During the Most Solid 60 Minutes They Have Played This Season, The Devils Still Managed to Find a Minute or Two to Make Themselves Easy Prey for the Coyotes
The good news is that Devils put forth their best overall performance of a young season, that has its target audience feeling more doomed than the team's line combinations, against a Coyotes' team whose (even) strength seemed so destined to expose their defensive zone weakness that its failure to do so may have put the reputation of advanced analytics on short-term IR. The first overall pick didn't just make good on a first line role. Jack Hughes shined like a star, as opposed to looking like he was seeing stars, in force-feeding a foot to every idiot that considered a 6-game sample size - during which the teenager's play incrementally improved despite his production failing to follow suit - to be a permanent black mark against his "manhood"...
You'd think that collecting the lion's share of the shots in demonstrably dominating the run of play, in part due to the unreal efforts of someone who is still at least one growth spurt away from requiring a razor replacement, that the bad news would begin and end with the length of the beer lines.
Unfortunately, the bad news is that all the good news didn't mean jack shit, as a team who self-sabotages more efficiently than a drunk double-texter after a first date managed to make lemons into lemonade...only to immediately dump it down their shirt while taking the first sip. The Devils, as has already served as a nauseatingly familiar plot to many a soul-draining defeats, watched multiple leads, including a multiple goal lead, evaporate with the ease in which a half-full glass becomes half-empty, and untimely turnovers "helped" to defy the physics of what was decidedly tilted ice.
Now look, I'm just as baffled as everyone else in John Hynes being the 'Jill' to John Hayden's 'Jack' in dying on the hill with a fringe fourth liner. I can't even begin to comprehend how Nikita Gusev earned a promotion despite maintaining an apple-per-turnover ratio that would make a baker swear off gluten. Especially since the more accomplished NHL player (Jesper Bratt), who hand-fed him two goals of the three goals that seemingly make up the entirety of his weak argument for an increased opportunity, serves time sitting in a luxury suite for his offensive and defensive sins. The Jespers being granted not a single reprieve, while the Goose uses his (apparently unconditional) spot in the lineup to fly blindly throughly the neutral zone multiple times a game reeks of the type of double standard that tears at the inherent fabric of a team's chemistry. Point being, Hynes is anything remotely close to innocent in this early season ordeal.
That being said, if you wanted an example of a loss that strongly supported Ray Shero's unmistakable message stating that the all-world athletes that need to hold themselves more accountable, above all else, then look no further than the fuckery that took place Friday. The sacrosanct "system" has been under siege from all corners of an understandably fed-up fanbase, and rightfully so....
However, there is not a single system in any walk of life, never mind just sports, that is entirely immune to the type of situational stupidity that undercut the Devils' otherwise encouraging effort against Arizona...
The fact of the matter is that being made more clumsy by the presence of a blueline than by your first sexual experience isn't in the blueprint. Lacking focus in fleeing the ice early keeps coaches awake at night, but it's not because they see dawn while drawing up easy exit strategies for professionals that can't process the flow of play. MacKenzie Blackwood certainly didn't help matters in failing to fall ass-backwards into a big save, but it was the players in front of him that ensured the opponent quality over quantity in pissing away their hard work by making that of the Coyotes all-too-easy.
Truthfully, it feels counterintuitive to say the following about a team whose scheme already seems brutally basic. Still, the Devils have to cleanse themselves of counter-productivity in getting far, far better at the basics that were learned long prior to entering the highest level of hockey before it makes any sense whatsoever to blame the coach, no matter how jumbled his judgement.
For at least one game, it was the "system" - that is undoubtedly more scrutinized than it is understood - that helped them push the Coyotes back on their heels. It's the fatal and fundamental fuck-ups in executing said system, however, that had them spoiling Jack Hughes coming out party by getting knocked off their toes in falling even deeper into a grave that's as much a product of their own digging as it anything designed on the drawing board.
Thumbs Up, Cards Down: Drew Brees Was Very Much Back as the Saints Ruled With an Iron Fist en Route to a 6th Straight Win
Let me start by reiterating something entirely unnecessary. On behalf of the tens of thousands of Who Dat's who loudly let his name ring off the resounding walls of the SuperDome during an afternoon in which he wasn't much more than a spectator/stand-in to a familiar form of Drew Brees' brilliance, Teddy Bridgewater is hereby a beloved person, player, and - pending the conclusion of what's shaping up to be a special season - legend in New Orleans...
As for his revered replacement, any doubts that may have been shamelessly spread amongst those that aren't anywhere near as intimately knowledgeable of the state of Drew Brees' throwing hand as one of the most well-managed teams in the NFL were put to rest yesterday. Never mind blabbering on about two more weeks of rest as if that's not the equivalent of an eternity to a crazed competitor whose numbered days as a professional athlete probably have him on the verge of an existential crisis, because knocking the rust off against an inferior opponent prior to 14 days of pressure-less preparation was clearly the right decision.
I would have been more than fine with going the cautious route in starting Teddy, but Drew Brees needed to get back into the swing of things, as evidenced by an uncharacteristic mismanagement of the clock that - regardless of being a product of endlessly questionable officiating - took points off the board at the end of the half...
He needed to get re-adjusted to the unmatched intensity of the NFL gameday experience, as evidenced by him turning the ball over on an absolute head-scratcher of a "shit, I hit the wrong button"-type YOLO pass to a fullback in double coverage...
When in midseason form, he doesn't make those mistakes, so yesterday was as good a time as any to get him up to speed prior to a point in the schedule when it becomes full-speed ahead. In turning a long-shot into a laugher as the game wore on, he certainly seemed to step on the gas in zooming past any concerns about the health of his hand or his readiness to readily rely on it.
The Saints, as a whole, did what they have done with an increasing level of dominance since the beginning of the season in imposing their will on the opposition. Since the outlier in Los Angeles, they have not coincidentally been undefeated in the trenches. The defense has gone from stuffing the run to flat out scaring teams out of even trying to get the ground game going, and the scary part is that I don't even blame the opposing coaches. I understand Kliff Kingsbury resorting to desperate measures in fighting up a weight class, but calling a 4th down dive into the middle of this defense on his own 30 in a one score game was damn near a fireable act of offense...
Especially since it sparked the fuse to the type of scorching one would typically expect from a Drew Brees-led offense in the SuperDome. The clock struck 'Taysom Time' and a spanking much like the one Patrick Peterson endured while being dragged into the end zone at the legs of an unguardable adonis put an emasculating exclamation on the afternoon...
