Tag Archives: Florida

Lunch: Top NHLers Likely on the Move

With the NHL’s April 3rd trade deadline fast approaching, the Pittsburgh Penguins struck first this past weekend acquiring Brendan Morrow and Douglas Murray; two veterans hungry for their first Stanley Cup win. The other teams in the playoff picture have surely taken notice, so now it’s time to speculate which top players are on the trading block.

Jarome Iginla – Calgary Flames – W

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

• Iginla is this year’s Ray Bourque. Once they were out of the playoff race, the Flames began shopping their long-time captain, whose contract is set to expire this summer. Taking matters into his own hands, Jarome has made it known that he will only waive his no trade clause for the Blackhawks, Bruins, Kings, and Penguins. Rumors indicate that the Bruins are the top suitor, but Jerome will not be cheap. The Flames will be looking to acquire a top prospect, a secondary prospect, and picks in exchange for Iginla, who has scored over 30 goals for 11 straight seasons. The man is a warrior who will bring intensity and heart to whichever locker room he ends up in.

Bobby Ryan – Anaheim Ducks – W

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

• The Ducks made it clear that Bobby Ryan is on the trading block after they signed Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry to expensive, long term deals this season. The 26 year old power forward’s contract is also up at the end of the season, and the Ducks definitely don’t want to lose him for free. The tricky part of this situation is that the Ducks are flying high at 2nd place in the west and will be looking for a center who can step right into the lineup plus a prospect/picks. I could see the Flyers, a team that Ryan would fit into nicely, trading a package including Sean Couturier, but it’s still an open race. I would not rule out the Red Wings offering Valtteri Filppula or the Washington Capitals offering Mike Ribeiro as the top chip of their trade packages.

Roberto Luongo – Vancouver Canucks – G

Luongo (right) stands with Schneider (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

Luongo (right) stands with Schneider (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

• The Canucks need to eventually deal their $5 million a year backup goaltender, but they will not be selling him for cheap, as the Toronto Maple Leafs learned this past off season. The Olympic gold winning keeper has been supplanted by the younger, more consistent Cory Schneider, but he’s still the same lovable Lou. The trade market obviously isn’t full of playoff bound teams looking for a starting goalie, but there are definitely quite a few teams who would love to turn a weakness into a strength going into next season. If the Canucks opt to trade Lou, I’d guess that it will take a top 4 defenseman, a top prospect, and picks. Eric Brewer of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Brian Campbell of the Florida Panthers could be that veteran defenseman that Vancouver is looking for.

A couple other players who could be moved before next Wednesday are winger Marian Gaborik of the New York Rangers, center Derek Roy of the Dallas Stars,  and defenseman Ladislav Smid of the Edmonton Oilers.

When the dust clears, there will surely be some new faces in locker rooms around the NHL as teams prepare for the final playoff push.

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Lunch: Alex Ovechkin Drops the Gloves with Mike Milbury

Ovechkin led the Capitals to a dominant victory over the Panthers on 3/7/13.(Alex Brandon / AP)

Ovi leads the Capitals to victory over the Panthers.
(Alex Brandon / AP)

Mike Milbury, NBC’s hockey analyst, has been one of superstar Alexander Ovechkin’s toughest critics since the Russian entered the National Hockey League.

If you are unfamiliar with Milbury, I’ll give you a brief recap of his involvement with the NHL. The most memorable act of his playing career came in 1979, when he climbed into the stands at Madison Square Garden, removed a Rangers’ fan shoe, and slapped him in the face with it. I’m not joking. Here it is:

And I’m almost positive that he was inspired by the 1977 film, Slapshot. If you haven’t seen this cult-classic, grab yourself a sixer of Molson and enjoy.

Milbury eventually found himself managing the New York Islanders in the late ’90s. During his brief stint as the GM, he traded away Zdeno Chara, Roberto Luongo, Todd Bertuzzi, Ziggy Palffy, and Olli Jokinen, as well as numerous other players who went on to have long NHL careers. In addition to trading away that loaded pool of talent, he also signed Rick DiPietro and Alexei Yashin to 2 of the worst contracts in hockey history. To this day, Islanders’ fans still blame Milbury for robbing them of their superstar prospects and financially crippling the franchise.

Somehow (maybe he called Matt Millen for advice?), Milbury wound up as the “hockey expert” at NBC Sports. Now, it seems like his favorite thing to do is compete with Don Cherry, his former coach, for the title of the most embarrassing TV personality in hockey.

