Thursday, May 26, 2011

Captain Obvious? Part 2- Southeast Division

This is too much fun. I love standing up on this pulpit, judging other people's/teams decisions. I would be a sweet cult leader, but none of that mass suicide crap, unless we lose another Stanley Cup or Super Bowl. Anyways, on with the show, this installment focuses on the captains of the Southeast Division.

Washington Capitals:

Captain: Alexander Ovechkin
Player who should be Captain: Brooks Laich

I know he's a free agent this year, but my man-crush on Brooks Laich knows no contractual stipulations. But man, when you have a team as loaded as the Caps are, and as their leader, you can't inspire them to even win a game in the second round of the playoffs, or for that matter, to EVER get past the second round? That's pretty bad. I'm not taking anything away from Ovechkin as a player, he's got more talent than I could ever hope to have in anything. But the facts remain the same. Unlike Crosby, he's shown no real ability to lead his troops. He doesn't raise the game of the people around him, he simply tries to win the game by himself. This was never more apparent than in Game 4 of the Lightning series this year. Ovi probably took about a billion shots in that game, but nobody around him was playing with any sense of urgency. As a captain, you need to harness your energy and distribute it amongst the rest of your team. Ovechkin doesn't seem to have that ability, and until he does (if ever), he doesn't deserve the "C".

Tampa Bay Lightning

Captain: Vincent LeCavalier
Player who should be Captain: Martin St. Louis

This is probably more for the sake of argument than anything else. LeCavalier seems like a perfectly capable Captain. He leads, he raises his game up to the next level when he needs to, and plays a pretty clean game. It's hard not to love Martin St. Louis though. He's the ultimate underdog. Undrafted out of the University of Vermont, and extremely undersized, his tenacity and utter refusal to let his stature be a hindrance to his game is an inspiration to all who watch him. This is a truly tough call.

Carolina Hurricanes

Captain: Eric Staal
Player who should be Captain: Eric Staal

There's not really anyone else it could be. Cam Ward? Meh.

Atlanta Thrashers/Manitoba Moose?

Captain: Andrew Ladd
Player who should be Captain: Andrew Ladd

A case could be made for Dustin Byfuglien, but he's only been there a year. For the few Thrashers games that Pens fans get to watch in a year, eyes often fixate to Ladd. A very underrated player, Ladd looks as if he's always trying to hold back an avalanche. He knows the team around him sucks, but every shift, he strives for that not to be the case. Andrew, if you don't feel like moving your stuff the whole way to Manitoba, feel free to just set up camp here in Pittsburgh. I can hope, right?

Florida Panthers:

Captain: None
Player who should be Captain: None

If you can even name three players on the Panthers, congratulations. So why should they even have a Captain? Management is making the right call here. Nobody cares about your team anyways, why put in the work of deciding on who should be Captain? Just go lay on the beach.

On second thought, they should probably make Scott Clemmensen the captain just because of this:


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Captain Obvious? Part 1 of a 6 Part Epic

Captain Obvious is a six part blog epic exploring all NHL captains, who deserves to be there, and who doesn't. Frankly, this is a result of my frustration towards the Pirates not scoring runs and my general disdain for Mike Richards. Since this is a Pittsburgh Blog, part 1 will focus on the Atlantic Division.

1. Pittsburgh Penguins

Captain: Sidney Crosby
Player who should be Captain: Sidney Crosby

This is pretty much a no-brainer. He's the best player in the NHL, and sets an example for the team on and off the ice. It was plainly apparent how much Crosby was missed during the stretch run of this past season. He's a guy who is able to elevate the game of everyone who laces up the skates with him. He's an all-world talent that has the mentality of a player who is just trying to make the squad. I could say more about him, but anything beyond this would be redundant and insulting to a Pens fan. Get better, Sid.

2. Philadelphia Flyers

Captain: Mike Richards
Player who should be Captain: Kimmo Timonen

Trying to choose what Flyer should be Captain is like choosing what gun you want to be shot in the face with. No matter what, it sucks. Richards has become just like every other Flyer, dirty plays that don't get called, and mouthing off to the media. Next thing you know, he'll be banging Scott Hartnell's wife. As for Timonen, at this point in his career, he's deserving of a captaincy. He's been a stalwart on Philly's defensive front for a few years now, and has displayed a Brooks Orpik-like calm and cool on the ice. As is usually the case with Finnish players, Timonen is a classy guy, and seems like a great locker room personality as well. Timonen is without a doubt the least of all evils.

3. New Jersey Devils

Captain: Nobody
Player who should be Captain: Patrick Elias

Beyond Marty Brodeur, no Devil is more recognizable than Patrick Elias. He's been a Devil since before I had pubes. Though he's 35, his productivity has shown no signs of slowing. Since the Captainship was vacated by the Jamie Langenbrunner trade this past year, Elias seems to me to be the logical choice.

