the world in which a former MVP couldn't buy a goal for a team that couldn't hold onto a lead if it was superglued to their sticks was far, far closer to being apocalyptic than it was to being perfect. Hell, I'm still not entirely convinced that I'm not stuck in a never-ending night terror as opposed to living out a nightmare more torturous than any that could have had Devils' fans waking up in a counterintuitive cold sweat this summer.
Perhaps the internal uncertainty had it sweltering at an unmanageable (and an immeasurable) degree, but this team was nauseatingly hot garbage with a six million dollar, 28-year old Taylor Hall. It wasn't about to be smelling all the roses by making the future concessions necessary to fit a ten million dollar (at the absolute cheapest), 30+-year-old Taylor Hall. Both parties were keenly aware of what had to happen to dodge an imminent divorce, and what did happen made spying on your parents as they scream at each other seem like a comforting watch by comparison.
Given the circumstances, it makes perfect sense that they went with a mutual split instead of having the shit-or-get-off-the-pot-style talk regarding the specifics of, metaphorically speaking, a joint bank account. It's an all-too-convenient cop-out to say that timing is everything. However, much like everything else that had their playoff pipe dream expiring faster than half-price pork, it was one major thing that should have had both sides of the aisle planning an objection to a prospective marriage between the New Jersey Devils and their Hart Trophy winner as soon as the season started (or, more accurately, failed to) winless through six. Taylor Hall knew that, his agent knew that, and Ray Shero knew that. That's why any reported meeting of the minds that took place was more focused on formalities than finances.
If you had asked me on Sunday what my thoughts were on Janoris Jenkins, I would have told you he’s more jackass than ‘Jack Rabbit’. Therefore, it would be disingenuous for me to let the black-n-gold lenses I have to view his addition through color him anything other than an asshole...
Personally, I think the r-word is about as much of a “slur” as it is a form of “slang”, in that you need to really stretch the definition of either word for it to fit either agenda. Regardless, a flat refusal to apologize for using what is now universally understood to be offensive language on social media - during practice, no less - is arguably as r-worded as anonymously talking senseless shit to professional athletes on the internet...
Janoris Jenkins lucked out in getting scooped up by a Super Bowl contender, but - with him having been already been involved in enough idiotic incidents for one word to get him cut from a team that lacks defensive talent - I think we can safely say that was due to more dumb luck than evil genius...
He might be one whose numbers are as forgiving as the complete shit-show of a secondary that had him looking like Deion Sanders relative to his positional peers, but a capable corner nonetheless. I don’t know that he’s one you'd feel great about starting in a playoff game after no more than a few weeks in your system, but you could do a lot worse as your in-case-of-emergency cover corner. Lord knows the Saints certainly have over the years, which explains why they put in the claim to protect themselves against Eli Apple potentially losing his back-and-forth battle with his own confidence when the lights are at their brightest. Again, I don't particularly like Janoris Jenkins the person, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel better about having Janoris Jenkins the player on my team as PJ Williams limped off the field late against the Colts.
Who knows? Maybe New York is purgatory for pissy pass defenders and New Orleans, in a way that is fittingly saintly, provides a nurturing environment that allows for their attitude and athleticism to flourish. No matter how frustrating you may find Eli Apple’s play of late, you can’t deny his almost immediate transformation from petulant problem child to competent complimentary corner after being trading from the Giants to the Saints last season. Culture clearly mattered in that (alleged head) case, so at least there is reason for Sean Payton & Co. to believe enough in their room to add a certain team's malcontent to it.
I think all Saints’ fans are in agreement that Terrell Suggs and his postseason experience would have been a preferable Christmas gift to a dinged up d-line. Still, Janoris Jenkins qualifies as another talented toy for a defense that has a history of going through them faster than a teething puppy...even if he is does come with a warning label and require a high level of maintenance to keep him together.
