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Guest Writer of the Week

 

 

The Blue Jackets Future in Central Ohio

By Giles Kennedy

Thursday, January 19, 2012

 

Here is an NHL team destined for greatness or possibly leaving town in 2039 (the expiration of the current casino tax deal).

Imagine if you will the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2017.

They have knocked off the Detroit Red Wings in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs. The second round they shut down the upstart Vancouver Canucks, after being out of contention for several years.

They wind up in the Western Conference finals against Chicago; surging the series 4-3.

They have finally made to the Stanley Cup Finals, pitting themselves against the strong Pittsburgh Penguins.

Could this actually happen?

It could and can if the Blue Jackets work on a lot of factors.

The first and largest weakness has plagued the team since its conception.

(courtesy of Columbus Blue Jackets)

Power plays.

They have shown improvement, being ranked 23rd currently in the NHL for power plays. But, historically; they have ranked dead last or close to it on performing in one of hockey’s most integral scoring chance. So no matter who is the head coach, the team must work more on retaining the puck and scoring on power plays.

Which leads to the next problem.

The Blue Jackets must have retention of a head coach and gaining wins with that coach.

Not counting the interim head coaches (with the exception of current interim Todd Richards), the Blue Jackets have had in its nearly eleven-year history five head coaches. Now grant it, out of the all the pro sports leagues; the NHL and NFL have been unstable ground for keeping head coach jobs.

But, the Blue Jackets have gone through five long term head coaches. Including the only one that brought a playoff run to the team, Ken Hitchcock (Nov. 2006-Feb. 2010)

He led the team to the 1st round of the Western Conference playoffs against Detroit in 2009. Unfornuately, the Jackets got shut down in three games by the Red Wings. But we actually got there. And with a 41-31-10 record, it was actually the best overall record to date.

Can current interim head coach Todd Richards land the job? Or should the CBJ management search for a seasoned coach who can produce wins? Only time will tell.

Which leads to the next issue.

Nationwide Arena (photo by Derek Jensen via wikipedia commons)

Retain good management!

Scott Howson has the mindset for winning games. However, with the current record of 13-27 and firing former head coach Scott Arniel before the end of the season; one has to wonder.

He has retained Scott MacFarland as Assistant General Manager, Tyler Wright as Director of Amateur Scouting, and in 2011 hired Craig Patrick as Senior Advisor of Hockey Operations. All these men have helped in what games the Blue Jackets won to produce.

But, there again; Howson’s job may be in jeopardy.

The McConnell family and the CBJ Board of Directors do not like losing either.

So, if we can work on the power plays, get a winning head coach, and retain good if not great management; what else does the Blue Jackets need to keep winning games?

Get a great support staff on the ice to keep the star players healthy.

Names like R.J. Umberger, Jeff Carter, James Wisniewski, and of course Rick Nash grace the ice every home and away game.

With recent additions John Moore and Nikita Niktin, there is hope. The Jackets must keep good talent coming.

With that being said, that is what I feel can bring the team success. Again, I am merely a fan since the day the Blue Jackets grace the ice. I did spend 5 years with Columbus Wired at Nationwide Arena. Seeing some of the great successes, also seeing some of the worst the Blue Jackets can offer.

I would like to take my daughter Hannah to Nationwide Arena to see a playoff run. One can only hope.

 

 

 

 

LIFE IS MORE PRECIOUS THAN FOOTBALL

By Noel Giles Kennedy on December 21, 2011

Life is more precious than any football game.
I am not discounting what has happened in college football this year. The “outside the lines” stories have impacted NCAA FCS teams across this land greatly.
The sanctions against the Ohio State University’s football seem harsh to many Buckeye fans. No chance of attending a Big Ten championship game or bowl in the 2012-2013 season.
Look at all the things the University did to try to make the sins of past and present players clean. They did everything they could to avoid the NCAA hammer.
Then, there are the tragic cases of Joe Sandusky, Mike McCready, and others involved in the situation at Penn State. Still piling up suspects, court dates, and hearings. As a father, I was furious over the student body’s initial reaction to terminating Joe Paterno.
You can look at all the scandals, misappropriated funds, booster payments, and everything in between to NCAA football programs for the past twenty years. In this day of internet and global media, nothing is a secret for too long.

Noel Giles Kennedy (NGK photo)

But everything matters for not in college football. Life is much more precious.
I am a very avid fan of college athletics. Football and basketball, primarily. College hockey and baseball thereafter.
But to say I hold the Ohio State Buckeyes, Notre Dame Fighting Irish or Virginia Tech Hokies above my life, my wife, my daughter, or any of my family or friends…it would be foolish to do.
I am in the finishing road of a battle against B-Cell Non-Hodgkin’s Stage 3 Lymphoma.
With a bone marrow stem cell transplant and extreme chemo, we hope to stay in remission and no longer wonder if it will come back.
I am preparing to stay over Christmas and New Year’s at the Ohio State University Medical Center’s James Cancer Center.
I will have plenty of time to watch every bowl, including the match up between Ohio State and Florida.
But, I have found and finding life is much more precious than any bowl game.
If the fans that call Ohio State their team want to make an impact, stop complaining.
Host a Sugar Bowl party raising food and money for the homeless.
Take a family a meal New Year’s Day.
Do something that will make an impact in a positive way.
My story on my battle has been shared to thousands of people. The trials and blessings my wife, my daughter, and I have faced; they have inspired people.
I grow tired of people who feel they are entitled to things. Especially a team to a title game or high stakes bowl game every year.
Life is more precious than bowl games, championships, and titles.
Christmas was named for the birth of God’s own son. Remember that when things seem out of sorts. Even non-church going people do realize Jesus was a kind and loving man. We could use a few more compassionate, caring and giving people in the world. Let’s remember that this time of year and into the New Year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“GETTING TO KNOW” SCOTT HOWSON, COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS GENERAL MANAGER

Scott Howson (megasportsnews.com photo)

By Edgar Stiles on November 22, 2011

Scott Howson is 51-years-old and most fans may not know, but he is a former NHL player.

