By: The Sports Guy
I've been saving up. Here's a flow of consciousness on a variety of topics.
Wings - They've got a great record, and all that really matters is staying healthy for the playoffs, but I am getting concerned about this team. They're giving up way too many goals. Defensive breakdowns can be corrected, but the goal-tending of Osgood and Conklin looks weak. The Wings are near the bottom of the league in goals allowed. Osgood could not be expected be as good as last year, but he has been significantly worse - a goal a game worse. Could it be that now that he is "the guy" he doesn't have the pressure to perform? That's a scenario I could live with. But what if his game is on the decline? That would spell big trouble for the Wings. Is there any chance the Wings could make a move for another goalie? Not likely, but it may be crossing some minds...
Whalers - It has become apparent that coaching and management is a huge factor in the success of an OHL franchise, with direct evidence provided by the move of Mike Vellucci back behind the Whalers bench, and his moves of accumulated draft choices to obtain two solid overage players (see recent articles on this site). Greg Stefan, despite his experience as a pro, never seemed to have a handle on this team, and they have improved dramatically under Vellucci, and now look like a solid playoff team. Other moves have helped - the aforementioned trades to bring scoring and defensive depth, and the decision to make Matt Hackett the No. 1 guy in goal.
Pistons - I do not like the chemistry of this team. They have gone form being an unselfish five man unit and support structure to being a series of replaceable peices. It is not all the fault of Allen iverson. His game is what it is, and he never hid it from anybody. But his game does not complement Hamilton's or Prince's, and even his game seems out of place when Rodney Stuckey is on the floor. It also seems like the honeymoon period for Michael Curry has to be called over. He needs to get into doing some serious coaching to get this team playiong like one - with a veteran group like this one, he'll start losing their attention if he does not gain it soon.
The Pistons will live and die by the performances of Iverson and Pasheed Wallace. Stuckey, Hamilton, McDyess, Prince and the other reserves all consistently give you what they give you, but success or failure will hinge on Iverson and Wallace. They'll need to combine for at least 40 points every game for the Pistons to have a chance, and if they can consistently get near or over 50, the Pistons can compete for a title. My guess? Second round knock-out for the Pistons this year, and neither Iverson or Wallace will return next year as a Piston. It's also possible Michael Curry will be out after only one year.
U of M and MSU basketball - Are the tides turning with the fortunes of the UM and MSU basketball teams? Their positions are certainly not reversing, but they have changed. The Wolverines seem to have something going under Joh Beilein, and they look to be at least good enough to end their long drought of NCAA appearances. MSU on the other hand, is underachieving, and need to improve dramatically in order to not continue to do so. Although they have looked bad in some of their losses, it's tough to count the Spartans out. Despite sub-par performances in the Big Ten in recent years, Tom Izzo still gets his team ready for the tournament, but this year, he may be thinking he's got more than his usual job to do. It will be interesting to see what kind of recruiting classes each school will bring in after this year.
Check out this related U of M basketball article
Tigers - After a loud splash during last season, the Tigers have been active again this offseason, but their moves have been very mild by comparison. Adam Everett and Gerald Laird have been acquired as the apparent starting catchers and shortstop, two moves that make the team no worse than they were at those positions last year, and in a move that does improve their starting pitching, they traded Matt Joyce for Edwin Jackson. I like the trade for Jackson. Starting pitching was as much of a hole for the Tigers as their weak bullpen, and this move will help. It also makes someone from the trio of Nate Robertson, Zach Miner and Dontrelle Willis expendable, but aside from perhaps mild interest in Miner, there is not much that can be obtained for these players, and they would even be hard to dump with their salaries.
The Tigers are standing somewhat pat because they know their revenue will be down next year, even if they field a much-improved team. They could improve too, and in fact, could even contend in the wide-open AL Central - no team in this division looks like a power. What will it take? A closer that isn't Fernando Rodney, a return to health/form of either Bonderman or Willis (not even both!), better defense, and more timely hitting.
The Tigers could also suck - bad. How could it happen? Bonderman and Willis don't improve. Robertson stays and doesn't improve. Carlos Guillen continues to decline. Gary Sheffield stays and sulks. The bullpen doesn't develop. Magglio Ordonez or Miguel Cabrera gets hurt. And, Jim Leyland becomes a lame-duck manager.
Prediction - I hope for the former, but expect the latter. The Tigers appear too old and too fragile from a health standpoint to seriously contend over the long season - I see them imploding after the all-star break. The Tigers have played poorly in the second half of each of the last three seasons - if they aren't in front of the division at the break, they won't contend.
Lions - I actually think they will win one of their last two games. Neither team they are playing has much at stake, and the Lions should be playing for everything - no player wants to be on a team that goes 0-16. Winning a game, however, should not prevent a dramatic housecleaning. Every coach, every member of the front-office staff, and most of the players need to go. Most of that won't happen, however, so as next season approaches, we'll be wondering if it is possible the Lions could "improve" to a 3 or 4-win season.
Lions Prediction - Every home game will be blacked out next season. Lions fans have finally had enough - they won't shell out to pay NFL ticket prices to see a non-NFL-caliber team. Not having the games televised will start a snowball that will turn into an avalanche of indifference to this team, and it may be enough, finally, to compel the Ford's to sell the team.
That's my take - how about yours?