Enough is Enough

By: Joel Norman

Marshawn Lynch was fined $20,000 on January 22 for an obscene gesture that he made on his go-ahead touchdown in the NFC Championship Game. Enough is enough. It’s time for something more. Lynch has made a habit of making obscene gestures on the field and disrespecting everyone off of it. He needs to be get more than a little slap on the wrist fine.

Lynch has been fined $307,477 since 2009 for actions ranging from wearing improperly colored cleats to refusing to speak to the media. It is getting old fast. Lynch has been a problem all year ever since his close friend Percy Harvin was traded. Chris Mortenson of ESPN reported in October that many members of the Seattle Seahawks did not expect Lynch to back in 2015. The Seattle Times reported that Lynch hardly speaks with head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider. Around the same time that this was reported, TMZ released a video in which Lynch swings his bag at a reporter who was simply asking the Pro Bowler about his lamborghini. The fact that Lynch is a churlish schmuck is nothing new, but with the quantity of his foolery as high as it is this season, something more needs to be done by the NFL.

What Lynch has been doing this season is disrespectful to the league and he is only embarrassing himself. His choice to refuse to speak to the media or answer each question the same way is insulting to reporters that are only their to do their job. Without the media, Lynch would lose most of the money he makes, so it’s about time that Lynch acts more appropriately around them. The various cleat issues are extremely ridiculous because he is deliberately breaking the NFL’s rules. He may not like the guidelines that the NFL sets forth, but it’s a small price to pay for fame. As for the numerous obscene gestures that Lynch has made in his career, he should know better. Football players are idolized by children and Lynch sets a horrible example for them.

The NFL may fine him, but that won’t encourage Lynch to get his act together. People do not change this easily. Though the Seahawks’ organization has expressed frustration with Lynch, they continue to win with him. If Lynch plays well and the Seahawks win, they will still be making money and therefore have no incentive to get rid of him. Marshawn Lynch will be with the Seahawks next season regardless of whether or not they will Super Bowl XLIX. This proves a lesson in the NFL, that a player isn’t a problem unless they use banned drugs (Josh Gordon) or commit murder (O.J. Simpson). Lynch’s actions are nowhere near that severe, but the point is that he chooses to continue breaking rules. The NFL needs to start suspending him if they want players to actual adhere to the implemented rules. If Lynch commits a similar offense in the Super Bowl, a simple one game suspension could initiate a thought process in his head that he needs to change his behavior.

The Case for Fighting

By: Joel Norman

Fighting has become a big topic in hockey. For the last few years, fighting has been on the decline in the NHL. In the 2013-2014 season, the most fights that any team got into was 48 by the Toronto Maple Leafs. Compare that to ten years ago when the Nashville Predators engaged in 79 fights in the 2003-2004 season. The post 2004-2005 lockout NHL has made a point at working on player safety. With concussion detection improving, the league is realizing that more injuries occur than the first thought. On paper, it seems like the easiest way to reduce injuries is to eliminate something that only the NHL legalizes: fighting.

In the NFL, NBA, and MLB, a player is ejected from the game if he chooses to fight an opposing player. Rarely is this the case in the NHL. If Sidney Crosby receives a cheap shot from Chris Neil, Steve Downie is expected to go out and drop the gloves with Neil as soon as possible. Fighting is often used as a means of communication. When Downie drops the gloves with Neil, he is saying “You can’t mess with my teammates.” It builds unity and trust on teams.

Perhaps the most recent and best example of why fighting needs to be allowed in the NHL was on display on January 20th. The Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers met for their second matchup of the year in a nationally televised game. Near the end of the firsts period, Flyers forward Zac Rinaldo left his feet and hit Penguins defenseman Kris Letang into the boards. Rinaldo was already set to receive a boarding penalty, but the Penguins rushed over to confront Rinaldo. No fights occurred on this play, but it set the tone for the rest of the game. The two rival teams scrapped four times in the second period. This game was not a brawl, it was just chippy. In the third period the teams didn’t fight, probably because it was still a close game. Messages were sent by both sides and when they were done, the teams went back to work.

While Letang missed the Penguins’ game on Wednesday, it is unknown whether or not he has a concussion. If he does, the next time that the teams play will be interesting. For now, it is clear that fighting was necessary in their most recent meeting. If the Penguins allow the Flyers to push them around, then Philadelphia would have run away with this game. If the Flyers continue to agitate the Penguins but don’t get into any fights, then Pittsburgh would have gotten lots of power play opportunities. Fighting creates a more balanced game. Fans should enjoy watching a close game more than they enjoy watching men beat each other with their fists. 

Taking the Islanders Seriously

By:  Joel Norman

As of the afternoon of January 18, 2015 the New York Islanders are the top team in the Eastern Conference’s Metropolitan Division. The hockey team from Long Island has not won a playoff series since 1993 and has only made the playoffs six times since then. Things are different this year thanks to some newcomers and some familiar faces. A franchise that once made it to the Stanley Cup for five years in a row, and won the first four of those appearances, is seeking a return to glory.

Leading the way for the Isles is captain John Tavares. The 24 year old is one of the most offensively skilled players in the game and has put his name in the MVP discussion. The sixth year pro has yet to put up a 100 point season, partly thanks to a lockout shortened season and a season ending injury during the 2014 Olympics. Taveras has scored 44 points (20 goals + 24 assists), which is within ten points of the league leader. Benefitting the most from Taveras has been right winger and long time linemate Kyle Okposo (14 + 29). Taveras and Okposo have a strong chemistry that was put on display in a January 16 win when Taveras assisted on three of Okposo’s four goals. The Islanders’ centers on their first three lines (Taveras, Frans Nielsen, and Brock Nelson) all have produced at least 24 points. Thanks in part to the chemistry of Okposo and Taveras and the solid production from centers, the Islanders are tied for fourth in the league by averaging 3.07 goals per game.