Just last Wednesday, after Ovechkin had a particularly weak performance, Milbury went after the Russian with petty insults and a brutal attack upon his character.

I’ll admit that Ovi underperformed. Hockey is a brutal, emotional sport. Milbury should know from experience that it is nearly impossible to be on your game every night of year. Much like Ovi’s play, Milbury’s rant was inexcusable.

It took about a week for Ovechkin to respond to Milbury’s comments, but he eventually fired back:

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Last night, Ovi also responded on the ice, picking up a goal and 2 assists as the Washington Capitals routed the Florida Panthers 7-1. With the Caps sitting at 12th place in the East, Ovechkin must continue to elevate his play if they have any hope of making the playoffs.

This weekend will be a big test for the team. After a game against the Islanders on Saturday, the Capitals and New York Rangers play in NBC’s game of the week on Sunday at 12:30.

I think for the first time ever, I am eagerly waiting to hear what Mike Milbury has to say.

Lunch: Combine Preview Day 4 (CB, S)

The whirlwind of the NFL Scouting Combine is almost completed, with one final day of workouts still in store before teams and players go their separate ways in preparation for individual pro days and ultimately the NFL Draft, which is exactly two months away to the day. Today the true speedsters of the combine hit the turf to show off their skills to the NFL brass, hoping to display speed, quickness, and a strong vertical leap. The cornerbacks and safeties will be put to the test today, and I am previewing top players and sleeper candidates to look out for today, as well as in the draft. Starting with the corners:

Cornerbacks:

Dee Milliner returns an interception. (AP photo by LM Otero)

Dee Milliner returns an interception. (AP photo by LM Otero)

Dee Milliner, CB Alabama

How strange to see another member of the National Champion Crimson Tide at the combine, with 10 members of Nick Saban’s squad demonstrating their skills. In my opinion, Dee Milliner is the best of the bunch and still managed to blend in with the wide array of talent around him and is truly a number 1 corner at the next level. Measuring in at 6’0″ 201 lbs. I believe that Milliner has the size and speed to be an impact corner at the next level and his 40 time could catapult him solidly into the top 10 in the draft. Most people believe him to run in the 4.46-4.5 range, but I would not be surprised to see him run in the 4.36-4.40 and should he do this, he should expect to see a rise in his stock. His best trait on the field is his toughness, able to wrap up on tackles and does not shy away from contact. Teams will be aware, though, that he is participating in the combine injured with a torn labrum and will have surgery to rectify it in March. I still believe that he will have a good showing in Indy and solidify his place at the top of the cornerback chart.

Xavier Rhodes, CB Florida State

Rhodes had a strong season at Florida State this season, but has still seen a drop in his stock from last season, and he now sits as a fringe first round player/second rounder. He is a big physical corner measuring in at 6’1″ 210 lbs., a bit down from his playing weight during the season. This hopefully should translate to added speed which could only help him as I don’t believe that he will run well at the combine, running in the 4.5-4.6 range. If he can run in the 4.4 range, he will strongly be in first round consideration, as he is very strong in press coverage and is physical enough to force wide receivers to the outside. It will be interesting to see how he runs, as his time will be a direct reflection on his draft selection. Still, regardless of the 4.4-4.5 time, he is an intriguing prospect and should he drop, a team will get a good bargain on him.

Other Top Names:

  •  Jonathan Banks, CB Mississippi State
  • Desmond Trufant, CB Washington

Under the Radar:

  • Robert Alford, CB Southeastern Louisiana
  • Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB Connecticut
  • Tyrann Mathieu, CB Louisiana State

Safeties:

This years safety class looks to be strong up top with good depth and I think that a lot of unknown talent will step up and make themselves known after today. There is currently one player who looks like a solid first round pick up to this point, but I believe we could see 2 more after today that warrant themselves with a first round selection, regardless of whether they get picked there, I think that there is good talent at the top of the safety class. Starting off:

Kenny Vaccaro (Photo: US Presswire)

Kenny Vaccaro (Photo: US Presswire)

Kenny Vaccaro, SS Texas

Vaccaro is this years top safety who as of now could see a top-10 selection, but more than likely top-15, but I believe his workouts will translate well and he will demonstrate the necessary skill et to be a successful safety at the next level. He measured in well at 6’0″ 214 lbs. and has long arms, so his 15 reps on the bench will not be a knock against him. He had a strong final season at Texas racking up 92 tackles and shows that he is unafraid of contact. He looks to be athletic, so we should expect a good vertical leap and a good broad jump, and if he can run in the 4.5-4.6 range it should demonstrate that he can be a great centerfielder at the next level. Look for Vaccaro to work out very well.

