Monthly Archives: December 2008

BRETT FAVRE – END (?) OF AN ERROR

                               Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

    

Is it the end of the road for Brett Favre?  Well, if you’re a Jets fan, you’ve been brutally disappointed the last four weeks.  Cruising along at 8-3 after wins over the (at the time) undefeated Titans and the still-very-good Patriots, everything was wonderful in Jet land.  But a funny thing happened on the way to an AFC East Division Title and the playoffs.  Favre went very bad, very quickly and the Jets are on the verge of a huge collapse (and, given their easy schedule, arguably one of the greatest collapses ever).

    

A home loss (34-17) to OK Denver (now in the midst of a huge collapse of their own), a road loss to improving, at least, San Francisco, a miracle home gift win against Buffalo and then the disaster in Seattle has put them on the brink of Nowheresville.  And it doesn’t look like they will make the playoffs.  They’ll need a minor miracle to beat the Dolphins AND have either the Patriots or the Ravens lose to make the playoffs.

 

SO, WHAT HAPPENED TO BRETT FAVRE?

     

Well, he’s been good, not great, until the last four games.  Many thought that the Jets simply ran a Chad Pennington offense with a guy who has a much better arm.  But Favre throws a great short ball and, unlike last year, the Jets actually have a very good running game with Thomas Jones and with (inexplicably) a hardly-used Leon Washington.

    

Then, in the last four games, Favre fell off a cliff, never getting a QB rating over 62 and throwing 1 (one) TD to six interceptions.  When you consider the competition, these numbers become even more woeful.

 

IS BRETT HURT?

      

That seems to be the latest coming out of Brett-land.  But, if true, this guy has all but killed the Jet chances of making the playoffs by, what, being a hero?  If his shoulder is really hurt (although he hit Laveranues Coles in the numbers on that long fourth-down pass (incomplete) late in the game against Seattle), then he hurt his team showing us how tough he is.  If true, he put himself (and his streak?) ahead of the team.  If not true, he’s really regressed this year.  Would the Jets have had a better chance with another QB in the last four games?  Well, you can make a case that the answer to that is yes.

     

IS BRETT COMING BACK NEXT YEAR?

      

It doesn’t really matter, does it?  This was the year, with Brady’s injury, that the Jets could have made some real noise.  Their owner went out and spent a ton of money (and, to his credit, that was before Brady got hurt) and, after 11 games, the Jets were really in the mix.  But, as for next year, with Brady (and Maroney and Thomas and, maybe, Harrison back), it’s hard to believe that the Jets, with or without Favre (and probably with a tougher schedule), will make any noise in the AFC East.  The Dolphins haven’t passed them talent-wise but, by next season, they may very well be a better team with a better QB (some would argue that they already are better in both departments).

      

WILL BRETT ANNOUNCE HIS RETIREMENT AFTER THE GAME?

      

Does it matter?  You can’t believe anything he says on this issue.  It gets sickening every year to watch the back and forth for weeks (months?).  Will he or won’t he?  He’s decided.  He hasn’t decided.  He’s changed his mind.  News at 11.  The Jets might have been better off moving forward with Chad Pennington and (maybe) developing (or, at least, drafting) another QB.  Is Kellen Clemens the answer?  I don’t know and neither do you.  His growth has been stunted (stopped?) for still another season (and for yet another if Brett comes back to New York next season).

      

WHAT ABOUT THE COACH?

       

 Well, he’s tried to do things the Belichick way and, while commendable, there’s only one Bill Belichick.  Once the bring-Favre-to-New-York decision was made, his hands were, to some degree, tied.  But he’s mysteriously made Leon Washington disappear in the offense and certainly has had some trouble with play-calling and half-time adjustments (some would be harsher and say what half-time adjustments?).

      

But this is a very young coach in a very tough division who has had a winning record in two of his three years as a HC in the NFL.  It says here that he deserves another year.  But, quite frankly, next year might be worse than this year.  If that’s possible.  We’ll see.    