The 5’11, 160 pounder, was a center during his playing career. He played for the New York Islanders as an undrafted college player from 1981-1986.

The Blue Jackets hired him from the Edmonton Oilers where he served as an assistant GM on June 15, 2007.

*Working as an elevator plant when he 18 was the worst job he ever had.

* Dave Keon was his favorite player growing up.

* Winning two championships in the minor hockey in Thronhill, Ontario. Winning the International Hockey League championship with Toledo in 1982 and Central Hockey League title in 1983 with Indianapolis.

* Former NHL general manager Bill Torrey is his biggest role model in sports.

* Current Columbus Blue Jackets star Rick Nash is the player that he would select if he was starting a brand new franchise.

* Building a championship team is a challenge and this is the best aspect of his job.

* When he stopped playing hockey in 1986 and went to law school in 1987 was when he decided to become a general manager.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ohio State owes it to fans to play better games


By: J. Justin Boggs

As the Ohio State Buckeyes’ football squad took the field to Ohio Stadium Saturday afternoon, those in the stands knew if they could make it to halftime, they did their job supporting their team.

As the halftime show performed by the band finished, the steady stream of fans onto Woody Haves Drive and Tuttle Park could be seen leaving the stadium. Can you blame them?

Ohio State racked up a 73-20 victory over a squad that has not won since George W. Bush was in office. The Buckeyes did what was expected against the Eastern Michigan Eagles. Pryor put up six touchdowns and the offense did what they wanted against an overwhelmed defense. It was a good old fashion spanking.

You had to feel for these Eagles’ players. They were told that they are just simply there to collect an $850,000 check. I have a feeling these players care very little in the dollars and more so in the wins.

But what is the point of playing a team like Eastern Michigan? Did Ohio State prove anything? We already knew they were good. If they wouldn’t have won by more than 50, it would meant the team had an off day. It just reaffirms what we already knew.

This isn’t the first cupcake Ohio State has thrown on the schedule. Marshall and Ohio University were not much better competition than Eastern Michigan. Those games too were decided by halftime.

Ohio State is becoming its own worst enemy. Alumni flood the system for tickets months before the season begins for a small number of tickets. Each alum is given a pair for one game a year if they’re lucky. When you sign up for this lottery, you may get Michigan or Eastern Michigan. How many of those alumni would purchase tickets if they knew Eastern Michigan was the game they were dropping $140 for a pair of tickets for? This is in addition to the thousands of students, season ticket holders, and donors who come to every game.

Ohio State says it needs to have at least seven home games a season to be able to have the largest athletics department in the nation. It is awesome Ohio State has so many sports, however I don’t think the fans freely want to make a $140 donation to the rowing team.

There are a couple solutions. One is for Ohio State to play major powers in the pre-conference schedule. Yeah they may demand home-and-homes. That is fine, you arrange where you have one home game in one year and the other team you play at home the next year.

And then you have your lower tier major conference teams. Give them the big pay out you give these Mid-American Conference teams and they’ll come. Think about having teams like Duke, Baylor, Washington State, Maryland, and Vanderbilt on your schedule every year. Big names, somewhat better competition, and you have a happier fan base.

You can leave an OU or EMU on the schedule, but playing three squads like this in a season is becoming overkill.

NHL rejecting Kovalchuk good deal for Blue Jackets

By: Justin Boggs

Loopholes are just what they are – ways around gaps. Owners and general managers around the NHL have been trying to find these gaps since the league’s last

Collective Bargaining Agreement in 2005 which imposed a league-wide salary cap.

The cap was put in place for two reasons. One was to keep costs down for the owners across the league. The second and probably more important reason was to allow small market teams like the Columbus Blue Jackets to be more competitive in signing high priced talent.

The salary cap has not done much to lure top talent to Columbus as the team has still yet to win a playoff game. Other small market teams have also had trouble hanging onto its top talent. Does Marian Hossa ring a bell?

Hossa was a stud with the Pittsburgh Penguins two seasons ago when the team marched to the Stanley Cup Finals. Even with the opportunity to win a title with small-market Pittsburgh alongside standout center Sidney Crosby, Hossa went onto green pastures with the Detroit Red Wings. In doing so, Hossa had to take a discount and a one-year deal.

Crosby’s Penguins got the last laugh in 2009 when they defeated Hossa’s Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Finals and gave yet another small market team hope.

Hossa bolted to the Chicago Blackhawks. Hossa accepted a 12-year deal for $62.8 million. The deal was front-loaded where Hossa would get paid over $8 million over the next eight seasons despite the cap hit only being $5.2 million.

This move by Chicago allowed them to outbid other teams for an elite player without taking the hit the salary cap was intended to have.

Fast-forward to the 2010 off-season. Ilya Kovalchuk was this year’s highly sought after free agent and with good reason. Kovalchuk is a point-per-game scorer and gives any team he plays on a chance to win. He is what we would call ‘money’.

Talent like Kovalchuk deserves top pay — no question. But in order to lure him to a team, not only would shelling out the cash be necessary, but he also needs pieces built around him. This is why the New Jersey Devils put together a huge deal.

