Wednesday, July 29, 2009

2009 Fantasy Football Cheat Sheet - WR

Other cheat sheets:
QB | WR | RB | TE
  1. Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals - We all knew he was good, but last season he took everything to another level. He was particularly good down the stretch (in what would be the fantasy playoffs), when he had at least 100 yards or a touchdown in each of his last seven games. Of course, he did that in all but three games all season. Only a select few wideouts get you running back numbers; they are the elite, and Fitzgerald is their king.
  2. Randy Moss, New England Patriots - Moss had a ho hum 2008 with 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns. With Tom Brady back from injury, Moss should be back up to his old tricks. I wouldn't look for another record-breaking season, but 15 TDs seems like a floor.
  3. Andre Johnson, Houston Texans - Johnson was nearly as productive as Fitzgerald last year, except that Fitz found the end zone four more times. But Johnson is a reception machine, which means that he rarely has an off game. Moss and Johnson are close enough that you can pick between them, based on whether you want reliability or the potential for a 3 touchdown game.
  4. Anquan Boldin, Arizona Cardinals - All of the hullabaloo around Fitzgerald overshadowed Boldin's production, which was outstanding. He had a better season than Randy Moss, and played in only 12 games. He may deserve an "injury-prone" label, as he's missed time in four of his six seasons in the NFL, but there's no question he's a stud WR. Just keep your fingers crossed he doesn't stub a toe.
  5. Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions - You could justify putting Calvin Johnson as high as Andre Johnson, based on talent. The only reason I've got Calvin down here is that he'll be receiving throws from Daunte Culpepper again, which doesn't inspire confidence. But Calvin's talent is transcendent, and he'll be solid regardless.
  6. Roddy White, Atlanta Falcons - White took zero time to get in sync with rookie QB Matt Ryan, and turned in his best season yet. I'm confident that the addition of Tony Gonzalez will only help White, and the Falcons (the Falcons?) could have one of the best offenses in the NFL.
  7. Greg Jennings, Green Bay Packers - Jennings and Aaron Rodgers were a match made in heaven from the start, and fantasy owners have felt the love. Who knew that Green Bay, WI would be home to one of football's great passing attacks? Jennings is something of a home run threat, so you may have to deal with some low production weeks, but the upside is worth the occasional 30-yard game.
  8. Steve Smith, Carolina Panthers - Smith is one of the hardest guys to judge from year to year. Coming off of two solid but unspectacular seasons, Smith recaptured his gamebreaker ability, finishing second in the NFC in receiving yards in just 14 games. But he's constantly missing time, and he's got only one 100-catch season in his career. He's a very good receiver; just make sure you don't draft him as if he were a great receiver.
  9. Brandon Marshall, Denver Broncos - Who knows where Marshall will be when the season opens up. Most likely he'll still be in Denver, but a change of scenery might be more comforting to fantasy owners. I think he'll be equally productive regardless,and I think that production will be delightful.
  10. Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts - This will be Wayne's first season ever without Marvin Harrison on the opposite side. Worth mentioning is that last year, which was Harrison's least productive in a decade, was also a less productive season for Wayne. The hope is that with Joseph Addai back from injury and Anthony Gonzalez getting comfortable as a starter, Wayne will get back to his 2007 ways, but don't overpay.
  11. Marques Colston, New Orleans Saints - The one thing you can say about Colston is that he's going to get chances. The Saints throw the ball as much as any team, and Drew Brees is a fantastic quarterback to have throwing to your receiver. Colston is the best receiver in New Orleans, and while injuries limited his production, they also showed that there are other threats on the team. Lance Moore's development should keep defenses honest, and allow Colston to return to being one of the better wideouts in the league.
  12. Wes Welker, New England Patriots - Perhaps the greatest beneficiary of the new Patriots' offense, Welker has had back-to-back 110+ catch seasons. Brady's return should put Welker back in the end zone a few more times.
  13. Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Chiefs - Bowe is entering the legendary "third season for a wide receiver," and will likely be drafted higher in many leagues because of it. He's certainly talented, and his quarterback this year (Matt Cassel) should be at least as good as last year's (Tyler Thigpen). But the loss of Tony Gonzalez is big, and I'm wary of saying Bowe is a stand-alone top-tier WR.
  14. Terrell Owens, Buffalo Bills - At some point, Owens will lose a step and become just a big wide receiver without much fantasy potential. Despite last year's drop off in production, I don't think we're there yet. Owens is still an impressive physical specimen, and I imagine he'll be looking to disprove his detractors this season. A motivated T.O. is a sight to see.
  15. T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Seattle Seahawks - Everything was a little worse last year in Cincinnati, but I think you can attribute most of that to Carson Palmer's absence. Housh won't have Chad Johnson (or Chad Ochocinco) opposite him in Seattle, but he should still be able to get close to 100 catches as well as solid yardage and TD numbers.
  16. Braylon Edwards, Cleveland Browns - Many, many people became disillusioned with Braylon Edwards last season, which is exactly why he needs to be on your radar this season. His true skills probably lie somewhere in between his explosive 2007 and his implosive 2008. I'd be surprised if he didn't get double-digit touchdowns this season.
  17. Hines Ward, Pittsburgh Steelers - Despite Santonio Holmes' emergence as a legitimate receiving threat, Ward remained Ben Roethlisberger's favorite target. He may be getting on in years, but I'm not betting against Ward. Like, ever.
  18. Santana Moss, Washington Redskins - Moss always seems to make his hay in a couple of first-half games, then peter off towards the end of the season. I say draft him on his full-season numbers, but if his value goes up again early on (and it will), trade him.
  19. Antonio Bryant, Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Bryant is the poster boy for the phrase, "Any given Sunday." He's got a career of ups and downs that always hinted at talent, but until last season never materialized. Do we buy into one season of production or a career of disappointment? I'm avoiding Bryant unless the draft value is considerable.
  20. Roy Williams, Dallas Cowboys - Williams became the #1 wide receiver in Dallas when Owens left, but he's still behind Jason Witten when it comes to Romo's favorite receivers. He's got a career of explosive play, injuries, and inconsistency. He'll be in the best opportunity of his career this season, which is why I've got him ranked fairly high, but he's still a risky pick.
  21. Vincent Jackson, San Diego Chargers - It's taken a while, but the Northern Colorado product has finally become a legitimate starting wide receiver. He was particularly good in the crunch last season, which could be a sign of things to come. Or it could just be the nature of football.
