I can only assume that part of the reason for this assignment is my residency in self-proclaimed Hockey Town. One would figure that the city is abuzz with hockey fans getting ready to crown a new champion. Truth be told though no one has said a word about hockey in Detroit since April 21st. And therein lies the most disappointing part about this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs – they feel like they’ve been going on forever.
In the West the glamor teams in Detroit and Chicago were dispatched with ease leading to a Nashville/Phoenix series that went 5 merciful quick games. The Los Angeles Kings finished the fairly meaningless regular season as an 8 seed but like a buzz-saw cut thru top seeded Vancouver, only to face a 5 day break followed by the 2 seed St. Louis Blues. The Blues fell even faster than Vancouver with the Kings sweeping a Blues team that looked utterly hapless for the series. You could have told me that L.A. won 5 games in the series and I would have believed it. And as a reward for dispatching the 1 and 2 seeds the Kings received another long break and a series against the 3 seed Coyotes. Again the Kings made it look easy, this time in 5 games dispatching the Coyotes leading to AN EIGHT DAY BREAK! As someone who watches an inordinate amount of hockey the scheduling for this off-season in the West was impossible. 1, 2, and 3 day breaks between series games meant that getting into a rhythm as an out-of-town follower was painful at best and severely adverse to living a normal life outside of Pacific Time . It only took 14 games for the Kings to get to Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals – but those 14 games took over 7 weeks from the end of the regular season. Certainly the Canucks, Blues, and Coyotes struggled with the timing but for the Kings they seemed immune to the breaks.
The Washington Redskins and St. Louis Rams concluded a trade sending the #2 overall pick to the Redskins for what amounts to a king’s ransom. To move up 4 spots the Skins included 2 more future first round picks as well as a 2nd round pick.
Robert Griffin III appears to be the most likely option for Washington
While the cost was high the Redskins faced the prospect of missing out on either Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III. The move has Dan Snyder’s fingerprints on it but also Mike Shanahan’s. For Shanahan there are limits to what can be accomplished even if Washington had pursued Peyton Manning. Even with Manning the long-term proposition for the Redskins would have been one of trying to catch up too quickly for their current roster. While the draft picks dealt away could have been a method for restocking on the fly one only needs to look at a team like Detroit to see what the cap ramifications are of selecting consistently at the top of the draft.
Whichever of the two quarterbacks Washington ends up with their long-term cap situation without the 2 additional picks is markedly better than it would be with them on the roster. Without the trade the Redskins would face the prospect of having to select a position of lesser value at the top end of the draft devoting significant resources to a position that doesn’t warrant it. The Redskins roster is full of holes but the biggest holes appear to be in the passing game with Santana Moss and Jabar Gaffney past age 30. Fred Davis has become a nice option at the tight end spot but unless you have a situation like New England’s this past season you’re going to need at least one top caliber wide receiver to succeed. The potential to pick up a younger receiver to pair with a young QB over the next 2 years is much less difficult without having to devote a significant portion of the cap to draft picks.
Last season Redskins fans got to view the faceless and often talentless combination of Rex Grossman and John Beck. No matter how bright your sky there was no way 2011 was going to be a successful season. Drafting either Luck/Griffin, paring them with a FA receiver, and figuring out which of the team’s 4 sub-25 receivers is worth keeping should provide Washington fans with something to get excited about for the future. The comparison to having the draft picks is that any FA acquisitions of a major nature would be off the table and as we’ve come to expect that just isn’t the Dan Snyder way. Whether or not Snyder is finally able to put a consistent watchable product on the field probably means little for some of the NFL’s more die-hard fans but it would be nice to see the Skins’ be relevant again. This team defeated the Super Bowl winning Giants twice in 2011 so it isn’t unfathomable that they can contend. With a new look behind center they just might be a surprise in 2012.
The Detroit Tigers certainly made an offseason splash in signing Prince Fielder for $214,000,000(yes 6 zeroes) over 9 years. While a lineup with Fielder and Miguel Cabrera is certainly fearsome for White Sox and Indians fans the Tigers have issues to figure out that might not be solvable with their current roster. 15 years ago I bought a girl a ring – nothing spectacular and certainly not engagement quality but to me at the time it probably represented more then the close to one million times larger the Tigers just signed up for. Go ahead and try this nonsense when you’re young and dumb. It works just the same when you’re old and desperate for a title.
Just like I had a defensive jealousy about me the Tigers have a second base issue in Brandon Inge’s candidacy for the spot. While the city is divided into great guy/horrible hitter camps the bottom line is going to be determined by the guy can recognize enough of his own issues to at least contribute. It becomes dificult to balance whether he really cares or just says the right things when he shows up after most of the team for Spring Training. Just like the girl sulks off to the minors to cool off from you and you start to learn the game of being young and able to pick up the oppo sex again she’ll slap you across the face at work Brandon Inge will break you off and come back with a game winning homer just to show you he’s back in. Before you know it you’re in the same situation again – hanging onto something that just isn’t there. I like Brandon Inge I don’t dislike my ex but seeing either one of them leaves me feeling like I was punched in a special location.
A note to the young turks out there – don’t go changing yourself either. Whether she wants you to wear argyle socks or to shave more often just be where you can be the best you. Whatever cologne she sticks you with isn’t yours. She just marked her territory – no matter how good you think you smell – you smell like hers. The Tigers moving Miguel Cabrera isn’t exactly putting Brooks Robinson on 3rd and it isn’t putting Mark Reynolds there either. Let’s admit that it likely isn’t putting the best Cabrera on the field either. You can’t help but love what Cabrera brings to the plate and he transitioned to first base well enough to avoid being a liability in the field. Moving him back to third to find a slot for Fielder is a risk with huge stakes. If it works I will be the first to throw back a celebratory shot, light a victory cigar, and call Dave Dombrowski a genius but if it fails they have a lot of shuffling to do and like the eventual result of a relationship split Jim Leyland is going to smoke 3 packs of Camel unfiltered. I guarantee this. In fact 3 packs might be a step down for the skipper.
And if it does blow up in their faces long term the fan base will go thru the painful steps of rage, sadness, hope, and eventual acceptance. We’ll look back fondly on what didn’t work and what could’ve been and remember that it made us better long term so long as we don’t get it wrong again.
Sometimes you have to realize you don’t need the enigmatic first emotional option. No matter how great it seemed you look back and realize that ALCS win wasn’t getting it over the wall. Sometimes you find your championship comes from a Derek Jeter-esque Welsh Terrier, a ManRam-esque Airedale, and someone unexpected and extraordinary putting it all together for you. Sometimes you wait for the ring to develop – just like you wait out your prospects. The Tigers have made a bid for immediate returns and despite a potential murder’s row they’re likely to be judging the final result on the basis of someone unexpected who comes thru – I’m rooting for Brennan Boesch. After all my lucky # is 26 and it seemed to work out for me despite a rebuilding process after the emotion of trying to buy that first ring wore off.