At 17-years, the contract would have been the longest in NHL history. Kovalchuk would have been 44- years-old when the deal was set to expire. The pay was an astounding $102 million. The cap hit would have roughly been $7 million even though his pay over the next several years would have been in the $9-10 million range.

The deal was revoked the next day by the NHL and upheld by an arbitrator. Kovalchuk remains an unrestricted free agent.

With the contract rejection being upheld, this has given the league wiggle room to go back and look at deals made previously like the Hossa contract.

The NHL has made it clear to owners and general managers around league that they need to play by the book in order to sign top talent. Should there be an expectation that a player like Kovalchuk turn around and sign with a team like the Blue Jackets? Probably not. But this allows teams like the Blue Jackets which are struggling to turn a profit to remain somewhat competitive in free agency.

Give the Blue Jackets organization credit. This season, the team is currently just $6 million below the cap. The pieces the team has in place should be expected to win and win often. Just like last year, it boils down to individual players performing to their potential.

If the Blue Jackets could have played to their potential last season, perhaps they would have gotten back to the playoffs.

The landscape of the NHL could change even more next year when a new CBA is up and players will be looking to cash in even more as the league has grown rapidly the last several seasons. If this happens, small market teams once again feel the brunt.

Could the 2010-11 season be the Blue Jackets’ best chance at success on the ice of Nationwide Arena?

If you’d like to apply to be a guest writer, send us a sample of your work to megasportsnews@yahoo.com

Miller Will Bring Unique Talent To OSU

By Jeff Rapp

Call Braxton Miller a camper. He doesn’t mind. By the way, you also can call him a Buckeye.

The top quarterback prospect in the class of 2011, Miller puts a lot of stock into his summer work, taking advantage of Ohio State’s camp to fine-tune his game.

“Since I was in sixth grade I’ve been going to their camps nonstop,” said Miller, a standout from Huber Heights (Ohio) Wayne. “I liked it. Me and my best friend, Trey, we had lots of fun. Hopefully he’ll follow me and be my roommate some day.”

Trey, by the way, is Springfield (Ohio) South linebacker Trey DePriest, a close friend who, like Miller, is among the elite recruits in the entire country. OSU head coach Jim Tressel, of course, would love to add him to an already impressive 15-man haul for next year’s class.

But before looking ahead to that dreamy scenario, Ohio State fans should take a moment to realize the magnitude of landing Miller, who some are calling the next incarnation of Terrelle Pryor.

Miller committed to OSU June 3 during a press conference at his school before family, friends, classmates and an assemblage of media. The Buckeyes clearly benefited from home-field advantage, especially since Miller put so much weight on his summer camp experience. In fact, days after the announcement, he returned to campus to partake in OSU’s team camp and to spend more time with Tressel and quarterbacks coach Nick Siciliano.

“It meant so much to him,” Wayne coach Jay Minton said, “although I will say the other guys did a fantastic job. To get a guy like Braxton, who is born and bred and raised in Ohio, to even think about going out of state, they did such an exceptional job. But he had to go where his heart was in the end.”

At his press conference, Miller discarded ballcaps representing his other schools of consideration: Georgia, Notre Dame, Alabama and Florida. The 6-2, 190-pounder was intrigued with those places but in the end didn’t see a reason to leave his home state, especially after watching the way Pryor developed at the end of his sophomore season in the 2010 Rose Bowl.

He will now add to the list of those trying to woo other top recruits to Ohio State, including Massillon (Ohio) Washington wide receiver Devin Smith – “He could be a go-to guy,” he said – as well as DePriest, an athlete deluxe who projects at outside linebacker.

DePriest maintains his top two schools are Bama and Ohio State and even though some believe he is leaning on joining the Crimson Tide, Miller is still hoping to be his college teammate.

“That would be great,” he said. “One of your friends in the same room with you and going to the same college, that would take a lot of stress off me.”

Even so, Miller projects to be the face of this recruiting class. As a junior, he completed 88 of 166 passes (53.0 percent) for 938 yards with nine touchdowns and eight interceptions. He also rushed 112 times for 467 yards and 18 touchdowns.

When asked to describe himself, Miller said, “I would say a passer that can run. I can be a dual threat, too, like if somebody wants to rush the blitz. There’s always an open spot when somebody comes on a blitz.”

So what exactly did the Buckeyes net with this major commitment?

Here are a few assets of note:

Unique Talent – Miller is freakish in his ability to throw with strength and accuracy on the run. It is not uncommon for him to feel pressure, dart left and quick-strike a receiver running open on a crossing route more than 20 yards downfield.

He also is highly elusive in the open field and possesses speed clocked below 4.5 in the 4-yard dash. That constant threat combined with improving ball handling, recognition and a cannon arm make Miller an extremely rare and mouth-watering commodity under center.

With all of his capabilities, Ohio State could run variations of the option, zone read, West Coast and dropback offenses with a polished Miller, which is more or less the plan this season for Pryor.

It’s possible than when Miller arrives to campus early next year – he has designs on enrolling before the start of spring practices – he’ll be more in the 6-3, 200 range, a build very similar to that of his cousin, Dee Miller, a former star receiver at Ohio State.

Braxton reminds some of former West Virginia QB Pat White, who now has a wildcat/changeup role in the NFL. At Ohio State he could draw comparisons to a recent Big Ten star, Juice Williams.

Notoriety – With Miller headlining the 2011 class and others already in place, Ohio State once again is looking at a top-five designation according to recruiting analysts.

