The Camundrum: Should Talbot Start Over the King?

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Talbot has been sensational since taking over the starting role

When Henrik Lundqvist went down earlier this year with a neck injury many Ranger fans felt that the injury would derail the team’s season. While Lundqvist is expected to return next week to the lineup, it may not be an easy return for the King.

Many expected that New York’s season would take a dive after losing their star player. Instead they have thrived behind their young goaltender Cam Talbot who has made it very interesting for the Rangers moving forward.

Talbot has been spectacular in the goal helping propel the Rangers into first place in the Metropolitan Division with a 17-6-4 record, 2.19 GAA, and .926 save percentage. Currently, Talbot’s statistics, including winning percentage are higher than Lundqvist’s totals this season.

There is no question that Lundqvist is still one of if not the best goaltenders in the NHL. However, after suffering a severe injury like the one Lundqvist is a hard one to overcome quickly. When he is on, there is no question that Lundqvist is the team’s starter. Still, he needs to prove that he is 100% healthy before New York relies on him to carry the team throughout the playoffs.

If Lundqvist struggles should the Rangers stick with the King or ride the hot hand in Talbot ?

If Lundqvist struggles should the Rangers stick with the King or ride the hot hand in Talbot ?

However, if Lundqvist struggles in his return before the playoffs it might be better for this team to do the unthinkable, bench the King. In the NHL Playoffs it’s the team with the better goaltender or hotter goaltender at the time that makes a run. Given how well Talbot has played this season and if Lundqvist is not at 100%, it makes sense to start the player who gives the team the best chance to win.

Even though the Rangers will probably start Lundqvist no matter how he plays in his return, the organization should keep a short leash on him in the playoffs. If he does not play well in a series, the Rangers should not be afraid to pull their star goaltender and play the hot hand.

The Rangers have the potential to not only make it back to the Stanley Cup Finals, but to win their first championship since 1994. However, they will need strong goaltending to get there and will need to figure out who gives them the best chance to win. The King or Cam Talbot?

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Giving Geno Fitz? Why Ryan Fitzpatrick Could Mean Trouble for Geno Smith

Ryan+Fitzpatrick+Chan+Gailey+Buffalo+Bills+SchVIE4xutflWhen the New York Jets traded for quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick they sent a clear message to their “franchise” quarterback Geno Smith. Put up or shut up. After two frustrating years filled with interceptions and movie trips to see Gone Girl the night before games, Geno Smith’s career in New York could be on life support.

Ryan Fitzpatrick is by no stretch a true franchise quarterback, but at the moment could be the Jets best option for opening day starter in 2015. Why? Chann Gailey is the Jets new offensive coordinator and has worked with Fitzpatrick before. Not only does Fitzpatrick know Gailey’s system, but his best success in the pros was in this system. In three seasons Fitzpatrick threw for more the 10,000 yards and 71 touchdowns in the new offense the Jets will run. Without Gailey, Fitzpatrick has only thrown for 52 touchdowns.

Now will Geno Smith be given ever opportunity to win the job out of camp? Yes, but this will be the final opportunity. Smith has the talent to be a very successful NFL quarterback, but has to show the consistency and mental toughness that are required to be effective at the position. With the new weapons around him and the attempt by the Jets to improve the offensive line, there will be no more excuses for Smith especially with a more than capable backup in Fitzpatrick.

Is New York a legitimate contender with Fitzpatrick? No, but they at least have a solid game manager who won’t turn the ball over and keep them in games. Wither way this is a defining year for Geno Smith. Either he will prove that he can be the future franchise quarterback for the Jets, or he will force New York to once again look for their first true franchise quarterback since Joe Namath.

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San Francisco’s Championship Window Has Officially Closed

8589130422384-colin-kaepernick-49ers-wallpaper-hd-e1401299183624It’s over. The championship window for one of the NFL’s bedrock franchises has slammed shut. After three straight NFC Championship game appearances, the 49ers finished 2014 with an 8-8 record and inexplicably fired a coach with a career .688 winning percentage. While it was going to be an uphill battle without Harbaugh, in the span of 24 hours the 49ers championship window came to an abrupt end.

