Just My Thoughts: The World of Sports (Apr. 27-May. 3)

Five Things: Major League Baseball’s Top Five Headlines in April

  1. The Nats’ Hot Bats

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No team in the MLB is hitting better than the Washington Nationals. Led by Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper, the Nationals boast a team average of .289, a significant lead over the next-closest team, the Houston Astros, at .276. Their bats are accompanied by an ability to drive the ball. The Nationals have hit 43 home runs this season, trailing only, the New York Yankees at 44 and the Milwaukee Brewers at 47. This consistent hitting, combined with their power, has seen them score the most runs in the league to date. Their power was on display on Sunday, when they beat the New York Mets 23-5. Washington’s formula is sustainable, as they are able to both to go out of the park and play excellent small ball. They lead the Majors in doubles, sit second in walks and have the best on-base percentage in the MLB at .366. The Nationals appear to be running away with the NL East despite having some of the worst pitching in the league, and, with a fairly loaded rotation it is fair to assume the best of their pitching is yet to come. Could this finally be the year that the Nationals break through and make the World Series?

  1. Not Your Everyday Korean League Player

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Despite leaving the MLB at the end of the 2013 season, Eric Thames was determined to find a way back to high-level professional baseball. Having been buried in Triple-A baseball for a year, Thames was willing to try anything to get his career back on track. While playing in the Venezuelan Winter League, Thames was scouted by the NC Dinos of the Korean League and signed to a one-year deal for $800,000 USD. From there he would go onto be a two-time all-star, be the first player in Korean League history to hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases in a season, and win the 2015 MVP. His success caught the eyes of the Milwaukee Brewers, who signed Thames to a three-year, $16 million contract in late-November. Thames has made an immediate impact, recording 11 home runs (tied for 2nd in the Majors), 20 RBIs, a .326 batting average and a .761 slugging percentage (4th in the Majors). Catching many experts by surprise, Thames has proven that anyone can make it. Using his powerful bat and the momentum of a second chance Thames has captured baseball’s attention and imagination. However, the ride seems a little simpler to Thames. When asked why he chose Milwaukee to be his choice of destination Thames summed it up simply, “they have great beer”. The man who loves a good beer, is just having fun playing baseball. With Thames back in his native United States of America, I doubt the MLB will let him leave home anytime soon again.

  1. Blue Jays Lost in the Wind

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The Toronto Blue Jays had an ugly April. Despite entering the season with high expectations, the Jays struggled out of the gate. The team went 8-17 on the month, leaving many fans and news stations calling for accountability. However, the Blue Jays have ramped it up of late. The Jays have shown a pulse in their last eleven games, going 5-6 and winning three in a row at one point. They now find themselves trailing the Chicago White Sox by six and a half games for the final wild card spot. Consequently, the Jays will need to have good months from here on out, Management has not been safe from outside criticism. Manager John Gibbons voiced his opinion on the Fan 590 on Monday, calling in as “John from the Bronx” to criticize host Mike Wilner, after he had questioned Gibbons’ decision to start Luke Maile over veteran Russell Martin. Gibbons spoke highly of Marco Estrada and Maile, and had some fun with Wilner, who seemed unaware of the caller’s identity at the beginning of the call. As the Jays have struggled, some players have answered the call for help. Justin Smoak, Kendrys Morales and Kevin Pillar carried the load offensively for the Jays, with Troy Tulowitzki and Josh Donaldson both sidelined from ailments. The Jays will need more from the likes of Jose Bautista, Devon Travis, and Steve Pearce if they wish to push for a playoff position. With the bats starting to show more life, and a steady starting rotation, the Jays can get back on track with relative ease.

  1. 34: The New 25

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34-year old Ervin Santana was the best pitcher in baseball during April, going 5-0 and sporting an earned runs average of 0.66. In 41 innings, Santana has allowed just three earned runs and, 16 hits, which leaves him with an equally impressive walks and hits per inning pitched (W.H.I.P.) of 0.71. The right-hander is having arguably his best season since 2008, and has carried the Minnesota Twins to second place in the Central division. Those batting against Santana are hitting .120, as the Dominican relies on his fastball for just over 50% of his pitches. Santana can effectively use his slider and his changeup to strikeout batters, though, and can mix in a two-seam fastball when needed. Santana’s turnaround is a nice story, having been suspended for 80 games back in 2015, for drug use. While it will be near-impossible to keep up this torrid pace, do not be surprised if Santana finds himself in the AL Cy Young race well into September. Maybe he could even help the Twins get back to the post-season for the first time since 2010.

  1. The Judge of New York’s Supreme Court

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Given his 6’7’’, 282-pound frame, and unique last name, one would expect Aaron Judge to be a WWE Superstar, rather a professional baseball player. Instead, he finds himself dominating for the New York Yankees, leading the MLB with 13 home runs and having tallied 27 RBIs on top of that. The behemoth has even consistently got on base for the New York Yankees, as he is batting .330 with a .433 on-base percentage to compliment his impressive batting average. Judge is only a rookie, too, having only played 27 games last season for the Yankees. Judge is just the third Yankee since 1913 to hit at least 12 home runs in the first 25 games of a season, joining the likes of Babe Ruth (1921) and Alex Rodriguez (2007). Elite company for the 25-year old, who has helped bring the Yankees back into contention for the AL East’s crown this season. Judge clearly practices just as hard as he plays, as he sent a rocket off the scoreboard, which then went down to terrace and destroyed a television. My sources tell me that the television is on its way to Cooperstown. The jury is in, and Judge is slamming everyone with home runs.

 

Note to my readers: Sorry I could not provide you with the tidbits this week! As I have been adjusting to being back home in Ottawa and have been quite busy! I hope you enjoyed this week’s piece, though, and hope you stick along for the ride in the summer! Enjoy the playoffs! And all should return to normal this coming week, my Facebook and Twitter will give updates if that changes! Thank you for your support as always!

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 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.

Just My Thoughts: The World of Sports (Mar. 30-Apr.5)

Stubborn and Naïve: The Growing Rift Created between the NHL and its Players & Fans

Photography by Kristian Bogner Copyright 2011. All Rights Reserved.

