Monday, August 31, 2015

Paddock's Pats

The Regina Pats have been involved in a tumultuous off-season in preparation for the 2015-2016 Western Hockey League season. Tumultuous in the sense that the managerial brass has dealt with freak injuries and questionable trades, which has us reminiscing about the direction this team was perennially headed in the infamous Parker era. There was so much optimism during last year's magical run which led to a competitive second round series loss against the Brandon Wheat Kings, which also saw a much needed ownership change now under the direction of the Queen City entertainment group but this off-season, as implied in the opening sentence has been concerning on a number of fronts, and the ultimate question I have is will this organization have enough in the tank to be the team to beat in 2016-2017, a year in which the Pats have set their sights on to give the league
championship the old college try. I'm not sure there is, but I'll leave that up to you to decipher.

Injuries have been the name of the game in Pat land this summer. First, and by far most prevalent is the loss of Colby Williams. Colby had a heralded start to the summer being a surprise selection in the National Hockey League draft going to the Washington Capitals and the immediate concern for Head Coach and General Manager John Paddock was whether Williams would be returned or spend the year with the American Hockey League affiliate. Need not worry anymore about that scenario as Williams has suffered a season ending upper body injury. The expectation for Williams was that he was going to be the defensive catalyst this year as he really came into his own throughout the 2014-2015 jaunt. Now, without Williams, the Pats are heavily banking on the continued emergence of players such as James Hilsendager and Connor Hobbs to carry the ship this winter. I give credit to Paddock in that before he was brought in, I thought Williams's play, for a lack of a better word, was horse manure. Watching Williams play prior to last year was like watching, and only long time Regina Pat supporters will understand and appreciate the reference, Gerad Adams play defence. You weren't sure if Adams was truly aware what team he played on as his nickname should've been Gerad" The Double Agent" Adams as you never truly knew what team held his services, he was that bad, as was Williams pre-Paddock. I remember thinking that it may have been wise considering transitioning Williams to a forward, because he skated well and just not responsible is his own end. It's now apparent that Williams is yesterday's news, just add one to the unlucky tally for the St.Patricia's. As you're about to learn, that tally is soon to be increased with the news that we received that Taylor Cooper is out until at least Christmas. Cooper, who was brought over from the Lethbridge Hurricanes(great trade, one of the few, a topic that will be discussed later) was phenomenal playing on the top line. He netted timely goals and always seemed to be in the ideal scoring areas. He was a good veteran presence up front for a team that's true aspirations lie in the 2016-2017 season and beyond. So to summarize the injury front, two key twenty year old cogs have now been lost, so how does this effect the game plan for the upcoming season? We'll discuss below.

I was extremely impressed with what John Paddock accomplished last year. His reward of being named the Western Hockey League's coach of the year is completely deserved. He took a team that a lot of media pendants perceived to be a non playoff team, and completely twisted the fortune of the franchise allowing the team to trade away their older assets while still comfortably sitting in the playoff picture  Morgan Klimchuk was dealt for Jesse Gabrielle, a deal that due to recent turn of events will be forced to scrutinize shortly, Dryden Hunt and team captain Kyle Burroughs were jettisoned to the Medicine Hat Tigers. Also, Connor Gay was sent to the Red Deer Rebels along with a first round pick for youngster Jake Leschyshyn. The Medicine Hat Trade, in which the Pats received fellow Washington Capital draft pick Connor Hobbs I felt as if the Pats didn't get enough back in return. Hunt and Burroughs were two excellent nineteen year olds, and although I'm hearing conflicting reports on Burroughs, the consensus is that Dryden Hunt will be returned to the Tigers, and if by some oft chance Burroughs is sent back to, you have to wonder whether Paddock took enough from the Tiger shed?  The Red Deer trade is what it is. For what it's worth, in my limited viewing of Leschyshyn, I was taken a back by his aggression on the ice. Usually, a lot of fifteen year olds/sixteen year olds who get coddled into the league don't play with that level of ferociousness but Jake was there to immediately rake up the points. I think Jake is bound to have a splendid season and fingers crossed he'll turn out to be the player father Curtis was. On  a complete side note, I feel sorry for Pats play by play Phil "The Thrill" Andrews as not only does he have a Leschyshyn to pronounciate he also has a Zborovsky to deal with, but to make matters worse in two years time he may have a Leschyshyn and a Lenchyshyn to filter through. Good luck Phil! So the trade I really want to focus on tonight, and I think this will end up reflecting towards to the ultimate success of Paddock's tenure is the Morgan Klimchuk for Jesse Gabrielle deal. Gabrielle, who in Brandon and certainly carried over to the  Regina Pats was that he was the Steve Downie of the WHL, his pesky style of play compounded with his tabasco infested mouth got under the skin of the opposition rendering him quite effective in my eyes. On the premise, trading away a nineteen year old first round NHL draft pick of the Calgary Flames in Klimchuk for a moderately coveted seventeen year old NHL prospect in Gabrielle seemed to add-up, The second half of the season saw scorching results for the franchise so it was hunky dory going forward, or so I thought. But then came the ever controversial summer 2015 trade involving the Patties and the Prince George Cougars. Jesse Gabrielle, a now Boston Bruins pick was sent away from a team that is trying to build around the 1997 and 1998 age group??? Utter ridiculousness if you ask me! My first inkling, which was never brought up as reasoning when attempting to provide justification with the move was that Gabrielle's personality caused conflicts forcing the Pats and Paddock's hand, but more than that, if we would've got fair value in return, I could've stomached the thought of sending away Jesse. Instead, we exchanged fourth round draft picks and got back in return a player who put up average statistics in Lane Zablocki.  Zablocki, who some will suffice that it works in the Pats favour in that you can pair Zablocki with his fellow 1998 counterpart and face of the franchise in Sam Steel, but what happened trying to win in Steel's eighteen year old year, thus the requirement of possessing a strong 1997 core. The assumption from my end anyway is that their's a very strong chance Steel won't be playing junior hockey when he's nineteen so I fail to reason what they see in Zablocki to be a leading contributor in two year's time. I just can't and never will agree with this being a sound move, and if this move flames which I suspect it will, this will poorly reflect upon Paddock's legacy as a Pat, as this was a non necessitated transaction that was consummated.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

NFL Fantas-eh

After completing my fantasy football draft this evening, it's time to unveil the five players that I would absolutely classify as late round steals when it comes to your draft, and five players I wouldn't touch with a wooden pole. I thoroughly hope you find this insightful and feedback via twitter(@bretzky26) or by e-mail at would be greatly appreciated.

"Slithering Steals"

1.Devin Funchess-WR(Carolina)- With the unfortunate news coming out of Raleigh that stud receiver Kelvin Benjamin suffered a season ending injury, this has opened the door for the recent Michigan graduate Funchess. Funchess is a giant standing at 6'5, and the expectation was that along with Benjamin, the Raleigh "Twin Towers" were purportedly amongst us, but we'll have to wait until at least 2016 for anything of that magnitude to materialize. Funchess doesn't possess high end speed but is an excellent route runner and the strong arm of his now quarterback Cam Newton will be able to effectively find him with numerous quick hitting patterns that will work to Funchess' advantage. In non-keeper drafts, try to land Funchess in the sixth to seventh round.

2.Kyle Rudolph-TE(Minnesota)- Kyle Rudolph due to the market he resides does not get the deserved recognition. Rudolph's career plight throughout the first three years of his career is that of someone that has had difficulty with staying healthy. The reason I view Rudolph as a mid to late round steal is because a lot of the "insiders" are under the premise that Minnesota Vikings will constantly stuff the ball inside and seemingly ignore their running game, but I'm here to tell you that the emergence of Teddy Bridgewater will be an added bonus attack for Rudolph and other Vikings pass catchers. Selecting Rudolph in the sixth to eighth round would be a worth while concept.

3.Dorial Green-Beckham-WR(Tennessee)- In my keeper league this evening, Green-Beckham was picked relatively early so kudos to the owner who nabbed him in my league. I think Green-Beckham, as has been stated numerous times had his issues collegiately getting removed from the Missouri Tigers program, but if he would've been a civil citizen of the program he likely would have had his name called in the first round of the NFL draft. Green-Beckham's comparable, and this is solely my opinion as is everything else with this enterprise is would be Brandin Cooks out of the Louisiana state. The concern I have, and we'll see whether this becomes me overthinking the situation or ending up being correct and that's whether Marcus Mariota will show the maturity to be a consistent gun slinger in his first season. A third round pick without the quarterback concerns, sixth round pick otherwise.

4.Victor Cruz-WR(New York Giants)- Some reading this will feel as if I'm contradicting myself, particularly seeing as how I didn't end up pursuing Cruz as a fantasy selection. Well...the jokes on you, as I still might!  Nonetheless, my reasoning for labelling Cruz a sleeper is three fold  For starters, I'm prognosticating the G-men to win the Super bowl so that right there should exquisitely explain my reasoning for wanting Victor Cruz. I think all of the attention and rightfully so will be on the best receiver in the business in Odell Beckham which will create matchups pitting Cruz against a lot of CB2's. Let's not forget that Cruz has been a number one receiver on a super bowl team before and even though he's a little long in the tooth, I could go on and on but I better wrap this up and login into my league and acquire the Super Bowl champs #2. Very, very late round pick would suffice.

5.Nelson Agholor-WR(Philadelphia)-Again, kudos to the same owner who I also believe selected Green-Beckham, but being how he's a delusional Eagles fan, this one didn't surprise me. I only classify this individual as delusional as who in their right mind cheers for the Eagles. Agholor, the more I read I continually get the same rhetoric back and that's he's the number two receiver on the Eagles. Maybe I need a news flash brought to my attention, but what has Jordan Matthews done to suffice being considered the Eagles top show in town. The answer is nothing, Jordan Matthews is an overrated commodity in the city of Brotherly Love which furthers my reasoning for why Agholor is a fantastic pick as by the end of the year I guarantee barring injury he will get the bulk of the work load for Philadelphia. Fifth to sixth round pick.