  22. Chad Ochocinco, Cincinnati Bengals - It was only a year ago that Chad Johnson (as he was then named) was coming off of his 5th straight 1200+ yard, 7+ TD season. Carson Palmer's absence last year was, I believe, the reason for Johnson's weak performance. Ryan Fitzpatrick had trouble hitting him in stride, as evidenced by a drop of more than 50% off of Johnson's career yards-after-catch average. I think he'll bounce back, contingent upon Palmer's health.
  23. Eddie Royal, Denver Broncos - Royal lost his Pro Bowl quarterback, his opposite receiver wants a trade, and defenses have a full year of film on him. All the logic says to be wary of Royal, but I can't shake the positive vibes I got from watching him play last year. I say take him.
  24. Lee Evans, Buffalo Bills - Normally I wouldn't see adding a new #1 receiver as a reason to think more of a receiver, but Evans has always seemed best suited to a Robin role. He's a home run threat, so with defenses having to worry about T.O., I see a lot of opportunities to get downfield and open. His upside is Braylon Edwards from two years ago.
  25. Santonio Holmes, Pittsburgh Steelers - Holmes got a lot of publicity for his fantastic Super Bowl catch, but other than that, his third year in the NFL was fairly pedestrian. I still think he's got the ability to get to another level, hence the ranking, but make sure you don't let his highlight reel affect your judgment.
  26. Lance Moore, New Orleans Saints - He may not be supremely talented, but he's in one of the best spots in football for a receiver. A thousand yards and ten touchdowns is a solid bet.
  27. Anthony Gonzalez, Indianapolis Colts - Another opportunity guy; the Colts will pass, and Gonzo will start, so voila! Statistics.
  28. DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles - The Eagles haven't ever really had much in the way of receivers, so it didn't come as much of a surprise that Jackson immediately became their best fantasy wideout. No reason to not expect some improvement.
  29. Devin Hester, Chicago Bears - Jay Cutler had a lot of success working with Eddie Royal, who's got a similar skillset to Hester. I fully expect Hester to be considerably better with Cutler in town.
  30. Donnie Avery, St. Louis Rams - With Torry Holt moving on, Avery becomes the best receiver on the Rams. Not encouraging for Rams fans, but it makes him worth a draft pick for us fantasy owners.
  31. Ted Ginn Jr., Miami Dolphins - While the Dolphins' offense will likely be conservative again, there will be plenty of opportunities for him to shine. Even withGreg Camarillo and Davone Bess competing for looks, I believe Ginn will do far more with his chances.
  32. Bernard Berrian, Minnesota Vikings - There's really no good bet on who'll be quarterbacking this team, but it's safe to say Berrian will be going deep. The guy is a twig, but he can make big plays.
  33. Kevin Walter, Houston Texans - He really just seems like a 900 yard, 5 TD guy. He'll be solid, but nothing to get excited about.
  34. Donald Driver, Green Bay Packers - Speaking of nothing to get excited about, Driver is well into his NFL career. He's reliable and not at all flashy, but to fill out your starting roster, reliable is a good thing.
  35. Laveranues Coles, Cincinnati Bengals - I'm expecting a little bit of a bounce back for Coles in his new digs. Nothing fancy, but I wouldn't be surprised at all if he got back to 1000+ yards.
  36. Jerricho Cotchery, New York Jets - With the departure of Coles, Cotchery becomes the Jets' most proven receiver. The QB situation is far from desirable, but Cotchery should still be productive.
  37. Steve Breaston, Arizona Cardinals - Breaston is a real wild card, because he oscillated between great and missing without any apparent rhyme or reason. If Boldin gets dealt, Breaston becomes much more valuable, but if not, I'd be wary of starting him unless you have to.
  38. Domenik Hixon, New York Giants - With Plaxico Burress facing likely jail time, and seemingly not welcome back in New York, someone else will have to step up. Hixon feels like the most likely candidate, but Steve Smith, Mario Manningham, Sinorice Moss, and others all figure to get their shots.
  39. Torry Holt, Jacksonville Jaguars - Holt used to be one of the elite wide receivers in football, but now he's just a default #1 on a team with a crummy passing game. He'll probably be no better than he was last year (800 yards, 3 TDs), but no worse either.
  40. Michael Jenkins, Atlanta Falcons - I'm counting on improvement throughout the Falcons' passing game, but Jenkins figures to benefit the least from the arrival of Tony Gonzalez. His touchdowns will probably stay low, but his yards could get a bump.
  41. Michael Crabtree, San Francisco 49ers - I've never had much faith in rookie wide receivers, but someone will have to catch passes for the 49ers. Crabtree has as good a chance as any to be their biggest producer.
  42. Steve Smith, New York Giants - He and Domenik Hixon figure to be the most likely starting two for the Giants this season. They'll still be a run-first team, but with perhaps the league's best offensive line, there'll be opportunities for receivers to make plays.
  43. Isaac Bruce, San Francisco 49ers - Bruce quietly had a fairly productive season in 2008. While Michael Crabtree will steal some looks, and San Francisco has a very questionable quarterback situation, Bruce will probably fall backwards into 750 yards and a few touchdowns, which is fine for your fourth receiver.
  44. Percy Harvin, Minnesota Vikings - He won't be able to help being a better producer than the Vikings' last highly touted WR draft pick, that bum Troy Williamson. He also doesn't have much competition for looks in the passing game, so the opportunity for a surprise rookie explosion is there...if anyone can get him the ball.
  45. Nate Washington, Tennessee Titans - Washington goes from #3 receiver in Pittsburgh to #1 receiver in Tennessee. His situation got a lot worse, but there's an opportunity for success here. He's worth a flier on your bench.
  46. Darrius Heyward-Bey, Oakland Raiders - The Raiders boasted one of the weakest passing attacks of the decade last season, and they did nothing to inspire much hope for improvement. But it's obvious that Heyward-Bey will get opportunities, and he does have talent. He's the best option on Oakland, which puts him squarely at #46 overall.
  47. Greg Camarillo, Miami Dolphins - Either Camarillo or Davone Bess will get the starting gig alongside Ted Ginn; my guess is Camarillo. He's not much of a candidate for an explosion, but he should be solid.
  48. Justin Gage, Tennessee Titans - Gage was one of my favorite receivers to target in Madden 2001. It's taken him a while to get going, but he seems to have found a nice little niche in Tennessee. He won't be great, but he just might be good for 800 yards and 5-7 TDs.
  49. Deion Branch, Seattle Seahawks - Nate Burleson might be more talented than Branch, but Burleson seems too similar to Houshmandzadeh for them to be on the field together all that often. My guess is Branch will be the better producer.
  50. Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia Eagles - There's usually a rookie wide receiver who plays really well, and it's not always the first receiver taken (Marques Colston, Anquan Boldin). Maclin comes into a good situation with a talented QB and unimpressive WRs in front of him. Why not Maclin?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Ranking the Announcers - Seattle Mariners