On February 28th, 2010, I found myself alone at home. My father was on the outskirts of Ottawa, helping run his motorsport club’s ice race, and my mother was at work at the hospital. I was alone watching the Canada/U.S. Gold Medal hockey game of the 2010 Winter Olympics. The game was a back and forth battle, pitting two bitter rivals against each other in a hostile environment. Late in the third period, the U.S. tied the game with 25 seconds left on a goal by Zach Parise. Watching Canada’s lead slip away was devastating, as the game moved on to an overtime period. The overtime had a feverish pace about it: chances were abundant on both sides and the crowd gasped and roared, depending on who had the puck. About seven minutes in, Sidney Crosby carried the puck through the neutral zone, only to lose it upon entering the American end. Jarome Iginla picked it up for Canada and fed Crosby, who, from an improbable angle scored, the most iconic goal of the 21st century. Canada stood up and cheered, as their sons had won Gold on home soil.

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There are children in Canada, and around the world, who over the next decade, will not get to experience this feeling as their NHL heroes will not likely be headed to the Olympics. On Monday, the NHL officially announced that they were not sending their players to the 2018 Winter Olympics. The decision is especially controversial considering the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) had made accommodations for insurance and transportation issues the NHL had. The NHL and its owners, though, fear of injuries, like that of John Tavares at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, which cost the New York Islanders’ captain the rest of his season.

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This is a selfish move by the NHL. The league, and its owners are now going to have a problem with rogue players, irritated fans, and the loss of international growth. The National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) released a statement shortly after the league released their decision, saying that they were “extraordinarily disappointed” and that they “adamantly disagree with the NHL’s short-sighted decision.” The NHLPA echoed the potential growth for the game and the NHL’s opportunity to showcase their talent in Asia, an untapped market. With the following two winter Olympics taking place in PyeongChang, South Korea and Beijing, China, it serves as an excellent opportunity for hockey to grow internationally. Yet, the NHL’s stubbornness and inability to cooperate hinders such an opportunity. Some NHL players plan to go, regardless of what the league mandates. One of the biggest stars in hockey, Alexander Ovechkin, has stuck to his guns and maintained his positon that he would play in the 2018 Winter Olympics. This puts the NHL in a tough spot: should they suspend Ovechkin? If so, for how long? The debate and decision has become a media circus, and it will likely get even bigger when someone, like Ovechkin, receives undeserved backlash.

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The fans will not side with the owners and the NHL. They will always back the players who entertain them. In refusing to play in PyeongChang, the league is failing to gain access to a new group of fans in Asia. Recently, the Kontinental Hockey League expanded into China, and the Kunlun Red Star began playing in Beijing. With the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, only six years away, China wants hockey to grow, and the KHL offered them a great platform to do so. What they did not expect was the absence of the NHL. The league has failed to realize that China is the biggest untapped market in the world. Their opportunity begs comparison to the NBA, and the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Throughout the 2000s, the NBA had grown its market in China with Yao Ming’s success; but, then after the Beijing Games, China found an honourary son in Kobe Bryant. The Black Mamba is a legend in China, and the crowds went crazy for him when the NBA toured through China in the pre-season of 2013. This all stemmed from his appearance at the 2008 Olympics, where he and the entire American team put on a show.

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Kobe was not the only reason the NBA and basketball has become so popular in China, though. The NBA put offices in Shanghai and Beijing and, held grassroots tours throughout the country. For their attempts, the league received rave reviews. Forbes reporter Robert Tuchman compared the NBA’s success in exporting their product to China to the “same prestigious echelon” as that of Apple and Disney. The numbers match this lofty claim: in 2012, it was reported NBA China’s revenue was at $150 million USD. That number approached $200 million USD in 2014, and it continues to grow.

Why, then, would the NHL skip the Olympics? It is difficult to be global, and they do not have a Yao Ming, but the NHL has the Winter Olympics. They have back to back Winter Olympics in Asian countries, and will have all of the world’s attention. Yet, they hide their product and restrict it. The exposure and potential revenue outweighs the few consequences that would come from letting the players go to the Winter Olympics.

Gary Bettman thinks he has discovered the solution to ownership’s concerns. He believes that the IOC should switch hockey to the Summer Olympics. This solution is insulting. Hockey is not meant for the summer, and that’s the belief of the Great One. In 2008, Wayne Gretzky stated kids should have an “off-season”, a three-four month window where they play other sports. This lesson comes from Walter Gretzky, who would not let Wayne touch ice in the summer, and instead had him play baseball, lacrosse and other sports. Putting hockey in the Summer Olympics raises the same problem as the World Cup: injuries because players are not in peak shape, taking away their vacation, and a poor setting. Hockey is not played on the beach; it is played in the snow. Putting Olympic hockey in the summer would be a terrible decision, and would satisfy no one other than the NHL.

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The game’s best came out and vocalized their opinion on the NHL’s decision on Monday. Erik Karlsson called the NHL’s decision “crap”, adding that “whoever made that decision has no idea what they are doing.”  The NHL’s decision to not participate is unique, as the NHL is the only league in the world that is not allowing their players to go. The KHL, SHL, AHL and many more have made it clear they will still be sending their players to the Olympics. These leagues, especially the KHL will have a huge opportunity for growth, as they have already made headway into China with Kunlun Red Star, and will likely look to grow into countries like South Korea and Japan. This is a missed opportunity for the NHL. China’s president Xi Jinping made a commitment to get 300 million people “on the ice”. With the 2022 Winter Olympics around the corner, this would be an opportune time to grow the sport. Yet, the NHL continues to restrict their global audience and have squandered this opportunity.

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The 2010 Winter Olympics averaged 24.4 million viewers in prime-time, and the 2014 Winter Olympics saw peak viewership during the Canada/U.S. hockey semi-final. NBC reported that 61.8 million unique viewers tuned into the 2014 Winter Olympics. There would be a similar audience for NBC in 2018 and 2022, perhaps even bigger. For once, there would be a large audience in Asia. The potential exposure is astronomical, but, once again, it seems like it will not be a reality. This is truly a shame, and once again is a one-sided decision. The fans, players, IIHF and the IOC want the NHL players to be in PyeongChang and Beijing. The only opposition is the NHL and its owners. This opposition will likely rip away the potential of another moment like Crosby’s 2010 game-winner, and there will be children who will never get to share the joy I felt back in February of 2010.

