Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Pistons Fire Curry and Today’s Other Headlines

The Detroit Pistons fired Coach Michael Curry today after one disappointing season. The Pistons snapped their 6 conference finals streak after free falling to the Eastern Conference 8 seed before losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers in round 1 of the playoffs. The Cavs swept the Pistons with double digit wins in each game. They could not even sell out playoffs games after ticket sales plummeted.

I find the timing surprising and do not agree with this decision. In firing his old teammate, GM Joe Dumars put the Pistons in an odd position. A day before the free agency period starts, the Pistons are coach less. Dumars said Curry was safe after the first round exit, but went back on his word. With no clear cut replacement available (although former Bad Boy Bill Laimbeer resigned from the Detroit Shock for an NBA job and Avery Johnson is sitting at ESPN waiting by his phone), the Pistons are now paying Larry Brown, Flip Saunders and Michael Curry, in addition to the new coach. With so much locked up in coaching for the time being, it could take some away from free agents. Given only one year, and a terrible situation where an obvious cap (and jersey and ticket sales) deal was made, Curry was asked to play youngsters as they tried to create a new core of talent. Sure, he juggled the lineup a lot (like having Rip come off the bench) but that was more out of desperation. If he was “the guy” then he was not given time to reach his potential. The Pistons, all though loaded with talent and potential, may slip farther behind the Celtics, Magic, Cavaliers (now with Shaq) and the Bulls.
Jason Kidd is being courted to come back to the Mavericks or quarterback the New York Knicks. The Knicks, which are using a Coach D’Antonio high flying offense, could be appealing for the aging All-Star. Mark Cuban is meeting with Kidd tonight when free agency begins.

Scott Gomez was traded to the Montreal Canadiens from the New York Rangers in a 6 player deal. The former New Jersey Devil star never caught on in New York, scoring 28 Goals in two seasons with the Rangers. The Canadiens, under new ownership with the Molson Family, are looking to reload and the Rangers are looking to clear up cap space and rebuild. NHL and NBA free agency begins at July 1st.

Jay Bouwmeester just inked a 5 year $33 million dollar deal with the Calgary Flames after having his rights traded to them earlier this week. The Florida Panthers kept Bouwmeester in hopes of making the playoffs, but narrowly missed out to the Canadiens. The Panthers received defenseman Jordan Leopold in the deal. Yes that’s right, the Calgary Flames have Robyn Regehr, Dion Phaneuf and Jay Bouwmeester on the same roster.
The Cubs are 3.5 out of first place after being blanked by the Pirates. The Cubs have the fifth best team ERA in the MLB with 3.83 but cannot get the offense going.

Thoughts From My Desk June 30th Edition

  • Ed Belfour, 44 years old, wishes to make a comeback in the NHL. His agent is contacting teams for a possible deal to be signed before training camps start. The Red Wings always want to sign veteran goalies and could be a logical choice. The Wings showed interest in Belfour before signing Dominick Hasek in 2003. Belfour last played in Sweden in the 2007-2008 season.
  • The K-Wings, Western Michigan University and Kalamazoo are working out a deal to build a new arena in downtown Kalamazoo for Hockey and Basketball. The K-Wings are moving up in minor league Hockey, from the International Hockey League to the East Coast Hockey League (equivalent to baseball's AA leagues. The American Hockey League would be AAA.) and desperately need a new arena. The same can be said for the Broncos, with Lawson Arena being over 35 years old. We all saw what happened to Miami of Ohio when the built new facilities and made the Frozen Four this year before a monumental collapse kept them from the title game. Who is paying for all this and how much has not been determined, but a idea thrown around has been raising restaurant taxes from 6% to 7% for Kalamazoo. In November a vote will determine how far this can go. Bronco Men's Basketball could also be involved as University Arena is also in need of some repairs. More on this story when it becomes available.
  • The Detroit Lions traded for Wide Receiver Dennis Northcutt from the Jacksonville Jaguars for Safety Gerald Alexander. With 7 safeties on the roster the injury prone Alexander was deemed expendable for the 31 year old Northcutt, who is now the most veteran wide receiver on the roster. He adds depth behind Calvin "Megatron" Johnson for the upcoming season.

NBA Analysis from Guest Correspondent Nick Felver

Since Basketball is not my strongest sport (I think I can hold my own in college but definitely not the NBA) and all the major sports networks and publications have their own guest correspondents, so will I. Introducing the newest member of Season Tickets With Weston Corbitt, my roommate and local Basketball expert, Nick Felver. A Bulls fan and a wealth of knowledge, look for him to breakdown everything on the hardwood.

