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.
Mitch Trubisky Has Shifted His Work-Week Focus to Shutting Off Every Truth-Telling TV That Dares to Remind Him of How Much the Bears Suck
Truth be told, I can totally empathize with where Mitch Trubisky is coming from. I can definitively say that I also wouldn't want to show up to work only to have TV's in all corners of the office loudly and defiantly debating the exact extent to which I am despicably bad at my job. It might just be the most salient and Undisputed point made on sports' television in the last five years, but it's hardly the First Take I'd want to bear witness to while desperately trying to figure out how to remain gainfully employed over my morning coffee. As dead-on-balls-accurate as they may be, it makes total sense that a complete bust of a quarterback doesn't want to hear blowhards bloviate about the ramifications of his professional failures to millions of people while in the building in which he's trying to fix them.
That being said, that's probably a mild inconvenience that I would have kept to myself if I were him. Needing assistance is clearly not new to him, but silently pressing the mute button may have been the move as a guy drafted egregiously high to fill a position that requires a thick skin and a short memory. I honestly don't think anyone emotionally invested in the Bears could think any less of their quarterback at this point anyway, so it probably doesn't matter that he doesn't understand that "earmuffs" and "tunnel vision" are merely metaphorical suppressors to sensitivities or that he's incapable of using the well-deserved mockery as motivation. Still, I can't imagine that griping about having to watch people criticize his team when he's the primary reason they are damn near unwatchable is doing him any favors in terms of public perception.
On the list of Chicago's priorities, granting Mitch Trubisky some professional courtesy and/or peace of mind falls about 300 spots below finding him a mildly redeemable replacement. Therefore, may I suggest clicking the power button and biting his tongue on small bothers while hundreds of thousands of much more bothered midwesterners are one step and a light nudge short of going to extreme lengths to cut it out of his head?
Inbounds? Pass. Eric Bledsoe May Have Forgotten Something While in a Hurry to Get a Possession Started Last Night
First week of November and Eric Bledsoe has already skipped clear over midseason form and straight into postseason form. That might be a good quality in some fast starters, but unfortunately the postseason form of the Bucks' guard at best resembles the preseason form of his peers and at worst resembles a pre-teen playing pick-up.
Mandatory mockery of playoff futility aside, Eric Bledsoe is just one of those players that refuses to get out of their own way in playing slap-happy defense against his own reputation. He's talented enough to be a recognizable name to the vast majority of NBA fans, and yet repeatedly uses that notoriety to turn said name into a punchline. It's a bit like JR Smith, if JR Smith took himself just a little too seriously. In essence, those laughs are not with, but rather at the man that treated the basketball like a baton during the first leg of his own, very personal race to a viral shaming. He really turned on the proverbial jets down the stretch with a flop that would make Shamu turn in his flippers...
...but there's just something so perfectly so fitting about him being under absolutely no pressure whatsoever in Shaqtin' that much of a fool.
That type of low could literally only be explained by being high, so while I don't want to put any blunts in Eric Bledsoe's mouth, I sure hope he hit the hashish a little too hard at halftime. If only because the lone remaining alternative is that he was of completely clear mind when he confidently snatched the reins and took the lead as the most handicapable player in the NBA about as quickly as he got blown dead as brain dead.
P.S. Never forget...
Bill Polian Finally Emerged From the 1960's and Waved the White (No Pun Intended) Flag on His "Lamar Jackson Should Play Wide Receiver" Take
USAToday- “I was wrong, because I used the old, traditional quarterback standard with him, which is clearly why John Harbaugh and Ozzie Newsome were more prescient than I was,” Polian told USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday, referring to the Baltimore Ravens coach and former GM who drafted the explosive, multi-dimensional talent with the final pick in the first round in 2018.
Alluding to offensive coordinator Greg Roman, Polian added, “And Greg found a way in how he’s developed a system to use those dynamic skills. Bottom line, I was wrong.”
You know what they say, it takes a big man to admit when they are wrong.
