Sunday, October 17, 2010

Why the Slow Start for Myers?

There is probably more than one reason Mr. Myers isn't replicating last season's magic at this point.

Tyler Myers has had a weak start to his sophomore campaign. Not helping matters much, is that the Buffalo Sabres are dying by his sword right now, just as they lived by it last season. His 48 point plus-13 rookie season was a great treat, but his 1 point, minus-7 start to his second has been a crappy trick.

I would say that the theories I have heard to explain his slow start are relatively reasonable. So far I have heard that off-season personnel changes, increased league exposure, poor all-around play by his team, and increased pressure from his new role as #1 D-man are legit probabilities.

One factor that hasn't been brought up here is his increase in weight/muscle mass.

Myers is noticeably larger now than he was last spring. Just look at his neck now compared to last season.

Ask a hockey player who has ever gained/lost a lot of weight in a relatively short period, and they probably will tell you that there is an adjustment period. One thing that is often compromised when weight is put on is agility.

Could this be part of the big soph's problem?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The case for Bobby V

The Blue Jays are hitting the home stretch in their exhaustive search for Cito Gaston's successor, with the announcement of a hire likely to come around the World Series.  Today comes a tweet from Bob Elliott of the Sun that Bobby Valentine is in the mix.  The former manager of the Rangers and Mets cuts a colorful figure, and former Jays/Mets/Yanks starter Al Leiter calls him "the most astute baseball mind I've been managed by," and "by far the most forward-thinking and innovative."

That ain't faint praise.

I've been pining from afar for Bobby V to come manage the Jays.  While I can definitely see the logic of continuity (promoting third-base/former bench coach Brian Butterfield, for example) or of adding a fresh face new to the MLB managerial ranks, I can't think of a better person to manage the team than Valentine.  Here's why.

1) His record of relative success:
Valentine owns a career W-L record of 1,117-1,072, and that's including some pretty bad Rangers teams.  The talent he managed in Texas was generally average, with a few stars like the latter-day Nolan Ryan, a young Rafael Palmiero, and Julio Franco.  When he got more stars and above-average talent in a higher-profile environment with the Mets, he led the team to 88 wins or more in his first four full seasons.  This included an NL Pennant and 94- and 97-win years.  He did all this while competing with the perennially tough Braves.  Valentine also overachieved during his managerial tenure in Japan, taking the historically bad Chiba Lotte Marines to a 2nd place finish.  My assessment: The record is respectable by any measure.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Bills/Jags Recap

Is it time to think ahead to the 2011 Draft yet? Despite a fairly strong offensive showing, the Bills fell to 0-5 for the first time since 1985 by falling 36-26 to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Ryan Fitzpatrick was solid, if somewhat erratic, completing 20 of 30 passes for 220 yards and 3 touchdowns (two to Steve Johnson, who very quietly has four on the young season). Once again however, the run defense proved to be the Achilles Heel (or at least one of them) as the Bills gave up over two hundred yards rushing for the third straight contest (216). 


-The Bills were slightly better at getting off the field on third down defensively, but it helped them little in the time of possession battle. The Jags held the ball for over 34 minutes despite giving the Bills three extra possessions due to turnovers.

-The Bills D still cannot cover tight ends (Marcedes Lewis had two touchdowns), and still has some mind boggling containment issues (the Jags ran the same end around to Mike Walker three times, resulting in 53 yards and two first downs).

-Ryan Fitzpatrick, while playing fairly well, still had a few passes not thrown to any one specific individual, so much as the universe at large.

- The offense is still struggling to find ways to get the ball into CJ Spiller's hands. He touched the ball a total of six times for 34 yards on offense, although he ran well when he did touch it.

- The Bills were not penalized excessively, but they certainly made those penalties count. Three of their five penalties were inside the Jags red zone, and effectively killed off two promising scoring drives. We can only imagine how the complexion of the game would have changed with the Bills up 21-3 as opposed to 13-3.

- Maybe our top three receivers aren't so bad. After a miserable performance against the Jets, the trio of Evans, Parrish and Johnson combined for 14 catches, 191 yards and 3 touchdowns.

- Congrats to the Bills D for their first interception of the year! I believe that only puts us only 12 behind the Carolina Panthers for the league lead.

Up next: The bye week. I'm guessing we can't lose.

What could have been...