"CFL Bound"

1.Mark Ingram-RB(New Orleans)- My thought process in including Ingram on the no touch list is that I look at New Orleans as a whole, and I see a team who's bound for  a plentiful decrease in the passing game losing Jimmy Graham allowing defensive coordinators to emphasize shutting down the run which will negatively influence Ingram's production. Ingram has reportedly claimed that he aspires to be the three down back but Mark, if I may, and I know you're chomping at the bit every time I post an entry, stick to focusing on the run my friend as without that you're a useless pylon hindering the Saints. They brought in C.J Spiller for  a reason.

2.Amari Cooper-WR(Oakland)- The laughable Raiders have once again struck with incompetence. The sad reality is for newly appointed head coach Jack Del Rio is like all other head coaches that have come and went in the Davis era, a team now hawked over by late Al's son, they seem to focus on the short term, never focusing or concentrating on the long term plausibility of the franchise. I fear Cooper's going to succumb to the same pressures put on him that Darius Heyward-Bay dealt with while donning the Black and White. The hierarchy in Northern California doesn't breed success and the fact that quarterback Derek Carr will have the mandate to throw Cooper's way twenty times a game, it's likely that defensive coordinators will have  Sunday feast against a rookie that at this point doesn't know any better.

3.Julian Edelman-WR(New England)- I can only imagine some of the reactions that will be internally thought of after reading this. Edelman's Patriots just won the Super Bowl right? Well yes, but the impartial observer in myself clearly saw a scenario developing in Foxboro that when the game got tougher, more targets were going Brandon LaFell's way. Edelman is a premier kick returner, but relying on the kick return won't win you fantasy championships. I think some confuse the fact that because he has such excellent return abilities that he's actually being a premier receiver, for which he is nowhere close. The Patriots may thrive, but Julian will not.

4. Ryan Tannehill-QB(Miami)-Throwing for twenty seven and twenty four touchdowns the last two years respectively is certainly commendable, but the loss of Mike Wallace should not be understated. Jarvis Landry had a astonishing 2014 campaign, but I'm not convinced can retain his number one receiver status. Who else does he have the opportunity to throw the ball too? Greg Jennings? The same Greg Jennings who may allow the infamously slow baseball great Mo Vaughn look like Usain Bolt? Not happening, the lack of quality receiving targets is a scary proposition for fans in the Miami area as to parody a quote from the great Lebron James" This year, I'm going to take my fantasy quarterbacks from South Beach".

5.Doug  Baldwin-WR(Seattle)- This Stanford grad may cause most fantasy owners to commit the Cardinal sin by overvaluing one aberration of a year while not focusing on the depth a team has, and particularly in the Seattle Seahawks case, they now have other receivers that are ready to take away  some, if not all of Baldwin's productivity. The two names I had in mind were Jermaine Kearse and former Winnipeg Blue Bomber Chris Matthews. I don't think picking Baldwin in a lower rounds of the draft is a make or break mistake but the ones that do are going to switching their sole focus to hockey sooner than others.

Fedex Cup upon us!

In a four series event that I would put below the majors and the respective World Golf Championships, the playoffs of the PGA Tour are set to begin at the Barclays, and the dilemma I face is, I may not view this event in the highest regard, but do the players? The PGA Tour, in cooperation with the main title sponsor "FedEx" if that wasn't clear enough already provides a one million dollar grand prize for the winner. For a lot of these players, that kind of cash due in large part to the increased purses for the majority of events is considered chump change, so if the financial surplus isn't enough to motivate the players, what can be done to spice up a very bland event in my eyes?

For starters, in any sport when a playoff comes to mind, it's always a head to head battle featuring the best in the prospective sport when the final ultimately featuring the two best that went through the gauntlet and now face each other to claim the prized glory. If the PGA Tour could develop a system that would create a scenario where, similar to the "Elite Eight" in NCAA basketball, would in the final event which happens to be the Tour Championship, have the final eight in the standings, and divulge in a bracket format which would lead to the final two playing on the Sunday. The drama that could unfold witnessing a Jordan Spieth against a Jason Day would be exhilarating for both the television and live audience. The reason I bring up this proposed event refinement is because what I hate to see, as we saw a couple years ago a guy like Henrik Stenson who dominated the first events in the series, which rendered the third event in the series a moot point for Henrik because irregardless of placement he was guaranteed a top five position heading into the Tour Championship. The display for which Stenson strutted that playoff month was herculean but that's nor here or there, nobody should ever receive a "bye" in any playoffs.

As a converse argument, as much as I'm not a fan of the series, I will say the one advantage it has where it places on the tour schedule is that's it's a great sounding board for players who are on a fringe of making their respective Ryder Cup/President's Cup team. To use an example of a player, because he hails from Weyburn is Graham DeLaet as he is battling for a spot on Nick Price's International President's cup team. DeLaet has for the most part had a miserable 2015 season which has been further hampered by a nagging thumb injury but according to Price in an interview he gave while partaking in a charity event in Saskatoon, and as a forewarning I'm fairly skeptical that he only made these comments while residing in DeLaet's home province was that he was very much on the radar. It's like me going to Toronto and proclaiming that Phil Kessel is the hardest working player in the NHL. I'm pretty sure in reference to that statement I would be met with a chorus of boos, you get the point I'm trying to make. In all seriousness, unless Graham can surprise us all and take home a FedEx event, I give zero chance of him being chosen for the team. In fact, pertaining to the Canadian content on the tour, I think Ontario native David Hearn is far more deserving.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

A Westernly past

It's always an exciting time when Western Hockey League training camps are about to get into full swing. I'm hoping to bombard this blog with much aligned WHL content over the next several months as I have already completed the critically acclaimed(in my own mind)  2015-2016 WHL preview which you can find if you scroll through my entries from late June/early July. What I wanted to reminisce on this evening is my top five all time Western Hockey League memories, and as a disclaimer they mostly all involve the Regina Pats because being born and raised in the Queen City you can understand what I was brought up with, and that was the St.Patricia's. I will be counting down from five to one with one being my all-time greatest memory.

5. "Hustlin for Dustin"

The 2003/2004 campaign was a forgettable one for the Regina Pats. Personnel change was imminent as they were immersed in a full out rebuild. Josh Harding, the local fan favourite goaltender was dealt to the Brandon Wheat Kings in a complexion of moves which eventually saw Dustin Slade be shipped in via Kamloops-Brandon to become to new Regina Pats starting goaltender. Bob Lowes, who had a reputation of being a stern, stoic bench boss from the out set wouldn't of meshed well with the robust Dustin Slade who's temper on the ice was  a turn-off for some Regina hockey traditionalists. The night in question that was one of my highlights was January 9th,2004 which pitted the Pats against Slade's former organization, the Kamloops Blazers. The Pats, in lieu of the rebuild accumulated more losses than wins and were up against a team that trotted out Grant Jacobsen, a former Pat great who was sent to Kamloops in an earlier deal which brought in future captain and Sedley native Kyle Deck and Jonathan Bubnick. Needless to say, this Kamloops team was heavily favoured who also rostered Devan Dubnyk and great junior stalwart Jarrett Lukin. It was one of, if not Dustin Slade's first game with the Patricia's and at that point no one knew the temper that would later be evidenced or what kind of game he brought to the table. On this cold January evening, which saw me bowl a great game before I arrived at the Brandt center(shows the wacked up memory I have)Dustin Slade endeared himself early and stood on his head in route to a 1-1 tie. The Blazers peppered Slade all night with the shots and without having an official game sheet handy, must of held a 20-25 advantage in that category. The Dustin Slade era was upon us in Regina and boy were things just getting started.

4. Chris Phillips and his rubber legs

Chris Phillips, the first overall pick of the Ottawa Senators in 1996 when describing his career in the NHL could be described as a little bland. Usually, first overall picks provide more of an impact on their respective organization but what Phillips provided was a little more mundane as he was never the top two defenceman Ottawa thought they were selecting. One of the more memorable nights from the Western Hockey League that I remember took place on February 19th,1997 when Phillips and his Lethbridge Hurricanes who had acquired him from Prince Albert earlier that season went up against the Brandon Wheat Kings. This match-up was showcased on TSN during the time that TSN had rights to the Canadian Hockey League. The game if I'm not mistaken was broadcasted  by my journalistic hero in Paul Romaniuk with Gary Green providing color and the significance of the game to where Romaniuk so eloquently laid out was due to some sudden change of events in the pre game, the Hurricanes were forced to dress only four defenceman, one of them being Phillips. Phillips,  I kid you not, because I vividly remember the play by play team lauding his efforts, played close to fifty minutes in a 4-2 victory.He single handedly carried the Hurricanes on this night and those heroic efforts on TSN will never be forgotten.

3. "The Fight"

Reverting  back to the legend that was Dustin Slade for a moment, his aforementioned temper brought forward mixed emotions amongst Regina hockey enthusiasts. The youth loved it, the adults despised it but in the end had to live with it for a brief time. In the famed Highway # 1 rivalry featuring the Regina Pats and the Moose Jaw Warriors, their have been more memorable battles then I'll ever be able to recount but one evening, I can't recall the date and any almanac source hasn't been able to assist me, all I know it was a school night as I was enrolled in high school that saw myself witness my first ever goaltender fight. Dustin Slade v Joey Perricone. On television, I had seen it numerous times but was never privy to it happening live so as a high-school student, I was in amazement. To parlay another useless tidbit about this hockey game, I recall buying a 50/50 but the friend I was riding with wanted to leave early so to this day we'll never know if I won. It's ok....... I've won several luck box contests since.  In a heated battle, the two goalies met up at center ice and dropped the ginormous glove and blocker and started firing haymakers back and forth. It was an entertaining scrap with no parties heavily invested in the proceedings. The game may have been a  route that night, basing it off of the assumption that with the Warriors as title contenders with the nucleus including Kendal McArdle, Dustin Boyd, and Troy Brouwer, aside from the Slade dust-up, it's doubtful the Pats put up much of a fight on this night.

