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Saturday, April 6, 2013

NCAA Final Four Cash-In

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NCAA Final Four Cash-In

We're back! After a bit of a hiatus, the batteries are re-charged and we are ready to go bringing you two great ATS picks for today's NCAA Men's Final Four.

Lets start with one important note - the Big East is the toughest and therefore most tournament ready conference every season so it is no surprise that the conference's two best teams this season in Louisville and Syracuse have made it to the Final Four. Lets keep this in mind as we move through our selections.

Without further adieu, lets get to the picks!
#1 Louisville Cardinals (33-5, 23-14-1 ATS) 
vs. #9 Wichita State Shockers (30-8, 20-14-1 ATS)
Line: Louisville -10, O/U 132.5
Louisville can be a frustrating team from a betting stand point. In the first half of games they seem to do just enough to keep it close or maintain a small lead then the 2nd half comes rolling around and they explode for double digit victories. Louisville coach Rick Pitino calls Wichita State "the best defense we will have played all season." With all due respect to the new Hall-of-Fame inductee, that honor belongs to the team they will be playing in the Championship game, but we will save that for later.


Louisville is 16-3 ATS on neutral court over the last 2 seasons.
Louisville is 15-4 ATS in NCAA tournament games over the last 2 seasons
The last eight Louisville games have gone OVER the total
Wichita St. is 17-8 ATS vs. teams with a winning record this season
Wichita St. is 10-3 ATS in non-conference games this season
+10 is the most points Wichita St has received all season

Louisville will win the game. I think that sentiment is pretty unanimous across the country, the big question is by how much? If you are a high roller and want to play the -600 with Louisville, be my guest. Its just about guaranteed money. If you are looking for a better return on your money, the majority of experts out there are taking the points with Wichita St, expecting a fairly close game. Personally, I like the under 132.5. The early games traditionally go under as teams take some time to get adjusted to the atmosphere. Louisville will play defense well enough to keep the Shockers in the low 60's, if not 50's. On the other side, Wichita St. will hang around in the first half before the better team takes over down the stretch.

Pick: UNDER 132.5 (or Louisville -600 for the real high rollers)

#4 Syracuse Orange (30-9 SU, 20-15 ATS) 
vs. #4 Michigan Wolverines (30-7 SU, 18-16-1 ATS)
 Line: Michigan -2, O/U 129.5
I was very surprised to see Michigan open as two point favorites. I really believed this one would be a pick'em or even Syracuse at -1. Instead, its the Orange and their seemingly impenetrable 2-3 zone-defense getting two. Remember what I said about Big East teams earlier? Well, let me back it up here with a trend I love. Jim Boeheim is 3-0 in Final Four games - has never lost, ever. Granted three games is a fairly small sample size, but I love this team's preparation, length and defensive style. They have held opponents to a shooting percentage of just 29%, holding two opponents – Marquette & Montana – under 40 points. They’re allowing an average of 45.8 points per game thus far in the tourney. 

Michigan comes in with probably the most offensive depth in the country led by the National Player of the Year in Trey Burke. If they can get quick transition buckets before the Cuse defense can get set, they have the horses to get the job done offensively. Michigan has been fun to watch this season. Unfortunately, this will be the last time we watch them play this season and it is their defense that will be the cause of it. They are allowing 62.9 points per game. While not an offensive juggernaut, Syracuse should get to, and surpass that number, while keeping the Wolverines in the low 60's themselves.

Michigan is 4-0 ATS over its last four games
Michigan is 10-8 ATS versus teams that made the NCAA tournament this season.
Syracuse is 5-2 ATS over its last seven games
Syracuse is 3-0 Straight Up in Final Four appearances under Jim Boeheim

Pick:  SYRACUSE +2 (I like the Orange outright at +110 as well, but at nearly the same odds, why not take the 2 point cushion)

Sizing Up the Final Four

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 photo photo14_zps61a40281.jpg
Sizing Up the Final Four

And then there were four... Now, with brackets for most busted and hair having been pulled out across the country, we are down to four teams and four very different stories. Lets take a look at the match-ups and how they got there...

#9 Wichita State Shockers vs. #1 Louisville Cardinals
6pm, CBS
Two very different storiesline at play with today's opening game. It seems every year we get that David vs. Goliath match-up. This year that Cinderella team tearing up your bracket all the way to the final four are the Wichita State Shockers. Shockers indeed. A number nine seed in the West out of the Missouri Valley Conference, Wichita State knocked off #8 Pittsburgh, #1 Gonzaga, #13 La Salle and #2 Ohio State en route to a trip to Atlanta for the school's first ever appearance in the final four. Of the four teams we clearly know least about the team appropriately known as the Shockers. Perhaps Freshmen Guard Ron Baker said it best, "You’ve got a kid from Nigeria, you’ve got a kid from Rockford, Illinois ... you’ve got guys who have transferred, walked on, had times when they didn’t know if they would play again ... It’s remarkable how we’re all on the team, and we’ve got all our individual stories -- but it makes for a great big giant story, in itself.” 

As for the team they will be facing - Louisville - #1 seed from the Mid West and a final four pick for many going into the tournament, the Final Four is more or less business as usual. And yet, despite the expected, this team is surrounded by perhaps the most unexpected headline of all 64 teams in the tournament this year. During Sunday's win over Duke sending the Cardinals back to the Final Four, the headline was not the outcome but instead one tragic event that took place in the 2nd quarter. Sophomore Guard Kevin Ware, in an attempt to save a ball headed for the sideline took and awkward step and suffered one of the most gruesome leg fractures you will ever see in sports. Players on the bench and fans in the stands were in shock for several minutes while trainers rushed to the player's aid. Using it as a rallying cry in the 2nd half the team charged on to an inspired 85-63 victory, punching their ticket to Atlanta. They will continue to use Ware as their motivation on Sunday as they look to stymie the sharp shooting Wichita State offense.

# Syracuse Orange vs. #4 Michigan Wolverines
8:45pm, CBS
Teams with significantly clashing strengths will meet up in the latter of the two games as the Syracuse Orange and their impossible modified zone defense will go up against arguably the best offense in the country led by National Player of the Year, Trey Burke. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim has his team right back where he wants them. Boeheim's patented zone-defense has given opponents a new meaning to the term March Madness, holding opposing teams to shooting percentages of 29% or lower in each of their games thus far - a stunning statistic. The Orange have length and athleticism across the board making them difficult match-ups at both ends of the court.

The key to this game will be the ability for Michigan's elite offense to figure out Syracuse's zone. No team has done it thus far, then again, no team has had the offensive fire power of Michigan. The team rolls out shooter after shooter, led by Burke but strongly complemented by Glenn Robinson III, Tim Hardaway Jr., Nik Stauskas, and Mitch McGary. Stop one, they will go to another and just keep rolling. That offense has already toppled two top ten defenses in Florida and Kansas, why not make it a third. Ah, but then we come to that achilles heal - defense. So far Michigan has been able to overwhelm teams on offense to the point where opponents are left throwing up 3's trying to play catch-up. Will that continue on Saturday? It is unlikely that they are going to put up 70+ on Syracuse. If they are going to win, they will need to step things on the defensive end and keep things close.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Puckmania: Trade Deadline Special

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Puckmania: Trade Deadline Special
By Wild on Sports NHL Analyst Josh Tarr

Christmas in April has passed for us Hockey fans. This years trade deadline, as always, was full of game changing deals that will make or break the chances of a Stanley Cup run. Here is my top three for buyers, sellers and duds at the trade deadline this season.

3: Minnesota Wild: Any time you pick up a player of Jason Pominville’s caliber, you got to assume that you’ve taken a step in the right direction. It might have come at a steep price, but now you have to assume the Minnesota Wild will be in the playoffs for a long time, partially thanks to that deal.

2: Pittsburgh Penguins: Iginla, Murray, Morrow and Jokinen. Those would be marquee players on a team even without Crosby, Malkin, Neal, Fleury, Letang and others. The one downside for Pittsburgh may be their lack of draft picks next season.

1: Columbus Blue Jackets: Never, and I mean NEVER, would I have ever dreamed of putting the Blue Jackets as deadline winners, but by gosh they are. I’m completely puzzled about the prospect of trading Marian Gaborik. In one game with Columbus, he has an assist and a game winning goal. Watch out for this team in the playoffs.

