NHL

Loyalty is dead? Wake up – it’s been dead for a while.

5-3

Its all about the money.

The buzz after former Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fabregas signed for Chelsea FC, is that loyalty is dead.  Plot twist: Loyalty in professional sports is dead, and it’s been dead for a while – wake up and smell the rotting corpse everyone.

Luis Figo proved that, when he ditched Barcelona for swanky new digs at Real Madrid, fans reacted furiously, even throwing a pig head at him.

And it’s not just the beautiful game, loyalty is dead across the sporting globe.

In the NBA? There are 18 active players who have played their whole careers with one franchise – seven who were drafted by other teams.

'The Decision' Didn't go over well in Cleveland

‘The Decision’ Didn’t go over well in Cleveland

Let’s not forget about the most famous ‘Decision’ and Lebron ‘taking his talents to South Beach.’ That got a few people upset, eh?

How about the NHL where free-agency has ruined any sense of loyalty – where captains like Jerome Iginla or Daniel Alfreddson ditch their respective clubs to chase personal glory.

Heck Ilya Kovalchuk shocked the professional hockey world, ditching a $77 million dollar contract in the NHL with the New Jersey Devils for an even bigger contract in the KHL .

In baseball, just 8 active players have played more than 10 years with a single team – topped by New York Yankee Derek Jeter.

Gone are the days of Joe DiMaggio, Dan Marino, Steve Yzerman, Ryan Giggs and the Paolo Maldini’s – Legends who stuck with their teams through thick and thin. Now players chase personal glory, crave their big pay day.

And can you blame pro athletes? I can’t.

It’s a business and everyone is trying to get their payday or grab another trophy, personal glory.

Can you honestly tell me, if a rival company came to you and offered you more money, more guaranteed years that you wouldn’t consider it? That you wouldn’t jump at the chance to make more money?

Some might say no, but most would be out the door without a guilty second.

And that is the hypocrisy of where we place athletes and the false values we impose on them – it’s a business, whether we like it or not, and

Assou-Ekotto: Plays for the money, not the game.

Assou-Ekotto: Plays for the money, not the game.

business is about making money.

It’s refreshing to see comments from an athlete like Tottenham Hotspur player Assou-Ekotto, who infamously stated, “I play for the money. Football’s not my passion.”

“All people, everyone, when they go to a job, it’s for the money. So I don’t understand why, when I said I play for the money, people were shocked. Oh, he’s a mercenary. Every player is like that.”

He was lambasted by media, ripped up by fans – but why? Because we hold this idealistic mentality that players should be blindly loyal, play for the ‘love of the game’ and wear their hearts on their sleeves?

Blind loyalty a hopelessly romantic notion, sounds lovely, but it’s just not true anymore in modern sports.

So while Arsenal fans burn Fabregas shirts in the streets and Cleveland fans still reel about ‘The Decision’ – wake up and realize, Loyalty is dead and it’s not coming back.

And as Puff Daddy so eloquently said – it’s all about the Benjamins.

Advertisements

THE BATTLE FOR THE CUP: SECOND ROUND PREDICTIONS

SCF2014What an end to the first round with three game sevens and the end of a beautiful, almost predictable, San Jose collapse – have the Sharks become the ultimate chokers in the playoffs, does this latest epic collapse put the crown on their heads? (Oops, too soon?).

With that said, how did we do in the first round?

We aced the Eastern Conference with the Bruins, Canadiens, Penguins and Rangers all winning, while we split the results in the Western Conference.

The Ducks and Blackhawks won, while the Wild and Kings upset our picks in Game 7 – we were within a MacKinnon goal and a 3-game collapse from a perfect first round.

And without further adieu, we’re onto the second round with the Bruins and Habs kicking things off on Thursday night.

Here are our picks for the second round:

 

 

Eastern Conference

Boston Bruins v Montreal Canadiens

Nasty, ugly, brutal, crushing, gut-wrenching, heartbreaking – this second round matchup between North American sports’ most bitter rivals will be all that and so much more.

