Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Birden Bomb: Week seven

Welcome to this weekly National Football League column named the "Birden Bomb" in reference to my infatuation with the play in the video game Madden '96 which was known as the, as you can probably guess, the "Birden Bomb". I will provide a few thoughts on the week that was. Enjoy!

-The report came out that Ryan Mallet missed the team charter in it's game against the Miami Dolphins, what the report failed to mention was that the entire Texans team missed the same flight and all elected to arrive around the half time mark. To that I give a hearty thank-you because it was Lamar Miller's first half eruption that propelled me to weekly victory. What happened to the Texans this afternoon? They've been more hot and cold than a typical Saskatchewan winter.  J.J Watt of the Houston Texans had a M.V.P caliber season in 2014, but perhaps a lack of motivation has been a contributing factor. This blogger fully understands as pursuing the likes of Caroline Wozniacki is miles more enriching then pursuing the Ryan Tannehill's of the world. This kind of gutless performance is embarrassing for  this organization and even though they piled on a plethora of second half garbage points, this kind of outing surely has to supplant Bill O'Brien on the  hot seat. What Texans team will we be privy too next go around?

-Who were these so called "experts" that provided the notion that Drew Brees is done? I have completely comprehended that Drew doesn't have the rubber arm that he was blessed with in the mid two thousands, but brains and football I.Q go a long way and the knowledge he's raked in on the gridiron was particularly helpful in picking apart a tiresome and slow Indianapolis Colts defence. Earlier in the season, it was my observation that Drew Brees wasn't exuding patience and allowing Brandin Cooks to run free and creative routes and was forcing balls into areas that only the 2007 Drew Brees right arm could squeeze in. He and by extension the coaching staff has matured and are exploiting Cooks unique athleticism by throwing more jump balls. Okay, so I've just touched on what alterations the New Orleans Saints have made offensively which has led to back to back victories, but I'm imagining the loyal Colts fans are dreading some of the defensive mistakes that were consummated today. A lot of these mistakes were not necessarily preparation oriented, but more so attributed to a lack of speed and electricity in the defensive backfield. These d-unit needs an overhaul in the worst way to remain competitive in an absolutely disgustingly bad AFC South.

- In my pre-season National Football League prognostications, I had awarded my pre-season defensive player of the year to Chargers cornerback Brandon Flowers. From the bits and pieces of I've seen on tape, Flowers play has been inquisite.....until week seven. On the surface, an elite corner should feast on a young, unproven quarterback but Derek Carr tore the secondary to shreds. In the receiving core, Jack Del Rio's game plan is quite explanatory, find a way to engage Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree in the aerial attack. This isn't anything foreign to opposing defences when preparing for the Raiders because they don't do a lot that differs from the standard school of thought. For whatever reason, a usually pesky San Diego unit provided zero pressure to the quarterback and allowed Derek Carr seemingly minutes each to play to dissect the defensive information. The Raiders were on their A game today, in large part due to a lack of execution from San Diego though.

-A growing trend in professional sports is rookies coming into the fold and starting to contribute quicker then ever. Carlos Correa in baseball, Connor McDavid in hockey and now the newest member of the heralded rookie club is St.Louis Rams running back Todd Gurley. The Georgia Bulldog alumni stepped into the national scene in week five and has astonished even the most uneducated skeptic. When tuning into the 2015 NFL draft and racing through my mind who the St.Louis Rams were intending to target but when deciphering through the upmost wildest scenarios, I did not agree that the running back position should be the first priority. Jeff Fisher disagreed with ne, and who am I to argue with the 1999 Super Bowl finalist(coach of the Tennessee Titans at the time). Tre Mason was fully entrenched as the starter in Missouri after experiencing his own breakout campaign in 2014 but somewhere in the organizational hierarchy their was a lack of satisfaction with status quo. Enter Todd Gurley, and boy has he yet to disappoint!. In the week seven triumph against the Cleveland Browns, he amassed one hundred and twenty eight yards rushing compiling two touchdowns. Is it too much of a stretch to suggest that he may be already, seven weeks into his rookie campaign, the NFL's most feared runner? My vote would be cast for yes.

- The NFL's most yanked around team is the London Jaguars...I apologize, the team I was meaning to refer to was the Jacksonville Jaguars but sometimes it's hard to differentiate what their permanent locale really is. I totally respect the league's desire for wanting to test the European market, but at what price? The reason this Northern Florida market struggles to stay afloat at times, aside from questionable managerial decisions is that the league fails to do their due diligence in marketing the franchise. When was the last time the Jaguars were featured on  a national broadcast? I know the few that read this will conclude that the Jaguars aren't the only team that fall into this category which is true but if the rumours are true and a move is imminent why not at least try to re engage a fleeting fan base?

-O the irony for the Dallas Cowboys to have a "Lucky", Lucky Whitehead to be exact as part of a musical chair-esque running attack. There's been nothing lucky from a Dallas Cowboys fan when describing their treacherous misfortunes in trying to replace DeMarco Murray. We were led to believe falsely via NFL.com that Christine Michael would receive the majority of snaps, and clearly the five touches for eighteen yards signaled he's the long term answer, NOT!. Darren McFadden scorched an all of a sudden susceptible New York Giants run defence and fans in Arlington can rest assured at least for week eight they now know who will get the primary looks behind Matt Cassel. Because there hasn't been one team that has pulled away in the NFC East, Jason Garrett is hoping the return of Dez Bryant which could happen as early as next week will finally provide balance to this offence and just the sheer presence of Bryant will take off pressure from all of these back-up running backs Big D considers starters. One hundred and fifty two yards, the number for which McFadden rushed for today may be child's play when the attack finally resumes becoming more complete.

-Speaking of DeMarco Murray, now a member of the Philadelphia Eagles, how content is he really splitting snaps amongst himself, Darren Sproles and Ryan Mathews? The unique facet about the Eagles running attack is that each running back provides a different element. Murray for his renowned North-South attack, Sproles for his escapades catching balls out of the backfield and Mathews, a little smaller then Murray making him more elusive. Due to the aforementioned point of all three running backs bringing something different to the table, this created matchup problems for the Carolina Panthers in the sunday nighter but full marks go out to Luke Kuechly and Josh Norman for first and foremost completely eliminating the passing game but secondarily for closing gaps at a record pace and what that did other then one aberration of a run by Ryan Matthews, Chip Kelly's usually unpredictable offence was perplexed the entire evening as he simply got outcoached by Ron Rivera. Color me a doubters, but those doubts are slowly subsidizing when it comes to analyzing the outlook of the 6-0 Carolina Panthers.