ESPN.com/Scouts Inc. released its initial top 150 list earlier this month and Miller was ranked 16th overall for 2011 prospects. McKinley defensive end Steve Miller and Illinois wideout Evan Spencer, both committed, are at Nos. 18 and 104, respectively. Several other commitments also are highly rated. DePriest is 35th on the ESPN list.

Miller actually was commitment No. 12 and the staff would like to stretch the current figure of 15 to 20 or 21 by February’s National Signing Day.

He could have a role in bringing even more talent on board. However, his announcement likely will keep the OSU staff from offering QB Cardale Jones of Cleveland Glenville.

Willing Student – Unlike some others in the same rarified air in terms on talent, Miller actually enjoys working on his game and constantly wants to learn.

He already has made great strides fundamentally and in his recognition of defenses.

“In terms of the coaching, they talked to me about a lot of things,” he said of the Ohio State staff. “They talked about being relaxed and not being too tight and too stiff. When I get up here again, I will work on that.”

Stability – With Miller promised, the program is now in very good shape going forward at the quarterback position, and that should portend to very good things.

Pryor and backup Joe Bauserman will be juniors this fall and Tressel also will be working on developing redshirt freshman Kenny Guiton and true freshman Taylor Graham.

Pryor, of course, could go on a Heisman Trophy campaign and be in position at the end of the season to leave the program a year early and pursue his NFL dreams. That would make the position wide open in 2011 and conceivably Miller would have a shot in an open competition.

But even if Pryor stays and Guiton and Graham make strides, Miller still would have a very bright future with opportunity to wrest the job away some day.

Winner – In games Miller has played over three years his team is 20-4. In that time, he has thrown for over 2,600 yards and 23 touchdowns and rushed for over 1,000 yards and 29 more scores.

Plus, many of those contests have come against some of the top teams in Ohio, schools such as McKinley, Glenville, Trotwood-Madison, Clayton Northmont and Centerville.

When asked what OSU fans will like best about Miller, his coach didn’t hesitate.

“I think it’s his desire to win,” Minton said. “Braxton competes so hard and he doesn’t take losing for an answer. He just doesn’t accept that. He’s always striving to want to be better. And then you put him in with a guy like Coach Tressel, who will mentor him, it’s just phenomenal.”

Sneak Peek

Ohio-based Buckeye fans who want to see Miller’s attributes in person will get a few chances this season. His senior campaign is littered with high-profile games, including a date with Canton McKinley on Sept. 5 at Ohio Stadium. That will be part of the Herbstreit Varsity Football Series and will be televised nationally on ESPNU.

The team’s season opener is with powerful Cincinnati Moeller in the Skyline Chili Crosstown Showdown Aug. 29 at UC’s Nippert Stadium. That game could be televised on one of the ESPN networks.

Also, Miller already is slated to play in ESPN’s Under Armour All-American Game in Florida in January.

Jeff Rapp is the owner/editor of SportsRappUp.com.

It is tough being in Strasburg’s shoes

By: J. Justin Boggs

As the baseball world clamors over the Washington Nationals’ new sensation pitcher, 21-year-old Stephen Strasburg has set aside the doubters and Major League hitters alike in his first three starts.

Strasburg only spent two months in the minors playing for packed stadiums against subpar talent. Now he is getting the opportunity to do the same against the game’s best.

I got the chance to see his first career road start in Cleveland a week ago when he gave up just one run in over five innings pitched and earned his second career win. Nearly every pitch he had in the first inning was accompanied by ooohs and aaahs from the large crowd. His 100 MPH fastball and his biting breaking ball was a sight to see.

Anyone with such talent almost does not seem human. But remember, Strasburg is human. Which is why making comparisons and projections of what his career will be like is tough to do following just his third start.

It would be great to say Strasburg will be the next Roger Clemens or Curt Schilling. But what if he becomes the next Mark Prior, or dare I say it, Hideki Irabu.

Irabu was possibly the most hyped pitcher I have ever seen in person. He was signed by the New York Yankees in 1997 and was given an expedited tour of the minors much like Strasburg. Several of said Minor League starts took place in Columbus with the Clippers, then Triple-A affiliate of the Yankees.

Irabu made a pair of starts to crowds of over 15,000; a crowd rarely seen at Cooper Stadium. Media from around the world was there to see the Japanese phenom. Irabu lived up to the hype in the minors. One of his starts in Columbus was a complete game two-hitter.

However Irabu had a woeful Major League career. He went 34-35 in six seasons in the big leagues. Irabu was back in Columbus in 2001 when he pitched against the Clippers as a member of the Ottawa Lynx. The crowd on hand was only about one-third the size of the crowd he saw in Columbus four seasons prior.

The comparison to Prior is a tough one. Pryor used so much torque on his elbow and body, he was perpetually injured throughout his entire career. The once can’t miss prospect of the Chicago Cubs had just 42 wins over the course of his career.

Tom House who was hired to be Prior’s personal pitching coach said Prior was a “can’t miss” prospect. Haven’t we heard that with Strasburg?

Who knows where Strasburg will finish. Who is to say the Reds’ Mike Leake will not have a better Major League career? Only time will tell.

Big Ten baseball excitement begins a week early

By J. Justin Boggs

As the Big Ten is preparing to send its top six teams to Columbus for its annual baseball tournament to decide which team will get what is likely to be the conference’s only bid, an interesting weekend is already starting to setup at Bill Davis Stadium.

This weekend represents the start of a three game set for the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Ohio State is in the midst of a four-way tie for fifth place in the conference. Minnesota is a game up for first place in the conference standings. Easy to see the importance of the upcoming weekend series.

There are two things at stake this weekend. One is the legend of Ohio State’s head coach as well as the success of the Big Ten tournament.

