Can The Royals Pull Off The Improbable?

By: Joel Norman

Every MLB season, one small market team seems to come out of nowhere and battle for playoff contention and even make it into the playoffs farther than anyone would have expected them to. In 2008, the newly named Tampa Bay Rays made it to the World Series after failing to post a winning season in their previous ten years of existence. In 2013, the Pittsburgh Pirates came a win away from advancing to the NLCS after 20 straight losing seasons. This year's surprise is the Kansas City Royals. Since 1994, the Royals have had only two seasons where they finished above .500 (2003, 2013) and their highest divisional finish is third place in the highly competitive AL Central. This year, the tide is turning and Kansas City has been battling the Detroit Tigers all season long for supremacy in the division.


The key behind the Royals success has been their youth movement. Salvador Perez, Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Alex Gordon, and Billy Butler were all developed in the Kansas City farm system. In addition to their plethora of developed players, the Royals have also traded for talented players such as James Shields, Alcides Escobar, and Jeremy Guthrie. They seem to excel in every major category. The offense, lead by Perez, Gordon, and Butler, are third in all of baseball with a .263 team average despite hitting the fewest homers in all of baseball, 84 at the beginning of 8/28/14. When it comes to pitching, Kansas City posts a solid 3.54 team ERA and boasts several impressive feats: Four Royals starters have at least ten wins, the only team in baseball to claim this, and their closer, Greg Holland, leads MLB in saves with 40 and only has blown two of those chances. Perez, Gordon, and Holland all helped the AL win home field advantage in the World Series and they hope that the Royals will be able to benefit from it in October.  


Coming into 2014, the Detroit Tigers were once again World Series favorites. Propelled by two time MVP and former Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, the Tigers entered this season hoping to return to  the World Series after falling to the eventual World Series champions in back to back seasons. What they have gotten instead is a rough season filled with plenty of adversity. Former MVP and Cy Young winner Justin Verlander has struggled to remain consistent as his 4.82 ERA might suggest. After having a strong April, things began to go south fast for Verlander in mid-May and since then he has been far from his old self. Verlander's ineffectiveness forced the Tigers to go out and acquire David Price and sacrifice talented centerfielder Austin Jackson in the process. Another problem has been their bullpen which is 28th out of 30 teams in ERA with a 4.45 mark. Despite these problems, Detroit has been propelled by their second best offense with a team average of .274 and a lineup that includes Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Alex Avila, and Ian Kinsler. They might have struggles, but they are still a team to be reckoned with.


The Royals have won every series this month that has at least three games in it and put together an eight game win streak that included two sweeps. The Tigers have only won three series and tied two others in August and seem unable to fully pull it together. As of the start of this season, the Royals payroll is $70,194,182 less than the Tigers, yet at the start of August 28 Kansas City is in first place and is ahead by 2.5 games. Though the Royals are having a better season, the Tigers definitely have more talent and the last month of the season will determine who will win the division and avoids being in the dreaded Wild Card Game . Besides their two matchups against each other from the 8-10 and 19-21, both teams have relatively easy schedules. On the weekend of the 5-7 the Tigers face the San Francisco Giants and the Royals face the New York Yankees. That weekend is the only time that either team faces a real challenge besides when they face each other. The only other team that both teams will face that is over .500 is the Cleveland Indians. Besides that, their schedules are relatively similar and loaded with sub .500 opponents, so this makes it even tougher to predict who will win the division.


After looking at it all, I still believe that the Detroit Tigers will win the AL Central. Their pitchers may not be having a better season than those of the Royals, but where Kansas City lacks in experience, Detroit thrives; Verlander, Price, Max Scherzer, and Anibal Sanchez all have made it to the World Series at least once in their careers. Those four will be heavily relied on to get the Tigers ahead of the Royals and they will because each of them are better pitchers than anyone on the Royals. Obviously superior offensively, Detroit might not win the division because of their inconsistent bullpen. The Tigers need to pray that Joe Nathan returns to form in September and that another shutdown reliever emerges to compliment Al Alburquerque. Kansas City is good enough to make the playoffs, but they will be forced to win the Wild Card Game to advance.  


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Eliminating the Wild Card Game

By: Joel Norman


Since its introduction in 2012, the second wild card has allowed for an additional team to have a shot at playing in October. MLB operates under a playoff format where the teams that capture the wild card berths in both leagues play in a one game playoff to determine which team will advance to the division series. The Wild Card game is practically a game to see which team makes it into the postseason, but is considered a game in the postseason. With it's addition, the second wild card has made two more teams buyers at the trade deadline each year. The question has become, is the current playoff setup a good or bad thing?


