Friday, December 31, 2004
WORLD JUNIOR HOCKEY CHAMPIONSHIP
RANDY JOHNSON TO THE YANKEES?
NFL "EXPERT" PICKS
HAPPY NEW YEAR
Good morning to everyone! It is New Years Eve. A time to look back at 2004 and remember all that was good, bad and ugly. You will probably see a number of shows that list the year's most exciting, most historic, most important, most everything and anything. So, I thought about doing a little bit of the same for this site. But, well, I just don't feel like it. That would involve a lot of thinking! And, it's New Year's... I don't want to think.
But, we do have plenty to discuss today. I didn't write a new entry yesterday, so I will try to get caught up on anything baseball related, or other things that I want to talk about. Also, it is Friday, the last Friday of the NFL regular season, so we will have our final "Expert" NFL Picks today too!
So, as the Black Eyed Peas would say (and I think we've all heard it enough!), "Lets Get It Started!"
2005 World Junior Championship
The reason that I didn't write yesterday is because on Wednesday, I drove with some friends down to Grand Forks, North Dakota, to watch a couple of WJC hockey games. I took a half-day off of work, and we made the 2 1/2 hour drive south to Englestad Arena. We got there in plenty of time before the Czech Republic played Switzerland. That allowed us to walk through the entire arena. I know that it has been featured in Sports Illustrated, and called the best college hockey arena in the country, and is clearly far more state-of-the-art than most NHL arenas, but until you have been there and walked the halls, and seen the atmosphere there, you can't really feel how impressive it is. In one hallway, there are the pictures/plaques of all of the University of North Dakota's Hall of Famers. Throughout the rest of the facility, you will find pictures of former Fighting Sioux hockey players in their NHL uniforms. Honestly, I could write up all of the incredible merits of the building, but it would take awhile, and you can check them out here.
One of the best features is that every seat in the facility is leather and very comfortable! Before the first game, the three of us decided to predict the final score of the game. All three of us predicted a Czech Republic win. I said 5-2. The other guesses were 4-3 and 3-2. So, when the Czech Republic won 5-2, I had bragging rights!
Between games, I went into the Sioux Store and bought a fitted Team USA cap. I also bought a Canada Toque. It's basically a stocking cap, but I really like saying the word Toque (pronounced Two-k), so I had to get it! I wanted to get a couple of the t-shirts from the other countries, but they just didn't look real big. I also really wanted to buy a replica jersey from some of the other teams, specifically the Swedish and Finland and Belarus ones, but they were $70. Authentic jerseys were closer to $200 each, so I passed.
By the way, I have to link you to an incredible article by Ryan Bakken in the Grand Forks Herald regarding hockey in Canada as it relates to this tournament. It says a lot, but I also believe it says a lot about our country as well.
Finally, it was time for the Team USA versus Belarus game. Coming into the game, the US team was 2-0 while Belarus had played poorly and was 0-2. It was disappointing that just 8,800 fans showed up for the game. As you can guess, the US team didn't win, despite the prior records. They just got bad goaltending early and fell behind big. They just seemed almost lethargic much of the game. At the start of the 3rd period, the US team played very aggressively and cut the lead to 5-3, but were unable to get another goal and lost 5-3.
There were a lot of highlights from the game. But again, to me, being a prospect person, I enjoy seeing these guys play knowing that many of them will be in the NHL (if there is ever an NHL again) in the near future. Many from Team USA will, but a huge number of the foreign players will too. So, of course, I had to get a program so I can look at it in five years and see who I saw play. Remember, this tournament is for players who are 20 years old and younger.
To take a quick look at the US roster, I found a number of very interesting things.
- 14 of the 22 players were selected from their college teams. The University of Michigan lost five of their key players to Team USA.
- Six players play minor league hockey in Canada.
- One player, Phil Kessel, played for the US Under-18 Team and is not even eligible for the NHL draft for two more years. The 17 year old was very impressive from what we saw. He is in his second season with that team. The Madison, Wisconsin, native played on a Midget team as a 15 year old and in 71 games scored 113 goals to go with 45 assists. The year before, as a 14 year old Bantam, he scored 176 goals and added 110 assists in 86 games!
- Finally, Brian Lee is the lone player on the US roster who was selected from a high school. He plays for Moorhead, MN, high school, the #1 ranked team in AA hockey in Minnesota. The 17 year old looks like he's about 12, but is 6-3 and 200 pounds. He signed a letter of intent to play at the University of North Dakota next year. He has been a member of a number of US Select teams in the past as well.
