Friday, January 29, 2010

Vinik's Vetting Vexes Vinny Votary*

As I dragged myself out of bed this morning to settle down for a morning reading of the paper along with my tea and oatmeal I was happy to see that the Lightning had a front page, above-the-fold headline on the sports page. Unfortunately it wasn’t about their solid play of late, it was about the latest ownership drama. Immediate reaction across the internet has been doom and gloom (as usual).

For those not familiar with the ownership drama that Lightning fans have been subjected to over the past two seasons, the two main owners – Oren Koules and Len Barrie – don’t like each other and have been scrambling to pay the bills since they’ve bought the team from the Davidson Group. About a week ago it came out that they had to borrow on their TV deal to make payroll last year and had to have a portion of their league revenue sharing forwarded in January to make payroll this season. Good times!

Now it appears that head honcho of the NHL – Gary Bettman is looking to bring someone else into the picture. Jeff Vinik, the main man behind Vinik Asset Management and a minority owner of the Red Sox, has “vetted” the Lightning and according to the Hockey News is “a front-runner to buy the team and is serious in his offer”.

As a hedge fund manager Vinik is known in the financial circles as an aggressive investor who finds high-risk, high-reward projects. In their current financial state the Lightning definitely qualify as high-risk. As for the high-reward portion of the equation that depends on a lot of factors, not the least would be the NHL securing a new television deal and working out a new CBA.

With his ties to the Northeast the “Tampa-to-Hartford” conspiracies should run rampant should he buy the team. Is it possible? Sure, but it’s also possible that the Tampa-to-Orlando high speed rail project makes money. Possible doesn’t mean likely. Bettman wants to keep the NHL in Florida and Tampa has a better fan base than Miami.

With a new name popping up in the latest round of ownership talk the usual rumors about slashing payroll and trading players has begun anew. At the forefront of that talk is the captain and holder of the $10 million salary – Vincent Lecavalier. The “fans” are clamoring at their keyboards to reignite the Vinny to anywhere but here rumors.

The Wizard from Ile Bizard can’t win. If he struggles on the ice then he’s “lazy”, “Le-casual”, or “uninterested”. If he’s hot (like he has been since the start of the second half) then he’s playing well so that other teams will be interested in him or selfishly piling up his stats.

His repeated comments about wanting to stay, management’s repeated statements about him not being on the market are ignored. The anonymous commenters on-line, with their clever names and horrendous spelling know more than the people have dedicated their lives to hockey. So they raise their indignant voices to the high heavens in outrage and threaten to cancel their season tickets.

It becomes repetitive to list the reasons why the chances of Vincent getting traded are slim no matter who owns the team, but I’ll run them down again quickly.

- The no movement clause. Unlike Dan Boyle, the Lightning captain has complete control over his destiny. The team cannot threaten to expose him to waivers in order for him to waive his no-trade clause. To paraphrase Seinfeld – the team has “no hand” in this relationship.

- Vinny likes Tampa. I know that’s a shock to all Canadians out there. How can a native son not want to play in Montreal? He likes the sun, the golf and the relative anonymity. Which leads to the next (and possibly biggest point).

- The media spotlight in Tampa pales in comparison to the rest of the hockey world. In a town where the biggest star in the NHL – Alex Ovechkin – can take a cab to McDonalds and not get harassed, Vinny can go about his business without much hassle. If he goes two games without a goal, there’s minimal grumbling but no one is jumping off the Skyway. If he is traded to Montreal, New York, Toronto, Edmonton or Vancouver then every game he doesn’t score is going to be dissected and analyzed in the papers and on the radio. With a new child on the way does he really want that pressure?

-The salary cap. The same contract that is an “albatross” to the Lightning also makes it hard for another team to bring him into the fold. Let’s take a look at the two teams that have generated the most talk:

Montreal – Salary Cap committed to next year - $44,892,143
New York – Salary Cap committed to next year - $48,596,667

I’m pulling the numbers off of the website. From what I’ve seen they are fairly accurate. Other sites might have some slightly different amounts, but they are all in the same general ballpark.

There is a chance that the salary cap might come down in the next few seasons based on the revenue being generated in the league right now.If that happens neither team has flexibility to bring on a $7 million cap hit. They also don’t have any large salaries that the Lightning would be willing to take on in return. Speaking of the return, certain Lightning fans are deluded as to what Vincent would bring back.

He’s not going to bring in multiple high level prospects, high draft picks and NHL-ready players. If a team is going to take on his money they aren’t going to kill their farm system at the same time. In all likelihood he’ll bring A prospect and A high pick. There might be a NHL player in the package as well for salary cap purposes, but not an ugly contract like Wade Redden’s.