As I write this the Bills are slipping into ice baths that won't wash away the stink of failure, even if they do soothe some of the day's boo-boos (Editor's note: I hang out with a 1-year-old for a lot of the day; cut me some slack, here). 

Ryan Fitzpatrick surely isn't the only thing holding the Bills back, but most certainly the Bills' Long Search ( © Chandler Gailey Enterprises, 2010) for a QB makes Moses' 40 years in the wilderness sound like a hike worth taking.  I mean, those dudes at least got milk and honey at the end, right?

So, I could talk about today's game, but as Brendan notes, I think we're all looking for something that'll make us feel better.

Witness the performance of Todd Collins, the wayward heir to Jim Kelly supplanted by today's superquarterback, RobJohnsonDougFlutieBillyJoeHobertAlexVanPeltDrewBledsoeTravisBrownJPLosmanShaneMatthewsKellyHolcombCraigNallTrentEdwardsRyanFitzpatrick.   Those QBs may have not led the Bills to glory (unless I missed something there), but Collins has been able to hold the clipboard with an artist's assistant's touch.  This has led to a long and not needlessly productive career, plenty of jack in the back pocket, and few risky situations since he halfheartedly rode out of Buffalo. 

Today, Collins got his first chance to start a game since a serviceable campaign with the Redskins a couple years ago.  Ladies and gentlemen, the numbers:  6/16, 32 yds, 4 INTS.  AAAACK! Of course, Caleb "My name suggests I am a third stringer" Hanie took over and was asked to not do anything stupid, a meager task that he achieved with a limit of 3 pass attempts.  The Bears got the win, because Jimmy Clausen (whom I didn't want the Bills to draft) and Matt Moore (whom I wanted the Bills to make a run at in trade or restricted free agency this past summer) were just as bad.

I know that Collins is a backup returning from a likely concussion of his own suffered in mop-up duty, after an atrocious offensive line nearly got Jay Cutler killed.  Look around the league, though, and very few teams have elite players at the position, much less great depth.  Even one of today's more promising young quarterbacks, Sam Bradford, just had his ass handed to him by the Detroit Lions.  Those Lions are not far removed from being worse than our Bills.

The moral of the story is that quarterback play is really poor-to-inconsistent-at-best across the NFL.  Everyone's looking for a savior, and you can still win if you do enough things right in the game - or if your opponent is worse.  The Bills happen to be that opponent that's worse for a lot of undeserving victors right now, but that's bound to change sometime, right?

That's hope for ya.  The long search continues with a bye week and the Baltimore Ravens on the other side.  Best of luck to Fitzy and co.

Brady / Moss Hair Fight

I know I should probably write something about the Bills game, but this is much more entertaining.

Charlie Casserly just reported that Brady got into an altercation in the locker room with Moss before the trade. About hairstyles.

Am I the only one who is amazed by the number of "legitimate" news organizations with whole sections of web sites devoted to rumors? CBS even cleverly names this section "Facts and Rumors". I'd be more comfortable if there was a line drawn between the two, however closely they may be related.

I think it's time we started a regular rumor section here. Our rumors, however, will be clearly marked as such. I'll start it off. There is a rumor making the rounds that Tom Brady is under the care of a Brazilian doctor who has been treating him with Ibogaine. The Ibogaine Effect should be immediately recognizable -- from Brady's tearful breakdown on the flatbed truck in New Jersey, the delusions and altered thinking that impacted his play in Florida, and finally the condition of "total rage" that gripped him in Boston.

You heard it here first. Tom Brady is a crazy drug addict. Seriously.

Get a Load of This

Puck Moving Defense is Questionable in Weekend Play

About 10 minutes into Saturday night's 6-3 stinker, right about the time that Tyler Myers put one past the outstretched leg of Ryan Miller and into the back of his own net, you got the feeling that this one was going to get ugly.

It didn't get much better when shortly after, Myers blew a tire behind his own net and turned the puck over. Brandon Dubinsky put that one away to make it two-nothing.

The Rangers 5th goal came when the tall sophmore and his center Derek Roy got caught chasing the play behind the net and left the slot open.

The blame for the lone goal scored by the Ottawa Senators in Buffalo's 2-1 win on Friday was also on the defense. Jordan Leopold was overpowered by Ottawa tough guy Chris Neil at center ice. The puck was turned over, and quickly converted into a score to send the Senators into the dressing room with a tie and some momentum, after getting smoked most of the 1st and 2nd period.