- Chris Bourque is a freshman forward from Boston University. He is the son of Hall of Famer Ray Bourque. In the game we attended, he went to check a Belarus player in to the boards, missed and hurt his shoulder. The video on the big screens showed him skating off the ice, then showed Ray Bourque sitting in the crowd. I would have thought he would have been in one of the suites, but no, he was right in the stands with everyone else.
- The Minnesota Gophers have two players on this squad. Alex Goligoski and Nate Hagemo are both freshman for the Gophers.
- Patrick O'Sullivan was the second round pick of the Minnesota Wild in 2003. He has spent parts of the past three seasons with the Mississauga Ice Dogs of the OHL where he is a scoring machine. He has been a member of Team USA teams throughout the past four years.
- Drew Stafford is a forward on the team. He is a sophomore at the University of North Dakota and has been playing very well on his home ice!
- 17 of the 22 players on the team have already been drafted by NHL teams. Five of them were first round picks. D Ryan Suter (whose father was on the 1980 US Olympic team) was the 7th overall pick in 2003. G Al Montoya was selected 6th overall in 2004. F Drew Stafford was taken with the 13th overall pick in 2004. Robbie Schremp was the 25th pick in 2004. G Cory Schneider was taken 26th overall. Many of the other top draft picks are playing in this tournament as well, including the #1 pick in the 2004 draft, Russia's Alexander Ovechkin, and #2 pick, Russia's Evgeny Malkin.
There are probably many more facts about Team USA and about the World Junior Championships that I could share, but there is plenty about it online. I am just really glad that I was able to go to the games I went to. I know that watching hockey is almost unbearable on TV (personal opinion), but watching this live, in person, was an incredible experience!
BIG UNIT FINALLY DEALT TO NEW YORK
OK, so, the Dodgers pulled out of the three team deal that would have sent Randy Johnson to the Yankees. But the "Evil Empire" really wanted Johnson, the Diamondbacks really wanted to trade him, and he wanted to be a Yankee, so it happened. With it now being just a two team deal, the Diamondbacks had to determine which players they wanted to be included besides Javier Vazquez. That package started with top catching prospect Dionner Navarro, who is just 20. Lefty Brad Hallsey, who made a couple of starts for the Yankees, was also sent to Arizona.
According to reports though, Navarro may soon be sent to the Dodgers in a deal involving Shawn Green. Clearly the Dodgers want to rid themselves of Green's contract (I can understand that), and they have a need a catcher. Navarro could fill that role for years to come! I'm sure there would be others involved in that deal as well.
Now, Vazquez may soon then be dealt as well. I guess I don't understand everyone feeling the need to trade Vazquez. Since the Yankees are giving Arizona money to offset Vazquez's contract, they don't need to trade him. Although New York beat him up last year, he is a top level big league pitcher. But, I guess if the right package of major league ready players and prospects is available, they should listen.
The Yankees got the Big Unit, who despite being 41 years old, is still one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball. They will probably have to give Johnson a year or two extension on his contract. So, there is a lot of risk for them as well. Johnson could take a sudden and drastic downturn in his career. You will likely hear over the next week or so how the Yankees did it again. They're spending more money again. They're probably going to get Carlos Beltran and then they'll be unbeatable.
Personally, I hope they get both of them and give them ridiculous contracts. Why? Because what has this excessive spending done for them the last four seasons in the playoffs? How many World Series have they won? The last time they won a World Series, they had a payroll of just under $100 million. Each subsequent year they have added payroll, and have not won since. Plus, they had to pay almost $90 million to the
Now, certainly with a lineup that will include Derek Jeter, Carlos Beltran, Alex Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield, Hideki Matsui, Jason Giambi (?), Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada and Tony Womack, they will win 100 or more regular season games. These players make a lot of money and none of them are getting younger. Their pitching staff has more questions than answers. Johnson is old. Mike Mussina is getting there and missed time due to injury. Jaret Wright had one good year after about 5 injury-laden seasons. Carl Pavano is good and young, but has never been a star. Kevin Brown is old and expensive and I can't imagine many teams being interested in him.