The playoff history is lopsided in the Habs favor, with them hold a 24-9 series record over their American rivals – but the tide has turned in recent memory, with the Bruins winning in the last two match-ups.

canadiensWe know the goalies are top notch, we know the usual suspects and we know that penalties galore are to be expected – for me, the key to winning could be in who doesn’t retaliate and who manages to keep their tempers under control.

Prediction: Montreal in 6

– –

Pittsburgh Penguins v New York Rangers

Surviving scares, these two teams managed to make it into the second round but it could have easily been the Blue Jackets against the Flyers – with both teams digging deep to find a way to win.

The biggest difference between these two teams starts in net, with Henrik Lundqvist holding a clear advantage over the calamitous Marc-André Fleury – who single handily did as much as he could to give the Blue Jackets a series win.

All that aside, the Penguins have history on their side and have beaten the Rangers in ever series they’ve met. This time around, Rick Nash and rangerscompany will be looking to take advantage of sloppy defence and weak goaltending to break that goose egg.

For me, the glaring issues in net and the sloppiness will be too much with the Rangers taking advantage and running away with the series.

Prediction: Rangers in 6.

 

Western Conference

Chicago Blackhawks v Minnesota Wild

Balanced scoring and responsible play helped the Wild get past the Avalanche and to be fair, the same could help them sneak by the Blackhawks in the second round.

It may not be enough though, with the Chicago offence on fire after scoring 14 goals in the final four games of their series against the Blues, add in the fact that Wild goalie Darcy Kuemper is questionable and  Ilya Bryzgalov is not the most reliable of goalies, this series could be over before it begins.

hawksI give the Wild credit for knocking off Patrick Roy’s young, inexperience team, but for me the Chicago playoff experience and form make this an easy prediction.

Prediction: Chicago in 6

– –

Anaheim Ducks v LA Kings

Let’s all take a collective moment and let it out: WHAT THE HELL SAN JOSE!?

Okay, now that we’ve covered that – how about those Kings? Coming back from being down 0 – 3 in a series, the fourth team ever to do that by the way, and stealing the series from the Sharks was impressive – but can they take that momentum and turn it into a Western Final berth?

Anze Kopitar was stellar in the first round and the Kings will ask for more of the same, he’ll have to contend with the likes of Ryan Getzlaf in this round and that should be a fun battle to watch.

For me the big question for this matchup is pretty clear: Goaltending.

Jonathan Quick vs maybe a healthy Frederik Anderson, but perhaps a Jonas Hiller (Without confidence of course….) – Old Brucey will need to decide, but either way the Ducks need a 180 turn around on the goaltending scale.
Screen Shot 2014-05-01 at 7.32.13 PMThis is easily the toughest series for me to predict, but I’m going to give the edge to the Kings – maybe it’s their amazing twitter account that wins me over?

Prediction: Kings in 7

– –

Henry writes about his two passions the Beautiful Game and the Brutal Game – whether you’re a die hard Soccer fan or passionate hockey fan, he’s got you covered. 

You can follow him on twitter at @HenryWhitfield , where he live tweets about sports far too much.

Two Games isn’t Enough

By: Henry Whitfield

(Photo Credit: Richard LaFortune)

To say the hockey in Moose Country has been outstanding this season, well, that would be a massive understatement.

However, the hockey needs to take a backseat for a moment, instead lets discuss the  disciplinary case stemming from Sunday’s game against Val d’Or, where Trey Lewis was subject to offensive remarks from forward Vincent Dunn.

Dunn was tossed at the end of the first period, given a game misconduct for “Racial taunts, Gestures and slurs.”

The QMJHL took ‘action’, suspending Dunn for two games, releasing a statement from League Commissionare Gilles Courteau.

“The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League created an anti discrimination policy in December of 2006 in order to ban all forms of discrimination,” said Courteau. 

“Our policy is based on the principle of zero tolerance and it applies to all comments which are deemed inappropriate. All of our participants must be treated with respect and dignity.”

While I commend the league for taking action, it’s hard not to feel that they missed a chance to really make a point and a tough stance, or rather a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to a serious level.