Honestly, it's becoming close to a misnomer to merely say that this team is resilient, because this iteration of the New Orleans Saints is damn near regenerative. It's as if you cut a limb off and it immediately starts growing back stronger. If Drew Brees' performance was an indicator of things to come then his injury will prove to be blessing in disguise in keeping a 40 year old fresh for a strong finish. If Latavius Murray continues to be half the bell-cow back he's been while Alvin Kamara has been reinforcing his rubber limbs for the stretch run? A dynamic duo comparable to the illustrious Ingram & AK connection is hardly out of the question that was being worrisomely whispered amongst the entire fanbase while he sat collecting dust on the sidelines in September. PJ Williams finally got suspended for driving drunk in the dawn of last winter's depressing disappointment, and what has happened since? Dennis Allen has spawned some hybrid of PJ Williams and a pit bull out of a 4th round rook as Chauncey Gardner-Johnson has attacked his opportunity with inexhaustible aggressiveness...
These Saints haven't just kept pace in jumping over ever hurdle set in their path, they've managed to hit the ground accelerating in turning every perceived negative into a long-term positive. Teddy Bridgewater got a flat on the bicycle he rides to and from every home game yesterday, and that is somehow legitimately in contention for the most demoralizing thing that's happened to the team since he started his stainless stint under center...
We are talking 7-1, with the Saints having already pinned the strength of their schedule in running off six straight, and yet we've somehow yet to see the most complete version that either side of the ball has to offer. You couldn't possibly ask for more out of the team without sounding like the most spoiled of brat. That, however, doesn't mean that they won't have much more to offer in giving an elite and energized quarterback an upgraded arsenal of weapons to compliment a suffocating defense after spending a well-deserved week of rest greasing the gears and undergoing a total tune-up prior to an increasingly promising postseason race.
Long story short, when it comes to the trajectory of the New Orleans Saints, I'm not so sure the most adequate representation isn't both simply and symbolically a thumbs up.
The Devil is quite obviously in a lot of depressing details when it comes to the issues that have turned New Jersey from everyone's favorite preseason "dark horse" to something more fit for the glue factory than a playoff race. That said, I'm all for the delightful distractions they have offered a fanbase that was one more multi-goal collapse from a crisis center in keeping its composure about as well as...well...
Simply put, sandwiching a ridiculously reasonable and relatively unexpected Nico Hischier extension (that will make a lot of devout box score believers sound stupid sooner rather than later) in between a win over the rival Rangers and a first-career-turned-game-winning goal from Jack Hughes in the 'Battle of the Brothers' is just what the doctor ordered when it comes to helping the Prudential Center collectively avoid a panic attack...
Time will tell whether it was a product of them slowly coming together as a team or if the timing was just right in them clicking on the safety and putting down the proverbial gun before shooting themselves in the foot for the umpteenth time, but a couple steps in the right direction is much better than chasing their tail without direction. The harsh truth is that this young and, to this point, dumb team is still hundreds of yards away from being out of the woods, but at least they are no longer surrounded by a forest fire of their own sparking. John Hynes' seat isn't nearly as cool as an unused toilet seat, especially with him appearing to harbor an inexplicable prejudice towards all things Jesper, but at least it's no longer singeing his ass hairs. The Devils play in their own zone is still trash, but at least that garbage is no longer piping hot from the blaze of the dumpster it was residing in.
The last/first two victories are made to look far better by the inexcusable losses that accompany them on the Devils' minimum wage-worthy resume. Still, finding a way to win was marked improvement, even if that "way" was holding onto their butts so as not crap themselves before being bailed out by a hot goaltender in MacKenzie Blackwood. Mix in a long term commitment from someone who has all the makings of a happy and humble franchise cornerstone and you have a bye week that feels almost as much like an early vacation as it does a late vaccination.
The general tone surrounding this franchise could easily change as soon as tomorrow night. A Coyotes' team that has been nothing short of excellent at even strength is sure to offer an unforgiving test to a group that's made 5-on-5 defense look like a passive penalty kill at best and a blind person trying to read a vision chart at worst.
Still, an extended weekend that predominantly provided this unfamiliar feeling that people apparently call pos...a...tivity(?) was a breathe of fresh air that was as desperately needed as a Devils' line change after their fifth straight failed clear. As of this moment, it's more wait-and-see than "FIRE AWAY!". However, with that provisional patience being challenged with each and every posted practice lineup, now would probably be the best time to show some more real improvement before a crowd that's waited a long time for the dawning of a new era is instead left rioting in the aftermath of a yet another implosion.
This is the closest thing they are going to get to a fresh start after the first one turned rotten faster than the banana they appeared to be repeatedly tripping over in looking like a 'Learn to Play' clinic, so they damn sure better come out looking like a cohesive hockey team. After all, there is only so many first goals to be scored and contract extensions to be signed before you're forced to turn your focus to where the real successes shows themselves. Ya know, like, in the standings.
Let me be the first to say that I'd gladly spend another week watching Teddy Bridgewater up his offseason ante, especially against an inferior defense who is entering the hostile confines of the SuperDome, if it meant that Drew Brees was even .01% healthier down the stretch for a Super Bowl run. For that reason, I think the Saints probably should take advantage of the leeway they have afforded themselves by somehow breezing through with a blemish-free record while Brees-less and have him spend the next two weeks sitting on his reengineered thumb - metaphorically speaking, of course - as opposed to pushing its limits.
Unfortunately, what I know is that what I think couldn't possibly matter any less. There is exactly one thing that everyone who shares my opinion has in common, and that is a fundamental inability to relate to the near-psychotic level of competitiveness that has enabled a man well into his 40's to maintain an elite level of performance at the most difficult position in all of professional sports.
In theory, yes, the upcoming bye week does come at the perfect time in offering the perfect opportunity for an aging athlete to slowly but surely ease his way back into swing of things. In execution, no, there isn't anyone who is about to test that theory by telling the football-obsessed freak below to choose playing it safe over playing quarterback this Sunday...
I say the following as lovingly as humanly possible, Drew Brees is a lunatic. He lives and breathes football, and more than likely has spent every waking second since his injury doing even the most trivial of exercises in hopes of cutting his recovery time by even a single minute. Telling him he shouldn't participate after the medical staff (presumably) clears him to is the equivalent of telling him he has to wait two more weeks, after what's essentially been a month plus of forced fasting, to cut into a juicy filet mignon as the aroma wafts directly into his nostrils. I haven't the slightest doubt that he's extremely happy for Teddy Bridgewater, but Jesus Christ himself could have been the one chosen to take the wheel from him for the last five weeks and every single missed snap would still eat at his God-fearing soul.
Point being, if both he and a licensed physician, that understands the risks better than fans ever could, agree that he's absolutely good to go then go he absolutely will, and the only "bye" that will be a part of that decision is the one he dismissively waves to anyone that tries to talk him out of it. Sean Payton is perhaps the only other person capable of telling him "no", and he's one of the very few that possesses enough of that same killer instinct to understand full well how futile it would be to even try.