 

NHL News

The Penalty Box

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  • Brad Marchand was allegedly considered a changed player by much of the hockey community. I am not buying that at all. Marchand’s statistics and offensive abilities have improved significantly, but he is still an ass, for lack of a better word. Marchand has attempted slew foots and dangerous plays on unsuspecting opponents this season and in the past. In an important game for the Boston Bruins on Tuesday evening, he chose to spear Jake Dotchin of the Tampa Bay Lightning for no particular reason. Dotchin was okay, but Marchand got a five-minute major and a game misconduct, and is scheduled to have a hearing with NHL officials. This means Marchand could miss one of two or both of the Bruins’ remaining regular season games, which will impact their matchup in the post-season dramatically.
  • The New York Islanders have tied together an impressive second half of the season to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. However, those hopes received a crushing blow last Friday when Islanders’ captain John Tavares went down awkwardly and immediately was favouring his leg. It sucks to see players get injured, especially the stars of the game. One can only hope this is not one of the last memories Islanders fans will have of Tavares, as he enters the last year of his contract next season and the pressure mounts on management to sign him or trade him. The Brooklyn era of the Islanders will be defined by Tavares and management’s decision.

Stars of the Week

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  • The Ottawa Senators looked to have crisis on their hands until two surprises happened. On Monday evening at 5pm, unannounced, Erik Karlsson showed up at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit to tell the Senators he would play. Karlsson’s appearance grabbed the Senators a crucial point and he looked fabulous while being on one good leg. On Tuesday Karlsson played once again, but the Senators got another late acquisition, which was Clarke MacArthur. After 538 days MacArthur finally played in an NHL game again, and it was incredible. On his first shift Mac looked comfortable and in control, laying a hit on Red Wings’ Danny Dekeyser and getting into the corners right away. He finished with 9:44 of ice time, and helped the Senators get two massive points with a 2-0 win. After the game he received the third star, a standing ovation and had an emotional interview. As a Sens fan and personally a huge fan of Mac it was a tear-jerker to see him get emotional last night, the Sens are happy to have him back.
  • The Washington Capitals are hitting their stride at the right time, as the league leading Caps are 8-1-1 in their last 10 games. Leading the way has been Nicklas Backstrom who has 21 points in 17 games since March 1st. Backstrom has a team-high 85 points, and has shown he is more than just Alexander Ovechkin’s sidekick. Backstrom leads the NHL with 35 powerplay points and is a huge reason why the Capitals have a top tier powerplay and offense. Backstrom will need to carry this success into the playoffs, if he and the Capitals wish to finally get over the second round hump.

NBA News

The Weekly Rap

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Toronto Raptors

  • The Toronto Raptors have won eight of their last ten and have looked pretty consistent in doing so. The Raptors have finally passed the Washington Wizards, but will need to continue to tally wins if they look to keep third place in the Eastern Conference. If the Raptors can continue to get secondary scoring down the stretch they should be able to put a nice playoff run together. Especially with the return of all-star guard Kyle Lowry on Wednesday night.
  • Head Coach Dwane Casey will be tasked with finding minutes for young guard Delon Wright as Kyle Lowry comes back. Wright has filled in excellently by coming off the bench and providing anywhere from 15-25 minutes a night for the Raptors. He has served as a floor general who also excels defensively. It would be an oversight for Casey not to use Wright in the playoffs when defense and having a deep bench can be so crucial. With Lowry likely to not have his legs right away, having Wright in the lineup will be key for the Raptors’ post-season success.

 

Top 5 NBA Power Ranking

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  1. Warriors (64-14)
  • That is twelve wins in a row for the Golden State Warriors and their foot is still on the gas. The Warriors have an easy schedule for their four remaining regular season games and will most likely get the Portland Trail Blazers or Denver Nuggets in the first round of the playoffs. Regardless of who it is, they will likely serve as a victim to the Warriors who look scary good. Remember, the Warriors still do not have Kevin Durant back, if Durant’s teammates are playing this well when he comes back then the sky is the limit for the Warriors.
  1. Spurs (60-17)
  • The San Antonio Spurs have bounced back and rattled off three straight wins. All of these wins came against Western Conference playoff teams, and one saw them beat their likely first round opponents, the Memphis Grizzlies. This series would be a grind for the Spurs, as Memphis similarly to San Antonio plays hard defense, but it would certainly get them accustom to the playoff atmosphere. Regardless the Spurs will take on all comers, and will be tough to beat with Kawhi Leonard leading the way and Gregg Popovich running operations on the bench.
  1. Celtics (50-27)
  • The Boston Celtics host the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday in a potential conference decider. Both teams sit atop the Eastern Conference at 50-27, and with the playoffs looming this will be their final matchup before a potential Eastern Conference Finals meeting. The Celtics expect Avery Bradley to play on Wednesday despite his illness, and have said Jae Crowder will be a game-time decision after the MRI on his elbow came back negative. The Celtics understand the importance of home court advantage and will look to lock that up until the NBA Finals, with a win on Wednesday.
  1. Cavaliers (50-27)
  • Cleveland has won their last three games, because of their scoring attack. LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and J.R. Smith have all scored 10 points or more in all three of these games. This balanced scoring attack helps spread the floor, and lead the Cavaliers, further enabling LeBron to setup his teammates and dominate defenders. The Cavaliers are going to beat teams by making it a track meet, so getting their offense cooking before the playoffs has been crucial, and could carry them to a win over the Celtics on Wednesday.
  1. Rockets (52-25)
  • The Houston Rockets did not have a good week, but with Ryan Anderson coming back they will get some much needed help. Anderson missed over a week with a sprained ankle, and his contributions are needed that much more after Sam Dekker suffered a broken hand. Dekker’s injury will only see him miss three-four weeks of action, which can be considered a blessing for the Rockets who feared he would miss much more time. This team still does have MVP candidate James Harden to carry them, until they are fully healthy, so they should be okay in a first round matchup, minus Dekker and having a less than 100% Ryan Anderson.

 

NCAA Bracket Results

I said I would give shoutouts to everyone who beat my official bracket, so with that in mind….

Shoutout to the following people or accounts (if I couldn’t figure out who you were!):

Special shoutout to: Chase Casey on being the official winner of the JSST Bracket!

Now here is everyone else who made me cry at night!

  • Matthew Saunders
  • Justin Young
  • Hannah Kocsis
  • Brayden Cavanagh
  • Janson Bautista
  • Fraser Curry
  • Kameron Beatty
  • Tristan DM
  • Kyle Poole
  • Ethan Brown
  • Shawn Corcoran
  • Espn82844012 (Erkcity)
  • Ryan Bili
  • Steve Rozanec
  • Espn64182605
  • Kelsey Swindall
  • Lucas Vani
  • Parker Wilson

Thank you to everyone who participated and congratulations to everyone who beat me! It was a pleasure and I hope you will re-enter next March!

 

What to watch this week?