2."Bozon's Bravery"

The Kootenay Ice faithful won't have much to cheer about this upcoming season, so I hope they take solace that one of their now alumni will go down as one of the most heroic, defiant individuals the league has ever seen in Tim Bozon. On March 1st,2014, Bozon after finishing up a game against the Kootenay Ice fell ill and at the request of the team trainer, was admitted into the Saskatoon hospital. According to reports, during his stay at the hospital his condition worsened falling into a coma after being diagnosed with meningitis.  It's a condition that hampers the ability of the brain and spinal cord so when it was announced what was happening to the young Swiss player, the hope was that some day he could recover to a point where he could live a normal life. Hockey wasn't even on the radar. Tim Bozon never got the memo and showed an unprecedented courage and determination encountering endless hours of physical therapy to learn how to speak and walk again, with re-acquiring the skill of skating coming sooner then most thought.  Bozon prior to the ailment was a coveted prospect with the Montreal Canadiens. If the unfortunate illness didn't happen, it's more than likely that he would of spent the 2014-2015 season in the American Hockey League, but after all he's been through the Canadiens made the organizational decision to send him back to Cranbrook for one more year of development.  I suffice that the fact that he was even able to touch foot on the ice again speaks volumes of Tim's character and I made a conscious effort to make sure I was front row when Tim Bozon and the Ice returned to Regina, because I'm positive years later we'll still be fascinating about the Tim Bozon hardships and what it took to regain control of his own self.

1. "The Finicky Foreurs"

The 2001 Memorial Cup in Regina was in many ways my introduction to my lifelong passion of Junior Hockey.  The tournament consisted of the host Pats, eventual champions Red Deer Rebels, Ottawa 67's, and those pesky Val'dor Foreurs. I could literally write a novel recounting my experiences and memories from the tournament as it was some of the most prolific hockey I've seen to date. To say the Regina Pats had a shaky beginning to the MasterCard Memorial Cup would be a massive understatement. In the tournament opener, they got thumped by the 67's in a Donald Choukalos goaltending performance that would've made Roman Cechmanek proud. Game two didn't fare much better for the Patties falling to aforementioned Foreurs. The two consecutive losses led coach current Vancouver Giants head coach Lorne Molleken to make a change between the pipes, now entering into the fold is someone well beknownst in Regina hockey lore, that being Chad Davidson. The third game was a must win for the Pats going up against the Red Deer Rebels. The myth still believed to this day, and something Brent Sutter vehemently denies is that Red Deer threw the game thus guaranteeing tiebreakers which would further wear out teams. The Pats reigned victorious setting up a tiebreaker against the Ottawa 67's. The tie-breaker took place the next night, and this is actually the one game I didn't see(some hockey fan I am right!). In all actuality, I had a baseball commitment that evening and considering I was the team ace, I may of regretted my decision but the team certainly didn't. I lied, I was anything but the team ace as my throwing mechanics were widely panned as one of the more memorable quotes I ever received was from a good friend's father when describing my pitching/throwing, classified my delivery as the "drop ball" because it would never reach the intended glove.  I missed that game, but saw the highlights and was PUMPED because I knew I was now going to the semi final v Val'dor in what turned out to be the greatest hockey game I've ever been to. In one of those "where were you when" moments, so many things stick out about that game. For starters, in the pre game they handed out foam Thunder sticks that by the end of the afternoon I had shredded to pieces due to nerves. It was a back and forth affair with at one point Regina holding a three to one lead only to see it evaporated. In a game knotted at threes with a minute and a half left, team captain Barrett Jackman scored the decisive goal for what most fans including myself thought to be game winner. We're off to the final versus Red Deer right......not so fast! Electric sniper Simone Gamache broke the hearts of Regina fans less than a minute later to tie up the game which led to an overtime period being required. I just recall throughout that intermission the tension in the then Agridome. You could hear the dime drop and I was bracing onto what little I had left of that thunder stick. Overtime came, and a fairy tale ending wasn't in the script this time around as third liner Chris Lyness trailed an odd man rush and potted home the winner. The devastation in my fourteen year old self was paramount as I felt like I had my heart ripped from within me. To make matters worse, the friend who accompanied me to the game, who's dad was our ride was boxed in by two idiots in the parking lot leading to a two hour delay sitting around waiting for the vehicles to clear out. The intensity was like no other and based off of my experiences, I can only hope the now Brandt Center will have the flexibility to host another Memorial Cup.

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Knuckle Ball:Volume three

Welcome back to the third edition of the "Knuckle Ball" where I share my thoughts on three particular news items/thoughts that you or may, or won't likely find enjoyable in the world of baseball. On tonight's docket, I look at the New York Yankees three headed 1B/DH monster, forecasting an option that may strengthen the Bronx Bombers. Secondly, I profile a young pitcher, turned hitter, turned pitcher, in Adam Loewen who is revolutionizing the state of the baseball athlete as we know it. To finish off the slate this evening, I'll analyze(bull-shit) my way through the ever enticing National League central sharing my thoughts on how I see this division playing out.

I hate the New York Yankees. This statement didn't necessarily merit regurgitation but I wanted to provide clarity for those who think I'm on the Yankees bandwagon(I'm on many wagons FYI, just not the type that is colored with pinstripes), when sufficing my opinion on how manager Joe Girardi can bolster his every day lineup. Recently called up from AAA was Greg Bird, this twenty two year old Aurora, Colorado native shot his way through the minor league ranks(too soon?) and has landed with the big club for the stretch drive. His position is first base which creates a conundrum for Girardi and co. As it stands, they have A-Fraud himself in Alex Rodriguez residing over the designated hitter assignment with Teixeira although currently injured, the prognosis is not long term and will be ready to get back in action shortly. When Teixera is riping at the bit to resume playing, does Greg Bird who has been effective in limited action sit? The logical argument would say yes, but the creative mind in me has a solution that does nothing but benefit the pin stripes. Stephen Drew is currently the every day second baseman but his .198 batting average leaves plenty to be desired. Frankly, if I did cheer for the Yankees I'd be a lot more comfortable seeing the likes of one time Yankee Homer Bush patrol the middle and he was historically inept. An option that I have drawn up could be implemented one of two ways. Option A would have Chase Headley convert over to second base thus opening up the corner for Alex Rodriguez. I fully understand I'm advocating a forty year old man resuming his infielding career but a little less defence could provide a lot more offence, a trade-off I'm willing to swallow. As a contingency plan B, if Rodriguez' defence just isn;t MLB capable any longer to play third, hiding him at second while keeping Headley at third could prove to be just as beneficial. I don't read Yankee forums to read if this premise has been brought up in the past, but at the very least it's something Girardi should ponder as the offence has begun to scuffle.

2015 Comeback player of the year belongs to.........perhaps Canadian and Philadelphia Phillie Adam Loewen? In my opinion, one of the better stories in sports which based on success will get a lot more media traction. Sure we've seen this song and dance before most notably with Rich Ankiel, but the difference between the two was a fan at the game you weren't scared if a pitch was going to hit you in the stands unlike Ankiel. I'm not going to sit here and say that I have a large viewing of Loewen's work, because I don't but in a recent series where the Phillies met up against the scorching Toronto Blue Jays, Loewen came in and showed a propensity to have a Tom Glavine-esque breaking ball which fooled Toronto's hitters to no end. In my little research I've formulated, because facts are facts I'm essentially an encyclopedia when it comes to sport factoids, I do not believe there's ever been a pitcher crack a MLB roster, get sent back down only to re-form himself as a hitter only to eventually crack a big league club as a pitcher. If Loewen can find a permanent home next season, whether Philadelphia or elsewhere, it would be a tremendous story if he made the opening day twenty five man roster. With the lack of quality lefties in the Blue Jays pen, maybe just maybe a return to Toronto is in order.

The National League central division is just ridiculous. The best team in baseball is the St.Louis Cardinals and if they were in any other division, they'd be coasting to the finish line, but not in the Central where the Pirates have been creeping up as of late playing red hot baseball and we simply can't ignore the work Joe Maddon has done with the lovable losers Chicago Cubs. Joe Maddon has already won the NL Manager of the Year, and if you think Mets bench boss Terry Collins even has a sniff of hope you're sadly mistaken. I'm not here tonight to theorize my thoughts on the managerial award, but it's been the subtle changes Maddon has made implemented on the North side of Chicago that has made the Cubs an instantaneous contender. The Cardinals from the outset have nothing on the roster that drastically intimidates opponents but yet don't possess any glaring weaknesses that can be exploited. The acquisition of shortstop Jhonny Peralta a couple of seasons ago was huge in the sense that the Cardinals weren't really rostering many positional players who had much for veteran experience and that's exactly what Peralta has brought to Mike Matheny's group. The Pirates are a organization that are good, and judging from the contributions they are receiving from their young inexperienced lineup, are not going away any time soon. Starling Marte,  Andrew McCutchen, Gregory Polanco and Gerrit Cole are the young core that will lead the Pirates in the post-season once again. Unless the Pirates are in the Cardinals rear-view mirror the last week of the regular season, they'll be able to afford to rest up Cole for that one game crapshoot that we call the Wildcard game. Who will Cole likely line up against in that game, well none other than the Cubbies. The Cubs are the last team you want to play right now, although the Mets and Blue Jays are doing jumping jacks trying to say hello. When they lured Jon Lester over from Oakland, the common belief was that they finally found their long term ace. A large reason for the triumphs in Chicago has not just been Lester,  but perhaps the REAL ace in Jake Arrieta. I find the notion of the words Arrieta and ace in the same sentence astonishing because I remember a few years back while he was a member of the Baltimore Orioles thinking it was deplorable that he was even in the rotation and now I'm hearing Cy Young whispers although the award is ultimately going to Zack Greinke. The Chicago sport scene has fallen on incredible times with the Bulls a yearly Eastern conference threat, the Cubs doing there thing and the Blackhawks winning championships every other year. The biggest concern for Chicago sport fans, particularly for the female gender is being on alert for Patrick Kane's whereabouts. My prediction for how the Central is going to  shake out, because after all that was the opening for this subject, is the Cardinals holding on and winning the division only to be eventually knocked out in the NLDS by the wildcard winning Pittsburgh Pirates.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Interleague Junior Hockey?

