Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Dallas Stars are done.

So, as I write, the Dallas Stars are 3 points out of a playoff spot with 10 games left to play. A year ago, the Stars were limping into the playoffs where they put on an incredible run, but that will not happen this year. They are toast and here is why. Let's start with the obvious.
1. Injuries. This team has been decimated with injuries this year, and while some people may say that isn't an excuse, I doubt any of them follow a team that has lost it's best puck-moving defensemen/power play quarterback (Sergei Zubov), It's best forward/Captain (Brenden Morrow), and for the last couple months, one of it's top two remaining forwards (Brad Richards). Those losses for extended amount of time, plus lengthy absences from others (Jere Lehtinen and Steve Ott), have contributed to the Stars let down.

2. Lost Personnel - In the off season, the Stars lost players such as Antti Miettinen Stu Barnes and Mattias Norstrom. Miettinen wasn't a huge loss, but combined with Stu's retirement, left them without a checking center they could rely on for a lot of the season. Norstrom's absence means that forwards aren't as wary of going into the crease as they would have been.

3. Turco's play. To say it has been unsteady would be an understatement. Unfortunately, the coach couldn't even put in a backup for any amount of time to give Turco a few games to re-focus because this team has no battle-tested goaltender in it's system. Any game I saw another goalie in net, I penciled in as a loss.

So, the bright side.
1. The off-season will be good for the Stars. Since they will not make the playoffs, there will be plenty of time to heal and for key personnel to decide their futures. This could be the year that both Mike Modano and Sergei Zubov decide to retire. Each could be effective for another year, but it depends a lot on health. My bet would be that Zubov retires for health reasons, and Modano plays his final year. Either way, the health of Morrow, Lehtinen, and Richards for a whole season would do wonders.

2. Next, there is the emergence of both Loui Eriksson and James Neal. These are young players who should only get better with another year. Add in that Ribiero, Richards, and Morrow are all still very young, and you've got a great nucleus to build around.

3. Finally, Turco should rebound from a very odd year. This reminds me of when Modano had an off year a few years back and came back very focused and looking like the Modano of old. I anticipate a return to form for Marty.

So, I hope that is the case because after a disappointing year, it's never too early to get excited about the next one.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

110 Percent Madness 2009

The bracket is set and 110 Percent invites you to pick against our 'pros' in our third annual Pick 'em challenge. Click on 110 Percent Madness Tournament Challenge to play.

Here are the details:
Group name: 110 Percent
Group ID# 73102
Password: teameffort

This is hosted by Yahoo!, so you will need a Yahoo! ID to play.

We have a tweak to the scoring this year. In addition to the standard scoring (1 point for first round, 2 for second, 4 for third, 8-fourth, 16-fifth, 32-championship), there are also bonus points up for grabs. All you have to do is pick the upsets. For a correct upset pick, you will get bonus points equal to the difference in the seeds. For example, if you correctly pick a 10 seed over a 7 in the first round, you will get one point for the win and three bonus points for the upset (10-7).

Also, we'll do some crazy brackets like last year--coin flip, free throw percentage, that sort of thing. If you have an idea you'd like to try for a crazy bracket and have an extra email account, go ahead and give it a shot, naming the bracket appropriately (ex: Coin Flip) so we all know what brainless method is schooling us. Please, though, only one serious bracket per person--any extras will be deleted.

Good luck and let the madness begin.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Don't let the door hit ya

In PJ’s last post, he did something quite amazing. He made many accurate observations regarding Dallas and Terrell Owens, and still arrived at the wrong conclusion. Allow me to explain.

In theory, I agree with each of his observations. A head coach and an offensive coordinator should be able to control a player. And T.O.’s disruptions should be easily shrugged off by the rest of the team. However, this is not the reality of the Dallas Cowboys. We do have a puppet head coach who is unwilling and/or unable to assert his authority. And clearly, T.O. was a disruption. What should have happened last season is irrelevant. Roy Williams may or may not be the new number one, but that is also irrelevant when discussing if the Cowboys should keep T.O.

Besides all that, T.O. can’t produce like he once did. I completely agree that Jason Garrett needs to do a better job as offensive coordinator—I’m no fan of his work—but it’s not entirely his fault. T.O. simply can’t do the things he once did. PJ acknowledges this, but attributes it all to the failure of Garrett. The fact is that T.O. has lost a step, and has developed a reluctance to sacrifice his body to make a catch. And despite his reputation, T.O. did take plays off on occasion last year. This drop in production alone justifies his release.