3: Dallas Stars: Somehow this team is still in the playoff bubble. The stars unloaded three of their biggest players this year (Ryder, Morrow and Jagr).

2: Buffalo Sabres: The Physical approach for this Buffalo Sabres team just did not work as planned, and it is obviously time to rebuild. Regehr, Leipold and Pominville are now gone but at least they will have plenty of high draft picks to work with this and next year.

1: Calgary Flames: Ah, my favorite team to pick on. A lot of GM’s agree with me too. Iginla, Bouwmeester, Comeau are gone and Kipprusoff basically told management he will ride his contract out and retire at the end of this year instead of allowing a trade and potentially helping his team. How in the world does Jay Feaster still have a job?

3: New York Islanders: I am pretty surprised that a team who is so desperate to make a playoff bid such as the Islanders didn’t make any moves at the deadline. Make no mistake, I truly believe JT will push New York into a surprisingly deep playoff run.

2: Montreal Canadiens: The Canadiens always seem to be busy at this time of year but only made one very minor deal after acquiring Michael Ryder a few weeks back. It’s my personal belief that they we’re in the hunt for Jaromir Jagr, but Dallas Stars head of Personel Mark Recchi swayed him to accept a deal to Boston.

1: Chicago Blackhawks: Chicago made one trade at the deadline, but it was a minor league swap with Boston. Despite the fact that Chicago should of probably bolstered their lineup at the deadline, one might wonder how that’s even possible.

Incase you miss it, here are all of the trades that went down between April 2nd and 3rd:

TB: F Adam Hall
7th rd pick (2013)
CAR: D Marc-Andre Bergeron

Definitely a positive addition for the Hurricanes blue line for a low price. This trade proves that Steve Yzerman probably shouldn’t be running the show for any hockey team.

DAL: D Brandon Gaunce
COL: F Tomas Vincour

Basically a swap for prospects who haven’t been playing to their full potential. I’m not too surprised either team believes that this trade actually improves their depth chart.

TB: F Phillipe Paradis
CHI: D Kirill Gotovets (Rights)

Tampa receives a minor leaguer that bounces around from team to team, not much of a key addition. I had to do some research on Gotovets, he’s a 2009 7th round pick and a Cornell product. He is considered an ‘offensive defenseman’ even though his numbers don’t show for it. He has a very hard slap shot but lacks physique.

VAN: F Derek Roy
DAL: D Kevin Connauton
2nd Rd pick (2013)

I think a lot of people in Vancouver are giving Gillies some praise for once this year. This trade does about as good of a job filling the void of Kesler as possible. Connauton may serve as a good 7th defenseman for Dallas this year and there’s no questioning that a mid-late 2nd round pick can still provide a fantastic hockey player down the road.

BOS: F Jaromir Jagr
DAL: F Lane Macdermid
F Cody Payne
2nd rd pick (2013(turns to 1st if BOS makes ECF))

This trade compensates Boston for the (almost) Iginla deal, and will help bolster the Bruins abysmal power play. It may also pick up the speed of the Bruins game. Make no mistake though, Lane Macdermid is an extremely physical forward and Dallas will prove to be a good destination for the young forward who has spent most of the season on the Bruins bench. Not to mention the high draft pick the Stars received in this deal.

NYR: F Ryan Clowe
SJ: 2013-14 2nd rd picks
2013 3rd rd pick

Uh… A little bit awe struck that the Rangers would give up so many high draft picks for a guy who has produced virtually nothing all season long. The Rangers are in trouble and this trade, any way you look at it, does not help their woes. The sharks keep dumping players and find ways to win when it matters most. It’s as simple as that.

BOS: F Rob Flick
CHI: F Max Sauve

Another deal involving two minor leaguers, although Sauve may be closer to an NHL roster spot. Sauve has more offensive abilities of the two and Flick has a much heavier physical aspect to his game.

EDM: F Jerred Smithson
FLA: 4th rd pick (2013)

The only part of this deal that humors me is that Smithson had a baby born in Miami less than 24 hours ago and now has to move to Edmonton… Poor kid.

SJ: D Scott Hannan
NSH: Conditional 7th rd pick

If this trade were made in 2008, it would be catastrophically one-sided. In 2013, this is the kind of deal where you can just shrug your head and accept the fact that this deal is pretty even for both teams.

PIT: F Jussi Jokinen
CAR: Conditional 7th rd pick

Hey Pittsburgh, you could’ve picked up Jokinen a couple of days ago on the waiver wire for NOTHING. But I guess that’s the next best thing.

TB: G Ben Bishop
OTT: F Cory Conacher
4th rd pick (2013)

Not surprised Yzerman fished for a young goalie. Extremely surprised to see such a good rookie on the move in Conacher.

PHI: G Steve Mason
CBJ: G Michael Leighton
3rd rd pick (2013)

If Steve Mason wasn’t good in Columbus, he won’t be any better in Philadelphia. This is an all around bad trade for the Flyers when you consider they gave up the better goalie along with a 3rd rounder.

MIN: F Jason Pominville
BUF: F Johan Larsson
G Matt Hackett
1st rd pick (2013)
2nd rd pick (2014)

Minnesota’s lineup just got a lot more impressive. If they believe their roster will take them deep into the playoffs, then that might justify giving up two high draft picks for Pominville.

CBJ: F Marian Gaborik
D Blake Parlett
D Steve Delisle
NYR: F Derrick Brassard
F Derek Dorsett
D John Moore
6th rd pick (2013)

When the Rick Nash trade went down, I thought the Rangers won the deal in a landslide. That wasn’t necessarily the case. This time around, I don’t think there will be any question that Columbus got the better return.

CBJ: F Blake Comeau
CGY: 5TH rd pick (2013)

Somehow I think a 5th round pick is too low of a price for Blake Comeau. I am very sorry for all you Calgary Flames fans. When Jay Feaster finally gets fired, give this guy a chance. points thumbs to self

SJ: F Raffi Torres
PHX: 3rd rd pick (2013)

Are the Sharks buyers or sellers this year? Whatever they’re doing, it’s sure as hell working.

WSH: F Martin Erat
F Michael Latta
NSH: F Filip Forsberg

Despite the fact that Forsberg is regarded as a top prospect, I really do believe the Capitals got the better end of the deal. Erat is a quality forward that the Capitals will benefit from having in the short term.

BOS: D Wade Redden
STL: 7th rd pick (2014)

This is an interesting defensive pick up by Boston, who seriously needed to make a move to improve their blue line. Chiarelli was working in Ottawa when Chara and Redden were paired together in 2006, but I don’t believe we’ll be seeing that pair unless Redden seriously improves his game.

COL: 4th rd pick (2014)
TOR: F Ryan O’Byrne

For a team who hasn’t made the playoffs in two lockouts, this isn’t the kind of ‘improvement’ I’d assume Toronto was going to make at the deadline.

NFL Draft Preview: New York Giants

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2013 NFL Draft Capsules:

New York Giants
 By Wild on Sports NFL Analyst Davis McGregor
On the Clock: New York Giants

Team Overview:
After winning two Super Bowls over the last 5 years, it is kind of a disappointment for the New York Giants to have only gone 9-7 last season. Granted Tom Coughlin seems like he is going to be checked into a retirement home at any minute, expectations for the reigning champs were high last year.

And to make matters worse, they just happen to be playing in the most difficult divisions in the league. Rookie RG3 is the reason the G-Men went from winning the Super Bowl to losing their division.

Right now the Eli Manning needs to step up to not only regain his team as a top team in the league, but establish himself as an elite quarterback. If that’s gonna happen some help from the Giants front office in this draft.

Team Needs:

1. Tight End
2. Linebacker
3. Safety

The pride of New York’s team has always come from their defense. Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre Paul are taking care of business on the front end, but there’s a hole right in the center on that defense. Along with some issues over the top of it as well.

New York isn’t too far out of the running for contention winning the NFC East, but some work needs to done if they hope to string together some playoff wins.

Likely Fits:
Mathias Kiwanuka is managing at his spot as an inside linebacker but is a dwindling player among stars. Just because Justin Tuck is playing up front doesn’t mean a team can slouch at the linebacker position.

One player coming into he draft this year that is the farthest thing from a slouch, is Georgia’s Alec Ogletree.

Ogletree is on the radar of a good deal of teams and for good reason. He has proved himself capable of commanding a defense and stepping up to get the job done no matter what. He is a play maker that can force turnovers and break up the big plays. An incredible athlete that will maybe drop down to the Giants pick but cant be counted on. That is why Manti Te’o needs to get some looks too.