Why would the Lightning take Redden’s $6.5 million cap hit when his salary is also $6.5 million for the next two seasons as well as $5 million for the two years after that? Vincent might cost more money, but he is also on track to put 80 points on the board.

I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a supposed fan base so eager to trade away the best player in the team’s history. Yes, I said it. Marty St Louis may be the heart of the team, but it only goes as far as Vinny does. He is the stick of sugarcane that stirs the Mojito in Tampa.

Without him, the Lightning are down to one line, and let’s see how Stamkos does when the other teams can focus on him 100%. The kid has all the talent in the world, but also has the benefit of having another line that teams have to worry about.

Lightning fans might want to be more worried about St Louis moving at the deadline instead of Lecavalier. There are a lot of teams looking for a winger that are going to miss out on the Ilya Kovalchuk sweepstakes. With a relatively light cap hit ($4 million) for one more year he has the type of contract that can bring a solid return.

New ownership rumors are fun for the internet and talk radio, but fans have to remember that at this point it is all speculation. Vinik can still walk away if he doesn’t like what he sees. If he does invest in the team wouldn’t it be in his best interest to keep a viable product on the ice? Trading the captain isn’t going to improve their play, and most importantly it won’t improve their attendance.

*Votary - noun, a devoted follower or admirer

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Check it out...

I just updated my "Wanted" list. I added a couple of new sets. So if you're wondering what to trade me - just take a gander. It's over there on the right of the screen....look down...little bit further...there ya go!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Time to See What Hath the Mailman Bringith

I know some people don't like maildays, but hey part of the reason I have this blog is to showcase trades and acquisitions. The generosity of the people out there should be showcased. So here we go:

This first one wasn't sent in the mail, I actually picked it up at the flea market a week or so ago.

A Peter Bondra 1998-99 Pacific Aurora Atomic Laser. I'm not sure what I like more - the die-cut holes (to make the card more aerodynamic I guess) or the sparsely attended arena in the background.

The next was an e-bay pickup. Good bless having money in a paypal account.

A 2008-09 Vincent Lecavalier Black Diamond Quad Diamond base card. These are short printed (about one a box I believe) so I know there is no way I was ever going to pull it from a box. On a side note the shipper sent this in a top loader, wrapped in a printout of the auction information and then placed in a white envelope. I don't mind the white envelope, but don't charge me $3.00 in shipping for that.

Another ebay pickup.

2005 Carl Crawford SPXtreme Stats relic. It's numbered to 130, making it the second lowest print run of a Crawford card that I own. All for $.99! The corner is a little dinged, but since it's a personal collection card I don't mind too much.

Thanks to the Troll for getting me one card closer to completion on the 2008 Allen & Ginter. I've made arrangements to make sure the set is completed within the next week or so.

Cards That Need a Good Home

So at some point last year I decided to give Topps 206 a whirl. I picked up a rack pack at the local Target and ripped it open. I thought it was ok, but decided not to persue it. So I have some cards that are looking for a good home. First come, first served. Leave a comment and we'll work out the details.

The cards are:

18 Kenji Johjima
104 Mark Melancon
130 Honus Wagner
131 Kosuke Fukudome
172 Michael Young
247 Huston Street
293 Troy Tulowitzki
35 Erik Bedard - Copper Border
74 Greg Golson - Copper Border

Monday, January 25, 2010

Fan Fest Weekend - Better Than a Day Working on the Condo

Thanks to the good people of Southwest Airlines (and my frequent trips to Las Vegas and Baltimore last year) I had a free flight burning a hole in my pocket. Originally I was going to use it for a trip to Las Vegas sometime this summer, but never being very good at practicing self control I used it this weekend to fly to Baltimore.

The purpose of the visit was two-fold. One – to visit the Greatest Niece in the World, who I haven’t seen since last summer; and two – the Baltimore Orioles Fan Fest 2010. The journey was a success on both fronts.

The GNitW has graduated to walking and single syllable noises since I last saw her. I was pretty sure she threw in an HOLA at one point as well. No doubt the product of spending some time with her Aunt Jojo.

As for the Fan Fest I wasn’t sure what to expect. Having only attended Fests down here in laid back Florida I didn’t know what to expect from a good ol’ Northeastern gathering. By the end of the day I was fairly impressed. There were about 12,000 fellow Orioles fans wandering the halls of the convention center on Saturday and from what I saw it all went pretty smoothly.

Accompanied by my brother-in-law and his brother we arrived at about 11.00, which was when the gates opened. Braving the chilly (at least for this Florida boy) temperatures we wandered around the convention center until we found out what door to enter. Plopping down $10.00 got us in and we were immediately handed a black and orange MASN bag to throw our goodies in.

