NHL Midseason Awards

By David Wilson

Hart Trophy

Evgeni Malkin, C/RW, Pittsburgh Penguins

Evgeni Malkin has the numbers, but what makes his season even more impressive is that he's doing it without Sidney Crosby.

Sidney Crosby has barely played this year and the Penguins are still afloat in the cutthroat Atlantic Division. A lot of credit has to go to James Neal who’s been one of the league’s biggest surprises this year, but the difference has been Malkin’s return to true superstar form. He leads the league with 58 points and his 26 goals are tied for fourth in the NHL.

Runner-up: James Neal, W, Pittsburgh Penguins


Norris Trophy

Erik Karlsson, D, Ottawa Senators

The Senators have been one of the league’s bigger surprises and much of that has to do with the play of Karlsson. The defenseman’s 40 assists are second among all NHL players behind only Henrik Sedin. He may only have seven goals, but when you consider that the leading defenseman only has 13 that’s a completely serviceable number more than made up for by his passing.

Runner-up: Zdeno Chara, D, Boston Bruins


Vezina Trophy

Jonathan Quick, G, Los Angeles Kings

Quick has been the total package for the Kings this season. Los Angeles has scored the fewest goals in the NHL, yet, thanks to their All-Star goaltender, currently sit in seventh place in the Western Conference. A fun side note, if Quick does win the Vezina, it will mean it’s been four straight years that the Vezina Trophy winner is an American.

Runner-up: Henrik Lundqvist, G, New York Rangers


Calder Trophy

Gabriel Landeskog, LW, Colorado Avalanche

This award was Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ to lose, so it’s a shame that he’s landed on IR, but if it couldn’t be him Landeskog is doing a great job to show he’s worthy. The left winger may just have 10 goals and 16 assists, but he’s a plus-12 and has been an instrumental part of the Avalanche’s surprise season that has them right in the mix for the eighth playoff spot out west.

Runner-up: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C, Edmonton Oilers


Jack Adams Award

Paul MacLean, Ottawa Senators

No one expected this out of the MacLean in his first year in Ottawa. His Senators were expected by many to be the worst team in the NHL, instead they’re likely playoff bound. Not bad for a guy in his first career season as a head coach.

Runner-up: John Tortorella, New York Rangers


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A consolation prize

By David Wilson

It wasn’t long ago that Brad Lidge was the best closer in baseball. It wasn’t long before that that Lidge was thought to be done. And it wasn’t long before that that he was one of baseball’s premiere closers.

Who knows? Maybe Brad Lidge will be celebrating another World Series title, but this time with the Nationals.

What I’m getting at is that you never know what you’re getting with Lidge. In 2008 he saved all 41 of his opportunities and recorded the final out of the Phillies’ World Series victory over the Rays. Of course, the next year he posted a 7.51 ERA before settling down when he was playing over the past two years. He pitched 19.1 innings last year but had an 1.40 ERA.

Another positive is he won’t have to face Albert Pujols! He’s in the AL now, so maybe things will be a little bit smoother for Lights Out Lidge.

The fact of the matter though is that he’s at best the Nationals’ third best reliever. Drew Storen is the closer. Tyler Clippard is the primary eighth inning guy. Lidge will compete to be the second setup guy and take seventh inning duties. Bullpen depth is always important and this is a low-risk, high-reward deal for Washington.

So maybe it wasn’t the free agent signing that Nats fans hoped their team was going to make this week, but this is something they should be cautiously optimistic about. Lidge is still better than most middle relievers in the majors and has a more proven track record. It’s unlikely that he’ll ever recapture even 75-percent of the glory he had in his prime, but the Nationals don’t need that and Lidge doesn’t either. At 34 years old, no one expects Lidge to be a lockdown closer, but all he has to do is a serviceable reliever for this signing to pay off for Washington

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The Greatest Rivalry In Sports

By Brian Kubasik

(Ed. note: We like to stay unbiased on this sight, but we’re both Terps fans and Brian even works at the university. That being said, Brian means every word of this.)

I know it’s not the most historic rivalry.

We play 279 miles away from each other.

We don’t compete for students.

We have nothing in common.

One side even feels the incessant need to tell the other they’re “Not our rival”.

But that’s what makes it great. The Maryland Terrapins have no reason to be rivals with the Duke Blue Devils other than what has happened on the court and since the new millennium began, no two opponents have met more often in big games that end with one delivering a crushing blow to the other.