Eric Reid, FS Louisiana State

A tackling machine who looks like a tremendous NFL-ready safety, Reid looks to show his talents to the NFL brass, and I believe he will impress in Indy, running and working out well enough to possibly slide into the first round. Reid measured in at 6’1″ 213 lbs. and racked up 91 tackles. He is comfortable playing the run and the pass, dropping back or playing up in the box and rushing the quarterback. He needs to run in the 4.4-4.5 range to solidify a first round grade, which I believe he will do. Look out for Reid and Vaccaro to be a toss up come draft time, with Reid possibly jumping ahead as the top safety.

Other Top Names:

  • John Cyprien, FS Florida International
  • Matt Elam, FS Florida

Under the Radar:

  • T.J. McDonald, FS USC
  • Phillip Thomas, SS Fresno St.

Check back in the next day or two for a follow-up of how the combine fared for many of these players, such as who helped their stock and who dropped. Send us a tweet @theorangewedge to give your thoughts!

Dinner: Please Excuse My Bias

Why New Jersey is Undoubtedly the Best Place for Professional Sports Fans!

With no major cities, poor fan attendance, and the reputation of the Jersey Shore, I can’t blame the Nets for hightailing it to Brooklyn. Of the remaining 4 teams that play their home games in New Jersey, only the Devils give credit to this great state. Regardless of those teams trying to pass themselves off as New York, evidence suggest there is no better place to be a sports fan than the Garden State.

I guess I should start with my biases. Yes, I was born and raised into a sports family in North Jersey. To make matters worse, I have lived in New Jersey 22.5 of my 23 years alive. I currently live in Seattle where I have access to one of the greatest NFL fan bases, the 12th man, but this isn’t about fan dedication. This about the rivalries, the proximity, the allegiances, the anguish, the pride, and most of all, the championships.

New Jersey has an identity crisis. For sports fans, you are quickly launched into 2 options, each with their own set of sub-options, like a “Choose Your Adventure” book for a sports fan. First, a fan decides if he will be loyal to his local teams or idiotically support an out of town club based on nonsensical logic and a lack of mental clarity. Most fans choose the former. But the great part about New Jersey is plethora of choices. If you live in the south, choices are more limited, but they still need to be made. Southern Jersey calls Philadelphia their city, so it comes to no surprise that they like the Eagles and Phillies. Where it gets tricky is hockey. Do you support the Flyers? Or show pride in the one remaining New Jersey team there is, the Devils? As for the Northern folk, each sport has its decision. Giants or Jets? Knicks or Nets? Rangers or Devils? Heck, even the Islanders are in the mix! With these options come countless combinations of fans, creating quite a mix of loyalties amongst friends. Couple that with the closeness of the Philadelphia fans and you have yourself a sports war-zone.

The war-zone is what its all about. At any time in any part of the state, there are two people who are butting heads over the outcome of a game. Friendships can be divided during football season but come back together for baseball. Sure, Seattle has great football fans, but who can I talk trash to here? Who can I demean when there are no Jets or Eagles fans? I miss being close enough to hear my neighbors scream with despair as their precious Rangers drop in the Conference Finals to the Devils. I miss taunting Jets and Mets fans with the recent Championships of the Giants and Yankees. Sure, I have been on the losing side before, but those heckling calls and degrading banter is what makes sports more than sports. My teams here are my identity. Unlike 4 sport cities like Chicago, Detroit, and Boston, we don’t rally together around our teams. We don’t all share a pint over our loathing Red Sox and discuss our hatred for the Yankees. We are a state divided, shit talking our way to our friends and neighbors all the way to the title. And we like it that way.

Not only are there many teams in the area, but they all have extreme pressure to win. This means spending major bucks, even if it does still go to Bobby Bonilla. For the first time in my life I am living in a small sports market, and it surely is eye opening. The Seahawks make it to the playoffs and fans here act like they won the Super Bowl. The Mariners have no money to make any move than re-sign their one worthy asset, Felix Hernandez. This is something I can’t get used to. Where is the winning culture? Where is the money? As a Yankees fan, I am used to throwing money at anyone and anything who can help bring a 28th ring. As a Giants fan, anything short of a Super Bowl is a failure. This sentiment is shared across New York, New Jersey, and Philadelphia, making each year either glorious or heart breaking.