I'm not so sure "they" were referring to a situation in which an old, out-of-touch analyst stated the blatantly obvious after having his casually racist corpse dragged up, down, and allllll the way around the entire sports' landscape for a year and a half. I suppose it would be safer to clarify with the "big men" that originally authored that phrase to make themselves feel better about being defiantly dumb for a prolonged period of time. Unfortunately, they've undoubtedly been dead (ass wrong) for quite awhile, so I'm going to go with my gut here and say that Bill Polian passed the statute of limitations in which receiving credit for taking responsibility is due.
I mean, Lamar Jackson dipped, dodged, and - most importantly - passed around a dominant defense in scrambling his way into the MVP race at the same position that his biggest and crustiest detractor implied he shouldn't even bother trying to play before he was offered amends for such race-based idiocy. Consider this, if it took a pregnant woman that long to realize she may have missed her period then by the time she first admitted that the pull-out method doesn't work she'd be doing so while weaning a toddler off of her tit.
I guess it's not entirely out of the question that Bill Polian has been napping since Week 1. However, assuming he has cracked open one eye and/or caught even one highlight this season, the timing of this apology is about as prompt as his long-belated induction into a nursing home. His opinion being erroneous went without saying as it was leaving his old, dry lips. Therefore, him making sure to offer a half-ass concession before croaking doesn't really count for much, though I do appreciate it providing another gratuitous opportunity to praise Lamar Jackson as an unconventional quality quarterback while incessantly mocking him as a hardheaded and close-minded baby of a boomer who created one of longest running nonsense narratives in all of sports.
The Devils Filled Another Glaring Hole in Their Suddenly Respectable Resume by Gutting Out a Shootout Win
I'm not going to lie, it feels good. Not just this sudden feeling of respectability, but rather coming away from an overtime game with something to harp on other than how moronic the NHL is for continuing to roll out an overdone gimmick that is 100x less exciting and 1,000x less in line with the sanctity of the sport than the extra session that precedes it.
That's not just my bias as a Devils' fan (that's watched too many uber-talented players deke the goalie out of position and the puck harmlessly into the corner) talking. After all, the only time this team's eyes are collectively made wider with confusion and panic than they are during a breakaway contest is, ironically enough, when the ice is their oyster. The Devils look as overwhelmed as a bunch of stoned teenagers scouring a 12-chapter novel of a diner menu when granted the gift of autonomy and options of 3-on-3 hockey, and just about every opponent has been quick to fill the role of pissed-off night manager as opposed to overly patient waitress. If not for MacKenzie Blackwood, that would be the prevailing storyline from last night, so credit to the goaltending for providing what's been their rare primary assist in achieving the goal of gutting out a tightly contested game.
The truth is that the feeling of dread that's been accompanying each and every third period lead could only be overtaken by the feeling of dread accompanying the clock striking zero with the score tied. Exorcising both demons that haunted their nightmarish start to the season, in back-to-back games, dumped a generous amount of holy water on the burning, "oh god, not this shit again" sensation that had the fans feeling as fatalistic as the team looked. I hardly think that finding a way for the Goose to make a contribution that was positive in nature, as opposed to fecal in nature, is going to be the catalyst for them turning a 180 after regulation. Still, it simply has to add to the confidence they've largely lacked after otherwise impressive 60-minute efforts.
Speaking of 60-minute efforts, last night wasn't their most awe-inspiring, but it was the type that is often necessary to pick up two points on the road. Aside from Blake Coleman throwing a behind-the-back pass from right outside his blue line, as if he just arrived to a season that appeared sunk by such stupidity, and Matt Tennyson filling the annual role of third-pairing punching bag a little too perfectly, the self-sabotage continued to be greatly diminished. The comfort provided by chemistry now consistently has the team...well...actually appearing to be one. It's no coincidence that that has allowed for everyone's favorite unproven to adapt to something other than complete chaos while maintaining the active roster's delicate balance of at least one token Jesper at all times...
That win over Winnipeg is obviously far cry from the type to be replayed on MSG during the offseason, but it is the type that good teams typically win and bad teams typically don't. That's not to say that the Devils are one or the other right now, but they've started what easily could have been a confidence-crushing road trip by exhibiting more far more positive signs than negative. If they can continue to get competent goaltending behind them then there are hardly any recent reasons to believe there aren't still better things in front of them.