    

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

GIANTS (KIND OF) GOING THE RIGHT WAY; JETS SHIP BE SINKIN’

                               Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

    

Well, there’s seeming euphoria for Giants fans and seeming disaster for Jets fans in the wake of the Giants OT home win against Carolina and the Jets disastrous 13-3 loss to Seattle on the road.  While the Jets have engaged in a Met-like collapse (maybe worse, if that’s possible), the Giants certainly aren’t the shoo-in Super Bowl winner they were viewed to be just a few weeks ago.

 

LET’S START WITH THE GOOD

     

The Giants used a stunning running game (Derrick Ward, 215 yards, and Brandon Jacobs’ punishing runs to put the team over 300 yards rushing) to squeak by a better-late-than-never Panthers team.  But the Giants barely avoided a Jet-like collapse (although at a higher level – they still had already clinched the division win or lose) and are now the number one seed with home advantage throughout the playoffs, a key factor for this year’s playoffs.

    

It’s interesting to note that, for decades, it’s always been thought that the offensive line makes the running back and not the other way around.  While that’s still true, you have to wonder, with the presence of (a still not 100%, it says here) Brandon Jacobs, whether that made the line better or the defense weaker or Derrick Ward better or all of the above.  Jacobs and his health are clearly the difference-maker for this team (watch the Dallas Game if you disagree) although, maybe, the health of the offensive line also was better against Carolina.

    

Despite the bouquets being thrown at the Giants, don’t forget that they were a 50-yard field goal (virtually impossible at the Meadowlands on a swirling December day) away from a terrible defeat.  Carolina has a lot of weapons and they have one that the Giants don’t have – a top-shelf receiver.  Carolina has their own excellent running game and, although their defense is just good, not excellent, they showed that they could play with the Giants. 

    

I just don’t think that was true when the Giants had Plaxico Burress.

    

Does it always come back to Plaxico?  Well, no, but clearly the Giants have come back to the pack when you project to the upcoming playoffs.  Will the Giants run the ball?  Of course they will.  Will the Giants be successful running the ball?  Well, probably.  But what the Giants don’t have now, that they had last year in that miraculous playoff run, is that wide-out who can destroy a corner one-on-one (see the Packer game last year).  They don’t have that wide-out who draws a double-team on virtually every play (do you think that helps the running game when Burress is there?).  They don’t have that 6’5” wide receiver who, in a jam, Eli Manning can throw it up for grabs to or throw it into the corner of the end zone to knowing the Giants have the advantage on that play.

    

And that’s, potentially, a huge problem.

 

LET’S MOVE TO THE BAD

     

After getting one of the greatest gifts in an NFL game from Dick Jauron (and J.P. Losman) since Joe Pisarcik (or was it Larry Csonka?) fumbled the ball into Herm Edwards’ hands at a time long ago, the Jets laid yet another egg against a better-playing-than-you-think Seattle team on the West Coast in terrible weather.  Seattle really has been playing well of late – they had the Patriots beat very late in that game and they came back to beat the lowly Rams last week.  And despite the terrible criticism of Seneca Wallace by those who don’t watch, he’s been VERY good of late (20-28, 212 yards, 3 TDs v. Patriots, 15-25, 226 yards v. Rams, 9 TDs v. 1 INT. for the season and he’s mobile).

    

But this wasn’t about the Jets inability to get to the quarterback who was protected by a line that, for all we know, could have been in the witness protection program until this past Sunday (cause they certainly weren’t starting in NFL games).  After all, Seattle only scored ten points.

    

This was about the Jets inability to make much happen on offense.  While Thomas Jones continues to have a Pro Bowl year, the lack of allowing Leon Washington to carry the ball on offense has hurt the Jets tremendously.  Why?  Well, just look at the Giants on Sunday.  That cross-up from the pounding Jacobs to Derrick Ward was a key to the Giants beating Carolina for the #1 seed in the NFC.  While the contrast isn’t as great between Jones and Washington, it is still there and that ability to change-up is something the Jets should have used in past weeks and should have at least tried (despite the weather) Sunday in Seattle.