Instead, they suspend the kid for two games. Two games? You get two games for a bad hit, two games for being an idiot. Two games, not really much of an impact

I’m not saying Dunn is a racist, he’s probably a great kid, but if you’re going to do something stupid then you need to be held accountable.

Two game suspensions are seen for  cross checking, charging the goaltender, slew footing, and hits to the head (I’d also argue this should be more too). But giving just two games for racially abusing someone, well, that doesn’t seem enough.

Oh and they  gave the team a $500 fine, a $500 fine? Tough right? Wrong.

Chicoutimi and PEI were fined earlier this year $2,000 for ‘multiple fights on the same stoppage’, while it routinely hands out $1,000 for the same infraction.

Seems to me that stamping out racism from a league that’s had it’s fair share of issues, should be taken a bit more seriously than a slap on the wrist of $500 and a two game suspension.

Heck, if you want to look at more high-profile cases then look no further than the current lockout, where NHL Player Wayne Simmonds was the target of racist taunting from fans.

If you want to have a zero tolerance policy, then have a zero tolerance policy.

Not a slap on the wrist policy.

– – –

Henry is a writer for Sportstream.ca  and part of the Bill McLean Sports Show on 88.1 CKDU  every Thursday Morning at 9am. You can follow him on twitter at @HenryWhitfield , where he live tweets his thoughts during each Mooseheads game.

Summer Sport Blues

The summer months are boring me to death.

The NBA and NHL have both wrapped up their 2010/2011 season’s and the NFL continues their negotiations to have a season in the fall.

The Bruins and Mavericks are champions, the rest focusing on next season and putting the disappointments behind them. Sure, we have Baseball and both the NHL and NBA just conducted their annual entry drafts, but the summer months can be cruel to a sport fan in Canada.

Vettel and Red Bull are the new dominant force in Formula One racing.e

We spend these Summer months following rumours and speculation, hoping that real news will pop up and help us out. Who will your team sign, will there be wholesale changes or will your team implode in a few hours a la Philadelphia Flyers last week.

There is however a there is a perfect solution, if you know where to look. If you are willing to spread your interest, open up to international sport, well, there is a smorgasbord of sport to watch and enjoy.

Wimbledon is treating the tennis world to another exciting tournament, both Serena and Venus William’s were sent packing, while the men’s side has top end talent left to battle it out in the quarter finals.

In soccer, the Women’s World Cup has started with a bang in Germany and over 700,000 tickets have been sold. Germany and the USA are the biggest draws, but England and Canada have opened their tournament with strong showings despite not picking up a win in their first matches.

The world of Cricket continues year round and fans have been treated to an exciting Test series between England and Sri Lanka, while the West Indies and India are also battling it out in their own test match series.

Not to mention the excitement of Formula One, a season dominated by Redbull and their battle with second place McLaren and the rivalry of Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel.

It’s your choice.

Sit around and be bored with the under performing Jays or the dysfunctional Toronto FC or sitting around waiting for the TSN crew to break the latest trade or signing.

Or.

Take a chance on a new sport, you may just get hooked.

Henry is a contributor to Sportstream.ca and part of the Bill McLean Sports Show on 88.1 CKDU every Tuesday Morning at 11. You can follow him on twitter at HenryWhitfield, where he live tweets his thoughts during each Mooseheads games

Stanley Cup Final Predictions

This week has been somewhat bitter sweet in the hockey world.

The return of hockey to the ‘Peg has Canadian hockey fans jubilant, while the folding of the Lewiston MAINEiacs of the Quebec Major Junior League reminds us that the hockey business is a just that, a business.

However, it is the quest for Lord Stanley’s Cup that sits front and centre, a battle between the East and the West.

A battle between an Original Six team that plays in a city that has won Six major Sports titles since 2000 and a city that is still basking in the afterglow of a successful Olympics and the skill of a set of Swedish superstars.

How did the Vancouver Canucks and the Boston Bruins reach this point?

The Bruins battle their bitter rivals in the first round, edging the Montreal Canadiens in overtime of game 7, before sweeping a lacklustre Philadelphia Flyers. They faced a tougher opponent in the Tampa Bay Lightning, but took care of Dwayne Roloson and company in seven games to reach the Finals.