In four wild card games since the addition of the second wild card in 2012, the home team has only won once. the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2013. A do-or-die game should truly show which team is better, but it doesn't. This isn't the NFL, where each and every player on the roster is likely to make an appearance. This is MLB; only one starting pitcher is going to be used per game despite there being several other effective ones on the team. If a team's ace doesn't have his best stuff one day, the season is over. There should be a bit more room for mistake.


Consider the efforts of the front office of a team contending for the playoffs: they have had to sacrifice the future for the current season in an attempt to put together a championship team. In 2012, the Texas Rangers traded for Ryan Dempster, only to lose the Wild Card Game on home turf. Dempster left the Rangers after the season. Trading to make a run and losing in a do-or-die game isn't fair. Teams should have more of an opportunity to advance despite one bad game.


Last season, the Cleveland Indians won 10 straight games and just barely clinched the top wild card in a crazy finish for the American League. After one playoff game, their season was over. After going  on such an impressive run, Cleveland lost  The one time that they lost cost them  their season. The team that defeated them, the Tampa Bay Rays, had just won a play-in game against the Rangers. Their reward was another play-in game. The current system has far too many play-in games.


How do you fix the problem? There are two options: either eliminate the second wild card entirely or make it a three game playoff. The last time a three game playoff was used was in 1962 when the San Francisco Giants defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers two games to one. This three game playoff occurred because the Giants and Dodgers were tied atop the standings and an NL pennant winner had to be determined because these were the times that the team with the best record in the National League battled the best team from the American League in a best-of-seven World Series. Returning to this format in order to advance to divisional play would be a much more convenient and fair way to go about it. Having a single playoff game isn't worth it and allows for a single error to end a season without getting another chance.

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Shining Stars

By: Matt Goss

The Dallas Stars have been a respectable team for the last couple years. They have had bad luck making it into the postseason however. The team has not made an appearance in the playoffs since the 2008 season, so the city is hoping to make a run at the Cup in these next couple years. Dallas seems to be getting better with new acquisitions this offseason and may make them a contender for the cup. The big question here is, "Will Dallas be able to contend for the Cup in the next year?" In order to predict if they will have a big splash in the Stanley Cup playoffs, we will look at two factors, the overall ability of the Western Conference and an evaluation of the talent the organization has acquired.

It is no secret that the Western Conference has the biggest powerhouses in the entire NHL. The Chicago Blackhawks are an incredible team that always makes a big run at the Cup. To no avail in the latest playoffs, the Blackhawks still managed to extend their season to the third round and bring the eventual champions to a Game 7. Speaking of champions, the Western Conference also possesses the incumbent champions, the Los Angeles Kings. This team is so successful, consistent, and good that many networks and fans are using the D word! In a world where professional sports are insanely hard to be the kings of, the Kings seem to have done this. They have created a dynasty in LA that has propelled hockey in the city to new heights with the best team in hockey. On top of this, it doesn't look like they're going anywhere soon as they rule the NHL and furthermore, the Western Conference. Now what does this mean for the Dallas Stars? It means quite a bit. In a conference where you have the best teams in hockey, it is hard to make it into the playoffs, or at least more so than in the Eastern Conference. The Stars really have to up the stakes here to contend. Even harder will be the competition in the playoffs, as the Stars will have to play 3 Western Conference teams in the process to make it to the final. These teams could very well include the Blackhawks or the Kings, making for a very tough run. This will make it hard for the Stars to advance too far without the personnel, but let's assess their acquisitions as well as current players to come a conclusion about next season.

Last year around this time, the Dallas Stars acquired Tyler Sequin from the Boston Bruins. Sequin proved to be a hard-playing elite centerman for the Bruins as well as the Stars. This was a big trade twelve months again and for sure made the team better. The Stars have done it again, capturing Jason Spezza from the Ottawa Senators. Spezza, a highly talented player, will help the Stars produce some offense in the next years. Along with Spezza, the Stars have acquired Ales Hemsky, who was in fact a former linemate of Spezza's back when they both played in Ottawa. This will benefit the Stars because you now have two good forwards who understand each other's' games before they even play a game. It is good for chemistry and the ease of going to a new team. Spezza even said, "We had great chemistry at the end of the year." On another good note, Antoine Roussel has been signed to a four-year deal. This is big for Dallas because this 24 year old forward is a big member of the team and has much room to grow into a big player. All in all the Stars have made big moves to acquire more players, good players. This only adds to the power of the team for the next season. The team is going to be good this year, but can it contend for the Cup?