In Yet Another Record(s)-Setting Performance, Drew Brees Re-Introduced Himself as One of the Greats of Past and Present
To be honest, I’m fresh out of new ways to acknowledge, applaud, and admire Drew Brees’ continued greatness. When he “finally” threw the 540th touchdown pass of his career - after the officials made it clear that not even the most flawless game in NFL history will go by without them raining on the Saints’ parade, this time with a bullshit call that put history on hold until the second half - it honestly felt like the 540th time we’ve celebrated a living (and growing) legend. After reading off the following laundry list, it appears that isn’t anywhere near as hyperbolic as you’d think…
At this point, I feel stupid for not having a boilerplate statement prepared with blanks being left open for the specifics of mathematically inconceivable milestones and the increasingly defied age at which they were met. I guess what I am trying to say is that I am almost exhausted beyond words by the excellence of a quarterback who broke the record for career touchdown passes and the record for completion percentage in a game with a performance that felt pretty damn familiar. The truth is, if two contested catches had hit the ground over the course of Monday’s master class then it realistically would have had the eerily similar look of a lesson that you couldn’t pick out of lineup of those he has taught dumbfounded defenses over the last decade plus. For that reason, I was left looking like Teddy Bridgewater in the wake of a performance that was both awe-inspiring and somehow relatively run-of-the-most-finely-tuned-mill...
As for what his resurgence means for this season’s Saints team? Well, it can ditch the disguise, because it couldn’t possibly be more clear that Drew Brees’ thumb injury was just a flat-out blessing. Credit to Sean Payton's savvy, Teddy Bridgewater’s temperament, and the defense’s dominance for keeping everything in cruise control, because that early undefeated streak is at least partially responsible for Clark Kent hitting the phone booth when his duty is most urgently calling. The Saints’ ultimate equalizer is peaking, and what's largely been a pretty average offense looks primed and postseason-ready as a result. The freshness of a player who has looked 40-years-young is the closet thing to a failsafe or a fix-all, and that’s a hell of a thing for a team dealing with a bunch of injuries on the opposite side of the ball to suddenly fall back on. It helps that Drew Brees has a tool at his disposal, in Michael Thomas, that is unprecedentedly infallible in execution, but the important thing is that the arm utilizing him isn't dinged up or diminished like it appeared to be late last season.
I am interested to see what's in store this Sunday in Tennessee. The safest bet for a blowout is the Saints playing in the Dome in primetime when their All-World quarterback has his heart set and his eyes focused on putting another record in the rearview, and having the Super Bowl team in attendance for their 10-year anniversary might as well have guaranteed it a Monday Night massacre. It almost wasn’t even fair to expect the Colts, and a QB that looked much like…well…someone who was shocked to find out that he was taking the reigns of a presumed contender from a revered star who retired ten or so days before the season, to put up such an uphill fight.
For that reason, I want to see if a depleted pass rush can show better than it did against a solid offensive line that’s been entirely intact all season. The secondary won’t be granted the collective mile of margin for error like they were offered by Jacoby Brissett’s off-target throws, so whether or not they are able to give Ryan Tannehill fear-induced flashbacks to the days in which Adam Gase whispered sour nothings into his ear will speak volumes about their playoff readiness. Home-field advantage is but a pipe dream so seeing the offense keep their foot on the gas and/or an opponent's throat outdoors would also be a soothing sight for sore eyes.
That said, they couldn’t have put together a more comforting bounce-back game than they did against the Colts. The return of a remotely reliable AJ Klein allowed Demario Davis to put his full range of disruptiveness on full display and the secondary, which will be leaned on more heavily with the defensive line down three firsts worth of talent, was solid when it had to be. Most importantly, the unstoppable force we’ve seen routinely shatter records from under center kept gaining the type of momentum that even the most immovable of objects would worry about meeting head-on when it matters most.
