Just My Thoughts: The World of Sports (Dec. 12-Dec. 20)

The Best Player in the World

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The 2004-05 NHL lockout was one of the darkest moments in the NHL’s history. With it, fans were forced to talk about the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), instead of their teams’ chances at lifting the Stanley Cup. When all the smoke cleared the NHL’s game had changed. Speed and pace were much more vital, the ice had opened up, and fresh faces were bountiful, with two brand new draft classes budding with talent. The biggest new face was Sidney Crosby. Crosby was part of arguably the greatest junior international team ever (Canada World Junior team 2005) and had capped off his junior career with a 168 point season for the Rimouski Oceanic. He had incredible momentum going into the 2005 draft, and he has excelled brilliantly in his 11 year NHL career since then. Crosby has two Stanley Cups to his name, two Olympic gold medals, two league MVPs and many more individual and team accomplishments. There is no doubt Sidney is the best player in the world, but this season we are seeing a different Crosby.

After starting the season injured, Sid the Kid has come off the shelf fresh as a daisy. Crosby has 36 points in 27 games, 22 of those points being goals. Crosby is primarily known as a playmaker, and for his ability to tally assists, but this season he is showing his laser sharp shooting skills. Crosby’s 22 goals have come on only 91 shots, giving him an incredible shooting percentage of 24.2%. The only time Crosby scored anywhere near this pace was 2009-10, when he scored 51 goals. The statistics do not even justify how well Crosby is playing. Most players slow down with age, yet Crosby looks youthful, and his play would make you think that he had never been injured. As someone who has been an Ovechkin fan for 11 years, and not always the biggest Crosby supporter, I have learned to respect him. Early this year in a Monday night matinee against the Ottawa Senators I watched Crosby skate around and through the Senators like they were children. It amazes me what he can do with the puck, and the most incredible thing is how he makes his teammates better.

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If you look at Sidney’s linemates they have never been what you would call “all-star talent”. Guys like Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis were made into legitimate threats every night, because of Crosby feeding them the puck. Both of these guys peaked playing with Crosby. With Dupuis’ retirement and Kunitz’s aging, though, we have seen the emergence of two linemates for Crosby. Sid now plays on a line with Conor Sheary and Bryan Rust. The two have both played less than 100 regular season games; yet, both are averaging over half a point per game. These two youngsters have also eclipsed their past career-high point totals, despite being less than halfway through the season. This, I believe, is the true reason why Crosby is so amazing: his ability to take an average player and make him into a 25, 30-goal scorer. It is an incredible talent, which he has displayed throughout his career. Sidney continues to improve his game defensively as well, using his veteran presence and smarts to help lockdown defensively. He has even began to use body. Over the past two seasons, Crosby is averaging 1.1 hits per game. The crafty veteran has recognized the importance of playing a physical game.

I have heard many people ask the question, how does Crosby compare to Gretzky? I do not think this is a fair comparison as both players played in an extremely different times, and numbers-wise I also believe Gretzky is on another plateau than anyone. However, what is a fair argument is that Sidney Crosby will be the best player to come after the 04-05 lockout. There will one day likely be an argument debating whether he or Connor McDavid is better, but Sid can truly be viewed as a pioneer. The game has changed a lot since the lockout of 2004-05, but Sidney has been the face of hockey throughout. He continues to be today, and while McDavid is going to give him a run for his money, Crosby will not go down without a fight. The generational talent continues to wow crowds night in and night out, and he may even add to his accomplishments this year with a Maurice Rocket Richard trophy for scoring the most goals in the league, and potentially. Lead the Penguins to the first back-back Stanley Cup victories of the post-lockout era.

 

NHL News

The Penalty Box

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  • Andrew Ladd signed a 7-year, $38.5 million contract this summer and he has shown almost zero ability to live up to that contract. Ladd has 7 points through 32 games, his lowest point-per-game average of his career. Though, he is only one of the reasons why the Islanders have not lived up to expectations this season.
  • The Arizona Coyotes opted not to loan rookie Lawson Crouse to Team Canada for the World Juniors. While I understand wanting to protect your players, Crouse has 3 points in 28 games and is not vital cog in the Coyotes lineup right now. Crouse’s presence on Team Canada would have been a huge boost, and it could help the snake bitten youngster regain some of his confidence.

Stars of the Week

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  • The ageless wonder Jaromir Jagr never stops impressing people. After a somewhat slow start Jagr has picked it up tallying seven points in his last eight games. On Tuesday night Jagr recorded three points to tie him with Mark Messier for the second most points in NHL history. An incredible feat, which will become that much more incredible when Jagr surpasses Messier to sit alone in second place.
  • Remember when the Edmonton Oilers traded Devan Dubnyk straight up for Matt Hendricks? Well here’s a taste of what Dubnyk has done this season: In 25 starts he has a record of 16-6-3, leads the league in Goals against Average (1.55), Save Percentage (.948) and Shutouts (5). Needless to say, Minnesota’s eight-game win streak has been driven by Dubnyk’s performance. Along with Carey Price and Sergei Bobrovsky, Dubnyk should be heavily considered for the Vezina trophy.