The defense is supposed to be one of the strengths of this team. Last season, the Sabres were 4th in the league in goals allowed per game. While Miller played a big part (after all, your goalie is your last defense man), the blue liners were also responsible. It was one area on the team that got addressed in free agency this summer as Leopold and Morrisonn were brought in to replace the departing Toni Lydman and Henrik Tallinder.

Lindy Ruff is going to have to talk to his defense and get them to pull it together. There needs to be better communication. There needs to be smart and accurate outlet passes. No more of this trickster action skating the puck all over your own zone to find some room.

We'll see what happens on Monday night when the Sabres play the heavyweight champions of the world, the Chicago Blackhawks. Were this weekend's miscues just part of a bad dream, or are they part of the reality of the next 80 games?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Three Quick Keys to Beating Jacksonville

1. Pass The F**king Ball

Before I started writing this piece, I was sure I would start off by claiming the Bills needed to re-affirm their commitment to the run, and I still believe they need to. After doing some research however, I'm convinced that what the Bills really need to do is attack down the field. The Jaguars defense hasn't been especially potent this year, but its been especially atrocious in the downfield passing game. They're last in the league in both passes of 20+ yards allowed (19) and 40+ (7). There should be some opportunities for Evans, Parrish and the rest of the receiving corps.

2. Stop The Run

You're going to accuse me of relying on cliches for this article, but there it is. The Bills are dead last in the league in yards surrendered per game (174!) and 26th in yards per carry. Its contributed mightily to the Bills being 31st in time of possession and 31st in third down percentage (only ahead of the Patriots interestingly).

The onus is very much going to be on Kyle Williams and the two inside backers for this one. The Jaguars have get more first downs running up the middle that any else in the league- they 20 so far this year (the number two team, Philadelphia, has 13). I would hope to see a lot of Troup in the base 3-4, and/or a heavier 4-3 (with say Kelsay, Stroud, Williams and Edwards for example). The Jags haven't been running over a lot of teams this year (only 4.1 yards a carry), but they are committed. It will be crucial to force them into third and long situations and put the ball in David Garrard's hands.

3. Get Creative on the Edges

The Jags offensive tackle position has been a mess this year, so its a great opportunity for the Bills pass rush to show some signs of life. While the Bills aren't boiling over with talent at the OLB position, they should be able to win some one on one battles. More importantly, they should be able to confuse Jacksonville's young tackles with overloads and stunts along the edges.

Let 'em know you're there!

Get that fuckin' stick in their side. Let 'em know you're there!
- Reggie Dunlop

Watching the Sabres tonight I'm astounded they continue to let the opposing team harass Ryan Miller. I hate to endorse violence, but we need to give notice that the price for anyone who wants to get familiar with Ryan Miller is pain. Pain and blood.

Other thoughts from tonight's game:

This team hustles. It's fun to watch, but offensively we continue to have trouble finishing. I've seen a lot of good chances missed.

I've noticed a few too many sloppy giveaways in the transition game. Hopefully it's just a bad night, but if we continue to give the opposing teams this many chances, Ryan Miller will start to look human.

Down 4-1 at the end of the second period. Ugh. I'm going to switch over to some playoff baseball, maybe my absence will bring us some luck.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Putting on the Foil

Can you feel the electrons buzzing a little faster today? Hockey starts tonight. Real hockey, where the winners get two points, and the losers get to go home and think about missed opportunities (and also possibly a point, but that's another post.) The Buffalo Sabres have had a few months now to consider all of the missed opportunities from last season, when they won their Division, but failed to make it past the Bruins in the first round of the playoffs.

Even though this year's team is full of familiar faces (the primary offseason acquisition being Shaone Morrison), how they will perform is a complete mystery. Will the team that won the Northeast division show up ready to play? Or will it be the team that got pushed off the puck again and again in the series against the Bruins? I don't claim to know how this season will turn out, but the beauty of any new sports season (even for fans of teams from Buffalo) is fresh hope.

I've got a feeling....

