Thursday, February 11, 2010

Glen Sather, Master of Mediocrity

"Size? Speed? Nah, we just need a collection of vanilla prospects with limited skills to offer."

If anyone needed to be reminded of hockey's irrelevant status in New York City, perhaps the continued employment of Glen "Slats" Sather as general manager of the Rangers since 2000 is all the evidence I need to provide. His Rangers teams have won 45%1 of their contests, a success rate that would get any executive -be it baseball, football or basketball- canned after three or four seasons. But Glen soldiers on, drafting non-impact players -or in 2003 total busts- and signing ill-fitting free agents -Bobby Holik, Scott Gomez, Chris Drury, Wade Redden- that never mesh in the system the team operates in. It would help if the team had an identity to build around or toward, but Slats seems more interested in bringing character guys here that thrived in unique situations but are unable to lead or carry teams, with the exception of second -or first post-apocalypse- franchise savior Jaromir Jagr.

When Glen discovered he miraculously plucked a top-shelf goalie near the bottom of the 2000 draft, he probably fancied himself a team of hard-nosed, two way players that could shut down opposing offenses with a solid backstop tying everything together, much like is infinitely more successful cross-river rivals, the Devils. Problem is, Henrik Lundqvist is not a franchise goalie, and there are no hall of famers on the blue line. So who we're left with is a bunch of players who excel at nothing, with a notable few wielding some shot blocking abilities. Hothead coach John Tortorella can occasionally muster enough furor to scare his players into a spirited forecheck, but there's so little talent up front that players don't know how to finish plays or cash in on rebounds -more on this later. At the very least, the Rangers can count on generally solid penalty killing -built by Tom Renney- to keep them in games, but it's almost always offset by their meek panner2 play.

If you thought reading this diatribe about the Rangers was painful, watching them in person is far more taxing and depressing. A Ranger occasionally wins a battle up front and gains the puck, inspiring "Let's Go Rangers" chants, until listless passes back and forth -some getting picked off- die down and give way to exasperated "SHOOT IT!" pleas until someone winds up from thirty feet away, only to have the shot sail hopelessly wide. Godforbid one is on target and a second chance opportunity or rebound emerges, a Ranger immediately whiffs -newly acquired underachiever Olli Jokinen fit in real quick- and the rally is over. The only highlight of the night is the traditional appearance "Dancin' Larry" serenaded by a chorus of "HO-MO LARR-Y"s. But that diversion lasts only a minute until you're forced to watch the team feebly attempt a comeback before enduring yet another one-goal loss. At least you can change the channel on TV.

One can only hope an end to an extremely unimpressive 'streak' of four straight playoff appearances this season will put an end to Slats' reign of impervious ineptitude, but if that's not enough, perhaps growing fan groundswell can help.

1 I add losses, 4-on-4 overtime losses and gimmick shootout losses together. The charity point is by far one of the biggest follies in the sport. Just play on with 4-on-4 or 3-on-3 or go back to ties.

2 Lenny: Oh yeah, Carl and I each have a masters’. Of course, old Homer, he didn’t need a degree. He just showed up the day they opened the plant.
Homer: I didn’t even know what a nuclear panner plant was.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Billion-Dollar Ballpark, Penny-Pinching Poster

If I didn't know any better, I'd say this poster was for an R/V Show.

The unveiling of next season's Super Bowl logo is always a neat little event during the buildup to the current game, as it provides conversation material and even a goal for the 30 teams on the sidelines and their fans. Depending on one's aesthetic tastes, the logo can be a contentious issue, like the response to the flying Arizona of Super Bowl XLII -I wasn't a fan at first, but it's kinda nifty now.

But the drab colors and flat-angle shot of Jerry World are thoroughly uninspiring, and don't do the pomp and circumstance of the Super Bowl justice. The scary part is this could become the standard for successive logos, which kills the uniqueness of each venue and season. And ss the game yesterday proved, fortune favors the bold, like on Sean Payton.

Whether it's going for it on 4th and 1.5 yards on the goal line or the unprecedented onside kick to open the second half, Sean Payton went for broke like a riverboat gambler -even Rex Ryan could have learned from this, as evidenced by the ill-fated 54-yard attempt by Jay Feely in the AFC title game. The Colts were bottling up the Saints' rushing attack early on, so Payton went to his bread and butter of slants, motions and quick throws before the markers for YAC gains as MVP Drew Brees -he didn't sign with the Saints because he wanted to save New Orleans, the Dolphins just slapped him in the face- carved up the Colts' secondary after the first quarter.