Annnd, that'll about do it. Honestly, other than out of respect for the job Frank Reich has done on the heels of his starting quarterback calling it quits a couple weeks before kickoff, is there any reason not to award Sean Payton the 'Coach of the Year' trophy prior to the mid-point of said season? I suppose it would an endless source of incessant bitching off the board for the stupidity spewers on sports talk television, but I think they can probably stand to have one topic that's not really up for all that much debate left without cyclical, repetitive argument.
In all seriousness, the undermanned schooling that Sean Payton and the Saints gave Matt Nagy and the Bears in Chicago on Sunday was merely the most convincing lecture offered during what's been a month-plus long master class in both coaching and leadership. The backup quarterback-led bullying of what was supposed to be "the best defense in football", without Alvin Kamara and Jared Cook, was simply an exclamation point on a 5-0 stretch that not only kept a 'Super Bowl or bust' season afloat, but may have realistically made for smoother sailing.
What that offensive and defensive clinic wasn't, however, was the most impressive thing that Sean Payton has orchestrated since watching the longtime lifeblood of the franchise that had just entrusted him with its uncertain future under center, by way of a contract extension, fail to grip a football. In my opinion, that title is reserved for whatever he said and/or did to motivate and challenge a team that he helped build to withstand a crisis at quarterback - in a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency sort of way - to prove him right in its construction. The last of what was initially and understandably bleak body language got left in Los Angeles along with the player whose injury could have easily derailed the dreams of a less relenting roster. Putting the kibosh on any lingering self-pity, above all else, is an accomplishment that speaks to the culture of a team that has largely been made in the likeness of Sean Payton's personality.
What we've seen on the field since is a fluid formula whose lone constant, outside of Michael Thomas' inability to be guarded and the defense's ability to step up and captain the ship through unforgiving waters that would have drowned them in the past, is that it has equated to victories. The game scripts haven't been the same, but the endings have been more dependably happy than those of rom-coms. That's a testament to a complete team that has hardly played mistake-free football, but instead played supplementary football in finding a versatile variety of ways to make up for those mistakes. It's also a credit to opponent-specific game plans, on both sides of the ball, that have made Sean Payton, Dennis Allen, & Co. look as though they were slipped the world's most elaborate cheat sheet prior to the biggest test of their respective careers.
Still, the execution of those game plans wouldn't be at all possible without a level of belief and buy-in that's done the near impossible in making Colin Cowherd's claim that a team that rebounded from the 'Minneapolis Miracle' would have its spirit shattered by the 'NOLA No-Call' out to be the stupidest fucking thing he's ever said. At this point, you can just definitively call that take the worst of all time, as not even the worst case scenario coming to fruition was able to break this team's will.
On both the field and the sidelines, the Saints' biggest advantage resides between their ears...which says quite a bit given the amount of god-given physical talent wearing black & gold ever weekend. They haven't just been resilient in rallying around Teddy Bridgewater, whose sprinkled in just enough dimes during his first extended stretch of play since 2015 to collect the interest of a fat chunk of change this upcoming offseason. They have appeared completely unbothered in being without the services of someone who has long been their beating heart. They haven't just been coached towards the top of the NFC without their future first ballot HOF quarterback. They've been galvanized in a way that allows for their future first ballot HOF quarterback to step back under center for a team that barely has any body fat in being more solid, strong, and intimidating than any he has predominantly done the heavy lifting for over the course of the last 14 seasons.
Hell, the only reason not be consider Sean Payton to have already lapped the pack for 'Coach of the Year' is because he somehow made the somewhat miraculous midseason maintenance of a Super Bowl contender, that was assumed to have lost its soul, look far too easy despite facing a schedule that was supposedly tough.
Whether as an Average Coach or an Excellent Scapegoat, John Hynes Can't be More Than a Couple Embarrassing Efforts From the Unemployment Line
Welp, here we are. From floating on Cloud #9 to seeming depressingly destined to bid an eventual farewell to #9 while dick-deep in Shit's Creek without a paddle in sight. When an unprecedentedly promising season opened, less than two weeks ago, it was implausible that we'd be discussing John Hynes' job security like it were as weak as the one-ply the Devils' are apparently using to plug their leaky team defense prior to people purchasing their Halloween costumes. Then again, the only reason I didn't use the word 'impossible' is because that is reserved for a shockingly incompetent start that somehow has a playoff berth looking like a pipe dream with 76 whole games left to loathe, cry, or sleep through. Not even the most eternally pessimistic Devils' fan, of which there are many, would have envisioned this organization needing this quick of a courtesy flush. However, with the long overdue induction of a new era of hockey in New Jersey increasingly resembling a clogged crapper, fans almost have no choice but to have their finger on the trigger in being more than ready to send John Hynes swirling into unemployment.
Personally, I don't think that merely appearing to pick the lineups out a dunce cap warrants such a swift ousting of a head coach who has been tasked with the unforgiving job of turning a ton of new talent into a cohesive team. To say the Devils look be on the same page systemically would be like giving a 5-star review to a self-help book authored by an unmedicated schizophrenic, but I highly doubt the drawing board is chalked to the gills with new and "improved" ways in which professional athletes can blindly turn the puck over in their own zone like visually-impaired pee-wees. Many of the mistakes being routinely made at a nauseating rate are some bantam league bullshit, so pinning the entirety of the tail on the donkey behind the bench is to play the blame game at a novice level. Both the powerplay and the penalty kill, that were presumably granted a false sense of security by going up against each other all camp, are defiantly defying the laws of probability in being an obvious indictment of a team that couldn't possibly appear more ill-prepared. That, along with a defensive system that's approximately as effective as repeatedly jamming their dicks into a doorknob, certainly falls at the feet of the head coach. Every half-witted mismanagement of the puck that has enabled each and every inexcusably embarrassing effort, on the other hand, does not.
For that reason, I actually don't take issue with Ray Shero's first state of the union being a direct challenge to those most capable of and most responsible for flipping the franchise's fortunes...
As someone with a lot of respect for Tom Fitzgerald as both a talent evaluator and a hockey mind that doesn't pull any punches, I'm fine with him being brought down to ice-level to offer his insight, even if it does feel like giving a single crutch to a head coach that has no legs to stand on...
That being said, I'm "fine" in the way that a scorned woman might be "fine" because if things don't change both drastically and almost immediately then there should be hell to pay with only one person to be realistically be sacrificed in financing the fanbase's fury. If the Devils head into what could quite literally be a bye week with two more uncompetitive no-shows on a winless resume, the question shouldn't be whether or not John Hynes is the entirety of the problem. The question should be whether or not what he brings to the table as a communicator and a motivator after four predominantly dogshit seasons is worth watching a particularly important fifth one prove all-too-familiarly irrelevant as the New Jersey Devils get deservingly tabbed as Edmonton Oilers East.