-The Baltimore Ravens are going to have a major issue in 2016 with the inevitable retirement of Steve Smith at the end of this campaign. Aside from a couple that come to immediate mind, the Ravens have surprisingly found a way to stay competitive in most of these contests due to the herculean play of Joe Flacco. The Arizona Cardinal defence is one of the most revered in the NFL but Joe Flacco led  a practice roster receiving core sans Smith and nearly led the improbable comeback. Brashad Perriman, the rookie who they selected out of Central Florida projects to be next years cornerstone but it will be intriguing to watch how the rest of this season goes and whether the auditions of Kamar Aiken and Marlon Brown will venture to more prominent roles within the offence next year.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

National Football League picks: Week seven

The Toronto Blue Jays succumbed in defeat at the hands of the Kansas City Royals on Friday in game six of the American League Championship series thus I feel  a little piece of me was broken after such a gut wrenching defeat. Then I realized, it's ultimately okay because I'll just gladly jump onto another bandwagon next season to root for the winning team. Had a decent week last week going 10-3, which advances my overall total to 51-34. Let's hope I can have a better week prognosticating football games then the Blue Jays had on Friday. Winners in bold!

Baltimore @ Arizona
Tampa Bay @ Washington
Pittsburgh @ Kansas City
Philadelphia @ Carolina
New Orleans @ Indianapolis
Dallas @ New York(G)
Oakland @ San Diego
Atlanta @ Tennessee
Houston @ Miami
Buffalo @ Jacksonville
Minnesota @ Detroit
New England @ New York(J)
Cleveland @ St.Louis

Monday, October 19, 2015

Birden Bomb: Week six

Welcome to this weekly National Football League column named the "Birden Bomb" in reference to my infatuation with the play in the video game Madden '96 which was known as the, as you can probably guess, the "Birden Bomb". I will provide a few thoughts on the week that was. Enjoy!

-The Kansas City Chiefs may be the most snake bitten team in the National Football League. Aside from the thumping they received at the hands of the Green Bay Packers, they've been competitive in every other game and yet find themselves clinging to a 1-5 mark. Losing Jamaal Charles to a season ending ACL injury is a devastating subplot in a campaign that has been marred with bad luck. Equilibrium should've kicked in by allowing the Chiefs to win at least a couple of these closer games but amazingly they've lost every one of the close encounters and why you ask....one reason simply, the putrid play of Alex Smith. When the San Francisco 49ers made the organizational decision to part ways with Alex Smith in favor of Colin Kaepernick(we'll get to him later) the common belief was that even though Alex Smith was a former first overall pick, Jim Harbaugh and company stuck with the modern day quarterback in Colin which the Bay area fans approved of. The 49ers went on to make a Super Bowl appearance soon after and could surmise that if the Chiefs want to be considered elite that a quarterback change may need to be made imminently. 1-5 but could just as easily be 5-1.

-Folks, or the one or two that read this, get ready to hear a lot more about the Carolina Panthers as they are not going away anytime soon. Cam Newton's statistical line won't have him garnering many most valuable player votes but it's his on the field leadership that must be commended. I remember watching Cam a couple years back and his body language was very negative when a play would go array and wasn't beneath distributing a long stare down at a teammate to voice his concerns. To use the elementary term "baby" when describing Cam's behavior pre 2014 would be accurate but now and full credit goes out to Ron "Riverboat Gambler" Rivera for corralling Newton's excitement and transitioning that excitement into team wide positive energy. The comeback today just illustrates the confidence Cam's teammates have playing alongside him and are willing to go the extra mile to make a play. Look at Ted Ginn and Jericho Cotchery. These two individuals were hot commodities out of college and had moderate success in their beginnings, Ginn with the Miami Dolpins and Cotchery with the New York Jets but never propelled themselves to number one status and could very well be considered journeyman up until this point. They're  now playing with a  purpose and admirably filling the void left by Kelvim Benjamin. These comeback kids haven't been a joy to watch but they have that knack with how to win late.

-Credit goes out to new Miami Dolphins head coach Dan Campbell for re-instituting a running game. The Tennessee Titans didn't have a  competent game plan this Sunday as this early season triumph a was clearly nothing more than an aberration. Lamar Miller sprinted for 113 yards on nineteen carries with toppled a defence that surprisingly was very good against the run until the boys from South Beach came to town. There was a reason why Miami wasn't more aggressive in the off-season in pursuit of a running back because they knew all along that Lamar Miller if used correctly which he wasn't under the recently canned Joe Philbin is a very capable NFL back.

-With Ben Roethlisberger out the last few weeks, and there are some reports indicating that his return could be imminent, the quarterbacking helm has been carried by Michael Vick until he sustained a hamstring issue which then opened the door for Landry Jones. My takeaway from this contest in the upset victory against the Arizona Cardinals was that in all of the carousing of QB's, coach Mike Tomlin forgot to acquaint Antonio Brown with both Jones and Vick. You could make the argument and I have no bones doing it when saying that Antonio Brown is the most explosive receiver in the National Football League. The masses will argue and rightfully so that it shouldn't matter who the contributors are if you win and I appreciate that but the bottom line is even though they cracked the difficult code that is the Arizona Cardinals defence, they need a confident and motivated Brown if  they aspire to remain in wildcard contention.

-As a precursor to my next rant, I have never been sold on the abilities of Colin Kaepernick but contrarily some of the criticism he's received before his week six stand out performance has bordered on ridiculous. When you watch Kaepernick play on a consistent basis, you see an individual that based on his skillset could be an elite quarterback but for whatever reason he lacks the football IQ, or the necessary talent around him to field  a winner and like I griped about in the first sentence of this thought, some of the so called "experts" have went to town on the supposed struggles of Colin. I was watching a show called "NFL HQ" broadcast on the NFL Network and forgive me if I misrepresented the wrong analyst but I believe it was former 49 Eric Davis who comprehended that the 49ers should urgently search for an upgrade and so on and so forth so it was rewarding to see that Kap quickly shut up the bandwagon critics that only jump on when the times are bad and stuffed it in their you know and channeled his inner cerebral assassin and tore apart the Baltimore Ravens. This blogger loved the chemistry he developed with Torrey Smith as this past week I acquired Smith via trade in fantasy football and it in all likelihood led me to my second consecutive trade. Thank you Smith and Kaepernick!