I had brought some cards to get signed, basically whatever Orioles cards I could find the night before I flew into town so I wasn’t as prepared as I usually am for the Rays fests. It didn’t help that there wasn’t an autograph schedule posted until the day of the fan fest, which was probably smart since it didn’t allow fans to sand bag lines waiting for the popular players.

We headed downstairs to the lower half of the exhibit where the affiliates and partner companies of the team had booths set up. We picked up schedules for the minor leagues, my brother-in-law’s brother was planning on hitting all of the minor league teams stadiums this season with his father so he wanted to start planning right away.

Not being young enough to hit whiffle balls in the miniature stadium that was set up we found the line where prospect and hopeful ace-in-waiting Chris Tillman was taking photos with fans for a small donation. It would end up being the smallest line we would find all day. He seems to be a nice guy and smiled and introduced himself to everyone in the line.

Following that we wandered back upstairs to see who was signing. The organizers had set up a system whereby they would announce who was signing at a particular station an hour before time and then they would let the first 250 people to show up at that station get in line. Everyone who made it into the line was guaranteed to get an autograph from that group of signers.

The fallback was that you usually had to wait at least an hour to get an autograph and the lines filled up quickly. At that point we just decided to get in a random line and hope for the best. We missed the bearded ones – Nick Markakis and Luke Scott, but did luck out with Chris Tillman, Jason Berken and Kam Mickolio (who was there with his hot wife/girlfriend/ friend).

While we were waiting in line, the news broke that the O’s had signed Miguel Tejada to a one year deal. At $6 million it seems a little steep, but if he hits .275 and knocks in more than 50 runs it will be worth it while the future third baseman (Josh Bell) has another year to improve his game. It was amusing to see all of the fans whipping out their cell phones to entertain themselves while waiting – whatever did we do before handheld internet devices were available.

Once the players arrived the line moved fairly quickly. I had Tillman sign the photo that was taken earlier and the other two signed team provided cards. Three new autographs for the collection was good enough for me. We ventured to the room next door which had a ton of game/batting practice used jerseys and gear for sale.

We had undoubtedly missed the good stuff, but there were a ton of Lou Montenez shirts left. I almost pulled the trigger on an orange Juan Samuel (third base coach) jersey, but thought better of it. I also briefly contemplated picking up a vinyl “This is Birdland” sign for $20, but was pretty sure that wouldn’t go over well with the significant other. The boys bought game used batting helmets, possibly for autographs next year and after a reheated pretzel and god awful chicken fingers we were on to the last phase of the day – the clubhouse tour.

For me this was definitely the highlight. I don’t know what’s so fascinating about wandering around the locker rooms of the rich and famous ballplayers, but it was fun. The clubhouse guides were of good cheer and extra information (umpires used to use tobacco juice to rub down the baseballs before Lena Blackburne’s Original Baseball Rubbing Mud came along in 1939).

We were led through the training room, the locker room and then out to the dugout itself. I knew there was a memento of Cal Ripken Sr in the dugout, but didn’t know that there was also a tribute to Earl Weaver as well. You can’t say that the organization ignores its history.

We snapped some photos sitting on the bench and also of the field. The ushers were adamant about not touching the grass as it was “fragile” from the cold weather. They also explained that the seats in the lower level were removed because the concrete was being retreated. After 17 seasons or so Camden Yards was showing some wear and tear so they were repairing some cracks.

Exhausted after a winter day filled with baseball we hiked back to the car and headed out for some Chinese food. I then hopped the train down to D.C. to watch a Caps game with an old friend of mine. It was truly a good day.

Nope. No performance enhancing drugs in here!

Jason Berken once struck out 200 batters in a season simply because his locker was next to Matt Wieters.

Simply one of the best views in all of baseball.

The first of many calls to the bullpen?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

If I Was in Vegas..

...I'd be going broke right now.

Last week was not good. 1-3 and the only win was a loss for my favorite team, the Ravens. Oh well, I can still put a winning record on the table by sweeping the next three match-ups. Since I'm not in town this weekend, well not in my hometown anyway, the odds are presented by Yahoo.

Here we go:

AT INDIANAPOLIS (-8) vs New York Jets - I see this as a carbon copy of the Ravens match-up last week. Revis will shut down Reggie Wayne, but Peyton will beat the pressure with short screens and quick routes. The defense will do enough to pressure Mark Sanchez into a couple of key turnovers.

AT NEW ORLEANS (-4) vs Minnesota - This is the game that bad Brett Favre comes back to haunt the Vikings. I still don't trust him. The Saints may not smother you on defense, but they are very opportunistic and force turnovers. I think they win going away. Maybe if Prince's Vikings song had been better I'd pick them, but for now I'm going with the Saints.