The Islanders have especially been aided by some key additions. Defenseman Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk have formed a very strong offensive pairing on defense combining for 39 points. Leddy and Boychuk have helped balance out the defense of the Islanders by bringing the offensive punch while Travis Hamonic and Calvin de Haan shut down opposing forwards. Perhaps the biggest acquisition was goaltender Jaroslav Halak. The Czechoslovakian is on his third team in as many years but looks to have found a home on Long Island. After seeing goalies like Rick DiPietro and Dwayne Roloson come and go after unsuccessful stints, the Islanders seem to have found their new goalie for the future. Halak has provided stability in net with a 2.36 goals against average and four shutouts. Finally having a steady goaltender is the biggest reason for why the Islanders could be doing some damage in the postseason.

The biggest problem for the Islanders has been special teams. They boast an average power play and a well below average penalty kill, despite scoring seven shorthanded goals which is tied for best in the NHL. In back to back games on January 16 and 17, New York scored two power play goals, but also gave up four. Since offense has not been a big problem, look for the Islanders to bring in smaller name players that will help them defensively. What’s been really impressive is the Islanders’ record against other contending teams in the Metropolitan Division; the Isles are 2-0 against the Rangers, 2-1 against the Capitals, and 3-1 against the Penguins. It seems clear that the Islanders are one of the favorites in the East. They have been fortunate not to have dealt with many injuries and if this continues, it is logical to think that they could make a run at the Stanley Cup in their final season at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.   

NFL Conference Championship Preview

                                                  Seattle Seahawks (12-4) vs. Green Bay Packers (12-4)

The reigning Super Bowl champions, Seattle Seahawks, will host the Green Bay Packers Sunday afternoon for a chance to return to the Super Bowl for the second straight year. Both teams kicked off the NFL season week 1 in Seattle where the Seahawks won 36-16. Before they faced off against each other earlier in the year many thought that they would meet up again in the playoffs. However, after watching the Packers play and again in the recent weeks following doubt starting to crop up in the minds of Packers nation.

Looking at the week one matchup can give viewers an idea about how the game plan may be like in Sunday’s game. Both teams are definitely a lot difference since the last time they faced each other, however.

On the Packers side of the ball they were starting three rookies, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Davante Adams, and Corey Linsley. Linsley became the starting center only days before the opener due to a season ending injury to J.C. Tretter. Adams was virtually invisible in the game and has since replaced Jarett Boykins as the teams 3rd wide receiver. Clinton-Dix has also improved immensely and has become the team’s starting safety. Other significant changes include the demotion of Brad Jones and AJ Hawk to more of a bench role and moving Clay Matthews from primarily an OLB to a MLB.

Moving on to the Seahawks, the biggest difference is trading Percy Harvin to the Jets in October. The Packers secondary defensive game plan mostly revolved around preventing Percy Harvin from killing them deep. Seattle’s offense changed after Harvin was traded. The team relied on Marshawn Lynch to carry the offense more and has proven that he is fully capable of it. With the effective running game it allows Wilson to be able to go to other receivers who otherwise wouldn’t be effective to go to.

The main question for this game is Aaron Rodgers’ health. His injured left calf has played a large role in the playoffs and has effective the Packers offensive playbook significantly. His injury has forced him to stay in the pocket instead of scrambling around which is one of his most important skills. If his calf hasn’t been able to heal any better than last game then this may be a rough game. An encouraging sight for Packers fans is that in the 4th quarter of the Cowboys’ game he looked like himself completing every pass and clinching a spot into the NFC championship game.

This game all depends on the health of Rodgers. Recent reports and interviews are encouraging making it sound like he is in better shape than he was at this point last week. If that’s the case, the Packers can win.

 Packers 27 – 24.

                                          Indianapolis Colts (11-5) vs. New England Patriots (12-4)

Similarly to the Seahawks and Packers, the Colts and Patriots matched up against each other earlier in the season. New England came to Indianapolis after the Colts bye week and beat them 42-20. Both teams haven’t changed all too much since that game so their week 11 matchup could look very similar to what Sunday may be like.

LeGarrette Blount is the biggest addition to the team since then providing them with another quality running back that is familiar with the system. On the other side of the field, the Colts have lost a running back, Trent Richardson. He has been left off of the Colts roster and will not fly up to New England. This is only providing skeptics more evidence that Richardson is an NFL bust.

The goal for the game for the Colts need to be to establish a running game early. Their lack of a running game has been one of their weakest spots all year and will be crucial against the Patriots. The Patriots defense is set up to stop a passing first team rather than one who can run the ball. Opening up the passing a game would provide Andrew Luck a much better chance at beating the Pats secondary.

Tom Brady will be playing for a chance to earn his 4th Super Bowl ring. He wouldn’t want to be in anywhere else but Gillette Stadium for a game like this where he has been dominate in his entire career. Brady has had a 103.8 passer rating at home. As he has all season he will be relying on Rob Gronkowski to be the backbone of their offense. Julius Edelman has become one of the better wide receivers in the AFC and has opened up a deep pass threat which compliments to the short middle of the field attack by Gronkowski.

The Colts will need to force at least one turnover if they want a chance to win and even then will have to play a near perfect game to defeat Tom Brady and his Patriots. Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers had never played against each other before this season and we may see that matchup one more time. 

 Patriots 35- 24