The once vaunted defense lost its leader in Patrick Willis who after eight seasons and at the ago of 30 decided to suddenly retire. Veteran defensive end Justin Smith soon followed suit in announcing his own retirement while key players were lost in free agency. Guard Mike Iupati will head to division rival Arizona, feature back Frank Gore has moved on, and Michael Crabtree have all played their last snap for the 49ers. While the team did sign defensive end Darnell Dockett, they still have fallen behind the rest of the division.

The Seahawks have landed arguably one of the best tight ends in the game in Jimmy Graham while St. Louis may have found their franchise quarterback in Nick Foles. While the toughest division in the NFL continues to get tougher, the 49ers have regressed not only on the field, but also on the sideline.

The biggest question for the 49ers will be Colin Kaepernick. Two years ago Kaepernick had the fourth best QBR in the NFL. In 2014 his QBR fell to seventeenth in the entire league. There is no question that he has regressed and there are rumors that organization maybe shopping their starting quarterback.

True, the 49ers could rebound in the draft, but with rumors swirling that quarterback Colin Kaepernick is now on the block, the question could be not if but when San Francisco will blow up the current roster and start to rebuild.

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Going For Broke: Rangers All In on 2015

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Yandle will provide not only a strong defensive presence, but also thrive in the Rangers’ philosophy on offensive minded defensemen.

The New York Rangers have made it clear, this is the year they are taking their best shot. With not one, but two trades on Sunday, the Rangers traded long-term stability for the pieces that the organization feels can bring the Stanley Cup back to New York since 1994.

After the dust settled, the blue shirts had acquired defensemen Keith Yandle, and Chris Summers from Arizona and San Jose forward James Sheppard. However, the Rangers did pay a hefty price sending John Moore and top prospect Anthony

1b86a97f68d1dd0c4f0f6a706700a4d4_c0-331-4794-3125_s326x190Duclair to Arizona along with a first round pick in 2015 and second round pick in 2016. After trading Lee Stempniak to Winnipeg, New York finished the day by adding James Sheppard from San Jose. In order to acquire his services, the Rangers traded a fourth round pick in 2016 to the Sharks.

The message is clear, the Rangers are going for it. Yandle is the big prize as he led the atrocious Coyotes team with 41 points and will be a valuable sniper on the power play, an area where New york was abysmal in the playoffs last year. Summers will not provide the same fire power, but is a solid defender who will provide great depth at defense while Sheppard provides a solid winger from either the third or fourth line.

By improving their defense the blue shirts will be looking to take pressure off of Henrik Lundqvist who bolt only carried the team to the Stanley Cup last year, but with Lundqvist still recovering from a neck injury, New York has decided to shore up the defensive unit in front of him while providing some more firepower on offense. If Lundqvist is still not 100% when the playoffs begin, then a stronger defense will take the pressure off of the King . The worst case scenario is that the defense will be stronger in front of Cam Talbot who for now will remain the starter in-goal.

While the Rangers may have mortgaged heir future over the next two seasons, it is clear that they have the confidence that the team has the chance to win a Stanley Cup and are going for it in 2015.

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New York Jets Mock Draft 1.0 (Post Combine)

First Round: Amari Cooper WR Alabama Amari-Cooper-Alabama

With the sixth pick in the upcoming draft, it looks like the Jets will probably miss out on both Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota. If Mariota does fall to the Jets, New York could trade him to Philadelphia for a plethora of draft picks. However, in this mock draft there will be no trade scenarios and will be based on a seven round mock draft. With the pick the Jets would draft Amari Copper out of Alabama.

Cooper would be a great fit for the Jets who desperately need a playmaker to team with Eric Decker. While the Jets have the money to spend in free agency, reports from inside the organization have reported that the Jets will use that cap space for corner backs and interior line men. While the offensive line needs to be upgraded and Brandon Scherff would be a nice piece for New York, the team desperately needs play makers and will likely release Percy Harvin due to his large cap hit. Cooper can take over a game and has the size and explosiveness to be a number one receiver for whoever plays quarterback in New York. In my mock draft, he is the second receiver off the board as the Raiders take Kevin White out of West Virginia. The reason? White is two inches taller at 6’3 and ran a 4.35 40 yard dash compared to Cooper’s 4.42 time. The Raiders love big recovers who are fast and White would fit the build. However, the Jets would get a receiver who could make an impact from day one in Cooper.