Across the continent, the Vancouver Canucks faced a familiar foe in round one, however this year they took care of their nemesis Chicago Blackhawks in seven games before taking care of business in the second round, knocking the Nashville Predators out in Six. A bigger test awaited the Canucks in the Western Finals, but the San Jose Sharks forgot to show up and were easily pushed aside in five games.

So there it is, a battle of the best in the Stanley Cup finals.

The Boston Bruins. The Vancouver Canucks.

– – –

Vancouver Canucks (1) vs (3) Boston Bruins

With such talent on the ice and so many key players on either side of the puck, we look at the top three match ups in the series before making our predictions:

Roberto Luongo vs Tim Thomas Both goaltenders of the highest pedigree, but both men have had a proverbial monkey on their back throughout these playoffs.

Luongo has faced his share of criticism and no player will receive more blame for their team losing the series than the Canucks netminder, on the other side of the puck Tim Thomas has show both flashes of brilliance and moments of the ridiculous. Pulling off amazing saves but followed up by some of the weakest goals we’ve seen Thomas let in.

Their numbers are so close it’s almost impossible to call.

Who has the edge? My edge goes to Luongo, winning the gold medal in Vancouver may be comparing apples and oranges in this case, but the experience and winning under pressure gives him my edge.

The Sedins vs David Krejci and Nathan HortonJust looking at the names, it’s a lopsided battle, right?

Well, David Krejci is tied for the playoff goal scoring lead with 10 goals and Nathan Horton trails with 8 goals and a combined point total of 34 points, while the Sedin Brothers combine for just 9 goals but 37 points.

The Sedins post a plus/minus of -8 and just 3 game Winning Goals. On the other hand, the combination of Krejci and Horton have a pretty +15 plus/minus, 8 game winning goals

It was pretty obvious that in the first round the Canucks struggled with the Sedins shut down and when the Preds were able to keep the brothers off the score board in game one of their series they had success, but the super Swedes are the key to Boston’s success in this series.

Who has the edge? The edge goes to Krejci and Horton, but the Sedins are still waiting for their breakout of the playoffs and it has to happen sometime.

Ryan Kesler vs Milan Lucic Yes, I know, they play a different position, but Kesler and Lucic are the passion behind each team.

Lucic is the breakout player the Bruins are waiting to explode and his big body presence, his grit and his work ethic can be game winning factors for the Bruins.

Meanwhile, Kesler has been Mr. Clutch for the Canucks, don’t think he means that much? How about the groan heard around the league when he limped off the ice last series?

Kesler has 7 goals and 18 points, a plus/minus of +6 and two game winning goals, while Lucic sits with 3 goals and 9 points, an even plus/minus and a whopping 43 penalty minutes. The numbers don’t say a lot, but these two players are as key to their teams winning as their high-flying scorers and goalies.

Who has the edge? The edge goes to Ryan Kesler, who in round one showed he is capable of putting his team on his back when needed. We’re still waiting for Lucic to do the same.

Kevin Bieksa, Alexander Edler and Dan Hamhuis vs Zdeno Chara Big bad Chara had a blip on the radar in the first series, suffering from dehydration, but the Boston defensemen has been brilliant for the Bruins and continues to log key minutes, averaging 28:17 minutes a game and carrying a +11 plus/minus.

For the Canucks it has been defence by committee,  eight players hitting the ice for the defence throughout the playoffs and someone different stepping up each night due to injuries.

Kevin Bieksa has been an overtime hero for the Canucks, while Edler and Hamhuis continue to be Mr. Reliable and helping to keep their opposition in check. All three Canucks defencemen log around 25 minutes of ice time a game and average 32 shifts a game.

Who has the edge? The fact that the Canucks have three defencemen who can log  key minutes gives them the edge in this series, but the influence and game changing abilities of Chara makes this one too close to call. It’s a stalement between the defence corps.

– –

What’s my prediction? It’s going to be a close series, a tough series that will be a battle on every single level and every single shift.