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  • Wednesday: Blue Jays vs Orioles 7:05pm ET, Cavaliers vs Celtics 8:00pm ET, Thunder vs Grizzlies 8:00pm ET, Rangers vs Capitals 8:00pm ET
  • Thursday: Senators vs Bruins 7:00pm ET, Lightning vs Leafs 7:30pm ET, Celtics vs Hawks 8:00pm ET, Blackhawks vs Ducks 10:00pm ET, Oilers vs Sharks 10:30pm ET
  • Friday: Yankees vs Orioles 7:05pm ET, Lightning vs Habs 7:30pm ET, Heat vs Raptors 7:30pm ET
  • Saturday: Senators vs Rangers 12:30pm ET, Red Sox vs Tigers 1:10pm ET, Capitals vs Bruins 3:00pm ET, Blue Jays vs Rays 6:10pm ET, Penguins vs Leafs 7:00pm ET, Clippers vs Spurs 8:30pm ET, Flames vs Sharks 10:00pm ET
  • Sunday: Blue Jays vs Rays 1:10pm ET, Senators vs Islanders 5:00pm ET, (Last game at the Joe) Devils vs Red Wings 5:00pm ET, Penguins vs Rangers 7:00pm ET
  • Monday: Cardinals vs Nationals 7:05pm ET, Dodgers vs Cubs 8:05pm ET, Jazz vs Warriors 10:30pm ET, Rockets vs Clippers 10:30pm ET
  • Tuesday: Cardinals vs Nationals 7:05pm ET, (Jays’ Home Opener) Brewers vs Blue Jays 7:07pm ET, D-Backs vs Giants 10:15pm 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 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.

Just My Thoughts: The World of Sports (Mar. 22-29)

No Edwin No Problem: The Toronto Blue Jays Pitching Will Carry The Loadmaxresdefault

Many Blue Jays fans felt this off-season went poorly for the team, outside of salvaging Jose Bautista’s contract. I am not one of them. This roster is one that, when healthy, could be World Series caliber. I believe that, this off-season, the Jays got much better as a whole. They addressed many issues and were able to solve many internal problems by giving opportunities to younger players. Some fans are blind to what the Jays began to display last year, and that is a rotation that, has the potential to be among the MLB’s best.

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The five-man rotation that John Gibbons has designed for the Blue Jays this year is the best rotation they have had since 2008. While there is no established ace at this point, they have five pitchers who are proven winners. Marco Estrada is the Blue Jays Opening Day starter, and is coming off an excellent season. Estrada had the third best opponent batting average in the MLB amongst starters last year at .203. There were two other Jays in the Top 20 of this statistic, JA Happ and Aaron Sanchez, who combined for a win-loss record of 35-6 last season in 62 starts. The remaining two starters are Marcus Storman and Francisco Liriano. Neither had their best season last year, but both have the capability of adding 12+ wins apiece to a deadly Jays pitching staff. This Jays rotation is deep, and will give Toronto a chance to win every ballgame. Pitching is what carries teams in today’s MLB: four of the past five World Series champions were Top 10 in team earned run average (ERA). Of the past five years, last year was the only time the Blue Jays were amongst the Top 10. With four of last year’s five starters returning and the addition of Liriano, the Jays can expect to see even better pitching this season from their starters.

While Toronto’s starters were great last year, a struggling bullpen plagued the team all season. The Blue Jays team ERA last season was 3.78 with opponents hitting .242; the bullpen’s ERA was 4.11, and opponents’ batting average was .254. The Texas Rangers were the only other playoff team with a bullpen ERA over 4.00 last season, and they were swept by Toronto in the divisional round. Moreover, the Jays bullpen was the least active in the MLB last year, pitching only 464 innings. The mediocre bullpen held the Jays back last year substantially, and put an extra amount of pressure on their starters. The Jays 2017 bullpen, however, is slated to eliminate this weakness.

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The Blue Jays have a mixture of youth and veteran talent to carry their bullpen this season. Jason Grilli became a staple in the Jays pen when he arrived from Atlanta, posting a 3.64 ERA in 46 games last season. Much of the team’s off-season shopping was done to bring new faces to the bullpen. Joe Smith, Mike Bolsinger, and J.P. Howell were all added to bolster the relief staff. Smith is coming off a World Series win with the Chicago Cubs, and posted a 3.46 ERA during 2016. Howell had an okay 2016, but has made over 60 appearances in each of his last four seasons and is a workhorse. Bolsinger is entering his first season in the bullpen, and is somewhat of gamble. However, the 29-year old earned the trust of Jays manager John Gibbons and will start 2017 in the majors. The three other key members to the Jays’ bullpen success will be Ryan Tepera, Joe Biagini and Roberto Osuna. Tepera has never played a full season in Toronto, but has been impressive in 52 career appearances, posting a 3.16 ERA over that span. If this trend continues, he could become a valuable right-hander for the Jays. Biagini was the surprise of 2016 for Toronto, as the rookie logged 60 games, second most among Jays’ pitchers, and posted a 3.06 ERA. If Biagini can build on this fabulous rookie season, he could become the Jays’ star setup man. If so, Biagini would be setting up star closer Roberto Osuna. Osuna is a dominating closer who logged 74 innings, a 2.68 ERA, and a team-best 0.93 walks plus hits per innings pitched (WHIP) last season. Osuna and Biagini will not have to carry as heavy of a load this season, as the Jays have finally provided their bullpen with an excellent staff to grind out tight ballgames.

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Tight ballgames are not what Jays fans are used to. They are used to the team outslugging their opponents en route to victory. But, this has changed. Fans were left upset and felt betrayed when management and Edwin Encarnacion could not come to terms on a new contract. Encarnacion is now in Cleveland, which has left a sour taste in Jays’ fans mouths. The Jays acted quickly to get an insurance policy for Encarnacion, and that came in 33-year old  Kendrys Morales. Morales is not going to be Encarnacion, but, he has potential to hit .270, 30HRs and 90 RBIs. While this may still be a downgrade, the Jays finally have depth elsewhere in the lineup, and can rotate players in and out accordingly.

Melvin Upton Jr. struggled to find his stride in Toronto last season, so manager John Gibbons has decided to make Upton earn his spot and will have the speedy outfielder come off the bench. Upton’s ability to drive the ball and provide speed on the base path can have him pinch hit or even pinch run in key situations, which brings much needed versatility to the Jays. Next off the bench comes the underrated Steve Pearce who will play all around the diamond for the Jays. Pearce played every base defensively last year, and played both left and right field, showing his defensive versatility. He also brings a .288 batting average to the plate. Pearce will be Toronto’s contact hitter coming off the bench.