But dig a little deeper into Ohio State’s situation. This weekend could very possibly be the final one for legendary coach Bob Todd. Todd announced his retirement two weeks ago following the end of this season. After a season like this one, there may have been pressure on the university to release Todd of his duties despite him being signed to a three-year contract following last season.

It is hard to blame Todd for the hard times the team has fallen on of late.

The easy culprit goes back four weekends ago in a weekend series against Penn State. Penn State is the last place team in the conference but they stole two of three against at the time first place Ohio State at Bill Davis Stadium. Every team has its bad weekend. But when it rains, it pours.

The following weekend, during pregame warm-ups, ace pitcher Alex Wimmers pulled a hamstring and had to be pulled from his Friday night start at Michigan. Michigan won two of the three games that weekend.

No. 2 pitcher Drew Rucinski has had his battles of late as well. He has been battling a blister issue on his throwing hand for much of the season which has hurt his effectiveness. To add insult to injury, Rucinski was pulled after just one inning due to fatigue in his Friday night start in Iowa. No. 3 starter Dean Wolosianski has simply been ineffective for the season as well.

The last four weekends have been rough for Ohio State as it has lost two-out-of-three games in all four of its last four weekend Big Ten series.

A month ago, it looked nearly certain the team was going to make the tournament it is hosting and contend for a conference title. At this point, it appears Ohio State needs to win two out of three against Minnesota. Considering the competition, it will be an uphill climb.

This is the first year of a three year deal that Ohio State and Greater Columbus Sports Commission has signed with the Big Ten to host the tournament here in Columbus after last year’s success of the tournament at Huntington Park. This is the one season the tournament will not be hosted at Huntington Park as the Big Ten submitted its request too late and the Columbus Clippers will be using their home stadium during the tournament.

Most of the attendance the tournament got was in games Ohio State participated in. Most games Ohio State was not in drew a crowd of about 500. Whenever Ohio State took the field, crowds were in the 4-5 thousand range.

Read Mega Sports News next week as I will have reports from Bill Davis Stadium for the Big Ten Baseball Tournament.

NFL Draft Thoughts

By: Ken Keller

I love the NFL draft. I have watched just about every day of it for the last fifteen years. As a Cleveland fan, it is a chance for me to look for players that might change the teams’ fortunes around. It has never worked out, but for some reason, I still hope. You hear a lot of people compare the draft to Christmas. All religious blasphemy aside, I see the comparison. Your team is buying their own gift. The exciting thing is they are not even sure what gift to buy themselves until ten minutes before they get it. Think about it, they have less than ten minutes to decide what player they want to give a multi-million dollar contract to, spend countless hours training them in your system and put full faith that they can save your job by turning around the team’s fortunes. Have fun with that! Truth is these teams but thousands of hours researching hundreds of players they think will be around for them to pick. As fans, we try and do our meaningless research. I say meaningless because no matter what reason we may have for wanting your team to pick a player, there is no realistic way to compare that thought to what your team may think. They don’t care what we think, and they shouldn’t. How many times have you looked at a TV analyst’s “top players remaining” like Mel Kiper JR or Mike Mayock and then see your team pick a player three pages down on their list? The fact is they are much smarter than us at evaluating players. Teams have different systems, thus different criteria for picking a player. A blanket top 100 list is not feasible because what skill sets work for a 4-3 defensive end are not even close to the skill sets of a 3-4 defensive end. A defensive end in the 3-4 is basically a tackle in the 4-4 scheme. Gerald McCoy, the third overall pick to Tampa out of Oklahoma is a perfect example. Most “lists” had him as a top 5 talent, but almost half the teams in the NFL couldn’t use him without tweaking their defenses. McCoy is a classic 4-3 defensive tackle. One gap shooter that uses his explosive quickness to beat one blocker to the hole. That skill set has made him a millionaire. McCoy would have a much tougher time in a 3-4 scheme. I am not saying he wouldn’t be successful, he is an amazing talent, it just isn’t his natural position and doesn’t use his talents to the highest potential. A 3-4 tackle is responsible for two gaps, and many times must take on double teams. According to McCoy’s scouting profile , McCoy’s lack of bulk (if you consider 295 pounds lacking bulk) sometimes causes him to be knocked off the line. Not good when you’re responsible for taking up blockers so the linebackers can penetrate. So while McCoy was certainly the number 1 or 2 rated player on Tampa’s board because they use a 4 man front, he was likely out of Cleveland’s top 7-10 due to their 3-4 scheme. Point is, every team has their own board and only they know who is on it and why. We as fans are only guessing no matter how many magazines we read or draft experts we listen to. The fun thing is we can still try. That is why I watch feverishly, texting my buddies before and after every pick every year.

Draft grades are just as useless as “big boards” are. There is no way to tell the future three years down the line to see if a draft is successful. Again, everybody is just guessing. That being said, I scour the national publications after every draft (USA Today, ESPN, SI.com, Fox Sports and More) to see what “grade” experts with snap judgment give my team. When they like the picks, I feel good and am happy. When they bash or make fun of the picks, I feel scared for my team’s future or I just call the publications idiots and brush it off as ignorance towards a brilliant strategy.

I won’t grade the Browns’ 2010 draft, but will channel my inner “little league coach” and give every player his own award. When it comes to Browns’ players that have yet to step on the field, THEY ARE ALL WINNERS!