With Taylor Hall getting into a groove, Nico Hischier looking seven million dollars worth of dynamic, Miles Wood having Wayne Simmonds help pen the prologue to his redemption story, and the defense looking entirely unfamiliar in its downright decisiveness, the Devils are starting to fill the gapping holes in a resume that was short quite a few qualifiers and requirements as of less than a week ago. Whether they can continue to find ways to get the job done on the road remains to be seen, but they have - at the very least - proven themselves capable of consideration while making their head coach's job security a topic for only the idiotic.
The Chargers Twitter Used the Infamous 'Wolf of Wall Street' Clip to Dispel the Rumor of Relocation to London, but There's Just One Tiny Problem...
Let's, for just the time being, agree to look past the fact that the Chargers' social media manager problem doesn't have a seat at the end of the table when it comes to discussing the inner-workings (or lack thereof) of a franchise whose move to Los Angeles has objectively been an abject disaster. The truth of the matter is that the clip above could be of Chargers' owner Dean Spanos himself denouncing the entirety of the British Empire in front of a backdrop of stars and stripes and people still wouldn't believe he's ruled out packing up his team and hopping across the pond so long as he's been promised a Brexit bump to his bottomline pending his Brentrance. That, however, is neither here nor there, as this defense being entirety disingenuous isn't even the biggest issue to take with it...
What I find most problematic is that the overused pop culture reference in question is completely non-applicable to the situation at hand. If you filed every person that is super concerned about the Los Angeles Chargers taking their perennially underperforming talents overseas into the room in which Leonardo DiCaprio acted his ass off in pledging allegiance to a corrupt company, you'd still need to hire about a 100 extras to fill the gaps of overall apathy.
It's not the fanbase's fault, as they have obviously been dissipated by the disrespect of Dean Spanos, who basically spit in San Diego's face in order to fill the roll of second fiddle in a big city that was more interested in hiring a one-man-band. Regardless, aside from opposing fans looking to attend an unofficial home game in sunny SoCal, almost no one that isn't coked out of comprehension could reach the level of excitement portrayed above in response to the whereabouts of the NFL team taking temporary residence in a half-full soccer stadium.
I'd consider Dean Spanos more of a snake than a wolf anyway, and that's mostly because he doesn't have the support of anywhere close to that large of a pack in Los Angeles (or anywhere else, for that matter). I'd appreciate his organization's use of social media reflecting that better, even if gathering followers for a nomadic failure of a franchise is a job as thankless as that of Philip Rivers.
Drew Doughty Offered the Maple Leafs Advice on Playing Championship-Level Hockey, Which is Kinda Idiotic But I'll Allow It
First and foremost, I don't like Drew Doughty. Somehow, even if you consider his rape allegation to be inadmissible evidence, him having the look of something that even the proverbial cat would be too principled to drag in while harboring a demonstrably disgruntled point of view towards just about everybody makes him seem like a bit of a douchebag. Long story short, an apologist for any of his idiocy I am not.
That said, while I care for his opinion of what's been a mediocre Maple Leafs' team about as much as I care to watch his anchor of a contract rapidly rust while sinking with the old, broken-down dinghy of the Kings' roster it is attached to until it rests alongside the Titanic, I do respect his right to offer it.
"To the victor goes the spoils" might typically be a saying reserved for those that have...well...actually won something recently, but - in my opinion - hoisting the Cup puts you in the type of rarefied air from which you can eternally look down and snobbishly scream superficial suggestions to struggling hikers. After all, what fun is "walking together forever" if you can't offer vague and condescending cliches to those that are still learning to crawl? If you run your way through the entirety of the unforgiving marathon gauntlet that is the Stanley Cup Playoffs, never mind doing so twice, then you should feel more than free to glorify that accomplishment more smugly than someone who once ripped through the ribbon after 26.2 miles. Doing so, without any real reason to, isn't going to ingratiate you to any of your prospering peers that are currently performing at a higher level, but I think we can all agree that that ship took sail long before Drew Doughty took it upon himself to coach an out-of-conference opponent through the most parasitic of media.