However, that, of course, is not the only reason to let him go. We may not have the specifics in this “he said, he said” drama, but there can be no doubt that T.O. divided the locker room. Patrick Crayton followed T.O. like a puppy dog, and Roy Williams was starting to do the same. Releasing Owens sends the message to the impressionable players that there is a limit. Hopefully, this will serve as a signal to them to cut the foolishness—Orlando Scandrick has already gotten the message.

PJ also points out that most wide receivers always think they are open. True enough. If T.O. only said he was open, there would be no problem. His act went well beyond that this year, however, and that is what makes it unacceptable. PJ also points out that T.O. was never in trouble off the field. Also true, but to be honest, if I have to choose between a good teammate who has legal issues and a locker room cancer who keeps his nose clean, well, give me Michael Irvin every time.

Having said all that, T.O. is the symptom, not the problem. As I said before, a coach should be able to control his team, and one player’s antics shouldn’t derail a team. But that’s not how things work in Dallas, and that isn’t T.O.’s fault. It has been common to say in years past that Jerry the Owner should fire Jerry the GM, meaning that Jerry is a good owner but a poor talent evaluator. I don’t believe that is true anymore. Jerry the Owner is causing these problems. He has repeatedly emasculated his head coach, most recently with the gag order he implemented at Valley Ranch. Until Jerry the Owner changes the culture at Valley Ranch, these problems will continue.

T.O. is gone, and that is a good thing. By no means, however, is it the last change that needs to happen with the Cowboys.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

T-Oh no...

So, I haven't written in a LONG time as I am prone to do which is odd cause I really don't have as much on my plate as normal. But, something happened last night that I really feel the need to discuss at least a little bit. The Dallas Cowboys released Terrell Owens. First, I want to look at just numbers involving this deal and then I'll go into my opinion.

Over the past three seasons, TO had more TD receptions than anyone in the NFL. Last season he led the team with yardage (1052) and TDs (10). He is due to give the Cowboys a $9 Million hit against the cap this year instead of $8 Million this and some amount next year. With TO, the Cowboys finished the last three years ranked 5th, 3rd, and 13th in total offense. And 4th, 2nd, and 18th in points. They have also won 0 playoff games.

The laundry list of why he was let go includes the following:
1. He had too much power. The offensive coordinator, QB, and even head coach had to run a certain number of plays through him or he would get frustrated.
2. He's not as good as he used to be. He's 35 and WR's after that age tend to lose a step.
3. They've got the incumbent WR waiting in Roy Williams.
4. His antics are a constant distraction in and out of the lockerroom.

So, now for my opinion: I don't like this move. Not yet anyway. Here's why.
1. So he had too much power... he is still a player right? He's not the coach, not in charge of personnel? Doesn't call plays? So what if he pouts if he isn't getting the ball. Shouldn't that be up to the coaches to handle? I don't have the numbers in front of me exactly, but how many games did they win when he wasn't prominently involved? I would wager it is small. If the Cowboys had something other than a puppet for a head coach, he could have handled that.
2. He's declining. Yea, WR's tend to do so. But, other coordinators tend to find ways to make those wideouts more effective. I'm still not sure that Jason Garrett knows that he needs to get TO in motion or some other method so that he can escape the jamming at the line that tended to make him less effective.
3. Roy Williams? Really? With the Cowboys last year and the other teams' best cover team on TO, he had 19 receptions for 1 TD in ten games. I'm not that impressed so far.
4. His antics are a disruption. His celebrations did give the Cowboys 15 yard penalties after he scored, but he didn't take plays off. He ran solid routes, and other than his drop-happy first year in which he still managed to lead the team in TD's, he caught the ball when it was thrown to him.
Off the field he was always getting in trouble and alienating teammates... oh wait... he wasn't ever in trouble. You don't hear about him off the field unless some reporter is shoving a mic in his face and asking if the Cowboys used him enough. He would say no, as would EVERY OTHER WR IN THE LEAGUE! No receiver ever thinks he gets the ball enough. There were rumors of lockerroom issues, but nothing really solid.

Now, TO has had issues in the past that continue to haunt him. But, since he's been with the Boys, did he throw his QB under the bus? No. Did he work every game? Yes. Did he divide the lockerroom as it was said in the past? That's unclear, but apparently enough for Jerry.

Based on what I know so far, here are my predictions for next season:
1. I think that unless the Cowboys can get a top-flight receiver to replace Owens, which I don't believe they have in Roy Williams, there will be another season of missing the playoffs.
2. A NFC East opponent will pick up TO (Don't count out the Giants or Redskins) and he will kill the Cowboys every time they play.
3. Fans will continue to hate Jerry Jones the GM and wish he would be a quiet owner.

In the end, this was not a good move for the Cowboys. I hope I'm wrong.