In the Canadian Hockey League, particularly in the Western Hockey League, something I'm more familiar with due to my geographical placement, their has been an increased level of stagnancy amongst the casual junior hockey fan, the type of fan that for all intents and purposes drives the league due to the watered down product, lack of player identifiability, and overall flow of the game, although to comment on the flow of the game opens up a completely different can of worms that focuses on the state of the game of hockey, not independently focusing on the Canadian Hockey League which is the primary focus of this piece. To bring the casual fan back into the fold we need to assess what we can do to strengthen the league's brand which brings me to my premise. Because I'm from Regina, I'll use the example involving the Regina Pats participating in the rigorous Western Hockey League schedule. The way the schedule is currently constructed, as a member of the Eastern Division, they suit up against divisional opponents eight times  a year while playing their eastern conference counterparts in the central division four times a piece. In the Western Conference, they play each time once, rotating on a bi-yearly basis to whether they travel to the oppositions locale, or whether the opponent comes to the friendly Brandt Center confines. To play any team eight times a year(four at home, four on the road), is probably more then needed although I do appreciate the league's desire to strengthen divisional rivalries. What can be done to prevent on a random Tuesday evening, to have the lowly(very lowly if you're just looking at 2014-2015) Saskatoon Blades trotting into town and the Brandt Center playing to not even half capacity? Well, it's a natural inevitability that these "meaningless" games on the schedule will happen, just the nature of sport but what I'm about to propose is the Canadian Hockey League creating interleague rivalries, whether that means partaking in a home and home series, or to save the league money, have Team A travel to Team B in year one with the same teams meeting the following year at the opposite venue. As someone who was privy to the 2001 Memorial Cup, having the opportunity to see the likes of the Ottawa 67's and the Val'dor Foreurs creates a level of unforeseen fandemonium not seen often. Using my aforementioned example of the Blades taking on the Pats on a random Tuesday evening, just imagine the revenue stream that would take place if on that very same evening the Pats instead took on the likes of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. Having a basic understanding of what makes the average Western Canadian hockey fan tick, I wouldn't even lay a drop of hesitation by saying that these games would sell out, Tuesday, Saturday, just wouldn't matter. I'm no mathematician, but by doing a few simple calculations, basing off of the assumption that the average gate draws 3000 fans, in a venue that seats 6500 where on average individual ticket prices go for $20, that's an average revenue stream of $60,000 on a regular night where in an interleague game you're looking at about a $130,000 revenue hit. A $70,000 increase certainly makes it worth while as a feasible marketing chip the Canadian Hockey can use to grow the game and bring back patrons who have given up on the product.  Just pertaining to the Western Hockey League again, it's been no secret that some of the franchises like the Kootenay Ice and Swift Current Broncos are in dire need financially so why not get innovative and guarantee two sell-outs where otherwise sell-outs are a pure pipe dream.


Brett Murray

twitter: @bretzky26

Monday, August 17, 2015

A "Day to Remember" at the PGA

Australian Jason Day no longer has the distinction of being the best player to not win a major. If you've followed the Major championships in golf closely the last five years, you're fully aware that that a major corral was inevitable for a player who since 2010 has tallied eleven top ten performances on golf's grandest stage. I've decided to dedicate this piece to channeling my thoughts on a through and through entertaining competition that ended crowning  a deserving champion.

My first thought are on the scoring conditions that we were privy to this weekend. I'm somewhat of  a golf purist in the sense that when I sit down and observe a major championship, I want to the players receive the stern test. Some of my favourite tournaments have been when the winning score is near over par, such as Winged Foot in 2006 or in the 2003 Open Championship when one under par hailed Ben Curtis victorious. I enjoy watching the players struggle to a certain extent to a point of par should be seen as a good score on a hole whilst keeping you in contention for the respective championship. What we've witnessed largely in the last couple years with the exception of the ever controversial U.S Open staged at Chambers Bay, the scores have been borderline ridiculous. These players are superb right now and will continue to get better so I appreciate that the players ultimately are going to raise the bar, but organizations such as the PGA of America or the USGA can still do their part in differentiating these premier events from the weekly fiascos we call the Barracuda Championship or the Sanderson Farms championship.  This week in particular, the weather conditions aside from the overly gusty round one were pristine which made Whistling Straits an easy(easier) test then seen in 2010 when Bubba Watson and Martin Kaymer battled  it out while Dustin Johnson left perplexed to what actually classified as a bunker. The firmness of the greens, or lack thereof left me disappointed as this seems to a quarterly year talking point when discussing the greens. Why do certain analysts on the Golf Channel, and I'm singling them because they get the bulk of the attention during the week even though there are other media outlets who do this as well and that's continuously coddle the associations for their philosophical view that greens in major championships must be receptive. What's wrong with firm greens which penalize errant tee shots because from the rough on glass hard greens you won't be able to hold the ball but on our recently typical spongy greens even shots hit in the tent area evidenced by Matt Jones can be translated into a green in regulation. Tougher pin placements, firmer greens and more penile rough equals a much more enjoyable Major Championship.

The other part of the story that needs to be addressed is the tee time draw and how that had a significant influence on the results. Case in point our champion Jason Day's draw compared to that of runner-up Jordan Spieth.  Day played the Thursday morning-Friday Afternoon draw while Spieth consummated in the Thursday afternoon-Friday morning draw. Conditions early in the morning in Thursday were calm and scoreable but the wind gusts drastically increased which made Spieth's one under jaunt noteworthy but still left him three behind the eventual champion. What can be done to change the draw to allow players equal opportunity to win, or at least a more comparable scenario as nothing brainstormed would lead to a perfect solution as frankly we don't live in a perfect world. One thought I had is dividing tee-times strictly on world ranking. To avoid another incident when a world class player such as Day is given an "easier" draw, let's iron out the times by making sure the top say sixty players in the event are given one draw and the bottom half given the opposite draw to ensure equality. On the surface, you're probably opinionating that their are many flaws with this theory but the only one I'll give any credence to is the television network wanting marquee players playing throughout the entire day. This has validity but the counter argument I'll lean towards is by having all of the top players on one draw, the likelihood of having more players that are marketable playing meaningful on the weekend increases. Guys like Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, who I'm unsure will ever contend again were greatly affected by the draw.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

2015-2016 National Hockey League Preview: Teams 25 and 26

25.New Jersey Devils-With Lou Lamoriello now a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs, a new coin has been turned over as the Devils look to regain their late ninety/early two thousand prominence that had many observers considering this organization as a model franchise with the likes of Scott Niedermayer, Scott Stevens and one of my personal favourites Sergei Brylin leading the way through New Jersey's glory days. Now, as we approach 2015-2016, former Pittsburgh Penguin General Manager Ray Shero has been given the keys to the city whilst leading a very young nucleus that some including myself projecting this squad as being a few years away from contending.

Who's going to provide the bulk of the Devils offence this year? It's a question that I don't have a reasonable answer so that leaves me no choice but to spurt complete non-sense  which is a staple of this blog and pretend to act like an expert when scouting out the Devils scoring woes. Let's begin with analyzing Jacob Josefson. As a twentieth overall pick in 2009, it's  safe to assume he's been a underwhelming commodity for the fans of Newark and much more will be required from newly minted coach John Hynes to even receive a sniff of playoff contention. It would be a step in the right direction if Josefson could go a full season injury free as he has yet to even come close to playing a full eighty-two games. He's a down right terrible skater, and although this may seem unfairly harsh, his play hasn't merited a full time presence on the roster but it just goes to show the lack of depth they have and the conundrum the coaches will face when plotting out the lineup. As a World Junior "historian" my first taste of Mike Cammalleri came when playing for Team Canada while going to school for the University of Michigan.  In that 2002 tournament, he was phenomenal which led me to at the time to proclaim that Cammalleri had the pre-requisite skill set to be a no doubter first liner in the National Hockey League. If you would've told me immediately after the 2002 WJHC that Cammalleri's career plight would be that of a journey man I would have never believed that.  Better suited for  a second line role, he'll be forced to encounter minutes that he frankly is no longer suited for which is usually the case when playing for below mediocre teams.  His one timer is his famed penchant but he needs to better adapt to finding open areas as I've noticed there's been an increased entitlement from him when in the offensive zone. This is no longer NCAA hockey Mike, the puck doesn't automatically appear on your stick, you have to work to regain the puck. Work ethic for Cammalleri has been abysmal as of late and as a veteran, it's this kind of play that will rub off negatively on his teammates. The acquisition of Kyle Palmieri this summer may prove as one of the league's most unheralded moves as Palmieri on a team with an abundance of depth as was the case with his former employer the Anaheim Ducks didn't allow Kyle to show off his real potential but now as a member of the New Jersey Devils, I'm expecting a break-out campaign for the Smithtown,New York native.  The likely grouping of Cammalleri and Palmieri may provide Cammalleri the battery mate he has lacked since Jarome Iginla, and as a clarification those thinking that Jaromir Jagr was a capable  battery mate for him last year are being embarrassingly delusional as this is no longer 1992, and this is coming from one of Jagr's biggest fans!