While still being a good defenseman, Drew Doughty hardly remains a chancellor of championship hockey (See: his team's spot in the standings). He does, however, have his name engraved on the ultimate prize for reaching the pinnacle of the sport on multiple occasions. Therefore, if he wants to babble on about blocking shots and displaying leadership as if those are things he still bothers to do during the cash-checking phase of his career then he can be my guest...of honor at the shit-talking symposium for people subtly punching up at aspiring contenders.
The Devils Cracked Down in Carolina and Finally Offered an Opportunity to Praise Their Improved Process
Lord willing, this will be the very last time I have to say so much as a boo about anyone saying boo. The Devils' fanbase collectively feeling an alleviation of anxiety that'd make you think Xanax bars were Friday's postgame giveaway after a torturously tormented team finally held tightly to a third period lead on Saturday is proof positive that bringing conclusive cheers was always the only way to put an end to jeers. I'm somewhat shocked that Taylor Hall didn't already know that fans are overly emotional and largely fickle brats, but hopefully this sudden wave of positivity starts to wash away both the negative energy of their own building as well as the stink of a storyline that makes just about everyone in it look bad.
Now, before I continue, you can go ahead and knock on Miles of Wood, because the very same New Jersey team that felt like they were set to fully source their supporters seasonal affective disorder in losing both a late lead and a shootout on Friday night was playing at a 109-point pace over the last six games by Saturday night. That's quite obviously a cherry-picked sample, but it's the exact same size of the one that got John Hynes' face photoshopped into clown makeup and pinned over every dart board currently residing in a Devils' themed man cave.
The undeniable truth of the matter is that the Devils are playing far, far more cohesive hockey as of late. All it took was an impressive road win over one of most well-structured opponents in the NHL to be able to look past the cruel and unusual circumstances of leads lost and focus on what's been a significantly more sufferable style of play...
The goaltending is still a massive concern, as recently (and desperately) acquired Louis Domingue would have to sprout about six more legs to be considered the savior to a problematic position group, but there's more going right than there is going wrong at the moment. Considering a season-opening stretch during which they looked doomed to be a doormat, that's a trend that everyone whose semi-unrealistic expectations were immediately humbled will gladly take.
Once a head coach gets labeled a know-nothing nincompoop by the fanbase it becomes a scarlet letter that not even a 10-game winning streak could completely scrub free, so I hardly think we're merely a couple thousand pacifiers and/or free nipples away from silencing the cries for John Hynes' job. That said, outside of some questionable line-up decisions and dumbfounding deployment, he's been better at it (with the help of Tom Fitzgerald) as he's gotten increasingly acquainted with a revamped roster. Much like the improved performances of his players, it's just far easier to both notice and appreciate when a winning formula actually produces a victorious bottomline...
Now, despite Nico Hischier starting to look like the type of developing talent that can make a $50+ million dollar contract seem like a steal before it even starts (as evidenced by him calling Jacob Slavin's jockstrap an UberX and sending it straight across state lines)...
...and Jack Hughes looking more and more like a man (the operative word) on a mission since being tasked with top line duties...
...the Devils still have a lot of work to do to crawl out of the hole of their own digging.
That said, we're starting to see a consistency to their cardio as they've managed to maintain the lead in their run of play regardless of whether or not they've failed to do so on the scoreboard. It was just one game, but it's one that highlighted what they are capable as opposed to undercutting any optimism by rendering what they are capable of a footnote to a seemingly fatalistic final score. We'll see if their road woes and third period problems resurface in Western Canada, but - in the building of a team that gave them fits before it was a contender - the Devils gave us an untainted look at what they could be going forward...without the deafening distraction of defeat.
When asked about the celebration, Hall laughed, saying there wasn’t any ill will behind it.
“I thought I heard, I thought I was getting booed in the second period there,” Hall said. “So just making light of that fact.” (h/t NJ.com)
And onward we go. Episode two of a show of stupidity that no professional athlete should ever want to find himself starring in the pilot of, never mind going out of his way in actively attempting to get it picked up for further (counter) production.
To be very clear, under exactly one condition, I took ZERO issue with Taylor Hall capping off a third period, go-ahead goal on an impressive end-to-end effort by making light of #BooGate and the fans' doomed demeanor with a little celebratory mockery...