Te’o has had a roller coaster of publicity this past year. From being the Heisman Trophy finalist, to the victim of a “catfish” situation Te’o. It’s needless to say the they guy’s had a rough ride.

Contrast to his popularity, his play has been very consistent. And at a high level. Many teams had their issues with the Hawaiian linebacker, mostly due to his off the field issues. Well until the combine. At this year’s NFL Combine Te’o ran a 4.82, a time beat out by a pair of offensive tackles. Running a time a high as that definetly warrants a double check at Te’o’s profile.

However, Te’o came more prepared to the Notre Dame pro day and dropped his time down to a 4.69, finally beating out those Tackles.

While this may come as an awkward statement, just bear with me. In this case Te’o’s time seems a little skewed. He may not be able to run the fastest 40-time but when you watch the game film, the kid’s moving a hell of a lot faster than his 4.82 showed.

Te’o might not be a great pick if you’re looking to build a track team but when it comes to football, he’s your guy. The kid can flat out play and when it comes down to it, it’s about how you do on the field, not on the track.

Two years the G-Men took Prince Amukamara, a corner out of Nebraska who had high expectations of becoming the next Darrelle Revis playing in the Big City. A season plagued with injuries tore these hopes apart and ended any plans of the phrase “Amukamara Island” to rest.

With Prince back and healthy, the problem in the secondary kicks over to the safety position.

Antrel Rolle has been a key part of the Giants success on the defensive end over the last 3 seasons but as a player hitting 31 this season might see his days as a starter winding down. As young receivers start becoming faster and faster with every year, it gets hard for the aging DB’s to keep up. Only way to beat that? Draft the defensive guys that are getting just as fast.

How about a safety who can run a 4.56 40-yard dash time? Coming out of Miami, no not the school, is John Cyprien. He looks to become the 8th Florida International University student to make it to the big leagues, and by the looks of it the most successful of the bunch.

This year the FIU safety earned himself a spot at the Senior Bowl and showed off the skills that made him his schools all-time leading tackler. Cyprien finished off the 2012 season with 93 tackles and 5 turnovers. His ability to make plays all over the field is just what New York needs. When it comes down to a defense, if your team can force turnovers you will win games. Plain and simple.

That is why scooping up Cyprien in the 2nd round will make the Giants defense a much more dangerous squad.

With Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz the Giants are able to stretch the field with flashing speed. Not many teams have outside receivers that can take the top off a defense quite like these two, but what happens when the safeties double cover these receivers? No matter how good your route runners are, you need to have a check down in case they can’t get open. And with Martellus Bennett off to the Bears, that now rests upon Bear Pascoe.

When your starting tight end was your starting full back a season ago you know you’re in trouble. The Giants can’t rely on Pascoe to make the same kind of plays as Bennett had a year previous. Taking a tight end such as Tyler Eifert would create another target for Manning and open up the deep routes for Nicks and Cruz.

While most of the attention at Notre Dame went to linebacker Manti Te’o, perhaps the Giants first pick, Eifert was playing at just as elite of a level. While dealing with struggling quarterbacks, Eifert was still able to put up great numbers. Enough to win him the Mackey Award given to the nations best tight end.

As the go-to guy in the red zone for Notre Dame, New York could use that same sort of production in the end zone. In 2012 the Giants had a 54.67% touchdown rate when inside the red zone. Eifert could do a great job of not only maintaining this stat Bennett helped put up, but raising it. Martellus Bennett pulled in 5 TD grabs this past season and if Eifert gets the nod by NYC this year, the tight end production could increase dramatically.

It’ll be a fight over the Irish for New York in this first round wavering between taking a linebacker or tight end. The Giants have a need at both but at least the linebacker spot is safe for now.

Hearing Rodger Goodell call out, “With the 19th overall pick, the NY Giants select: Tyler Eifert-Notre Dame.” will be a perfect pick. By the looks of it, Tyler Eifert just might be the hidden pot of gold in this year’s draft.

Click Here to View Other Teams

Thursday, April 4, 2013

NFL Draft Preview: Dallas Cowboys

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2013 NFL Draft Capsules:

Dallas Cowboys
 By Wild on Sports NFL Analyst Davis McGregor

On the Clock: Dallas Cowboys

Team Overview:
Up until about a week ago when Jerry Jones gave Tony Romo the contract of a lifetime I would have suggested they look to the draft for a quarterback. EJ Manuel or Matt Barkley in the 2nd round. But now with Romo locked up for another 6 years they should turn their attention to other concerns.

Team Needs:
1. Offensive Line
2. Defensive Line
3. Running Back

Like every other team in the league the Cowboys are after rookies to step up their front lines. For a team that allowed 36 sacks and 75 QB hits it isn’t a surprise they’re looking to upgrade.

Demarcus Ware is also way passed his prime as needs a replacement as the edge rusher for this defense. Looking to the draft seems to be the best idea considering the free agency hasn’t been yielding too many younger pass rushers either.

So if Romo wants to earn that contract he just got, he better hope that Jerry Jones goes after a lineman on either side of the ball.

Likely Fits:
Coming from the recent NFL pipeline, Dallas should be calling the name of D.J. Fluker. Straight out of The University of Alabama, Fluker has been a key component of the Tide’s dominance in the run game, as well as providing some pass protection for A.J. McCarron.

If the Cowboys are going to be successful this season they need to be able to establish the run game. If they get this going than it should allow Romo to thrive under play action and catch the defense off guard. Granted I don’t see that giving Dez Bryant the 2000 yards he is promising but will definitely eat apart a defense.

And who better to run behind the D.J. Fluker? He’s 6’ 5” 340lbs. That’s one big boy and combined with his surprising quickness, brings together the whole package. With all the talent on the offensive line coming out this year Fluker should move to the middle of the round. Dallas is hoping down to pick 18 so they can set him up in a blue and silver jersey.

And he may not be the only ‘bama boy moving to Dallas. The Demarco Murray-Felix Jones combo has been mediocre at best so with the 2nd round pick of the 2013 draft. I say bring in someone new. So why not Fluker’s teammate Eddie Lacy.

Lacy was running behind Fluker’s blocks for the last 3 years and by contrast Fluker knows Lacy’s running style.

The Crimson Tide was carried all the way to Miami for the championship on Lacy’s back, and behind Fluker’s lead blocks. If Dallas drafts D.J. as their new right tackle, Lacy would be a powerful complementary back to that draft pick.

Taking a little bit of the load of Jones’ shoulders isn’t a bad idea either. Every game his stats dump off in the second half so if they had Lacy come in when Jones slacked; that would be one hell of a 1-2 punch with Murray thrown into the mix too. Lacy experience a similar system at Alabama when splitting carries with freshman T.J. Yeldon.

It’s rare for a situation like this to present itself to a team, a dominant tackle and running back going in proceeding rounds. Jerry Jones might be able to prove that he is fit to be the Dallas GM if he can look up and see these picks in the upcoming draft.

Choosing D.J. Fluker will take care of the offensive line, but now its time to work on the defenses big men. And now the next suggestion will not be Jesse Williams, Alabama doesn’t have the best players at every position. When it comes to building up the D-line, looking at Alabama rival LSU makes more sense.

Barkevious Mingo made a name for himself wreaking havoc throughout the SEC at Louisiana State. Something much desired in the NFL. With the league moving towards a more pass heavy system, defenses have started reacting the same way. Big, Vince Wilfork-esque, men used to be the ones down in the trenches but that’s beginning to change. Now it’s those that can rush the passer who are most coveted.

Mingo actually has a very similar play style to Dallas’ Demarcus Ware too. Both grew in college by playing in a 4-3 scheme, yet are still able to thrive in a 3-4.

If he is still available by the time Dallas comes on the clock, Mingo could be a great addition to the Cowboys defense and take over for Ware once he leaves the league. America’s team put up 34 sacks this year and the 4 that Mingo racked up at LSU would help that count out nicely.

Dallas may not have the number 1 pick, but they are still able to get the perfect player for their needs. Should Jerry Jones start rolling with the tide, he might go ‘bama all the way and choose Fluker and Lacy. Or go in a different direction with Mingo, keeping Lacy in the discussion of course. Either way this years draft is looking very good for America’s Team

Click Here for Other Team Previews 

NHL Trade Deadline Reviews Part 2

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An Ice Life: Team Trade Deadline Reviews
Part 2
By Wild on Sports NHL Analyst Brian Peirce
Winners and losers and other jumping of the gun, gut reactions.