So there you are. Now I'm off to the Orioles Fan Fest and then a Caps game tonight. Good times!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Slug in a ditch!

The worst loss I ever witnessed personally was a 10-2 loss vs the Rangers in November of 1998. I'm so glad the Lightning tried to match that effort in futility tonight.

Lacking in desire.
Just plain awful.

Even those words don't adequately explain what happened on the ice in Madison Square Garden. I'm sure there will be the usual post game responses from the players:

"We have to put tonight's game behind us."
"We were just outplayed tonight."
"I don't know what happened, we just didn't have it tonight."
"Frankly, I had the over on goals scored so winner, winner chicken dinner!"

O.k. so we probably won't hear anyone admit to the last one, but for all intents and purposes (what a silly phrase when you type it out) the season is over for the Bolts. They don't have the extra gear needed to make a playoff run.

Is that disappointing? A little, but it's not the end of the world. Despite inconsistent play they have improved over the last two seasons. This team is on the right path and with the right moves during the trading deadline and in the off-season they could seriously make a run next year.

So, the point of this post, which I admit is typed in haste and the disillusionment that follows a nasty defeat, is that I'm declaring the season over. No playoff revenue for the hometown boys this season. If the Lightning prove me wrong and go on a sudden hot streak I'll be the first to admit I was wrong, but I don't see that happening.

I'm upset with the loss and the inconsistently that they've displayed this season, but I'm not going to curse Tocchet's name or carry on about how certain players are lazy and nonchalant about the team's affairs.

Nor am I going to call for the owners' heads or question Brian Lawton's manhood. Because deep down I believe that they are focused on building a winning team. Whatever their motivation may be, be it pride, money or a sense of community, they all have vested interests in putting a winning team on the ice.

Fans tend to forget who's money is at stake. We might shell out a couple of a hundred of dollars, perhaps even thousands on season tickets and merchandise, but that pales in comparison to the millions the owners put up - even if it's not as many millions as they said they would put up.

Thank you for listening to a mini-rambling rant about a team you don't care about. By the way, the title is a reference to how TV versions of movies used to dub over curse words. In the Michael J Fox/ James Woods blockbuster "The Hard Way" one of the stations dubbed in "Slug in Ditch" for the more vulgar Son of a B*tch. It was funny only because there was a scene where it was repeated about 6 times in a row....hmmm maybe you had to be there.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Random Card That I Find Hysterical

I was sorting through some Montreal Canadians cards and stumbled against this forgotten gem. It appears that Upper Deck stole Turner Stevenson's online dating photo. There are few photos out there that sum up the early '90's more than this one.

Hey ladies, thanks for checking out my profile. Canadians' fan? Nope, I just got drafted by them. That's not going to change me though. I'll still rollerblade through the park on Sundays. I love the way my flowing locks blow in the wind when I skate really fast. So you know give me a call, eh.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

If I Was In Las Vegas Part II

So last week started out well. I went 2-0 on Saturday and then crashed back to earth on Sunday with a nice 0-2. The consolation prize for splitting the week was watching the Ravens pick apart the rotting corpse of the Patriots dynasty.

Now as we move into the second week of playoffs the number one seeds get involved and things get a little more difficult. Do the upstart Jets and Ravens keep rolling over the higher seeds or do they succumb to their inherent flaws?

Which Farve are we going to see this weekend? If it's the one from early in the season then the Vikings roll, if it's Gunslinger Brett then they're in trouble.

Without anymore crappy analysis let's get to the game. As always the lines are based on the current odds posted in Saturday's St Pete Times (one of the Top 10 Sports Sections in the Country!)

ARIZONA (+7) at New Orleans - The Saints defense thrives on turnovers, but Kurt Warner isn't going to give them any. It could turn out to be a shootout like last week and I think that leaves a rusty team like New Orleans at a disadvantage.

at INDIANAPOLIS (-6.5) vs Baltimore - I want to talk myself into the Ravens this week, but it's tough. Peyton Manning owns them haven won seven in a row. He will have too many options (something Tom Brady didn't have last week) for the Ravens to cover. If the team from Baltimore wants to have a chance they need to dominate in the running game and keep Manning off the field. And yes I'm also counting on the reverse jinx factor as well.

DALLAS (+3) at Minnesota - I don't trust Brett Farve.

at SAN DIEGO (-7) vs N.Y. Jets - This was tough, but I think the Chargers run away with this one. The Jets will try to muck it up and make it an ugly game, but I'm feeling two Mark Sanchez interceptions will turn the game for San Diego.