Unfortunately, that one condition was not met as the Devils found yet another way to blow a late lead at home and lose in front of a crowd that wasn't nearly as vocal in its criticism as it could, and probably should, have been after being called out for articulating its well-earned anger on Wednesday.
To be fair, I understand that the team is playing much, much better as of late and has recently been sunk by bad bounces and worse goaltending...
I also understand (all too well, I might add) that, very conservatively speaking, a quarter of the people that attend Devils' games don't have an intricate understanding of the sport outside of the score. I also understand that the rest of us poor bastards have already grown exhausted of praising an improved process, that's merely cleared a bar low enough to serve someone who has drank themselves off-the-stool unconscious in defeat, as it has continued to lead to a repetitively unrewarding result.
Judging by my eardrums, whatever boos that Taylor Hall took oddly personal offense to last night were a predominantly a product of the voices in his own head, which is a whole different issue entirely. However, lets for one second say that they weren't...
As these down-to-the-wire games have somehow defied the odds of a coin flip, wouldn't it make more sense to pay full attention to detail as opposed to paying any attention whatsoever to every gaff-induced grunt and groan? I don't know, but having already helped completely waste four much more comfortable third period leads on home ice prior to last night, wouldn't it have made sense to worry a bit more about actually maintaining one than taking a laughably premature jab at fans who had laid woeful witness to all of two wins in ten (and now 11) games?
The fact of the matter is that Taylor Hall could gave quickly untied his skates, trudged up to my seats, spit on my shoe, and shoved his sweaty sock in my mouth as his celebration for scoring that goal last night. So long as it was eventually part of the Devils picking up two points, I'd be sitting here singing his praises loudly enough to drowned out the Neanderthalic jeers of the half-wit he mistook me for.
The lesson to be learned from that absurdly hyperbolic hypothetical is as follows. If the New Jersey Devils reach a point in which fan frustration is anywhere near the top of their growing list of concerns then, not-so-ironically, there will be no frustration amongst the fans. Cause-and-effect, it is about as novel a concept as winning curing all.
The Devils Managed to Blow yet Another Multi-Goal Lead, and Taylor Hall Somehow Committed a Cardinal Sin Worse Than His Blind Behind-The-Back Pass
Oh no. Just, no. Hallsy...baby...what is you doing? Honestly, the only way a Taylor could actively tank their approval rating amongst their own immature consumer base as badly as this would be if T-Swift entered a loving relationship with the intent of actually staying in it, as opposed to turning the premeditated breakup into promo for the next 'Bad Blood'.
As someone who bounces back and forth between being a silent self-loather and a maniacal mutterer while filling the thankless and unpaid position of Assistant Coach in Attendance, you won't hear these vocals joining a chorus of boos anytime soon. I personally find such an insanely unoriginal act to be the criticism of a caveman, but that's neither here nor there.
The fact is that I do sympathize with the sentiment, so I can speak for all the infuriated fans out there in saying that an understandably hot-headed home crowd is much like a hangry pregnant woman. More or less telling them to "calm down", no matter how harmless the intent, is just about the only thing that could kick a proverbial leg out from under what is, at best, a wobbly chair of emotional instability.
As a person, I appreciate the honesty and humanity in Taylor Hall openly expressing his distressed displeasure in feeling like we've reached a point in which every little mistake will end with him and his teammates feeling exiled on their own ice. As a fan, who has had every ounce of preseason optimism, joy, and excitement knocked out of me by the unrelenting gut punch of multi-goal leads quickly turning into inexplicable losses, I offer him a simple piece of advice that Cory Schneider apparently could have used last night...just fucking save it...
I don't know that there is ever a "good" time to criticize the fickle frustration of the fans, as the one thing that is typically true about boos is that they are, shockingly, a product of the overall performance of the people they are directed at. A prime example of the worst time, however, is on the heels of yet another gut-wrenching home loss that was the direct result of yet another blown lead.
