Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sports With The StatMan #44: Show Notes

Before we get to the timeline, take a look at last week’s Random Musings sports column, “Building Something”.

00:00-12:00 – Open: The month of February, the Super Bowl bye week, and why hockey needs a big Olympics
12:00-18:30 – Show information and February schedule
18:30-27:00 NFC Conference Championship wrap, Thoughts on Favre’s next career move
27:00-40:00 NHL: Local Matchups, Rangers talk, Islanders talk
40:00-56:00 NHL: Flyer talk, Leafs dealing, Bruins are ice cold, Devils talk
56:00-68:00 NHL: Goalies for Sale, NHL Standings and Playoff Races
68:00-76:00 MLB: Mets let free agents pitchers them by
76:00-78:00 – Close: Next Week’s Show Preview, Upcoming Schedule

Main Points
00:00-12:00 – Open: The month of February, the Super Bowl bye week, and why hockey needs a big Olympics
I’ve never been a big fan of the bye week between the Conference Championship games and the Super Bowl.  We lose our momentum for football.  There are two weeks to break down the big game.  The Colts can stop the run and the Saints’ blitz will be figured out by Colt QB Peyton Manning.  The Colts are favored by a little more than a field goal, but there is another week to talk about the game.

February is the time between the Super Bowl and Spring Training.  February is a chance for hockey to gain notoriety and while there is less NHL action in February than usual, the Olympics are this month.  They need a great Olympics to help get hockey back into the national consciousness.  They need impact trades and there were two today.  The Maple Leafs sent scoring away (Niclas Hagman, Matt Stajan, Jason Blake) and brought back defense (Dion Phaneuf) and goaltending (Jean-Sebastien Giguere).  There are still deals to be made and it will be a fun February for hockey.

-         What is going on with the Bruins and Rangers?
-         What are the Mets doing?  I wonder if they know at this point.

12:00-18:30 Show information and February schedule
February Schedule for “Sports With The StatMan”
Sunday, February 7th, 10am-11am ET: Super Bowl predictions
Sunday, February 14th, 10pm-11pm ET: Olympic Hockey Preview, NFL Season In Review
Thursday, February 18th, 10pm-11pm ET: Olympic Hockey talk, 2010 AL West Preview
Sunday, February 28th, 8pm-9pm ET: Olympic Hockey wrap, 2010 NL West Preview

18:30-27:00 NFC Conference Championship wrap, Thoughts on Favre’s next career move
The Saints defeated the Vikings in overtime, 31-28, on a Garrett Hartley 40-yard field goal.  The Saints won the coin flip, marched down the field, thanks in part to two first downs by penalty, and Hartley booted the first down.  There was a very questionable pass interference call on Ben Leber that gave the Saints their final first down.  But, the Vikings have only themselves to blame.  Brett Favre could have run a few yards to set up a field goal with 19 seconds left.  He could’ve thrown it out of bounds.  But, Favre threw an interception and his season ended on the interception.  He never played another down.  This is not the first time this has happened.  But, Favre is a gunslinger and this is who he is.

Will Favre return?  I don’t think he would go out like that, but I don’t think he will make the decision on retirement any time soon because the wound is too fresh.  When he makes his decision will determine how much I will believe him.  I’ll believe him if he is still retired on Labor Day.  But, he could still pull a Pedro Martinez and join a team during the season next year.  He is definitely an original.  If he won the Super Bowl, you would have to include him in the conversation with the greatest quarterbacks of all time.

The Saints used their blitzing defense to beat Favre up, but they will not have as much success with that blitz against Peyton Manning in the Super Bowl.  The Saints also do not have the shutdown corner that the Jets have, so Reggie Wayne will be active in the passing game.  Hartley’s game-winning field goal means that Hartley, who started the season on a four-game suspension for using a banned substance, and who was not the regular kicker for most of the season, will end his season in the Super Bowl.

The Saints have not been to a Super Bowl since entering the league in 1967.  This Super Bowl is really all about New Orleans.  Manning grew up in New Orleans.  Manning’s father, Archie, was a Saints hero in New Orleans.

27:00-40:00 NHL: Local Matchups, Rangers talk, Islanders talk
• The Islanders lost to the Flyers on Saturday afternoon, 2-1, in the only local matchup this week.
• The Devils and Rangers meet at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night in a rematch from the regular-season classic game in their last meeting, a 1-0 shootout win for the Devils.

