Archive for April, 2012

Trades are good business at NFL draft

- April 27th, 2012

One of the sticking points of the new NFL collective bargaining agreement — signed last summer, after the 2011 NFL draft — was that a rookie salary cap system was implemented. A side effect of that deal was quite noticeable at Thursday night’s draft: There were a ton of trades!

Out of the top ten selections, only four teams actually selected where they were drawn. The No. 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 picks weren’t made by the original team that held it. Now that’s excitement.

Before the draft even started we saw the Redskins move up to No. 2 (weeks ago) and the Browns move up one slot to No. 3  less than an hour before the first pick.

But why did this all happen? Because teams are no longer affraid of being married to draft picks that will tie up their salary caps or even hold them hostage during initial negotiations. What leverage does a draftee have when he’s set to make a certain amount of money due to whatever slot he’s drafted in?

And without in-exorbitant bonuses to paid and record deals every season, teams can actually enjoy high picks without being screwed too much if they bust.

There’s more value for those picks now and more incentive to try to trade up for the guy you want. That’s what we saw last night and I hope that’s what we’ll continue to see in years to come.

Because, after all, that’s entertainment and entertainment’s the business the NFL is in.

Burkie should actually watch the playoffs

- April 23rd, 2012

You might remember that amongst the end-of-season quotes from Brian Burke, the ones that apologized for the Toronto Maple Leafs’ performance this season, he slipped in a doozy that should really be examined more closely now. It went something like this:

“I don’t want to sneak into the playoffs in eighth place and then get smoked in the first round.”

So, what exactly has happened in the first round of the current playoffs? Well one No. 8 seed has already advanced, beating the Presidents’ Trophy award-winning Vancouver Canucks. The eighth seed in the East, the Ottawa Senators, are also one win away from advancing.

Does that sound like sneaking in and going out quietly and quickly?

The NHL playoffs are unlike those in any other sport. All it takes is a hot goalie, a lucky bounce or two or a single opportune call and any team can win. Upsets happen every year yet people are suckered into loading up on top seed players in their playoff pools. How those Canucks and Penguins working out for you now, Kurt Larson?

As long as you have a ticket to the show, you have a chance to win it all, Burkie. Do you even watch the playoffs during the spring, or are you too busy working on your golf swing already?

 

Are you ready for some playoff hockey?!

- April 11th, 2012

The ice hockey playoffs start today – hopefully they’ll finish while it’s still cold enough for ice to naturally be somewhere in North America. So, let’s do a quick roundup of what will happen in the first round.

-The Canucks, who face the Kings, will always have some goaltending questions until either A) Roberto Luongo comes through in the clutch or B) Luongo is traded away and then Cory Schneider comes through in the clutch. They were the best regular-season team in the NHL and it will be a disappointment if they don’t make it at least back to the Cup final. That said, L.A. is just good enough to give them a decent run for their money.

-The Red Wings, for all their experience, are going to have a tough time with the Predators. Nashville usually surprises in the playoffs and have the defence that it takes to make a run. Combine that with the fact that these two are division rivals and quite familiar with each other and this one should be a stellar seven-game series.

-The Flyers and Penguins hate each other, which means this one will be feisty. The Penguins are the favourite to win it all with Sidney Crosby back, but Philly beat the Pens every time they went to Pittsburgh this season. Anything can happen here, but the one thing for sure to expect is a physical series from start to finish.

-The Washington Capitals haven’t looked this bad in the years, but with Alex Ovechkin still in town, they’re still dangerous. The Bruins will be favoured and Washington will be riding a minor-league goalie thanks to injuries, but don’t expect them to roll over. If they do, I would expect a lot of changes in the U.S. capital.

-The No. 3 seed in each conference are ripe for upsets. Both Florida and Phoenix had lower point totals than their first-round opponents – New Jersey and Chicago, respectively. So while the division winners will have home-ice advantage, they don’t have the talent advantage. Especially with Jonathan Toews coming back for the Blackhawks and Martin Brodeur anchoring the Devils, expect some upsets.