              

LET’S MOVE TO THE UGLY

     

Well, there’s lots of ugly to go around for the Jets.  Brett Favre has seemed disconnected from the team for weeks.  He’s almost in a daze during these post-game press conferences and many would say he’s in a daze during the games as well.  Are you shocked that Favre leads the league in interceptions?  Are you shocked that Favre continues to underthrow receivers (in good weather and bad)?  Come on.  This guy’s at the end of the line and, whatever you think of MVP candidate Chad Pennington (he brought a lot more than excellent QB play to a team that lost 15 games a year ago – that’s what MVPs do), you have to believe that he would have done as well or better if he were the QB of the NYJ.

    

The coaching staff?  Well, Eric Mangini has fallen a long way from a guest shot on the Sopranos to this.  It’s hard to believe these stunning losses (and remember, the Patriots were an OT coin flip away from giving them a terrible loss before the roof caved in).  It has to be laid at the feet of the coaching staff.

    

Can they make the playoffs?  Well, the Jets have as much chance to make the playoffs as they had to win the Bills game – before Dick Jauron called that pass play.  I guess Jet fans can hope for lightning to strike twice – and that’s what they are hoping for (with Dick Jauron playing the part of lightning against the Patriots).

    

But ugliest of all, for the knowledgeable Jet fan, is the fact that the Jets small window is quickly coming to a close.  The Patriots, who might be 11-5 and fail to make the playoffs, would have had a win or two more if they hadn’t lost their best running back (Maroney), their best defensive back (Harrison) and their best linebacker (Thomas) for the season.  They’ve worked minor miracles in New England this year (did I forget to mention they lost their quarterback as well?) and still might be on the outside looking in.

    

The point for the Jets, of course, is if most, or all, of these guys come back next season, the battle will be for second place (and the wild card) in the AFC East.  And the Patriots won’t forget these guys next year (I thought they were trying to send the NFL a message by pounding the division winning Cardinals into submission – the Cardinals might be 8-8 and still make the playoffs).

     

WHERE DOES THAT LEAVE US?

       

So, to recap, the Giants had a huge win but clearly have come back to the pack.  They no longer have that separation from themselves to the rest of the league.  They also don’t have that key receiver who, if he didn’t always get separation (and many times he did), could always outleap virtually every DB in the league.

    

The Jets are on the cusp of completing a gigantic collapse.  They no longer control what happens to them.  All they can do is go out and play hard and beat a Dolphin team that has their ex-QB and less talent than they do.  But, even with a win, it will probably be too little, too late.  And then the vultures will start circling.

    

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

GIANTS GOING THE WRONG WAY; JETS (DESPITE A WIN) ARE EVEN IN WORSE SHAPE

                               Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

    

It was a tough Sunday for New York (New Jersey?) football fans as the Giants were manhandled by the Cowboys and the Jets, despite one of the luckiest wins you’ll ever see, were in even worse shape than the Giants.  Thankfully, the absurd “New York” Super Bowl conversation of just a few weeks ago has disappeared, a victim of Plaxico Burress’s gun and the Jets coming back to reality.

 

WHAT’S HAPPENED TO THE GIANTS?

 

Well, you didn’t have to be a brain surgeon or a football genius to know that the Giants would miss Plaxico Burress.  But, with the addition of an injured Brandon Jacobs (and, thus, the elimination of the main part of their running game), Eli Manning was under siege all night against the Cowboys.  On top of that, with no receivers requiring a Cowboy double-team and nobody to catch a fade in the end zone (see Kallas Remarks, 12/2/08), the Giants, offensively, are a mess.

    

The real question, of course, is what happens when Jacobs comes back (because, as we know, Plaxico isn’t coming back)?  The Giants can win without Burress, but they won’t do any playoff damage without Burress and Jacobs.

    

Can the Giants make a run without Burress?  Absolutely.  But they only have a few weeks to get it together.  Are they in trouble against Carolina?  You betcha.  The Panthers have been the fashionable, “in-the-know” pick in the NFC the last couple of seasons but have always fallen on their collective face.  This year, because of the Giants superb start, the Panthers have been under the radar.  Not anymore.