Move over University of Michigan Wolverines, a new "fab five" has arrived. Eric Gelinas, John Moore, Adam Larsson, Jon Merrill and Damon Severson can boast the stigma of being the National Hockey League's brightest young defensive core. I could go in many directions with how I want to profile the defensive core, and I'm going to begin with Eric Gelinas.  I think so highly of Gelinas that I will prognosticate that he will surprise the hockey masses and crack the 2018 Team Canada Olympic roster. A deceptive shot is what stands out for me along as well with being a defensive leader who has already been, and will continue to be utilized in all facets.  I suppose you could argue to whether or not Gelinas was the go-to option on defence last year, but no argument can be made any longer as he definitively will be looked upon as the # 1 d-man.  Gelinas > Scott Niedermayer??? Not yet, but the potential to match the herculean achievements of Niedermayer are certainly there. I remember at some point convulating the theory that prior to the 2010 National Hockey League draft that Jon Merrill will be seen down the road as one of the better defenceman from that draft class and low and behold, and as penning this I'm patting myself on the back, he is. He's such a smooth skater and by being so seems to work his way out of trouble simplistically.  The area to which Merrill has to refine  his skill-set is his physicality in the defensive zone. It's a tad concerning for a player listed at 6
3, 205 that he shows no desire to compete in the rigorous areas and as much as I do believe, if it wasn't obvious enough already that the Devils are prime for great years defensively, a lack of truculence is something that is missing which stresses the importance for Merrill to find that physical edge.

Cory Schneider is an interesting case study. When he was brought in from the Vancouver Canucks which abruptly brought to the end the whole Luongo-Schneider not so controversy, it was thought that the Devils had found their heir apparent to the great Martin Brodeur.  One of the problems was that Brodeur didn't get the memo in 2013 when the trade was made which landed the Schneider-New Jersey relationship on rocky territory. Brodeur didn't feel like the gas was empty in his tank, which it clearly was as he was riding the name on the back of his sweater for the two years prior but because he thought he could play, and because he was Martin Brodeur, he played leaving a younger, more polished at that time Schneider on the bench where he should've been receiving all the starts. It's like when in basketball, when Hakeem Olajuwon came to the Toronto Raptors thinking he could still play, and sadly for Raptor fans so did then coach Lenny Wilkins which created futile times in T.O. When a star wants to play, he'll play which just like the case of New Jersey it will more than not hamper the franchise. With Brodeur finally gone, Schneider was given ample leeway to succeed but to the demise of the Devils last season, Schneider was horrendous leaving some Devil fans to ponder, "Can we bring back Martin Brodeur?"

26.Vancouver Canucks-Falling victim to the "Red Mile" in Calgary during last years playoffs, are expectations higher for Vancouverites this go around?  After intense and thorough research(kinda) I've come to the realization that any team led by the Sedin twins, who are what, closing in on the big 5 0, cannot be taken seriously. The Sedin's were great player, were being the operative word but any follower of this franchise must now have come to the sad realization that being fronted by the Sedins has led to zero playoff success in the last four years now. A new chapter needs to be written in the Canucks aura but it's apparent that the stubbornness of Trevor Linden and Jim Benning may prevent from the new chapter being published anytime soon.

A Sutter in Vancouver?  The two seemingly won't mesh very well but with the acquisition of Nick Bonino being sent to Pittsburgh in exchange for Brandon Sutter, the hard working Sutter who hasn't exactly established a goal scoring touch will very much bring the Sutter way of hockey into British Columbia, Sutter hockey is chippy, hard working, dump and chase which could be a positive implementation in contrast to what the Canucks have to offer otherwise featuring a lot of fringe players who have decent skill but to refuse to battle in the corners, ala the Sedins. I could go on and on reminiscing my distain towards the twins, the Canucks in general but unlike the Sedins, I will battle to find the positives in this forward group. Although Radim Vrbata doesn't provide the aforementioned need for physicality, I have to give credit where credit is due. Back a few years ago,  as a member of the Phoenix Coyotes, I had selected Vrbata along with a whole bunch of other Coyotes in a playoff hockey pool and my premonition of loading up on Coyotes nearly paid off remarkably and for that I hold a great deal of respect for Radim.  On a more serious note, he's a world class sniper and what's impressed me as of late is his willingness to crash the net searching for rebounds. He accumulated thirty one goals a year ago and normally I would say replication of these statistics would be viable however with the poor outlook on the team's season, a diminishing stat line should be no concern for the individual. You have to wonder what kind of look coach Willie Desjardins will give fresh out of junior Cole Cassels. A Memorial Cup champion with the Oshawa Generals, and son of Andrew could be suited to make that dashing jump because of his 180 foot game. His offensive instincts are admirable, although not great but what got scouts and Canuck personnel buzzing was the job he completed shutting down Connor McDavid in the OHL final. From my view point, if you can shut down McDavid you're NHL ready and it'll be interesting to see if Canuck brass share similar sentiments.

Chris  Tanev, unless you're  a diehard hockey fan like myself is probably an unfamiliar commodity to yourself. Tanev first came to the forefront during the 2011 Stanley Cup finals against the Boston Bruins starting that playoff run as the seventh defenceman. As those playoffs progressed his role increased as in total, he got in five playoff games which was a pre cursor for better things to come. It's a tremendous feel good story of  a player that wasn't drafted, didn't get any tangible scholarship offers when attempting to play NCAA hockey to now as a twenty five year old quite possibly being considered a top two defenceman on the roster. Another player of note worth profiling is Alexander Edler. The Swede and former Kelowna Rocket(had to give a shout-out to a WHL alumnus, it's been a while) is Mr.Everything from an offensive standpoint.  Even though he's put up two hundred and fifty nine career points which is great when documenting a nine year career as a defenceman but I can't help but get the feeling that he has much more to offer. There aren't many defenceman who I would rate have more sustainable offensive production with only really P.K Subban, Drew Doughty,Shea Weber and Alex Pietrangelo coming to mind. Edler's a fantastic asset that will be required to again be the offensive dynamo along with being much more stingy in his own end.

Completing these previews, from my Western Hockey League teams to now nearly completing the National Hockey League, it's become all but a formality for me to focus on the STARTING goaltender and for good reason as they're the individuals that become the last resort in fulfilling an organization's lofty championship dreams. For the Canucks, we have starter Ryan Miller but I've elected to throw a curve ball and discuss the back-up goaltender Jacob Markstrom. A friend and I had a debate recently arguing the validity of the Florida Panthers organizational decision to let go of Jacob Markstrom while focusing to shift the direction to  a more veteran goaltender in Roberto Luongo. I'm of the belief that Markstrom never got a fair shake in South Florida. Markstrom, ladies and gentlemen was seen somewhat as a goaltending prodigy before entering the professional ranks never got to strut his stuff in his first destination and unbeknownst to me judging from Miller being on the roster for the forseeable future, this current destination may not allow Markstrom to shine either. I could go on an endless rant based off of teams now a days coddling goaltenders and not allowing younger goaltenders to learn via playing through rough situations and always being under the mindset that you  need to have a veteran to win. There was a time where Patrick Roy, Martin Brodeur and Mike Vernon were young goaltenders looking for a chance and I would say it worked out pretty well for the teams that employed these goalies so on behalf of the likes of Markstrom, Jack Campbell, Calvin Pickard and others, give them a chance, they may just be great.

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Knuckle Ball:Volume two

Hello all, in this article similarly to last time the "Knuckle Ball" was published, I will choose three topics in the world of baseball and lend my thoughts. In volume two, I will touch on the future of the New York Mets and how a future with unarguably three of the brightest young pitchers in todays game at the helm for the foreseeable outlook could impact a squandering National League East. Secondly, I will pen my thoughts on the conundrum the Pittsburgh Pirates face in dealing with the all of a sudden under achieving Pedro Alvarez who came into the Pirates organization amongst great hype. Lastly, with the 2015 playoff picture becoming clearer, who's the team to look out for in 2016 that fell on hard times this past season?

When I sit back and ponder who the young New York Mets pitching rotation reminds me of, I can't help but think back to the early 2000's Oakland Athletics when they possessed Barry Zito, Mark Mulder and Tim  Hudson.  Mulder and Zito specifically were considered location pitchers, where Hudson was a young fireballer who's still doing his thing fourteen years later. Those Athletic teams had moderate success with the "big three" leading the way, but a lack of sustainable offence was the undoing from that tenure being considered  a dynasty.  A modern day version of the big three now exists in New York with Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey and Jacon DeGrom taking charge and have almost single handedly allowed Mets fan to forget about the less then memorable Jerry Manuel led Met messes. Similar to the Athletics, the Mets clearly have enough young durability with out of the big three Matt Harvey is the oldest at twenty six but the lack of bats in the lineup raised rightful concerns UNTIL  the Mets played their cards aggressively and landed former Detroit Tiger/Oakland Athletic/Boston Red Sox slugger Yoenis Cespedes. With Cespedes on board, and Lucas Duda who in a matter of seconds went from somebody who in all honesty I would've been more comfortable seeing current St.Louis Cardinal Pete Kozma at the dish to now becoming the second coming of Brady Anderson. Why  is it so important that this young nucleus of pitching stay together? Well,  let's look at the division they reside in. The Washington Nationals remain the strongest competition for them as we close in on the 2015 pennant race but other than the Nats,  this division has more holes than Tiger Woods golf game.  The Atlanta Braves were the penchant for replication for a long time in this division but the Bobby Cox era is now wishful memories for Braves supporters and under new manager Fredi Gonzales the team has regressed essentially every year as what's ultimately taken  place in Georgia is the complete opposite to what's going down in New York City where some of the younger arms in the organization haven't panned out, I single out Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen as pitchers for the Braves organization who had elite promise, but the Braves showed a lack of patience with these two and elected to close that book and begin a new chapter. The Miami Marlins.....well are an embarrassment to the game of baseball.  The Philadelphia Phillies are a rebuilding work in progress and the anticipation is that they're years away from being serious contenders. This is the Mets division to lose now and I fully expect for myself to have a similar sentiment for at least the next few years.  DeGrom is a Cy Young candidate now and will only continue to improve and then Matt Harvey who was strongly considered for the aforementioned award in 2013 hasn't fallen off any and then you have Syndergaard who was acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays in a ridiculous trade then and an even more ridiculous trade now. Noah Syndergaard would have been the ace, number two guy in a worst case scenario, which argumentatively would have ceased the need for the Blue Jays to frantically throw away prospects to find that ace, which eventually became David Price not withstanding the acquisition of Travis D'Arnaud for the knuckle baller R.A Dickey. Bad trade that is to the Mets benefit.  The intriguing part of all of this is whether the New York Mets will be served a better fate then the Oakland Athletics were in their hay day.