In all honesty, I do not believe the Stars have much chance at the Cup. I wouldn't call them favorites by any means but I still feel as if they have a chance. For all we know, they could dominate this year, or they could extend their postseason less drought. It is looking more likely that they will make the playoffs, and the drought looks like it'll end but it is not looking extremely promising for a team surrounded by talent throughout the conference to make a huge run at the Cup.


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The Curious Offseason of the Cleveland Browns

By: John Berzonski

Cleveland and their Browns have both been at the center of media this offseason; LeBron is returning to the Cavs, Manziel was drafted, and Josh Gordon is facing a large suspension, but with all of this media attention no one is really talking about what the Browns are doing in preparation for the next season. Throughout the whole media frenzy, the actual analysis of the team has been put on the way side. The Browns have been refreshing their team, dumping some players, and adding some free agents that should hopefully help turn the page on last season's struggles. As with any scenario there is the 'glass half full' opinion and the 'glass half empty' counterpoint. The Browns have potential to succeed this season but they also have the potential to remain the same team they have been seemingly since the current franchise was formed in 1999. 


It seems like the Browns follow a yearly tradition; fire the head coach and replace the coaching staff. Mike Pettine has been brought in to replace Rob Chudzinski after he lead the Browns to a lackluster 4-12 record last season. Pettine has a pedigree as a defensive coach, which will mesh nicely with the defensive personnel left over from the Chudzinski team. Pettine started his NFL coaching with the Baltimore Ravens in 2001 and took over the role of linebacker coach in 2005. Working closely under Rex Ryan in Baltimore lead to Pettine being hired as the defensive coordinator of the New York Jets from 2009 to 2012. Under him the Jets posted impressive stats, namely the number one defense in 2009. From there, Pettine moved on to the Buffalo Bills in 2013 and lead them to a less than spectacular number twenty overall finish. This position is Pettine's first head coaching job in the NFL but his past suggests that the Browns have a promising defensive mind at the helm of their team.

The turnover in coaching staff was a surprising move considering the quarterback challenges faced by the team last season, mainly losing Brian Hoyer to injury in a game against the Bills, and continually starting Brandon Weeden despite the growing evidence that he is not an NFL caliber quarterback. 


Hoyer took over after Weeden suffered a late game thumb injury against the divisional opponent Baltimore Ravens the previous week. Hoyer played exceptionally well his first start against the Minnesota Vikings tossing up 3 touchdowns and 321 yards with Josh Gordon ad Jordan Cameron being the main targets. Hoyer surprised again next week, leading the Browns to their second win of the season against the cross-state rival Cincinnati Bengals. In that game, Hoyer against posted impressive stats for such minimal experience: 2 touchdowns and 269 yards. Gordon and Cameron were again favored by Hoyer through the air. In the next weeks' game against Buffalo, Hoyer would suffer a season ending knee injury while scrambling in the first quarter. The Browns have stated that Hoyer is their man moving forward despite the drafting of Johnny Manziel and Hoyer's recovery has gone well this offseason.


As far as offseason acquisitions go, the signing of running back Ben Tate is a spectacular move by the Browns' front office. Previously, Cleveland had banked on  Trent Richardson becoming a star in Cleveland, but as his development was slower than expected and his numbers were not up to par, they moved him on to the Indianapolis Colts and picked up Willis McGahee as a stopgap move. McGahee did little to impress managing an average of 2.7 yards per carry and only 2 touchdowns. With the addition of Tate, the Browns now have a threat at running back. Only getting 7 full starts after Arian Foster went down with his back injury, the former Houston Texan still managed to run up 771 yards for an average of 4.3 per attempt with 4 touchdowns.


The Browns also added some depth at receiver by acquiring Miles Austin and Nate Burleson. While not premier receivers, they will definitely add much needed depth to the Browns roster which included Josh Gordon and Greg Little. These additions will also help hold the Browns over until next  year after the ruling that Gordon would be suspended for the year.. Gordon was looking at a year suspension for repeated use of marijuana. Gordon missed the first 2 games of the 2013 season after a failed drug test. It was announced earlier on May 9th that Gordon had failed another drug test and was facing a 16 game suspension, a devastating verdict for the Browns. Then on July 5th Gordon was arrested for DWI, driving while impaired, and the year-long suspension was formally handed down. Gordon and the Browns plan to appeal this ban but as of now the Browns are looking at a season without their star receiver, one of the only bright spots from last season.