Bonus Prediction compliments of Link in Pittsburgh - Ed Reed will return an interception for a touchdown - lateral free.

If you're in the Tampa Bay Area c'mon out to Varsity Club on US 19 and Sunset Point Road for the game tonight.

P.S. Guess who has two thumbs and is attending the Orioles Fan Fest in Baltimore next week? THIS GUY!!!!!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Fifteen Games to Make or Break a Season

Here we go with the MOST IMPORTANT 15 GAMES OF THE SEASON! Ok, maybe that’s a bit of an over-statement, after all, don’t coaches always say that every game is just as important as the next? However, if the Bolts are serious about making a playoff run they do need to play their best hockey from now until the Olympic break.

After Thursday night’s lackluster performance the Lightning sit four points out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The good news is that they do have at least one game in hand on all the teams ahead of them except for the Thrashers. A timely hot streak could vault them up the standings rapidly.

Eight of the next fifteen games are at the Ice Palace, where the Bolts have captured 11 of their 18 wins this season. More importantly, nine of those games are with teams ahead of them in the conference. The quickest way to move up the standings is to beat the teams ahead of you in regulation.

The next few weeks will also determine if the Lightning are buyers or sellers at the trading deadline. If they’re in the race they could stand to pick up a top six scorer and another defenseman. On the other hand, an extended losing streak would close the door on their playoff hopes and turn them into sellers.

With a club that is struggling financially that could mean that a lot of players could be packing their bags. Vincent would top the list (as usual), but he could be joined by Marty St. Louis, Jeff Halpern, Ryan Malone, Kurtis Foster, and Antero Nittymaki. All of those players could all generate interest among playoff bound teams.

The team is at an interesting crossroads. Coming off of two awful seasons they have shown improvement in several areas. The overhauled defense has been much stronger. The development of Steven Stamkos and Ryan Malone as goal scorers has been a joy to watch, but the fact remains that ownership is struggling to afford this team.

Even though Brian Lawton has put a competitive team on the ice the fans still aren’t showing up. The posted attendance for the game against the Panthers was over 13,000. They were lucky if 9,000 fans were actually in the seats. If the fans aren’t spending money then ownership is going to have find ways to cut costs and the number one way to do that is to shed salaries.

Therefore, those names listed above as trade possibilities would be dealt for draft picks and prospects which would halt any progress this season’s team has shown. Not only that the fans wouldn’t be motivated to show up leading to less revenue and the downward cycle would continue.

All of that could be avoided with a nice five or six game winning streak. That means there has to be consistent effort, which is something that has been lacking from this team all season. Beating Washington one night means nothing if they go out flat against Florida the next game.

So how are they going to put a winning streak together? It’s not rocket science. If they play with solid goaltending, aggressive forechecking, and responsible puck handling then they will win games. They have enough talent to be in the playoffs, they just need to realize that they don’t have enough talent to win without working hard.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Downie vs Ovech....errrr... Bradley! WHO YOU GOT?

My original plan was to write a clever little post like “12 Reasons the Lightning Won Last Night” or something along those lines before I realized I wasn’t really clever and it would take too much work to come up with 12 reasons the Lightning won. Besides, there is only one thing from Tuesday night’s game that everyone is discussing this morning.

Stephane Veilleux scored a goal!

Ok. So that’s not the thing that everyone around the interwebs is writing about, but it’s still rather noteworthy since it’s only his second of the season and he was a healthy scratch a few games ago.

What everyone is talking about is the Downie vs. Ovechkin vs. Bradley melee that occurred in the third period. If you haven’t seen it, let me break it down for you step by step as viewed from section 323:

1. With the Caps in the Lightning zone Washington Captain Alexander Ovechkin has the puck on his stick. Seconds later his stick is shattered in two by an alleged slashing that wasn’t called. The purported slasher – Steve Downie.

2. After sitting befuddled on the ice at the lack of a call, Mr. Ovechkin skates to his bench for a new stick. Upon receiving said stick he skates to rejoin the play.

3. By this time young Mr. Downie has the puck and is attempting to skate it to center ice.

4. Ovechkin picks up a head of steam and with bad intentions tries to knock Downie onto Channelside Drive. Former Capital captain and current Lightning third-liner Jeff Halpren called it a “dirty hit”. On first glance it looks like Ovechkin led with his knee, but upon further review he hit Downie awkwardly, but cleanly.

5. “Psycho” Steve Downie was enraged by the hit and started throwing down on the much larger Ovechkin. He snuck a solid right hand in before the linesmen and refs intervened and led them each to the penalty box to feel shame for their roughing-ness.