My heart tells me the Canucks should win, while my head shows that the Bruins are   have got the pedigree and intangibles a team needs to lift the Cup.

I have a feeling the Sedins will seize the day and take over this series, so i’m going to call the Canucks in Six.

Henry is a contributor to Sportstream.ca and part of the Bill McLean Sports Show on 88.1 CKDU every Tuesday Morning at 11. You can follow him on twitter at HenryWhitfield, where he live tweets his thoughts during each Mooseheads games

NHL Eastern Conference Final Predos

Then there were four.

With the Conference Finals starting tonight with the battle in the East, let’s take a look at how I did in the last round:

Canucks in Six, Canucks won in Six

Detroit in Six, San Jose won in Seven

Caps in Five, Lightning Swept Caps in Four

Flyers in Seven, Boston Swept Flyers in Four

Not great at all, picking just one out of four correctly and yet not many had Flyers and Caps being swept. Nonetheless, here are my predictions for the Eastern Conference Final starting tonight:

Boston Bruins (3) vs  (5) Tampa Bay Lightning 

This series is all about the underdog fighting it’s way to the top, The Lightning scraped together wins on the back of overachieving Dwayne Roloson and the surprise play of Sean Bergenheim who leads both teams with seven goals so far in the playoffs.

While the Lightning is overachieving, it may surprise some that the Bruins have made it to the Eastern Conference final while underachieving.

Their powerplay has been abysmal and Tim Thomas has shown weakness and allowed some uncharacteristically bad goals.

The usual suspects will come to play for the Bolts, with Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier stepping up but the better team here is the Boston Bruins.

Biggest matchup will be that of the men in the crease and who will crack first. This series pits the two top goalies against each other and my money is on Roloson cracking first, he may be playing stellar in the playoffs but Thomas has done that all season.

Throw in the massive Zdeno Chara, the scoring threat of Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Nathan Horton and Mark Rechi with a supporting cast of Rich Peverley, Michael Ryder and Milan Lucic and you have just the tip of the iceberg in talent that Boston boasts.

Simply put? The Bolts will be hard-pressed to take this series to seven unless Rolo can stand on his head.

Some may argue that the Bolts beat a good team in the last round, but let’s get one thing straight the Boston Bruins are a far better team than the Washington Capitals and a Crosby-less Pittsburgh Penguins.

Key Player: Dwayne Roloson is the key for the Bolts, he’s currently standing on his head and the top goalie in the playoffs and will need to put up a brick-wall in his crease to keep his team in this series.

My Prediction? The Bruins finish this one quickly and take a breather, this series is won by the Bruins in Six.

Come back tomorrow for my Western Conference Final Predictions.

Agree? Disagree? Think i’m crazy? That’s fine, chime in with your 2-Cents below in the comments section and let us know your predictions and thoughts for the second round of the playoffs.

———–

Henry is a contributor to Sportstream.ca and part of the Bill McLean Sports Show on 88.1 CKDU every Tuesday Morning at 11. You can follow him on twitter at HenryWhitfield, where he live tweets his thoughts during each Mooseheads games

Second Round Stanley Cup Predos

Before we kick into the next round, how did I do in the first found?

Canucks in Six, Canucks won in Seven

Sharks in Five, Sharks won in Six

‘Yotes in Seven, Red Wings won in Four

Ducks in Six, Predators won in Six

Caps in Six, Caps in Five

Flyers in Six, Flyers in Seven

Bruins in Five, Bruins in Seven

Lightning in Seven, Lightning in Seven

Perfect for winner of the series in the East and got the Bolts-Pens series dead on, while I went 50% in the West and was upset by the Red Wings and Predators

One last kudos to Teemu Selanne who lead the first round with six goals and who knows if the flash will be back in the NHL next season.

So without further adieu, here are my second round predos:

—-

(1) Vancouver Canucks vs (5) Nashville Predators

While I was surprised that Nashville dealt with Anaheim so easily, I wasn’t surprised by the Canucks overcoming their daemons to get past the Chicago Blackhawks. That being said, I was impressed with the work ethic of the Predators and am less than impressed with the Sedin twins and the play of Roberto Luongo.