4. New York Rangers

Captain: Chris Drury
Player who should be Captain: Chris Drury

It's pretty hard to argue against Drury. The only player in league history to win both the Hobey Baker and the Calder Trophies, a three-time Olympian, and one of the few players in the leauge who have captained multiple teams. Drury hasn't always put up huge numbers throughout his career, but he's a tough, gritty player who will do whatever it takes to win. Once Drury retires, however, the Captain position should be assumed by Ryan Callahan. I still think the Rangers may have beaten the Caps if Callahan were healthy, but he was too busy laying his life down in front of a Zdeno Chara slapshot to try to get the Rangers into the playoffs. What a human.

5. New York Islanders

Captain: Doug Weight (kind of)
Player who should be Captain: Mark Streit

Weight would be my Captain choice, but since he retired, that sort of takes him out of the running. Truly, the only logical choice behind him is D-man Mark Streit. Injured for most of this season, Pens fans know about Streit because he's really the only Islander we give a shit about. He's Swiss, which is awesome (also captains the Swiss National team), he can actually play defenseman or forward, a rarity in the NHL. The Islanders clearly missed his leadership this season, as they made a habit of going bat shit crazy during games.

Plus I'm not sure they could give the Captain tag to Trevor Gilles. Woof.

Part 2 coming soon.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Milwaukee Brewers are the Bane of my Existence

I honestly have no clue why we can't beat this team. No clue at all. We're something like 3-33 in our last few years at Miller Park. Milwaukee is apparently where my dreams go to die. This is what a Buffalo Bills fan would have felt in the 90s if they had to play the Cowboys every game. The Brewers aren't even that good. Prince Fielder is so big now it looks like he swallowed his dad (Note: if you're under 20, google Cecil Fielder). Ryan Braun only shows up for Pirates games, and then goes home to have a bug-eyed staring contest with Brooks Orpik.

I seriously hate the Brewers so badly.

This made me feel better though.

Go ahead and take a few minutes to digest how awesome that was. I have no idea how he finds pants to fit over his giant cojones. This guy actually made it out of the stadium, but was caught soon thereafter. And here I thought James Harrison spearing a Browns fan was the greatest consequence of any on-field dash. Guess I was wrong. Happy Monday all.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Pirates Keep on Truckin, Pittsburgh Loses a Legend

You know you live in a special city when the loss of a vendor is front page news. But long-time Pirates/Steelers/Penguins vendor Kenny Geidel was no ordinary stadium employee. Anyone who has been to a sporting event in Pittsburgh in the past 30 years knew Kenny. A shrill, throaty "Cotton Candy Heeee!" became as much of a tradition as the national anthem, and at times more melodic. He was the embodiment of our sports teams and our city, approaching his job with a tenacious work ethic and unbreakable spirit.

The grass will still be green and the ice will still be pure, but a small part of the Pittsburgh sports experience is lost forever. We'll miss you, Kenny.

To the business of baseball:

18-18. Basically the exact definition of mediocre. But for Pirate fans, this is as good as we've had it for a while. And here's the kicker: it seems as if we have nowhere to go but up. The Pirates are in every game, and are managing to pull out wins when their young star offensive players are putting up numbers like this:

Andrew McCutchen- .242 BA, 7 HR, 19 RBI
Jose Tabata- .226 BA, 3 HR, 6 RBI
Pedro Alvarez- .202 BA, 1 HR, 7 RBI

If someone would have said to me in March that the Pirates would be at .500 in May with Andrew McCutchen batting under .250, I'd have kicked them in the groin for being so dumb.

Truly, the surprise of the season to this point has been the starting pitching. The Pirates boast four current starters with ERA's in the three's. Consider that in 2010, the Pirates didn't even have one starter (at least 15 games started) below four. Coupling consistent starting pitching with a solid bullpen (currently minus the young set up man, Evan Meek) is going to keep you in games. If the Pirates can keep getting this type of pitching performance and get their young hitters on track, they all of a sudden become a division contender.

Dear Lord, did I just type that? A division contender? The numbers back me up here. In 2010, in the largest division in baseball, there were only two winning teams. 2009 was the same story. The Pirates are currently 9-6 within the division. If they can continue to beat the teams below them (Milwaukee-a HUGE if-, Houston and Chicago), while occasionally stealing a series with St. Louis or Cincinnati, then it's not a preposterous thought.

A guy can dream, right?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

"Real Caps Fans Should Hope to get Swept"

I can't even explain how much I love the Washington Capitals message board. There's no better tonic to help you forget about the pain of the Pens losing in the first round of the playoffs. So as I'm going through my time-tested ritual of perusing the Caps boards after another painful playoff loss, I come across this gem of a headline:

"Real Caps Fans Should Hope to get Swept"

My first thought was, "OK, they just lost, people are talking irrationally, and this is probably just some drunk who everyone will rail against." Aha, I overestimated Caps fans once again. Here are some of the responses:

"100% AGREE! I am going to be angry if I have to watch this sorry team play anymore after tomorrow night. I think the players don't like (or at least have absolutely no respect) for BB so we may see, and I hope we do, a collective F-U Bruce collapse tomorrow night."

"Well we definitely need a new coach. Getting swept might do that for us. I actually like watching TB play, so they'll be fun to cheer for next round."