Alex Len figures to be one of the new faces of the rivalry for however long he stays at Maryland.

It’s gone on since 2000 when Juan Dixon and his Terps ended Duke’s undefeated reign atop the ACC, all the way until Greivis Vasquez lead his senior laden squad past the Blue Devils as the two played for the 2010 ACC regular season title. In between everything that you could want in a rivalry happened, whether it was Duke rallying from 22 points down to ruin Maryland’s first ever trip to the Final Four or the Terps getting run off the court in Cameron Indoor eight years later. The intensity of this rivalry has brought out the best in great players like Dixon, Jason Williams, Vasquez and Shane Battier, but no two people personify it like Mike Krzyzewski and Gary Williams. These two coaches embodied everything that made their programs great, and also what made the two fan bases hate each other. First Krzyzewski, who is always under control but no matter what he says about your team you can’t help but feel like he’s talking down to you because he thinks him and his team are superior, which to be fair  is most of the time the case. Then you have the recently retired Gary Williams who has always had a chip on his shoulder bigger than the entire state of Maryland. Gary was as passionate and fiery as any coach in America and if you weren’t with him you were against him. He would do anything in his power to beat you.

Maryland fans hate Duke. They hate that they think they’re better than everyone. They hate the choreographed chants and cheer sheets the Cameron Crazies use. They hate the flopping and the hacking and watching them get every call in every big game. Duke hates Maryland. While they respect the hell out of Carolina they don’t feel like the Terps are worth their time. They hate the vulgarity. They hate the battery throwing (might have a point on that one), but most of all they hate that Maryland just will not go away.

I could ramble on this subject for hours telling you about great games and players in this rivalry, but the two teams meet again in February so luckily you can read all about it then. Until then really all there is to say about tonight’s game is thank you Gary, I love you. And of course, F*ck Duke.

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Thoughts fit for a Prince

Prince Fielder waves goodbye to the Brewers, the team with which he spent his entire career, to join the Tigers, his father's longtime team.

By David Wilson

Well we’ve been meaning to get back to this for a while, but we’ve needed the right moment to get back into it. The conclusion of the Prince Fielder saga affected so many teams, including several teams in the mid-Atlantic area we focus on, that this seemed like as good a time as ever (our very own Brian Kubasik may agree with that, but I’ll let him tell you about that).

But first, let me just say welcome back. Lots has happened in the world since we’ve left you. Not much has happened to us, so let’s get into it:

The Deal

We’ll start with what it means for the Tigers. It means Detroit now gets to watch not one, but two of the best first basemen in the game night in and night for what could potentially be the next nine years.

It also means the Tigers are without a doubt the favorites to repeat as AL Central champions and probably the favorite in what is now a loaded American League. Of course the Yankees and Red Sox are always contenders and the revamped Angels are going to be a popular pick after all the big moves they made, but the Tigers cruised through the Central and they got the second best free agent on the market. They’re the team to look for in the AL, but that’s going to be a fun league to watch all season.

It also apparently means that Fielder was fine with DHing all along. Or when the market soured he had to suck it up. Or Miguel Cabrera offered to DH. That remains to be seen.

The Reporting

First of all, I’m grateful that I had the hours between 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. off Tuesday and the room to myself for the latter half of that time period. This let me follow the crazy saga that was the final two hours of Prince Fielder drama.

This was one of the strangest and most telling coverage of a free agent I can recall. Even with Albert Pujols’ and LeBron James’ signing, we had some sort of idea where they were going as time wound down. Not with Prince.

I guess the right place to start is Sunday night. At this time it appeared to be between the Nationals and Rangers. Washington had been the front-runner for some time, but Texas was still there.

Then two unfounded rumors began swirling on Twitter. One had Fielder on his way to Arlington. One had him on his way to DC. It turned out neither was right.

Fast forward to Tuesday. The rumor of Prince heading to Texas hadn’t been brought up again by its initial source while Scott Swaim, who started the Washington rumor, stood by his reporting and said the deal had already been signed. Then, John Heyman confirmed it. Prince Fielder had signed an eight-year deal in Washington.