-Weston Corbitt

The big story of the draft has to be the Timberwolves parlaying their multitude of picks into four point guards and a shooting guard. Apparently, there are no other positions on a basketball squad. While at first glance, the drafting of four point guards is sheer lunacy, the T-wolves have been wheeling and dealing and are now down to two, Johnny Flynn and Ricky Rubio. Rubio could fetch some value on the trade market, making Flynn Minnesota’s point guard of the future.

Blake Griffin is a freak of nature. If only it wasn’t for that durned Clippers curse…

At first I was thrilled with the Bull’s draft. They needed to get some scoring power down low and taking James Johnson at 16, while a bit undersized, fits the bill. I was excited about Taj Gibson because he is a 6’10” beast, but it seems like his game mirrors that of Joakim Noah and Tyrus Thomas in that he’s not much of a scorer. Perhaps this pick could have been used to shore up the perimeter with the expected loss of Ben Gordon to free agency and the potential loss of Kirk Hinrich to a trade. Wayne Ellington or Sam Young would have been nice here.

Hansbrough could be the next Christian Laettner. A ringing endorsement, I know. He’s physical enough for the NBA but that patented flip-shot of his will get blocked now.

I’m totally flabbergasted by the hornets taking a point guard with their first pick. Hey New Orleans, you have this dude named Chris Paul. He’s pretty good.

Not too sure about the Pistons. Austin Daye has great height at 6’11” but doesn’t have the weight to play down low. DaJuan Summers is a strong physical player at 6’9” and 243 pounds. They have potential but isn’t Detroit pretty set on the wings with Tayshawn and Rip? Could be some trades coming. After all, no one is safe according to Dumars.

On another local note, MSU alum Goran Suton gets a look in the second round from the Utah Jazz. He fits in at least visually with the crew of white forwards that the Jazz have assembled. He’ll get a chance because he’s long and can shoot, but he could be playing in Europe for a year or two.

The Spurs get another late steal in DaJuan Blair. He breaks faces, arms, and wills in his quest for rebounds. He and Tim Duncan should become good buddies down low for San Antonio.

Richard Jefferson Starship to the Spurs revitalizes Duncan and Co. Shaq to the Cavs will be more fun than a barrel of spider monkeys. Oh yeah, he should help on the court also. Vince Carter will be fun to watch in Orlando but they must re-sign Turkoglu.

Free agency starts July 1st. I love this time of year and can’t wait for next season.

-Nick Felver

Sunday, June 28, 2009

US Soccer: So Close Yet So Far

After watching US Soccer play as well as they did against Spain, beating the top ranked team in the world with a record winning streak on the line, and as bad as they have in a loss in Costa Rica I have mixed feelings about the Americans chances in next year’s World Cup. Of course the US has the talent to hang with the best teams in the world. We beat Spain with a lot on the line and outplayed Brazil, the fifth ranked team, for almost 46 minutes. Then a collapse of monumental proportions saw the Americans give up three (maybe four, as Kaka had a possible goal turned away by the refs after Tim Howard pushed it away ) goals and played on their heels for the entire second half. Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan showed their world class talent with two quick strike goals carrying over the momentum from the semifinal match versus the Spanish. Sure, the US were without Michael Bradley (red card) and Brian Ching (leg injury) but that is no excuse to blow a 2-0 lead. Hopefully we continue to improve and carry this over into qualifying and the World Cup next summer in South Africa. We probably do not have the depth or overall talent to consistently beat the best teams in the world.