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The Jays bench was usually home to Josh Thole when Dickey was pitching. But, with Dickey gone so is Thole, so Jarrod Saltalamacchia jumped at the opportunity to play behind Russell Martin. Saltalamacchia, while primarily a catcher, can also play first base. Defensively his abilities are sound, while offensively he drives the ball, though he struggles to find contact. If Saltalamacchia can settle his bat down and hit .220 he will be more than serviceable for the Jays. Finally, the Jays are backed up defensively by Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney, who can play anywhere in the infield. Barney is the better hitter of the two, as he hits for contact consistently above .250. Other young names in the Jays system to keep an eye on are: Dalton Pompey, Richard Urena, Harold Ramirez and Anthony Alford, who could all potentially see some time in Toronto this season.

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While it would be nice to see those young names on the roster, let us hope it does not come to that. The Toronto Blue Jays are a good baseball team, no question, and their stars are young and in the prime of their careers. The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox are beginning to build for an arms race, meaning that now is the time to win. The Jays can win, but they need to be healthy. Devon Travis is vital to the Toronto’s success, the past two seasons he has posted Top-10 second baseman numbers when healthy. But, Travis has missed a lot of time over these past two years, and the Jays struggled to replace him in the interim. Furthermore, Jose Bautista was in and out of the lineup last year, and both Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki had injury woes. The team cannot win if it does not stay healthy. Toronto’s key to success will be their health. They have all the tools to make a World Series. The team’s pitching has not been this good since 2008, and the bats, while not as star studded as years past, remain strong and have newfound depth. The clock is ticking, and it is nearly high-noon in Toronto. If this team can stay healthy, they will be in the World Series.

 

NHL News

The Penalty Box

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  • The Minnesota Wild have gone from Stanley Cup contenders to Stanley Cup pretenders. In their last 10 games the Wild are 1-7-2, and, despite consistently leading the Chicago Blackhawks throughout the season, the Wild will find themselves as the #2 seed in the Central Division. The Wild’s lack of success comes in large part to Devan Dubnyk’s recent play. At one point this season he seemed like the frontrunner for the Vezina, but in March, Duby’s numbers tell a different story: 3-8-2, a .889 save percentage and a 2.94 goals against average. Dubnyk will need to improve on those numbers if the Wild want to have any success in the playoffs.
  • How often do the Colorado Avalanche score a goal? Not very often. It is so rare that their Twitter account grew impatient on Wednesday night. This tweet was hilarious, as has been the Avalanche’s season. The Avalanche somehow actually manage less than two goals per game, which makes it easy to understand why they are dead last by a country mile. Do not worry, though, Avalanche fans. You have a friend in the Arizona Coyotes, who share your feeling of mediocrity.

Stars of the Week

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  • The Carolina Hurricanes have surprisingly made a late-season charge. The Canes have earned at least a point in 12 straight games, thanks in large part to the goaltending duo of Eddie Lack and Cam Ward. Over this twelve game span, the tandem has a combined 2.5 goals against per game. They have been complimented by a red-hot Jeff Skinner who has 11 goals in this 12 game span. Skinner is having a career year with 31 goals and 55 points, and will need to continue to deal damage if the Canes want to make up the four-point gap between themselves and the Boston Bruins.
  • The Anaheim Ducks have won seven of their last eight games. In six of these eight games, the Ducks have allowed two goals or less. This speaks volumes to their defensive structure and goaltending. Surprisingly, the goaltending success recently has not come from John Gibson, but instead from Jonathan Bernier. After being dealt from the Toronto Maple Leafs to the Ducks in the off-season for a conditional pick, Bernier has been solid with a record of 19-7-3, a .919 save percentage and a 2.42 goals against average. Gibson may be struggling, but Head Coach Randy Carlyle has to be satisfied with having a goaltending competition, if it is resulting in wins.

NBA News

The Weekly Rap

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  • The Toronto Raptors won three out of a possible four games this week, winning comfortably in all three. Norman Powell and Cory Joseph have both been getting more touches offensively and putting in their fair share of baskets. This backcourt scoring has helped take some pressure off of DeMar DeRozan, who continues to torch opponents from the mid-range and inside with 27.2 points per game on the season
  • The Raptors now trail the Washington Wizards by a single game, and have even closed the gap on first place in the Eastern Conference, as they now trail the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers by three games. While it is appearing less likely the Raptors could overtake the Cavs or Celtics, there is still a strong possibility they could catch the Wizards for third. With an easier schedule the rest of the way, other than an April 12th meeting with the Cavs, the Raptors could feasibly run the table or take six of their last seven games.

Top 5 NBA Power Ranking

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  1. Warriors (61-14)
  • Full credit to the Golden State Warriors. They battled back from being down double digits against the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday and surprised a lot of people, myself included. The Warriors have now won their last nine and with their win over the Spurs, have almost certainly locked up first place in the Western Conference. Steph Curry has elevated his game over this stretch scoring at least 20 in all but one of those nine wins. If Kevin Durant can be back in time for the playoffs, watch out, because the Warriors seem to be clicking once again.
  1. Spurs (57-17)
  • Gregg Popovich had a reason to smile, but also a reason to scold his team this week. The Spurs continued their winning ways, stringing five wins together, including a 103-74 thumping delivered to the Cavs; but they blew a big lead versus the Warriors. After getting off to a hot start, the Spurs struggled to find their touch and shot 41% from the field. The season series is at 2-1 in favour of the Spurs, but this one has to sting for the Spurs as there were stars resting during this affair.
  1. Celtics (48-27)
  • The Celtics are tied for first in the Eastern Conference, and their fans are pretty excited about it. However, it is important to note that this team has not reached their peak just yet. There is still lots of work to be done by the Celtics and they were humbled by the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday in a 103-100 loss. The Celtics still have a good shot at holding onto first, despite having played more games than the Cavs, as the two meet on April 5th. If the Celtics win this game, they may just be able to lock up first place.
  1. Rockets (51-23)
  • The Houston Rockets have scored 100 points or more in every single game they have played since November 21st. That is ludicrous, and speaks volumes to how good James Harden has been as the Rockets’ catalyst offensively. The team goes as Harden goes, and the bearded one is averaging 29.3PPG, 8RPG, and 11.4APG. Those numbers are MVP-like, and have made it a two horse race between him and Russell Westbrook. However, Harden is likely not concerned with that, as his primary concern will be the playoffs, which are just around the corner.
  1. Cavaliers (47-26)
  • The Cavaliers are still tied for first in the Eastern Conference, which is great, but they have been nothing of the sort lately. Cleveland got whacked by the Wizards and then the Spurs this week, with LeBron James in the lineup for both games. The Cavs do not appear high and mighty, and LeBron will have to likely carry this team if they want any shot at taking down the Warriors or Spurs. At this rate, it may be fairly difficult for them to get past the Celtics, which does not bode well for Cleveland.