    

What happened to the Giants’ defense?  Well, no matter what Antonio Pierce says, his play has fallen off since the Burress shooting.  He’s probably got problems at home with the release of that video from the strip club of him and a woman (not his new wife) kissing at the strip club (that’s pre-Burress shooting but the same night).  As a football fan, you’d like to leave all that stuff aside, but it’s come front and center because of the Giants poor play.  And while the defense played well against the Cowboys, the picture of Pierce getting beat by (and being unable to run down) Westbrook of the Eagles is one that will stay in the minds of Giant fans the rest of the season (unless, of course, they make that dramatic turnaround).

 

WHAT’S HAPPENED TO THE JETS?

     

The Jets are in far worse shape.  Brett Favre, who seems to have been in a laconic state both on and off the field the last few weeks (his press conferences are filled with slow answers to simple questions – where’s the fiery leader of the Packers who was a three-time MVP?), doesn’t have the answers.  The coaching staff, under siege, doesn’t have the answers.

    

Without some stunning stupidity from the Bills’ coach, Dick Jauron, who, despite the fact that the Bills were running on the Jets like the Jets were playing with ten, not 11, called a bizarre pass play late in the game that resulted in a game-winning fumble/TD for the Jets, the Jets would already be done.  But a win is a win is a win (you know the drill) and the Jets are still alive.

    

Are the Jets in trouble against lowly Seattle?  You betcha.  Seattle almost beat the Patriots two weeks ago (of course, people who don’t watch the Patriots regularly had no understanding that a healthy, running Seneca Wallace would cause the slow Patriots much more trouble than the banged-up Matt Hasselbeck) and did beat the lowly Rams last Sunday.  The Jets have to fly cross-country, have been terrible on the West Coast (0-3) and are clearly close to playing themselves out of a playoff spot.

    

Worse, the Jets are probably ranked fourth out of the four teams who are 9-5 (Ravens, Patriots, Dolphins and then the Jets).  Maybe the Jets can beat the Dolphins in the last week of the season because it’s a home game but, again, if the Bills could just about beat them (sometimes smart coaches like Jauron either over coach or outthink themselves), than home field advantage isn’t what it should be for the Jets.

 

WHERE DOES THAT LEAVE THE GIANTS AND THE JETS?

 

Well, the Giants are going to get a bye and may even be the number one seed, although it says here that they’re going to have lots of problems with Carolina.  The bigger picture for the Giants is whether they can shore up their collective psyche to overcome the Burress mess and get a healthy Jacobs back to make a run in the playoffs.

    

The Jet problems are much greater.  They control their own destiny, blah, blah, blah, but it’s going to be very difficult for this team, as it is now, to beat Seattle on the road and Miami (and Chad Pennington) at home in Game 16.  Only two of those four 9-5 teams will make the playoffs: the AFC East winner and the Wild Card.  The Jets, despite monster wins over the Titans and Patriots, are going the wrong way.  We’ll see.

  

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

RANGERS HIT A LOW POINT; DEVILS ON THE RISE

                               Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

 The Rangers hit a new low on Friday night as they were pummeled by the Devils, 8-5. The Rangers are still a “first-place” team, but that’s a misnomer (see below). The problems for them are far bigger than their position in the standings. This is a team that, defensively and on the power play, has lost its way.

CAN THE RANGERS DECLINE THE PENALTY?

Nothing’s been so maddening this year as the Rangers’ power play. A stunning 0-9 against the Devils, the worse news was that the Rangers gave up two short-handed goals, a very difficult feat. Of course, the Rangers gave up two short-handed goals early in November to lose 2-1 to the Islanders. So this isn’t new. It’s just scary.

    
To give you some context, the Rangers have allowed TEN short-handed goals already this year. According to hockeyreference.com, the league average per team, to date, is THREE. To scare a Ranger fan some more, the league average for the entire 2007-2008 NHL season was EIGHT. This is an epidemic.