In a surprising turn of events, I'm actually continuing the "Ranking the Announcers" segment (well, at least for one more). This week I'm checking in on my favorite team, the Cleveland Indians, and one of my stud fantasy pitchers, Cliff Lee, as they take on the Seattle Mariners in the Pacific Northwest.

7/26/09 Cleveland Indians at Seattle Mariners on FSNW

The first thing that strikes you when listening to the Seattle announcing team of Dave Niehaus and Mike Blowers (and after the third inning Dave Sims replaces Dave Niehaus for the remainder of the game) is just how pleasant and complimentary they are. Whether describing their own team, the opposing team or just the daily happenings in baseball (which happened to be the HOF inductions, of which, Niehaus and Blowers simply gushed over Ricky Henderson) . Niehaus, with his olde-tyme style is particularly enjoyable to listen to, although it seems to be more fluff than actual baseball insight. Blowers adds the typical "player's perspective", but doesn't seem add a whole lot of actual baseball insight.

When Dave Sims takes over as the play-by-play guy, the broadcast becomes noticeably less interesting, although not necessarily worse. Sims is very professional and technically competent, but fails to be very engaging. He also doesn't have much of a flow with Blowers, who seems to become less active after Niehaus left the booth. When the Indians binged on Seattle pitching for 6 runs in the fifth inning, Sims and Blowers showed little reaction or emotion. While I appreciate their professionalism, I would also like to hear a little bit more than just disappointment in their voices from two guys that call 162 Mariner games a year. And, yes, I realize that I'm straddling a fine line.

Once the game was out of hand, Sims and Blowers really became generic, throwing out the obligatory stats and baseball talk, but for the most part just "getting through the game". While I can certainly understand that they would lose focus during a blowout, the Seattle booth really hadn't established themselves enough in the early innings to completely write off their lack of late game effort. While the Mariners announcing team was a pleasant enough listen, they really didn't add alot to my MLB game experience... sounds like they will probably end up somewhere in the middle of the rankings... and definitely ahead of the Nationals announcers.

Current Rankings

Seattle Mariners
Washinton Nationals


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Just Like Music

First things first, I have decided nothing for my birthday. I'll probably have pie of some sort, though fried ice cream is still on the table. Dessert is about all I look forward to these days. PS: There's pie at the house.

Moneyball is the second most important book I've ever read, behind only Ishmael by Daniel Quinn.

Remember ages ago when I said I was going to start posting audio files of myself playing and singing songs on a regular basis? And remember how not only did I not start posting them on a regular basis, but didn't in fact post a single one? Well, I've got a faint hope of finally coming around on that. Faint.

I'm compiling a list of potential songs right now, and putting them into two categories: A) songs I can play/have played, and B) songs I think I could play and might sound good, were it someone else singing and playing. If you've got any suggestions for either list, I'm happy to hear them. I make no promises about how long it'll take to post anything, or even that anything will progress on this front at all.

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

2009 Fantasy Football Cheat Sheet - QB

We'll start this season's cheat sheets with the position that scores the most points in the majority of leagues: the quarterback. This cheat sheet assumes 1 point per 25 yards passing, 1 point per 10 yards rushing, 4 points per passing TD, and -2 points per interception.

