Getting the First Overall Pick: Big Deal? Or Big Deal?

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Connor McDavidNo doubt Connor McDavid will be taken first overall in this June’s NHL Entry Draft. He has the ability to turn an organization around very quickly. Getting the best talent in the draft is key to building a good organization.

But contrary to popular belief, one player does not make a team. Assembling a championship squad requires lots of scouting and evaluation both internally and externally. It is being able to acquire the right pieces that will turn a pretender into a contender. It doesn’t hurt to have the best player in the league on your team but, as I have said time and time again, there is more to it than that.

Even if teams gets the best player with the first overall pick, it will still take years before they end up hoisting the Stanley Cup. Since 1990, only four first-overall picks became Stanley Cup champions: Vincent Lacavalier, Marc-Andre Fleury, Sidney Crosby, and Patrick Kane. Kane was the quickest having his name engraved on the trophy 3 years after being drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks. So Maple Leafs fans better pack some patience before we can plan the parade.

We have seen a number of times where the first overall pick ends up setting the team back a number of years. The Oakland Raiders found that out the hard way when they took quarterback JaMarcus Russell with the first overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. Russell was an outstanding college player but couldn’t carry that into the pros. The Raiders organization hasn’t been the same since. And how about Greg Oden? Don’t you think the Portland Trailblazers are having second thoughts about taking him with the first pick in the 2007 NBA Draft? I don’t even have to tell you about Rick DiPietro.

Which brings me up to the mind set of the Maple Leafs tanking in order to get the first overall pick. Wasn’t the purpose of a draft lottery was suppose to neutralize the temptation to set a team up to lose every game in order get the worst record in the league? No doubt there will be conspiracy theorists who will say the NHL rigged the process so that the Leafs end up with McDavid. Just you wait. I can also bet you the so-called Leafs fans on the tank bandwagon also belong to these kook groups.

Perhaps the one common denominator with all first-round busts is mentality. One quality people seem to overlook is whether the player has the smarts to compete as a pro. It is not always see ball, hit ball. Anyone can score a goal, how you get there and the ability to do it consistently separates you from the rest of the pack. And it is up to managers and scouts to do their homework in finding out if that particular player has that quality.

Baseball is perhaps the best example of the myth of building a championship team through the draft. One thing baseball has compared to other sports is a farm system that provides players with an environment to develop their skills. Although lately, baseball teams are often taking college players in the draft as they have developed more quickly than those in high school.

If McDavid does end up with the Leafs, at least he will have a familiar face in Connor Brown on the team. The two were teammates with the Erie Otters and played on the same line producing a ton of points. By the way, Brown was a 6th round pick of the Maple Leafs in 2012 and is currently leading the Marlies in scoring. Just sayin’ as they say.

Also see:

Get the Right Player First, then Spend the Money
Tournament Win Destroys Myths
Blue Jays Need Players… Ones That Don’t Get Hurt Easily

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Why We Like to Lay Blame and Not Give Credit.

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Brady Super Bowl
There is an old saying: to the victor goes the spoils. We grew up praising people who were successful in their own industry. Nowadays, we tend to pick out opponents’ flaws rather than give credit where credit is due.

No better example than the final play for the Seahawks in Super Bowl 49. Everyone, including me, questioned the play call of making a pass at the one-yard line on 2nd and goal. But what the criticism of the call and the end result of the play tells me is that no one cares that Malcolm Butler made that big interception in the end zone. They might as well kick dirt in his face. It says that Seattle handed the Lombardi Trophy to New England rather than admitting the Patriots stood tall in the end and kept the Seahawks out of the end zone.

I remember when Joe Carter hit the walk-off World Series winning home run in 1993. It was at the time, and still is today, the greatest post-season home run in baseball history. That Blue Jays team was perhaps the most-talented in club history. But I wouldn’t have anyone else coming to the plate in a critical situation than Carter. Carter was a clutch performer and was the right guy at the right moment. But even days after the victory parade, most of the focus was on the pitcher who served up the pitch, Mitch Williams. They said Williams was tired, ineffective, wild. It was because he threw what was a batting-practice fastball that cost the Philadelphia Phillies the World Series. What about Joe? They probably would reply with: who?

If a team wins the game, we don’t go talk about how they managed to get the winning score. Instead we find flaws in the losing side. They didn’t do this or they failed to that. They seem to like pointing out the wrongs instead of realizing their side got beat by a better player or a better team. Let’s look at this another way. Connor McDavid will be the first overall in this year’s NHL Entry Draft. But I would suspect if he gets chosen by the Leafs, no one will brag how talented he is, instead will likely say he got lucky or had a great supporting cast or the talent in the draft wasn’t that good. Just you watch. The excuse machine will be in high gear.

