In wake of the first 14 games of the NHL season, I wanted to let you know why the Sabres will not win the Stanley Cup this year. No, this isn't because they are 3-9-2 through the first 14, it is because they are missing the one thing every Stanley Cup team has had over the past 8 years. A Captain. No, I'm not talking about a Craig Rivet, Stu Barnes or rotating the thing every month (which was the dumbest thing ever, but I knew why Ruff did it).
Look at the past 8 Stanley Cup Champions and their captains.
2010 - 'Hawks - Jonathan Toews
2009 - Pens - Sidney Crosby
2008 - Red Wings - Nick Lidstrom
2007 - Ducks - Scott Neidermayer
2006 - 'Canes - Rod Brind'amour
2005 - LOCKOUT
2004 - Lightning - Martin St. Louis
2003 - Devils - Scott Stevens
Now look at all the Captains, especially the last 4 years (2006 you can sub Drury/Briere because the Sabres would have won the Cup if 4 of the 6 defenseman didn't get hurt). What do they all have in common? They are the teams best player, they play the most minutes, they play the most minutes, they play all 3 phases of the game. They are the leader on the ice & off the ice.
That being said, Craig Rivet doesn't fit in all those categories. Hell, he even got stratched twice already this year. They aren't going to win when their "leader" is watching from a press box or getting beat time & time again by 3rd line players. You know that saying about good teams playing down to weaker opponents? I think the Sabres are "playing down" to their captain, thus the 3-9-2 record.
How to fix this? Trade Rivet and put the "C" on someone else. Some of the canidates? Thomas Vanek, Derek Roy, or Jason Pominville. Those are the three on the team that most fit the citeria. Personally, I would go to Vanek or Roy. Pommers is my favorite Sabre and has been since he became a Sabre, but I think if you put the C on Vanek, he would flourish with it. He would feel important, have a purpose and he would go nuts. I'm saying 100 points. Roy would be the same way. Pommers will give you all he has every shift, every game. He's proved that over the last 5 plus years. Putting the C on Goose, Hecht, or Grier would get the team no where. While they are all deserving of it, it just doesn't work like that in the NHL. Name the last Stanley Cup winning team that had a average, 3rd line player as their captain, besides the 'Canes, they were a fluke.
Well, I fully expected to be writing this article about Syracuse's newly minted Bowl eligibility ... but that's alright. They still have 3 chances to do it, and all 3 games are definitely winnable. So when they inevitably reach bowl eligibilty (knock on wood) who/where will they be playing?
There are a few obvious choices:
1. Pinstripe Bowl - Maybe the most obvious of the bunch, and the most sensible. The game is played at Yankee Stadium and Syracuse has a large following in the NYC area. Not only that but the alignment of Big East/Big 12 presents some VERY interesting match-ups. The way it stacks up now, Syracuse would potentially be playing Kansas St. But all it takes is one bounce of the ball and they could end up playing somebody like Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, etc. It's far fetched but stranger things have happened. Something to keep in mind as well, Notre Dame serves as the back-up team for the Big 12 in this bowl game so we could have a Syracuse/Notre Dame match-up in NYC. But don't count on it because it doesn't look like Notre Dame is going to get to bowl eligibility this year with 3 games remaining against: Utah, Army, and AT USC.
2. Champs Sports Bowl - My favorite choice, (only because I currently live near Orlando) but maybe the least likely. Not only would Syracuse have to finish in 2nd place in the Big East but they would have to get the invite as well. The CSB committee would probably be a lot more likely to select a Big East team which travels a bit better (WVU) or a team that's local (USF). But there are quite a few Syracuse area transplants down here in Florida so it's not out of the realm of possibility that they could get an invite. If so they would be matched up against a team from the ACC, more than likely NC State, UNC, or Miami. Which would also make for a great game.