Other cheat sheets:
QB | WR | RB | TE

UPDATE: Favre's retirement changes the list a little bit. Do you think it was my cold, unforgiving commentary that convinced Favre to stay retired? Me too.
  1. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints - Brees probably won't match his numbers from last season, but in standard scoring leagues, he's still your number one option. Touchdowns are tough to predict, but you know for sure that the Saints will be passing a ton, and that Brees will rack up yards.
  2. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts - It's certainly possible that Brady or Rivers will score more points than Manning this year. When it comes to quarterback, though, reliability is as important as anything, and Manning is the one sure bet, every year. It'll be interesting to see how he operates with Marvin Harrison gone for good, but I don't doubt that Manning will still put up top-tier quarterback numbers.
  3. Tom Brady, New England Patriots - Last year was the first year ever that I didn't underestimate Brady, and it was the one year he really disappointed. The word is that he's fully recovered and will be able to step back in and get back to tossing touchdowns. With Matt Cassel being traded, I believe it's true.
  4. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers - Rivers quietly led the NFL in touchdown passes and passer rating last year. He was a little up-and-down, with four games of zero or one TD pass, but he'll win you plenty of games to make up for his slip-ups. Also, everyone after Rivers has some kind of question mark, so you should put a little star by his name as the end of a tier.
  5. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers - Remember when Rodgers fell and fell in the first round of the draft a few years ago? Oops? Rodgers has a great WR corps and has been improving as he gets more playing experience. Maybe Greg Jennings is why Rodgers is good; maybe it's the other way around. Who cares as long as they're racking up yards?
  6. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys - I'm not so foolish as to think that Romo will be better without Terrell Owens; Owens makes any offense better. But if you look at last season, Romo's performance seems to be linked more strongly to the presence of Marion Barber than of Owens. If Barber can stay healthy (which should be easier with Felix Jones getting into the mix more), Romo should be just fine.
  7. Kurt Warner, Arizona Cardinals - I don't like Warner at all. This ranking is basically just me saying that any quarterback with Boldin and Fitzgerald on his team is a top 10 quarterback. Blah.
  8. Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia Eagles - Last season was the first time in five years that McNabb played in all 16 games, which doesn't exactly make you want to run out and grab him. He also doesn't really run anymore, which is more of a problem for Eagles fans than fantasy owners, but it's another factor. His receiving options are the best since T.O. left, but I'd still be wary of investing in such a question mark.
  9. Carson Palmer, Cincinnati Bengals - He was hurt most of last year, and all it takes is half a year for people to forget about a very solid player (see Randy Moss). He's going to have to learn how to move the ball down the field without one of his favorite targets (T.J. Houshmandzadeh), but he's got the talent to succeed. A lot of his production will depend on how quickly he gets on the same page as #85.
  10. Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears - On a general level, I think the Bears did okay by acquiring Cutler. He's a high caliber passer, and the Bears' passing attack was very weak last year. To me, though, Kyle Orton wasn't the problem. The utter lack of receiving threats was the issue, and that hasn't changed. Cutler should be decent, but I wouldn't expect many 300+ yard games.
  11. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons - Matt Ryan was one of the great stories of last year, coming into a difficult situation as a rookie QB and leading his team to the playoffs. He's got plenty of talent around him now, and he was a productive rookie. He'll only get better from here.
  12. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers - I hate the Steelers. That said, they've become a much more balanced offensive team in recent years. Roethlisberger's production has been up and down, though. He's got only one season with 20 or more TDs, which is the same number of seasons in which he's accumulated 20 or more INTs. I expect him to rebound from last season, but he'll never be a top-tier option at quarterback.
  13. Matt Schaub, Houston Texans - Schaub is a moderately talented, injury-prone quarterback who happens to have one of the best wide receivers in the game to throw to in Andre Johnson. He can be plenty productive when healthy, but I don't really expect him to be healthy. Schaub is a good choice as an early backup QB, but I'd be wary of picking him to be your starter.
  14. Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle Seahawks - Hasselbeck was abysmal last year in seven games, but it wasn't so long ago that he had put together a nice little stretch of seasons. He's not ever going to be a superstar; his time for that has passed. But the addition of Houshmandzadeh will give him by far the surest hands he's ever had to throw to. Partner that with the emergence of John Carlson, and Hasselbeck is a top-flight backup, with starter potential.
  15. Kyle Orton, Denver Broncos - I know, he may not have Brandon Marshall. I know, he was never very good in Chicago. But he's only 27, last year was his first full season as a starter (as well as the first season his coaches showed any confidence in him), and while he wasn't outstanding, he was fairly productive. Even without Marshall, I like Denver's receiving options better than the clowns Orton had in Chicago. And if Marshall ends up coming back, I like Orton as a late starter pick.
  16. Matt Cassel, Kansas City Chiefs - Cassel's draft position is one of the more interesting stories this season. He excelled in New England last year, but there are questions as to whether that's a repeatable performance in Kansas City. He'll have vastly inferior receiving talent, and a suspect running game. I expect Cassel to be taken as a starter in a lot of leagues, but I wouldn't put my eggs in his basket...metaphorically.
  17. Eli Manning, New York Giants - Eli is a guy who goes higher in public leagues because people know the name and he's a Super Bowl champion, but he belongs right about here. He had only five multi-touchdown games, and only six games in which he threw for 200 or more yards. The previous three years he threw 17, 18, and 20 interceptions. He's a fine real-life quarterback, but for fantasy purposes, let someone else carry this dead weight.
  18. Trent Edwards, Buffalo Bills - Edwards didn't show anything special last year, but the addition of Terrell Owens to any offense is a boon. Additionally, Edwards is still young, and showed definite improvement in his second season as quarterback. He's still got plenty he can improve upon, but I'd be surprised if he doesn't have his first 20-touchdown season in 2009.
  19. David Garrard, Jacksonville Jaguars - I've never been a big David Garrard fan, because I don't love guys who make their living on being just "good enough." He's a nice quarterback for his team, as he's able to avoid turnovers and generate first downs, but he's not a great fantasy player. The addition of Torry Holt should help some, but I don't expect it'll make enough of a difference for you to want Garrard as your starting QB.
  20. Jake Delhomme, Carolina Panthers - Delhomme is sort of like Matt Schaub Lite. His upside is lower, but he's also a slightly safer bet for a full, healthy season. He's nothing to get excited about, but should be a solid backup.
  21. Jason Campbell, Washington Redskins - Despite the Redskins being in talks to acquire Jay Cutler over the offseason, things seem to be looking up for Campbell. His passing yardage, rushing yardage, touchdowns, completion percentage, and passer rating went up for the third straight year. He's got a few good options to throw to (though no great ones), and a solid running game behind him. I look for improvement again.
  22. Chad Pennington, Miami Dolphins - Pennington isn't going to make anyone excited, and he's not going to perform any better than he has in the past. But he's an efficient passer, and a fine backup. At the least, he won't kill your team when your starting QB has a bye week.
  23. Marc Bulger, St. Louis Rams - I don't know why, but I just don't believe Bulger is as bad as his performance the past two years has indicated. The Rams are still a ways off from being a good team again, and all of his receivers are gone, but even a small bounce back by Bulger makes him a viable option week-to-week.
  24. Sage Rosenfels, Minnesota Vikings - The Vikings had been trying to trade for Rosenfels for a year, and with Brett Favre affirming his retirement, the path is fairly open for the Age of Sage to begin. The team can't be that happy with Tarvaris Jackson if they traded for someone to compete with him. If you're going to draft a Minnesota quarterback (which I'm not really recommending), I'd go with Rosenfels.
  25. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens - Flacco wasn't an embarrassment as a rookie, and he had his share of bright moments. I think he's generally over-valued, especially when you look at his supporting cast, but he could be okay. At #25, really, you can't expect a lot.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Fantasy Football First Round Mockery - 2009

As some of you remember, I did a first round mock draft for baseball season. Not one to "leave it at that," here comes its football counterpart. We'll look at a 12-team league, standard scoring.
  1. Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings - Kind of a no-brainer. You'd like him to factor into the passing game a little more, but that's being picky. If you've got the #1 pick, don't get fancy, just draft Peterson and let the other folks sort out the rest. Projected stats: 1800 rushing yards, 200 receiving yards, 16 TDs.
  2. Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars - Quietly, Jones-Drew has become the next Brian Westbrook. He's a huge factor as a receiver, and he's a high quality rusher as well. There's some risk in projecting him to improve when he's got thefull load, but worst case scenario he's "only" as good as he was last year. Projected stats: 1300 rushing yards, 500 receiving yards, 15 TDs.
  3. Michael Turner, RB, Atlanta Falcons - Turner showed he's got a nose for the end zone last year, and the Falcons showed that they're committed to the running game. I'm not necessarily expecting an improvement on last year's breakout season, but he'll get close enough that you won't regret this pick. Projected stats: 1600 rushing yards, 15 TDs.
  4. DeAngelo Williams, RB, Carolina Panthers - It seemed like there was a point in the season when things just clicked into place for the Panthers, and they figured out the perfect balance between Williams and the heavy hitter, Jonathan Stewart. You may have to deal with some ups and downs, but more ups than downs. Even a time-share with Stewart is going to yield big numbers. Projected stats: 1400 rushing yards, 300 receiving yards, 12 TDs.
  5. LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, San Diego Chargers - I'd like to drop him even further down the list, but I can't in good conscience let him out of the top five. The success the Chargers had last year with the two-headed monster of Tomlinson and Darren Sproles gave you a look into 2009's likely scenario. Package that with Philip Rivers' growth at quarterback, and you're inexplicably looking at the sunset of Tomlinson's heyday. Projected stats: 1200 rushing yards, 400 receiving yards, 14 TDs.
  6. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals - You'll find that I like wide receivers more than most fantasy football analysts you'll read online, but here's my logic. Running backs change every year, often within the year. The elite wide receivers on draft day are almost always still elite at the end of the year. Fitzgerald puts up running back numbers at wide receiver, and he's a safer bet to do it again. What's not to love? Projected stats: 1400 receiving yards, 13 TDs.
  7. Matt Forte, RB, Chicago Bears - Forte was a rousing success for the Bears, who didn't have a lot of those on offense. While he won't be leaned on to be as large a part of Chicago's offense in 2009, the offense as a whole should be better, and that will benefit Forte. A rookie who slides into the passing game as fluidly as he did last year won't have any trouble succeeding with improved quarterback play. Projected stats: 1300 rushing yards, 500 receiving yards, 10 TDs.
  8. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints - I used to be of the opinion that you had to ignore quarterbacks early on. Then I lost a few leagues and learned that sometimes, it's okay to take a signal-caller early. Brees is the cream of a pretty solid QB crop. He's had at least 4400 passing yards and 26 TDs in each of the past three seasons, and he's still only 30. New Orleans will keep needing to throw, and Brees will be the beneficiary. Projected stats: 4800 passing yards, 32 TDs, 16 INTs.
  9. Steven Jackson, RB, St. Louis Rams - Jackson has been one of the more frustrating players in fantasy football over the past few years. When healthy, he's been a monster. But he's missed four games in each of the past two seasons. I still say to take him in the first round, because when he can play, he'll win you games. Projected stats: 1300 rushing yards, 400 receiving yards, 11 TDs.
  10. Brandon Jacobs, RB, New York Giants - I've liked Jacobs for a while now, and last year he started to show exactly why. He pounded defenses for 15 TDs, and averaged 5.0 yards per carry for the second consecutive season. He may not catch passes, but a guy who can get into the end zone as reliably as Jacobs is a valuable commodity. Like vespene gas. Projected stats: 1200 rushing yards, 16 TDs.
  11. Andre Johnson, WR, Houston Texans - Johnson has even more value in a point-per-reception league, but even if you're in a league with standard scoring, he's a beast and a first round pick. The consistency you get out of the huge reception guys means that you rarely have to worry about a bagel day, and Johnson gave you plenty of...whatever the opposite of bagels are. Eclairs, maybe. Projected stats: 1500 receiving yards, 10 TDs.
  12. Frank Gore, RB, San Francisco 49ers - If you had Gore last season (like I did), you feel like he never did anything. True, he didn't have any 200 yards games, but he was a pretty consistent performer for a team that was completely devoid of a passing attack. Not that it'll be much better this year, but Michael Crabtree should do, well, something. Plus he's a keeper on my fantasy team, so I need him to bounce back. Projected stats: 1300 rushing yards, 300 receiving yards, 12 TDs.
Conspicuously absent from my first round list is Brian Westbrook. I think his reign of terror has come to a close. Last year was the first time in five years that he averaged less than 100 total yards of offense per game, and he was never really a guy people expected to be able to carry a full load. I think he'll still be a valuable player in both real and fantasy football, but I wouldn't tie my fate to him with a first round pick anymore.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Cumpleanos