Cleveland has a challenge next year to field a good team. With a .500 record being a lofty goal, it will be a trial by fire for Mike Pettine. With the loss of Hoyer's favorite target and star Josh Gordon, the offense is seemingly hamstrung. If the Browns want to have success then the ground game will have to be something entirely different from what it was last year and the addition of Ben Tate gives them potential. Depending on how their line stays together and plays they have a chance to impact the game, take pressure of Hoyer, and allow him to find his new receivers. Another factor that will hinder the Browns is media pressure to start Manziel. Hoyer is a more than competent starter for the Browns but by no means is the face of the franchise for the next decade. With the media frenzy surrounding the draft and offseason with its epicenter being Manziel, Hoyer's first questionable game will be met with resounding calls to start Manziel. Manziel is a talent but as we have seen before the style of play he is accustomed to is not the best for the NFL, just ask RG3 about what scrambling a lot can result in.  The most important thing, in my opinion, is no matter how this season goes allow Pettine to return. If the Browns dump this coaching staff after this season, then it's back to square one again, which I'm sure no fan would want for a third year in a row.


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What's the Price?

By: Joel Norman

With the trade deadline a week away, names are flying like bees searching for nectar. No name has gotten more attention than David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays. After the 2013 season, Price was a free agent, but returned to Tampa on a one year deal. It is very rare for the Rays to sign players to long term, expensive deals. This is best evidenced through the 2012 trade where they dealt James Shields. It was definitely a deal meant to acquire Wil Myers, but still was used as a way to not have to pay Shields the big money that he was soon to be due. The Rays currently sit in fourth place in the AL East, but are 5.5 games out of a wild card spot, as of July 23. It is not really known whether General Manager Andrew Friedman thinks his team can make a run at the postseason or not, but right now it seems best for Tampa Bay to deal Price based on their status as a small market baseball club.

Now the question becomes, where does Price end up by the end of July 31st? It's tough to tell when it seems that every team covets the 2012 Cy Young-winning left hander. While there are more buyers in the American League than there are in the National League, Price could go either way. Given that his contract will expire at the end of the season and will be paid by the Rays regardless of where he ends the season, Price may not begin next season with the team that acquires him. Right now, the teams most likely to land Price are the Angels, the Mariners, the Dodgers, and the Cardinals.

With the second best record in the Majors, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim will absolutely be buyers this summer. Recently, they acquired reliever Huston Street to add to an already stellar bullpen, but they may not be finished with trades. Bringing in Price would certainly upgrade the Angels' 15th place team pitching to a more elite category. Price would be teamed with staff ace Jered Weaver and breakout star Garrett Richards to form the best rotation in baseball come October when only three starters are really needed. As a team, the Angels hit .266, good for third in all of baseball, and that has been their catalyst all year, but shutdown pitching is necessary for the wins to keep coming.

Sleepless in Seattle no more; the Mariners have become contenders again at last. The current holders of the second American League Wild Card, Seattle has benefited greatly from acquiring Robinson Cano. The All Star second baseman is hitting .331 with 7 HR and 57 RBI and has brought a winning attitude to the Mariners' clubhouse. The rotation has been the biggest reason why the Mariners are back in contention, thanks to Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma putting up sub 3.00 ERA's. Both pitchers are right handers and adding the lefty Price to the mix could really hurt certain teams down the stretch and would probably help the Mariners surpass the Angels in the AL West.

Armed with perhaps the most frightening rotation for opposing batters to face, the Los Angeles Dodgers are looking to finally make it to the World Series after having lost in NLCS in 3 of the past 6 seasons. For the second year in a row, the Dodgers have started the year very slowly, but found themselves midway through the season. With Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Hyun-Jin Ryu, Los Angeles has three starters with 11 wins apiece, 33 of the team's 56 total wins. Offensively, it is tough to top a healthy Dodger's lineup that includes names likes Puig, Kemp, Gordon, and Gonzalez. With Price, the Dodgers would be able to get rid of the ineffective Dan Haren and would give them the best rotation in the league heading into October.

