Josh McCown, Cody Kessler, RGIII, emergency QB Terrell Pryor. It doesn’t matter who is at quarterback for this team, no one is pulling out a win for this team in its current state.
Mitch Trubisky, DeShone Kizer, Pat Mahomes, Luke Falk. It doesn’t matter who the Browns draft at quarterback in 2017, no on is pulling out a win for this team in its current state.
That being said, it looks very likely that the Cleveland Browns will have the number 1 overall draft pick next year, along with a 9-12 pick from Philly, as the Eagles continue to look worse week in and week out. Early buzz is indicating that the Browns would like an early round quarterback and are quite high on North Carolina senior Mitch Trubisky.
Being close personal friends with a UNC lover has led me to watch a lot of Trubisky this year and I consider myself a fan. He can throw the ball from the pocket, has great accuracy and vision, and doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. He threw 28 TDs to only 4 INTs this year. He’s not flashy, but he can get the job done. None of that matters though. He’s not going to win games for the Browns the way they look now.
We’re talking about the 31st ranked offense and the 31st ranked defense in the NFL. No quarterback is erasing that singlehandedly.
Two first round picks. Two second round picks. So what should the Browns do before getting a QB?
Pick 1 (or 2, semi possibly) - DL, Pass Rush
Myles Garrett out of Texas A&M is a shoe in for a quit exit off the draft board. He was hurt for a good part of this college season but still managed 8.5 sacks, along with 32 tackles and 2 forced fumbles. However, if you look back at his previous fully healthy season, he had 11.5 sacks, an INT, and 5 forced fumbles. The 20-year old is a monster when it comes to the pass rush. Any defense is going to help this Browns team, especially one that doesn’t have strong linemen.
Pick 9-12 (from Eagles) - Running Back
This is going to be an extremely strong draft for running backs. Between Florida State’s Dalvin Cook, LSU’s Leonard Fournette, and Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey, the Browns should take a good look at their running back situation and utilize a pick on one of these guys. That is, assuming any of them are still on the board.
When you look at Cleveland back situation, it’s not great. The team is hopeful on 23-year old Isaiah Crowell, who’s averaging 4.17 yards per carry, but only has two games with over 80 yards rushing. Part of that is obviously the fact that the Browns are almost always playing from behind, but you have to wonder if Crowell is a long-term option when guys like Cook and Fournette are coming out of college.
Pick 33 - Offensive Tackle
If the Browns draft a RB, or keep the one you have, there’s no denying that they need a better offensive line. Joe Thomas is probably a Hall of Famer and has never missed a game, while also being the leader of the offensive line, so the Browns are set there. I’m looking at you, Austin Pasztor. He’s been terrible all season, unable to set the edge or block anyone so that the running game can get going.
In comes Alabama’s Cam Robinson. A three-year starter, Robinson has been a major part of Alabama’s run game. He’s been on the line for an amazing 27 100-yard rushing games and has done so in the SEC, arguably the best conference in the country. He’s been a huge factor in 1st year starter Damien Harris’ 900-plus yard season, along with QB Jalen Hurts’ 840 yards rushing.
Pick 50 (via Titans) - Quarterback
I have huge doubts that any quarterback outside of DeShaun Watson will end up going in the 1st round of the draft. Once we’ve seen them in the Combine, I think teams will start to realize that the QB class isn’t quite as deep as last year, and signal callers will fall a bit.
That’s why I think the Browns should wait until pick 50. They’ll miss Watson, they may miss Mitch Trubisky, but there will be solid choices available. Texas Tech’s Pat Mahomes (if he declares) would be a solid pick to roll the dice on. He’s thrown for 5052 yards and 41 TDs to just 10 INTs this season. He’s an accurate pocket passer and game manager, someone who can stay calm and pick up blitzes. And blitzes are certainly something he’ll have to look forward to, considering the Browns’ offensive line issues.
Washington State’s Luke Falk (4204 yards, 37 TDs) is another great option. He’s led State to a fantastic season and is one of the most accurate QBs in the nation, with a 71.0 percent completion rate in 2016.
Jumping on a QB in the 1st round has clearly not worked for the Browns as of late. With a weaker class than 2016, it’s important that Cleveland doesn’t bet the farm on someone that isn’t truly a 1st rounder. With so many other positions to sure up, pick 50 is the sweet spot for this team taking a QB.
So last Tuesday, during what I would consider the worst week to make a major announcement about a brand new sports franchise, the name and logo of the brand new Las Vegas NHL team were revealed.