As some of you know (those of you who are real friends), I've got a birthday coming up here in a couple weeks. I've brainstormed a little about what I want to do, but I'm not having a lot of success. So far, the only certainties I've got are that I want to do something, and I'd like to drink some Leinenkugel's beer while I'm doing whatever that something is.

So let's fill in the blank. What will I do for my birthday? It's a Saturday, which adds some possibilities. The default, and I'm sure the first idea that most of you will have (as it was the first idea I had) is to go out. Get a good dinner, go to some bars, have drinks, get someone else to pay. And that doesn't sound terrible, but A) I can go out to bars whenever, B) it'll almost certainly be a group of fifteen guys and two girls, and C) I don't normally seek out bar trips, so it feels strange to do so as a special occasion.

I'm not discounting the possibility of going out to a bar or bars for my birthday, but I feel like I can do better than that. So what do I like doing? Well, playing video games, for starters. I've had fun pretty much every time we've gotten a group together to play (usually Halo or Halo 2), but it's always a challenge getting enough people to build two solid teams. Plus, my basement is still being worked on, so my house isn't a great option for hosting such an event. Add to that the fact that Chip's house now has a baby and is thus much less favorable for hosting, and we're hurting. We'll table that idea for now.

What else do I like? Well, if you've seen a recent picture of me (or really any picture from the past fifteen years), you know I like to eat. No, not babies. Just, you know, food. I was passing through our family room last night and my mom was watching Top Chef. Cooking is pretty cool, and competitions are pretty cool, so what about some kind of cooking competition? Split up into teams or twosomes, have some cooking challenge, judge it, give the winner something. This kind of idea would take some commitments ahead of time, though, so I'd like to hear from you folks if you'd be up for this.

Any other ideas? You guys probably know what I'd like more than I do, so any input is welcome. If you have a thought on how to twist one of the other ideas, that'd be welcome, too.

Top 5 Dave Matthews Band Songs (for today; it always changes)
  1. Bartender
  2. Lie In Our Graves
  3. Warehouse
  4. Crush
  5. Proudest Monkey
I'm thinking I might have to cave in, shell out whatever outrageous markup the scalpers are charging, and go see DMB this summer. Though it won't be the same (it can't be the same) without Leroi Moore, the music was too important to me for too long for me to have gone this long without going to a show (8 years?). If anybody's willing to come with me and brave the parking disaster that is Nissan Pavilion, let me know. And let's do this.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

What Is Up?

When I think about why I'm making this blog post, I'm reminded of a memorable quote from my all-time favorite show, The West Wing:

SAM
I think this press conference is about our future.

BARTLET
I think this press conference is about we haven’t had a press conference in a while.

The truth is, there's really nothing too exciting going on, nothing I feel the need to comment on. I just know I haven't written in a while, so here we go.

My pants don't fit anymore. It's in a good way; that is, I've lost enough weight that my pants are too loose, but the actual problem is the same. My pants don't fit anymore. I can get by with them for a little while longer, but the reality is that I'm going to look a little bit silly until I get some new ones.

What does this mean for my recently begun job search? I'm not sure. You're supposed to wear a suit to interviews, and I haven't tried on my suit in a few months. That's second on my to-do list for when I leave work today. Number one on that list is to buy some chewy chocolate chip cookies for my sister. I unknowingly ate the last of her stash (it was in the kitchen, how could I know?), and because I feel her pain on people devouring any food you leave in the kitchen, I'm gonna grab her a box or bag or whatever. Shhh, don't tell her. Everybody likes surprises.

Top 5 Games I've Been Playing Recently
  1. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (Xbox 360) - I played Morrowind (the prequel to this game), and was almost immediately frustrated with its lack of direction. Oblivion has only slightly more direction, but it was enough for me, and now I'm hooked. Perhaps the best evidence of its quality is that I'm playing it with almost no interest in stacking achievements. I'm playing the game just to play the game. It's wild.
  2. Army of Two (Xbox 360) - I've been playing online with Patrick, both of us looking to pick up some achievements, and it's been a blast. We're both willing to acknowledge when we mess up, and we both mess up a fair amount. But when the cooperation pays off, it's very gratifying.
  3. Diablo II (PC) - Kicking it old school, I've always liked the game, and I've talked Chip into giving it a shot. I'm finding out, though, that my desk at home isn't set up very well, ergonomically speaking. Gotta work that out before it hurts my shoulder even more. Anyways, looking forward to giving the game another go-around. Treasure-hunting is my kind of fun.
  4. Left 4 Dead (Xbox 360) - I don't play it as much as some people (Patrick and Nick), but it's fun enough. My only qualm, and one that will likely be resolved in the upcoming sequel, is that I suck, and I keep getting matched up against people who are pretty good, so it's embarrassing when I play online. Hopefully Left 4 Dead 2 will have an actual matchmaking system, rather than just throwing people together.
  5. Destiny of an Emperor (NES) - Remember when I said I was kicking it old school by playing Diablo II? This is a little bit older school. It's an RPG based in ancient China, and while I prefer the more conventional Nintendo RPGs like Final Fantasy or Dragon Warrior, it's still a fairly fun game. Plus I'm far enough into it now that I want to take it all the way.