Pekka Rinne will be looked to by his team mates to continue his stellar play, but if Luongo finds his game then the backstoppers will be quite evenly matched.

This series will be another battle and the Canucks will need to dig deep to match the hard hitting, gritty Predators who dealt with a talented Ducks team with ease.

The key to this series will be the Sedin twins waking up and the third and fourth lines of the Canucks continuing to battle hard every shift.

Key Player(s): Sedin Twins, they need to score or else he Canucks are saying seeya later to the playoffs.

My Prediction? Canucks beat the Predators in Six, but drop the first game.

—-

(2) San Jose vs (3) Detroit Red Wings

With the San Jose Sharks still battling to get rid of their ‘choke specialists’ tag, the veteran and experienced Detroit Red Wings continue to do what they do best: Win in the playoffs.

The aged Red Wings dealt with the ‘Yotes easily and have had enough time to get their old bodies healthy for the next round and that’s something the Sharks don’t want.

Datsyuk was a stud in the first round and this team is once again built for the playoffs, not to mention Jimmy Howard has grown into a reliable goalie behind a strong defensive unit.

On the other side of the ice, there is an unproven group of super talented players that continue to battle their past in the playoffs.

Antti Niemi may have won a cup last year but he didn’t’ exactly steal many games, he had more than a few goals put past him against he Kings and is the clear weakness in this San Jose team.

I’d love to see the Sharks meet the Canucks in the Western Finals but unless Joe Thornton throws the team on his back and scores a hat-trick a game, they will find it hard pressed to get past Hockey Town.

Key Player: Leaning on their experience, Nicklas Lidstrom will need to lead by example and get his team past a talented San Jose side.

My Prediction? Detroit is too much to handle, they win in Six

—–

(1) Washington Capitals – (5) Tampa Bay Lightning

A matchup of two of the best shooters in the game with Ovechkin and Stamkos squaring off in this series, but it may just come down to goaltending once again.

Old man time is no issue for Dwayne Roloson and he will look to continue his strong post-season play and hope that other veterans Vincent LEcavalier, Martin St. Louis and Mattias Ohlund can drive their team past a locked-and-loaded Capitals team.

Down the other end of the ice, it’s Bruce Boudreau’s defence-first Capitals who are showing a new side and allowed just 8 goals in the first round against the Rangers.

The usual suspects will need to get it done for the Captials, reline on NIcklas Backstrom, Alexander Semin, Alex Ovechkin and Mike Green to get the job done.

Key Player? Alexander Semin will need to score goals and keep converting the chances that Ovechkin is setting up for him.

My prediction?  Tampa Bay will battle hard but the Capitals are on a mission and are all business this post-season, Caps win in Five

—–

(2) Philadelphia Flyers – (3) Boston Bruins

The Bruins enter the series after winning an emotional series against Montreal but still have a lot to prove.

A historic collapse against the Flyers in last years playoffs will be in their minds as they face a team injected with a healthy Chris Pronger but plagued by inconsistent goaltending.

After using three goalies, all looking horrible at times, the Flyers will hope to get solid play between the pipes to compete with the perennial maverick Tim Thomas, who let in a few soft goals himself in the first series.

This will be the best series in the second round and will be an all out battle; whether it is Chara vs Pronger, Horton vs Briere, Lucic vs Hartnell or Thomas vs whoever stays in the Flyers net the longest.

Key Player: As usual, this Flyers team lives and breathes by the example set by Chris Pronger and will rely on the wily veteran’s example to win this series.

My prediction? Flyers in Seven, with at least three of the games going to overtime.

Agree? Disagree? Think i’m crazy? That’s fine, chime in with your 2-Cents below in the comments section and let us know your predictions and thoughts for the second round of the playoffs.

———–

Henry is a contributor to Sportstream.ca and part of the Bill McLean Sports Show on 88.1 CKDU every Tuesday Morning at 11. You can follow him on twitter at HenryWhitfield, where he live tweets his thoughts during each Mooseheads games