-It's natural in sports that we overstate the bad and undersell the good, and I'm as guilty doing that as anyone in this infamous blog. I was critical in analyzing the performance of the Detroit Lions last week and made the proclamation that Jim Caldwell should find himself on the hot seat. The offence versus the enigma the Chicago Bears have been this season wakened up and silenced all those doubters where I sit in the front row. Matt Stafford is essentially a reincarnation of Brett Favre, a prototypical southern gunslinger that for every remarkable play he makes, usually to Golden Tate or Calvin Johnson but will also make you scratch your head in amusement on why he attempted to force a ball in a danger zone. The Motor City was much more at ease this week because Matt Stafford was seemingly on his best behavior throwing to the statistical line of 27/42, 405 yards and four touchdowns. The loss of Ndamukong Suh has been greater than even the most pessimistic person could've forecasted and this will for all purposes eliminate them for postseason contention, but I just think it's important that we understand this offence is what it is and we'll put up points and it's now up to the Lions brass to address the defensive deficiencies at the 2016 NFL draft.

- The Sunday nighter went as expected as we witnessed the New England Patriots defeat the Indianapolis Colts. The Patriots who are the reigning champions have arguably looked better than last year and I could draw up a feasible scenario that has the Patriots rolling to a 16-0 mark. Truth be told, we're six weeks in and Belichick's Pats haven't had one competitive game. The hot water cooler topic I want to briefly touch on was that atrocious play call the Colts drew up on that fourth down play. I have a few thoughts on this, first and most importantly, whatever the Colts were trying to accomplish there blew up in their faces so I'm perplexed as to why Chuck Pagano didn't initiate a timeout when the play was verging on disaster. I'd love to know whether the play allowed Griff Whalen  carte blanche based on the Patriots defensive alignment. The fact that he had the ball snapped and immediately succumbed into a crouched position has me wondering if he was working for the other team. After this mitigated disaster, you could see Pagano on the sidelines yelling why the ball was snapped. Well Chuck, this mistake falls on your shoulder as you had the option to exercise a timeout to prevent this.

-I won't have access to distributing my thoughts on the Monday night football game as in Canada there are much more important matters on the docket as the Toronto Blue Jays square off against the Kansas City Royals in game three of the American League Championship series.......o yea, and there's a little thing known as the federal election tonight! #gojays

Sunday, October 18, 2015

National Football League picks:Week six

Another satisfactory week which propelled me to a 9-4 mark upping my overall total to 41-31. Let's see if I can continue my winning ways and correctly prognosticate week six in the National Football League. As is always the case, winners in bold.

Carolina @ Seattle
Kansas City @ Minnesota
New England @ Indianapolis
Cincinnati @ Buffalo
Chicago @ Detroit
San Diego  @ Green Bay
New York(G) @ Philadelphia
Arizona @ Pittsburgh
Miami @ Tennessee
Washington @ New York(J)
Baltimore @ San Francisco
Houston @ Jacksonville
Denver @ Cleveland

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Blue Jays v Rangers-2015 ALDS game four recap Toronto 8 Texas 4

What a difference a weekend makes for the Toronto Blue Jays! After some controversial calls hampered the Blue Jays in the first two games of this series, the tide turned in a more positive direction for the Blue and White. No longer did fans and players have to suffer through a strike zone comparable to something you'd see in the Little League World Series, but we actually were able to witness impartial officiating that wouldn't you know led to better results for the better team.

It was a glorious start. Texas Rangers starter Derek Holland was the pitcher of record and he got lit up similarly to the same way Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick got taken to the shed to the all of a sudden goal-centric Arizona Coyotes on Saturday.(#fantasyhockeyproblems) I took no issue with this strategical decision for Jeff Banister to select Derek Holland to take the hill as there  were some other strategical blunders that happened later that  carry the precipus of my recap tonight. The issue that surely more die hard Texas Rangers will take offence with the Holland decision is why on earth his leash was so long? The Jays pounce on non over powering lefties which describes Holland to a T and so the obvious water cooler discussion is why after the Chris Colabello home run in the first wasn't he pulled in favor of veteran Colby Lewis? Technically not a must win for Texas but they had to know that once the lead progressed to 5-0 it was inevitable that this series was heading back to Canada, the lack of desperation was troubling me this afternoon. The Blue Jays applied solid pressure the first five innings or so, what I took notice with was the approach the Jays hitters used. Much more patience was exuded one through nine in this lineup. They waited for the pitch they were seeking something that was not evidenced in the first two games in T.O. Aside from Jake Diekman, who I've stated this in the past might be the Andrew Miller of this year's playoffs, the Rangers pitching staff isn't particularly overpowering so the Jays ineffectiveness in the first two was beyond frustrating but whatever was hindering their performance earlier has been corrected because we've seen the Jays offence of old recently and fingers crossed that the momentum stays with the good guys for game five.

Okay....time to analyze the nitty gritty, the topic that all media outlets in Canada will be bantering about tomorrow and that's whether using David Price in this game the way they did was sound thinking. It wasn't, just stating the obvious here and there a plethora of reasons that explain this. At the time that R.A Dickey was pulled by manager John Gibbons, the score was 7-1 Toronto and there were two outs in the bottom of the fourth inning. For anybody that was willing to listen, I kept saying that I had a higher confidence level in Marcus Stroman pitching a potential game five as opposed to Price so in the sense of the word I'll be getting my wish but I certainly would've preferred David Price as an emergency option if Stroman falters. When interviewed by Fox's Ken Rosenthal pertaining to his game five availability David Price implied that he would be ready to do whatever is asked but when John Gibbons was asked the very same question in his presser he was more emphatic by saying Price is no longer an option. Conflicting answers....we will see who wins out, player or manager. Using Price the way they did is comparable to the New York Yankees using Mariano Rivera for two innings in a 13-2 lead and then not making him available in the probable tighter game the following night. I can try to read between the lines here and what I'm gathering is they're telling Price you flat out suck and regardless of the fact that we gave up a boatload to acquire you, we'd rather throw all of our marbles towards a kid who's set to make his second career playoff start. This game four was never in question, in fact the game was more in question once Price came to the mound so that illustrates the success, or lack thereof of David Price as of late. My question is this, and I wish some of the media personnel that have the privilege of sitting inside the press room would ask more of the hard hitting questions, if Marcus Stroman fades out early Wednesday, who is the game five version of David Price? Marco Estrada....starting in game three probably sets an inning limit on himself? Liam Hendriks...can't fathom they would really put their season in the hands of the little used starter turned reliever. Or more realistically, will we see a bullpen barrage that could feature every pitcher on the post-season roster. Three options that I'm sure Gibbons and Anthopoulos will look at closely but none of these provide the security that David Price does.