EDIT: In the original version of this post, I had an incorrect statement about Epic. This post has been updated to remove that inaccuracy.

Monday, July 6, 2009

NHL Free Agency... East Edition Pt. 2

Back at the Free Agency/Draft Recap.. 7 teams left, and the two "sexiest" teams are included.

Here we go.

New York Rangers


The Rangers are a team that traditionally tries to win the N.Y. Yankees way. See good player. Target good player. Overpay for good player. Looks like this year they might have continued the trend by signing the often injured Martin Gaborik to a 5 year deal. They did manage to get rid of the ANCHOR of a contract held by Scott Gomez by trading him and his 16 goal scoring 7.5!!! million dollar a year deal to the Habs. They also snatched away veteran goon Donald Brashear from the Caps.

As long as the Rangers have "The King" Henrik Lundqvist in net, they are in the playoffs. But I'm not sure they they are good enough defensively to make a huge impact this year.

Why you should care:
Messier.

Goes to the papers and says " We WILL win tonight" before their Stanley Cup Final game against the Canucks in 1994. Scores a hat trick that night. What a captain. They go on to win the Cup.


Ottawa Senators
The definition of a classless move in sports is asking your team for a trade through the media. It makes it impossible for your team to get fair value. Well, Dany Heatley did just that, and then, when his team found a team that wanted to trade for him, he exercised his no-trade clause. Dick. It will be interesting to see how the fans treat Heats in his first game back in Ottawa, where it appears he will be playing whether he likes wants to or not.

They did nothing in free agency besides signing the pest Chris Niel. Looks like a tough year for the Sens.

Why you should care:

This is less why you should care, more why you should laugh. Movie tie-ins in a pregame ceremony that aren't just actually movie clips will ALWAYS FAIL.....



Philadelphia Flyers

The Flyers traded for defensemen Chris Pronger, which is huge. This guy was made to play in Philly. Pronger always dances on that line of playing tough and playing cheap, which is a good assessment of the Flyers as a whole. They lost net presence specialist Mike Knuble to the Caps, but they still have Captain Mike Richards, Daniel Briere, and Simon Gagne to put in the goals.

They signed goalie Ray Emery who had been playing in Russia for the last 2 years to be the started. Flyer fans can't be too confident with that. Pronger will make the team better, but can Emery take them into the playoffs

Why you should care:

Mike Richards plays hockey like it's meant to be played. Scores goals, blocks shots, goes into the dirty areas, fights, kills penalties, he's a superstar paying the price most superstars don't.


Pittsburgh Penguins

When you win a championship in the NHL, the next season you're going to lose some guys. People will overpay for your free agents because they won a championship and now have seemingly more value.

Penguins have added nothing of note, but have retained two key free agents, the aging but still contributing Bill Geurin, and playoff specialist Ruslan Fedetenko. Both players left money and years on the table to return.

Penguins have lost, the tower of a defensemen Hal Gill, and the SUPER solid Rob Scuderi through free agency with the streaky sniper Petr Sykora probably also leaving.

But as a Pens fan, I ain't sweating it. Last year, after the Penguins lost in the finals, they lost the following players:
  • Marion Hossa
  • Ryan Malone
  • Gary Roberts
  • Jarkko Ruutu
  • Georges Laraque
  • Ty Conklin
THAT year they lost a big part of the team, and they won the Stanley Cup the following year. GM Ray Shero has shown he knows what moves to make at the trade deadline to make it to the Finals. And let's be honest, when you have 2 of the best 3 players in the league on your team, you're going to be good.

Why you should care:

Champs. And this song.



Tampa Bay Lighting


Jokes. Like anyone cares. After new ownership took over last year, things have been bad for the Lightning. Questionable trades, questionable Signings, no one coming to the games. The Lightning are a mess.

They added defensemen Mattius Ohlund who is a nice pick up, but they overpayed. Will last year's #1 pick Steve Stamkos make a difference this year?

I dont think so. Lecavelier is dying alive.

Why you should care:

Don't.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto is a team still in rebuild mode, but this year the additions of defensemen Hal Gill and Mike Komisarek will make this year's Leafs better than last year's. Flamboyant GM looked hard for a big splash signing at forward, but hasn't found one yet. I don't think the Leafs are done. Would Alexei Kovalev come to the Leafs?

Step in the right direction year, but not quite playoff caliber yet.

Why you should care:
If you have patience, you'll love this team.




Washington Capitals

The Caps had what should be considered a successful season last year, but losing in Game 7 always gives you a bad taste in your mouth. It was obvious in that series with the Pens that the Caps have enough skill to win. But did they have enough grit?

Well, they may have plugged this hole with the signing of Mike Knuble. This guy goes to the net and is never afraid of contact. Guys like Semin need a Knuble on their line. Even though he is on the bad side of 35, it's a great pick up.

They did lose Federov and Victor Kozlov. Kozlov was just another one of the Caps skilled but soft players, so I think Knuble is an upgrade. Fedorov's leadership will surely be missed, but he wasn't a big producer throughout the season or playoffs. Tough guy Donald Brashear also walked, but tough guys, no matter how loved by the fans, never make or break a lineup.

Capitals will no doubt be a top team in the East. Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Semin will take care of that. But do they have enough toughness to advance further in the playoffs? Will this year be goalie Varlamov's true coming out party? Will Nylander do ANYTHING to earn his 5 million a year? Will Ovechkin ever backcheck? (had to get one stinger in here)

I think it still will take a trade deadline deal for the Caps to move past the second round.

Why you should care:

Ovechkin vs. Crosby meeting every Playoffs should be awesome for years to come.





30 down! That's all for me. Enjoy the summer. Hockey Rules.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

NHL Free Agency... East Edition Pt. 1

On to the more interesting and usually more entertaining Eastern Conference.

I always wondered how different conferences get their own personalities. I can't speak for other sports, but in hockey, the East is the more skilled, scoring conference, while the west is the more smash-mouth, grind it out conference. How does that happen? Some things I'll never know.

Here we go.