 

What to watch this week?

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  • Thursday: Cavaliers vs Bulls 8:00pm ET, Leafs vs Predators 8:00pm ET, Sharks vs Oilers 9:00pm ET
  • Friday: Penguins vs Rangers 7:00pm ET, Spurs vs Thunder 8:00pm ET, Blue Jackets vs Blackhawks 8:30pm ET, Sharks vs Flames 9:00pm ET, Rockets vs Warriors 10:30pm ET
  • Saturday: March Madness 6:09pm ET, Canadiens vs Lightning 7:00pm ET, Ducks vs Oilers 10:00pm ET
  • Sunday: Bruins vs Blackhawks 12:30pm ET, Jazz vs Spurs 3:30pm ET, Capitals vs Blue Jackets 6:00pm ET, Wizards vs Warriors 8:00pm ET, Ducks vs Flames 9:30pm ET
  • Monday: National Championship Basketball TBD, Senators vs Red Wings 7:00pm ET, Leafs vs Sabres 7:00pm ET
  • Tuesday: Lightning vs Bruins 7:00pm ET, Blue Jackets vs Penguins 7:00pm ET, Raptors vs Pacers 7:00pm ET, Grizzlies vs Spurs 8:30pm ET, Flames vs Ducks 10:00pm ET, Rangers vs Sharks 10:30pm 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 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.

Just My Thoughts: The World of Sports (Dec. 21-Dec. 26)

Saying Goodbye is Tough

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Edwin Encarnacion had eight phenomenal seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays. Unfortunately, a lot of that has become clouded after Encarnacion’s decision to sign with the Cleveland Indians this past week. Bitterness has overtaken the Toronto fan-base, directed at both management and Encarnacion himself. Fans are frustrated, discouraged and confused; the Blue Jays have lost in the American League Championship Series (ALCS) in back to back years. With that in mind, many thought it was a no-brainer to sign Encarnacion for at least a couple more shots at the World Series. Prior to free agency, the Jays had offered the star slugger a 4-year $80 million contract. This move was the beginning of the end of Encarnacion’s time in Toronto, and here is why.

Typically teams send out a qualifying offers to their star players. Qualifying offers are to submit a team’s intent in signing a player, and are typically a fairly low amount for the player’s actual worth. Teams then follow that up with something similar, giving players a low-ball offer. Instead, the Blue Jays upgraded their $17.2M qualifying offer to an added 3 years and an annual salary of $20M. This upgraded offer came from an organization which has typically been considered a budgeting team, one not supportive of lengthy and lucrative contracts. Encarnacion and his agent Paul Kizner saw this offer and, despite its lucrative value, believed they could find even more money on the open market. The Blue Jays did not have to play their best hand immediately, and when they did it set off a chain of events. Encarnacion said he wanted to see what the market had to offer for him, and the Blue Jays panicked.

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Toronto quickly signed Kendrys Morales, a player in the prime of his career, like Encarnacion’s and a designated hitter (DH), Encarnacion’s positon with the Blue Jays. Morales signed for three years and $33M, and Kizner said Encarnacion felt the Blue Jays had moved on after this deal. The Blue Jays also re-signed Justin Smoak for first base and also got utility-man Steve Pearce off of the free agent market, further showing the team adapting to life without Edwin. These signings, which likely would have been complimentary to Encarnacion in management’s mind, were seen as red flags to Encarnacion. The former Blue Jays’ star saw these players as his replacements and prepared himself to move on. There had been rumours for weeks, but it seemed that, as time passed, it became less and less likely that Edwin would be staying north of the border. This past week Encarnacion made his decision: a four-year $80 million contract with the Cleveland Indians, the same, as that fateful contract the Blue Jays had offered Encarnacion. This is what most fans will read, and that is as far as they will go. They will grow angry with Encarnacion, saying he betrayed Toronto. But that is simply not the truth.

The reality is Toronto should have taken their time. Instead, they played their best hand and, when Encarnacion refused, they simply moved on. In contrast, though, Encarnacion and Kizner misread the market and chose to hold out for more money. Now, after signing this deal with Cleveland, misinformed fans will interpret this as a shot at the Blue Jays’ organization. When it was more likely a sense of miscommunication and some feelings being hurt. Business was done in an unusual fashion and it cost both parties. The moral of this is that Edwin’s reputation should not be tarnished by this. Edwin played over 1000 games for the Blue Jays, and Blue Jays fans saw him grow as a player and professional over that time. Going from an average first baseman/designated hitter, to an all-star slugger this past year. A three-time all-star, four-time Top 15 in AL MVP voting, and the man who ran the bases with a parrot on his arm, Encarnacion deserves an immense amount of respect from Blue Jays fans. Anyone who considers themselves a Blue Jays fan should show him the utmost respect. As a Blue Jays fan who has become immersed in the Toronto Blue Jays over these past five or six years, thank you for a hell of a ride Edwin and good luck in your future!

 

NHL News

The Penalty Box

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  • It is getting lonely in the desert. The Arizona Coyotes continue to slip further down the standings, losing four in a row heading into the Christmas break, including a 4-1 loss at the hands of the Maple Leafs and Arizona’s native son, Auston Matthews. If there is any positivity coming out of Arizona, it is seeing Shane Doan recently eclipsing 400 career goals.
  • The New York Rangers are reeling after starting off red hot. The Madison Square Garden residents were atop the Metropolitan for some time, but with the Blue Jackets and even Flyers catching fire the Rangers have a crowded mirror. Washington still sits behind them, but the Capitals have four games in hand. The Blueshirts need to get their act together quickly and Henrik Lundqvist needs to be sharper, having been pulled twice in his last 10 starts.