Your Las Vegas expansion team will be henceforth known as the…
Las Vegas Knights!
No, shit. Still wrong.
Las Vegas Golden Knights!
Yep. There we go….wait, still not right? Oh, okay.
Vegas Golden Knights
It’s true. For whatever reason, not only did the franchise make the age-old mistake of picking a team name with a descriptor, one that will be dropped by the team in probably two years or less along with being dropped by fans and analysts almost immediately, but it also decided that the “Las” in Las Vegas was completely unnecessary.
This is really bizarre to me. The Vegas Golden Knights does not sound good at all. The Las Vegas Golden Knights sounds…better. But, to me, the team should have just been called the Las Vegas Knights. Meh…even that, I’m not in love with.
Here are some team names I think would have been much cooler, but the ol’ Commish wouldn’t have allowed most of them.
-Las Vegas Aces
-Las Vegas Kingpins
-Las Vegas High Rollers
-Las Vegas Scorpions
-Las Vegas Mirage
-Las Vegas Silver
-Las Vegas Slot Machines
-Las Vegas Card Counters
-Las Vegas Pit Bosses
-Las Vegas Strip
-Las Vegas Casino
-Las Vegas Ocean’s Eleven
Okay, so I got a little off track. Those last few were just the names of things in Vegas and also movies that take place in Vegas, but the first six or so were solid in my humble opinion.
Along with the strange name choice, we also got a logo reveal. Now, admittedly, this is the part of the Golden Knights that I am completely on board with.
I think it’s fantastic. The use of negative space allowing the V to be formed inside the knight’s helmet. The gold, black, and silver color scheme is perfect and unlike any in the National Hockey League. This team is definitely going to stand out on the ice.
Well, we officially have a Vegas NHL franchise, the team name, and logo design. I guess it’s time to get them on the ice.
Oh, right, they still need players. More to come on that soon…
Last night, as I covered in a quickly written and alcohol-fueled piece, Florida Panthers GM Tom Rowe fired head coach Gerard Gallant after an 11-10-1 start and promoted…himself? Yep. Tom Rowe is now the GM and interim head coach. The Panthers organization is stressing the term “interim” so who knows what that means.
Admittedly, I knew absolutely nothing about Tom Rowe before he was promoted to GM back in January and, up until last night, I still only knew a select few things about him. Whenever a new man gets brought in to replace a veteran head coach, a few questions always pop up: Was he a hockey player? Has he coached an NHL team before? Is he qualified to coach?
Well, I have a few answers for you.
Tom Rowe began his career in the famed Ontario Hockey League, making a name for himself as a winger with the London Knights for three years. In the 1975-76 season, Rowe piled up 94 points, including 39 goals. He had a reputation for his fast-paced, aggressive style of play.
In 1976, the Washington Capitals acquired Rowe’s rights and he was given a 12-game tryout contract. His rights were retained after these 12 games, but he spent the rest of his year with the Capitals’ AHL affiliate, Springfield Indians, where he tallied 42 points.
The next two years with the Capitals were solid for Rowe. In the 1978-79 season, he had a career-high 61 points and became the first American-born player to score 30 goals in a single NHL season. Unfortunately, this was the highlight of his career, as he spent the next few years bouncing around between Hartford, Detroit, and Washington. He retired from playing in 1984.
Rowe has had an extensive coaching career over the past decade. His first major coaching job came with the Lowell — now Albany — Devils, back in 2004. For 320 games over four seasons, Rowe served as the team’s head coach, leading the franchise to Calder Cup playoff births in three of those seasons.
From 2008-2011, he served as an assistant coach for the Carolina Hurricanes. In 2012, he accepted a head coaching position with the KHL’s Lokomotiv Yaroslavl.
From 2013-2015, Rowe was the head coach of the Panthers AHL affiliate team. First in San Antonio with the Rampage, and then, after relocation, in Portland with the Pirates. He left midway through the 15-16 season to take the associate GM job with the Florida Panthers.
So, Is He Qualified?
Some would probably say yes. Others, no. He has a good amount of head coaching experience with top tier leagues like the KHL, but no head coaching stints in the National Hockey League. He’s served as an assistant coach and GM in the NHL, but will definitely have a lot to prove in this interim position.
Not that his playing style or career gives us a full indication on his tactics, but one would expect an offensive-minded former player to continue to let the Panthers play their brand of fast, gritty offense.