The Rangers could really use a win right now.  They are in a bad way.  Since the two-game 14-goal outburst against Montreal and Tampa Bay, they have been outscored 20-5 in five games in dropping all five games.  Goalie Henrik Lundqvist has been hung out to dry and the victim of no goal support. 

Coach John Tortorella has nowhere else to go after going to the whip earlier in the season.  He has resorted to starting a war of words with New York Post reporter Larry Brooks.  When a team stops listening to their coach, the coach is done.  Just look at the Islanders and Peter Laviolette in 2003.  The team tuned him out and he was soon fired.  He won the Stanley Cup in Carolina 3 years later and he is now at the helm of a Flyers team that is playing very well.  Eric Mangini got another year in Cleveland because the players responded to his possible firing with four straight wins to end the season.

The Rangers have lost five in a row and close the week at home against the top two teams in the Eastern Conference in Washington and New Jersey.  They have to win one of the first two games this week against Colorado and Los Angeles.

The Islanders will get some rest during the Olympic break, which is more than most teams.  That may be the only thing that will help them.  The Islanders are wasting a golden opportunity to get into playoff position.  The logjam between 6th and 13th place in the Eastern Conference is starting to spread out and the Islanders are sinking to bottom of that group.  The goaltending is as muddled as over.  Martin Biron is far away from the Coliseum and Dwayne Roloson has not been the same since Rick DiPietro has not been the same.  Roloson thrives on workload and knowing that DiPietro is going to take half his starts, even though he knew this would happen, has hurt his confidence.

Jack Hillen has had a good year as an up-and-coming defenseman for the Islanders and he was hit in the jaw by an Alex Ovechkin slapshot in the 7-2 loss on Tuesday night to the Capitals.  Hillen will be out 6-8 weeks with a fractured jaw.  Andrew MacDonald is another up-and-coming defenseman for the Islanders.  MacDonald is on his way to being the Hillen of last season.

The Islanders have had a tough run lately, but this is what they signed up for.  They are going to win games they are supposed to lose and lose games they are supposed to win.  It is all part of the growing process for the young team.  In the latest “Random Musings” sports column, called “Building Something”, draws some parallels between the Islanders and Jets.

40:00-56:00 NHL: Flyer talk, Leafs dealing, Bruins are ice cold, Devils talk
The Flyers continue to score first, now 16 of 18 games where the Flyers have had the early lead.  Coach Peter Laviolette juggled his lines, and it resulted in the first goal against the Islanders in the their 2-1 win on Saturday.  The Flyers defeated the Islanders for the 14th straight time, which equates to more than two years.  Did the line juggling work because the team bought into it or just because they were playing a team they have handled so well?

In the next week, the Flyers will go on a Western Canada trip, but they could not have better timing.  The Oilers are the worst team in the league.  The Flames just lost one of their best players in Dion Phaneuf.  Did Phaneuf have issues in the locker room?  How the Flames come out after the trade will explain a lot.

Speaking of Phaneuf, the Leafs made two nice deals in picking up the solid defenseman and Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who has a chance to rejuvenate his career.  Giguere is a Cup winner for the Ducks in 2007 and won the Conn Smythe Award on the losing Ducks team against the Devils in 2003.  Phaneuf will add some impact to the blueline, adding more physical play to an already-physical back line with Mike Komisarek, Francois Beauchemin, and Luke Schenn.  Jason Blake, who was a big part of the Giguere trade, never fit in with the Leafs.  He signed the big contract and never reached the same level he was at with the Islanders.  Blake will be back in Southern California where he started his NHL career, when he was with the Kings.  Giguere is a lot better than Vesa Toskala, who was shipped to Anaheim with Blake.  Toskala was a much maligned player for the Leafs.  So, the Leafs are going to do well after this trade. 

The team is now healthy, as only Andrew Ference is on Injured Reserve.  But, the wheels are still falling off.  The Bruins have not won since their California trip.  In the last game of the California trip, the Bruins lost to the Kings in a shootout.  Including that game and the six games since, the Bruins are 0-5-2 and have been outscored 23-11.  The Bruins have not won at home in almost a month (January 5th vs. Ottawa), currently holding a six-game home losing streak.  They have three home games this week, but it is against scalding Washington, rival Montreal, and sizzling Vancouver.  A big week would get them back into playoff position, but they are holding their breath and trying not to fall any farther.