    
The Rangers are now in the lower third of the NHL on the power play. While captain and leader Chris Drury was disappointed in the power play and the performance, he said, after the game on MSG, that he and his teammates weren’t “embarrassed.” Well, maybe that’s semantics, but the Rangers play against the Devils certainly was embarrassing.

    
Going minus 2 (stunning) on nine power plays against the Devils, maybe the Rangers can decline the penalty or commit one right after the other team does during the game. Just kidding. I think.

WHERE HAVE YOU GONE, BRENDAN SHANAHAN?

Could Brendan Shanahan have been the answer? Well, he certainly wanted to stay and money didn’t seem to be a big issue to him. But the Rangers left him hanging and simply wouldn’t make an offer to a guy who, last year, was an excellent two-way player, was one of the leading Ranger goal scorers (they could use one of those, no?) and was a leader in the clubhouse. While Drury seemed meek, almost apologetic, in his post-game interview, it’s hard to believe that Shanahan would stand for this type of performance.

    
Maybe Mats Sundin is the answer? Apparently he’ll be at the Garden on Saturday for the Carolina game. A huge goal scorer who has the support of fellow Swede Henrik Lundqvist, it seems like any quality scorer could help the Rangers now.

WHAT ABOUT THE DEFENSE?

The huge defensive changes that were made (Fedor Tyutin and Marek Malik out, Wayne Redden and Dimitri Kalinin in) haven’t really worked out to date. Kalinin has the worst plus/minus in the NHL for a defensemen and Redden often just seems to wander out of place. At this point, you’d think that the Rangers would give Corey Potter an extended try to, if nothing else, shake up the defensemen who have been with the big club all season.

WHAT ABOUT THE GOALIE?

Well, against the Devils, King Henrik looked like he was standing in front of the hit-the-net-win-the prize shooting gallery. After owning the Devils and the Great Brodeur (13-1-1 in the last 15 games between the teams), he gave up almost as many goals in one game (8) as he gave up to the Devils last year in eight games (9, the shootout doesn’t count in the last regular season game or it would be 10 but you get the point). Another stunning stat.

    
For you old-timers, it might have brought back memories of the late, great Gump Worsley, who faced these kinds of barrages often as a Ranger goalie in the early 1960s before he came to his senses, went to the Montreal Canadiens and became a multiple Stanley Cup winner and a Hall of Famer.

WHO’S REALLY IN FIRST PLACE?

The NHL games-in-hand thing is bizarre, especially this season. The Devils are in fourth place in the NHL Atlantic with 34 points. The Rangers are in first with 40 points. But the Devils have played SIX less games than the Rangers. That’s absurd. In addition, the Flyers, with 36 points, are four points behind the Rangers with FOUR games in hands. Even the Penguins, also with 36 points, have three games in hand.

     
In the land of NHL point inflation, when teams today can combine for three points in a game rather than two (see Kallas Remarks, 12/7/08), you can easily make the case that the Rangers are a third or even fourth place team in their own division. In fact, the Rangers have played more games than EVERY team in the NHL. That’s not a good thing.

HOW DO THE DEVILS DO THIS?

Well, the Devils are the Devils are the Devils. But nobody thought they could do this without the Great Brodeur. But they’ve actually been better (if that’s possible) since he went down with an injury. Believe it or not, back-up goalie Scott Clemmensen has won nine of the last 10 games for the Devils. That’s stunning stuff.

    
And although he wasn’t great tonight (the Rangers teased their fans by coming back from four goals down to tie the game at 5), he hung in there as the Devils pulled away by scoring three more. A strange hockey game, to say the least.

WHERE DOES THAT LEAVE THE RANGERS?

With the acquisitions last year of Drury and Scott Gomez, the Rangers, in the eyes of many (including this writer), became instant Stanley Cup contenders. But they fell short last year and, even though they are a “first-place” team this year, they’ve shown some big holes in their game that will hurt tremendously come playoff time. The season is young, but the warning bells are ringing. We’ll see.

 

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

ON PLAXICO, JOEY PORTER WAS RIGHT. EXCEPT FOR ….