Honestly, if the team continues to look like the result of a yips epidemic as a group that should probably be wearing name tags on the front of their jerseys instead of name plates on the back - as they appear to know each other about as well as a randomly selected jury - then the verdict shouldn't take too much longer to come in. There's currently no blame to be directed Ray Shero, but that will change extremely quickly if he doesn't do absolutely everything in his power to squeeze something mildly successful out of the skill he acquired over the summer. After preaching patience, annually and ad nauseam, he can't play the waiting game while the expectations he created over the offseason continue to go comically unfulfilled while a flustered fanbase loses hope faster than the Devils lose a multi-goal lead.
I've liked the cut of John Hynes' jib for quite some time and I have no idea if the solution to a contagious lack of confidence is to simply bring in a new voice to tell the players the myriad of ways in which they are setting the sport of hockey back beyond all recognition. However, if an unrecognizably in sync team doesn't soon take the ice - starting tonight against a hated divisional rival - then I see very few legitimate reasons not to say "fuck it" and find out if changing the messenger helps to clean up a complete mess that's been made by far, far more than one person.
I’m not going to lie, we - as Devils’ fans - kind of had this coming.
By “this”, of course, I don’t mean a disastrous defeat in which the team treated a 4-0 second period lead in the home-opener as if it were a 4-0 series lead in the Stanley Cup Final, nor am I referring to back-to-back, uncompetitive no-shows in which a revamped roster switched on-and-off between relying too much on skill and aimlessly searching to figure out where they misplaced it.
Instead, I am talking about the inevitable crash following what was the offseason equivalent of an unadulterated opium drip. Not to excuse what’s been a nightmarish start to an insanely important season, but our wildest dreams - and they were a bountiful with how shamelessly optimistic the pandering was at all levels of the organization - never stood a chance of being immediately fulfilled. With a hell of a lot of new talent comes almost an entirely new team, so these growing pains, and the despondent disappointment that's come right along with them, were unavoidable.
That being said, the instantaneous timing and abrupt sharpness of them all but force at least an initial conversation about the elephant in the online echo chamber. Personally, I think John Hynes is a great motivator and a good coach, but what’s really scary is that the most deafening argument against that idea isn’t being made by irrational people on the internet. Rather, it’s come by way of dispirited efforts and desperate decisions. It was always going to take time to gel, as chemistry can't be created on paper, but to call the New Jersey Devils “a work in progress” three games into the season would be offensive to the term ‘progress’.
You need not look further than another team’s trash, in John Hayden, being promoted mid-game as some foolproof fix-all to defensive woes in an obvious act of over-coaching.your way out of a 3-goal, third period lead. However, if you did you might see a 36-year old Andy Greene opening the season in a first pairing role that even his agent wouldn’t argue he’s still capable of filling. Speaking of agents, Mirco Mueller's probably highlighted his ability to get his client a job on his resume while in search of a gig with a semblance of security, and yet it still took said client two whole games post a pathetic preseason to get him relegated to a luxury suite.
I typically don't like to overreact to line combinations, because there's not a soul that can definitively say what will eventually end up working for a young group that's in its infancy when it comes to playing together. However, any soul belonging to someone who has watched them play prior to this season could confidently tell you that an improvisational offensive threat, the likes of Jack Hughes, was the oil to the water bowl that Miles Wood always appears to be running towards when he plays the game with the spatial awareness of a dog chasing a tennis ball across a hardwood floor.
I'm all for experimentation, especially early on in a locker room full of unknowns, but I also don't need to dump ketchup on my spaghetti to know that it makes for a meal as unpalatable as the archaic idea of icing objectively worse players in the name of toughness. The Devils didn't line up across from Bobby Clarke in his prime last night, but they certainly made sure they were prepared in case the Broad Street Bullies took the ice, 'Field Of Dreams'-style, by benching one of the better defensive forwards on a struggling PK (Pavel Zacha) against a perennially dangerous powerplay in favor of bringing extra fists to the 4th line.
The truth of the matter is, short of pepper spraying their opponent in the pregame, there's not one move - made or left unmade - that would have changed the Devils fortunes thus far. To varying degrees, every player that has taken the ice for them has contributed to the pile of shit that has failed to stick to the wall and been left to form a heaping mound of crap so hilariously huge that it could be used as comedic relief in the next 'Jurassic Park' movie...
It just feels like everyone both on the ice and behind the bench is doing a whole lot of guessing, but it's more in the vain of "how many gumballs do you think we can fit on this sinking ship before Taylor Hall calls for a life raft?", as opposed to being a simple matter of unfamiliarity. It truly looks like less than nothing was learned throughout training camp and that's far more concerning than taking a couple of early L's.
Of course, it's psychotically premature to make any blanket statements about where this team is headed or who will be leading them when they get there. It's not too early, however, to say that it's too late in the rebuild to simply brush off the dumbfounding deployment of under-performing players. We've reached fine-tooth comb territory, and - as the Devils somehow stand more spineless than they are winless a week into what was supposed to be a transformative season - the fanbase is left feeling like a school nurse during a lice outbreak.
Things could turn around as soon as tonight and there is still a ton of hope to potentially be had, but the ease with which everyone in the locker room pissed away the unprecedented amount of excitement that Ray Shero built up over the summer has expedited enraged overreactions as much as it has humbled expectations. I'd prefer to say that's not fair, but almost everything about the hockey they've played thus far has been inexcusably foul. The extremely early returns of this 'New Era' has the fan base pulling their proverbial hats down over the eyes in familiarly fatalistic fashion, and - from the top down - I can't see that being tolerated for too long.
Colts' Fans Definitely Shouldn't Have Boo'd Andrew Luck, but I'm Not Exactly Sure What They Should Have Done
I think it pretty much goes without saying that it’s a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad look for a fanbase to boo a selfless teammate and leader who gave his body and, apparently, his self-worth/peace of mind to a franchise that proved wildly undeserving it for the better part of a career cut short.
What does bear mentioning, however, is that it’s also a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad look for a superstar to have his early, unexpected, and untimely retirement leak while he’s ON THE SIDELINE in front of thousands of fans that had the return on their investment into season tickets scorched to ashes by receiving devastating news during a practice game that’s supposed to predominantly serve as the peak of offseason optimism.
Andrew Luck obviously didn’t plan on being in a position so obnoxiously awkward that it would make Larry David dig a hole for his head. However, the circumstances caused by the insatiability of social media didn’t just put him in that situation. They also put the people who paid a full ticket price (or 10-15x the actual value of the product on the field) for what ended up being the most shockingly unfulfilling sports experience of their entire life in that situation.