The final team that appears most likely to get David Price is the St. Louis Cardinals. The reigning National League champions have not been quite as good as last year, but still are eying another run in October. With MLB's 8th best pitching staff hurting because of Michael Wacha's recent injury, acquiring Price to team with ace Adam Wainwright could push the Cardinals past the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central. St. Louis may have an upper hand in negotiations with Tampa Bay because of prospects like Kolten Wong and Oscar Taveras that could be trade pieces. Both have struggled at the major league this season in limited action, but the Rays thrive on trading for high potential prospects.

While there are many teams that would love to land Price, not every one of them has the proper assets to acquire him. The team most likely to end up with Price is the St. Louis Cardinals. With Wacha injured and Wong and Taveras as leverage, the Cardinals have the best to offer. While that may be the case, the team that needs Price the most out of the four above is the Angels. Every other team have rotations that are very superb as they are. The Angels need a third exceptional starter to be able to advance in October. I expect the Cardinals to acquire Price, but they need offense more than pitching. Don't get me wrong, adding Price would be an outstanding grab for St. Louis, but they also need a bat or two.  

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Baffling Badgers

By: Sam Kluender

The most confusing and unpredictable team in college hoops right now is the Wisconsin Badgers. Before the season started the Badgers also seemed to be the hardest team to predict according to the experts. Many predictions from ESPN, CBS, and so on had Wisconsin anywhere from the lower half of the Big Ten to winning the entire conference. The main reason for that was probably not knowing how the team would play with the loss of seniors Jared Berggren, Ryan Evans, and Mike Bruesewitz. The upcoming draft class, according to ESPN's recruiting rankings, were not very good either. With only one starting senior on the team now, Ben Brust, Bo Ryan would have to rely on a much younger and inexperienced team.


Well, those who predicted the Badgers to finish 1st in the Big Ten or close to there were probably feeling pretty good about themselves a month or so into the season. With a starting lineup of Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker, Josh Gasser, Ben Brust, and Traevon Jackson, the Badgers started the season with a bang. To kick off the season Wisconsin found themselves playing three really good tournament teams in St. Johns, #11 Florida, and UW-Green Bay. The Badgers scored 86 points in their first game against St. Johns which was something unheard of for a Bo Ryan team. Under Bo Ryan, you can expect games in the 50's or 60's. With his swing offense, the team would slow down the game to their level, not take many shots, and play lights out defense. The win against Florida was a huge morale booster since in the past Wisconsin has had issues beating highly ranked non conference opponents. Last year, the Badgers weren't able to beat Florida, so that win helped push them forward.


Wisconsin kept chugging along beating a few easier teams in Bowling Green, Oral Roberts, and North Dakota pushing them to 6-0. The outlook of the team was very optimistic at that point but people weren't ready to pencil the team in as one of the best in the nations just yet. Their toughest stretch of games were just about to start when they went on the road to Cancun to play in the Cancun Challenge. They dominated there when they beat West Virginia, Virginia, and St. Louis. This is when more and more started to jump on the Badgers bandwagon. They came back home and beat rival Marquette and won their next 3 games to finish their non conference schedule undefeated at 13-0. Right then there were only 5 teams left undefeated. Never has a Bo Ryan team ever been considered elite nationally. Every season they would be very good and finish in the top 4 in the Big Ten, but would choke in March. Being undefeated going into conference play, many thought this might be his first elite team and a potential #1 seed.


The Badgers started their conference schedule being #4 in the nation, which hadn't happened in almost a decade. Like their non conference, the Badgers went into Big Ten play like a bull, defeating Northwestern, Iowa, and Illinois. Everything was going great, but there were some concerns about the defense. Although at 16-0 and #3 in the country, fans didn't feel like it was too bad of a problem; they were wrong.


Their first loss of the season came on January 14th on the road against Indiana. Like usual, Wisconsin shot well but couldn't defend down low. Indiana was able to keep passing down to Yogi Ferrell or drive the lane and Wisconsin had no way of stopping. From there on out everything got worse for Wisconsin. Leaks in their play became more evident and teams started to exploit them. No longer did they look like the #3 team in the country anymore. They came back home and lost to Michigan. The offense wasn't too bad, but the defense let Michigan shoot lights out and score 77 points on them. Knowing Bo Ryan you'd think this wasn't too bad since he's known for making corrections and fixing teams, well you were wrong. Desperately needing a win, they had to go on the road to Minnesota. The holes got even bigger when Wisconsin didn't even put up a fight, losing 81-68. They finally broke their losing streak by beating Purdue pretty easily 72-58. The winning didn't last, however, and in their lowest point of the season, the Badgers lost at home against Northwestern. They then dropped another game at home in a heart-breaker against Ohio State. The Badgers had lost 3 straight at the Kohl Center which had never happened before. Somehow they beat Illinois on the road and this is where they stand right now. After starting 16-0. the Badgers are now 18-5 and only 5-5 in the Big Ten.