BONUS: On Tuesday it was announced that Tuscon Roadrunner captain Craig Cunningham would be discharged from the hospital before Christmas. On November 19th Cunningham suddenly collapsed on the ice during national anthems of an AHL game. Medics kept Cunningham’s heart functioning with chest compressions, then he received life-saving therapy using Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (EMCO). EMCO is a specialized procedure for patients who are critically ill, and do not have adequate support for their heart and lungs. This therapy saved Cunningham’s life. The official statement can be found via Bob McKenzie’s Twitter. https://twitter.com/TSNBobMcKenzie/status/811305979317022721

 

NBA News

The Weekly Rap

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  • The Toronto Raptors have won 6 of their last 7 with the only hiccup being a 4-point loss to the Atlanta Hawks. The Raptors are not just beating teams, they are dominating opponents. The Raptors margin of victory this year is an impressive 14.85 points, as this team is able to flex their muscles.
  • Huge praise should be given to Pascal Siakam who has started 28 of 28 games this season as a rookie for the Raptors. Even though he plays only 19 minutes per game Siakam provides energy, a defensive presence and has even contributed on offense. Potentially the greatest part of Siakam’s ability to start, though, is leaving the option for Patrick Patterson to come off the bench. Patterson’s points per game and rebounds per game are up this season, as the veteran power forward is providing nearly 30 minutes off the bench a night, and continuing to be effective.

Top 5 NBA Power Ranking

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  1. Warriors (25-4)
  • Water is wet, the Warriors are very good. The Warriors go on a 3-game road trip with Brooklyn and Detroit on tap before the big one, a Christmas Day tilt with the Cleveland Cavaliers in an NBA Finals rematch. You can be sure Golden State would love to play the Grinch and beat Cavaliers in Cleveland.
  1. Spurs (23-5)
  • The Spurs snapped the Rockets 10-game win streak with a dagger three from Patty Mills on Tuesday night. Speaking of Mills, the Australian stud has been a huge boost off the Spurs’ bench. Mills is averaging career highs in minutes played, points per game and assists per game. He has also proven to step up in clutch situations for coach Pop.
  1. Cavaliers (20-6)
  • Cleveland has done enough to be first in the Eastern Conference, however they will want to get warmed up for the Finals rematch on Christmas Day. The best team the Cavaliers have played in the last two weeks has been the Memphis Grizzlies, who, they split their two meetings with. One thing, though is certain: LeBron will be in attack mode come Christmas Day.
  1. Raptors (20-8)
  • During the Raptors dominant win over the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday night Fred Van Vleet and Bruno Cabolco saw floor time. Which meant the duo became the first ever Raptors to play a D-League and NBA game in the same day. Raptors 905 had played Tuesday afternoon in-front of a D-League record crowd of over 15,000 in the Air Canada Center for Kids Day.
  1. Rockets (21-8)
  • Houston may have dropped their 10-game win streak, but they have put the NBA on notice, beating the Warriors, Celtics and Thunder during this stretch, and nearly taking down the San Antonio Spurs. Patrick Beverly also said he thinks he is the best defensive player in the league, so confidence is very high for the Rockets right now.

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BONUS: This week the NBA lost a beloved figure in Craig Sager. Sager was a sideline reporter for NBA on TNT and in my opinion, was the best sideline reporter ever. Always accompanied by a unique suit and a smile Sager provided us with many memories. He meant a lot to the NBA community, broadcasters, fans and his family and will be dearly missed. Probably the coolest thing I heard all week about Sager though was that Spurs’ coach Gregg Popvich flew across the States on a Spurs game-day so he could say goodbye to Mr. Sager one last time at his service. Rest in peace Craig.

 

NFL First Down and Three & Out

Miami Dolphins v Jacksonville Jaguars

First Down: The Miami Dolphins keep finding ways to win and just might make the playoffs. Matt Moore stepped up to replace Ryan Tannehill at quarterback, and despite throwing only 18 passes, he scored four touchdowns for Miami. Even more impressive about Moore’s performance is that this was his first start since 2011. If the Dolphins can beat the rival Buffalo Bills this weekend, it would give them ultimate control of their playoff fate.

Three & Out: On the other side of Florida the Jacksonville Jaguars had a horrible blunder this week. The organization decided to fire head coach Gus Bradley immediately following the Jags loss to the Texans. The problem was that Bradley flew home on the charter flight with the team, despite having been fired. Players said the air was awkward and uncomfortable. A season where many believed the Jaguars would take a step forward saw them regress, as they are 2-12 and far from the playoffs.

 

DOTA 2 News

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7.00 A New Journey: In the wake of OG’s victory at the Boston Major two weeks ago, DOTA 2 underwent its largest overhaul in quite some time. The gameplay, map and much more has changed. While the community has met it with mixed opinions, I believe the update was for the best. The product is fresher, adds even more versatility, and it maintains DOTA 2’s ability to make it so “Everything can work” in the words of Johan “N0tail” Sundstein, a member of OG. I for one am excited for this new update and equally as excited to see the pro scene take on the new patch in 2017.

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What to watch this week?

  • Wednesday: Capitals at Flyers 8:00pm ET
  • Thursday: Penguins at Blue Jackets 7:00pm ET, Giants at Eagles 8:25pm ET, Spurs at Clippers 10:30PM ET
  • Friday: Wild at Rangers 7:00pm ET, Rockets at Grizzlies 8:00pm ET, Raptors at Jazz 9:00pm ET
  • Saturday: Vikings at Packers 1:00pm ET
  • Sunday: NBA Christmas Games (5 games) 12:00pm ET, Ravens at Steelers 4:30pm ET, Broncos at Chiefs 8:30pm ET
  • Monday: Russia vs Canada (World Juniors) 7:00pm ET, Giants at Cowboys 8:30pm ET

Special thanks to Geoff Marlowe for helping with the editing work and a big thank you to you the reader for taking your time to read my work! Appreciate it! Hope everyone has a happy holidays, and remember to truly enjoy this time of the year! Hope you continue to read along, if you have any suggestions/comments/questions, please feel free to inbox me or talk to me on Twitter @sassysaslove.

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