To clarify, if I were a Colts’ fan I couldn’t personally envision myself booing a player who undoubtedly just made the most difficult decision of his life after sacrificing the vast majority of his professional potential to an organization that was blissfully ignorant of its own incompetence for far too long. That’s partially because I find the act itself to be that of a drunken caveman and partially because my ability to utter sound probably would have temporarily departed my body along with my violently extracted soul. That being said, a well-deserved round of applause would have fallen behind two dozen depression beers at 25th on the list of rounds I felt up for participating in.
The truth of the matter is that there is no wrong time to do what’s right for yourself, so credit has to go to Andrew Luck for pushing aside an ungodly amount of peer pressure in refusing to put a price tag on his health and happiness. Prioritizing both your family and your long-term future while presently entrenched in a billion dollar business in which you’re widely worshiped is as commendable as it is rare. He earned every last dollar he made in getting bludgeoned into bi-monthly body scans behind an offensive line that, for years, was only addressed from in-house with “hey, at least you tried”, and in doing so reinforced his right to walk away from what is nothing more than a game when it stopped fulfilling him as much as frustrating him.
Still, we are talking about someone who is retiring prior to the age of the 30 with the Fort Knox equivalent of financial security in part due to the same fanaticism that saw him leaving the field for the final time to a chorus of half-baffled boos. Never mind that the emotional and overly invested idiots that couldn't help but get caught up in such a morose moment were likely "speaking" to an unfathomable organizational failure as much as they were the main victim of it. There's an inherent stupidity that comes with placing such an obsessive value on the athletic achievements of people in a particular uniform and it's one that drives both profit and popularity. In simpler terms, fandom makes people act irrationally, and that doesn't even take into account that the fans in question were hardly granted any time to accept an announcement that was universally stupefying throughout the entire sports world.
I’m certainly not blaming Andrew Luck for getting Schefter'd in making official the end to his thankless, rinse-and-repeat process of constant rehab, nor am I endorsing the actions of the people that took part in such an undeniably cringeworthy display of disrespect towards him. What I am doing is saying that I get how such a completely FUBAR'd farewell that seemingly came out of nowhere and cratered the otherwise realistic championship hopes of the home crowd two weeks before the kickoff to what was presenting itself to be a promising season wasn’t a fond one. It's far more important to be sympathetic to the plight of Andrew Luck as a person, but those outside Indianapolis can hop off their high horse in acting like his decision to stop being a player is one that should have been fully absorbed, understood, and embraced by his most impassioned fans in the time it took literally everyone else to triple-check to make sure they weren’t being trolled on twitter.
Much Like Almost Every Football Thrown in His General Direction the Last Three Years, 100 Million Dollar Mike Finally Secured His Bag
It might read like a weird thing to write about a contract negotiation that resulted in a star player’s absence from a Super Bowl contender’s training camp, but I don’t think there was a more fitting way for the New Orleans Saints and Michael Thomas to finally commit to each other for the next five years. Honestly, given everything we’ve come to know of a braintrust that’s always been bullish on their ability to replace skill position players who are up for a raise and a wideout who was aggressively and openly aware of his need for a massive one, it wouldn’t have felt right had the two sides been ready to break the bank immediately after breaking the proverbial bread. If it had been as easy as we were being led to believe prior to his holdout, I’d have spent more time trying to find a catch than the Saints’ offense when Michael Thomas wasn’t the intended target last season. Therefore, in the sense that some of Mickey Loomis' funny money was necessary in the making of a milestone extension, the extra time it took to get signed, sealed, and delivered really reinforced the belief that Michael Thomas is the perfect Saint, as he basically reflects the near-stubborn confidence of the front office that just rewarded it.
Please allow me a 50 mile head-start before telling him I said so, but Michael Thomas isn’t the best wide receiver in the National Football League. What he is, however, is close enough to that crown to quite easily justify leveraging the Saints’ over-reliance on his efforts in the passing game into an amount of zeros previously unmatched amongst offensive players that don’t wear a different color jersey at this time of year. What he might lack in game-breaking ability he makes up for in the proficiency of his efficiency. Never mind keeping happy the go-to guy that’s helped a first ballot HOFer age gracefully as he looks to add another ring to his finger before waving goodbye to the game. Think it might matter that when Drew Brees inevitably rides off into the sunset that his replacement will be lucky enough to throw to a reliable playmaker who is such a guarantee to catch everything thrown in his general vicinity that it makes you believe he can't possibly come as advertised without there being some tomfoolery in the fine print?
Historical precedent might say that paying top-dollar for receivers doesn’t result in a high level of organizational success, but all that history serves as to a player as profoundly prideful as Michael Thomas is a challenge...
We're talking about someone who is so self-motivated that I wouldn't be surprised if his biggest rival was his mirror. Someone who relies just as much, if not more so, on expertise as athleticism. Someone whose attitude and work ethic are infectious throughout the locker room. Position aside, Michael Thomas is the type of competitor you don't mind paying big money to because he makes everyone better and there is no amount of dollars that could pay away his undying desire to be dominant.
Of course, the Saints really had no choice but to pay him big money as the window to win a championship is closing by the day and they certainly weren't doing so without #13 on the field drawing attention and bullying open passing windows for Drew Brees. Still, the concerns that come with paying a premium for a pass-catcher aren't as worrisome when said pass-catcher has a chip on his shoulder than even surgery couldn’t remove and fully bought into a cohesive culture long before his annual salary allowed him to buy any damn thing he pleases.
Who Better to Punctuate This Summer's Massive Migration of Talent to the New Jersey Devils Than The Goose Himself
You know, when the celebration of this offseason title finally subsides, there should be no shortage of apologies addressed to the man that turned a bad team with money to burn into one of the NHL’s most exciting rosters in the short time it typically takes for some fans to convince themselves that they are better at his job. Honestly, I want strong consideration given to constructing a confessional booth on the Prudential Center concourse between now and opening night for preseason use by any and every idiot that slandered Ray Shero for his reluctance to commit the sins of cap-strapped teams before him by falling victim to the fool’s errand that is free agency. I don’t know about you, but the irony of him being able to give Devils’ twitter exactly who they desperately wanted - with the shrewd acquisition of the best player outside the NHL - solely because he left them to spend a season-plus screaming into an empty void of an echo chamber while obsessing over the prospect of overpaying for past performance isn’t lost on me.
As for the actual player that serves as the next chapter of what’s been a quick and complete organizational rewrite, I’m not sure there’s anything other than his nationality that’s not to love. Once you get over the entirely understandable and otherwise undying trust issues that come with New Jersey signing another offensive-minded Russian, Nikita Gusev perfectly fits the bill of what the Devils openly prioritized at the very public request of their impending free agent of an MVP...
If absolutely nothing else, he is pretty much the personification of talent. He might not be the most physically imposing or fleet of foot of talent, but the skillset of someone that compares favorably to a New York Ranger that shall remain nameless are as undeniable on the ice as they are in the analytics...