The Devils were shutout and lost in a shootout earlier in the week, but they had a big OT win on a Travis Zajac goal.  In that game, Jamie Langenbrunner was taken off the same line as Zach Parise and Travis Zajac and Dainius Zubrus joined them.  The line combined for four of the five goals in that 5-4 OT victory.  Could this line (Killer Z’s? Nytol Line?) stick around for a while?

The Devils will face Toronto twice in the next week, so they will see first-hand the effect of the new recruits for the Leafs.

56:00-68:00 NHL: Goalies for Sale, NHL Standings and Playoff Races
Where will the other goaltenders go?  Marty Turco and Martin Biron are out there.  The Flyers no longer need a goaltender, as Ray Emery is back from injury and Michael Leighton has proven to be a very good backup.  Who needs a backup or who needs some short-term help?  Goaltending around the league is pretty stable.  Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Washington have had injuries or ineffectiveness from incumbent goaltenders, but they have settled those issues from within.

Vancouver has started on their 14-game, 42-day road trip, which includes the Olympic Break.  They won the first game of the trip to start on the right foot.  Vancouver has won seven in a row and the Canucks are 3rd in the Western Conference.  However, Vancouver is only 11-11-1 on the road.  Will they get more than 14 points during their 14-game trip?…Ottawa has won 9 in a row and has risen to 5th place in the Eastern Conference…Carolina has won four in a row, so even the bottom of the Eastern Conference is playing very well.  The top five spots are pretty safe in Washington, New Jersey, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and Ottawa.  Philadelphia and Florida are next, with Atlanta and Montreal close behind…In the Western Conference, the Kings are hot, winning six in a row, including two against the Bruins in shootouts, and have climbed all the way to 5th in the West.  Calgary snapped a long losing streak with a big win against Edmonton, and the Flames are in 8th but tied in points with 9th-place Detroit.

68:00-76:00 MLB: Mets let free agents pitchers them by
The Mets have sat idly by while Joel Pineiro, Jon Garland, and Ben Sheets pass them by.  Not that the Mets should have jumped at any of these pitchers.  The Sheets deal of $10 million guaranteed plus incentives is a tough call for Oakland.  If the deal does not pan out, the A’s will not be able to rebound from that move as easily as a team in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, or Boston would.

The Mets have to do something.  They need a starting pitcher and the only way to go right now is by trade.  Mike Pelfrey is not a #2.  John Maine is not a #3.  Oliver Perez might be a #5.  If the Mets can get a #2 pitcher behind Johan Santana, Pelfrey and Maine can slot themselves where they belong on the staff.

In the deal to get Gary Matthews, Jr., they traded reliever Brian Stokes.  Now, they could use another arm in the bullpen.  A 7th-inning reliever is more important than a 4th or 5th outfielder.

A lot of the moves have not made have been smart in letting Sheets, Carlos Delgado, and Bengie Molina go.  They are learning after paying Oliver Perez his overvalued contract last offseason, but that does not bring in the right players for 2010.  There is no reason why the Mets should not try to contend.  They have a great nucleus and they have pillars to their franchise.  The wrath of Met fans are coming from the bad taste in their mouths from last year and the poor persona of Omar Minaya in the media.

The big move the Mets did make was for Jason Bay.  He needs to hit 30 homers to validate the signing and that might help David Wright get a few more out of the park, too.

Free agents still out there: Johnny Damon, Orlando Hudson, Erik Bedard, Jose Valverde

76:00-78:00 – Close: Next Week’s Show Preview, Upcoming Schedule
Next Week
We will have Breakfast with the StatMan on Sunday morning.  Our next show (#45) will be at 10am Eastern time for an hour on Super Bowl Sunday.  We will have our Super Bowl predictions and we’ll talk some more hockey and Hot Stove baseball.

Upcoming Schedule
• Wednesday: “Random Musings” Sports Column (blog)
• Saturday night: Sports With The StatMan: Fantasy Football Edition – Super Bowl XLIV (blog)
• Sunday, 10-11am ET: Sports With The StatMan: No. 45 (live show)
• Sunday: Sports With The StatMan: Fantasy Hockey Edition – Week 19 (blog)

* All blogs will be available on our “secondary” blog, which is called “Random Musings from the StatMan” ( You can listen to the show live at our show page ( or download the podcast, which is normally available 15 minutes after the show, either from the show page or from iTunes (search: Sports With The StatMan).

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