Except the Jon Heyman that you may know from CBS, spells his name without an “h.” John Heyman was a fake account. Minutes later, Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports reported that Fielder was nearing a deal with the Tigers. Then Jon Heyman confirmed it. Prince was heading to Detroit.

The Impact

We’ll start with the local focus. First of all, I don’t think the Orioles were ever a legitimate suitor. Though Prince would have put up some big time numbers at Camden Yards, there’s no way Fielder was going to leave a perennial contender in the Brewers for bottom-dwelling Baltimore.

The bigger impact is on the Nationals. Washington appeared to be the front-runner the entire way and at several points Tuesday afternoon, it seemed as if the Nats were on the verge of sealing the deal. Until they didn’t.

For the Nats though, it’s not the end of the world. As I stated on my Twitter minutes after the deal was signed, the Nationals are still in position to contend. Maybe not for the World Series, but I’d still say they have a great shot at winning one of the two Wild Cards, they’re just not quite at that elite level that signing Fielder would have put them at. They’re probably a year or two away from that. Now the team needs to find a long-term center fielder and extend Ryan Zimmerman with the money they could have thrown at Fielder. But that discussion is for another time.

Another interesting thought for Washington is that the the DH (or should I say the NL’s lack of one) cost the Nationals Prince. The Nats were willing to go to seven years, but no higher. A seven-year deal would have made Prince 34 at the end of the deal. Fine, first basemen play until they’re 34, but 36? Fielder isn’t exactly a Gold Glover now. At 34, his fielding will have likely declined enough that he’d already be a defensive liability. At 36? I don’t think the Nationals wanted to see what he was like in the field then.

And last, but not least, the Rangers find themselves in sort of a similar place to the Nationals, except they’re still ready to contend. They already brought in Yu Darvish and now can keep Josh Hamilton long-term with the money they could have thrown at Prince.

And don’t worry Rangers fans, just because I didn’t mention you earlier for teams contending in the AL doesn’t mean I forgot about you. Just know it’s not going to be easy. But I’m not sure if Fielder would have made that any easier.

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College Football: Week 5 Preview

By Brian Kubasik
Texas A&M-Arkansas, ESPN- This game is being played in Texas Stadium, and if the turf is in better condition than it was Monday night expect a shootout. Even if it isn’t in better shape you should probably expect a shootout considering the state of these offenses (and defenses). The talented Ryan Tannehill leads the Aggies offense but I think Arkansas’s defense has enough speed to at least slow down A&M, while the Aggies can’t say the same about their defense.

Baylor-Kansas State, ABC/GamePlan-
Baylor faces its first real test since their opening night thriller. Robert Griffin III. Kansas State has some nice momentum after surprising Miami last week. Robert Griffin III. Kansas State should try sneaking a 12th defender on the field. Robert Griffin III. Robert Griffin III. Robert Griffin III.

Clemson-Virginia Tech, ESPN2-
Clemson has been one of the pleasant surprises of this college football season knocking off Auburn and Florida State after some early struggles. Unlike the Auburn and Florida State games Clemson has to go on the road for this test; and while it’s not quite a night game in Lane Stadium it’s pretty close. Sammy Watkins and Clemson have been great so far, but their run ends this weekend at the hands of Frank Beamer and his Hokies.

Alabama-Florida, CBS- The SEC on CBS is back, which means not only is the best theme song in college football back but so is everyone’s favorite Unlce Verne. The Gators are home underdogs for the first time in eight years and Will Muschamp will have them ready to take their shot at the Tide. Unfortunately for them Alabama makes a living on going into hostile environment and pounding the entire team, school, and state into submission. Roll Tide.

Nebraska-Wisconsin, ABC-
Everybody will watch this game just to see Russell Wilson succeed and laugh at NC State for kicking him off the team. Or they’re going to watch to see a top ten showdown in Nebraska’s first Big 10 game. Either one or the other. Russell Wilson was the best quarterback in the ACC last year, and if he can tear up ACC defenses imagine what he can do to the Big 10. I like Nebraska but Wilson gives the badgers offense too much versatility.

Under the Radar Game to Watch
North Carolina-East Carolina

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Now what?

By David Wilson
Twelve hours after the most exciting night of regular season baseball in recent memory, the Red Sox and Braves feel like two college kids with bad hangovers asking “what happened?”

More important than what happened, is what will happen now.