How well it’ll translate to the NHL can obviously be questioned, but its existence can not. The player that owns two KHL MVP awards and the second highest scoring season in league history has star-power potential and he’s joining a team that hardly even needs him to fully realize it as he is presumably the final, complimentary piece to a formidable Top-6. With the risk of throwing in some ‘B’ level assets in order to pay an unproven commodity nine million over two years being minimized by the fact that the Devils don’t need full financial flexibility until those seasons have elapsed, it becomes pretty hard to envision it not being easily matched by the reward of rostering a preposterous amount of puck skills.
Whether or not the Goose takes flight towards the top of a lineup that’ll cater to his creativity remains to be seen, but Ray Shero’s laser-focused vision for the long-term future of the franchise he’s built from the barest of bones is not. Championship contention isn’t exactly around the corner, but it’s a hell of a lot closer than it was in April. That’s due in large part to the possibilities that patience provides, and those possibilities appear damn near endless with the Devils renovating their roster by adding Jack Hughes, P.K. Subban, Wayne Simmonds, Ty Smith, Nikita Gusev, and potentially Jesper Boqvist to a flock that’ll look almost unrecognizable for all the right reasons.
By Hook or By Crook, Kawhi Leonard Gave the Lakers Exactly What They Deserved in Spurning Them for the Clippers
I don’t think Kawhi Leonard’s intention was to do anything other than put himself in the best possible position to win both now and later as the number one option for a team located in his beloved Southern California. He clearly accomplished just that in proving that robots are, indeed, en route to outsmarting and exterminating all of us by quietly forcing the hand of two separate franchises, while leaving two others lying in the lurch, to make an 11th hour trade that involved a record-setting return. At the end of the day, it's possible that the biggest reason the Lakers thought they had a real chance was because they convinced themselves they had a real chance, as the insertion of an exceedingly silent, ball-dominant assassin next to Anthony Davis in the LeBron James' media circus never made any sense whatsoever.
That, however, doesn't make the collateral damage caused by his decision, with that being the complete compromising of the Lakers' superiority complex, any less sweet. I have a hard time believing that Kawhi Leonard had sticking it to Bron on the brain when he was playing hard-to-get with Jeanie Buss while going door-to-door around the NBA in trying to recruit a second star player to the Clippers...
However, if one were to plot out a maniacally meticulous plan of attack on the insufferable entitlement of an organization that couldn't be bothered to show a baseline level of competence in expecting a third transcendent talent to just fall in their lap? Well, I'm not sure they could craft a better backstabbing than the one that Kawhi Leonard just pulled off in leading on the Lakers for nothing more than leverage in making the Clippers more competitive.
Uniting two stars who, in consecutive years, more or less told LeBron & Co. to piss in the wind despite both having an obvious affinity for Los Angeles, and doing so in a form and fashion that brought the most formidable of foe in-house? With the way his free agency played out, eventually leaving Rob Pelinka to pick from the scrap heap of what was left over of the mid-tier free agents he missed out on by chasing the dragon that is star-power (which he did a decent job of, in all fairness), you'd think Kawhi Leonard was seeking vengeance after being Don King'd by Klutch Sports. I'm not sure his plan was as devious as it was determined, but reminding the Lakers of their most recent free agency failures by going above and beyond to have them call home the same building in a less prestigious uniform is how you pour gasoline on a dumpster fire in showing a legendary organization the error of its current leadership.
Kawhi Leonard sent the Lakers their reality check by choosing to both join and actively reinforce the deeper, more complete roster in Los Angeles while putting his trust in the city's most accomplished coach and executive. Whether they deposit said "check" or refuse to withdraw their head from their ass in continuing to live in LaLa Land remains to be seen. Regardless, they are currently the second-most flexible franchise in their own arena due to dumbass decision-making that couldn't possibly have done less to earn the services of the most deadly three-headed monster in NBA history.
It never made any sense for Kawhi to subject himself to a high-profile power struggle for possessions. The Lakers being unable to see that while going against the wishes of the introverted player they had targeted in aimlessly leaking baseless bullshit like they lost control of their organizational bladder tells you pretty much everything you need to know. They are a franchise that's been made spoiled by LeBron and his team choosing to make them relevant in prioritizing local interests outside basketball. They are a franchise that can't seem to wrap their head around AD only finding his way into purple and gold because they got desperate in giving up the entirety of their future for a 7-foot pawn on Rich Paul's chess board. Lastly, they are a franchise that was dead ass wrong in thinking they had some sort of right to a player who needs not to be part of such a shameless sideshow to win championships in Los Angeles. Long story short, the Lakers got what they deserved in the Kawhi sweepstakes...which was absolutely fucking nothing.
Look, if Kyrie Irving, who was raised in West Orange, is just trying to pander to the regionally protective and overtly proud New Jerseyians that still call themselves Nets' fans by speaking so glowingly of "home" then...well...it's working, and well enough for me to ignore that he did so while crossing (up) the Brooklyn Bridge. I'm of no illusion that the Meadowlands would have been able to outmaneuver the mystique of MSG in gaining the the NBA spotlight of two simpatico superstars simultaneously. However, if Ian Eagle says Kyrie has contacted him to reminisce about running around Continental Airlines Arena in awe of Jason Kidd & Co. then that's exactly the type of gospel that can make me reconsider a reluctance to organized religion that compares favorably to ye' who shall not be named's skepticism of the government...
That said, one flat-Earth truther's affinity for his old stomping grounds (...or a place a borough and change away from them) wasn't my main takeaway from his upgrade to Carmelo's "I'm coming home" video. Instead, my takeaway was that Kyrie Irving is...::cleans out ears and turns up volume::...currently happy?!
If his tenuous and bipolar tenure in Boston is any indication, that could change with the wind of one media member blowing hot air, but man - if working alongside his friends helps the NBA's foremost idiot savant keep that same cosmic energy then the New Jersey Nets of Brooklyn could have big, big things on the horizon. So long as he reallocates the time he would have spent getting ludicrous leadership lessons from LeBron to self-preserving his sanity, the team he's joining should be markedly better while his running-mate rehabs. If he just keeps that third eye on the prize and his young teammates out from under any and all cross-borough buses then the insanely deep and developing roster Sean Marks has assembled should only incrementally improve by leaps and bounds over the next few seasons.
I somehow have more faith in Kevin Durant making a full recovery from a crippling injury that's crapped on the course of plenty of promising career paths than I do in Kyrie Irving's ability to maintain his current mood or keep to catering to his crazy while off-the-clock. However, if "home" (or something like it) is truly where his heart is and said heart is set on making things work with a team he grew up enamored by then he should (...being the operative word) be far from the only person bouncing over to Brooklyn with basketball on their brain and a smile on their face.
TL;DR: Don't worry Kyrie, as you can leave that to Nets' fans, just please be fucking happy.