Stars of the Week

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  • The Blue Jackets are the hottest thing in hockey. No two ways around it, the Blue Jackets beat the Pittsburgh Penguins by a stunning score of 7-1 before the Christmas break and have won 12 in a row. John Tortorella has gone from coaching a cellar-dweller to sitting atop the league at Christmas. It is astonishing how quickly times can change in this league. Huge praise is due for rookie defenseman Zach Werenski, who has 21 points in 32 games and deserves consideration for the Calder trophy (rookie of the year), despite being publically overshadowed by the likes of Auston Matthews and Patrick Laine.
  • Speaking of hot teams, the Minnesota Wild have won 10 in a row themselves. The Wild defend their home-ice incredibly well. At the Xcel Energy Center this season, the Wild are 12-3-0. Backstopped by an early Vezina frontrunner, Devan Dubnyk, the Wild also have a balanced scoring attack, led by a revitalized Eric Staal, who is enjoying his best season since the lockout shortened 2012-13 campaign. The Wild will need to stick to their winning ways to keep pace in a busy Central division, as the Blackhawks and Blues will continue to jostle for position.

 

NBA News

The Weekly Rap

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  • The Raptors only had a pair of games this week, but they took care of business in both. Coming off the Christmas break the Raptors only just overcame a scrappy Portland squad, however the Raptors won while only shooting an abysmal 33% from the field.
  • Toronto will need to be better on Wednesday as they will be travelling into California to take on the Golden State Warriors in a HUGE game.

Top 5 NBA Power Ranking

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  1. Cavaliers (23-7)
  • When you can get beat the best, it can make you the best. LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers overcame a 14-point deficit in the 4th quarter against the Warriors on Christmas Day, capping the win, with a clutch, game-winning basket by Kyrie Irving. The Cavaliers lost last evening, but that was without LeBron, meaning not much can be read into that loss at all. They won their most important game of the year thus far, and that is all that matters.
  1. Warriors (27-5)
  • Golden State may have lost, but we saw the power of this team. Despite an underwhelming performance from Stephen Curry, the Warriors only lost by a single point. The Warriors do not need Stephen Curry to play like an MVP every night in order to win. If the Warriors can get everyone going on the same night, they can takedown the Cavaliers. Even with a missing piece, they are only a step away.
  1. Spurs (25-6)
  • San Antonio easily dismantled the Bulls on Christmas Day and saw an offensive explosion from LaMarcus Aldridge. Aldridge dropped in 33 points, showing he can still carry a heavier load when needed. The Spurs have a relatively easy stretch ahead of themselves, outside of a date with the Raptors on January 3rd. They will likely use this to try to pass the Warriors in the standings.
  1. Raptors (22-8)
  • Toronto is on a 4-game win streak, and has a healthy record of 5-0 in divisional play to this point. With the Boston Celtics heating up, the Raptors will need to continue to assert themselves on both ends every night. If the Raptors can beat either the Warriors or Spurs, or both, it will definitely be considered an incredibly successful 6-game road trip out West.
  1. Thunder (19-12)
  • This will surprise some people, but the reality is that the Thunder have won their last three games and Russell Westbrook is maintaining his insane pace. The Thunder have a busy January ahead of them, but before 2016 is over they will have to tango with the Grizzlies and Clippers. These games are crucial ones for Oklahoma City.

 

NFL First Down and Three & Out

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First Down: Aaron Rodgers has thrown 14-straight touchdowns without an interception and is looking like his old-self. The Packers have gone from being way outside of the playoff picture to setting up a date with the Detroit Lions for the division crown on Sunday night. At this rate, if the Packers show up with their loaded lineup working on all its cylinders, they will likely rout the Detroit Lions, who cannot catch a break in the NFC North.

Three & Out: The Oakland Raiders have had such a magical season, but it may have come to a screeching halt. Derek Carr, the star quarterback for the Raiders, is out for 6-8 weeks minimum with a broken fibula. This was the last thing Raider fans wanted to hear, as they continue to fight Kansas City for the AFC West division title and an important bye past the Wild Card round of the playoffs. Matt McGloin will step into the quarterback position in Carr’s absence and have a heavy task ahead of him, in trying to fill Carr’s shoes.

DOUBLE BONUS FIRST DOWN: It was a party in Cleveland! The Browns won a game! The San Diego Chargers rushed their field goal unit onto the field for a last second field goal, but Chargers’ kicker Josh Lambo could not kick the game into overtime and the Browns got their first win of the year to avoid the infamous 0-16 record.

As well, Dontari Poe, a nose-tackle for the Kansas City Chiefs tried his hand at quarterback on Christmas. Poe who has rushed in a pair of touchdowns for the Chiefs’ offense in his career, took the snap on the goal line, and, instead of rushing went for what Chiefs’ head coach Andy Reid called a “Bloated Tebow Pass”. The pass found tight-end Demetrius Harris for a touchdown and capped a Chiefs win over the Denver Broncos.

 

DOTA 2 News

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Na’vi Turning a Corner

  • Famous Ukrainian team Natus Vincere has filled out their roster. Accompanying Dendi (Danil Ishutin) and General (Victor Nigrini) who stayed with the team after the Fall roster shuffle, will be Pajkatt (Per Anders Olsson Lille), rmN- (Roman Paley), and Biver (Malthe Winther). This roster is a little different from a typical Na’vi roster as it draws from all of Europe instead of just the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) region. Pajkatt will captain and be drafter of the team.

FY’s Fresh Start

  • One of the most famous support players in the world has moved Vici Gaming to Vici Gaming J. Vici Gaming J is sponsored by NBA player Jeremy Lin and now has a roster full of veteran Chinese players, attempting to reclaim the former glory that the organization has had.

 

What to watch this week?

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  • Tuesday: Senators at Rangers 7:00pm ET, Slovakia vs Canada 8:00pm ET
  • Wednesday: Flyers at Blues 8:00pm ET, Raptors at Warriors 10:30pm ET
  • Thursday: Celtics at Cavaliers 8:00pm ET, Thunder at Grizzlies 8:00pm ET
  • Friday: Clippers at Rockets 8:00pm ET, Flyers at Sharks 10:00pm ET
  • Saturday: Canada vs United States (World Juniors) 3:30 pm ET, Blue Jackets at Wild 6:00pm ET, Canadiens at Penguins 7:00pm ET, Knicks at Houston 8:00pm ET, Clippers at Thunder 8:00pm ET, Sharks at Kings 10:30pm ET
  • Sunday: Red Wings at Maple Leafs (Winter Classic) 3:00pm ET, Giants at Redskins 4:25pm ET, Packers at Lions 8:30pm ET
  • Monday: Blackhawks at Blues (Winter Classic) 1:00pm ET, Senators at Capitals 7:30pm 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.