"I think when Tampa Bay scores first,they'll roll over. "

"I agree wholeheartedly"

Those are pretty much Caps fans in a nutshell. They even have an "Official Fire Bruce Boudreau Petition" that has 90 replies. Sometimes I can't even believe there are any Caps fans left, because most of them appear to want to lie down in the middle of the Beltway during rush hour. Truly, that's how the players looked after last night's game as well. Every game that Tampa Bay wins further validates the Penguins season. At least we put up a fight. When the Caps had to make a play, they folded in a major way.

Even after the game, things got even better, with Bruce Boudreau throwing players and refs under the bus so quickly that you'd think that they were keeping him from getting to a Dunkin Donuts.

Bruce Boudreau being a a fat whiny douche.

Unbelievable stuff. Especially that he calls out Eric Fehr by name. I've watched this series, and Fehr has been one of the most impressive Caps. He gives it his all on every shift, a fact that Pens fans learned during the Winter Classic. Boudreau even has the gall to call out the refs for his Too Many Men penalty while they were on the power play in the first, negating a Caps goal.

NEWS FLASH: If you have six guys on the ice, YOU HAVE TOO MANY MEN.

After this, Boudreau casts even more blame on the refs, saying that Malone's game-winning goal shouldn't have counted because Malone's stick hits Neuvirth's pad.

If you stop the video at 0:50, you can see that D-Man John Carlson's skate is colliding with Neuvirth's pad at a far greater velocity that Ryan Malone's stick. In fact, before the puck even goes in the net, Malone's stick is completely off Neuvirth, as Carlson's skate continues to push him away from the puck. Boudreau is a ridiculous joke of a coach.

Can't wait to see how the "Real Caps Fans" show up in Game 4.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Why all the fuss over Rashard Mendenhall?

The increasingly controversial Steelers Running Back Rashard Mendenhall took to Twitter yesterday to espouse his views on the death of Osama bin Laden. Needless to say, his thoughts were really not a majority position.

His other tweets included:

"We'll never know what really happened. I just have a hard time believing a plane could take a skyscraper down demolition style"

"I believe in God. I believe we're ALL his children. And I believe HE is the ONE and ONLY judge."

"For those of you who said you want to see Bin Laden burn in hell and piss on his ashes, I ask how would God feel about your heart?"

So basically, we learn that Mendenhall is a 9/11 truther and likely a devout Christian. The explosive reaction to these tweets was alarming to me for a few reasons.

1) People putting words in Mendenhall's mouth.

Let's use Will DePaoli over at The Insider on Pittsburgh Sports as an example. His headline read, "Controversial Comments? Rashard Mendenhall Speaks Favorably of Osama Bin Laden, Questions People Celebrating his Death". First off, at NO POINT does Mendenhall speak "favorably" of bin Laden. He simply says that he's not sure he believes the picture that the American government has painted of him as the mastermind of 9/11. DePaoli might as well have put a turban on Mendenhall's head, which is of course ridiculous. To imply that he is supporting terrorists is preposterous.

2) Mendenhall being painted as unpatriotic.

Again, completely ridiculous. Just because someone questions a majority position doesn't make them unpatriotic. In fact, quite the opposite. This country was built on questioning the status quo and searching for our own personal truths. First amendment, baby. Mendenhall is free to say and feel however he wants to. He is simply exercising his right as an American.

3) 9/11 "truthers" are hardly a fringe group.

This is a group of people that include Ralph Nader, former congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura, a significant number of WTC/Pentagon survivors (most famously William Rodriguez, who was a WTC janitor who was in the basement and claimed there were explosions in the basement and lobby before any plane hit), former CIA vets, a group of nearly 1500 architects, and many more. These are not "bin Laden supporters", but rather, people that simply want answers to some of their questions. According to a Scripps-Howard poll, nearly 1/3 of all Americans believe the way that Mendenhall does, that either 9/11 was an inside job, or that at the very least, the government knew of the attacks, and did nothing to stop it. People who categorize this group as lunatics simply refuse to acknowledge their true aim; to figure out ALL of the answers behind their concerns.

I'm not saying that I agree with Mendenhall's beliefs. On a personal note, I'm very conflicted as to what I think happened on 9/11. When two groups often rail against each other from wildly conflicting viewpoints, the truth usually happens to be somewhere in the middle. That's how I feel about 9/11. The government explains a lot, and to assume a governmental conspiracy is to assume that the government is hyper-competent, which most of us would say it isn't. However, the 9/11 conspiracy theorists do ask legitimate questions.

Regardless, chastising Mendenhall and aligning him with terrorists is not only unethical, but extraordinarily ignorant. Does Joe Schmo on Twitter know any more than Rashard Mendenhall about 9/11? No. So why the hate for someone who simply has a difference of opinion? I don't use social media to denigrate people who like chocolate ice cream just because I like vanilla. Really, what's the difference?

As American citizens, we owe it to each other to respect different thoughts and beliefs. We should respect Mendenhall's and he should respect ours. And in the light of intellectualism and free speech, we shouldn't ridicule his thoughts, but rather use his thoughts to re-examine our own and to continually challenge each other. By acknowledging our different beliefs, we can reinforce what we know and what we don't, and continue to strive forward in pursuit of the unknown.