                               Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

Maybe you saw the Joey Porter interview with ESPN’s Michael Kim on Tuesday or Wednesday on ESPN. Porter, teammates while on the Steelers with, and a great friend of, Plaxico Burress (Plaxico “is like a brother to me”), essentially went off on the notion that Burress should be in such deep trouble for carrying a loaded gun without a permit in New York City (See Kallas Remarks, 11/30/08).

Porter should be given great credit for his honesty. He started with the “a lot of people really don’t understand” what it’s like to have a gun pulled on you or to be robbed at gunpoint, etc. and, of course, he’s right. “You really don’t know what it feels like until it happens to you” and, of course, he’s right.

But then Porter starts to ramble on a bit, starts to miss the forest for the trees and, finally, seems to miss the major point. “It’s nothing but safety” and “I’d rather get caught with than without [a gun]” and this gem: “I’d rather get caught and take the little penalty from the media or whatever the situation may be than not have a chance to save my life.”

NEW YORK CITY IN THE 21ST CENTURY

Well, that’s the problem for people like Burress (that is, people who carry a loaded firearm without a permit) in 21st century New York City. Whatever you think of Mayor Bloomberg speaking out on the Burress case (“he should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law”), Bloomberg correctly pointed out that, for years, innocent children have been killed in NYC by random bullets in gun fights in New York. The Wild West mentality had lead to many deaths over the years in New York.

    
So, unfortunately for Plaxico Burress and other gun-toting-without-a-carry-permit people in New York, the “little penalty” (you know, the law) was changed about two years ago and, where once there was some wiggle room to plead down a D violent felony to lesser time and maybe probation, it is now a C violent felony which, generally, at best, if there is a plea after indictment, can only now be a D violent felony with a mandatory minimum of two years in prison (as you know by now, a minimum of three-and-a-half years for a C conviction or plea).
Again, the purpose of the change was to put a person carrying a loaded firearm into prison. That’s what Burress is facing now.

BACK TO JOEY PORTER

When asked by Kim whether he (Porter) felt he needed to have other protection, Porter said “Besides the little buddy that I keep with me?” The implication, of course, was clear that Porter carried a handgun, something he would back off of later in the interview.

    
Porter then admitted that he did own a handgun, that he has a carry permit in California (but not Florida, where he now plays for the Dolphins) and that “if I feel a need to carry a weapon, I would do so.” Yikes!!

EXCEPT FOR THE PERMIT, OF COURSE

You can understand and almost agree with virtually everything Joey Porter says on the Plaxico situation. EXCEPT THE PART HE FORGOT TO MENTION ABOUT GETTING A PERMIT IN NEW YORK (or whatever state you are in).

There’s a fantastic article in the New York Post (October 26, 2008) entitled “The Mets Are Loaded” (seriously). Written by Reuven Blau and James Fanelli, it lays out the factors for getting a premises permit or the harder-to-get carry permit. The point, of course, is they are hard to get but can be obtained in New York (the point of the article is that New York Mets Carlos Delgado and David Wright had recently received premises permits to keep a gun at their respective homes and there is a fascinating list of a number of people who have permits – De Niro, Donald Trump, Harvey Keitel, Howard Stern, Don Imus, etc.).

So, when Joey Porter says it wasn’t right for Burress to carry a gun into a club (“No, that probably wasn’t the smartest thing”) and when Porter asks and answers his own question (“Should he [Plaxico] have not brought it? No), he and thousands of others forget the little part about getting a permit. In New York City, in 2008, that little omission (not getting a permit) often sends people to prison. And, frankly, that’s the way it is.

 © Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

BEWARE THE NHL POINT INFLATION!!

                               Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

Perhaps you’ve seen it on TV or read it in print in the last week or so.  The San Jose Sharks, off to a stunning 22-3-2 start (the 2 stands for overtime losses, not ties, of course), are being compared on an almost nightly basis, record-wise, to some of the best teams ever.  The one I’ve consistently seen is a comparison to the 1943-44 Montreal Canadiens, who rolled to a Stanley Cup (only two playoff series back then), after going an amazing 38-5-7 (the 7 stands for ties, no regular season OT back then) in the (then) 50-game regular season.