Denarius Moore circa NFL 2014, Mattias Tedenby hockey prospect out of Sweden back in 2010, Portland Trail Blazer and Illinois alumni Meyers Leonard. What do these three athletes have in common you ask? If you've been a constant reader of this enterprise, you'll understand that I have no issue throwing out the boldest of bold prognostications and for these three specifically I have stated that I expected innovative and massive things out of, but yet all three failed to deliver.  So when discussing Pedro Alvarez,  a player I've been very high on for many years now came into the league with hall of fame promise(OK, that may be a stretch but what can you do) and although it looked like he was onto something special with extraordinary 2012 and 2013 seasons has faded off now and is just an obscure piece on an otherwise solid Pittsburgh Pirates club.  I thought 2014 was an aberration but apparently 2014 was just a visible Segway to how 2015 was going to play out.  I was so adamant of this that I foolishly made a claim that Alvarez would have a better slugging year than that of Gioncarlo Stanton and Stanton would have annihilated Alvarez like nobody's business if it wasn't for  an extensive long term injury. So what caused the demise of the individual that was selected second overall in 2008?  My theory is that it stems from a lack of confidence shown from manager Clint Hurdle. Hurdle has the reputation of being a players manager as he seemingly doesn't demand a lot but from a Pittsburgh Pirates fan forum that I read before penning this piece, the common belief is that Alvarez' lack of effort, particularly when running the bases has caused a rift between the teammates and himself and by extension I suppose Hurdle. Alvarez was the perennial clean-up hitter for the Pirates but now has found himself batting seventh and eighth at times. Work ethic may be part of the story, but in fairness to Pedro, an increased depth on a very good ball club may also be contributing to a lack of quality role. Andrew McCutchen is the Sidney Crosby of baseball in Pittsburgh and it's quite possible that his accolades may lead to a second National League M.V.P this go around. Not just Alvarez, Kang has proven to be quite the find for General Manager Neal Huntingdon as he's nearly batting .300 and of course we'd be remiss when lauding Pirates if we didn't include Starling Marte. Marte is just one more piece of the pie for why Alvarez' importance has diminished, but just imagine the road the Pirates may take this post-season if Pedro heats up.

Some may disagree, but the team in Major League Baseball that has surprised me the most positively is the Houston Astros. And fyi, when I say some may disagree I'm being completely facetious as no one could of seen the Astros work their way from last to one of the premier teams in Major League Baseball. This was a 70-92 last season for gosh sakes and now they have their sights on the World Series evidenced by the acquisition of Carlos Gomez and Scott Kazmir.  Who will be the Astros of 2016? The answer ladies and gentlemen,  is the Milwaukee Brewers. This Brewers club features three pieces that I'm excited about that are going to be the basis for celebratory adulation pushing forward to next year.  The first features the 2016 Cy Young winner is a pitcher who burned me in's "Beat the Streak", but I later wised up when I realized this individual's real potential and that is Taylor Jungmann. This twenty-five year old from Temple,Texas is a lanky 6'6 with a near consistent 100 mph fastball has all the makings to be the next break-out pitcher in the bigs and who's had a beautiful first two months posting a 6-3 record on struggling organization while sporting a 2.26 ERA. Jungmann, to me projects to be a twenty game winner with top of the rotation mechanics. Oswaldo Arcia, who I could've included in the previous paragraph as players who I thought were due for consistent productivity but I may have missed the boat on that one. I'm going attempt another kick at the can with his brother Orlando. Orlando will enter the Brewers roster  next season as a 2b/ss, probably I would imagine he'll be utilized as  a second baseman to coddle the arm strength will the inevitable plan to transist him to the full time shortstop.  The power, which has not been seen by brother Oswaldo is one of Orlando's calling cards as he has been a R.B.I Machine working his way through the farm. Khris Davis is one of those players that will benefit from the departure of Carlos Gomez. When analyzing and forecasting his statistics, what impressed me most is his maturity at the plate, always battling through the quintessential "professional at bat" as with two outs, he's batting .300, which if I were managing that's exactly the type of player I'd want because I know he's trusted with the bat in hand. Davis, Arcia, and Jungmann are just three of a plethora of reasons why I foresee the Brewers creeping up in the National League Central and will battle for  a playoff spot in 2016.


Brett Murray


Friday, August 7, 2015

2015-2016 National Hockey League Preview: Teams 23 and 24

23.Carolina Hurricanes-Ron Francis has long had the deserved reputation of being one of the league's great leaders, and will hope to use that praise overseeing a retooling Hurricanes organization that has been marred in a longer than desired drought ever since their magical 2005-2006 Stanley Cup Champions exploit. In a year from now, this ranking may drastically change as the Hurricanes have a renowned farm system which could lead to an exasperated charge as early as 2016-2017. Hurricane Raleigh may not take in full effect yet but it's worth watching to see the brute of the storm start brewing.

The Staal's, specifically Eric have went hand in hand with the city of Raleigh for the last twelve years now. However, I would argue that the more important Staal tied to any tangible success this year will be Jordan. I say this because it's evident that Eric has hit the wall in terms of possible production, his rapidly declining statistics speak louder then words as aside from his rookie season, he put up a career worst fifty four points. I've never viewed Eric as a great fit in today's no clutching and grabbing National Hockey League as his foot speed is not transferrable for how the game is now played and more concerning is that as team captain, he's not making the rest of his followers better. I mentioned Ron Francis earlier and I think a comparison could be drawn between Staal and Francis. Do I think Francis was the best of the crop during his era, no chance but he had a positive effect on his teammates and I think of Mark Recchi, Rod Brind'amour, and Alyn McCauley as players Francis flourished positively to stand out careers with apologies to Leaf fans who think McCauley was a stiff, when in reality during the few years in the early two thousands when the Leafs reached respectability, the Ottawa 67 alumni was a key contributor even though numbers won't suggest that. Bringing this back to Eric, he similarly echoed grand leaps for the likes of Justin Williams and Cory Stillman making him a notorious leader in the game at that time. The problem now is that Staal is no longer making others around him better, or at the very least serviceable. I'd hate to call Jeff Skinner damaged goods, but I will and it's in large part due to injuries, particularly concussion issues but also the apparent "leader" Staal has done NOTHING in the last four years to rub off well on Skinner, essentially the point I'm trying to make is that Skinner hasn't had the veteran leadership to know what it takes to win.  The reason I believe Jordan Staal will end up becoming more valuable then  Eric is due to versatility. Widely believed to be one of the league's best penalty killer, this facet breeds increased importance because it's expected the Canes will spend the majority of each game back on their heels. When Jordan was a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins, the theory was that because he was stuck behind Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in the depth chart that a move which ended up being Carolina would lead to more offensive success, but it really hasn't. I think the bigger issue is that maybe over the years media pendants have over valued Staal's capability pertaining to putting the puck in the back of the net. Because he quasi-dominated the play with his big body playing for the Peterborough Petes of the Ontario Hockey League, a lot more was expected out of him professionally but just like Andrea Bargnani, pre professional domination guarantees squat.

The Hurricanes have collected themselves a boatload of young d-men that will surely rival the likes of the New Jersey Devils and Calgary Flames for years to come. This starts, and on most teams would end, but not the Hurricanes with Justin Faulk. Aside from being a Fantasy Hockey monster for me this past season, Faulk has the making of becoming a top ten defenceman in the league, if he hasn't reached that plateau already. With prospects like Jarred Tinordi and Mark Pysyk picked ahead of him in the 2010 National Hockey League entry draft as he was picked thirty seventh overall, Faulk has lapped, some say double lapped the development of the aforementioned Tinordi and Pysyk and became the most marketable professional athlete in the Carolina region other than Cam Newton. He bares resemblance to Ed Jovanovski because he's a deceptive skater and also incredibly strong on the puck. Faulk has a heavy shot and based off of tallying thirty four assists on an offensively challenged organization, it shows the gift he has been blessed with dishing away the rubber.  With Noah Hanifin slating in the lineup as early as the 2015-2016 season, a number one all American pairing will be the talk of the town. Noah Hanifin comes with extremely high credentials. It remains to be seen what the ultimate plan heading into next season is for Noah, if his play at Boston College was any indication, he may join the list of a plethora of young athletes who enter the NCAA with the sole purpose of being "one and done". I take massive issue with the way the NCAA has sanctioned the athletes regarding eligibility to play professionally, particularly in the NBA  but this is a topic I will save for a later day. Hanifin's strengths are his skating and just like Faulk, better then age suggest passing ability. Just imagine the day where Bill Peters(although he better start winning or his job's in jeopardy) implements Faulk and Hanifin on the same powerplay. Add Ryan Murphy and Hayden Fleury in two years time, a hockey's version of the "Legion of Boom" may be in order.