We Might Never Again See an NHL Offer Sheet With How Badly The Hurricanes Bodybagged the Canadiens and Their Attempt to Sign Away Sebastian Aho
And that, my friends, concludes your two day emasculation of a once-proud, long-storied franchise that might have the most wins in NHL history but couldn't save themselves from taking one of the most monumental L's. I was half kidding about never seeing another offer sheet throughout a league that has stigmatized them in such a way that the signing of one is comparable to the targeted spreading of an STD. However, I'm probably not far off with how savagely the "bunch of jerks" running a small market team in the South are do-si-doing atop the occupied cap space of an Original Six organization.
Stop me if you've heard this one before. Marc Bergevin looks like a complete buffoon, as he presumably got duped by an agent into doing Don Waddell's job for him in inking a point-per-game centerman in Sebastian Aho to a ridiculously reasonable deal to stay in Carolina for the next five years. There's dumb, and then there is insulting your own intelligence. Which category do you think front-loading a contract in an attempt to price-out an owner that, without so much as a second thought, sunk $70 million into the fool's errand that is trying to contend with the NFL falls under? I'll give you a hint, it's the one that allows the entirety of the Carolina Hurricanes' front office to publicly bend you over their knee and mix in abject mockery between metaphorical spanks with the wooden spoon while your negotiation tactics get laughed out of the room louder than Dr. Evil's.
A team that is no stranger to being the butt of the joke is basically sitting on the head of a legendary franchise like the Montreal Canadiens and belly laughing while bullying them without even having to lift a finger until Monday. Knowing how tight-assed NHL GM's are when it comes to the attempted robbery of restricted free agents, I can't imagine such a relentless roasting does anything to make them unclench any time soon. Though, I suppose the easy way to avoid being victimized by a similar spectacle would be to spend two seconds on a Google search of a team owner's net worth or six seconds scanning their salary cap situation before finalizing something as intricate as an offer sheet.
Alex Morgan Celebrated What Turned out to Be the Game-Winning Goal by Sipping the Soul out of England
See, now THAT is how you do it! Not by tainting what was a thoroughly dominant win over a entirely under-womaned Thailand team by running a goddamn Conga line through them after every uncontested goal. Instead, by feigning class in displaying what overly repressed idiots would consider a lack of class following a legitimately meaningful goal on a massive stage.
Mocking the time-honored traditions of literally every other country in the world is a time-honored American tradition, so I'm not sure Alex Morgan could have possibly done a better job paying homage to her homeland on the day of her birth. As far as I'm concerned, that was a red, white, and blueprint for how to express yourself at the expense of your international opponent. Go ahead, try to write up a think-piece on her perfect pinky extension without sounding like you didn't already have that bee in your bonnet, I dare you!
As long as they are celebrating things that are worth celebrating I thoroughly encourage the USWNT to troll the entire globe a dozen times over en route to winning back-to-back World Cups. Especially if the birthday girl can teach her teammates some more incredibly dignified ways to clown the customs of actual competition.
Sip on that England, but beware the bitter taste it'll leave in your mouth. On behalf of Alex Morgan, CHEERS!
Oddly enough, given the absurdity of the feat, I don't think the most impressive part about this clip is Myles Garrett going from flat-footed to jumping multiple feet in the air with the free-weight equivalent of a prepubescent teenage boy in tow. Rather, I think the most impressive part of this clip is that, somewhere along his path to NFL stardom, the Browns' quarterback crusher just assumed he was strong and agile enough to be able to do so.
Of all the exercises out there, I'd say a box jump is one of the few that you don't even consider attempting unless you're at least 90% certain of your ability to complete it. I imagine that also stands true for professional athletes who, while inherently more confident, are just as likely to fall backwards and bust their ass or bang their head if their eyes do happen to travel higher than their vertical. Therefore, there was a time when Myles Garrett instinctually knew himself to be capable of adding injury to injury, in the form of weight to body mass, while spitting on the laws of science and standing to tell the tale before even successfully doing so.
That time probably wasn't the one we just watched. After all, he seemed a bit too casual in his otherworldly athleticism, as if he were a seasoned vet of such superhumanity. However, with there being a first time for everything, the first time Myles Garrett circumstantially proved gravity a farce makes the umpteenth time seem just ever so slightly less impressive than the most impressive thing ever.
Dame Lillard Called Bullshit on Enes Kanter's Claim That the Blazers Only Gave Him 6 Minutes to Decide on His Future
You know what? I'm going to go ahead and say that Enes Kanter made the right decision in turning down the Trail Blazers, because - despite a couple impressive postseason performances - it's very clear he learned nothing during his time as one. He's always been a bit overly dramatic, especially online, but to have spent time with Damian Lillard as your teammate and not think he's not going to take a no-nonsense approach to any nonsense directed at the franchise for which he plans to forever man the front lines is just plain old stupid.
To be clear, Dame is absolutely right in saying that 45 minutes is hardly an eternity when it comes to deciding on the fate of your future, but business doesn't give a fuck about your feelings and, at the end of the day, the NBA is one of most cutthroat. I'd expect a journeyman of a 10-year veteran to have realized that by now.
To be honest, while I generally don't like to go this route, you're fighting a pretty steep uphill battle if you're trying to play the victim of time's essence in deciding which city you'd like to live lavishly in while playing a sport professionally. Mix in an exaggeration that makes your choice of where you'd prefer to surpass $100 million in career earnings seem as difficult as deciphering which cord to cut in trying to beat the clock to defuse a bomb and you're really setting yourself up to look silly. Never mind doing so at the expense of a team led by one of the NBA's most formidable flushers of all bullshit.
Free agency is referred to as a frenzy for a reason. With all due respect, that reason is immeasurably more important than where a playoff-run rental like Enes Kanter plays defenseless basketball for the next two seasons.
In Speaking From Experience, Giancarlo Stanton Offered Advice to the Angels on Dealing With the Difficulties of Grieving the Loss of Teammate Tyler Skaggs
"RIP Bro, My heart goes out to your family. My message to the @angels while having no time for yourself to grieve is to hug each other, laugh, cry, lift the ones taking it extra hard up. Youâre going to wonder why all of this is happening , is it real, why are u suiting up to play a game that seems irrelevant. Some Anger will ensue while u have to grieve in a fish bowl.. A lot will go through your mind. So stay together through that. The first days back to schedule are the weirdest feeling, from the energy to the questions to having to walk by his locker. Try to Focus & understand how important your strength is for his family, all of your supporters & anyone looking for the power to overcome something. They're looking @ you for guidance. So you all really need each other right now. Stay strong fellas I'm thinking about you!"
Well, when you put it like that.