3. Meineke Car Care Bowl - The odds of this one happening are pretty slim in my opinion but for the sake of debate, I'm including it. While it's not unlikely that Syracuse could finish in 3rd in the Big East (which is what aligns with this bowl game) I doubt they would get invited to this game being as it's held in North Carolina. But in the event that they do they would without a shadow of a doubt be playing NC State or UNC; which would essentially be a home game for either of those teams. I'm not a huge fan of this, but a bowl game is a bowl game, and that's something we haven't experience in quite some time. So anything is better than nothing I guess.
4. Papajohns.com Bowl - Maybe the strangest bowl game name ever. I don't understand why it can't just be the Papa John's Bowl, but whatever I guess. This is also the least likely to happen in my opinion. The game is in Alabama, where there is a grand total of 0 Syracuse fans and it aligns with the 5th place finisher in the Big East. We'll be far more likely to see a team like West Virginia in that game I think.
5. St. Petersburg Bowl - Also another long shot in my opinion, but definitely more likely than the Papajohns.com supreme meats bowl. As I said before, there are a lot of Syracuse transplants in the state of Florida. But this game aligns with the 6th place team in the Big East, which doesn't mean Syracuse couldn't still play in the bowl, but I have to believe we are FAR more likely to see USF in this game considering St. Petersburg is right next to Tampa/USF.
6. Liberty Bowl - There's an outside shot that Syracuse could also play in the Liberty Bowl vs. the #1 team in Conference USA. The game is held in Memphis, TN and would more than likely feature UCF. This would honestly be a pretty good matchup for Syracuse but this is a provisional alignment and it's unlikely that Syracuse would even be invited to this game as it looks like the SEC will have no problem getting 8 teams bowl eligible.
Personally, I'm pulling for the Champs Sports Bowl just because I want to go to the game haha. But I wouldn't mind seeing us in the Pinstripe Bowl either. Would more than likely present us with a "home field advantage" against a pretty good team. Thoughts? Opinions? Where would YOU like to see the Cuse play? Assuming we become bowl eligible of course!
Another Sunday, and another gut wrenching loss for the Buffalo Bills. This time it was a game winning field goal by Kansas City kicker Ryan Succop as overtime expired. Some people like to focus on the positive side of things, things like: "they're competing week in and week out" or "3-4 plays turn out differently and this team is 4-3" or "at least the offense is better." Me on the other hand, I am a realist. As Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris said last week: "Stats are for losers." The bottom line is, this team has the talent to win football games. Should they make the playoffs? No. But should they be 0-7? Absolutely not.
If you want to know where to place the blame. Look no further:
It's obvious from watching this team that Chan Gailey at least sort of knows what he's doing when it comes to offensive production. He's done something Dick Jauron could never do which is make players out of Roscoe Parrish and Stevie Johnson. And I will also give him that the team has been far more productive ever since Ryan Fitzpatrick was inserted into the starting lineup and Trent Edwards was released. But that just leads me to my first point about why I am wary of Chan Gailey.
1. At the conclusion of training camp Chan Gailey decided that Trent Edwards gave this team the best chance to win football games. Since when has Trent Edwards EVER shown that? I find it hard to believe that Edwards was that much better than Ryan Fitzpatrick in training camp; especially considering how well Fitzpatrick is playing right now. You know, the guy with the #2 passer rating in the entire league. Edwards was so incredibly bad he was benched after 2 games and then released. But .... he gave this team the best chance to win games coming out of training camp. YEAH ... OK.