Click Here to View Part 1 

Edmonton Oilers
We all know the Oilers, they are the team that is so awful that they have landed every offensive weapon that has been can’t miss in half a decade. They are the young guns that score in droves and have to win in shootouts. They have used the best player available strategy like the Detroit Lions have used in the NFL and they have had about the same amount of success if they make the playoffs this year. Therefore they come into the deadline as the most entertaining losers of the NHL. Did they change their moniker on this day?

Well they wisely took some of the best talent available and swapped prospects for areas of the game they are weak at, which makes it easier to say they are more prepared moving forward. Getting Fistric and keeping Smid were smart moves. However, these moves don’t wow me or make me think that they are definitely improved. They still have the biggest issue moving forward in a time-bomb cap issue. They needed to be sellers moving forward as long as they were not ready to contend, and as long as their cap situation was not structured. Hemsky at least should have been moved. I get they wanted to go for it and inspire the kids by saying we believe in you. I still think letting the youngsters play while selling parts isn’t going to make them never develop into winners.

It is my opinion that Hemsky might have just become a buy-out candidate because his 5 million has to go to Gagner, Magnus, and others moving forward. They could have gotten something for him, and they should have. I don’t think they are losers, but I don’t think they are winners.

Florida Panthers
What is there to say here? A bunch of minor deals happened that involved a lot of players and picks that aren’t necessarily going to result in anything. Cannot say if they are winners or losers, but they need to keep trying. I also think they need to leave Florida.

Los Angeles Kings
I think they are one of the four horses in the West in the playoffs. I wasn’t a fan of the Kings moving Drewiskie for a fifth, even though he was a spare part he was a good depth guy and will help Montreal a lot. However, getting Regehr for two second round picks in 2014 and 2015 was pretty awesome. They won’t miss out on this good draft while also adding the best stay at home defenseman available that will help the team get back to their style of play that won them the cup last year. Plus they cleared the space for him and their other youngsters moving forward by moving Gagne earlier in the year. I just think this is a huge win. They might have had the best addition of all the teams at the deadline.

Minnesota Wild
This team had the other candidate for the best addition, and in my opinion the winner of that award. Pomminville is a fantastic character player that has everything you want out of a winger. In my opinion his style and value will fit in with Koivu and Parise extremely well, so they might end up being the best line in all of hockey. He is hungry to win and will push them closer to the full rounded team needed to win. They are the final of the four teams to watch in the West. It was costly and it gives them cap problems next year, but if they don’t go for it now, they might have to wait until the other side of the cap valley of the next three years to go for it. I think they are winners, and it is about time.

Montreal Canadiens
Drewskie for a fifth was one of those really good moves, solid depth guy for a low cost. They did their other moves a while back which were more questionable but I think they are winners. They are a solid team that can win the Cup as of right now that added a dependable and proven depth defenseman without flipping their team upside down.

Nashville Predators
They are huge winners by getting a top ten prospect in last years draft for an old Erat that hasn’t ever proven he can help a team win and a lesser prospect. I seriously do not know how the heck this trade happened, but if Filip Forsberg turns out to be what everyone thinks he is, then this might end up being the dumbest trade in the last 10 years at least.

New Jersey Devils
Getting Sullivan back for a 7th round pick is a very large amount of offense added for the minimum value given back. Matt D'Agostini cost a fifth and but they got the 7th back, so in some way you can say that a fifth turned into two decent players that will help short term. I believe they needed to add bodies and didn’t spend much.

New York Islanders
They stood pat.

New York Rangers
Rangers added a ton and removed one player that didn’t fit with Torts. In all honesty they just got a bunch of undervalued players on their team in exchange for very little. Do not assume the first game six goal output is the norm, but they got players that fit their system. This is very important, and they completed the move to make the best player on their team Rick Nash instead of Gaborik. The New York Blue Jackets will do far better than the Columbus Rangers will in the coming years because they are a more complete team. It just shows you how a better team can pull it together at the right time. However, the Blue Jackets can get the better of it in the long run. They just never will get the better of the Nash trade. The Rangers will be a hard beat in the playoffs, if they make it. They are a tough team, and winners on this deadline.

Ottawa Senators
I think the Senators big trade was a win-win for both teams, so I will handle it all here. Ben Bishop was the third best goaltender on the team this season in an embarrassment of riches situation. While he was the third best player on the Senators between the pipes, he would be the best goaltender on half the teams in the league. He also was an AHL superstar in net. Therefore, it made perfect sense to trade for the same basic valued player to get him in Tampa. They got another young player who was an AHL all-star, actually an MVP, in Conacher. He has been one of the best offensive rookies, although most of his production came early in the season when it was harder to evaluate talent with all the rust. Bishop also had most of his value come in the month or so after Craig Anderson went down with an ankle injury.

The extra pick as the sweetener was nice, and that is because I think goaltending is a bit harder to get for Tampa so they were willing to pay it. In the end Ottawa got a high scoring forward that is young for a high save percentage goaltender that is also young and they had to spare. I don’t understand why this is though of as a hard deal to gage.

Philadelphia Flyers
I talked about the Mason trade a bit. I don’t think it is a bad idea, the guy might bounce back but I don’t think it makes them better. Their minor moves were all okay and I think they weren’t losers, but they weren’t winners.

Phoenix Coyotes
Their selling moves were good without destroying the future of the franchise. Leave that to the Arizona tea party people who are doing everything possible to drive the team out of town. The Coyotes sent Lombardi, Sullivan, and Torres out of town and it was nothing they will miss. They never made the deal for Yandle that would have set their team back, nor did they do anything to make things worse next season. I call that a win for the dogs.

Pittsburgh Penguins
I totally get why people hated the Red Wings ten years ago. It is frustrating when a team gets so much respect that it becomes like a snowball, allowing a general manager to do whatever they please. This is what happened for the Penguins this year. They are making trades where they are sending nothing back. Jussi for nothing just blows my mind, even knowing he was on waivers. I think Morrow isn’t anything significant and might even hurt the team. I think these trades could make them unstoppable or it could just mess with their chemistry. It is too soon to tell, but they were pretty much on fire going in to these trades. I don’t think this buys them the Cup but you can’t call them losers for this deadline. You can call them losers if they whine their way to some extra penalties and that pushes them over the top. I still think this team goes as Malkin goes. I don’t think they have replaced what they lost in Scudari yet and that might keep them from the Cup.

San Jose Sharks
They brought back Hannan for the cheapest cost which will help. Torres is a prick who will play for them in a rough manner, but it was kind of costly in my mind for a guy who gets suspensions as much as contributes. Hannan replaces Murray and upgrades their picks.

St Louis Blues
I think you have to wait and see how the top four defensemen work together to figure out if they were winners. They are banking on two power defensive lines with a righty and a lefty each. It is rare for a team to put that together so I think they might have a really good back end for a few years, although it will cost them on the cap. Moved Redden out of there, which was a good thing. I have always loved Jordan Leopold for his skating ability and using it to put less space between him and forwards. I think the size of Bou and the speed of Leopold gives them options in match ups with tough lines. I think they way overpaid for Bouwmesster and I am glad it was them and not Detroit. However, they were a team that needed to be aggressive to keep the fans coming. Making the playoffs consistently is very important to making money and the Blues took on some cap to keep the fans coming. I hope it works for them.

Tampa Bay Lightning
They really needed Ben Bishop and they got him for something they had extra. Conacher was a free agent they got because he was way undersized, he blew up and suddenly had enough value to get what they needed, a goaltender. I believe there is a place in the NHL for Conacher, but there is no way of knowing if he can be like Martin St. Louis or more like a Jiri Hudler. Goaltenders can be up and down so now they have a pair of young guys and can move forward. They also needed to shake up their team and did with many minor moves. I think they are winners.

Toronto Maple Leafs
There are so many articles out there about what they didn’t do. I am in the group that thinks they were wise to not trade for Luongo. They made some minor moves and added O’Bryne which is a solid add, but a bit overpaid for it. They didn’t mess around much, and they shouldn’t. They just need to make the playoffs and in this compressed season messing around a ton would hurt those chances.