That's not to imply that anyone would ever assume it's easy to mourn the gut punch that must be the tragic, midseason loss of a beloved teammate. However, it is to say that the way Giancarlo Stanton spoke from his experience in doing so, following the disastrous death of Jose Fernandez in 2016, really makes real the impossibilities of grieving during the daily grind of which the absence of the dearly departed is ever-present.
Considering the inevitable emotional toll to be taken by the constant reminders that Tyler Skaggs is no longer with them, the rest of the Angels roster having to lace up their cleats at least another 77 times before having any extended period of time to themselves must feel pretty damn daunting. Trying to battle their own innately human brains in trying to push heartbreak to the back them and focus on playing a game that offers as much time to think as baseball at a professional level on a public stage is just not an undertaking I can even wrap my head around, for a variety of reasons.
The true test of a team shouldn't be something that you'd hope and pray no team would ever, in a million years, have to go through. However, I can't imagine there is any one circumstance more trying of a clubhouse's cohesiveness than having life and death unexpectedly intervene in it's day-to-day operation. Here's to keeping the Angels in mind as they find their way in...well...finding a way, for the best way to honor the unforgettable and disturbingly abbreviated existence of Tyler Skaggs is to keep playing the game he was so passionate about at the highest level possible, as impossible as that currently seems.
Rest In Peace, kid.
The Warriors are Unofficially "Retiring" Kevin Durant's Number, In Case You Were Wondering Exactly How Guilty Their Conscience Is
To be clear, I have absolutely no idea how guilty the Warriors organization should feel about letting Kevin Durant make an appearance in a must-win game that ended up costing him a full season of his prime and the certainty of his future as one of most transcendent talents in basketball. I'm quite sure there was plenty of inquiring minds mending together to make an extremely difficult decision that ultimately spelled disaster. While I definitely think some were swayed by the situation, even more so after listening to Andre Iguodala's story, I highly doubt all of them were only acting in the best interest of Golden State's dwindling chances at winning a third straight championship.
That being said, I think I have a pretty good idea of how guilty the Warriors' organization does feel, as the idea of "retiring" a player's jersey after three seasons, no matter how successful, is laughable to say the least. I can understand not immediately giving out the number of your back-to-back Finals MVP to some schlub off the street, but going out of your way to express exactly how off-limits it is in a press release the day after he asked "where Brooklyn at?!" in telling you "thanks, but no thanks"? Especially when you could just not say anything and easily go a decade without anyone voluntarily requesting to wear a number as unsightly as 35? That seems to be about as desperate a play/ploy for good will as...well...blubbering all over yourself in a postgame press conference while deflecting from a devastating injury by giving a sermon on the sainthood of the person who suffered it...
Simply put, Kevin Durant was a mercenary. He may have been a good person, a great teammate, and a quality leader in coming within one "calf strain" and two wins of being the most valuable part of a 3-peat in Golden State, but he was still a mercenary. Mercenaries don't get special treatment. Unless, of course, they are still owed payment for services rendered. KD rendered a hell of a lot in being left without time restriction in putting his career in jeopardy on behalf of a team that was, for intents and purposes, already beaten. Therefore, if the Warriors really want to settle things in the court of public option they should get to work on immortalizing him in bronze outside every gate of their new arena. Everyone already knows what they are doing in shamelessly kissing his ass as he limps out the door anyway. Might as well do it right by offering up more than some half-assed and likely unnecessary hold on the #35 disguised as a grand gesture.
Jimmy Butler Either Loves Miami or Loves Masochism, As I Can't Think of Any Other Reason He Would Turn Down the Sixers Max Offer to Sign With the Heat
I'm starting to think that Jimmy Butler's favorite song might be 'Only Happy When it Rains', and that's not so much an acknowledgement of his new city's on again, off again relationship with precipitation as it is an observation that he seems pretty damn content in being perpetually pissed off.
To be clear, I'm totally fine with a player prioritizing quality of life over quality basketball. It's just that Jimmy Butler hardly strikes me as the type to plop down on the 142 million dollar, state tax-free bag he just secured and enjoy sitting South Beach-side while calmly resting on his laurels as a great veteran player on a middling team whose cap is as strapped as its potential. In fact, his career speaks to him taking a much more, shall we say, incendiary approach to how things go down when they aren't quite looking up basketball-wise.
I guess I can see Philly having too many young, developing mouthes to feed for an overly proud player to picture himself staying there as nothing more than a complimentary option throughout the remainder of his prime, but Miami as the alternative? I'm sure him and Pat Riley will get along swimmingly in chastising everyone who doesn't come within a BPM or two of hustling their way into a heart attack during any given practice. However, that on-court marriage between a hyper-competitive malcontent and an unworthy roster is so obviously asking for trouble that I can't but think Jimmy Butler only agreed to it because he derives pleasure out the process of messy divorces.
In What Will Surely Serve as a Stick to the Craw of Flyers' Fans, The Devils Have Signed Wayne Simmonds to a One-Year Deal
Please welcome all the impatient Devils' fans that spent all of last offseason (and, unbelievably enough, the last couple of hours of this offseason) incessantly whining for Ray Shero to go blind to his future budget for the temporary thrill of overspending to the wonderful world of free agency! It's a highly stressful place where your options are either obnoxiously expensive, entirely over-the-hill, or all of the above. Can't believe the Devils didn't decide to vacation here sooner!!!
In all seriousness, as far as flawed players who aren't worth 5 million dollars are concerned, I actually like Wayne Simmonds fit in the Devils' lineup. So long as his role is limited one, there is very little risk associated with adding a player who adds a rare combination of talent and toughness to an undersized lineup for one season during which the continuation of his career as an impactful NHLer hangs in the balance.
If that's not convincing enough for you then go rewind last season's game tape and try to watch the Devils' 2nd powerplay unit operate for more than 45 seconds without being brought to the saltiest of tears. If absolutely nothing else, Wayne Simmonds gives them endless options with the extra man as the type of net-front, pain-in-the-ass presence that actually has puck skills.
Now, I can't say I love inserting an old and slow defensive liability into a lineup that has young players who better fit the team's collective style banging on its door. For example, if Wayne Simmonds is what gets an NHL-ready Jesper Boqvist sent back to Sweden for another season then I'll lose my shit. I have an extremely hard time believing that's a legitimate possibility at this point in their rebuild, but it's one of the very few concerns I have about adding a player that brings attributes that the Devils don't otherwise have.
All in all, the reward might be limited to a 15-20 goal prick of a powerplay specialist who plays sparingly at even strength in the bottom-six. However, the risk is next to nothing for a team that's got a pretty populated nest to protect and could easily afford to sign a burning pile of money to a ten million dollar deal so long as the fire extinguished after this season.
Plus, can you really put a price that can be measured in AAV on the Flyers signing Kurtis Gabriel within the same 60-minute span as their fans finding out that one of their most beloved shit-stirrers took his tenacity up the Turnpike?