Best Player Picked Award: Joe Haden, CB, Florida

At least it better be. Any player picked in the first round should be an impact player almost right away. Any player picked in the top ten of a draft should be a future pro bowler or at the very least a long term starter for your team. I will admit two things 1) I wanted the Browns to get Eric Berry very badly. The guy is a specimen. He will lay you out but can also cover like a corner and make a big play at any time he is on the field. Kansas City ruined that for me. I thought for sure that the Chiefs would take an offensive tackle to protect quarterback Matt Cassel whom they signed to a big contract last year. For stealing the guys I wanted, I hope Cassel gets sacked 85 times this season. The second thing I will admit is to completely forgetting about Joe Haden after the Browns traded for Sheldon Brown. After the trade, I assumed the Browns did it so they could address another need with the 7th overall pick. After Berry was taken, the talent pool evened out considerably. I believe the Browns took the top player rated available, and turned the weakest part of the team in 2009 to the position of most depth in 2010. Haden is tough, physical and described by many as the best complete corner in the draft. I was fine with the pick.

Riskiest Pick Award: TJ Ward, Safety, Oregon

Admittedly a dubious award. The first pick in the second round might be the key to the entire draft. I had never heard of him before Friday night. My stomach sank like Rick Mahorn’s bank account when I heard the pick expecting Colt McCoy. (okay, cheap shot. I feel bad for that one) I immediately failed the entire draft and gave up hope for next season. I feel a little better after actually reading up on Ward. He is a tough physical safety with good athleticism (a huge need). The Browns apparently had him rated behind Berry but ahead of Nate Allen and Taylor Mays. Conveniently, Allen was drafted by the Eagles one spot before Cleveland picked so the Browns took Ward. Ward’s main worry is injury; he battled a high ankle sprain most of the season. Ask anyone who has ever suffered one how nasty of an injury that is. Ward also only had a handful of interceptions for his career so most scouts question his covering ability. Great. Browns G.M Tom Heckert believes that can be developed because of his athletic ability. Double great. The number 38 pick on a five win team needs development in order to fulfill a huge need. Pardon my apprehension, but the only second round pick that has remotely worked out well for Cleveland since their return in 1999 has been D’Quell Jackson. Let’s just say I need to see it before I believe it. If Ward pans out, then the secondary will be the best it has been since Minnifield, Dixon and Felix Wright patrolled the field in the 80′s.

If Ward can’t play, look for Hines Ward, Anquan Boldin and Chad Johnson (that’s right clown) to keep burning Cleveland with 60 yard seam routes down the middle of the field.

Biggest Surprise Pick: Monterio Hardesty, RB, Tennessee

Three reasons this pick left me scratching my head. 1) The Browns give up three picks to move back into the second round. This has to be where the Browns make their mark on the draft and grab McCoy! I mean, that’s what the guys on TV were saying! That is what I wanted to believe! Nope. 2) Again, I had no idea who Hardesty was. You can say that I am not as knowledgeable on college football as I lead on, possibly a fair statement. Fact is I had never seen him play, so for the Browns to move up so far to get him left me speechless 3) I honestly thought running back was the one position on this team that was set. Jerome Harrison put up playstation numbers the last month of the season and getting Peyton Hillis in the Brady Quinn trade gave the team I felt a great change of pace option. There is also Chris Jennings (who played decent at times but recently was arrested for assault) and last year’s draft pick James Davis. Hardesty is another injury risk with nice upside if he can stay healthy. Hardesty is a tough running physical back that was a two year captain for the Volunteers. He has a burst and the Browns believe he could be a feature back. Does this mean that Harrison goes back to being a back that averages over five yards a carry but only gets 4 carries a game because coaches don’t feel he can carry the load for a full season? I hope not. Harrison showed everybody last year he was a feature back by averaging close to thirty carries a game the final month of the season. At the same time, you can never have too many weapons. If Hardesty is good, I won’t complain?

Most Exciting Pick: Colt McCoy, QB, Texas

So right about the time I figured the Browns obviously did not want Colt McCoy as their quarterback after watching them pass over him twice, I started to justify it to myself. I told myself that if Holmgren does not want him, he must not fit the system. I told myself that McCoy’s perceived lack of arm strength would not bode well during windy wintry games at Cleveland Stadium. I told myself, “I don’t want a guy playing for my team named after a baby horse!” I drove home from work, trying to figure out what late round qb project might work out when I got a call from my friend Steve, a die hard Longhorn fan. “The Browns are taking McCoy!” Sure enough, Mack Brown coming out to announce the 85th pick of the draft for the Cleveland Browns kind of gave the pick away. Suddenly, I got very excited again. I didn’t mean any of that rubbish I talked myself into believing! PLEASE BE MCCOY!!!!! It was, and I spent the next half hour smiling in front of my TV watching the ESPN crew anoint McCoy the next hall of fame quarterback. I like it, I like it a lot.

Award For The De Ja Vue Pick Of The Draft: Larry Asante, safety, Nebraska

By the fifth round, I don’t expect to know the players. Asante is another athletic, run stopping in the box safety. Similar to the skill sets of Ward, although Ward is considered to have more upside. At worst, Asante will help on special teams. At best, an insurance policy for Ward in case he gets injured. Not much risk with this fifth round pick.

Award For Lowest Risk Highest Reward: Carlton Mitchell, WR, South Florida

Mitchell is big at almost 6’3″. He has decent speed with sub 4.5 40 time. That is not a bad start for a sixth round wideout. Mitchell had pretty good numbers with run heavy South Florida. He is considered a project due to raw route running skills and lack of separation speed. Similar to what was said about former seventh round pick for the Saints, Marques Colston. I’m not saying, I’m just saying. Why not take a chance in the sixth round. My only complaint is not going for a safer wide receiver pick earlier in the draft. Wide Receiver is definitely a need. I suppose there are so many needs with the team that it is impossible to draft all of them within the first three rounds.