Round 2: Byron Jones CB Connecticut 

jehu-chesson-byron-jones-ncaa-football-michigan-connecticut1There is no question that the Jets secondary was abysmal last season. With Todd Bowles already stressing the need for corners in his defense the question will be when, not if the Jets draft a corner. Even if the team brings in a free agent corner, Dee Milliner’s injury concerns and the lack of depth at the position are still a huge problem. Jones is freak athlete who jumped 44 1/2 inches in the vertical leap and broke the combine record with a broad jump of over twelve feet. While his play on the field has some concerns, there is no question that his explosiveness and size at 6’1 and 199 pounds make him a great prospect. Jones has struggled in zone defenses, but has proven he is a solid man and press cover corner which fits perfectly into Bowles system.

While this may seem a little early, Bowles could look at Jones as a player he could mold into a great NFL corner. Jones also could be extra valuable to the Jets because New York has to play New England twice a year. With New England using big tight ends on the outside and in the slot, Jones’ size and explosiveness could help Bowles slow down Tom Brady’s tight ends.

Round 3: Duke Johnson RB Miami Duke+Johnson+Miami+v+Nebraska+ZfHfTUyosO7l

With running backs falling in the last few drafts the Jets could get a steal in round three with Johnson. While the Jets already have Chris Ivory, Johnson’s speed and shiftiness as a runner would make him a perfect complementary piece. The best way to take pressure off whoever New York’s quarterback is going to be next season is to run the ball. While he may not be a full-time back right away, his ability to catch on third downs and ability to break off big runs would make Johnson a valuable part of the Jets offense. Scouts compare Johnson to Lesean McCoy and if he is anything like McCoy is in Philadelphia, New York would get another explosive playmaker on the offense.

Round 4: Denzel Perryman ILB Miami Denzel Perryman

Back to Miami again. Unless something dramatically changes it looks like David Harris will hit the open market and will probably get a big contract that the Jets cannot match. With a base 3-4 defense Todd Bowles and the Jets could use a second middle linebacker behind Demario Davis in the draft. Perryman ran a 4.78 at the combine and is slightly undersized at 5-11 and 236 pounds. However, he would be a great fit in the Jets defense with both great instincts and tackling. Perryman is great against the run and led the Hurricanes with 110 tackles and 9.5 tackles for a loss. On top of that, he has the athleticism and versatility to stay on the field on passing downs, one achilles heel for David Harris. While the Jets can improve most of their woes in free agency, losing Harris could be a big blow. However, Perryman could be a day one starter and could form a formidable tandem with Davis in the middle of the Jets defense for years to come.

Round 5: Corey Crawford DE Clemson corey-crawford-clemson-suspension-georgia

There is no question the defensive line is the strongest position on the New York Jets. However, this unit still could use some depth. Todd Bowles says that his defense is about versatility and having the ability to adjust. Crawford could be a player that would thrive under Bowles. The 6’5 283 pound defensive end from Clemson showed his versatility playing all the positions on the defensive line will also lining up as a stand up 3-4 outside linebacker. With Bowles switching between 4-3 and 3-4 fronts, and player with the versatility like Crawford gives the Jets a solid backup at multiple positions.

Round 7: Hayes Pullard ILB USC web_hayes_RalfCheung

As stated before not only is it likely that the Jets will lose David Harris, but that their depth at middle linebacker is thin. Even with Davis and Perryman, the depth at middle linebacker is still an issue and the Jets could be an injury away from a disaster. Pullard was a tackling machine at USC with 377 tackles over the past four season with the Trojans. His aggressiveness has gotten him in trouble with  numerous penalties and an ejection for targeting last season. Still Pullard has proven that he is a tackling machine. While he may not be as polished and ready as Perryman, Pullard could be a versatile linebacker in Todd Bowles defense who can move around and make plays on special teams where he led the Trojans in coverage. A solid all-around player Pullard would be a nice piece on the Jets defense.

Priority Free Agent: Tyler Varga FB/RB Yale y8y0gvabowq85gfx

While he could be picked in the draft, if Varga is available after the draft the Jets should go after him immediately. With Tommy Bohanon struggling at full back, the Jets could use one in Varga. As a running back in college, Varga ran for 1,423 in his senior season with 26 touchdowns. He has a nose for the end zone and proved it in the Senior Bowl, with two rushing touchdowns. While he may need to develop as a blocker, Varga showed at the Senior Bowl that he is able to block well as a full back, but his value is versatility. Varga can not only block but run with the ball effectively. In essence New York would not only get a full back, but also a running back that can line up in the backfield or as a full back depending on the situation. Todd Bowles has stressed that he wants versatile players on New York next season, and Varga could be a player that fits the mold perfectly.