Which team are they? Are they the team we all thought could make the Final Four at 16-0 or the struggling team who may be lucky to get past the 2nd round in the tournament? Well, probably neither. Certainly going 16-0 is no fluke, especially when their non-conference was the the hardest according to SOS. On the other hand, Big Ten play is much different than many of the teams they played in that winning streak. Right now they dropped out of the AP Top 25, but Joe Lunardi of ESPN still has them as a #4 seed in the tournament.


The team has practically done a 180. Their offense who had been so good at the beginning is now inconsistent and keeps going through large stretches of minutes without baskets. No one seems to have confidence to make big shots anymore. The real test of their strength will come up soon where the Badgers have their toughest stretch of games on their schedule. Their upcoming games are against Michigan State, Minnesota, Michigan, and Iowa. This is the time to make or break it. If they can pull out some wins, they can find themselves back in the top 15 and in great position for March or find themselves struggling to be a top 10 seed in the tournament.


I think they'll turn it around to a point. They have way too many great shooters on the team to continue to shoot as poorly as they have. The Badgers live and die by the 3 which has been one of their biggest weaknesses in January. It's not an issue of getting good looks so im inclined to believe the offense will get better. The defense is what it is, though. Changes can be made and personnel can rotate, but it isn't going to get significantly better. Bo Ryan is a good enough coach to make it good enough for them to be able to win any game as long as the offense hits their shots. I think Joe Lunardi has it just about right. This Wisconsin team is no longer as good as we all thought, but as a a 4 or 5 seed, it still isn't out of the realm of possibility that a Elite 8 or Final 4 berth can happen.

5 Lesser Publicized Winter Olympic Sports

By: Brendan Luksik


Who's excited for the Olympics? I know I am, even though we all know that the Winter Olympics are the Summer Olympics little brother. We also know that there has been some drama about security in the Sochi Olympics this year. But all the popularity and politics aside, the winter Olympics provide a different dynamic than their summer counterpart. And with that comes a variety of different style sports. Because fewer people regularly watch the Winter Olympics, fewer know about the games. I think we all like to be educated people so here are 5 Winter Olympic Sports you probably didn't existed or didn't know much about.

1. The Nordic Combined

Originating in Norway from competitions amongst foot soldiers in the army, Nordic Combined was first introduced in 1892 in Oslo and joined the Olympic ticket in 1924. That being the first Winter Olympic games, this sport is one of the originals. The discipline is the combination of two events: ski jumping and cross-country skiing.  At the Sochi games, medals will be contested in Men's individual, Men's Sprint and Team 4x 5K.

The ski Jumping portion comes before the Cross Country portion because the way in which the point system works out, the field is more competitive than after the cross country being done first. The Winner is determined using a point system the Olympics use the Gundersen scoring method.  Points are earned for distance and style in the Ski Jumping portion and for speed in Cross Country method. Points earned from the Jumping portion determine seeding time for the Cross Country portion and more points are then awarded after its completion with the fastest time getting the max points and a scale of lessening points for the finishing order behind him. 

2. Super-G Alpine Skiing

The Super Giant Slalom or Super-G discipline is a sub discipline of Alpine Skiing. This event first appeared on the Olympic ticket at the 1988 Calgary games.  It became popular enough to make World Cup test runs in as early as 1983. It was soon moved to the Olympics after approval of the International Ski Federation.

Super-G is very similar to the Slalom event in that both have a series of gates that the contestants must navigate through. Missing a gate will disqualify a contestant and the contestant with the fastest time is the winner. Super-G events have fewer gates than the other disciplines (30 for women and 35 for men) and are sloped less severely than downhill events, even though they are considered a speed event. Unlike normal Slalom, Super-G contestants get only a single run at the hill. 