Atlanta Thrashers

Thrashers are a franchise still searching for their first playoff win in their short history. The insanely good Kovulchuk is really the only player of note on this team. In free agency, they added the solid forward Nik Antropov to help Kovulchuk score goals, and a returning strong no-name back line should have this team fighting for a playoff spot. The big problem on the horizon is they have to convince Kovulchuk to resign next summer. He will demand HUGE numbers to stay in the Atlanta.

Why you should care:


Kovulchuk and Crosby have a little fued that started with this.



Boston Bruins

Over the last two years, the Bruins have returned to their old form, being a bad ass. They went after Hossa, but lost out on him to Chicago. They didn't do much in free agency but I don't think they needed too. They were close last year (conference semifinals), and they are maybe a trade or two away from getting over that hump this year. Definitely a top 3 seed again this year.


Why you should care:


Tim Thomas is old school. Who needs technique?




Buffalo Sabres


After losing Daniel Briere and Chris Drury a few years ago, the Sabres have been a team without any identity. Sure they have the 40 goal scorer Thomas Vanek and the solid goaltending of Ryan Miller, but nothing much after that. They lost a defensemen in Spacek, and gained a defensemen in Montador in free agency. Not much different than last year for the Sabres. They barely missed the playoffs last year, and will probably do the same this year.

Why you should care:

Worst uniform change in history.
From This: ( see the Buffalo AND the Sabres??)
To This:
Let me introduce you to the BuffleSlug
Carolina Hurricanes

The Canes came from the 6th seed last year all the way to the conference finals. Their goalie Cam Ward got hot at exactly the right time. In Free Agency they didn't do much except lock up some of their own important pieces to long term deals. The Canes will go as far as Eric Staal and Cam Ward can take them. 6,7,8 seed seems about right.

Why you should care:

Last year they earned the nickname the Cardiac Canes for this reason. Brodeur=STUNNED




Florida Panthers

The Panthers lost a HUGE piece with the loss of D-man David Boumeester. Panthers will let in at least 25 more goals this season. Mark it down. They did lock up the exciting David Booth to a long term deal after he emerged last year as a real goal scorer. They also signed Marty Brodeur's understudy Scott Clemmenson in goal who did a good job backing up when Marty went down last year. Florida is one of those teams that will always have a tough time. It's not really a free agent destination. They had to draft and trade well to compete. No playoffs again in Sunrise, Florida.

Why you should care:

Check out their Radio Announcer. Gauranteed LOLz. Personal fav 2:55



Montreal Canadiens

Le Bleu-Blanc-et-Rouge lost a lot this offseason. Alex Kovalev, captain Saku Koivu being the biggest names. But to counter that, they signed a lot as well. They acquired the highly overpaid small center Scott Gomez from the Rangers, and three forwards from New Jersey: Gionta, Pandolfo and Brylin. The Habs also got the 30 goal man Mike Camilleri from the Flames. On the defensive side, they added Jaroslav Spacek from the Sabres and the huge Hal Gill from the champion pens. Lots of new names, but lost of big names lost as well.

Montreal was looking for a identity change after a dissapointing 100-year celebration season. Change they got, but improvement? I'm not sure.

Why you should care:

In Montreal 1. Hockey 2. Everything Else.
Also they sing the HELL out of their national anthem. And it's ALWAYS televised. Some things are more important than another commercial. I wish America would follow suit on this one.





New Jersey Devils

Devils are about one man. Goalie Martin Brodeur. As much as I truly hate him, I have to respect him. The Devils ALWAYS make the playoffs because of him. They are slowly shedding their image of being a defensive, sleep-inducing team, and are becoming more of an offesive team. But this off-season the Devils lost a lot of peices and havent added anything yet. Still, when you have Brodeur, you're making the playoffs.

Why you should care:

Brodeur.



New York Islanders


There is a bit of a buzz around the Islanders since they drafted John Tavares #1 in the draft. This kid broke Gretzky's records in junior hockey and should make an immediate impact. But will it be enough? I think not. Caps drafted Ovechkin, one year sucking ensued. Pens drafted Crosby, one year of sucking ensued. Islanders need to suck one more year to get another high draft pick to be a real playoff threat.

Why you should care?

Is this kid the real deal? Only thing we know now is he's not an exciting interview








23 down 7 left!

NHL Free Agency... West Edition Pt. 2

Back at it. Let's finish up the Western Conference.

Los Angeles Kings

The Kings have added two big pieces with acquiring Ryan Smyth from the Avalanche and "The Piece" Rob Scuderi from the Stanley Cup Penguins. They probably paid too much for both players, but they needed them.

Ryan Smythe is one of the NHL players I love. Not that tall, not that strong, not that skilled, but he works his ass off and will pay the price to score goals. Just looking at his face you can see the miles hes put in. His front 6 teeth are all fake. But with all that, he really isnt a #1 center. He's usually good for 30 goals but no more. Every team that wins a cup has a Ryan Smyth.

Scuderi is just a rock. His price rose tremendously with his Stanley Cup win. He scored one goal all season last year, but his job is to stop pucks from going in, not scoring them himself. He's one of those guys that when you see their number flash by the screen, you know this shift will be safe.

Question mark for the Kings is definitely the goaltending. But this year they should see the playoffs.

Why you should care:

Last week I met former Kings prospect Yutaka Fukufuji at the ice rink here in my town in Japan. I asked him, "How was the NHL?" He looked at me, smiled, and said "Fast." He played just one season for the Kings and is now playing in Japan.


Minnesota Wild

Minnesota is one of those teams always fighting with Devils for the title of the most boring style of play in hockey. And they sell out EVERY game. I mean EVERY game in their history. Minnesota people love thier hockey. But new coach this year is promising a more up-tempo game.

Well, they lost the oft-injured but highly skilled Gaborik and gained the slightly less skilled Havlat. Minnesota is always right at the edge of being good. This year I don't think they did enough to change that. They will probably fight for that 6,7,8 seed spot again this year.

Why you should care:

Their logo is kind of weird.


Nashville Predators

The Preds did nothing in free agency besides sign a few of their own guys to new contracts. I don't expect much from them this year, but I've always liked their captain Jason Arnott. Last year he put up the highest goal total (33) of his career at 34 years old. But I get the feeling he wouldn't mind a trade deadline deal to a cup contender before his career is over.

Nashville is one of those teams in a non traditional market that have to OVERPAY for free agents. I mean, would a Canadian player rather play in Montreal or Nashville? Other teams like this are Columbus, Florida, and Phoenix.

Why you should care:

They love knocking each other out after goals.



Phoenix Coyotes

You know you're not good when your coach is the only person people can name from your team. This team is now bankrupt and looking for buyers. Possibly will move out of Phoenix. Yeah, like any free agent was going to sign here.

Coyotes are a mess. No way they make the playoffs.

Why you should care:

You shouldn't but I like watching Gretzky yell.