Vancouver Canucks
Well, they obviously are the biggest losers and Luongo said it best, “my contract sucks.” I am not a fan of the Luongo recapture rule and I think it is simply wrong for any CBA or rule or law to be put in place that goes against what was acceptable in the past by negotiation. Everyone in the league could do these front-loaded contracts and if you didn’t like it, you were not alone. They got rid of them by making other rules and changes, and the recapture rule had only one purpose, to punish teams that followed the rules and took the risks and rewards into consideration, then had those rules changed and the risks hiked up to an extreme.

You really should check out capgeek.com and their calculator to get an idea on why no one wants Roberto on their team. The math is shaky at best, but basically if he retired as little as four years early on his contract even if due to injury both Vancouver and his new team would be on the hook for at least 1.7 million dollars of cap hit for the final four years.

If he got a career ending injury immediately after the trade then the team who just traded for him would have in the ballpark of 4 million dollars of dead cap until 2021. Who on earth would take that risk. You are talking about losing a top six forward off your roster for the better part of a decade because Vancouver did what was completely legal. Vancouver now has a toxic asset that they cannot get a bag of pucks for let alone a deal that makes sense. Vancouver was losers twice because they should realized it and moved him for nothing, much like the Jussi trade, but instead asked far too much of a team who didn't need the risk. I think the bigger losers is the NHL who decided to punish a handful of players and teams for their inability to properly negotiate a CBA back then and I think that is awful. Leave contracts in the past, in the past because you have just seen that instead of a situation that would have been better for two teams and two players being swapped, you have one guy left holding the bag. I don’t feel sorry for him, but neither do I blame him for taking the money that was freely offered. The NHL are big losers on this one.

Washington Capitals
What the hell are they thinking? I have seen a lot of Erat in my time and I wouldn't have made this trade in his prime. There is just too much long term risk for way too little short term opportunity. I could eat my words on this but I just think you are talking about moving a can’t miss top six forward for a guy who was always a really solid secondary scoring option that seems to have never helped any team go over the top and seems to be slowing down. They must see something in Michael Latta that other scouts do not see but I can’t figure this trade from any angle as shrewd.

Winnipeg Jets
They could have been the biggest seller or the biggest buyer and neither would have surprised me. They are a mystery to me. They have enough quality players, but they don’t ever seem to be on the ice, playing at their best. Instead of making a big deal, they made one minor deal getting an AHL offensive guy who isn’t producing, for an AHL leader guy who has more grit than glam. I say they are losers just because they are in the playoffs and could be the third seed, or they are out of the playoffs based only on their division. They were a team that had many pieces that are okay with a few great pieces. IF they brokered a deal or at least moved some of their large amount of UFAs they could have built a real chance in the 7 team division (ugh) next year. Instead they will likely be a bubble team that misses out more than not. Good luck on signing all those free agents.

NHL Team Trade Deadline Reviews Part 1

Wild on Sports
An Ice Life: Team Trade Deadline Reviews
By Wild on Sports NHL Analyst Brian Peirce

Winners and losers and other jumping of the gun, gut reactions.
First thing I want to say is that I love to eat crow.   I was off on this trade deadline being the most boring ever.  I think there were some interesting moves and even though the first five hours of watching were humorous at the depths they hit.  It had great parts like Mike Milbury getting a call on the air after jokingly saying no one calls him for any reason ever.  Awww, even jerks who talk out of both sides of their body have friends to call them and make everyone have a good laugh!  There is a ton to talk about, but I am glad when I am wrong like this. (I wasn’t that far off though, it still was a low end day.)
Anaheim Ducks
The Ducks are winners, and maybe the biggest of them.  I know you are saying, “But they hardly did anything?”  That is right; they could have been trading away one or more of their big named players but instead signed them.  They could have been adding a bunch of players like the Penguins but they made a few minor moves.  That moved away extra pieces for different extra pieces they felt they needed.  Now Matthew Lombardi was the biggest name they added, but they are one of the best teams in the league and didn’t mess with what was working and that was the top lines.  Usually the Cup winner is the team that made a minor move or got that one player that put them over the top.  They might not have been the latter, but they surely didn’t mess around with chemistry.  I think they are a part of a four horse race in the West.
Boston Bruins
I think the Bruins were winners. They already were the best bet to take down the front runners in Pittsburgh and they added Jagr who has shown to be a strong elder goal scorer and I think it wasn’t as expensive for them at least in draft picks.  I do not know what package was offered for Iginla.  More interesting to me was the Wade Redden pick up for a conditional seventh rounder which is likely to be a sixth rounder.  A sixth rounder doesn’t have much chance of making an impact on a team, while Wade Redden has about the same amount of chance on turning his career around.  What improves the odds is that they could try putting Wade back with Chara, where they were the best defensive pair in the league back shortly after the turn of the century in Ottawa.  The Sens bet on Wade who was the better player than Zdeno at the time and lost big when Chara turned into a Norris Caliber player for Boston and Redden noise dived in a way that makes Shea Weber feel good about his performance without Suter.  If they get 50% of the quality of the pair when they were in the Red and Black, the yellow and black team will have turned the value of that sixth into a second pick in my mind. It is a huge reward, low risk so you have to love it from that standpoint.   If you want to throw in pawning off the Tim Thomas mouth/contract on the Islanders a month ago, they win big.
Buffalo Sabers
Buffalo were big winners for a seller at the deadline.  They really could have done more unloading so I won’t heap praise on them, but they might have the most picks going into a strong draft class.  I would have liked to see them move Miller if they are planning on it, but that could still happen later.  They keep one of their top line guys to teach the youngsters and didn’t give up on Myers and sell low.  They are looking good at possibly getting one of the top five monsters in the lotto and you have to think one of the two Halifax guys would look good moving down to play next to Vanek game one of next year.  Or both if they want to be really bold and aggressive.   They also moved Regehr for two seconds and Leopold for another second and a fifth.  They have two second rounders for the next three years.  That statistically works out to getting 3 NHL roster players on average.  That is good in and of itself for moving proven guys. 
Calgary Flames
I feel good that I nailed this team, but they are losers.  They didn’t move Kipper even though they did it for all the right reasons and it will help them attract talent in the future.  This is however a team that is trying to sell the present with a trade for Brian McGrattan and the recent signing of Jiri Hudler.  They left Cammalleri on the roster and might get value for him later, but I don’t see him sticking around.  Cervenka hasn’t panned out and you wonder if he will with no additions that really help now.  They should have moved Glencross and Stempniak now, but they really needed to get something for more UFA’s, but forwards weren’t getting much in this market.  I just look at their roster and think, they have a ton of money and no one to get, and didn’t get enough back to sell the future either.  Too little, too late is the story in Cal-Gary.
Carolina Hurricanes
These guys were sellers who had so many injuries it made it hard for them to move forward at this point in time.  I have a hard time calling them losers, until they made the worst trade of all time by waiving Jussi a few days too early and getting bullied by the Penguins, who are in their division next year, by getting a conditional pick for him that amounts to likely nothing.  Even with the Pens being the favourite team going forward, you cannot make the condition of getting a pick being making the finals for a seventh and getting a sixth if they win.  That is absurd and they could have gotten a second at least if they traded him last year.  That is the mark of a loser.   I think the Westgarth addition was an okay addition that they gave up way too much for an enforcer type.  He needs to be Chris Neil to make this a win in my mind, but I have been known to think toughness isn’t measured in penalty minutes.
Chicago Blackhawks
I don’t like Chicago because of Kane acting like a prick in every situation, Hossa stabbing me in the back, and that their fans classless-ly chant Detroit sucks when I feel no city should love another city like Chicago should love Detroit.  As a history major I know how much we helped each other along the way.  I don’t feel like they should ever talk trash about Detroit after rebuilding their city literally once and figuratively twice more with crime and automotive business flowing through their town.  I am always going to list them as a loser because of their lack of class.  I love them as an Original Six and enjoy them as a legitimate rival; even it took a miracle and a death to turn their program back from a Phoenix like brink. 
All that said, they were making very minor moves and it would be wrong for pass judgment right now, but Hanzus is a good move for a fourth.  That is a character addition that teams like Colorado, New Jersey, and Detroit would have made on the way to Cup runs.  They are one of the four horses in the west.
Colorado Avalanche
Let’s face it, they hardly did anything.  They got a pick for the odd man out and it was a decent pick for O’Byrne.  An additional player swap means we can’t know what Colorado has done for sure for a few years.  They are in the other category. 
Columbus Blue Jackets.
They made me laugh more than any other team.  I am not buying that this is the major statement that changes the course of the trajectory for the team.  They have moved a ton of top picks in the last two years, and all their moves seemed in the same fold but aren’t necessarily improvements. 
They basically have no traded a bunch of players around with trading partners that their last trade causes as many holes as were filled.  The major blockbuster was Gaborik, who is well documented as being a me first type guy who can go north and south by himself and win a game, or do nothing.  Columbus needed a top tier guy because their pieces were not generating any offense.  However, Gabs is a weaker on the puck and more inconsistent version of Nash.  Both were 30 goal type guys and Nash should have been a 40 guy always.  They couldn’t win with Nash, so why should I think Gaborik will make them win now?  In fact, I listened to him talking about waving his no trade clause to go to Columbus.  It didn’t sound like Columbus changed their image and he wanted to go, it sounded like Prospal talked him into it and he figured, at least he can get away from Torts.  The BJs now feel like a worse version of the Wild when it was his team. 
Yeah you can respect them for going for it when they were the worst team in the league and got hot.   We have seen that the Columbus guys all play okay in New York, but not as well in Ohio.  It feels like it was the same way with the Carter trade last year.  They go cold after these trades for just one week, and they could be right back out of it and I am not sure that all the other additions are going to make a difference.  Blake Comeau is one of those hit or miss moves.
The other funny as hell part was in the same thread, but they looked like the smart ones.  Moving Steve Mason for Leighton AND a third makes me laugh.  They just fleeced Philly by getting Bobrovsky for a couple of picks, and finished it by moving a guy who had one season for the other depth goaltender who showed flashes for the Flyers.   Bobrovsky deserves a Hart nomination if they make the playoffs in my mind and he really showed flashes of that in Orange.  Leighton did the same so just imagine if the whole sale change of goaltenders leaves CBJ with a duo that costs less than Bryz and accomplishes more.   If I was the Flyers I would worry about that.  Yet they did get the better end of the Carter deal, so karma balanced.
I just don’t know if they are doing the right thing going for it.  They would be better off getting a top pick and drafting better so they don’t end up with another Nash player situation.  They haven’s shaken that reputation until they start winning playoff series a bit more often.  It is too soon to tell, but I don’t give someone a winner status for questionable moves.
Dallas Stars
They were sellers, and they got big returns before the deadline day for an old guy and the Canucks desperate need for a center.  They also got a bunch for Brenden Morrow who hasn’t had value for two straight seasons.  They got a fair return so I call them winners.
Detroit Red Wings
I could go on and on about this deadline because you can take it so many ways.  First off I think they are winners for recognizing that the talent they have coming up is better than what was offered up in this trade year.  They need top end guys and those were few and far between.  I look at every trade made and say, yeah this trade would have been nice but they would have wanted this guy who would have been overpayment.  There were only a few trades that made me say, “I wish Ken was in on that.”  I think Pomminville would have fixed the forward situation and Clowe would have been nice instead of having some of the depth guys on the team, but trades wouldn’t have worked out and would have burned guys that Detroit fans should get excited for sooner rather than later.  I think they are winners for recognizing this.
I think they are losers for two reasons.  Making the same tired excuses for not wanting to make a trade pisses me off.  Winners don’t justify their moves to people and they certainly don’t justify their lack of moves by saying stupid cliché crap.  Bertuzzi might be back, as might Helm and Sammuelson is not a deadline addition.  If they were, Holland would be run out of town likely.  He nearly was when he resigned Sammy.  The fact is he only had one shot at adding the two players they needed and missed out only because they were born in Minnesota.  He isn’t a loser for not trying, he is a loser for acting like he is happy with the outcomes when he isn’t and trying to sell the hard sell. 
What really makes them losers in my mind, is them passing on being sellers.  I get that there is a huge playoff record on the line, but Babcock and Holland made bad choices in the summer and in this season that it seem that Filppula and White were gone, and Cleary seems to be out the door as well.  When other teams were moving these guys for picks, they passed on it and justified them as trade acquisitions. 
I get it Ken, you were screwed for not having enough defensemen once and having a luxury like a 9th defenseman would have gotten you one extra cup back when Schneider got hurt in the Western Conference finals.  That was a different time when you were the best team in the land, and not when you were a coin flip away from missing the dance.  He passed on what could have been a first, second and seventh round draft pick by not moving UFA’s when he had more than enough AHL talent to cover them leaving now, and likely would have been better without them.  When the draft class is that deep and you draft better than anyone else you should have made those moves.
All I can say is there once was a Ken Holland who made trades like the Penguins made where they pushed around teams and moved garbage for garbage that turned to gold while making hockey trades that made the team better.  I don’t blame you for not forcing it, but I think you need to figure out a team identity and don’t be Calgary where you just hope you get there someday without doing anything.