Game five will be a hoot, Marcus Stroman v another lefty in Cole Hamels. Go Blue Jays and send a congratulatory message to the Texas Rangers for not starting Blue Jay nemesis Yovani Gallardo.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Birden Bomb: Week five

Welcome to this weekly National Football League column named the "Birden Bomb" in reference to my infatuation with the play in the video game Madden '96 which was known as the, as you can probably guess, the "Birden Bomb". I will provide a few thoughts on the week that was. Enjoy!

-The constant strategical gaffes are becoming too much of the norm for the Baltimore Ravens.  This is an observation going all the way back to 2014 as what happens with this Jon Harbaugh/Marc Trestman led offence is they build a lead and then they get waaaaay too passive especially when instituting their redzone offence. They had the game versus the Cleveland Browns in lockdown but  settling for field goal attempts when the more aggressive call was applicable hindered their attempt to secure the second consecutive W. Joe Flacco is on the cusp of being grouped in the elite quarterback category but part of the problem as to why the casual fan doesn't consider Flacco elite is because the offensive regimen doesn't allow Flacco enough creativity. For the Baltimore Ravens to find themselves in the win column more consistently this must drastically change.

-Is it time that Detroit Lions coach Jim Caldwell is officially on the proverbial "hot seat"? This is an 0-5 organization that got plummeted badly against the stingy desert dogs, the Arizona Cardinals  When analyzing the game statistics I find it appalling that the combination of Matt Stafford and Dan Orlovsky only got star receiver Calvin Johnson the ball five times for sixty seven yards. With this current offensive nucleus spanning over the last three to four years the Lions have relied heavily on the passing attack which was correlated with relative team success This year however, coach Caldwell has made a more conscious effort in utilizing the ground game which has proved very ineffective thusfar. Ameer Abdullah was a pre-season fantasy football darling as the expectation was he would provide the yin to Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate's yang. All these dreams in the Motor City about establishing the next Barry Sanders in the backfield is turning into a nightmare and it's gotten so bad that unless Caldwell caves to fan pressure and finds increased ways to toss the ball to the talented receivers, he may be on the unemployment line shortly.

-I'd like to formally sign up for audition to run for the Washington Redskins. They are accepting entrants off the street, correct?  Alfred Morris runs for 121 yards in week one and then proceeds to get demoted. Matt Jones comes in and steals the carries in week two putting on a clinic and then is pushed aside for little known Chris Thompson in week three. Preceding weeks has seen a timeshare with Joe Smith and John Quinn ready for week six action(fictional names, it was a joke). Jay Gruden, the Gruden name generally speaking has been known to be innovative with their tactics, and it's plausible that in this running back trifecta that one will be a flash in the pan and provide results the same way former Redskin Clinton Portis did. I just wish purely from a fantasy perspective that Alfred Morris could re-introduce himself to Gruden.

-If you read my earlier entry deciphering my prediction for the 2015 NFL season, you would've surmised that the Buffalo Bills were MY favourite to take home the AFC. Marcell Dareus absolutely stymied Marcus Mariota on every opportunity and my take away from this game has me questioning the mental toughness of the Oregon alum. Before the few reading this become up in arms with this opinion, keep in mind that I'm fully aware that this is just a rookie quarterback we're discussing but to those that want to protect a rookie, ponder this. Sports are in a new age, younger and younger players are now making quicker, more tangible contributions at a young age. Look at Jameis Winston, he's now found a way to lead his troops out of Tampa Bay to two wins, whereas the only win Mariota has under his belt was a romp against those very same Tampa Bay Buccaneers but that game was over after the first snap. His personal statistics are commendable, but what has to change is his adaptability when maneuvering through a tight football game.

- I will be the first to admit that I was not a supporter of Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly when it came to endorsing the acquisition of Sam Bradford from the St.Louis Rams. My lack of support was well founded in the first couple weeks as that offence had no cohesion......where was prized rookie Nelson Agholor...why can't DeMarco Murray run anymore??? These questions and a lot more were being bantered about amongst football pendants but the renewed confidence in Sam Bradford has shut the majority up.  Gun slinging his way to three hundred and thirty three yards I'm starting to come around to why some experts predicted the Eagles to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. The Eagles defence still has major holes but as the New Orleans Saints were privy to on Sunday, that offence is becoming a well oiled machine.

-One of the more fascinating storylines thusfar in the 2015 season has been the resurgence of Doug Martin and the Darren Sproles-esque work of Doug Martin. Coming into this campaign, the consensus was that with a young quarterback coming into the fold like we've been witnessing with first overall pick Jameis Winston that the Buccaneers would have to rely heavily on the ground game and that was a scary proposition based on what we've seen in the last year and a half with the anemic play of Doug Martin. Lovie Smith has found the start button on Martin's motor again because he is showcasing what made him such a loved rookie coming out of Boise St.  Are the Buccaneers a playoff team? Likely not but crazier things have happened and any team accolades can rest solely on the laurels of Doug Martin. Not be overlooked however is Charles Sims who is slowly but surely gaining the reputation of being one of the best pass catchers out of the backfield.

-The Sunday nighter featuring the Giants and the 49ers was seemingly a classic but my viewing pleasure focused on the Toronto Blue Jays triumph in game three of the ALDS so I have limited information pertaining to this game. Via NFL.com, Colin Kaepernick silenced his doubters as he allowed the San Francisco 49ers to remain competitive against a team I have pegged going to the Super Bowl. He didn't run much tonight and the main reason why the 49ers offence came out from th the shadows because he stayed in the pocket, used his strong arm and allowed Torrey Smith to strut his capabilities something he wasn't able to do in the first four weeks. Well done Colin!


Saturday, October 10, 2015

Blue Jays v Rangers-2015 ALDS game two recap Texas 6 Toronto 4

Gutwrenching, nail biting....pretty much every applicable adjective pertaining to down to the wire would be condoned when describing this instant classic that saw the Toronto Blue Jays fall just short to the Texas Rangers. The Jays have now dropped two games at home and now face the unenviable task of having to go down to Arlington and take two games on  the road to hopefully bring this series back to Toronto. I caution that I use the word hopefully loosely because the baseball fan in me after what I saw in games one and two doesn't quiver in confidence from a Blue Jays perspective.