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Kennedy Gets Voted Off the Island, Only to Return

Poor guy, Tim Kennedy.  The South Buffalo native was placed on waivers by the Rangers.  This, of course, followed his buyout from the Sabres after winning a $1 million arbitration award during the offseason.  The forward cleared waivers, so the Rangers can keep him around or send him down to AHL Hartford, but GM Glen Sather suggests the latter won't happen. The Sabres had a similar situation with Adam Mair last season, and Mair remained with the club.  It looks, as of today, like that will be the case, as Kennedy cleared waivers.  Moves like this are usually made in advance of a trade or roster pickup, and the Rangers maintained that this was about flexibility.  It had to be disconcerting for Kennedy, though, to face the possibility of relocating yet again after believing he had found a place in the NHL.

There was much hand-wringing among fans of the Sabres for letting the local kid Kennedy go, but the move seems to have been a non-factor for Buffalo.  Perhaps it's now even justified, as a second team has decided they could part with him, even though he comes at half the salary he was slated to earn in Buffalo.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Gross Injuries Keep Rivet off the Ice

Last spring, shortly after the Buffalo Sabres took a butt slide out of the playoffs, we found out that Craig Rivet had been playing injured for most of the season. It appears that Captain Bad Bod was suffering from a double labrum tear. The 36 year-old had to undergo surgery.

In two seasons with the Sabres, Rivet has struggled to stay healthy. When he first arrived in 2008 he had to have knee surgery early on. He quickly returned after surgery and finished the season with 24 points in 64 games.

Last season, the grizzled veteran played in 78 games, mostly while injured. Season highlights included 6 fights (2 with that dirty little man Daniel Carcillo), a playoff goal, and a face-off with Lord Vader presiding.

To say that Rivet has slowed a bit since his days with Montreal is probably accurate. But you might have to say that he has gotten tougher with age, just like an old beef bull. The man danced with a few nasty characters last season while wearing a brace to support his injured shoulder.

His latest boo-boo is a throat contusion. Rivet says that he was clipped in the throat by a teammate's shoulder pad during one of the first practices of training camp, and five days later he felt a pop. A blood vessel had burst. Gross.

Team Loyalty

Editor's note: On the cusp of the MLB divisional series, Brendan explains how he gets to root for a team that actually has something to play for following the end of the regular season...

Please hold your boos until the end.

I am a Yankees fan. In the spring of 1986, I was just beginning to cultivate a fondness for baseball. My family had moved "upstate" that year, and most of my new friends were kind of amazed that I had so little interest in or knowledge of the sport. In my case, my sporting preferences had been passed down from a father who had me on ice skates at the age of three, and whose face turned a bright shade of red each Sunday afternoon from September through December. My father found baseball about as interesting as golf, and I suspect he signed up to coach my first soccer team in an effort to keep me away from t-ball.

Why I hate the Marshawn Lynch trade

So, "Beast Mode" is gone, for a fourth round draft pick in 2011 and a conditional 2012 pick (a sixth that could turn into a fifth based on performance, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter).

I'll admit that I'm a bit biased. I was a Marshawn Lynch fan, and as a reward all I've gotten are reminders to not ever buy Buffalo Bills jerseys.

Marshawn exits Buffalo as a beleaguered person and a player underappreciated for his efforts on the field. I wouldn't ever accuse him of possessing the field vision that Fred Jackson has, or the breakaway speed of CJ Spiller. Yet, I don't think there's a guy I've seen that runs harder, works harder for his yards when he is given a fair opportunity to do so. Perhaps that's the problem, though. When Marshawn wasn't given the opportunity, he kind of blew it off and was fairly sanguine about it. It's not exactly a bonus to have a player complaining all the time, but all the same, you want your players to want the ball and to be mad when they're not getting a chance to make plays.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

So Long and Good Luck Trent

In April of 2007, I was making a new beginning. I had just moved to NYC from Burbank, CA after two years of successfully negotiating myself deeper and deeper into a rut. I had moved to New York in an attempt to pull myself up by my bootstraps, and directly into the poor house. I succeeded for six months, before finding the job that landed a crippling blow to my bright hobo future.

I watched the draft that April on a huge, obscenely heavy fifteen year old TV I had bought at a thrift store relatively cheaply, and chatted via webcam with my bset friend from college. We both loved Marshawn Lynch, although I worried that it meant we would miss out on Paul Posluszny. I have rarely been more excited than when I saw the Bills leap up to the 34th pick that year and snatch him up. I pumped my fist in the air (carefully, as my room was tiny), and looked around desperately for someone to high five. At the time I was living with two artists, and it was difficult to explain exactly to people who spent time dissecting something like Bernini's "The Ecstasy of St. Theresa" why this draft was so important.