2. At some point in time you just have to find a way to get your team "over the hump." This is the 5th game this season that the Buffalo Bills could have easily won. Miami was a 5 point loss that more than likely would have been a win had Trent Edwards not started (back to point #1), New England was essentially losing for 3 quarters and we gave up the win, Jacksonville was losing 13-3 before we imploded in the 2nd half as usual, Baltimore, once again a just before halftime and 3rd quarter implosion leads to a loss. Buffalo's defense basically held Baltimore scoreless in the 1st and 4th quarters and we still found a way to lose. Which brings me to the worst loss of all:
3. Buffalo had SO MANY CHANCES to beat Kansas City yesterday and just failed at every turn. Near the end of regulation, a great punt return by Roscoe Parrish gave the Bills the ball at midfield with timeouts to spare and about a minute on the clock. Buffalo gets a 1st down and has the ball on the KC 43 yard line, 1st down. Instead of just trying to get 6-7 yards to get into FG range, Gailey calls a pass play. The ball slips out of Fitzpatrick's hands and is intercepted sending the game into OT. Why are you even throwing the ball when you're just about in field goal range? All you need is a FG to win. It's not like scoring a TD there is going to get you 5 wins. Then, on the Bills' 2nd possession of overtime, Fitzpatrick took the team from their own 7 yard line, down to the Kansas City 44 yard line; essentially on the verge of Rian Lindell's FG range. All they really needed was again another 6-7 yards for a makeable field goal. Even in that wind Lindell can make that kick, which he proved later in OT. Instead of just running the ball 3 times to try and get 7 yards (which ANY NFL team should be able to do) Gailey calls 3 straight passes, incomplete, incomplete, 3 yard gain, and then punts the ball for a net gain of 20 yards. It's a roughly 55 yard attempt. YOU ARE 0-6 JUST KICK THE FIELD GOAL AND TRY TO WIN.
Chan Gailey showed me there that he was afraid to lose the game. At 0-6 he was afraid to lose. You will never succeed in sports if you play to NOT lose. And when you're already 0-6, you're just compounding the problem. Then, to cap it all off, when the Bills were given new life after Ryan Succop missed a 39 yard field goal, Fitzpatrick again took the team to the Kansas City 42 yard line, 1st down. 1:30 left on the clcok, Kansas City has no timeouts remaining. Instead of once again running the ball, getting into Rian Lindell's field goal range and MORE IMPORTANTLY running the clock out on Kansas City, Chan Gailey again called 3 straight pass plays. Incomplete, incomplete, intentional grounding. Which in turn put Buffalo out of field goal range and forced them to punt it back to Kansas City, who then drove the field in about 1 minute and kicked the game winning field goal as time expired. Why in God's name would you give Kansas City a chance to get the ball back? If you run the clock out and attempt a field goal, you either win, or the WORST case scenario is you miss and you tie. Instead, you gain negative yards, punt the ball back to them, and then lose the game when for the 3rd time in 15 minutes, all you needed to do was get anywhere from 6-10 yards and you probably win.
The end game/overtime decision making was just HORRENDOUS by Chan Gailey and reminded me so much of the Dick Jauron era that I wanted to vomit. I hope this was just a bad day for Gailey and the Bills and not a continuing trend. But when that's all you've witnessed for the past 10 years, it's hard not to think the worst.
Well, the unthinkable happened on Sunday. A Buffalo Bills QB (Ryan Fitzpatrick) threw for over 300 yards in a game; 374 to be exact. It was the first time such feat had been accomplished since it happened 59 games previous to that. Fitzpatrick also threw 4 touchdowns on the day as well as the Bills played well enough to win, but once again got jobbed by the officials. But that's not what this post is about. What it is about is, what do the Bills do now?
Fitzpatrick is playing like an absolute man amongst boys out there this season. He's currently 2nd in the entire NFL is QB rating behind only Peyton Manning. He's tied for 4th in the league with 11 TD passes despite only playing in 4 of the teams 6 games. Basically he's doing everything Trent Edwards could never do. He's going out there, unafraid and throwing the ball; and he's doing it VERY effectively. He's easily the best QB we've seen in a Bills uniform in 10 years. Which leads me to my ultimate question/dilemma and reason why I posted this to the blog: What do the Bills now do about their draft selection in the upcoming 2011 NFL draft?
Ralph Wilson has already come out and stated the problems this franchise currently finds themselves in are his fault, and that the team needs a franchise QB and that GM Buddy Nix was going to spend the next few weeks scouting the top college QB's. Which would lead one to believe that Ralph Wilson wants his team to draft a QB in April. But if Ryan Fitzpatrick keeps this up, how can you justify taking a QB with your #1 overall selection (top 5 pick) when your QB is 2nd in the league in QB rating and CLEARLY isn't the problem? As crazy as I'm about to sound right now, Fitzpatrick is everything you want your QB to be. He's fearless, he's smart (Harvard grad, killed the wonderlic), he has decent size, he's only 27, he's mobile, and he's the ultimate team player. Yes I realize that Andrew Luck could be great, but for every Peyton Manning in the NFL draft, there is a Ryan Leaf.