What stood out in this ball game and really the entire series thusfar has been the effectiveness of the Texas bullpen. Internally, I had some major concerns with the Rangers bullpen coming in as I viewed this as a facet that could be exploited but more than anything else what's happened is that manager Jeff Banister has smartened up in delving out his bullpen assignments. I salivated at the possibility of the Jays big boppers getting a look at Shawn Tolleson late in games but that has not been the case as Jake Diekman and Sam Dyson(former property of the Blue Jays) have been virtually unhittable in this series. Specifically when breaking down the performance of Diekman, who was thought to be a throw in with the Cole Hamels acquisition has had his coming out party in the post-season.  Throughout the 2014 postseason, some would argue that reliever Andrew Miller, then of the Baltimore Orioles made a name for himself and he was able to parlay that into becoming the 2015 closer for the New York Yankees. I'm not proclaiming that Diekman is the next Andrew Miller but there eery similarities when watching the two tall southpaws pitch.  I remember mentioning to a friend during Texas' battle with the "Blow Jays" in the regular season that if I were Banister I would've instilled Diekman as the closer, and even though technically he does not yet carry that role, he's clearly been the most reliable reliever and the further the Rangers advance, the more responsibility Diekman will intake.

In the first inning, the man who many theorized was too "inept" to play important innings defensively Chris Colabello would've been hailed as the hero if the Jays could have found a way to win. That first inning defensive gem made with one out where he fielded a ground ball, showed an unforeseen level of patience while he stared down Prince Fielder at third, made the last second decision to tag out the batter Josh Hamilton and than proceeded to run over to third to tag Prince Fielder who figuratively fell asleep at the wheel running the base paths.  The top of the first was filled with defensive blunders but it was Colabello's masterfulness that kept the Jays within reach. Colabello also had  a timely hit when the Jays were down early, simply put the guy came out with  a purpose today.

A man who doesn't have any purpose, particularly offensively is Troy Tulowitzki. The guy holds his own playing shortstop but is hitting like horse manure and for the life of me don't understand why he was hitting fifth. Troy" the rally killer" Tulowitzki should be hitting ninth in the lineup, and if he's held in the same spot in the lineup for game three I will permanently abandon my fanfare for the Blue Jays(not the first time as I'm the perennial bandwagon jumper). I'm not denying there's a strong chance that he isn't completely healthy but the post-season isn't the time to coddle boo-boos, productivity is paramount. 

The one last point I'll share about this treacherous ball game, and by the way the strike zone was worse then some games you'll witness in Little League Baseball, video below was the decision to trot out veteran Latroy Hawkins in the fourteenth and not Liam Hendriks. Hawkins undoubtedly has the experience having pitched in the playoffs before but Hendriks has been more consistent over the last month and I just thought that when you're involved in what essentially is a must win game, go with your best guys and on my personal pecking order Hendriks is ahead of Latroy.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Blue Jays v Rangers-2015 ALDS game one recap Texas 5 Toronto 3

In an late afternoon opening to the official start of the divisional series round, the home favourite Toronto Blue Jays were upended by the pesky Texas Rangers. This was an entertaining affair and although the home team ended up in the losing docket, there are some positives John Gibbons and company can take from this as they now prepare for game two of this series which kicks off at one eastern tomorrow.

The lineup the Toronto Blue Jays handed into the umpire is the opening conversation I want to delve in. Revere-Donaldson-Bautista-Encarnacion-Tulowitzki-Smoak-Martin-Goins-Pillar was the unit employed today behind the arm of David Price and it just didn't work, some awful luck pertaining to injuries but it just didn't work.  Injuries as just mentioned ran rampant for the Blue Jays as Josh Donaldson was forced to leave after getting kneed in the head while sliding into second base while Jose Bautista left the game late with cramping. Both players, particularly in Donaldson's case are anticipated to be in tomorrow's lineup as the bringer of rain passed the necessitative concussion tests which are protocol so it appears the Jays may avoided a disastrous scenario. 100 % health or not, Donaldson's and Bautista's spots in the lineup  are not in question but some others won't, or shouldn't sleep as easy tonight. Justin Smoak's at bats were of the  Dominican winter league variety. Judging solely off of his body language you couldn't ascertain whether he was playing game 45 in the regular season or game one of an American League divisional series. He's a mild mannered individual at the best of times but some of those at bats were freebie outs. As a avid Blue Jays supporter, do I trust Smoak more than Colabello, perhaps but with a lefty in Cole Hamels on the hill tomorrow understandably some thought should be given to Colabello starting. I could spend an entire paragraph critiquing the contributions but for the sake of time, I'll provide the Coles notes version when analyzing his game. What happened to Troy Tulowitzki's patience at the dish? Throughout the regular season especially the regular season TT had a knack of outsmarting opposing pitchers but when dealing with Yovani Gallardo today who had control issues the entire outing, all of a sudden we started seeing a plethora of first pitch swings. This is certainly not the Tulowitzki I've become familiar with and the Jays organization can't afford to become too familiar with either because they need somebody productive batting fifth. Tulowitzki isn't completely healthy, it doesn't take a doctor to figure this out but because of this, how much more leeway can this team give Tulo the rest of the way? This team is now down 1-0 in a best of five series, and my bold inner self says don't play him tomorrow but to break this down realistically because obviously he's going to play, bat him ninth. I'd much rather see catcher Russell Martin in the fifth hole as he was hitting too low in the batting order hitting seventh today. Assuming Bautista and Donaldson are good to go tomorrow, the lineup I'd like to see is: Revere-Donaldson-Bautista-Encarnacion-Martin-Goins-Smoak-Pillar-Tulowitzki.

Now to analyze today's pitching matchup I thought both David Price and Yovani Gallardo were solid today. David Price may receive a lot of criticism today, most unwarranted because other than the top half of the first inning where we saw an overuse of adrenalin kick in,he was throwing strikes and aside from Rougned Odor who I believe will very quickly be considered one of the best second baseman in baseball,  he held the rest of the order in check. Gallardo on the other hand was solid but like mentioned a little while ago battled through some demand issues.  The lack of patience shown by the usually patient Blue Jays hitter assisted Gallardo today. When the Rangers went to the bullpen early, too early which I was doing jumping jacks about because this is an unquestionable weakness for Texas but a combination of Kela, Diekman and Dyson shut the door on his high octane offence. Even though game one didn't go as planned for us in Canada let's rest assured that if we knock Cole Hamels out of the game early tomorrow, I don't foresee the Rangers bullpen shutting us down a consecutive day.