Speaking of bold, Gregg Williams' big words and insistence on blitzing finally paid off after 3-3/4 quarters of getting shredded by Peyton Manning thanks to a pass rush that opened up an opportunity for Tracy Porter to jump a go-to route and seal the game. You could say the Saints played a great game of rope-a-dope, giving up major chunks of yards but saving their penchant for opportunistic turnovers at the most crucial moment of the game.

So congratulations to the Saints, and thanks to their exploits, how can the fans of other tortured teams not think 'why not us?'

P.S. Solid games from tha UUUUU alums Shockey and Mangini-castoff Vilma played big roles too. |_ _|

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Jets 2009 Postmortem & 2010 Teaser?

We want a ring on that finger next time!

The rollercoaster of a season is finally over, and from dizzying highs -a 3-0 start including the emotional victory over the Patriots- to mind-numbing lows -that six interception stink bomb against the Bills- Rex Ryan and his Jets ended the season on a crescendo that carried their fans all the way to a 17-6 lead 28 minutes into the AFC title game. The fact the Colts promptly pulled the rug from under the Jets is disappointing, but they proved to be the better team after a rocky start in which Manning was knocked down a few times. But once he deciphered the Jets' blitz packages and schemes, he was in complete control of the game. Of course, Rex as he is wont to do, went down swinging on his blitzes with his defense. One can be certain a legitimate pass rushing linebacker is high on his wish list, along with a potential replacement for erratic safety Kerry Rhodes, who too often checks out of games.

As far as the development of the offense goes, the playoff run gave us a taste of how potent this unit could be in the hands of Mark Sanchez -already with great footwork and a Favre-ian play-fake arsenal- and Shonn Greene -I don't care what Mike Francesa has to say, a case can be made his departure did affect the outcome of the championship game, at least for those who partake in gentlemanly wagering. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer saved his best play calls for the biggest games, pushing all the right buttons on counters, rollouts and Brad Smith option passes. And as maddeningly inconsistent as Braylon Edwards' play was as a Jet, his ability to create distance between defenders makes him invaluable in the play action game and worth a one-year tender, and along with the steady Jerricho Cotchery and emerging target Dustin Keller, it looks like the Jets have most of the pieces along with a stout line that they're ready to go to war with in 2010, with Rex already firing salvos at his competition, starting in Sunrise, FL. Now we all knew Rex wasn't afraid of pulling punches at the podium, but his swagger and bravado are quite mobile. He told Francesa around this time last year he wasn't going to 'kiss Bill Belichick's rings,' and it's clear he won't take crap from a bunch of yahoos in Bumblefrak, FL. Who wouldn't want to be in the trenches with this guy?

Considering how bleak the spring and summer months look when faced with the prospect of Met baseball, I can't wait soon enough for Year 2 of the Rex regime.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Rex Ryan Resembles a Walrus.

"Hey pal, how about some lunch?...I don't do seafood, maybe Mexican?"

As is customary with any extended playoff or postseason run, the puff pieces -not pastry, settle down, Rex!- call to attention biographical accounts of key players and coaches or peculiar habits and anecdotes. It certainly is worth learning about the experiences that helped mold Rex's coaching style and demeanor, as well as the amount and types of food he will consume staying up all week to design a game plan that knocks the football maestro, Peyton Manning, off his rhythm.

That may be an order too tall even for Rex, but if he can keep mixing up his looks on blitzes, he might confuse Peyton's blockers like the Ravens did. Thanks to Darrelle Revis and some wily veteran guile from Lito Sheppard blanketing receivers, Rex doesn't hesitate lining up safeties and unleashing them, as opposed to a conventional rush of linebackers -good run-blockers, but no fearsome edge guys on this team yet. There's no doubt Ryan can call a good game on defense: it's his involvement in the development of Mark Sanchez and the offense with Brian Schottenheimer -as opposed to Mangini's micromanagement- that will determine just how relevant this team will be in the future. That and the state of his arteries.