It was Taylor Hall's blind behind-the-back pass, which was made so long after it was actually open that you'd think the button on his soon-to-be-thrown controller got stuck, that gave Tampa Bay the possession that they eventually put off him and into his own net to tie the game at five. In a lot of ways, it was a pee-wee-level play that was depressingly symbolic of how creative they've been in creating their own bad luck. As a partially self-appointed leader, whose struggles have been far from mutually exclusive to those of his team, there may have been no better time for a little self-aware silence than last night. The impending free agent of the elephant in the room asked for the expectations that Ray Shero so gracefully provided throughout a busy offseason. He's since been complicit in turning them into a self-deprecating punchline, so - anatomically speaking - it's a far less painful endeavor to bite your tongue as opposed to putting your foot to the back of your throat.
Like, at least try to read an irate room better than you read the defense. You'd need more asterisks than the MLB record book to say aloud the explicit content echoed throughout the Prudential Center last night aloud in front of a room full of children, so an intricate, mind-mannered conversation was not something the crowd collectively felt ready to get roped into. This seems almost too obvious to even type. You cannot, under any circumstances, follow up a "victory" that was nauseatingly moral in nature with an overly nuanced appraisal of those who definitely aren't referring to a super-select powerplay percentage or that particular evening's advanced analytics when giving voice to ten largely cataclysmic games' worth of grievances.
This isn't some secret, most fans don't give the crustiest of crap about incremental improvements (no matter how big those increments may be) if they aren't accompanied by the result that gets you hired and/or fired in professional sports. Sure, the Devils - sans both their #1 defenseman and their goaltender (that, to their credit, accepted full blame) - played their second straight good game in which they were decisively the better team...
Considering they spent the first period looking as though they were passing with one eye open, managed to repeatedly leave Steven Stamkos streaking down the wing in transition with so much room that they might as well have gone ahead and offered him board, and - in a way that's metaphorically fitting - didn't...ahem...pick up the other point in letting Jan Rutta load and unload a puck that cut their recently extended lead to one, I certainly wouldn't say they played an amazing game. Point being, they hardly put themselves in any position to add to their opposition in addressing the inherently irrational idiots (myself included) that have gotten a sickeningly familiar piss poor return on what was shamelessly marketed as a much safer investment.
Again, I don't think Taylor Hall's actual words - that admittedly seem exponentially more moronic when read through eyes as red as the hundreds upon hundreds of #9 jerseys in the arena - were anywhere near as wrong as his timing. To put it simply, if you want to find a way to make this nightmarish start about anyone outside of that locker room then fine. Just please, for the love of Jesus fucking Christ, toughen up, tune out the noise, and find a way to win a goddamn game that you lead by two with under twenty minutes left first.
Sure Starting to Sound Like Teddy Bridgewater Has Lined Himself to Win This Year's Quarterback Lottery in Free Agency
Damn. That quick, huh?
Don't get me wrong, I'm hardly in the quiet car on the 'Pay Teddy' train. Yes, even if Drew Brees keeps turning back the hands on Father Time's clock and that money is being shelled out by a team other than the Saints in a city that will unquestionably adore him less than New Orleans. Considering all that he's been through, and the enduringly optimistic attitude he's maintained while going through it, there isn't a quarterback more deserving of signing a huge contract with a grandiose amount of guaranteed money and, realistically, an impossible-to-live-up-to average salary.
I didn't mean for that last part to come off so doubtful, as I'll continue to emphasize that I love Teddy Bridgewater, but when I say "quick" I'm not even referring the entirety of the five-game win streak during which he pumped cup his price tag by keeping the Saints on the fast track to Super Bowl contention. The truth is that the volume on the hype machine didn't get turned up until he made gator food out of the Buccaneers' secondary in his third start. It echoed long enough to last through an extremely humdrum win over the Jaguars until the bass got kicked into overdrive during a dismantling of the vaunted Bears defense in Chicago. Still, while Teddy was a lot of great things for an otherwise complete Saints' team (safe, smart, stable, and everything else an otherwise complete team needed him to be), what he wasn't was some deadly accurate, 20-30 million dollar quarterback.
Again, I'd be more than happy to see someone compensate him like him and do hope that's a shoe that eventually fits, but he's got what I'd consider two impressive starts that exceeded the average interpretation of game management under his belt this season. Long story short, whoever is stepping on the gas in backing up the Brinks truck for Teddy will be banking high on his Payton-less potential in paying an egregious amount of interest on this dime, which will likely serve as his swan song as a starter while heading into free agency...