Brett Murray


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Icing the Puck:2015-2016 National Hockey League prognostications

I completed a National Hockey League preview  back in July and I ranked each team on an individual basis but in this column, I will prognosticate the standings division by division and then based off of those standings will predict how I foresee the playoffs playing out. After which, I will hand out each major award while also choosing finalists for the awards. I hope you thoroughly enjoy! As a disclaimer, some of my new prognostications may not correlate with some remarks I made in the preview but the climate has changed for some, and my new predictions will reflect this.

Eastern Conference:

Atlantic Division:

1.Detroit Red Wings
2.Montreal Canadiens
3.Buffalo Sabres
4.Tampa Bay Lightning-Wildcard one
5.Boston Bruins
6.Florida Panthers
7.Ottawa Senators
8.Toronto Maple Leafs

Metropolitan Division:

1.Pittsburgh Penguins
2.New York Islanders
3.Columbus Blue Jackets
4.New York Rangers-wildcard two
5.Washington Capitals
6.Carolina Hurricanes
7.New Jersey Devils
8.Philadelphia Flyers

Western Conference:

Central Division:

1.Chicago Blackhawks
2.Winnipeg Jets
3.St.Louis Blues
4.Dallas Stars-Wildcard one
5.Minnesota Wild-Wildcard two
6.Nashville Predators
7.Colorado Avalanche

Pacific Division:

1.Calgary Flames
2.Anaheim Ducks
3.Edmonton Oilers
4.Los Angeles Kings
5.Vancouver Canucks
6.San Jose Sharks
7.Arizona Coyotes

First round:

(1) Detroit Red Wings (W2) New York Rangers=Detroit in six
(2) Montreal Canadiens (3) Buffalo Sabres=Montreal in six

(1) Pittsburgh Penguins v (W1) Tampa Bay Lightning=Pittsburgh in seven
(2) New York Islanders v (3) Columbus Blue Jackets=Islanders in six

(1) Chicago Blackhawks v (W2) Minnesota Wild=Chicago in six
(2) Winnipeg Jets v (3) St.Louis Blues=St.Louis in six

(1) Calgary Flames v (W2) Dallas Stars=Calgary in seven
(2) Anaheim Ducks v (3) Edmonton Oilers=Anaheim in six

Second Round:

(1) Detroit Red Wings v (2) Montreal Canadiens=Detroit in six
(1) Pittsburgh Penguins v (2) New York Islanders=Islanders in seven

(1)Chicago Blackhawks v (3) St.Louis Blues=Chicago in seven
(1) Calgary Flames v (2) Anaheim Ducks=Calgary in six

Third Round:

(1) Detroit Red Wings v (2) New York Islanders= Detroit in seven

(1) Chicago Blackhawks v (1) Calgary Flames=Chicago in five

Stanley Cup Finals:

The Chicago Blackhawks will repeat as Stanley Cup Champions by defeating the Detroit Red Wings in six games.


Hart Trophy(Most Valuable)-Evgeni Malkin(Pittsburgh Penguins)

When you analyze the Pittsburgh Penguins, a lot of casual hockey fans first think of the name Sidney Crosby. Sid the Kid, although at twenty eight years of age I'm not sure how much longer we can continue to ride with that kid moniker is a world class player and as much as the productivity of Crosby may ride the Pens train the biggest benefactor has long been  Evgeni Malkin. Malkin is your prototypical power forward which is an oxymoron when providing descriptors for European players. He plays physical and for a man of his stature, he shows an unprecedented level of creativity. The acquisition of Phil Kessel in Pittsburgh  is expected to provide more depth which will naturally open up more doors for the man affectionately known as Geno. I'm predicting a 120+point season for Malkin which will lead into his first ever Hart Trophy triumph.

Finalists: Sidney Crosby(Pittsburgh), Gustav Nyquist(Detroit)

Norris Trophy(Top defenceman):P.K Subban(Montreal Canadiens)

It's of my belief that during the 2014-2015 season, Erik Karlsson undeservingly was handed the Norris trophy. If the Norris trophy, and all trophies in general necessitate that we award based on the contributions he provides to his own team. Erik Karlsson was the recipient of the "Hamburgler" Andrew Hammond who essentially single handedly guided the Senators to the playoffs. I realize I'm getting off tangent here but it irks me that Karlsson is viewed as a premier defenceman in the National Hockey League as to me, he's no more than a serviceable top four defenceman.  Subban is much more valuable to his own franchise as for a second round pick he has taking the Montreal market by storm. Subban is a tremendous skater, and that's probably an adjective that doesn't fully explain Subban's skillset because he also has the knack to skate the puck behind his net and instantaneously lead the rush and create a quality scoring chance. As a disclaimer again, Karlssson will be included in my finalists not because I think he should be there but because I think the National Hockey League will capitalize on his name again.

Finalists: Erik Karlsson(Ottawa), Aaron Ekblad(Florida)

Jack Adams Trophy(Coach of the year): Dan Bylsma(Buffalo Sabres)

It should be noted that although a lot of pendants think Bylsma isn't a good coach and rode the coat tales of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, I think that's complete hogwash as Bylsma battled through a lack of depth during his entire Penguins tenure and Marc-Andre Fleury offered below satisfactory goaltending to put in mildly most of the way. This Sabres squad intrigues me greatly because some of these young pieces have superstar potential. Everyone jumps over to the Edmonton Oilers when discussing the greatest young talent in the league....I'm an Oilers fan, I get it, the praise is most definitely deserved but the Sabres young nucleus is overlooked. Bylsma landed in a great destination, who wouldn't want to mentor Sam Reinhart, Jack Eichel, Evander Kane and Tyler Ennis? The "mentoring" could be short lived as this franchise has enough talent to contend for the playoffs as my breakdown have the Sabres post-season bound.

Finalists: Jeff Blashill(Detroit), Bob Hartley(Calgary)

Vezina Trophy(Top goaltender):Jake Allen(St.Louis Blues)

This is an incredibly risky pick from the perspective that I'm well aware there aren't any guarantees that Allen will finish the year as the starter. I recall back to the 2010 World Junior Hockey Championships and coming to the epiphany that Jake Allen looked awful and I remained doubtful that he would ever be able to cut it in the National Hockey League. He's proved me wrong and then some as he supplanted Brian Elliot on a perennially contending team. If Allen continues to show the Blues regime that he can play well when the games really get going, this darkhorse pick could make me look like a genius come late June.