See Part 2 Here 

NFL Draft Preview: Washington Redskins

Wild on Sports
2013 NFL Draft Capsules:

Washington Redskins
 By Wild on Sports NFL Analyst Davis McGregor

On the Clock: Washington Redskins

Team Overview:
With the help of the electrifying RG3, the Skins were able to win their division to clinch a playoff spot. However, it was this same quarterback that not only ruined their playoff run, but ruined his knee as well. If the Redskins hope to repeat last seasons success, they will need their sophomore signal caller to be at 100% and be much more careful with taking shots outside the pocket.

Team Needs:
1. Defensive Back
2. Offensive Line
3. Receiver

Likely Fits:
Every analyst comes up with a mock draft that they believe will be correct, but no one can really be totally sure. Well everyone but me. In fact I can guarantee who Washington takes in the first round, no one.

In a deal to move up picks and draft Robert Griffin last year the Redskins had to trade their first rounder over to the Rams. While that makes this year a lackluster draft, the trade definitely worked out for them.

As for who they take in the second round, that’s something I cannot fully guarantee. My guess though is that they look to take someone to help solidify the secondary.

Someone who can lay the lumber on his opponents and physically dominate his area of the field. Someone who has strong experience who has been starting for his whole college career. Someone named D.J. Swearinger.

While Jadaveon Clowney gets all the credit for making big hits, like the one on Michigan’s Vincent Jackson, Swearinger has put together a solid highlight tape of his own. He has been destroying receivers since his first year on the team, which also happened to be his freshman year.

Swearinge also showcased his versatility of the defense by racking up some time playing at corner. When injuries plagues Spurrier’s D, he called on D.J. to pick up the slack. If Mike Shanahan decides to do the same and draft Swearinger he would bring a much-needed improvement to the Washington.

Like most teams this year, the Redskins are not immune to the needs of an offensive line. With all the big name players gone before the Redskins picks are up, you have to dig pretty deep to find a player for them.

When it comes around to the 2nd round Shanahan’s best bet for drafting a new blocker comes from Justin Pugh. He performed pretty well as Syracuse, protecting Ryan Nassib for 2 years.

Pugh is a great blocker that is able to make blocks on the move. He is mobile and does a get job moving to the second level to take down bakers. With the strong run game that RG3 brings to the table this pick up would do well with protecting him.

The only real problem that comes along with Pugh is his arm size, the kid looks like a dinosaur. His arms are only 32” long, which for a 6’4” man is significantly shorter than average.

While this is definitely a disadvantage to Pugh, it isn’t anything that he doesn’t make up for with his flat out skill. When round 2 comes around, if the Redskins decide to take a lineman over a DB, then there’s no one better than dino boy.

Next on the draft list for Washington is a receiver. Right now the Redskins have a pretty solid receiver corps but with no real stand outs. One player with tremendous skill that just may drop down to he 3rd round is Oregon State’s Markus Wheaton.

Wheaton has speed and quickness unlike many in the NFL right now. It is this skill set that allowed him to become the all-time leader in receptions at his alma mater while also dazzling as a track star. Should he fall to the mid rounds he would be an excellent addition to the team instantly, as well as growing into the aging Santana Moss’s roll.

Although the Redskins lost their 1st round pick last year in a trade, this years draft has enough depth to keep them interested. It will be interesting to see if players like Markus Wheaton will fall so far, and if he will end up in the capital next season.