The Taylor Hall Era is Officially Over, and the Devils Can Begin Tending to the Growing Pains of Yet Another Lost Season
Failure. In nearly every sense of an-too-familiar word, that’s what yesterday’s trade of Taylor Hall represents. I’m not even referring to the specifics of the deal, though we will get into that later. The fact that not even half-a-season after moving heaven and earth (or, ya know, just a handful of mid-round picks) to put more talent around your Hart Trophy winner, you had absolutely no choice but to ship the former league MVP out of town is, in and of itself, a disastrous disappointment.
All is not lost, as signing a star who hasn’t shown the same shine recently to a poorly-aging anchor of a 8-year, 80-something-million dollar contract would effectively end the ability of a near hopeless team to get significantly better long-term. After being offered a harsh glimpse of how far away from contention the Devils were with Taylor Hall, it only makes sense for their front office to humble themselves and build around the promising pillars of Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes that they lucked into in the lottery.
Still, Ray Shero pushed in his chips this offseason to impress the bombshell whose place on his arm was understood as conditional and last night basically served as the light-pocketed, long, and lonely walk back to the casino parking garage. The Devils, as a franchise, tried to take the next big step and fell flat on their face faster than an infant whose parents were heavy-handed with the liquid courage in trying the dab of whiskey under the tongue trick. Perhaps what they learned from such a cruel and unusual experience will serve them well going forward, but that doesn’t make the expedited execution of what now seem like asinine expectations any less of an organizational catastrophe.
As for the deal itself, the return is, for lack of a better term, meh. That's hardly unprecedented, as trading a soon-to-be-unsigned stud almost always nets you nothing more than a mixed bag of potential duds, but meh nonetheless. Ray Shero got more for Taylor Hall than he originally gave up for Taylor Hall, but not even the magic he’s worked in previous trips to the negotiating table could swindle suitors into giving up the top prospect+ that would have helped wash down what is a torturously tough pill to swallow.
Maybe Kevin Bahl turns into a towering-yet-fluid mainstay of a left-handed defensive defenseman for years to come...
Maybe the Devils make great use of another first round pick (fingers unconfidently crossed for two) by continuing to draft well. Maybe a couple middling prospects find their footing/fit and crack the bottom of the NHL lineup eventually. Maybe Taylor Hall’s age and injuries catch up to him sooner rather than later, and make this trade look more than tolerable down the road. If we are talking in definites, however, the Arizona Coyotes definitely won’t have buyer’s remorse any time soon. After being led to believe that the Devils were a group worth the cost of contention, that is simply a soul-draining reality to sit back and self-loathe.
There will be a fair share of (stupid) people blaming Taylor Hall for this team tragically plummeting back down to earth and beyond after an offseason that had everyone emotionally invested in their success rocking a shit-eating smirk from atop...pun incoming...Cloud 9. It’s just an easier thing to do than accepting the truth, which is that - be it due to unforgiving timing or unforgivable hockey - he wasn’t even close to the main reason his relationship with the Devils became doomed.
I will surmise that I don’t think he ever had the mentality and mettle required to compartmentalize his on-ice effectiveness and his off-ice impending free agency (that he absolutely earned the right to explore after suffering through one of the most excruciating early career paths imaginable). Based on his underperformance alone, he was hardly able to turn a blind eye to the black cloud that billowed bigger and bigger with every boo-worthy blown lead. Regardless, this torrential shit-squall of a season is the result of multiple futile fronts colliding to form a perfect storm of putrid. If anything, his personal struggles were just the most blatant byproduct of the saying “when it rains, it pours” coming to a fatal fruition.
Personally, I’ll always appreciate Taylor Hall for reminding Devils’ fans what it’s like to truly enjoy watching hockey again by interrupting the organizational equivalent of 'The Great Depression' with a playoff appearance that was the direct result of thee most impressive season-long solo effort (and point-streak) in the history of an otherwise accomplished franchise...