Award For The Biggest Man Ever Named Clifton That Has An Uncle And Brother That Played In The NFL: Clifton Geathers, DE, South Carolina

Really, where else could I go with this? The 186th player taken, nephew of former Giant Jumpy Geathers and brother of current Bengal Robert Geathers. This guy is huge. 6’7″ 299 pounds with a 38″ arm length and 11″ hand size. Yow-za! At least he looks intimidating.

Key To The Draft: TJ Ward

If Ward is good and stays healthy, Haden, Wright and Ward will be a nice young tandem for many years.

Might Have Made A Mistake Not Taking This Guy: Terrence Cody, NT, Alabama

Most of my friends I talk to never wanted him, calling him a loafer that will eat himself out of the league. All I know is that he is a massive nose tackle that produced at a high level for an elite program and coach. The Browns will probably lose Shawn Rogers to suspension for at least 2-4 games and defensive line is the position of least depth. The Browns made no free agent signings and didn’t draft a d-linemen until Geathers in the 6th. Instead, he goes to a division foe with a great draft history in the Ravens. I don’t feel good about passing on Cody. I would have like him over Ward or Hardesty. Hope I am wrong.

Biggest Question Mark After The Draft: Drafting No Pass Rushers And Just One D-Linemen

I am perplexed by this. The Browns took two safeties and a project wide receiver instead of drafting two of the most needed positions on the team. Thaddeus Gibson would have looked nice instead of Asante and I already mentioned Cody. I think the Browns honestly believe they have their pass rushers in Chris Gocung and Matt Roth. They also might believe they can blitz a lot more with a more stable secondary. We shall see. I would like more pass rushers. As for the d-line. This to me is the most pressing need on the team. The d-line is old and I have already mentioned Roger’s legal problems. This worries me.

Overall, Haden, McCoy and possibly Hardesty make this an optimistic draft class. Ward could make it great. Time will tell.

Quick AFC North thoughts:

I really think the AFC North had an outstanding draft. The Bengals made the correct pick in Greshem. He is a match up nightmare at tight end. I believe he is the piece that will return the Bengals to the level of elite offense. I was hoping they would mess it up and take Dez Bryant. Bryant may turn out to be great, but a locker room with Chad Johnson (yup) and Dez Bryant is every Browns fan’s dream. Carson Palmer would retire by mid season due to whiny diva receiver syndrome. But, they made the great, easy pick and will be tough to stop offensively. I am thrilled they took Carlos Dunlap. I have all the confidence in the world that the he will be out of the league in three years due to awful decision making and no motor to go along with no motivation. Book it.

The Ravens are amazing in the draft. Another kick in the groin to every Brown’s fan that watched Ozzie Newsome dazzle as the best tight end of his era before becoming a great general manager for the biggest crook in sports history. Kindle and Cody are two great pick ups for a replenishing defense in the first round. Except he took them both IN THE SECOND ROUND! (geez) Tight End Ed Dickson was also a very nice pick up in the third. Please come back to Cleveland Wiz!

(Sigh….) The good old days
Pittsburgh at the very least solidified their line with Pouncey. There are great nose tackles all over the AFC North so having a tough center is essential. Other than former Buckeyes Thaddeus Gibson and Doug Worthington, I don’t know much about the rest of their draft. I can only assume all ten of them will evolve into pro bowlers, that is just a Brown’s fans’ luck.

A Few Random Thoughts About The Draft In General:

Didn’t think I would, but I loved the three day format. I avoided news Thursday night and watched the entire first round after work on DVR. Then I had an entire day to map out and discuss what moves should be made Friday night. I followed along online on Friday and then caught bits and pieces on a much more relaxed Saturday. Sunday was free. I got to watch more of the draft than ever, and my wife didn’t lose me for the entire weekend. A win for everyone.

What was the deal with all the bear hugs Roger Godell was getting from the draftees? I thought Arizona tight end Rob Gronkowski was literally going to crack his ribs. Even more confusing was Godell actually seemed to have fun with it.

I respect Tim Tebow’s leadership and conviction, but after all of his speeches and interviews I heard him give this weekend, I half expect him to explode into cheese. He is a combination of Nuke Laloosh and Jimmy Chitwood from Hoosiers with a touch of Knute Rockney. I know he believes everything he says, and he always says the right things, but man are they cheesy and over the top!

Anyway, hopefully some of you made it through this entire blog. Good job!

What Went Wrong With the CBJ in 2009-2010?
By: Dave Seaman

Coming off its first Stanley Cup Playoff experience, the Columbus Blue Jackets underachieved in 2009-10 and find their season over after a 1-0 shootout loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Friday.

It was a season with high expectations for the Jackets, but injuries and the dreaded sophomore slump prevented the team from making a second straight playoff appearance.

The team ended the season 32-35-15 (79 points) and finished last in the Central Division, 14th in the Western Conference and tied for 26th in the league going into the final weekend of the season. It was the third highest point total in franchise history behind 92 last season and 80 in 2007-08.

The result of the poor season was the firing of coach Ken Hitchcock on Feb. 3. Claude Noel took over and led the Jackets to a 10-8-6 record over the final 24 games.

With the team out of the playoff hunt at the trade deadline, Raffi Torres (Buffalo), Fredrik Modin (Los Angeles) and Milan Jurcina (traded from and back to Washington) were all moved. Jason Chimera was also traded earlier in the season for Capitals captain Chris Clark and Jurcina.