Check out our other 2013 NFL Draft Team Capsules 

NFL Draft Preview: Chicago Bears

Wild on Sports
2013 NFL Draft Capsules:

Chicago Bears
 By Wild on Sports NFL Analyst Davis McGregor

On The Clock: Chicago Bears

Team Overview:

Coming off a 10-6 season the Daa Bears don’t have too much to complain about, or at least they shouldn’t. A record like that is usually something to be happy about but if the Bears want to repeat that success they have a lot of work ahead of them. Especially if they intend to keep injury prone Jay Cutler on the field all season.

Team Needs:
1. Linebacker
2. Offensive Line
3. Defensive Line

For the last decade Chicago’s defense has been anchored by Brian Urlacher. The linebacker was the face of this team, well until recently. Due to the age of Urlacher, he was not resigned this off season after he refused the deal offered to him by the Bears, a mere 1 year, $2 million contract. With him out of the picture a new linebacker is just what the Bears need. Well that and an offensive line.

For a team that has always prided itself at having an outstanding running game, the Bears offensive line is something to take pity on. The big men struggled keeping Cutler from taking shots all season and there’s no way he comes out alive from another season unless they upgrade on their front line.

Likely Fits:

Urlacher has some big shoes to fill and the Bears desperately need someone to cover the middle of their field. In this years draft they should look no further than Alec Ogletree to be that replacement. Ogletree was a standout on the Bulldogs stellar defense that almost carried them to the BCS National Championship. As a player that began as a safety and moved into the linebacker position, his pass coverage is far better than most. His speed remains his most impressive talent though. Watching him run down players from behind looks like something straight out of Animal Planet, with a lion hunting its food.

Playing on a college team with such a strong defense would help Ogletree’s transition to the big leagues. He doesn’t try to do too much, he knows that he doesnt need to cover for any other players on the field which allows him to concentrate on his assignments. Some players that did not have a strong supporting cast in college have the mentality that they need to cover for other players and this can carry into the NFL, which hurts their own performance. With all the talent the Bears have on defense it should be a simple move for Ogletree.

Alec Ogletree can do a whole lot for a team, he cant however block opposing linebackers and defensive lineman, this is why the Bears also need to look at an offensive lineman.

Changes they are a comin in Chicago. After missing the playoffs in 2012 head coach Lovie Smith was sent packing, only to open up the spot for Marc Trestman. Along with the new coach comes a new offensive style. And this ones a little crazy for the Bears. Trestman plans to implement a new read-option style offense for Cutler, only problem is they have don’t have the offensive line to run a traditional offense let alone an option offense. If he truly plans to move towards a west coast style, Trestman needs to bring in a big man from the draft this year.

Running an option is something that takes a lot of perfect coordination, and decision making through the whole team. Teaching this type of offense isn’t the easiest so bringing in a player used to the option is the best bet. Oregon’s Kyle Long has had the option offense seared into his brain by Chip Kelly, so you know he should be a shoo-in.

With players like Joeckel and Fisher on the board, Long won’t go too high so for all of Trestman’s option dreams to come true. He just needs to fall to pick number 50 and he is all theirs.

Combined with the addition of Jerome Bushrod and Matt Slauson the Bears will be back in business of pounding the ball up front, and now sweeping it out side on the quarterback keepers.

Age is also becoming a factor on the defensive line of the Chicago, star Julius Peppers just turned 33 and Isreal Idonije was just released for that reason. This defense is becoming archaic and the Bears front office needs to pump some new blood into it with this year’s draft.

Bjeorn Werner could just be the player the Bears need. He has an aggressive pass rash that can take over for Idonije, and still holds up well against the run. Werner was expected to go much earlier but after a pro day full of disappoint surprises his draft stock was knocked down more than Cutler last year.

A few teams are in need of a player with Werner’s skill set but with the plentiful number of defensive ends in this draft he should fall to the mid to late part of the first round. If the Bears can find a person in the free agency to handle the MLB spot drafting Werner would be a great pick. He proved himself on the field at Florida State and while his pro day was less than stellar, we all know it matters what a player can do on the field, not in a tryout. Tim Tebow was living proof of that for the Broncos just last year.

 Check out our other 2013 NFL Draft Team Capsules

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

NHL Trade Deadline Tracker

Wild on Sports
NHL Trade Deadline Tracker

Curtsey of our friends over at ProHockeyTalk.com. Be sure to check them out throughout the day for the latest trades as they become official. We will try to keep you updated here as well! Enjoy the day everyone!

Apr. 3

To Washington: Martin Erat, Michael Latta
To Nashville: Filip Forsberg

To Minnesota: Jeff Deslauriers
To Anaheim: Future considerations

To Boston: D Wade Redden
To St. Louis: 2013 seventh-round pick

To New Jersey: F Steve Sullivan
To Phoenix: 2013 seventh-round pick

To Anaheim: F Matthew Lombardi
To Phoenix: F Brandon McMillan

To Toronto: D Ryan O’Byrne
To Colorad: 2014 fourth-round pick

To San Jose: F Raffi Torres
To Phoenix: 2013 third-round pick

To Columbus: F Blake Comeau
To Calgary: 2013 fifth-round pick

To Minnesota: F Jason Pominville, 2014 fourth-round pick
To Buffalo: G Matt Hackett, F Johan Larsson, 2013 first-round pick, 2014 second-round pick

To Philadelphia: G Steve Mason
To Columbus: G Michael Leighton, 2013 third-round pick

To Columbus: F Marian Gaborik, Steven Delisle, Blake Partlett
To New York Rangers: F Derick Brassard, F Derek Dorsett, D John Moore and 2013 sixth-round pick 

To Tampa Bay: G Ben Bishop
To Ottawa: F Cory Conacher, 2013 fourth-round pick

To Pittsburgh: F Jussi Jokinen
To Carolina: 2013 conditional draft pick

To Edmonton: F Jerred Smithson
To Florida: 2013 fourth-round pick

To San Jose: D Scott Hannan
To Nashville: 2013 sixth-/seventh-round pick

To Boston: F Rob Flick
To Chicago: F Maxime Sauv

Apr. 2

To New York Rangers: F Ryane Clowe
To San Jose: 2013 second-round pick, 2013 third-round pick, 2014 second-round pick

To Montreal: D Davis Drewiske
To Los Angeles 2013 fifth-round pick

To Boston: F Jaromir Jagr
To Dallas: F Lane MacDermid, F Cody Payne, 2013 second-round pick

To Vancouver: F Derek Roy
To Dallas: D Kevin Connauton, 2013 second-round pick

To Colorado: F Tomas Vincour
To Dallas: D Cameron Gaunce

To Phoenix: F Matthew Clackson
To Washington: F Joel Rechlicz

To Carolina: D Marc-Andre Bergeron
To Tampa Bay: F Adam Hall, 2013 seventh-round pick

Apr. 1

To St. Louis: D Jay Bouwmeester
To Calgary: 2013 or ’14 first-round pick, 2013 fourth-round pick, G Reto Berra, D Mark Cundari

To Los Angeles: D Robyn Regehr
To Buffalo: 2014 second-round pick, 2015 second-round pick

To Chicago: F Michal Handzus
To San Jose: 2013 fourth-round pick

To Anaheim: F Harry Zolnierczyk
To Philadelphia: F Jay Rosehill

Mar. 30

To St. Louis: D Jordan Leopold
To Buffalo: 2013 second-round pick, 2013 fourth-round pick

To Philadelphia: D Kent Huskins
To Detroit: 2014 seventh-round pick

Mar. 28

To Pittsburgh: F Jarome Iginla
To Calgary: 2013 first-round pick, F Kenneth Agostino, F Ben Hanowski

Mar. 25

To Pittsburgh: D Douglas Murray
To San Jose: 2013 second-round pick, 2014 second-round pick

Mar. 24

To Pittsburgh: F Brenden Morrow, 2013 third-round pick
To Dallas: D Joe Morrow, 2013 fifth-round pick

49ers Continue to Bulk Up

Wild on Sports
49ers Continue to Bulk Up

One thing is for sure, Jim Harbaugh does not take losing lightly. After a 2012 season that ended in a loss to his brother's Baltimore Ravens in the Super Bowl, the younger Harbaugh is looking to make another run to the promise land, and stacking up his roster to do it.

Tuesday that bulk up was highlighted by the signing of former all-pro DB Nnamdi Asomugha. Asomugha was cut by the Philadelphia Eagles last month following a major let down season on the heals of signing a 5-year $60million contract in 2011. Despite the down year in Philadelphia, Asomugha as recently as two years ago was considered to be one of the truly elite corners in the game.