Finalists: Carey Price(Montreal), Kari Ramo(Calgary)

Calder Trophy(Top Rookie): Connor McDavid(Edmonton Oilers)

Connor "McJesus" McDavid is the most hyped player coming into to the league since Sidney  Crosby. This is a storied rookie class as there are a handful of players that have merits to be in consideration. Unfortunately for the rest of the hopefuls, McDavid is in a league of his own. This has already been well documented but in the entire span of history there aren't many, if any that possess that combination of speed and creativity. As you'll see above, I pegged Evgeni Malkin for the Hart trophy and I do draw some parallels between Malkin's and McDavid's game minus McDavid's blazing speed. This is a scary proposition.

Finalists: Jack Eichel(Buffalo), Nikolai Ehlers(Winnipeg)

Monday, October 5, 2015

BIrden Bomb:Week four

Welcome to this weekly National Football League column named the "Birden Bomb" in reference to my infatuation with the play in the video game Madden '96 which was known as the, as you can probably guess, the "Birden Bomb". I will provide a few thoughts on the week that was. Enjoy!

-Giovani Bernard and the Cincinnati Bengals have had a very unique relationship. The normal plight of most players that come and go in the NFL is a player slowly works their way to stardom and once stardom hits, like it did in the case of Bernard, the player will begin demanding certain workloads to solidify their incline in the league. In Bernard's case, he came out like a house on fire as in his rookie season he tallied 1,209 total yards which got the rest of the league talking and the expectation, at least from my perspective was that Bernard had just established himself as the long term Bengals back. 2014 wasn't as smooth as 2013 was and the little known Jeremy Hill came in and eventually supplanted Bernard for the majority of the carries. Given what I was implying earlier, this sudden demotion from an established back would've set off fireworks and likely ended in a mutual release or agreed upon trade but I want to hand the  highest level of gratitude to Giovani for sticking with it and not enlisting in the typical diva behavior. The hard work and perseverance has paid off as now in 2015, specifically week four against the Kansas City Chiefs he was instrumental in leading his Bengals to a W!

-When the Miami Dolphins made Ndamukong Suh a 100 million + asset, one could assume they thought they had signed an individual who was going to anchor their defence for a long time to come. Judging from their anemic start, which in all likelihood has cost coach Joe Philbin his job. Reports have already come in that Suh, along with a few other members of the Dolphins defensive core have been blowing off calls. If you're someone established with multiple championships, then you can MAYBE get away with that entitlement but not many, if not none of the Dolphins can stake to that claim so this type of tomfoolery is unacceptable. I grant you that today's opponent the New York Jets have exceeded even my greatest expectations but these efforts are laughable and it's up to the leader Suh to turn things around and create a better defensive environment.

-I completely respect the fact that rookie Jameis Winston of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers needs time to adapt to the NFL surroundings, and Lovie Smith and co will certainly oblige. It's the game planning and strategy of the Buccaneers that I find appalling. You have a stud in Mike Evans that is being ignored when mapping out a premise on how to beat X opponent, and they're 1-3! If this was a 3-1 team and finding ways to win by utilizing Evans as a decoy then all is good in the hood but the fact they are indeed  a sub 500 organization has me scratching my head why Evans isn't getting more deep/red zone looks. Winston adapting limits the creativity in the playbook, but throwing the ball and letting Evans leap for it by using his tall frame requires no creativity and needs to be employed urgently for the Bucs.

-Another Redskins castoff making a name for himself in a different locale? Seems like a story too often told as the Redskins program, at least in the modern era is not contusive to team success. Case in point Atlanta Falcons receiver Leonard Hankerson. Hankerson has found a home as the Falcons number two receiver as new Head Coach Dan Quinn has instilled a better team balance pertaining to play calling and Hankerson, and Devante Freeman particularly have benefited. Even though a lot of players that leave Washington to greater success somewhere else a lot of times can be correlated to the incompetence of the Redskins hierarchy, in Hankerson's specific case, injuries constantly mounted which caused to Leonard's D.C demise. Hankerson's size has stood out as Matt Ryan has a found a target that can curl inside and outmuscle the smaller defensive backs. Along with the freak natured athleticism that is Julio Jones, himself and Hankerson have formed a dynamic duo in Atlanta not seen since the days of one my heroes J.J Birden and Terance Mathis.

-As a disclaimer I don't watch a lot of college ball but I did happen to check out a couple Georgia Bulldog games last year and there was no doubt that Todd Gurley was going to cut it in the National Football League. My concern with him coming into the year is I didn't believe the St.Louis Rams were the best fit for his services and I internally scuttled that a trade may be best for both parties as the Rams already had an underrated Tre Mason and Benny Cunningham. Gurley absolutely went off today against a superior Arizona Cardinals defence making it look like he was being opposed by a CIS defence. One hundred and forty six yards on nineteen carries is Madden like and the hard truth is, this is no statistical anomaly, the more acclimatized he becomes the more dangerous he is. So essentially take back everything I just penned about Gurley and the Rams being a bad fit, the Rams just did something the Blue Jays hope to accomplish on Thursday by hitting a walk off home run.

-This next critique is something I could've griped about long ago, but since I didn't, I'll gladly now. This not only applies to the NFL, but also to their neighbours north of the border in the CFL. This extra point rule change is gimmicky, and an insult to the way football is meant to be played. Who cares if extra points were automatic, the tradition of football has carried the "automatic" extra point for years, so why did they feel the need to change it now? I think Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said it best by explaining that their team's philosophy was to continually go for two points because the percentages were in favour of doing this. Tomlin's a smart guy unlike his close friend former Saskatchewan Roughriders Head Coach Corey Chamblin, originally I thought his reasoning was sound but after further consideration I have to entertain the idea that Tomlin was scared to throw Josh Scobee out on the field.......and can we blame him?? Back to my gripe, a newsflash has to be received by the NFL, speaking on behalf of all NFL fans, watching kickers have a more difficult time kicking a 32 yard field goal compared to a chip shot does not improve the entertainment level of the product.

-Here's my thought from the Sunday nighter featuring the New Orleans Saints and Dallas Cowboys. "Why do I keep shooting myself in the foot starting players like Willie Snead in my fantasy football lineup".  Let's allow facts to be facts and I'm self deprecating enough to realize that it when it comes to fantasy football expertise I'm virtually a guaranteed loss. I'm the guy who you want to play each week although it drives me bonkers how for the life of me I can't find a receiver that can reach the endzone. Snead's part of the young nucleus that will be primetime ready for duty for Drew Brees successor, whenever that day is but what I learned today is that he's not ready for suitable action in 2015.

