Friday, December 02, 2005

WE INTERRUPT THIS PROGRAM FOR AN IMPORTANT NEWS ANNOUNCEMENT

So the Bruins finally make the cover of the sports pages by Jumbo Joe Thornton. I, who was stupid enough to draft Thornton in the first round of my NHL Fantasy League, can finally exhale as I no longer will be cursing while I watch highlights of Thornton NOT stepping up when the game is on the line. Joe has all the skills, all the size, and all the tools to be a special (i.e.: Mark Messier, Sidney Crosby, Mario Lemieux, etc) player in the league. Instead, Joe prefers to skate around behind he net, hang out around the blue line, and otherwise do everything except become the next Cam Neely.

In a way, that was the biggest problem with Joe. He was not Cam Neely, nor was he Phil Esposito. Joe was never mixing it up in front of the net and slamming in a rebound to give the team that desperately needed goal. Where was Joe when the team needed him most? Invisible. Thornton, in the eye of the public, had finally got to where everyone thought he had was ready to go when he had his break-out season in 02-03 after five middling pro seasons. Of course, he promptly followed it up by totally disappearing in the playoffs as the Bruins got wiped out in the first round. In 03-04 his numbers dropped off significantly, and in this season, although the numbers were there, the maddening inconsistency remained.

Though I am not overwhelmed by the players the Bruins received back for Joe, really, it is the going rate. I equate it to a team trading out of the first round of the draft in the NFL. Sure we gave up the first round pick, but we got two second round picks and a number fourth round pick. None of the three (Brad Stuart, the defenseman; Marco Sturm, the left wing; or Wayne Primeau [no, not Keith], the center) are as talented offensively as Thornton. In 03-04 and again this season, their combined stats are close to Thornton’s total stats: Joe has 9 goals and 24 assists this year; the trio has 11 goals and 23 assists combined. In 03-04 Joe had 23 goals and 50 assists; the trio had 39 goals and 70 assists.

The trade serves two purposes: It sends a clear message to EVERYONE on the team that they are all playing for a job right now; furthermore, it gets rid of the albatross contract and continued sad puppy attitude Joe Thornton brought to the team and allows for them to bring in some parts to help make the whole stronger. If Patrice Bergeron kicks his game up a notch as the number one center, and if the trio brings improved defense (Stuart), second-line scoring (Sturm), and grit on the checking line (Primeau), then the trade is good for the Bruins.

Make no mistake, Joe had to go. I was waiting all year for this trade, and am glad the Bruins had the guts to gut the team.

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EVERYTHING JUST FALLS APART, AND THEN I GET TO TRY TO PUT IT BACK TOGETHER:

I am far from off the bandwagon, but I am really getting concerned about the Patriots this season. Yes, I have been concerned along with everyone else since the rocky start and the injuries that have piled up at a staggering pace. However, there is a shining light at the end of the tunnel: The Jets, The Dolphins, and The Bills. New England not getting a home playoff game in the first round would be akin to the Colts losing to the Texans: it is possible, but it sure is not likely!

Here is a quick breakdown regarding the offensive and defensive breakdowns:

Bill Belichick, Head Coach: Has he spent too much time mentoring the offense? Should he hand the reigns to Dante Scarnecchia and Josh McDaniels as co-offensive coordinators and concentrate on helping freshman defensive coordinator and former boy wonder Eric Mangini put together a defensive plan that calls for something other than slow developing blitzes and playing cornerbacks fifteen yards off the line of scrimmage? Replacing Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel was not supposed to be easy, but I never thought it would be this difficult.

Tom Brady, Quarterback: Forget about last week against the Chiefs. Brady has one of those games every year: 2001 versus the Broncos where he threw four picks; 200 versus the Jets where he frittered away the chance for a the playoffs; 2003 versus Buffalo on the opening game of the season & where he failed in the fourth quarter against the Redskins; and 2004 against the Dolphins on Monday night. This year, he was due to have one bad game, and he unfortunately had it against the Chiefs and their improved defense. Nine times out of ten, Brady would have done enough to beat the Chiefs despite the porous defense. Heck, just ask the Steelers about how Brady single-handedly wore them down earlier this season. Brady is not the problem, in fact, he is the saving grace.

Corey Dillon, Running Back: A wise man from New Jersey named Duane once said that if you are not playing you are dead to the coach. Until he gets back on the field, Dillon is not too old, he is non-existant. A healthy Corey Dillon gives the Patriots a chance to win on the road in January.

Deion Branch, Wide Receiver: Not that I am picking on the reigning Super Bowl MVP, but was I wrong to think THIS was the year for 90 receptions, 1350 yards, and 10 touchdowns?

Nick Kazcur/Logan Mankins, Offensive Left Tackle/Offensive Left Guard: Sure, they should be learning on the bench, but this is the NFL and it is December. There are no more rookies.

Ty Warren/Jarvis Green/Richard Seymour/Vince Wilfork, Defensive Line: There is a player on the other team who has the football. Try tackling this player, be it the running back or the quarterback.

Rosie Colvin/Willie McGinest, Outlide Linebackers: Getting blocked out of the picture by fullbacks and tight ends on running plays is not pretty to watch. Nor is seeing the two of you arrive at the QB after he has already thrown the ball downfield. Time to pick up the pace.

ASSORTED MEMBERS OF THE SECONDARY: NOTHING LEFT TO BE SAID!

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NOTE TO SELF:

We really did trade for Josh Beckett. This was not a dream. Please stop pinching self.

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