For the first time in a long time, Cam Ward has goaltending competition. This competition comes in the form of former Vancouver Canuck Eddie Lack. The fact is that Cam Ward hasn't been very good in recent memory. Lack, who actually proved to be more trustworthy then Ryan Miller out in the West coast will push to be the number one goaltender. Since predictions are something I have no problem, here's my convoluted theory for how the Hurricanes goaltending conundrum will play out. Cam Ward, who I think it's clear needs a change of scenery could be sent out to the Winnipeg Jets if Ondrej Pavelec has a rocky beginning. If that materializes, then expect for Bill Peters to bring in a goaltender that he's quite familiar with having him with the Spokane Chiefs in Dustin Tokarski. Bringing in somebody who just wins in the Watson,Saskatchewan native would fit in beautifully for a team that has it's sights set on the long-term, not the short-term.

24.Ottawa Senators- If some of you perceived this blog to be too "hunky-dory", then clearly you haven't read a word of any piece because when the criticism is apt, I will do my best to deliver. What I'm about to theorize is something that hardcore Senator supporters will have a field day with. Dave Cameron is not a good coach, not in the least. Dave Cameron took over from a underachieving team led by Paul McLean, and then what happened, the next coming of Jim Carey or Dwayne Roloson came along in Andrew Hammond. Anyone who fruitfully thinks  Dave Cameron's coaching tactics were even a partial reason for the Senator's playoff push, then the blinders need to come off. This is not a good hockey club, and I appreciate the hardships General Manager Bryan Murray is going through, but he has built an on-ice product that would make the Philadelphia 76'ers look like world beaters. If it wasn't for Mark Stone and Andrew Hammond, this team may of finished with the third worst point total. This ranking I'm thinking is too kind.

I referenced that Mark Stone was one of the few reasons why Ottawa squeaked into the playoffs. The guy's middle name might as well be clutch because that's all he did in the second half of the season. Stone's skating will almost certainly leave you cringing, but his positioning is effective which allows him to find optimum spots on the ice. Twenty six goals has been a god send for the Senators and if he continues to exude his high hockey I.Q, reaching the patented thirty club may not be so far fetched.  Speaking of those underachieving Senators, has there been anyone more underachieving then Mika  Zibanejad. I recall watching this particular player in the World juniors and he absolutely ripped apart the competition. He was the recipient of scoring the golden goal in the '12 Juniors leading Sweden past Russia in the gold medal game. One would think that the confidence received from scoring such a prominent goal in a world class tournament would translate to immediate professional success, the same way Jordan Eberle used his burgeoning ego from his iconic World junior memories to immediate results with the Oilers....well individually, certainly not team, but Zibanejad's career path hasn't followed the same direction. Entering his fourth season with a career high point total of forty-six frankly isn't anywhere near good enough, and the 2015-2016 season will be viewed as make or break. He's got the flash in his game that is unparalleled to any other Senator forward, but it's time to start using this flash to his advantage. Continuing on this timeline of disappointment, let me profile Milan Michalek. When Milan first broke in with the San Jose Sharks, the world was literally his oyster as with Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau as linemates as he accumulated two hundred and fourteen points with the Sharks but once he was shipped off to Ottawa, he's been a enormous failure as he was brought in, ironically in exchange for the once sniper turned pylon Dany Heatley. So what happened? Could it be due to lackluster linemates? Perhaps, but his centerman was Jason Spezza for years, so that's no excuse. From my perspective, he's become too selfish and he's not utilizing linemates to further his production. By the end of last year, his running mates of Zibanejad an Bobby Ryan seemed to be developing chemistry so we'll see if that can carry over.

The reigning Norris trophy winner Erik Karlsson will again lead the way from the back end.  I'm being  a little too critical towards the prospects of the Senators, and do I feel that Karlsson is an upper echelon defenceman? Absolutely I do, but it's my belief that he wasn't the proper selection for the Norris, my vote would've went for P.K Subban. Karlsson is an elite offensive specimen but he's a bit of a, to reference  a title from a hit currently in theaters, "train-wreck" defensively. He's very scattery and never one to  back up his d partner as I saw many times last year whether it was Cody Ceci or Marc Methot, his ill-timed aggressive maneuver led to odd man rushes the other way. Cody Ceci, meanwhile has proven to be a draft day steal at fifteenth overall. When watching the 2012 draft on TSN, I vividly recall Pierre McGuire being surprised by the selection with the sentiments that I shared and that was the only reason he was picked that high was because he was a 67' alumni and Ottawa homegrown individual. If you read my praises above for Carolina Hurricanes stud Justin Faulk, think of  Ceci as a poor-man's Faulk. A superb shot but doesn't quite have the well rounded game to which Faulk possesses.  I'm curious to see in what capacity Ceci is used this year, and some, including myself will argue that loading up that first pairing the aforementioned Ceci with Karlsson. Conversely, an argument could be made which I do not accept but will draw out anyway and that is that it could be wise to separate Ceci and Karlsson to provide more depth amongst the top four and further yet the top six defensive core.

The debate on who deserves the starting gig in Ottawa may be a full year water cooler conversation. Craig Anderson or Andrew Hammond? My personal preference would be to lean towards Anderson based off of his complete workload, but I can't completely dismiss the merits of Andrew Hammond. As much as I suspect him to be the next Carey and Roloson, I suppose I can't discount the chance that Hammond will continue this heroic play and be the long term answer for the Senators. Encroaching on Anderson's mindset is an interesting thought because you have to ponder how happy he really is losing starts to a goalie who at one point last year was a sub 500 goaltender in the American Hockey League. With the complexity for how the Senators goaltending assignments played out last season, it would surprise no one if by the end of the year newly signed out of Boston University Matt O'Connor worked his way to the starting goaltender discussion.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

2015-2016 National Hockey League Preview:Teams 21 and 22

21.Boston Bruins-Earlier in debuting this notorious blog, I issued some serious criticism towards General Manager Don Sweeney on now he handled the acquisitions of Dougie Hamilton and Milan Lucic, and how he handled the 2015 NHL Draft. Going into the 2014/2015 campaign, the Bruins were perennial Eastern Conference contenders to now transforming into possible divisional doormats. The Bruins, although nowhere near competing for a championship, have enough talent that I won't go as far to proclaim them as a laughing stock, but with the lack of success in Red Sox National and all of the turmoil presiding with the New England Patriots, mediocrity may becoming a norm in the Massachusetts professional sporting scene.

Upfront, massive things will be asked of the newly acquired Matt Beleskey. Beleskey, who made his mark with the Anaheim Ducks was awarded this off-season with a in my opinion undeserved nineteen million dollar contract over five years considering that prior to inking the gargantuan contract, his career high posted last year was thirty two points. I'm sorry, but on what universe is a 32 point player rewarded quasi-franchise player money? The Sweeney dismantling of this organization continues.  If Beleskey can't improve upon that measly point total, I struggle to ascertain on who will be netting the goals especially considering their marquee, most noteworthy player is Patrice Bergeron, who's penchant is specializing in the defensive zone. Also, if you believe the infamous EA Sports cover curse, your Mr.NHL 2015 Bergeron may be due for a rapid decline in production. The player I'm expecting big things out of is the creative Czech David Pastrnak. For a player who just turned nineteen, a valid argument could be made that he's Boston's most talented commodity, which to continue my theme of bleak times in Boston could be a problematic dilemma for coach Claude Julien. I've seen Pastrnak lace up a handful of times and the skill is clearly there in spades, but I see a player who's prevy for taking too many chances and it's paramount that he become more of a trusted source in the d-zone. The utilization of Pastrnak will be key as I fully expect to see Julien start the year pairing Bergeron and Pastrnak. A seventy point season is what I'm predicting for this young lad.

Losing Dougie Hamilton for the likes of Zac quote  a Buddy Holly classic "O Boy". I could spend the entire profile chronicling the gong show that was the Bruins 2015 draft, but the Dougie Hamilton deal comes to the forefront. I've seen better deals consummated in a Golden Baseball League, where the Calgary Vipers traded the late John Odom to the Laredo Broncos for baseball bats.  With Hamilton now a member of the Calgary Flames, who's going to replace that level of productivity? If you're assuming the answer is Zdeno Chara, then A) you're delusional and B) clearly haven't watched Chara play in years as in recent memory his play has started to resemble an aging Roman Hamrlik. His patented shot that for years was so revered, can essentially be, to use a play on words, be as potent as a Ben "Revere" swing. To clarify that analogy, Ben Revere is a newly acquired Toronto Blue Jay who as of this writing has struggled out of them gate offensively going 2 for 15. The defenceman due for a breakout is Kevan Miller.  One of the few NHL'ers hailing from Los Angeles which shows the success that Wayne Gretzky had reviving hockey in Southern  California had an admirable rookie season last year skating his way to a +20. With the departure of Hamilton, a top four position is imminent for Miller and what I love about his game is his offensive instinct, which wasn't showcased the last couple of years but will need to be now. He delivers a great first pass which I appreciate is an over-used analogy but stringing the likes of Pastrnak and Brad Marchand on breakaways will be important duties to fulfill on an offensively challenged Bruins hockey club.

If Malcolm Subban is anything like his brother P.K personality wise, there may be a conflict of demeanor between himself and Tuuka Rask. Rask, who's one of the top goaltenders in the league has a quieter reputation which makes the potential dynamic amongst this goaltending battery intriguing.  For his standards, Rask had a miserable year in 2014/2015, and by miserable I mean good but when comparing his statistics from years past, they pale in comparison. Rask will have to channel is inner 1995 Martin Brodeur for this team not to fall on the same hardships as the Boston Red Sox.

22.Florida Panthers-  This ranking I immensely struggled with for a variety of reasons. For starters, I've had an unhealthy infatuation with this organization ever since the days of John Vanbiesbrouck, who I loved as a player, not so much as a club manager as he had dealt with the well reported racial accusations between himself and Trevor Daley while overseeing the Ontario Hockey League organization, the great Scott Mellanby, and the unheralded Paul Laus. As weird as it sounds, Paul Laus may have been my favourite hockey player growing up, him or Billy Guerin and I'm not sure the reason why I had  a man crush on Laus other then him and I share the same birthday. One of those players that sticks with you over time. Getting back to the dilemma at hand, as much as I respected the vintage Florida Panthers, the modern day Panthers leave a lot to be desired. Does Head Coach Gerard Gallant have enough horses to one day contend for the Kentucky  Derby? We'll soon find out.