 As you hockey fans know, the point world changed in the NHL back in 1999-2000 when the NHL decided to allow three potential points in a game (if tied after regulation, a team could get an extra point by winning in OT) rather than the forever two points in a game (two points to the winner or one point to each team for a tie).  Eventually, the NHL would go to a system that required a mandatory three points to be given out during a game tied in regulation by introducing the exciting (dreaded?, but that’s for another time) shootout, where each team would get one point for the tie and the winner, after OT or the shootout, would get another point.

 

BE CAREFUL NOW

 

So, right away, you have to be careful when you compare teams of today with teams of yesteryear.  At 22-3-2, nobody can deny that this is one of the greatest starts in the history of the NHL by San Jose.  But to compare them to a team (or teams) that couldn’t get more than one point in an NHL tie game is simply unfair and, frankly, incorrect.  In the modern-day NHL, every team has two chances to get two points, once in regulation and once in the overtime/shootout.  In the “good old days” of the 43-44 Canadiens, you could either win, lose or tie – two points total per game (for you hockey historians, regular season OT was eliminated in the NHL the season before, only to be reinstated in 1983-84).  And that was it.

 

THE 1943-44 MONTREAL CANADIENS

 

So, What about the 1943-44 Canadiens?  Well, it was the beginning of the Rocket Richard era (he would score his staggering 50 goals in 50 games the next season).  The line of Richard, Elmer Lach and Toe Blake formed the Punch Line, one of the greatest lines ever.  The Canadiens would be 38-5-7 (ties) that season.

    

But 1943-44 was a strange season in the NHL.  The red line was introduced to increase offense and the goal scorers went crazy.  Candiens goaltender Bill Durnan won the Vezina Trophy (for giving up the fewest goals), as the Canadiens allowed 109 goals in 50 games (65 less goals than runner-up Toronto).

    

The league, however, was decimated with the loss of numerous stars who were in the military during World War II.  So, remember, while the Canadiens were great that year, it was a new world in the NHL and the Canadiens had no chance to get an overtime or shootout victory in their seven ties.

 

WHAT ABOUT THE MODERN DAY SHARKS?

 

Well, obviously, they’re a legitimate Stanley Cup threat and must be considered the favorite as of today.  They have a superstar in Joe Thornton, top defensemen in Dan Boyle and Rob Blake, as well as other top players like Patrick Marleau and 21-year-old Devin Setoguchi (who?).

    

Their goaltending has been excellent and, even when starter Evgeni Nabakov (15-2 with 1 OT loss) went down, Brian Boucher (7-1 with 1 OT loss) was tremendous.

    

But it’s a very long regular season and an eternity playoff system in place today.  Because of those two factors, especially the latter, it’s much harder to win the Cup today than it was in the six-team NHL.

 

HERE’S A BETTER TEAM TO COMPARE THE SHARKS WITH

 

“Experts,” if they find it necessary to compare then and now, would do better to compare the Sharks, record-wise, with the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens.  Without question one of the top teams ever, that Canadien team went 60-8-12 (ties, no OT) in an 80-game regular season.  Guy Lafleur led the league in scoring, Steve Shutt scored 60 goals, Larry Robinson won the Norris Trophy and rookie Ken Dryden and Bunny Laroque were stunning in net.

    

While you can paint the picture that the Sharks can rival that Canadiens team record-wise, it says here that it’s unlikely.  But the wild card here is that the Sharks, every time they are in a tie game, get a chance to get another point, something those Canadiens didn’t have (how many of those 12 ties do you think the Canadiens would have won in OT or the shootout? – we’ll never know the answer, but you can bet it would have been at least half of them).

 

SO, WHERE DOES THAT LEAVE US?

 

Well, it leaves us with the same caveat:  be careful.  Will this San Jose team be as good or better than the classic Montreal teams (and we haven’t even talked about the late 1950s Canadiens and other great teams)?  Of course, that remains to be seen but it says here that it’s unlikely.  Having said that, the point here is to be wary of TV or print comparisons you see where the team of today, with a maximum of a potential THREE points being given out in EVERY game, is compared with the great teams of yesterday, when those teams could only play in a game where a maximum of TWO points could be given out EVERY game.