6. During their two minutes of reflection they continued to jaw at each other while some fantastic 4-on-4 action took place on the ice. Upon completion of their penalties the pair left their respective boxes and rejoined the action.

7. Downie immediately put his stick around Ovechkin’s mid-section (for which he would receive a 2 minute hooking penalty) and Ovechkin held the stick while they continued to say unpleasant things about each other.

8. As they drifted into the Lightning zone tied together like 3-legged race participants they finally decided their differences could not be settled verbally. Therefore, resolution could only come via the time honored tradition of fist-a-cuffs.

9. Ovechkin obliged by squaring up, dropping the gloves and removing his helmet. Downie responded likewise and was ready to begin the pummel-fest when he was blindsided by a charging Matt Bradley.

10. Bradley apparently left the bench ( edit - after watching the replays Bradley was already off the bench, it looks like the change was legal) to protect his 6’2 233lb captain from the merciless beating that the smaller Downie was going to inflict upon him (side note – the Lightning website lists Downie as 6’0 tall. If he’s six foot I’m a Pulitzer Prize winning writer).

11. Bradley and Downie grapple for awhile before being separated. In the end Bradley gets a minor for instigating, a major for fighting, a 10-minute misconduct and a game misconduct. Downie gets the hooking minor, fighting major and 10 minute misconduct, Ovechkin gets a minor for being unsportsmanlike (I assume for dropping the gloves and not fighting).

Now having witnessed all of those events let me state for the record I have no problem with what Alex Ovechkin did. He felt he was slashed and he looked for retribution, legally. His hit on Downie was clean and then when Downie offered Ovechkin answered the bell. It wasn’t the Russian’s fault that Bradley thought he couldn’t handle a fight.

Downie was doing what Downie does, stirring up trouble. He has a bad reputation in the NHL for his past misdeeds, but at least he fights his own fights unlike some troublemakers (helloooo Steve Avery). If Ovechkin would have been allowed to fight with him it would have stopped there.

However, Bradley had to be a hero and “save” his teammate. Isn’t the day in age of protecting superstars slowly coming to a close. The top offensive talent in the league, guys like Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Joe Thornton, and Vincent are big guys. They’re not 175lb finesse players like Gretzky was. These boys can hold their own on the ice and fight their own battles.

Bradley’s argument that the Lightning would have done the same if Stamkos was being attacked is invalid. Sure someone would step in if Stammer was being harassed, but not if Steven had already dropped the gloves. Nor would they come off the bench to do it.

I have a feeling that Mr. Bradley may be enjoying a little bit of a league imposed vacation the next time these two teams meet courtesy of his actions. The league likes to police these extracurricular activities so a 10 game suspension wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility.

One of the fans in front of me, resplendent in his varsity style Lightning jacket (with leather sleeves!) yelled out at Ovechkin, “Why don’t you fight your own fights, Ovechkin!” Which I found odd since that’s exactly what he was trying to do.

If Downie was the most surprised player on the ice, then I think Ovechkin was the second most surprised. He wanted to fight, he was ready to fight, and then he had it taken away from him. (Kudos to the Lightning PA team for showing the Rocky IV clip where Stallone is “Chopping the big Russian down!!!!”)

Fighting is a part of the game and there is a certain way to do it. Charging off the bench and blindsiding your opponent is not the way to do it. I award Bradley no points for chivalry and request that if he is not suspended when the two teams clash at the end of the month, that he and Mr. Downie square up at a face off and go after each other on equal footing.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Lightning Are Back In Town

An odd note that I came across on the internets last night. Apparently, the ice in Tampa wasn't going to be ready for the morning skate because the circus just left town. Which led to the following twitter comment from JaspersRink (a Caps centric blog):

Circus has been in town since Koules/Barrie took over. RT @TarikElBashir Ice might not be ready for the AM skate. Circus was just in town.

One of the few comments on twitter that made me laugh out loud.

With that being said the Caps do roll into town led, as always, by their new captain Alexander Ovechkin. There will be a lot of pressure on the Lightning blue line to contain the Russian sniper and his cast of secondary scorers.

Not only is the offense on a role it looks like they have a stable netminder in rookie Michal Neuvirth. The AHL playoff MVP from last season has stepped in for the injured Semyon Varlamov and posted a 5-2 record with a .928 saver percentage in his last 7 games.

His play has been so exceptional that veteran netminder Jose Theodore has become expendable and his name is starting to pop up in trade rumors. With Varalamov hoping to be back soon it appears the Caps will go down the stretch with two youngsters in the net.

Of course the looming stat for this matchup is that the Caps have beaten the Lightning 12 straight games. In this day and age that's a ridiculesly long losing streak.