There are countless worse options to overpay, and I think all of New Orleans would tell you they'd consider Teddy receiving a monster deal from a QB-desperate team the next best case if he understandably doesn't care to keep waiting out Drew Brees as the heir to a perfectly fit throne. Still, his value already being tagged somewhere in the mid-twenties is a pretty eye-popping reminder of how rash NFL organizations get when it comes to trying to the fill the position that gives you the best odds of being revenant.
It's not happening. Only in the wildest dreams of a Who Dat Nation of fans, that find faith in every flex that follows yet another inevitable first down catch from someone who has turned Cant Guard Mike from a twitter handle to an irrefutable fact of life, does Michael Thomas stand a chance of being recognized as the NFL's most impactful player. That's due in small part to him forever feeling subconsciously slighted and caring about endearing himself to voters as much as he cares about endearing himself to the corners, who might as well be nameless and faceless, whose confidence he chokes the life out of every Sunday. However, it's due mostly to playing a position whose value predominantly pales in comparison to that of those entrusting him with targets.
Of course, the idea that even the best wide receivers are quarterback-dependent has been counter-punched by the unconditional efficiency of a player whose every route run, whether it be at the cue of Teddy Bridgewater or Drew Brees, now comes with the expectation that it will end with him being more open than the MVP race...
Still, the options under center would have to be few and far between come Week 16 for a pass-catcher to break decades of precedent in having the league's most decorated award be within their catch radius.
That, however, doesn't mean it's not worth offering the argument. As deaf as the ears on which they may ring, Michael Thomas' numbers speak for themselves. Receptions. Yards. Catch rate. They voice a level of production and consistency that are setting the pace for history in putting to a damn whimper the play of every single one of his pass-happy peers...
Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray have taken turns picking up some slack, but the offense of a team that enters the bye on a six-game win streak despite losing its All-World QB for over a month has largely been dragged through the strength of its schedule by the unrelenting vice grip of its money man...
You want an out-of-the-box (score) stat on which to judge a season that, to this point, has been superior to the one that earned Michael Thomas what was the richest wide receiver contract ever? How about ROI? The return the Saints have gotten on their investment into what's typically considered a complimentary position has been their main source of success. Never mind it being the cost of doing business, because if you had to put a price tag on a performance that has thus far transcended the toughest of circumstance then it might well exceed the 21+ million dollars that Michael Thomas is due this year.
Simply put, we're talking about a guy that knows full well what it's like to serve as the exception to a rule. That far, far more than likely won't prove true when the MVP eventually gets awarded, but - at the midseason point - counting out a competitor as crazed as Mike is as futile an endeavor as guarding him.
In What Has to Be the Coaching Controversy of Matt Nagy's Nightmares, He Apparently Didn't Check Where His Kicker Wanted the Ball Placed Before Killing the Clock
Matt Nagy's crotchety and convoluted defense of his decision to punk out and play for a 41-yard field goal, as opposed to putting even the slightest sliver of faith whatsoever in his offense to gain what would have been precious plus yardage, may lead you to believe that there is nothing that grinds his gears more than being asked how well they are greased...
The mini-camp mind games that he used to torture a team that was probably still waking up in a cold sweat to images of abused uprights, on the hand other, point to a man whose skin is made the most penetrable by field goal failures...
From the outside looking in, it sure seems the bees that buzz the loudest in Matt Nagy's bonnet while baffling his self-bloated brain are questionable kickers and kicking related questions. Therefore, it must feel like he was being swarmed by a hive of hornets after the former slipped up and booted down the door inviting more of the latter into his already cluttered kitchen...
I mean, talk about fighting a two-front war against a monster of your own making. Being stuck between a rock and hard place would probably feel like being swaddled in a warm blanket on a cool midwest evening in comparison to the Bears' in-over-his-head coach having to duel it out with the demons (not named Mitchell Trubisky) that have sabotaged his peace of mind.