I’m going to get crucified for saying this but no one is giving NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman his due for Super Bowl 48 being in New York. In the 47 years prior, the NFL championship game was always played either in a dome stadium or in a location where it had a warm climate. So people were left scratching their heads when Roger Goodell announced that Super Bowl 48 would be played at Metlife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Whether he admits it or not, Goodell obviously saw how successful the NHL Winter Classic and other outdoor games have been. If thousands of people brave bone-chilling temperatures to watch a regular season hockey game, why wouldn’t the same go watch a sport with something a little more at stake?

Laying blame on someone as the reason that their team lost is taking the easy way out. A cynic like me would never point out the fact that someone had to score, that they had to battle adversity, and it took lots of hard work to achieve success. Some would go as far as to accuse the other of cheating no matter how far-fetched it is. Why? No one wants to admit the other team worked harder, had a better work ethic, and simply wanted it more. These qualities make champions. The conversation about sports is not about how poorly you did, it should be more about how your opponent was more determined in beating you .

Also see:

Lessons From the World Juniors
If It’s Panned, It Must be a Good Move
Political Correctness has No Place in Sport

 

Phaneuf is Soft, So Why is Everybody Afraid to Say So?

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Dion Phaneuf

Everyone seems to have an opinion on Maple Leafs Captain Dion Phaneuf. Mostly it is negative. That’s not the issue. But instead of telling the truth we tend to use words that sound like a slap on the wrist rather than a knife to the gut.

My criticism of Phanuef is that he is soft. He can’t stand up to bigger guys when he is on the ice. In turn, he gets pushed around and opponents take advantage of that. When Phaneuf came out of Junior in 2005, he was known to knock opponents down, move the puck to the net, and drop the gloves when he needs to. Kind of like Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins. That is what Leafs fans were hoping for when Brian Burke acquired him from Calgary 4 years ago. Lately, we’ve seen flashes of the old Dion but he is still nowhere near of what he is capable of.

People prefer to use words like pylon instead of soft. Soft means weak. Pylon is a rather safer word to use. It is more politically correct to say he stands around too much rather than saying he can’t knock a small guy down like Tomas Plekanic. So we can’t say soft to describe the Leafs’ Captain? Those on forums and social media may sound angry towards Phaneuf but that’s just a cover. Listen to the words they use and it is clear they don’t want to see Phaneuf as weak.

Now I know you are saying: c’mon, you are complaining about people’s choice of words? Let’s get one thing straight. Leafs Nation nowadays is being hijacked by a bunch of rogues who don’t like hockey the way it is meant to be played. They like players who are soft. Why is there all the talk from the media about the Leafs needing more skill and not needing guys like David Clarkson, Colton Orr, and Fraser McLaren? If anything, Phaneuf is merely trying to appease them and he is making them look bad. By the way, you can also put Clarkson into the same category as Phaneuf. He needs to step up his game or he will be seeing more time in the press box.

I don’t know if Phaneuf can be the same guy he was 10 years ago. And his contract with the Leafs will make him hard to trade, at least for now. Not to mention that people in Toronto have a penchant of devaluing players. But Phaneuf can’t continue to play the way he is now. Those around the league are recognizing the fact that he is soft. Too bad the rest of Leafs Nation don’t see it the same way.

Also see:

Leafs Nation Needs a Housecleaning
James Reimer Deserves Better
Everyone’s a Critic

NFL Playoffs Prove Karma’s Not a Bitch, it’s a Bad Motherf***er

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Karma Symbol

This is not what some people mean by “pay it forward”. Let’s take a look at the chain of events that led to the Seattle Seahawks’ brain fart with 20 seconds left in the 4th quarter of Super Bowl XILX.

The Dallas Cowboys got past the Detroit Lions in the Wild Card game after the refs picked up the flag on an obvious pass interference by Anthony Hitchens of the Cowboys.

The Green Bay Packers go on to beat Dallas in the Divisional Playoff after it was ruled Dez Bryant didn’t make a clean catch (which it was) that would have led to an eventual go-ahead touchdown for the Cowboys.

Green Bay coughs up a 16-point lead in the NFC Championship game and loses to the Seattle Seahawks.

Seattle had a 10-point lead in the Super Bowl against New England. They coughed up the lead but were down 4 points and driving for the eventual winning score. That’s until their final offensive play of the game. Malcolm Butler intercepted Russell Wilson’s pass at the goal line and the Patriots win.

What is the common denominator in this? If you get rewarded by a blown call or get a win handed to you, expect the tables to turn the following game or later on in the post-season. Just ask the Boston Bruins. They lost the Stanley Cup Finals to the Chicago Blackhawks after taking a 2-1 lead with 2 minutes remaining in regulation in Game 6. Two months earlier, the Bruins came back from a 3-goal third period deficit against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 7 of the first round.

Karma goes the other way to. This year’s Super Bowl was at the same venue where the undefeated Patriots lost to the New York Giants in 2008. So what about the apparent deflated balls the Patriots used to beat the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship game? Time will tell but it seems to be just a lot of hot air now.

Also see:

Enjoy the Moment While It Lasts
Only Losers Look for Someone to Blame
Michael Sam is on the Clock