The problem will be getting his players on board. Reports are indicating that many Panthers players are fuming at the unexpected firing of Gallant. The players enjoyed playing for him and had gotten used to winning under him, so it will take a lot of work to make this a smooth transition in the organization.
And who knows how this will affect Rowe’s GM duties. GM/head coach combos don’t often happen and, when they do, they don’t usually work out that well. I made the reference in my breaking news piece last night but, Chip Kelly and the Eagles is the prime example of this situation not working.
The Panthers and their fans will have to give him a chance and hope he can keep this team on track. Remember, they haven’t had the best start, but they’re still a middle of the pack team, and should see a spark during the second half of the season when the team is fully healthy.
Shocking news out of South Florida tonight, as multiple sources around the NHL have reported that Florida Panthers head coach Gerard Gallant has been relieved of his duties.
This comes as very unexpected news to the masses considering less than a year ago, Gallant received a two-year extension from the Panthers club. Many are saying the firing has a lot to do with the extensive front office reorganization that the Panthers have undergone over the past few months.
Back in May, director of hockey operations Mike Dixon, assistant GM Mike Santos, and assistant coach John Madden were all fired to make room for multiple front office promotions. Steve Werier, VP of legal and business, was promoted to assistant general manager along with Eric Joyce, continuing GM of the Panthers affiliate Portland Pirates. Tom Rowe was promoted from associate general manager to general manager.
Just a note, reports are now indicating that Rowe is officially the new Florida Panthers head coach as of this evening.
And the changes don’t stop there. With Tom Rowe being promoted to GM, Dale Tallon was shifted from that position to a president role. Sure, this may sound like a cushier gig, but taking Tallon out of a position that had a surefire impact on the 103-point season left a lot of hockey purists very confused.
The buck clearly stops with this new breed of front office that the Panthers have acquired. As James Mirtle from The Globe and Mail highlighted, this new Panthers team all starts with owner Vinnie Viola. Three years ago, Viola came in to a team that was hemorrhaging money, averaging an NHL-low 11,000 fans per game, and basically giving tickets away. He turned the team around with his crass, no nonsense business style and helped remind Floridians that Tampa Bay wasn’t the only hockey city in the state.
But Viola didn’t get to be the deft businessman that he is by pulling punches. Coming from a military academy —and then Wall Street— background, Viola has an unorthodox style when it comes to ownership. Along with minority partner Doug Cifu, he set out to turn a reeling franchise on its head.
And turn it on its head, they did. 103 points a year ago. A 44-year old forward that many had written off in Jaromir Jagr. An uptempo playing style that many were shocked to see from a Panthers offense. The club has, for the most part, been riding high the past couple of years. Clearly though, one great season, a season ending in an unfortunate game-7 loss in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, wasn’t good enough for Viola.
His disciplined, results-based lifestyle has obviously given him the mindset that causes him to make quick, unexpected shake-ups when things aren’t going the way they need to with his hockey team. An 11-10-1 start for these Florida Panthers wasn’t good enough for Viola, and he felt the need to do something about it.
So why not fire Gallant and, once again, promote his guy from within? Because GM/head coaches in major sports have so often had such amazing track records, right? Looking at you, Chip Kelly.
This is just truly a shock for NHL fans as Gerard Gallant was certainly not a coach who was knowingly on the chopping block. Gallant, in just his third season with the Panthers, was boasting a very solid 96-64-25 record in 185 games. Last season, he led the team to a franchise-record 103 points and an Atlantic Division title.
One might point to the less than stellar 11-10-1 start to the Panthers’ current season as an indicator for Gallant’s firing. However, the Panthers have been marred by injuries to major forwards including Jonathan Huberdeau and Nick Bjugstad. Clearly, the loss of top line talent has had an impact on the team in the early goings of the 2016-17 season.
You have to feel for Gallant, especially when it’s being reported that he was fired barely 20 minutes after their 3-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday. He has apparently been seen trying to hail a cab outside of PNC Arena, as the Panthers have already left the scene and boarded their flight to Chicago.
We’ll see what happens to this Panthers team going forward, but reports are already saying that the players are extremely unhappy and taken aback by this coaching change. Gallant was a gruff, hard-nosed coach, but any casual hockey fan could see that he had the respect of his players. When he could get a 44-year old to play as hard as Jagr did, you know he was doing something right.