The only reason this isn't the double jeopardy of coaching controversies is because it would more accurately be described as the 'Double Doink' of coaching controversies. Only one thing could make worse the nonsensical notion that running against a prepared defense automatically equals a loss of four yards. That one thing is the kicker who failed you, however innocently, making it sound like you desperately tried to secure a sure win in a safe but forgot to close it and set the lock. You could have already easily made the argument that Matt Nagy was more super cowardly than super calculated, but he somehow looks dumber today than he sounded on Sunday.
At the end of day, Eddy Pineiro is absolutely right. He simply has to do his single, solitary job in nailing a game-winning field goal of an entirely reasonable length. That's obvious. Unfortunately, what's also obvious is that a run-of-the-mill missed kick becoming a coaching issue speaks volumes about the stupefying circumstances surrounding it. Not even considering where his kicker might want the ball after precariously putting away the playbook and having literally nothing else to worry about makes the unwavering claim of smartly playing it safe seem a hell of a lot more like a case of being stupidly paralyzed by pressure.
Matt Nagy went out of his way to put himself in the crosshairs during his perfunctory press conference and - wouldn't ya know it - the guy who should realistically be to blame accidentally stumbled into the trigger. Really makes you think that the guy treating a podium like an intellectual high ground should have been a bit more...ahem...cautious about talking in circles while reprimanding a room of reporters. Especially since he's apparently the type to triple-check that he's within the confines of the crosswalk before blindly waltzing into oncoming traffic without looking both ways.
The Goose's Wings Have Finally Been Clipped: Nikita Gusev Will Watch Wednesday's Game Alongside Patrik Elias as a Healthy Scratch
He did it. He actually did it. In drawing the ire of a good portion of a fanbase that is (somewhat understandably) more concerned with spewing obscenities in the direction of the head coach than thinking critically about a single decision he makes, John Hynes finally took the oddly partial 'Handle With Care' label off a player whose play has been careless at best and panicked at worst.
Personally, I find myself flabbergasted by the backlash, even if it is being buoyed by the bias most have towards the bald dude behind the bench. It almost makes me believe that Damien Brunner was merely a catchy nickname away from his jersey sales taking flight, because the Goose's on-ice flight path has been about as "stable" as the marble-minded obsession that some have with the fact that he's scored a few times.
To be clear, I'm hardly "out" on a supremely talented player who is obviously adjusting to a new style of play in a rink much smaller than the one he's grown accustomed to. I still think there is a ton of potential to be realized pending his transition to NHL ice - that shouldn't be considered so time-sensitive, mind you - becoming less choppy than his skating and more clear than his understanding of the English language.
That said, if Nikita Gusev is currently passing anyone's eye-test than I have no choice but to believe their vision is more blinded by unconditional lust than the heart-eyes emoji. Put aside advanced analytics that read as follows while the Goose continues to lay eggs on both sides of the ice...
Literally the only stat that supports him playing on a nightly basis is goals. Two of those were put on a tee for him by the player whose spot he's been taking in the lineup (Bratt) and the other, while crafty, was the direct result of dumb luck as Panarin broke his stick on an attempted clear. With a Tampa team coming to town that made the Devils look like chickens with their heads cut off on multiple occasions last season, the last thing a team that struggles in its own end can afford to have in their Top-9 is an even more bewildered bird.
Simply put, this isn't Hynes finding another creative way to ride the "hot hand" of John Hayden (::insert eye-roll::). It's him giving an overwhelmed and turnover-prone player a chance to pick the brain of one of the brightest hockey minds in franchise history by watching a game through the all-seeing eyes of someone who spent two decades cultivating the perfect combination of skills and smarts at both ends of the ice...
Perching Goose alongside the friendly face and multi-cultural understanding of Patrik Elias, whose jersey rests eternally in the rafters, isn't just a a resourceful attempt to repair his game. It's also one that it approximately 1,000% better for his development than continuing to be babied up and down a lineup that's hardly been able to wipe its own ass defensively. The Jespers can't be the only offensive-minded, middle-six players who are held accountable for their mistakes and forced to learn from a luxury suite, especially since their mistakes haven't had near the cringeworthy look of a bird flying aimlessly in circles with a wounded wing.