It has always bothered me when people think I can’t be a real Yankees or Giants fan because I live in New Jersey. As if some redneck living in upstate New York has more of a claim those teams. As if some Manhattan douche who arrives late and leaves early in his Ralph Lauren sweater vest can say he is more of a fan because he pays the Manhattan premium on everything. Well, when these people are hitting the tunnel traffic while getting to the Giants game, or getting herded like cattle into the public transit, just think of New Jersey and my relaxed, non-state-border-crossing ride home.

Is there anywhere else that comes close to New Jersey in Sports? Sure. But it’s just that. Close. Florida has many professional sports teams that could create a similar sporting paradise. But Florida teams have some of the worst attendance, their state demographic is split evenly between AARP members and swamp people, and their teams aren’t ever relevant except for the occasional fluky Marlins World Series. Shula and Marino still run that state, which says enough. Plus, more fans rather watch the Daytona 500 than any other professional sporting event.  Tim Tebow, save your state!

What about California? With their major cities and abundance of sports teams they have major rivalries and some relevant teams. Well, good argument. However, wearing an opposing cities jersey in any Californian stadium is essentially throwing up a gang sign on someone else’s turf. California fans go past the drunken banter and occasional fight you’ll find in New Jersey. The media has extensively covered the post-game brawls that have left some severely injured or brain dead. Additionally, the only truly relevant teams lately are in the Bay Area. San Diego and Los Angeles have the beaches, but that does little in contributing to the professional success. Want to see an in state rivalry between San Francisco and Los Angeles? Have fun driving 9 hours. In New Jersey, the turnpike runs from Philadelphia to New York in a quick two hour drive (just keep your windows rolled up).

New Jersey has it all: a multitude of winning (or for some, at least the appearance of trying to win) teams, rivalries, convenience, and the hatred from everyone else in the country. You just can’t beat that.

Disagree? Please, try and argue a better place to be a pro sports fan.

Dinner: GRAPEFRUIT LEAGUE – Y U N0 ADVERTISE?!

Since about mid-December 2012, the “Scorecenter” app on my Smartphone has gone out of its way to let me know that on Saturday, February 23rd the New York Yankees will be playing a spring training game against the Atlanta Braves. This is some fine and dandy stuff. By simply highlighting the fact that I’m a fan of several teams through the app itself, it then proceeds to keep track of their current and upcoming schedules. Technology, you beautiful, majestic, 4G songbird.

Time passes. Seasons begin and end. Before I know it, it’s February 22nd and I’m seeing promos for the upcoming NASCAR series at Daytona, which we could all do without. Confusion and those heavy sweats begin to settle in nice and deep-like. Seemingly every year, the start of Major League Baseball’s “Grapefruit League” sneaks up and bites me right in the feels. Why is this the case? I get my daily servings of ESPN and its varied choices of programming. I watch a balanced diet of sporting events across all major networks. How does something as fun as this league go unnoticed under the watchful eye of an avid sports fan like myself? Come October, the MLB has no problem running those horrendous playoff promotions with “Written in the Stars” blasting on repeat. You’re better than this, Major League Baseball. At least hook the fans up with some Prince to get ‘em out of their seats. There’s no such thing as too much “Raspberry Beret”.

The Grapefruit League is a fun, family-friendly season that needs more exposure. Not only does it offer that beaming Florida weather that folks up here in the Northeast couldn’t be more jealous of, but it acts as a technical first-look at moves made during the offseason. Josh Hamilton is now an Angel, Jose Reyes a Blue Jay, and Nick Swisher an Indian (not to be taken literally). People want to see this sort of action and the MLB needs to do a better job at promoting this goldmine that they’ve been sitting on. Weeks prior to the start of even preseason training, give the Grapefruit League half of the airtime ESPN dedicates to the “This is Sportscenter: Swedish Chef” commercial and attendance will spike.

Broadcast advertising aside, there are other ways to reach this audience aside from a 10-15 second spot on the YES Network. Get creative MLB! People simply need to know of this great opportunity to vacate the desolate, freezing other parts of the US while being able to enjoy such a classic American pastime.

I’M YOUR DEMOGRAPHIC. I WANT TO FEEL MY PALE SKIN BURNING IN THOSE BLEACHERS UNDER THE FLORIDA SUN. I WANT TO SEE MARIANO RIVERA TAKE THE MOUND AGAIN. ICE-COLD LEMONADE WOULDN’T HURT.

How could the MLB market the Grapefruit League more effectively? What are your thoughts? Leave a comment below or tell us what you think via Twitter at @TheOrangeWedge.