The price to acquiring such a premium talent for the 49ers? A mere $1.35million, none of which is guaranteed. It marks a major paycut for Asomugh but when you factor in that the Eagles still owe him $14million this season, I think the guy will be doing just fine for himself.

"He believes in karma and timing," said Asomugh's agent Ben Dogra in a Tuesday release. "He wants to show everybody it's not about the money for him. He wants to prove something. He could have walked away and retired. He wants to play for a winner. He's inspired. He wants to be part of a great team and take care of unfinished business from last year. He wants to end this on his terms. Hopefully, he can get a ring and stay happy."

If the 49ers are getting the inspired ex-Raider great as opposed to the Eagle shell of himself, they will have found themselves the steal of the 2013 off-season.

Evaluating Long Term Contracts

Wild on Sports
Evaluating Long-Term Contracts
By Wild on Sports Baseball Analyst Aaron Dorman

Last night, the Rangers signed shortstop Elvis Andrus to a surprise eight-year deal, capping off a flurry of similar agreements made by teams and their young stars. Although there is plenty of precedent for locking up players long-term, it does seem like there has been an unusually large number of extensions given out over the past few years, something which is also evident when you look at recent available free agents; this winter only one elite player was available under the age of 30 in Zack Greinke, and even he is something less than a star (even though he got superstar dollars).

Especially with free agent compensation being diminished under the new CBA agreement, its less and less likely that elite players in their prime will make it to the open market, unless they are coming off a down year, an injury, or are from Japan. This has been a long-term trend.

Here are the list of players under 30 over the past few years who have gotten a free agent contract for five years or 50 million. Players who re-signed with their team are starred:

Elvis Andrus-Rangers
BJ Upton-Braves
Edwin Jackson-Cubs
Zack Greinke-Dodgers

Prince Fielder-Tigers
Jose Reyes-Marlins
Yu Darvish-Rangers

Carl Crawford-Red Sox

Aroldis Chapman-Reds
Matt Holliday-Cardinals*
John Lackey-Red Sox

CC Sabathia-Yankees
Mark Teixeira-Yankees

Basically, up until 2012 there were on average two core-level talents available in their prime each winter. Last winter not even that held up, as Greinke, Upton and especially Jackson don’t qualify as more than complementary players, albeit good ones. No longer does it seem as if a team can build a core by signing free agents; teams that have tried, such as the Yankees and Mets, have found themselves with no extra money to spend and a lineup of aging veterans. Drafting, and then keeping, your own players seems to be the surest way to a strong run of success. This strategy was pioneered by John Hart when he was GM of the Indians in the early 90s, locking up stars like Jim Thome and Kenny Lofton into their early thirties.

More recently, the Tampa Bay Rays have started the trend of signing young players almost immediately after their debut, buying out several years of free agency in the process; Mike Moore, Wade Davis, and Evan Longoria have such contracts. These contracts are often thought to be calculated risks since if these players become stars they will make less, and for more years, than if they were allowed to follow the arbitration process and then free agency. That will in turn allow the Rays to keep enough money to surround their core with capable veterans and role players.

But is paying up early always the right strategy? When does stability and commitment to players actually undermine success and financial flexibility? When your name is Vernon Wells, to name one notorious example! Mid-market teams must be especially pointed with who they retain, as they cannot keep all their stars. A decade ago, the Athletics chose Eric Chavez over Miguel Tejada (or Jason Giambi) and suffered for it. The current Brewers franchise is wagering that Ryan Braun will age more gracefully than Prince Fielder. Meanwhile, the Rockies and Reds are committing themselves to their current core at the expense of future stars.

So when evaluating long-term contracts such as what we’ve seen this past week, here are some key questions:

Does the contract allow for more flexibility than if the player had been signed after becoming a free agent? Did they save money and years?

Did the team have a replacement for the player who they are signing? On a similar note: is the player irreplaceable in some way?

Does the player have any growth potential? If they are already at their peak, do they fit the profile of a player who can safely be predicted to earn the money?

Does the timing make sense?

Elvis Andrus for 8 years and $120 million- this is a very excessive contract. In a vacuum, it makes some sense. The money is only on average $15 million per year and will take Andrus into his early thirties. Elvis Andrus is a good bet to at least continue his current rate of production, and he is an underrated asset. Although he has no power, Andrus is an elite defensive shortstop who gets on base and runs well.

There are several factors that make this a questionable signing. For one, it is hard to imagine that Andrus would make more money as a free agent than what he got this weekend. He is also not a star, and will probably never be. He doesn’t project to add power to his game and he’s already a strong contact hitter so a consistently higher batting average is no guarantee.

The Rangers have a very viable replacement for Andrus in Jurickson Profar. Signing Andrus moves Profar to second when he arrives in the majors, which I think is a waste of the latter’s defensive abilities. Having Andrus there for this year or even next year is fine, but basically to permanently keep Profar off of SS is a decision I disagree with strongly. The better option people were proposing over the winter was to move Andrus to CF. Andrus is not Derek Jeter, and even Derek Jeter should have acquiesced to move for A-Rod when he was traded to the Yankees so many years ago.

Overall, this will not affect the Rangers right now. By 2017 or 2018, however, this is a contract that could hurt their ability to retain future elite players, the kind Profar or Yu Darvish or even Derek Holland could become. Will they have to make a choice between dumping Andrus’ contract or saying goodbye to a better player? We’ll know in five years.

Justin Verlander for five years and $140 million starting in 2015- THIS is the kind of player who you sign to long-term megadeals. Verlander is not only a superstar, he is a unique talent, a pitcher who has thus far shown no signs of wear and tear on an arm that regularly throws more pitches than anybody else in baseball. Verlander is a freak and in a good way. Although it’s possible that his velocity will decline by the end of the deal, he is such a good pitcher that he should be able to weather a slow downward slope. Yes, his arm could fall off in a few years, or he could have a down year, or he won’t be “worth” the $28 million average annual value of his contract. But there are as yet no warning signs. This is a risk a team has to take. Verlander is not replaceable.

One word of caution, however: A few years ago the Tigers locked themselves into too many expensive contracts and suffered a few down years as a result, in the end trading away Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson to free up money (although that trade turned out favorably for them). They had to wait for Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Guillen, et al to come off the books before they could go after guys like Prince Fielder. The Tigers now have a lot of money locked up again, to Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, and Fielder, among others. This is a combustible strategy-just ask the Yankees. However, for now, those three are among the best at their respective positions. And if the Tigers win a World Series over the next few years, maybe it was worth it.

Buster Posey for eight years and $160 million (After 2013)- The reigning MVP cashed in with a “Giant” contract and overall it’s a reasonable deal. Posey plays a premium position and he’s established himself to be a star on both sides of the ball. The Giants play in a tough ballpark for hitters so securing an elite offensive performer makes sense. They certainly don’t have anyone to replace him; their farm system has been emptied by the graduation of so many young stars to San Francisco.

That said, there’s a good chance that this deal goes south in a few years. First of all, as a catcher, Posey’s durability will always be in question, and he’s already missed nearly a year due to the 2011 collision with Scott Cousins. Catchers have historically not lasted long in their careers, having to at least move off the position (Joe Torre, Ted Simmons, Yogi Berra, Johnny Bench, just to name a few). The Giants are probably committing themselves to one or two years where Posey is unhealthy, in decline, or a first basemen. Even the best catcher in the other league, Joe Mauer, has caused his team some regrets about signing him forever.

Building a team around Posey and Matt Cain is still going to lead to some excellent years over the next decade, and the Giants have money to spend. They are not the most sabermetric-savvy team but whatever they’re doing is obviously working.

Adam Wainwright for five years and 97.5 million- This contract is a very fair deal considering the market. Although the Cardinals don’t get a home town discount, when you consider what Zack Greinke got as a free agent, Wainwright would probably command more dollars and years if he left after this year.

Wainwright’s 2012 was deceptively “off” his last few healthy seasons; he had a 3.94 ERA and threw less innings. Overall, however, his component ratios were very similar, and his stuff hadn’t regressed. Even if 2010 was a career year, Wainwright is still probable to maintain near-ace quality performances over the bulk of his contract. Maybe St. Louis should have waited to see if Shelby Miller or Lance Lynn step up this year, but they didn’t and that’s okay. Besides, you can never have too much pitching.

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