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If They Build it, Will Whalers Come? New Plans in Hartford Could Provide Facility for NHL Return

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A Rendering of the “Renovated” XL Center. New Arena could finally give Connecticut a state of the art facility.

After breaking ground on a minor league baseball stadium earlier this week, the city of Hartford was investigating the long-term feasibility of it’s current arena. Despite the $ 35 Million renovations this past summer, the study was adamant stating this was only a temporary fix and would at most keep the arena serviceable for another five years. The Hartford Courant has revealed that the Capital Region Development Authority has proposed two long-term fans to not only prolong UConn’s use of the facility, but to possibly open the door for an NHL franchise down the road.

The CRDA has proposed two different options with both involving the current XL Center site. While there were plans to possibly move the arena, the best location was determined to be the location of the new ballpark which is now out of the question. The authority stresses the need for an overhaul of the current facilities stating the following:
CRDA: It is generally recognized that the XL Center’s functionality and ability to generate revenue are severely limited by its age, obsolete design, mechanical systems, limited size of the current building footprint, narrow concourses, limited fan amenities, shortage of restrooms and ADA deficiencies.

Option 1: New Arena
The first option would be to build a new arena on the existing site of the current XL Center. This option proposes that the current arena be completely torn down and built from scratch. This arena would have state of the art amenities and would allow for more efficient loading and off-loading of supplies at the arena. It is estimated to tear down and rebuild the arena would take 36 months. While this arena would be brand new and offer superior sight lines including over a thousand additional seats in the lower bowl, this would mean that the site could not host an event for three years and is the more costly option of the two.

Option 2: Renovate Current Arena 

The XL Center in it's current state

The XL Center in its current state

This would be the less costly of the options costing $250 Million. The benefits to this plan are that the arena could still be opened during the renovations as the upgrades would be done in phases, like how Madison Square Garden was renovated. This option (as seen rendered above), would still give the state a stop of the line facility and is assured by the committee to have the same draw as a brand new arena for an NHL team. However the drawbacks to this option are an extra $ 15 Million dollars to make this arena option “NHL ready” and not offer the superior same sight lines of a new arena.

Both plans are similar in that they both would get seating capacity of the arena down to 16,000 for hockey and 17,000 for basketball. The role of UConn will also be of the utmost importance because for the success of the arena it is recommended that UConn needs to become a partner at the facility rather than a part-time tenant.

While there is no question that the XL Center needs an overhaul, or to be replaced the big question that hockey fans want to know is will these actions bring the NHL back to Hartford?While there is no easy way to answer that question the best thing to say about these plans for the arena and the NHL is this. It’s a start.

A new arena will be much more attractive for an NHL franchise, but the CRDA has said that the renovation option will offer a state of the art venue for a team. Even with the agency’s study proving that the market could support an NHL based on numerous factors, the agency also pointed out that a new or renovated arena won’t guarantee a Whalers return.

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A new Arena won’t guarantee the return of the beloved Whalers, but it’s a step in the right direction.

As a hockey fan nothing would make me happier to see my team, the Hartford Whalers return. This arena isn’t just about getting the NHL back, but ensuring  long-term economic growth in the state.

A new XL Center would allow Connecticut to host more important sporting events, concerts, and shows while giving the University of Connecticut the home they deserve. This is what the state needs to do. Invest the long-term success of the UConn athletic programs and provide the region a state of the art facility. Hartford could host such events as NCAA Regionals while being considered a sight for prestigious events such as the Frozen Four. While this process remains in its infancy the fact that the state realizes the abysmal state of the XL Center is a step in the right direction. It knows the arena is a concrete catastrophe at the moment and needs to be addressed before it’s too late.

If Hartford follows up and goes through with either of these plans then the state of Connecticut’s athletics and entertainment will be heading in the right direction. Then… maybe then, the NHL may give Hartford the call they have waited for since 1997. Hockey fans can only dream that one day in Hartford the sounds of the brass bonanza will echo through downtown as fans scream in jovial delight, “The Whalers have returned”!

To see the full plans for both options at the XL Center click here

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