    

I’m sure you get the point.

   

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

PLAXICO BURRESS: END OF AN ERA OR END OF AN ERROR?

                               Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

 

It would be very difficult to call the last few years of the New York Giants the Plaxico Burress Era.  But everyone understands what a huge factor Burress has been for the Giants.  What he did last year against the Packers (11 catches for 154 yards on the road on a cold day in the playoffs), his Super Bowl-winning catch against the unbeatable Patriots and his ability to draw double teams on numerous plays in virtually every game is something that will not be replaced by any receiver on this Giants team.

Having said that, the Giants fined him here and looked the other way there, suspended him for a game, but always with THEIR eye on the prize – a Super Bowl victory.  The Giants and their fans got just that; Burress got his ring and his money – and he still never saw the light.

    

So the Giants, on Tuesday (this is being written on Wednesday evening), have essentially cut ties with Plaxico. Despite a staged plea by his agent on Monday Night Football and, despite a more appropriate plea by his lawyer, Ben Brafman (innocent until proven guilty, let the legal process continue, etc.), the Giants and their fans had had enough and you won’t see Burress in a Giants uniform this season or, probably, ever again.  Mayor Bloomberg piling on certainly didn’t help Burress either.

    

WHERE DOES THIS REALLY LEAVE THE GIANTS? 

 

Well, it’s true that the Giants have won this season without Burress.  The problem, of course, is that Burress is such a threat in a big game and the Giants may miss him most in a huge game.  It’s not hard to picture a playoff game, Giants down six late in the game, down near the opponent’s goal line and, when they can’t punch it in on the ground, who’s going to catch that fade or jump ball that Eli throws up in the corner of the end zone?  That’s, potentially, a season-ending problem.

    

Or, late in the game, the Giants have to march 80 yards and Eli, in trouble, essentially throws it up for grabs.  If you’ve got Plaxico Burress or Randy Moss or not too many other receivers, you’ve at least got a fighting chance.  But without the 6’5” receiver to go up and catch poor throws or prayer throws or throws up for grabs over those smaller DBs, what’s going to happen?

   

Can the Giants win the Super Bowl without Plaxico?  Absolutely.  But, until that happens, there may very well be, in a close playoff game, that key moment where he won’t be there.  And that could spell disaster.

 

WILL ANTONIO PIERCE BE THERE?

 

You’d like to think that he will be there.  Whatever he did, it certainly seems that he didn’t know that Burress had a gun.  While the police are livid that NFL Security didn’t bring Pierce in as promised, once Pierce got smart and got a lawyer, he wasn’t going to speak to anyone until his lawyer is ready to bring him in.  NFL Security doesn’t represent Pierce.  So the notion that they could “produce” Pierce for a meeting with the NYPD was ridiculous on this fact pattern.

    

It does seem that Pierce’s lawyer should be able to work something out where he tells the truth and no charges are brought against him.  The problem in the Giants locker room could have eventually had Pierce pitted against Burress.  The Giants, well aware of this, ended that problem by, essentially, cutting Burress loose.

 

SO, ERA OR ERROR?

 

Well, this was a profitable deal for both sides until this past weekend.  The Giants already have one (minor miracle) Super Bowl and still might be the favorite in another.  Their road to the Super Bowl and winning another one would have been easier on the field with Burress.  But this year (fines, suspensions, missed this meeting, late for that, take my kid to school, etc.,etc.) went from the ridiculous to the sublime when he shot himself over the weekend.

    

Even if the Giants had plans to deal with all the absurdity and distractions (and it seemed that they did) before this weekend, their plans went up in smoke on the East Side of Manhattan early Saturday morning.

    

So the era of Plaxico, as it were, officially ended today.  Unfortunately for him, his error is going to negatively hurt him and his family (and others) for days, weeks, months and, probably, years.

    

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.