So how do the Lightning win? It's not nuclear science. Stay out of the penalty box, back check, limit the bad passes, shoot often, play responsible in the defensive zone. That's it, that's all there is.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Is It Me Or.....

Does anyone else think it's odd that Apollo Anton Ono is pimping Nyquil? From my limited internet research, Nyquil containes substances banned by Olympic drug testing rules.

It would be like Mark McGwire promoting the use of illegal steriods....

Saturday, January 9, 2010

A Couple of Padded Envelopes

Sometimes I wonder if my mailman thinks I'm dealing in illicit activities. I'll go out on a limb and say that no one else in my complex gets the amount of little, yellow, padded envelopes jammed into their mailslot as I do.

Here's what this week had to offer:

Beardy came through with these two gems. I unloaded some Upper Deck Masterpiece cards that were taking up space in exchange for one Brian Roberts Relic Card. Much to my surprise the Bearded One threw in an extra won. Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!

For Christmas I gave my family a list of 10 cards that I would like to add to my personal collection. Needless to say they didn't get any of them. Therefore, I was left to acquire them on my own. This is the first, compliments of Ebay. Vincent's Upper Deck rookie card.

I bought a pack of Upper Deck Champs last year and didn't care for it. So I decided to send them out for TTM autographs. I received a Pascal LeClaire last week and then today the second one came back. ESPO! The man responsible for the Tampa Bay Lightning's existence and current radio co-host for the home games.

Thanks Mr Mailman for making the long, cold walk to the mailbox worth it!

If I Was In Vegas....

Time for me to do something that hundreds of thousands of others are doing (or have already done). I'm going to pick the winners of this week's playoff games. Well let's say these are the bets I would be making if I happened to be in Vegas.

The lines are based on what's posted in this morning's St Pete Times. Home team is in all caps.

N.Y. Jets (+2) over CINCINNATI

Because when you can bet on a rookie quarterback on the road in a playoff game - you have to do it!

DALLAS (-3) over Philadelphia

When you have a chance to bet on a team that hasn't won a playoff game since 1996 0 you have to do it!

NEW ENGLAND (-3) over Baltimore

I have zero confidence in Baltimore's secondary and ability to not take stupid penalties.

Green Bay (pk) over ARIZONA

No magic for Kurt Warner this year

I in no way find it ironic that I'm posting this while watching MTV's True Life: I've got a gambling problem is on.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Lights Out on the Lightning

Apperently the Lightning pissed off the hockey gods by scoring 3 goals on 7 shots against the Devils. Why else would the lights suddenly go out and not be able to be restarted?

No news yet as to if the game will be picked up from where it was left off or if Martin Brodeur gets a do-over. Since both teams play tomorrow and aren't sceduled to meet again this season the league is in a bit of a pickle.

A bizarre season continues for the Bolts

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Some Final Thoughts on the Hall of Fame

Alright , now that I’ve had a day to collect my thoughts on today’s Hall of Fame announcement I must admit I’m still a little baffled by the results. I’ve made my arguments for who I thought should have gotten in this year so I won’t go over it again. Needless to say the voters disagreed with my views.

I am glad that Andre Dawson made it in, kind of in the same way that I’m glad Jim Rice was voted in last year. At least now we don’t have to read the yearly “Hawk should be in the Hall” articles. Of course it means at least 50 writers have to come up with some new material for next year, but that’s their problem, not mine.

My biggest beef this year centers around Roberto Alomar not getting elected on the first ballot. The argument has been made that he’s a really good player, but not a “great” player. How someone who has 10 Gold Gloves (most of any second baseman) and led the major leagues in hits for a decade can’t be considered “great” I don’t know, but part of the fun of sports is debating levels of greatness.

I’ve always considered myself a bit of an optimist when it comes to sports. I like believing that sports writers are objective when it comes to their jobs and can put their personal feelings aside when they are tasked with the responsibility of voting on someone’s professional legacy.

After this year I must say that I’ve lost some of that positive karma. There are writers out there that let their personal beliefs cloud their professional judgment. For some players this is a benefit, for others a hindrance. It’s not fair, but it is better than the alternative. A BCS-esque computer process that completely removes human emotion from the equation and elects based solely on a player’s statistical resume.

Let’s take Alomar as an example. For most people the memory associated immediately with him is the spitting incident involving umpire John Hirschbeck. If he never spits on the umpire how does that change the way people view him as a player?

Do voters use that as an excuse to not vote for him? The stereotype of the bitter, overweight sports writer is as tired as the one about bloggers living in their mother’s basement, but could there be a little bit of a truth in the stale saying?