- The snakebitten Detroit Lions continue to find ways to lose, and now I will officially throw coach Jim Caldwell on the hot seat. Losing Ndamukong Suh in the off-season was naturally going to be a devastating loss, but where has this high potent offence from 2014 went? Matt Stafford is a southern gunslinger that has the deserved mantra of taking chances, but the play calling is sucking the life out of a player that strives on aggressiveness. Also, the Legion of Boom has re-inserted themselves in a mammoth way with Kam Chancellor back and he made his presence known by stripping Calvin Johnson of the ball at the goal line which would've been the game winning drive. Lucky to be good, good to be lucky, and unfortunately the Detroit Lions are neither.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

National Football League picks: Week four

After two disappointing weeks in prognosticating football, week three was much more pleasant going 12-3 upping my mark to 23-23. As usual, winners in bold

Kansas City @ Cincinnati
Minnesota @ Denver
New York(G) @ Buffalo
Cleveland @ San Diego
Houston @ Atlanta
Detroit @ Seattle
Carolina @ Tampa Bay
Jacksonville @ Indianapolis
Oakland @ Chicago
St.Louis @ Arizona
Green Bay @ San Francisco
Dallas @ New Orleans
Philadelphia @ Washington

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Steel curtains on the season

The Thursday night NFL slot featured the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers, and although it may go down as one of the classic games of the season, it was a comedy of errors that led to the concluding result.

For starters, after the week one disaster that was Josh Scobee's performance, any sane Steeler fan would've thought that was the end for his services as after all he was brought in after the season ending injury to Shaun Suisham. He miraculously maintained the confidence in coach Mike Tomlin after that week but after another putrid effort in week four which literally cost the Steelers the football game, their's no way he survives this scrutiny. Social media outlets have had the endless Monday morning quarterbacks calling for Tomlin's head due to some of the controversial play calls signaled down the stretch, but as per usual my take on the calls differ from popular opinion. To me, the play calls strung up by Mike Tomlin were of the aggressive nature late in the game unlike the first three quarters that were ultra conservative which featured unpredictability, the best way to outsmart stingy defences. The play calls were necessitated in large part because of Scobee's atrocious leg. I've seen better field goal kicking in my first go arounds re acclimatizing myself to the current Madden games. If Scobee would've provided a quantifiable percentage in having a chance to make those kicks, the FG unit would have been sent out faster then Mike could've said Go. Not having trust in all facets is incomprehensible when trying to enlist team success, and that's exactly what happened in Pittsburgh tonight. Don't blame the coach, blame the kicker who would have trouble cracking a CFL squad!

2016 Brier

Similarly to the column I produced pertaining to the 2016 Scotties, I will pen my thoughts on who I foresee qualifying for the 2016 Brier played in Ottawa,Ontario.

Team Canada-Pat Simmons

Well, after a tumultuous Brier which saw a skip change as we witnessed John Morris self demote third,  but through thick and thin this team showed a  resilience that when the games begun to really matter, and four world class curlers who were a first year team ended up reigning victorious.

Alberta-Kevin Koe

A good start to their World Curling tour campaign has them as the overwhelming favourites in Alberta especially with Simmons bye. Although Brier bound a year ago, this was a first year team that had it's consistency issues, but that can longer be an excuse. Assuming they get there, their one of the favourites to take it home.

British Columbia-Jim Cotter

Far and away the best team out of this province, the knock against them is that they have the propensity to falter in the big game. This will certainly, and has in the past be problematic in the Brier against a world class field, but due to the lack of depth, they'll be Ottawa bound.

Manitoba-Daley Peters

With Jeff Stoughton seemingly out of the Manitoba picture, one would think this essentially keeps the door wide open for Mike McEwen, right? Well, although their career accolades speak for themselves, the pressure they feel continually attempting to get out of the province cannot be understated, and Vic's son may their kryptonite this go around.

New Brunswick- Terry Odishaw

Veteran experience will win out this time in New Brunswick. I don't see Mallais repeating once again and the lack of strategical prowess from the James Grattan will make Odishaw the benefactor.

Newfoundland and Labrador-Brad Gushue

One can hope more than two teams enter playdowns on the Rock this time around but in all reality does it really matter? Gushue's Canadian wide unit is so far and ahead of the rest of Newfoundland curling that I'm confident enough to write this pick in with ink.

Northern Ontario-Brad Jacobs

Just like Newfoundland and Labrador, this one is a formality. The 2014 Sochi gold medalists have revolutionized the sport with their increased fitness regime. A force to win the title.

Nova Scotia-Chad Stevens

This is a rink that is criminally underrated. Paul Flemming and Kelly Middlestadt have tangible Brier experience that will prove to be imperative as not only do I believe this foursome is Brier bound but a darkhorse page playoff team to boot.

Ontario-Glenn Howard

Wouldn't this be a storybook ending. Electing to dump Craig Savill to bring his son Scott on board, and in the first year win the provincial title? As story book as this would be, the plausibility level is quite high because along with Richard Hart and Wayne Middaugh these four quality individuals have long had the skill level, it's time to show this once again.

Prince Edward Island-Adam Casey

Just because this is the lone Prince Edward Island team that plays on the World Curling tour on a consistent basis, that doesn't necessarily guarantee anything but the "acquisition" of David Mathers I suppose strengthens an already quasi lock.

Quebec-William Dion

In what for years was a Jean-Michel Menard dominated province, the new asserted commitment from the former Canadian Junior champion Dion will pose problems for the Menard rink as maybe a new era is upon in Quebec.

Saskatchewan-Steve Laycock

Steve Laycock now has enough experience from qualifying deep in some major events, ie his finals qualification in Yorkton against Brad Gushue tells me that even though my home province has other worthy suitors, color me stunned if he doesn't get back.

Northwest Territories-Jamie Koe

Jamie Koe has had a couple deep runs at the Brier, and no, that's not referring to late nights at the patch. The competition levels in the territories are non-existent as travel is difficult, but their yearly Brier trip is inevitable.

Yukon-Bob Smallwood

The last time he qualified to the Brier, he was Bob Smallwood, the previous time he was Bob Andrews. What surname will be used in his third stint?