-There probably won’t be more than one Canadian team left after the first round, seeing how the Ottawa Senators are stuck facing the first-seeded Rangers. There best they can wish for is hoping that Henrik Lundqvist has a bad night and maybe the Sens can steal a game. Advancing is out of the question.

Gregg Williams shouldn’t be banned for life

- April 6th, 2012

Let’s not be too quick to ban Gregg Williams for life from the NFL.

While it probably wasn’t a good idea to tell his charges to go out and hurt the 49ers while possibly knowingly being recorded, I still don’t think that he deserves to be kicked out the game forever.

Why? Because we have no idea how often comments like these are made on an NFL sideline.

If anything, it was just the worst of timing for Williams to have this come forward mere weeks after he was indefinitely suspended for his role in the Saints bounty scandal.

I do agree with his punishment for that incident, but adding anything more for saying what he did during the Niners-Saints game would just be piling on. He’s already going to sit for a season at least and will have to follow the league’s every wish to be reinstated when the time comes. Do we need to further ban a guy who is already serving one for an unknown length?

Besides, if the NFL were to suspend every player who said they wanted to hurt the other team during a game, well I don’t think we’d have any offensive linemen or defenders left in the league.

We don’t know if what Williams said was instructions to his players or just plain trash talk — but I’d think it was closer to the latter.

So, would you suspend a guy for trash talk if he was already sitting out a season for something much worse? That would be just rain drops in the ocean.

Besides, can you really employ this guy when he comes back? Chances are his NFL career is done anyway.

Follow me on Twitter at @danbilicki

Could Kentucky beat an NBDL team?

- April 2nd, 2012

For the last little while there has been a furor of debate about how Kentucky would possibly fare against the weakest teams in the NBA. I originally liked the idea considering how this is one of the strongest NCAA teams in history and will very likely take home the championship tonight.

But the fact remains that while the Wildcats have at least four guys that will likely be taken in the first round of this year’s draft, the rest of the roster would just not compare to an NBA squad. So that’s four NBA-calibre guys facing a roster full of NBA-calbre players.

Heck, one Las Vegas bookie even went as far as to set a line as if this game could ever happen. If the Washington Wizards were to face Kentucky on a neutral court, the Wiz would be favoured by 30 points. Granted, I’d love to take the points, but the fact is that Washington isn’t going to lose that game.

So, the better question that I would pose is this: How would Kentucky fare if it played in the NBA Development League?

Tricky question, right?

Right off the bat you could argue that the ‘Cats would have the two best players on the floor with Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. With their four first-round calibre guys, you could argue that the ’Cats might even have the best four players out there. How many lottery picks ever play in the NBDL? The only high draft pick that I can remember being sent down is Hasheem Thabeet and he’s still kind of garbage.

The NBDL is a league of gunners too; guys that are trying to impress NBA teams with their numbers. I wouldn’t expect a group of guys making less than you or I to be interested in playing as a team. I’ve never watched a D-League game, but I can only assume by the mostly high scores that it’s more akin to rec-league ball than a shutdown defensive affair.

There are two spots that a NBDL team would have an advantage: Their depth and the rules. We would of course have to play with NBA rules, meaning that there would be the longer three-point line and different defensive schemes. This would hurt Kentucky’s chances, but I believe their overall defence is strong enough to get through that difficulty. The game would also be longer, so stamina may become an issue for UK.

In terms of depth, the NBDL team’s bench players would most likely be better than Kentucky’s. In the D League, the bench guys would still probably be past second-round picks and the best of the undrafted players. It would be silly to think that this entire Kentucky team will be drafted one day. I doubt their ninth man is going to make the NBDL even as a walk-on.

So, could the Kentucky Wildcats hang with the Los Angeles D-Fenders or the Fort Wayne Mad Ants? I believe so and I wouldn’t bet against John Calipari’s crew. But come on, let’s just put to bed this silly ‘Kentucky could play in the NBA’ nonsense – even after they win the title tonight.