The suckfests that sandwiched it were pretty distasteful, but he took on far more than his fair share during his relatively short time in New Jersey. Therefore, I see no reason to root for anything but his continued success. I tend to think he hadn’t dismissed the possibility of doing his long-overdue winning as a Devil, but it made little - if any - sense for either party to explore a future once it was made painfully clear that that of the Devils was still far from present.
He wasn’t even close to alone in doing so, but Ray Shero woefully miscalculated whatever he thought he saw in this team. The price of doing so was always going to be the one addition that served as the pride of it since he took over. Perhaps its ends up being a blessing in one downright depressing disguise and the cap flexibility he just stretched out saves his ass in the long-run, but getting a handful of quarters in exchange for a gem of a player, whether it was just prior to what his asshole of an agent will insure as an awe-striking appraisal or not, is essentially the rotten cherry on top of a failure sundae.
Hopefully pulling the trigger on the unspoken admission of such takes the pressure off the shoulders of a relatively young roster whose play has collectively looked distracted, deflated, and defeated in part due to their most dominant player’s imminent departure. If the last two games are any indication then this should have them playing a little looser, winning once in a while, and allowing some simpletons to wrap themselves in the false sense of security that is the notion that Taylor Hall's presence solely sabotaged a largely lost season. Regardless, the full-scale inability to handle that pressure - from the never-minded net mouth, to the tumultuous top of the lineup, to the bitter bottom of the lineup, to the blunderful blue-line, to behind a befuddled bench - was proof that said roster was not even remotely ready to put one foot in front if the other, never mind go on a playoff run.
Taylor Hall himself undoubtedly makes for the easiest target, but you're going to need to put down the all-too-convenient grudge to free up even a third of fingers necessary to point out all the other people responsible for wasting his talent.
Drew Brees Absolutely Dissected the Defense in Sunday's One-Man Rehearsal for Monday Night Football
Domination. A mercilessly clinical shredding unlike almost any we could ever dream of actually seeing. What Drew Brees did in manipulating the secondary he vividly envisioned in his own head, like each defensive back had its own string on the dummy defense he was puppeteering, was the exact type of stuff his legend will come to be made of. Sunday’s slaying of shadows probably won't occupy too much time on his career highlight package, but that doesn’t mean it’s not just as important, if not more so, to the explanation of his excellence.
Above is your proof that only a thin line exists between insane and amazing, with the former often ushering in the latter. Saints’ fans weren’t just quick to take the under on the timetable of Brees’ thumb injury out of blind optimism. There was very much reason to believe he’d magically maneuver out of the constraints of modern medical practices. That reason was because he’s a psychotic competitor, which means he can often be mistaken as merely a psycho whenever he’s not literally competing against anyone other than his own insatiable self...
To be fair, I’m being biased. I would be fast to make fun of almost any other quarterback who stayed well after practice to play with himself for an hour. That bias, however, is born of watching a “6 foot tall", athletically limited passer pulverize professional football, in a way almost no other quarterback has, by way of deadly accuracy and such an acute awareness and understanding of defenses that he often times doesn’t even have to see them to actively avoid them (or coax them into avoiding him). I don't know that it's always true that you play like you practice, but it's a saying that would certainly explain why Drew Brees regularly looks like he's effortlessly acting (and reacting) out a premonition on game days.
I understand the desire to crack jokes at the expense of someone dapping up invisible men after executing an audible on an entirely open field, because "mental reps” are nearly indecipherable from manic episodes. However, with a 40-year-old being only one week removed from the type of prime performance that was him two touchdowns short of the record NFL record and a couple hours away from starring in a time slot where he’s proven beyond torturous, I think I might suppress that urge...
Those who are well into retirement after winning a Super Bowl alongside Drew Brees a goddamn decade ago are enamored with his certifiably insane preparation for a reason, and it’s because the results call for more reverence towards the otherwise irrational than an unconditional belief in organized religion.
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.
John Hynes Was Mercifully Relieved of His Duties, but Disgruntled Devils' Fans Weren't As Lucky
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.