As the 2nd round drew on, I drifted away to find some Chinese food (i.e fried chicken), and received a text from my friend. The Bills had picked, and they had picked Trent Edwards. My first thought was of course: "People still name their children Trent?". When I got home I began to research this Trent person. It turns out that he was a highly recruited high school QB. Notre Dame wanted him. Michigan wanted him. Florida wanted him. He picked Stanford, and even went on to pick up a degree in something other than physical education. Even more exciting, the man I still think is the greatest head coach in the history of the game, Bill Walsh, gushed about the kid.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Down in the Trentches

It was a move that surprised many given the timing, but Trent Edwards got his dishonorable discharge from the Bills on Monday. His release is just the latest in what's becoming a regular pattern of in-season-shakeups to try and start the sputtering Bills' engine.

Head Coach Chan Gailey is taking on the look of a man who doesn't take BS, and the field was sure littered with the remains of some BS offense from the Bills in the first two weeks of 2010. It appears that Gailey watched the Bills play respectably against the Patriots, determined afterwards that Trent was the cause of many offensive problems on gameday, and decided to cut his losses and rid himself of a perceived mistake.

The cannonballs are already flying among supporters of the team. Many feel like this was set in motion by owner Ralph Wilson, and they have some ammunition in the fact that Trent's ouster saves the Bills a million bucks (only because Edwards had less than four full seasons under his belt). Others think that it reeks of managerial incompetence to sack Trent only a week removed from concrete status as "The Starter." It's true: Gailey had all offseason and then some to look at the tape on Trent, and by and large the picture was getting uglier than that Panaphonix VCR you got from the dollar bin at Big Lots.

My take: Gailey really, truly thought he could rescue Trent from the abyss. He'd done more with lesser candidates like Jay Fiedler, Tyler Thigpen, and Kordell Stewart. Preseason proved him moderately right, though there were warning signs regarding his ability to handle 3-4 defenses. It just turns out that "Gameday Trent" is a scaredy-cat, shell-of-himself player that can't play decisively anymore - at least not when the pressure is on. He became Son of Jor-On. He played it too safe for too long. When he twice threw up the equivalent of a shrug on 4th down, with the team behind late in games against Miami and Green Bay, his future in Buffalo was over.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Twin Span to Nowhere

Buffalo is largely a city of people who no longer live there. That's not to denigrate the fine citizens of the Queen City; on the contrary, expats from and around the Western New York (WNY) area identify it as "home" in a way that few other cities can boast. Ask where someone is from, and if it's west of Rochester and east of the PA state line, they're probably going to say "Buffalo." That said, the region has had its hardships. It's a tough place to make a living, and apparently an even tougher place to win a championship. Many of the best products of the area find their greatest success elsewhere - but there's nothing they'd like more than to bring that success home.

The writers of this blog are among those aforementioned expats, a cadre of sports fanatics who bleed a messy mix of blue, red and gold. Perhaps you are, too. Perhaps you're trying not to get fired from work posting for the 18th time today on The Stadium Wall. Perhaps you hit "refresh" waiting for that article on the release of Trent Edwards. Perhaps you're falling head over heels hoping that this new prospect is going to be the final piece in a Sabres Stanley Cup run. Perhaps, you're like us.

Twin Span to Nowhere is about people who identify with Buffalo, the greater Niagara Region, and to some extent Toronto (as long as they keep their football to the three-down, rouge-scoring variety). It's about hope - like the promise of that titular bridge - and knowing failure lurks with trust in another politician, another series, or another overtime. We'll be talking about some common bonds - Bills, Sabres - and our divergences. These usually concern baseball, when to pull a QB who's stinking up the joint, and the value of Tim (They Call Him Mr. Glass) Connolly. We'll all take turns writing hockey and football, and there'll be some regular segments (read:Gimmicks!) to look forward to.

Jim will cover baseball both in general and from the Blue Jays angle. We also boast a Yankee fan in Brendan, and Matt will eventually explain his obsession with the Tigers in general and Matt Nokes in particular. As we slither toward domination of this specialized market, we'll be rolling out more special guest writers and bringing more friends into the mix. It'll be like that time that you purchased a few cases of XXX on the way to whatever show that was in Toronto - except you'll remember it, and maybe you won't even regret it.

We hope you'll stick around for the melee. Welcome to nowhere.