Did he lose votes because he wasn’t the most outgoing of players? If he had been good with a quote like Rickey Henderson would he have gotten more votes? It’s hard to say because the voters get to hide behind the anonymity of the voting process. The voters are writers, right? Why not have them have to write a paragraph or two on the ballots on why they voted in or left off a particular player?

I have a feeling that would eliminate the blank ballots and old guard who don’t believe that any players deserve 100% of the vote. Having to justify their votes might also have them take it a little more seriously. If they can justify not voting for a person with a reasoned argument then more power to them.

Or why not blow up the whole system and convert to a system similar to the NFL’s? After the five year waiting period have someone nominate an eligible player and present an argument to a group of Hall of Fame Members. I might tweak to make the panel consist of members, some press and select fans (but no owners, owners are evil!). Make it like a jury trial.

Of course they could not make any changes so that there is a lively discussion about it every year, and with the steroid-era players becoming eligible the discussion will indeed be lively. I just hope that if there is no change then at least the voters take their responsibility seriously. That means no more casting votes for David Segui,

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Congrats to Andre Dawson, but I must confess to being baffled as to how Roberto Alomar didn't make it. Maybe next year, eh?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A New Year Means A New Strategy

The calendar has turned on a new year and so that means a couple of things.

1. The hockey season is halfway over. For the first time in a couple of seasons the Bolts are still in playoff contention.

2. New commitments have been made.

3. I've turned in my entries for the 2010 Lawton Chile's Memorial Death Pool. It's juvenile and in bad taste, but hey no one is perfect, eh?

4. I have a new collecting strategy for 2010.

Overall, 2009 was a pretty good year for me in terms of collecting. I picked up the writing on this site, met some great traders and actually recouped some of my investments by selling some cards on e-bay.

Some things didn't work out so well. I didn't finish off the Allen & Ginter set or any other set. I also didn't get rid of enough cards. When you have 80,000 cards in a closet (and on a desk, and a counter, and a dresser) then getting rid of 300 cards here and there doesn't make much of a dent.

At this point I need to get rid of boxes at a time. Therefore, with some inspiration from this site, I've decided to separate my hockey and football cards into teams and donate them, along with some junk wax baseball, to local children's hospitals.

However, my loyal readers will have first crack at them so don't despair. Let me know your favorite team and I'll see what I can do for you.

In addition to that I'm going to be a little bit wiser in my purchasing. It is my hope that in 2010 my card spending is budget neutral. That means I'll only spend as much as I make selling cards. The good news is that I do have about a $30.00 head start thanks to a couple of successful auctions in December.

Buying boxes is out of the question for right now so instead of collecting this sets I'm going to delve into the wide world of player collecting. That's right I'm crossing the line.

The players are few:


Carl Crawford
Adam Jones


Vincent Lecavalier
Peter Bondra

I've updated most of the player collections (except for Adam Jones since I just thought of him 5 seconds ago on my new Zistle page. Check it out! For trade purposes also feel free to send me your unwanted O's, Rays, and Lightning cards.

It is my hope that I can reduce my collection to the point where it all fits in half a closet and has a more personal feel to it.

If for some reason you need cards from 1988-2008 let me know and I'll see what I can put together for you.

So that's the plan. Who knows if it will keep, but at least it's a direction

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Wasteland's 2009 Card of the Year

I acquired a lot of cards this year. I bought a lot (too many considering I was unemployed for six months), and picked up a bunch through trades. Out of all of these I have found one card that stands above all others. One card that makes all other cards gleam a little less.

Oddly enough, and unlike last year's winner, this card was not a 2009 release. I didn't pull it from a pack or out of a little, yellow, padded envelope in the mail. Nor did it come from a card show or eBay.

It came from the most American of market places - the flea market. To be specific Oldsmar Flea Market (The Mightest in the South!)The dealer we got it from isn't even around anymore, or at least he hasn't been there the last couple of times I've gone.

He had just a single case of cards on an old, beat up, folding table. There were about 15 cards in the case and all of them were either higher end relic cards or autograph cards. There were two or three Jason Bartlet auto's, something I considered but didn't feel like dropping money on.

After talking with the guy for about 5 minutes I realized that he didn't really know too much about cards. His prices seemed a little low for the quality of cards that he had, so I'm not sure where he got them from, not did I really care.

I finally spotted a card that I was interested in and asked him how much. He said $15.00, I countered with $9.00.

He accepted and this beauty below was mine.

A 2007 UD Black Quad Jersey-Auto Precious Materials Auto card numbered 45/50. The swatches are all white and as usual Carl's autograph leaves a lot to be desired but to me it's quite a fantastic card and the new centerpiece of my Crawford collection.