The injury bug was one of the biggest reasons why the Jackets cooled off after starting with a franchise best 5-1 mark. Defenseman Jan Hejda missed eight games early in the season and the final 12 games with various injures.

Mike Commodore battled injures all season and improper conditioning that caused him to not play at his potential until the final 25 games. The biggest loss on the blue line was Rostislav Klesla, who injured his groin and stomach Nov. 30 against St. Louis and missed the rest of the season.

Derek Dorsett missed 25 games with a concussion and hand injures, while Andrew Murray, Jared Boll and Mark Methot also missed time at various points during the season.

Aside from the injuries, the sophomore slump hit goaltender Steve Mason in a big way. A year after winning the Calder Trophy and going 33-20-7 with a league-high 10 shutouts and goals-against of 2.29 in 2008-09, Mason struggled to find form. He ended the season 20-26-9 and had a goals-against of 3.12.

Derek Brassard was supposed to be the team’s top center, but struggled coming off shoulder surgery. He ended the season with nine goals and 27 assists (36 points). Fellow second-year player Jakub Voracek had a slow start, but ended up with career-highs in goals (16) and assists (34) for 50 points.

Not all was bad for the Jackets. Antoine Vermette put up career numbers (27 goals, 38 assists, 65 points) and battled captain Rick Nash for the team’s top offensive numbers. Nash, who won a gold medal in the Vancouver Olympics, finished with 33 goals, 34 assists and 67 points. Fellow top-liner Kristian Huselius also put up solid numbers (23 goals, 40 assist and 63 points.) R.J. Umberger also had a career year with 23 goals and 32 assists (55 points).

The Jackets had big wins including a 4-1 win in Dallas on Nov. 19 before the team went on a six-week tailspin that took them out of playoff contention. That tailspin included a 1-0 overtime victory over Detroit on national television on Dec. 28. The team also managed to beat Washington early in the season as well as back-to-back wins over the Chicago Blackhawks late in the season when they were the top team in the Western Conference.

Going into the offseason, Jackets General Manager will likely tweak the blue line, perhaps moving Klesla, Hejda or Fedor Tyutin. He will also have to address the center position, again looking for a legitimate top-liner who can play between Nash and Huselius.

The other issue going into training camp will be if Nikita Filatov, who had a fallout with Hitchcock and requested to play in Russia for the remainder of the season after 13 games, will return. Howson may also try to trade the Russian at the NHL Entry Draft in June. The team will receive a top-six pick depending on the Draft Lottery.

The 2010-11 season will start in Stockholm, Sweden with a pair of games with San Jose. The team will unveil a new third jersey that may or may not have a cannon on it in November. With the late-season surge, the Jackets should find themselves back in the playoff race this time next year.

Contact Dave

Dave.Seaman@Columbuswired.tv
Twitter: @DaveSeaman94

Dave Seaman has covered the Columbus Blue Jackets since its inaugural year for various publications, most notably Columbus Wired, where he is the primary beat writer and analyst for “On the Bench with ColumbusWired TV.” He also covers the Memorial Tournament and Ohio State football for the website. He also contributes to This Week Community Newspapers. Seaman previously worked for the Delaware Gazette, Beavercreek News-Current and Huber Heights Courier.

If you’d like to apply to be a guest writer, send us a sample of your work to megasportsnews@yahoo.com

No Expansion Needed

By: Justin Boggs

So I am sure that it is a given that any sports fan has been tuned in every Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evening the last several weeks to the NCAA March Madness with the top 65 men’s teams battling it out. This 2010 edition has been epic with just one top-seeded team making the final four and easily the top three teams in the tournament getting bounced early in the tournament.

Many of us were tuned in to see Xavier take Kansas State to double-overtime. How about when Ohio University shocked Georgetown? And who is going to forget when Kansas lost to Northern Iowa in the second round?

This tournament gives us epic moments and makes for great television. So what is wrong with this tournament? I cannot think of anything.

Casual sports fans have learned the names of players on many of the top college teams. So what benefit would the NCAA have in increasing the field to 96 teams?

That question will be asked and debated over the next several weeks as the NCAA considers expanding the field of teams from 65 to 96. Essentially, take the teams who played in the NIT and put them in the NCAAs. Has anyone seen the NIT this season? North Carolina put on an ugly display of basketball when it defeated Rhode Island in the semifinals of the NIT on Tuesday. Pardon me but ugly basketball is only the exception in the NCAA tournament as in Wisconsin’s ugly yet effective wear-‘em-down style.

The purpose of having this tournament is to decide who is the National Champion and the best in the country. Currently, not even half the teams in the field of 65 have any chance of winning a title. How does adding more water to an already watered-down field help the NCAA?

Compare this system to the BCS where the field isn’t watered enough. Of course the No.3 team in the nation has the potential to win a title in college football in a playoff format. In college basketball, the No. 66 team has zero chance. It is a valid argument that an expansion should not even be considered until a No. 16 seed defeats a No. 1 seed. That only makes sense.

The argument in football is that the regular season is very important. So if college basketball goes to 96 teams, what importance does the regular season have if you’re a major conference team?

So since competitiveness cannot be the reason why the NCAA would even consider an expansion, the reason must sit with dollars and cents. This too does not add up. Yes, you will have a few more games to sell tickets to, however how will this affect CBS.

CBS already dedicates five weeknights of primetime programming to the tournament. Adding a round of not-so-meaningful games might lower the cost CBS pays for the games as it might not get the ratings a drama or comedy might get. This would lower the amount of money CBS gives to the NCAA and thus make selling the tournament tougher.

The old saying ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ ought to apply to this circumstance.

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