San Jose Sharks

Sharks have been pissing their fans off for years now. Awesome regular season, lose quickly in the playoffs. They promised their fans some changes after their current playoff exit, but didn't really do much. They are still good and will likely again be in the top three seeds. But can they get over that hump they've been stuck in for the last 3 years? I wouldn't be surprised if they pull a trade before the season to chance something up. They need a little more grit to touch the silver.

Why you should care:

Joe Thornton. Second best passer in the game. Also listen to this big-time play by play guy. This is how its done. You can tell he's genuinely pumped as hell.




St. Louis Blues

Last year the Blues surprised everyone and made the playoffs, only to be bounced in 4 games. But it was still a year of much improvement. With young defensemen Johnson and the scorer Kariya coming back from injury this year, the Blues should only get better. Last year, TJ Oshie came out of nowhere and became a star. He should only improve. I think the Blues are not elite, but a solid playoff caliber team. Their shaved head goalie Mason really carries them.

Why you should care:

Paul Kariya will always be a bad ass in my mind because of this game while he was a Duck. Watch for the puff of air on his visor as the life comes back into him. Serious concussion, comes back and scores. In what other sports do athletes give more to win? Kariya's face after his goal still gives me goosebumps. What a human.





Vancouver Canucks

Vancouver will always be an alright team as long as they keep their insane goalie Roberto Luongo. They just signed their most important forwards Daniel and Henrik Sedin (they're twins) to long term deals, and also got the winger Samuelson from the Wings. Sundin is still undecided about playing next year or not. But the Canucks are for real. They still need one solid defender to be elite, but they will definitely be there in the running for the Cup.

Why you should care:

It's a real hockey town. When I was in Vancouver for a week a few years ago me and my friends were walking down the street. We walk past a restaurant and everyone inside is standing looking at the TV. I mean EVERYONE had stopped. Waiters, Bartenders, everyone. I ask whats happening, and someone tells me, "Its a shootout, the restaurants stops until the shoot out is over." A REAL hockey town.




15 down 15 to go! The East is NEXT.

NHL Free Agency... West Edition Pt. 1

Hockey Time!

Beautiful.

Less than a month ago the Penguins won the cup.

Since then, a lot of stuff has happened. The draft and free agency have changed the look of basically every team, for better (Chicago) or worse (New Jersey). Now the questions of the next season are more clear.

Can the Pens repeat without Rob "The Piece" Scuderi? Will the Red Wings ever not be awesome? Did Chicago's young guns gain the experience to make it to the next step? Did the Caps do enough to stay elite? Will the Islanders not suck with #1 pick John Tavares?????

I will give a team-by-team breakdown of the changes they've made, and also one reason why you should care about that team. I wont go through EVERY change, so fourth liners, backup goalies and assistant coaching changes wont be getting any ink.

First the West. Let's Do This.


Anaheim Mighty Ducks

Well, they lost their beast of a defenseman Chris Pronger, but managed to get a whole lot back in return including the solid forward Joffrey Lupul (25 goals last year) and two first-round picks.
Losing Pronger doesn't make any team better, but with the graybeards Neidermayer, Neidermayer, and Selanne returning, and the solid goaltending of Hiller and Giguere, they'll make the playoffs.

Why you should care:

Adam Banks.

Calgary Flames

The Flames got the crown jewel of this year's free agency acquiring Jay Bouwmeester. He's as reliable a defenseman as anyone in the NHL. Not exciting, but I guess defensive defensemen shouldn't be anyway. Flames will be solid this year. I always considered the Flames the prototypical Western Conference team. Solid defense, love to hit, not scared to win their games 2-1.

Why you should care:

Their crowd is pretty.


Chicago Blackhawks

In the NHL, it pays to suck. After sucking for many many years, Chicago is now kind of a big deal, with many early first round picks now playing for them. Two of the best young stars in the game with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane will guarantee the Blackhawks will be in the playoffs for a while. They also signed the Cup-chasing mercenary Marian Hossa for the like 45 years. Hossa. What a joke. More on him later. The 'Hawks did lose Martin Havlat, but Hossa should be able to take his place scoring goals. They lost Khabibulan to the Oilers, so a question mark will be goalie Huet. But he does have the coolest goalie nickname in the game, Cristobal "Crystal Ball" Huet.

Why you should care:
Toews is INSANE.


Colorado Avalanche


Long gone are the days where your friend would choose The Avalanche on NHL '98 and Forsberg and Sakic would eat you alive. They been kind of a joke for a while now. They traded Jason Smythe to the Kings for for peanuts, just to get rid of his huge contract, and haven't added much in free agency. They did draft a stud in Matt Duchene with the third pick, but he might not be ready this year. Looks like a tough swan song season for the awesome Joe Sakic.

Why you should care:

I teared up.



Columbus Blue Jackets

Like anyone cares. They locked up their best player Rick Nash for 8 years, all of which he will be dying alive.

Why you should care:
I got nothing

Dallas Stars

Wow three duds in a row. Kind of similar to the Avalanche. One ripe for retirement star in Mike Modano, and not much else. Did nothing of note in free agency, and will have a new coach this year. Three teams in a row that won't make it to the big dance.

Why you should care:

Mike's girl Willa Ford is hot. You can almost see him saying "Yep. This is mine"


Detroit Red Wings

Not much to say. Detroit is seemingly always awesome. They do everything good. Lidstrom, Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Franzen, Kronwall, sooo many good players. But they did lose Hossa. Hossa, Hossa, Hossa.

Hossa deserves his own paragraph. Hossa last 2 years: Lose in the finals. Join the team you lost against for a " better chance to win the cup" Lose in the finals AGAIN against the team you left for that "better chance" What a joke. This is possibly my favorite picture of all time.



Suck it.

The Wings didn't do much in free agency, because they don't have to. They won the cup without Hossa 2 years ago, and they definitely could do it again this year.

Why you should care:

Hard not to like their jerseys. Just looks like hockey.


Edmonton Oilers

Must be tough to be an Edmonton fan. After Chris Pronger's wife demanded they move away from Edmonton 3 years ago, now Dany Heatley, a player that demanded a trade, refused to waive his no trade clause because he didn't want to play in Edmonton. Could it be the curse of trading Gretzky??

In free agency, the Oilers have landed aging goalie Khabibulin from Chicago. Not too sure about that move as Khabibulin is already 36. Oilers have the ridiculously skilled Ales Hemsky, and rock of a defensemen Sheldon Souray, but not much else. Heatley would have really fit in nicely here; without him I think they wont score enough goals to make the playoffs.

Why you should care:

Dedicated Fans. That's a backyard rink. SICK.




OK 8 down 22 more.. Next up... the last 7 west teams.


Top 500 Songs - Dave Matthews Band

This was always going to be the hardest of my band lists, because I like so many of DMB's songs, and have liked them so differently over...