3. Ski cross

If you never heard of this one, that's ok. Ski cross made its debut at the 2010 Vancouver games and will be returning for only its second Olympic ticket.  Very similar to Moto cross and its Olympic counterpart Boarder cross (the same thing with snowboards) was originally marketed as a promotional event for the Audi Quattro and was supposed to be called "Quattro Racing." The International Ski Federation took notice and added Ski Cross to their World Cup events in 2006 and the sport took hold from there.

In the event, races are tie trialed into a bracket, with the fastest 32 making it into the tournament. From here racers are timed down the hill racing side by side in 4-man sets until the bracket is played out to the finals. While Ski Cross has the speed of a downhill discipline it is considered a freestyle event because the contestants must work with the terrain, jumping and swerving while they race.

4. Figure Skating Team Event

This is a new twist on one of the Winter Olympics Biggest Events. Figure skaters can now be judged for team events.  The Sochi games are the first Olympiad to feature team figure skater scoring. Based on their scores from the 2013 World Finals, 10 Countries earned the right to compete for the medal at the Olympics. Canada, Russia, China, the US, and Great Britain all made the list.

With scores being earned identically to the rules of the standard individual events, each country can compile up to 8 scores from each discipline their athletes compete. Which 8 scores will be used, are determined by the countries prior to the events. The top 5 scoring countries will move on to the final free skate that determines the winner.  In the first round, there is no additional skate for the athletes. The scores earned during the individual events are the scores used for the team event. It's like competing for two medals at once.

5. Slopestyle

Also brand new on the Sochi ticket this year, is Snowboard Slopestyle. If it seems familiar that's because this is a direct adaptation from the very popular version seen during the Winter X-games. The discipline has grown very popular there and so blossomed into an Olympic sport.

The goal of Slopestyle is to achieve the most complex trick while jumping the highest altitude. The emphasis of the sport is on the contestant's ability to do a variety of complex tricks, not just a small set of skills. Contestants use a terrain park and jump on to and off of boxes, rails and slides. The contestants are judged for each run and the top scorer wins the gold. 

A Different Kind of Curling

By: John Morris

 

To most people, rolling a stone across the ice would be considered a leisure activity to avoid them being bored while walking along the sidewalk. You wouldn't consider that a special talent and wouldn't try to work on technique or style. However, to certain Olympic athletes, this is an art form that they have not only perfected, but cherish. I'm talking about Winter Olympic Curling. To some people this should not even be an event and call it "a waste of time and money." To others it is special event that highlights the need for technique, dedication, and talent.

To understand the sport, it's important to understand that curling is a team sport. No team can win without perfect communication and order with his/her teammates. Each team has a total of four players. Two curlers and two sweepers. The curlers alternate turns up and down the rink heaving large granite rocks at a target. Bending the rock to their will is a special skill that all curlers must master to become good enough to join the ranks of Olympic Curlers. The sweepers job is simple and complex at the same time and it has a rhythm to it that can entice the viewer to be enthralled by it. As the "stone" makes it down the rink, the sweepers attempt to speed it up by scraping the ice with their brooms in order to create speed and lessen the curve of the stone. It's a relatively simple game that is a real treat to watch.

 

For a game that has its roots traced back medieval Scotland, curling has only recently become a notable sport in the United States. Most people today would only associate the word curling with a workout that body-builders do to make their biceps large enough to be mistaken with a tree trunk. Even for those who know that curling exists do not fully grasp the concept of how difficult the sport is and how much work is put into it. It is a misunderstood sport by most accounts and for the most part is accused of not being competitive or skillful enough to be part of the Olympics.

In my personal opinion, I believe curling is an intriguing and fun sport to experience. The argument that it should not be an Olympic sport or a sport in general is an invalid point. The fact that these same people consider sports like bowling or ping pong legitimate sports, yet do not consider curling worthy of such a title are ludicrous. Curling is unique in its own regard for its special nature of attention to detail and strict technique. The players would agree that what they do takes a great deal of effort. Then again, everyone is still entitled to their personal opinion.

 

This years Olympics in Sochi are sure to be a real thrill with returning stars such as Bode Miller and Apolo Ohno. They will also be spiced up with the addition of new events such as Women's Ski Jumping and Snowboard Slopestyle. However, I will still be looking to the old game of curling for a source of entertainment during this years' Olympics. We will all see what this winter may bring.  

Will Canada Repeat as Olympic Champions?