In the hockey world, just as in the regular world, life will go on. But the question is, will the Panthers live and florish after this coaching change? Or will they stagnate and die, reverting back to the team that they were when Vinnie Viola found them?
Whatever happens, we wish you the best, Gerrard. This Panthers season is not on you anymore, it’s on Viola.
Last night, the Florida Panthers and the New York Rangers battled it out in an entertaining matchup that came down to a shootout. The Panthers, up 1-0 in the shootout, needed a second to put the game away and secure their 2 points. 21-year old Aleksander Barkov, one of the more underrated top-line centers in the league, put the puck on a rope and pulled off an unbelievable move to fool Henrik Lundqvist and win the game for the South Florida Kitties.
Check out the move below:
Unreal, right? There was so much in that move from beginning to end. The final fake, dangle, and one-handed push of the puck over the goal line is a patented Peter Forsberg move, one he used to gives the Swedes a 1994 Olympic gold metal against Canada. We’ll get more into that momentarily, but let’s break this goal down move by move.
Lefty Going Right
You’ll notice that Barkov is a natural lefty. He carries the puck in on his left side. Because of that, his strong side is going to be the left. It’s more comfortable for him to carry the puck in more toward the left side of the ice. When a natural lefty plays on the right side, the right wing position for example, it's known as playing the off-wing.
Playing the off-wing is essentially what Barkov does. As you see in this shootout move, he moves in more toward the right circle of the offensive zone as he carries the puck in. It adds a level of unpredictability to his next move. You might assume he’d carry in from the left and maybe deke left and cross the puck over to the right, or fake right to try and expose the left side of the goal, and then shoot from the left.
More often than not, less adept shootout artists will pull a move like that and goaltenders aren’t often fooled. Barkov takes this predictability right out of play from the beginning. Smart.
Off the Skate
As Barkov comes in on the right, he first does a slight fake shot. And I mean slight, you really have to look to see a bit of a shoulder move as he brings his stick back. Instead of the shot, he bounces the puck off of the outside of his left skate.
Now, skilled shootout men can do some nifty things with the puck while not breaking stride on the way to the net. One of these moves is bouncing the puck off their skate, providing a little flash for the audience while also giving the puck a lesser seen movement that the goaltender has to now focus on.
A lot of times, you’ll see a player bounce the puck off the outside of his skate and, as the puck moves back toward his stick, he’ll take a one-timed wrist shot, hoping to catch a starry-eyed goaltender off his line.
What Barkov does is much more difficult, and even flashier than a normal off-the-skate deke.
As I said above, often the bounce of the puck off the skate will lead to a one-timed shot. What Barkov does here is very clever. As he bounces the puck off of his skate, the puck heads back toward his stick. Instead of taking a wrist shot or even faking a wrist shot, he winds up and feigns a hard slap shot, basically taking a half swing with his stick well above the puck.
When you slow it down, you can see that his stick not really anywhere near the puck during this fake shot. However, because of the quickness of the move and how close Barkov is to the goal at this point, even the best goaltenders would expect a shot here.
But it doesn’t come. And what comes next is a move trademarked by a legend.
Now we’ve reached the part of the goal that I mentioned at the beginning of this piece.
After the fake shot, Barkov lands his stick right behind the puck, taking control once again. A great series of short dekes puts the puck back on his left side. Being literally inches from the crease, a shot from the left must be coming. Or so Henrik Lundqvist thinks. He slides to his right, Barkov’s left, and lunges his stick forward, hoping to poke away the puck and end the centerman’s chance at a game-winner.
Barkov’s amazing stick-handling skills prevent this from happening, as he moves into the goal-scoring move made famous by Sweden’s Patrick Forsberg. Check out his gold-metal winning shootout goal in the 1994 Olympics below. It’s a four-minute video but don’t worry, his goal happens in the first 45 seconds.
You see how Forsberg comes in from the right, even as a lefty? Look familiar?
So eventually, Barkov slides the puck back to his right, and with only his right hand, his weak hand, on his stick, he pushes the puck past Lundqvist and, after what Panthers fans must have thought was an eternity, over the goal line.
If you look closely, Barkov actually doesn’t get a clean stick on the puck during this final push. It looks like he misses the puck, but the momentum and trajectory carries it over nevertheless. I expect he wanted a little cleaner hit there at the end so that the puck doesn’t just crawl over the line, but, hey, maybe that was all part of his plan.
Whatever the case, this was an unbelievably intricate and difficult shootout goal. Probably a contender for shootout goal of the year.