How I would Reload the Red Wings

After the absolute crushing heart breaking loss to the most hated Pittsburgh Penguins, Red Wings fans such as I have already become restless. After last year’s Cup and the addition of the best free agent available in Hossa, I thought a repeat was a lock. Hossa was dynamite in the regular season but lacked that same scoring prowess in the post season. I’ll be frank. Dump Hossa. He locks up money the Red Wings could A. use to sign other high priced talented scorers, (Marion Gaborik, Vincent Lecavalier) or B. make our case for the Bouwmeester sweepstakes (yeah Calgary, he’ll test the market just like Leopold) or C. use at the trade deadline. Hossa has only showed up for one Stanley Cup playoffs in his career (Pittsburgh 2008) and is a liability for distracting press coverage and lack of production in the playoffs.
So Hossa is toast. Next, let Samuelson walk. He has little production and Ericsson can replace his cannon at the point on power plays. That’s money saved and a freed up roster spot for Leino, Abdelkader or a FA. I’d like to resign Hudler, but I’ll assume he finds “greener” pastures elsewhere. Another roster spot and more money available for Holland. Kirk Maltby is worthless, and hardly played any. He doesn’t produce and is only mildly a grinder who won’t drop the gloves. He can go to Grand Rapids or anywhere he likes, just not on my Red Wings. Holland is right in letting Chelios go. He played little and the young defenseman coming up can develop more in the NHL than Grand Rapids. Stuart forgot how to play as Stuart during the finals especially Game 7. A lot of people are calling for his head, and maybe they are right. If a trade is pending, his value is still high and moving him wouldn’t be devastating. Kronwall came into his own and Ericsson is going to be an elite defenseman. A gritty winger (please no more Darren McCarty!) or some depth forward could be valuable. Lilja’s injury could be career ending. That would be brutal because of the amazing progress he made this year. I am a former Lilja hater, but he really turned it around and it would be a shame to lose him. This is not a popular decision, but I would let Conklin go. It is put up or shut up time for Jimmy Howard or Daniel Larsson. Howard has had plenty of seasoning and he needs time up to show what he has. If he falters, the Wings can trade for a solid backup in the season. Then we will know whether Howard is worth having around. The Red Wings first rounder from last year Thomas McCollum is waiting for his chance in just a few short years.
Assuming no retirements or trade requests from anybody else, the Red Wings should look very similar from last year. Not that it’s a bad thing as we were one game from repeating. The changes I would implement would be summed up as following: Hudler, Samuelson, Conklin, Hossa, Chelios, are out. That would save the Red Wings roughly ten million dollars, moving us around ten million under the cap, which stayed at last year’s total. Call up Leino, Abdelkader, Helm (if his spot isn’t already locked up), Kopecky, Howard or Larsson and possibly Jakub Kindl or Derrick Meech. Ericsson would resume playing in Detroit like he did in the playoffs. With the money we saved from letting people go and our core locked up for the next decade we go after Gaborik. Lecavalier will most likely want to stay in the Eastern Conference. He already has a Cup too, so that will not factor as it did last summer for Hossa. Gaborik has spent his entire career in Minnesota and with a new coach, he could want out. He would be signable for the Wings as well, with a short term deal possible. I know what you’re saying, “Weston, another Cup hungry scoring winger? What is the difference?” We got to get the bad mojo away from Motown and sign somebody who is used to the Western Conference and for once play in an offensive friendly system. Without him being held back in the defensive Wild style of play, he can truly show off his amazing skills. That should be enough to carry the Wings to the top of the Conference, and a move before the deadline can put us over the top.
In recap, it is a lot of staying put and rebuilding from within. It is hard to forecast who will be on the trading block come the trade deadline. I am counting on a lot of youngsters to step up like they did in the postseason, but I hate to see prospects rot in Grand Rapids when they earned a chance to play in Detroit (see Kyle Quincy, now a LA King). We reload the Griffins with deep drafts every year, but it could be a lean year for mid season call ups. I can see this team going to the Stanley Cup Finals again, and with the added experience and Babcock coaching, anything can happen.
Weston’s 2009-2010 Detroit Red Wings Starting Lineup
Lebda-Lilja (if not recovered, substitute Meech or Kindl or an untraded Stuart)

Friday, June 12, 2009

Weston Corbitt's Pregame Speech to the Detroit Red Wings, Gam 7 Stanley Cup Finals

Goalies, Defenseman and Forwards of the Detroit Red Wings!

You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have
striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The
hopes and prayers of real hockey loving people everywhere march with you.
In company with our brave allies and brothers-in-arms on
other Organizations, you will bring about the destruction of the Pittsburgh war
machine, the elimination of Penguin tyranny over the oppressed peoples of
Pennsylvania, and security for ourselves in a free world.

Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well
equipped and battle hardened. He will fight savagely.

But this is the year 2009! Much has happened since the Penguins triumphs of
1991-92. The National Hockey League have inflicted upon the Penguins great defeats,
in open ice, man-to-man matchups. Our umbrella powerplay offensive has seriously reduced their
strength on the penalty kill and their capacity to wage war on the ice. The Joe Louis Arena have given us an overwhelming superiority in talent and players, and placed at our disposal great reserves of ultra talented Euro players.
The tide has turned! The greatest fans in the world are cheering together to
I have full confidence in your courage and devotion to duty and skill in the Stanley Cup Finals. We will accept nothing less than another Stanley Cup!

Good luck! And let us beseech the blessing of Almighty Gordie Howe upon this great
and noble undertaking.