By: Matt Goss

 


It is Olympic time again as we are weeks away from the 2014 Winter Games. This year's venue will be Sochi. As always, any NHL fan is anticipating the hockey that accompanies the games. It is country against country in an amazing stretch of hockey that puts one country on top of the others. Four years ago, the winner was Canada in the 2010 Winter Olympics held in Vancouver. It was an epic battle that poised Canada against the United States. Down 2-0, the United States brought it back to 2-2 at the end of the third with an immaculate goal by Zach Parise. Into the overtime these teams went scoreless before Sidney Crosby scored the game-winning goal for Canada, winning the gold. It was a great game that ultimately put Canada on top. Does Canada have the firepower to beat out the competition in 2014 at Sochi?

Crosby, this year's Captain of Team Canada, will lead the team into Sochi with a powerhouse team. This team contains everything you could ever want in a gold-medal winning team. Canada is always one of the greatest competitors in hockey due to its great following in the country. So many NHL players come from Canada, much more than any other country, in the historical NHL and the contemporary NHL. This year's team is stacked in all ways, offensively, defensively, and goaltender-wise.

 

Offensively, Team Canada has a great calling of forwards that are bound to be a threat. With players, like Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz, John Tavares, Patrick Marleau, and Ryan Getzlaf, this team is not going to have too much trouble scoring goals when needed. Goal scoring is the job of all of these players and they do it better than almost anyone. This offense will be flexible to line pairings and straight up potent.

Defensively, the Canadian hockey team features some of the best defensemen in the league. Duncan Keith and Shea Weber are the two defensemen that any team would love to have on their Olympic team. Canada possesses both players as well as other great players like Dan Hamhuis, Drew Doughty, and Jay Bouwmeester. This defense will be able to combat any offense that is thrown its way.


 

2010 Canadian Captain Scott Niedermayer (left) lead the gold medal squad's defensive corps, but now that he is not on the team, younger players like Drew Doughty (right) will be expected to take on bigger roles.

Lastly, Canada has a good choice of goaltenders. Obviously any of these elite goaltenders will help the Canadian case for winning another gold medal. The three goaltenders this team can pick between are Roberto Luongo, Carey Price, and Mike Smith. Any of these goaltenders will only help Canada repeat as gold medal winners.

Canada hosts a very strong Olympic roster for Sochi. There is a good chance Canada will repeat as Olympic winners as their roster is powerful, skillful, and all-around good. Sochi will be a great test for this team as well as every other country's team. I predict Canada will repeat as Olympic champions as their team is just too strong in comparison to other teams. Canada, led by Crosby, will bring home Sochi's gold. 

Pros and Cons of NHL Players That Don't Play in the Olympics

By: Tyler Heyl

This year in the NHL season is a very special season. The NHL is taking about a two week break from their season to observe the Olympics. Since hockey is an Olympic sport, it seems like every four year there is a debate whether or not NHL players should play in the Olympics. However, in recent history NHL players have always played in the Olympics. It has always been a great experience for the players, especially playing for their country, but nobody ever thinks about the Olympic break for the NHL player that does not get selected for the Olympics. What is the break like for him? Positive or Negative? Let's see if the break is worth it for the non-Olympic athletes.

Well what is good about it? Those players get two weeks off from a very punishing season. These players probably are very happy to get that time off to let their bodies heal some. This could make them fresher for the second part of the season and even make them better for a playoff run than the Olympic players. Also, it would give the players time to spend with their families since it is difficult to do that during the season. The most important thing I think is when players play in the Olympics they play against very good talent. Over the course of two weeks playing against this extraordinary talent, players could get into a little funk of not scoring and start a slump that continues into the regular season. This is especially true with goalies. Not going to the Olympics is definitely the safer play, especially to be fresher for the playoffs.

Now what is the disadvantage about it? Well, there is always disappoint for the players that have not been selected to play for their country. Also, with the two weeks off they are not playing any hockey so they need to keep in playing shape. The players need to be responsible enough to keep up their endurance. Two weeks can just be a long time away from hockey so it is very important to keep in shape. Also, normal All Star players do not necessarily make these Olympic rosters because the Canada and USA rosters are so competitive. Then the rosters of say Finland are not as competitive to get onto. So younger players that are not as good could get into the Olympics instead of the All-Star caliber veterans.

Overall, the pros outweigh the cons. So I believe that this Olympic break is extremely important for the NHL. The players that participate in the Olympics get a once in a lifetime experience to play in the Olympics and the players that do not get that opportunity benefit also. So it's a winning situation for the NHL.