Just My Thoughts: The World of Sports (Nov 7-14)

McDavid is the Real Deal

NHL: APR 09 Oilers at Canucks

A week ago Connor McDavid and the Edmonton took on Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins. The “next one”, against the best of the best. The Penguins may have won the game 4-3, but Connor McDavid simply blew spectators away. McDavid had the primary assist setting up all 3 Oiler goals, he was plus-3 and led all Oiler forwards in ice time. Quick reminder that Connor McDavid is 19 years old, and only has 61 career NHL games played to this moment. Last year McDavid only managed 45 games, and I was still a little unsure of where he fit into the mix.

For me McDavid was not a Top-10 player in the league at the start of the season. Talent-wise I would have agreed, but at the start of the season I did not think he was there. He has played 16 games and has completely changed my mind. He not only has 19 points in 16 games, but he has took a leadership role as captain. As well his faceoff percentage has gone from 41.2% last season to 47.1% this season, which is vital for creating offensive chances or relieving pressure. Also it is not as though McDavid is playing with world-class players, McDavid is making Jordan Eberle and Patrick Maroon’s jobs way easier. Especially in Maroon’s case who before this season had a career-high of 11 goals, he already has 6.

McDavid at the age of 19 is certainly the best player on his team, is improving almost every night. Ergo the question becomes when does he pass Crosby? When does Connor McDavid become the best player in the world? Some people would say he would have to win a Cup in order to do so, I think that is a terrible argument, as that does not reflect McDavid as an individual. Regardless, Crosby’s best statistical season came in his 2nd season, where he tallied an incredible 120 points. Considering Crosby had a full season under his belt before that amazing season, I think it would be fair to say that McDavid could overtake Crosby as early as next season. Crosby could start to see a drop-off in numbers, as well. It’s possible that he could continue producing such numbers because he is Sid the Kid. He is incredibly experienced, smart and talented, however age does catch up typically. As well, I believe it is fair to say the hockey world has not seen a blossomed McDavid yet, and when that day comes whether it is next season, two seasons from now or even three it will be a treat for all hockey fans.

DOTA 2 News

Farewell to SingSing

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  • WehSing “Sing Sing” Yuen announced his retirement from professional DOTA 2 on October 28th, leaving his team (Kaipi) after they failed to qualify for the upcoming Boston Major in December.
  • Sing continues to stream on Twitch, however. Sing was famous for his Mirana play, Twitch stream and being a DOTA 2 pioneer, having been on the DOTA 2 pro scene since late 2011.

Hao, Forev and Khezu all on the move

  • Chen “Hao” Zhihao has potentially returned to the pro scene of DOTA 2 by rejoining Newbee as a sub, this could be for Hao to return to the team for the Boston Major, or just a safety move in case a Newbee player cannot secure a Visa to participate in Boston.
  • Lee “Forev” Sang-don has left Team Secret, after failing to qualify for the Boston Major and joined MVP Phoenix once again. Forev will likely be put in his signature offlane position for the team, he will be crucial for their Boston Major run.
  • Following Forev’s departure, Team Secret quickly filled their hole at the offlane position by picking up, DOTA 2 newcomer Maurice “Khezu” Gutmann. “Khezu” switched over from HON to DOTA 2 in late 2015, and even made it to The International 6 as part of Escape Gaming.

The Weekly Rap

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  • The Toronto Raptors had a fairly impressive week with road wins against both the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Charlotte Hornets, who were both 6-1 coming into their games against Toronto.
  • The Raptors finished the week with a win over the Knicks, Jonas Valanciunas returned to injury on Friday against Charlotte, but was kept to a minutes restriction against both Charlotte and New York.
  • In his absence/lack of minutes youngster Lucas “Bebe” Nogueira has stepped up to the plate. Nogueira was a +51 last week, while averaging just under 9PPG (points per game) and 9RPG (rebounds per game).
  • DeMar DeRozan has continued to score at an insane pace, as he leads the NBA with 34PPG, while still grabbing 4.8RPG and even averaging over 3APG (assists per game). DeMar is playing on another level.

Top 5 NBA Power Ranking:

  1. Clippers (10-1)
  • The Clippers are on a 7-game win streak, and are a perfect 5-0 on the road. They blew out the Trail Blazers and had an impressive road win in Oklahoma City this week.
  1. Cavaliers (8-1)
  • The Cavs had their first hiccup of the year with a loss to the Hawks, but recovered with wins against Washington and Charlotte. Also worth noting, LeBron James is averaging 22.9PPG, 8.9RPG and 9.1APG, and this isn’t even mid-season form LeBron.
  1. Warriors (8-2)
  • The Warriors had a relatively easy week, however in their 4 games played they still flexed their offensive muscles averaging over 120PPG and winning by 10 or more in all 4 games.
  1. Raptors (7-2)
  • DeMar DeRozan is a scoring machine and the Raptors can win with a rookie starting and JV on a minutes restriction. The true test comes this week with games against Cleveland and Golden State.
  1. Hawks (7-2)
  • It is amazing how the Hawks are consistently good almost every year now, no matter what roster they have. Once again, they proved it by beating the Cavs and following that up with an impressive win over the Bulls and handling the hapless Sixers.

Blue Jays Off-Season

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  • Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista both unsurprisingly turned down their qualifying offers of $17.2M this week.
  • Bautista’s return is almost unforeseeable now, as the Blue Jays went out and have reportedly signed free agent DH Kendrys Morales for 3 years and $11M per season.
  • This is a quality signing for Toronto, as Morales is an above .260 hitter who had 30 homers and over 90 runs batted in last season.

NFL First Down and Three & Out

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First Down: The AFC West playoff picture: The Chiefs are 7-2 and 5-0 since their bye week, the Raiders are 7-2 and are looking ready to take the next step, while the Broncos are hanging around at 7-3 going into their bye.

Three & Out: The Packers are 4-5, have lost their last 3 games. Aaron Rodgers does not look like himself and the defense has allowed over 30 points in their last 3 losses. Luckily for them the Vikings have lost 4 in a row as well, but they still need to right the ship quickly as the Lions of all teams may run away with the NFC North.

What to watch this week?

  • Tuesday: Raptors vs Cavaliers 7PM ET, #1 Duke vs #7 Kansas 9:30PM EST
  • Wednesday: Penguins vs Washington 7:30PM ET, Warriors vs Raptors 8PM EST
  • Thursday: Saints vs Panthers 8:25PM ET
  • Friday: Spurs vs Lakers 10:30PM ET
  • Saturday: Man United vs Arsenal 7:30AM ET, Canadiens vs Leafs 7PM ET
  • Sunday: CFL East/West Final, Eskimos vs RedBlacks 1PM ET, Lions vs Stampeders 4:30PM ET and Packers vs Redskins 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!