In other words, yeah, they'll dominate throughout the year, but once we get to the playoffs, that means nothing. It all comes down to which team is hot at that time. So, when people say dumb stuff like the Twins are only trying to win the AL Central. They're not trying to compete with the Yankees, Red Sox and Angels. Well, they don't have to! There is no reason for them to spend ridiculously.
On espn.com, they asked the poll question, "Which pitcher would you want on your team in 2005?" The options were Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Johan Santana and Curt Schilling. As of 10:40 last night, the Twins Santana was the leader with 37.5% of the vote. Schilling was second (25.3%) with former teammate Johnson (22.6%) in third.
What do you think? Will the Yankees get Carlos Beltran too? I think so. The Yankees also signed old friend Tino Martinez, a good guy and one of the leaders of the teams Yankees teams that won World Series. Any thoughts on the Yankees? E-mail me.
NFL "EXPERT" PICKS - Week 17
The final weekend of the NFL season, and we have five people within a couple of games of the leader. The season's final week always makes for some difficult choices. Some teams that are already playoff-bound and may sit some of their best players out. Other teams are fighting for a playoff spot, while other teams have nothing but pride to play for. So, let's see how our panelists picked this weeks' games:
Seth Stohs Melissa Olson Ben Jacobs Aaron Gleeman John Bonnes Ryan Maus SethSpeaks.net SethSpeaks.net Hardball Times Aaron's BB Blog Twins Geek Twins Chatter NY Jets @ St. Louis Rams Jets Rams Jets Jets Jets San Francisco @ New England Patriots Patriots Patriots Patriots Patriots Patriots Cincinnati @ Philadelphia Eagles Eagles Bengals Bengals Bengals Bengals Minnesota @ Washington Vikings Vikings Vikings Vikings Redskins Vikings New Orleans @ Carolina Panthers Saints Panthers Panthers Panthers Saints Miami @ Baltimore Ravens Ravens Ravens Ravens Ravens Ravens Cleveland @ Houston Texans Texans Texans Texans Texans Texans Pittsburgh @ Buffalo Bills Bills Bills Steelers Bills Bills Green Bay @ Chicago Packers Packers Bears Packers Packers Bears Detroit @ Tennessee Titans Lions Titans Titans Titans Titans Atlanta @ Seattle Seahawks Seahawks Seahawks Seahawks Seahawks Seahawks Tampa Bay @ Arizona Cardinals Buccs Buccs Buccs Cardinals Cardinals Kansas City @ San Diego Chiefs Chargers Chiefs Chargers Chargers Chargers Indianapolis @ Denver Colts Broncos Broncos Colts Broncos Broncos Jacksonville @ Oakland Jaguars Jaguars Raiders Jaguars Jaguars Raiders Dallas @ NY Giants Giants Giants Giants Cowboys Cowboys Giants Michael Labuda David Bergner David Bloom Vic Quick Mike Brasel Jeremy Kovash ChiSox Daily Baseball Savant Ya Gotta Believe KDUH-Sports FFB Guru Wolf Lake Mgr NY Jets @ St. Louis Rams Rams Jets Jets Rams Jets San Francisco @ New England Patriots Patriots Patriots Patriots Patriots Patriots Cincinnati @ Philadelphia Eagles Eagles Bengals Eagles Eagles Eagles Minnesota @ Washington Redskins Vikings Vikings Vikings Vikings Redskins New Orleans @ Carolina Panthers Panthers Panthers Panthers Panthers Panthers Miami @ Baltimore Ravens Ravens Ravens Ravens Ravens Ravens Cleveland @ Houston Texans Texans Texans Texans Texans Texans Pittsburgh @ Buffalo Bills Bills Bills Bills Bills Bills Green Bay @ Chicago Bears Packers Packers Packers Packers Bears Detroit @ Tennessee Lions Titans Lions Lions Lions Titans Atlanta @ Seattle Seahawks Falcons Seahawks Seahawks Seahawks Seahawks Tampa Bay @ Arizona Buccs Cardinals Buccs Cardinals Cardinals Buccs Kansas City @ San Diego Chargers Chargers Chargers Chargers Chargers Chargers Indianapolis @ Denver Colts Colts Colts Broncos Broncos Broncos Jacksonville @ Oakland Raiders Jaguars Jaguars Jaguars Raiders Jaguars Dallas @ NY Giants Giants Cowboys Cowboys Giants Cowboys Giants
Thanks again to everyone for taking the time to stop by this site. Have a great week! If you have any questions or comments on anything, please e-mail me.
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