For the Red Sox
With Red Sox Nation collectively forgetting how lucky Boston sports have been in the past 11 years (winning seven championships including two in baseball), Terry Francona is on the hot seat. It seems unlikely that he will be fired though. But that doesn’t mean all of this year’s team will go unscathed. David Ortiz and Jacoby Ellsbury are both about to become free agents.

While it’s hard to imagine Ortiz in anything but a Boston jersey, that may need to happen if the Sox want to keep around one of this year’s (unlikely) MVP candidates. Ellsbury became just what the BoSox hoped they were going to get out of Carl Crawford and it seems unlikely that the Red Sox would want to have two similar sized contracts given to two players that ideally play so similarly. However, Jacoby felt like the only one pulling his weight in the last month and if Boston wants to remain competitive into the coming seasons it needs to do everything it can to keep the outfielder around.

For the Braves
A team known for postseason choke-jobs got it out of the way early this year. Unlike the Red Sox, the Braves shouldn’t be worried too much about their future. Aside from Chipper Jones, Atlanta has a very young team. Craig Kimbrel, despite his blown save, is the likely Rookie of the Year and Freddie Freeman gives the ATL another candidate for the award. These two join last year’s Rookie of the Year Jason Heyward, who had a very bad sophomore slump this season, and a rotation that when healthy and performing has its own potential three-headed-monster in Tim Hudson, Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson plus the up-and-coming Brandon Beachy.

The Braves are always going to be competitive and there’s no reason to think that will be any different going forward.

For the Rays
The biggest winner of last night was probably the Rays. For all the talk a few months ago of being dead in the water, Tampa Bay now has a legitimate chance to make a World Series run. Evan Longoria’s September surge gives them as big a superstar in the lineup as almost any team in the postseason to go with a couple other supporting cast members like Ben Zobrist and Matt Joyce.

Okay, so the lineup isn’t Tampa’s strongest suit, well the team formerly known as the Devil Rays boast perhaps the second strongest rotation in the postseason with (unlikely) Cy Young candidate James Shields, David Price and likely Rookie of the Year Jeremy Hellickson plus Jeff Niemann as a potential fourth starter. Don’t count out the Rays.

For the Cardinals
The team that seems to be getting least talked about is the Cardinals. Which is surprising because they have the best baseball player on the planet on their team.

Albert Pujols' possible swan song with the Cardinals has a storybook beginning, but how will it end?

Most important for St. Louis is that this could be its last chance for a World Series run with Albert Pujols. Like Jacoby Ellsbury, the first baseman is set to become a free agent after this season and while the Cards would love to keep him, it remains to be seen whether they are willing to spend the type of money it will likely take. But can the Cardinals actually make a run? As long as they have Pujols it’s tough to count them out.

Final Thoughts
The last big winner of the night though could be Justin Verlander. Jacoby Ellsbury was getting MVP hype, but now that he’s not playoff bound, the likely Cy Young could have an MVP trophy in his trophy case as well. Verlander would become the first pitcher to win MVP since Dennis Eckersley won it in 1992, but could there be a better year for a pitcher to win it?

No other pitcher even comes close to JV in terms of dominance this year and there doesn’t seem to be another viable candidate for MVP in the AL this year. Ellsbury and Adrian Gonzalez are now going to be watching games from their couches in October, there’s no way Miguel Cabrera gets the MVP ahead of his teammate and Curtis Granderson batted under .265 and didn’t even in the American League in home runs. So Justin, enjoy your award and enjoy October. You’ve earned it.

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Oh, what a night

Unlike Red Sox Nation, Evan Longoria and the Rays are all smiles tonight.

By David Wilson
Well that was exciting now wasn’t it? In the span of less than half an hour, the Mets now own just the third and fourth biggest September collapses in MLB history. The scoreboard watching Red Sox twice found themselves one strike away from heading to a one-game playoff and now they’ll get to watch scoreboards on their TVs from home for the entire postseason.

Not to be overshadowed, though they still are, the Braves blew their own multiple game lead in the final week of the season with rookie phenom Craig Kimbrel blowing the save in the game.

And with that, the Rays and Cardinals, not the Red Sox and Braves, are headed to the postseason and, the way these things tend to work, they’ll probably be meeting up in the World Series in a month.

But it’s late and I’m still in a little bit too much shock to analyze this any further, so we’ll touch on this in plenty more detail tomorrow morning.

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