Gerard Gallant and Jonathan Huberdeau prior to their time in the sunrise state, had a previous relationship with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's Saint John Sea Dogs.  This should bode well, and frankly should've boded better last year but it really didn't. He's now completed three full seasons in the National Hockey League and although his statistics continue to improve, I'm left wanting more, much more.  To revert this to music terms, Huberdeau has been a steady employee of Much Music for a few years now, I'm waiting for him to take the splurge to the now defunct or re-named?...MuchMore Music. Huberdeau has drawn comparisons to "Lucky" Luc Robitaille, and in terms of appearance, sure I see the similarities but pertaining to the way they conduct themselves on the ice, they couldn't differentiate anymore in style.  Robitaille was the player who couldn't skate and feasted of Wayne Gretzky's expert hockey sense, whereas Huberdeau is a decent skater and judging from his ever increasing penalty minutes has  a feistiness about him that provides another interesting skillset, pure tenacity. Move over Charlie Conway, and I've referenced this on more then one occasion but my blog, my rules....there is a new "real Minnesota miracle man" by the name of Nick Bjugstad. Bjugstad doesn't do one particular facet extraordinary, the same semblance could've been applied at Conway, but let's hope Bjugstad is more adaptable to critique then Conway was to coach Orion.  He'll be counted upon in 2015/2016 the same way he was counted upon last year and that's to be relied on the penalty kill and chip in timely offence. Forty three points is commendable but I most definitely see a player who has the capability to scare the sixty point range.  A training camp surprise to watch out, and I'm slating this fellow to make the team is  Rocco Grimaldi.  This gentleman had a stellar showing last year with San Antonio of the American Hockey League is primed to take that next jump into the big show. Due to his size being listed at 5'6, he'll naturally draw parallels to Martin St.Louis and Gallant will likely insert him in a fourth line role to begin with seeing minutes on PP2 as likely. Think Johnny Gaudreau Panther fans and you may have more then a fourth line commodity by the time seasons over. It leaves me one last question. Is Grimaldi the best athlete to don the name Rocco since the hay day of PGA Tour pro, and 2008 U.S Open runner-up Rocco Mediate?

As much as I had a fascination with Paul Laus back in the late nineties, his on ice productivity has already been tripled by prodigy Aaron Ekblad.  Already staking claim to being a top fifteen NHL defenceman at the age of nineteen, the sky is literally the limit for this Barrie Colt alumni. What doesn't he do spectacularly already? He's responsible defensively in large part due to his size he can man handle National Hockey League veterans, he has an unbelievably accurate shot, and he can remarkably quarterback a power play. A statistic that I had a hard time wrapping my head around was throughout 2014-2015, as a rookie defenceman he reeled in four game winning goals. In just another player who along with Huberdeau and Gallant has a New Brunswick connection in Dmitri Kulikov.  This former Moncton Wildcat rebounded after garnering through a disastrous 2013/2014 season.  The plus minus statistic hasn't exactly been friendly to Kulikov over the years mainly due to limping through poor Panther teams, but last year was the first year to which he wasn't a minus player.  The Panthers had a brief glimpse of playoff aspirations last year, and Kulikov's resilience was important in the resurgence but a continued development in that plus/minus category will be imperative for the Panthers to stay the course.

The man who fans chant "Luuuuuuuuuu" is still the sheriff between the pipes for the citizens of Miami. That's right Roberto Luongo, who is immersed in his second tenure with the organization will be looked upon to provide veteran leadership to a very young group. For what's it worth, I think General Manager Dale Tallon who has has made a lot of respected hockey related moves turning around this at one time perceived side show, colossally mismanaged the goaltending department. They had a budding goaltending prospect in Jacob Markstrom who they never gave a chance to, and elected to bring back the veteran to right a ship that at the time wasn't fully broken. Florida's stupidity is Vancouver's gain as it was when they sent a young, still proving himself Luongo to Vancouver many years ago. Do I think Luongo still has what it takes to take a team dancing to the playoffs? No, I do not but I fail to see any better internal options. Perhaps taking  a run at the fallen out of favour Jack Campbell from the Dallas Stars should be in order?

Saturday, August 1, 2015

PGA Tour Prospective Patrons

The PGA Tour has came a long way from the early to mid two thousands where a man by the name of Eldrick "Tiger" Woods dominated the world of golf with no other real consistent competition to provide a scare. The players that were his most noteworthy rivals during that time were the likes of Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, Davis Love, Colin Montgomerie etc but at the end of the day the biggest differentiation was the physical tools that Tiger possessed. His length off the tee when he first broke onto the scene was unparamount with only a few players worldwide even coming close to that driving distance, John Daly truly the only recognizable one. The combination of the aforementioned length with his touch around the greens made him a unstoppable force, as from his debut 1996 until 2005, the year in which I believe the golfing landscape changed, he racked up forty career wins on tour. The players who I mentioned earlier, Els, Love etc etc roasted on weaker fields pre 1996 because at that time course designers weren't building golf courses to favour the incredibly long hitters, it was much more of a precision game, so the cagey veterans had more of a chance. Around the time the Tiger phenomenon erupted,  reputable designers began to "tiger proof" courses, which in some respect had an adverse effect to what the tour envisioned because the premise was to build courses longer and narrower but all it ultimately ended up doing was providing Tiger more of an advantage because he had a well polished, complete game that could smoothly handle the rigors of a tight golf course.  Tiger had the confidence that intimated stingy opposition, and in his defence probably still has the confident, border line cocky demeanor but it's no longer necessarily warranted with the way his game, and the game of golf are evolving. A new era has arrived, it's no longer Tiger  vs the field, although media outlets who have rights to the game may want you to believe that. The Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth tenure is well under way but unlike the Tiger era, they're not waves ahead of everybody else. The field of a standard PGA event includes on average about one hundred and thirty participants, and in my estimation 98% of the field could legitimately  pull out a W. With complete admiration and respect to the Steve Elkington's and Dan Forsman's of that generation, they had no business contending on a  weekly basis.  Now a days we're privy to the likes of Whee Kim and Emiliano Grillo, who by the way will be featured below as players in an ever growing sport. The international explosion will set up a very compelling 2018 olympics in Rio De Janeiro as golf is introduced. What I am going to venture in below is profile five up and comers on the your who have yet to win on the PGA Tour but who if I  were a betting man, which I am at times, will make for sleepless nights amongst the upper echelon including Spieth and McIlroy and will ALL nab a win in the next twelve months. List will be completed alphabetically.

Kevin Chappell(07/08/1986)- Not exactly going out on a limb considering that at time of writing he holds a share of the lead at the Quicken Loans Championship heading into Sunday's final round with Troy Merritt, but if it's not tomorrow, it will be sometime very soon. His claim to fame early in his career is his putting and accurate ball striking but with his frame complimenting his 292 average off the tee box, he can spout off eagles at will ranking thirty first in that category.  He just strikes me as a player that has complete control of his golf game and will find a way to muster out a victory in the not so distant future.

Previous generation comparable: Stewart Cink

Tommy Fleetwood(01/19/1991)- Already a holder of a European tour event title, I was debating whether or not to include him on this list. The reason for the inclusion is because of his lack of familiarity amongst the general North American golfing observer.  He doesn't play often on the PGA Tour, as mentioned he holds primary membership on the European Tour which complicates matters a bit limiting his opportunites to World Golf Championships and Major Championships.  For a smaller individual listed at 5'11, he can pound it with the driver nearly averaging 300 yards but the strength of his game is unquestionably his driving accuracy and in order for him to crack open a Champaign bottle in one of North America's premier events, the statistic of 31.8 putts per round will have to drastically improve. Perhaps a call to call to putting guru Brad Faxon is in order.

Previous generation comparable:Paul Lawrie

Emiliano Grillo(09/14/1992)- Arguably THE hottest commodity right now in golf, this young Argentian is setting the tour on fire. This twenty two year old who is just getting his feet wet interestingly enough has never missed a put under five feet, which yes I know should be standard note for most PGA Tour players but the pressure and scrutiny these players are under is indescribable and not managing any hiccups is shockingly veteran-esque. Dustin Johnson wishes that statistic would apply to him as he'd probably have two major championships by now. If it wasn't for a final round seventy one at the Barbasol Championship, we wouldn't be having this discussion as he'd already be a winner and you heard it here first, Emiliano Grillo will win a major in 2016.

Previous generation comparable:Jerry Kelly

Luke Guthrie(01/31/1990)- I'm sure by his own admission, 2015 has been a disappointing year for the Quincy, Illinois product. The reason I have so much optimism for Guthrie is I recall the time when he and Ben Kohles burst on to the tour scene in 2012 and Guthrie won back to back weeks. For whatever reason, Kohles hasn't followed the same developmental curve that Guthrie has but it's important getting back to Guthrie that he finds a way to re-kindle the form that he had in early 2014 when he had a couple great finishes. After skimming through his statistics, it's evident a facet that needs overwhelming refining is greens in regulation, because as of August 1st,2015 he ranks #165 in that department.

Previous generation comparable:Mark James

Kelly Kraft(10/05/1988)- Some will perceive this as a stretch in lieu of the fact that right now he's not even a full fledged member of the PGA tour, currently trotting away on the tour, but with his comfortable ranking of four, he's all but assured a spot on the PGA Tour next season. Thanks to the Golf Channel's comprehensive coverage of all tours, I've got to see Kraft play quite often especially since he's found himself in contention in most events. Even though he'll be entering his rookie season next year, I firmly believe he'll quickly be viewed as an exceptional putter on tour, an asset that will land Kraft in the winners circle TWICE.  How's that for a bold prediction?

Previous generation comparable: Chad Campbell