It is clear that right now, the reason this team is losing football games is because of the defense. The defense is putrid, which is shocking considering how great our secondary was last year. They just physically can not stop anyone at this point in the season. I'm sure it has something to do with the scheme change, new defensive coordinator, blah blah blah. But at some point you have to look at the real issues, which are, guys just aren't performing and we don't have playmakers in the KEY spots. This defense is in DIRE need of linebackers, and defensive linemen. Buffalo has given up an average of 36 pts per game in their past 5 games. This team needs defensive help, DESPERATELY.
Chan Gailey has proved to be the offensive mind we were told he was thus far. He has the offense scoring about 27 pts per game since Fitzpatrick took over for Edwards, which should be enough to win most weeks in the NFL. He has Fitzpatrick doing what Edwards could never do; throw the ball downfield to your big player receiver Lee Evans. Evans has 17 catches and 4 TD's since Fitzpatrick's take over vs. 4 catches and 0 TD's with Edwards. My point is, come draft day, I pray that Buddy Nix and Chan Gailey sit down and decide that this team needs to trade down a few picks, acquire more picks, and draft defensive players (and offensive linemen). Someone like Marcell Dareus immediately comes to mind.
While I wouldn't be UPSET persay if they drafted Andrew Luck, I'm not sure I would be happy. Drafting a franchise QB seems like a great idea when you're winless, but really ... what more could Andrew Luck do than what Ryan Fitzpatrick is currently doing to get this team winning football games? The losses fall on George Edwards and the defense.
Good news today, the Sabres woke up and beat someone. The won 4-1 tonight in Atlanta, a team who historically we either do one of two things: lose to them, or beat them 8 - 0. It was a good win for the boys tonight. Vanek scored, Ennis got one, Myers got one.. and Cody McCormick? Yes, Cody McCormick is now tied for 2nd on the team with 2 goals on the season. It was a stroll in the park for Miller, who didn't see a shot until almost 15 minutes into the game. Now the challenge is to string a couple of these performances in a row.. like 10 or so, because 2-4-1 through 7 games isn't really that good.
Second Thought: The virtual Tom Brady is just as annoying as his real life counterpart.
I seriously think it is physically and emotionally impossible to hate something as much as I hate Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and the entire New England Patriots organization (Teddy Bruschi is one of the most bias people on SportsCenter today. I hate him about as much as I hate Brady.). Let's just say I'm not applying for any jobs with the Patriots or New England Revolution anytime soon, or ever for that matter. Now, I know that ShoeBox hates the Jets and their fans, and believe me, I do too. But the Patriots take the cake. It's probably because they just destroy the Bills every time they play them.
Or I haven't seen the Bills beat the Patriots since I was 14 years old. My bet is it's one of those reasons. I even hate the Patriots on Madden. I played them tonight, and I literally did everything I possibly could to hit Tom Brady as much as possible. It's bad when you reach the point where you try everything possible to injure a person's image on a video game, right?
Third Thought: HALLELUJAH MARK SCHLERETH!
Can I get an AMEN?!!?
In my opinion, hits the nail on the head. Chances ESPN had any idea he was going to go off like this? 0%? Jabs at soccer, use of an iPad, calling for two hand touch football on Sundays, and my favorite part, jabs at the Patriots. He used the full bag of tricks for this one. I wonder if Apple will use this clip for there next commercial? National Hypocrite League? Everything he said is completely true. The only hit that should've been fined was the Meriweather hit. The others were all football plays. Every single one of them. NFL, let's be honest here, you have more than proved your point about making your players become more accountable for their actions (see Vick, Michael; Roethlisberger, Ben), this is just taking everything way too far. Let the players play, don't fine them for playing football the way it is supposed to be played.
Final Thought: This post would've been a lot funnier if I had those beers in me.