With a shock upset of (now former) division leaders AFC Cleveland on Saturday, Greater Binghamton FC rolled into Buffalo on an overcast Father's Day afternoon brimming with the confidence of a side that saw a prime opportunity to wash away the trauma of a disastrous first half of their maiden season with a statement win that would put them in pole position for the final spot in the Great Lakes playoffs next month in Erie.
Archive for June, 2012
Heading into the 2012 NHL draft the Buffalo Sabres appear to be in a great situation with four picks in the top 44.
Well as college football analyst Lee Corso famously says “not so fast.”
On paper Buffalo looks to have a great opportunity to improve its team immediately through the draft, but the only problem is this year’s first round prospects are shaping up to be the weakest in over a decade.
The growing consensus by many draft experts is that beyond Nail Yakupov and Ryan Murray there are no sure fire picks in the top five. This doesn’t directly affect the Sabres because they pick at 12 and 21, but it lessens the chance of them trading up into the top five to grab an elite prospect.
From everything I’ve heard from both Darcy Regier and Kevin Devine they aren’t enamored with any one prospect strong enough to move up in the draft. If I had to take a guess right now, my money is on Regier burning up the phone lines looking to package some of their top four picks into a NHL player.
In the case that the Sabres do keep both of their first round picks here are some players to keep an eye on this Friday night. (I don’t confess to be a hockey scout, these prospect write-ups are based on several hours of draft research)
- Radek Faksa: A 6-3 center most like to go in the 7-10 range. Would be a good addition for the Sabres, but they will most likely miss out on him.
- Teuvo Teravainen: A 5-11 winger who has seen his draft stock soar over the past few weeks. Like Faksa, Buffalo will most likely miss out on him unless they trade up a few spots.
- Zemgus Girgensons: A 6-1 center that should be on the board when Buffalo selects at 12. Considered a safe roster player that projects as a third line center.
- Brendan Gaunce: A 6-3 center that uses his size well. Will most likely go in the mid to late teens, the Sabres could consider trading up from 21 to get him.
- Thomas Wilson: A 6-4 winger that fits the mold of a power forward. Like Gaunce would improve Buffalo’s toughness and should go in the late teens range.
Some other forwards to keep an eye out for include: Stefan Matteau, Tomas Hertl, Sebastian Collberg and Scott Laughton.
- Olli Maatta: A 6-2 rock solid defenseman who should be available when Buffalo picks at No. 12. It has been reported that the Sabres were the only team to bring him in for a visit.
- Cody Ceci: Another 6-2 prospect, Ceci is considered one of the top offensive defenseman in the draft.
- Hampus Lindholm: At 6-3, Lindholm is considered a solid two-way defender. Will almost certainly be there at 12.
- Matt Finn: A 6-0 reliable defender. If the Sabres go forward at 12 they could try and trade up in the late teens to grab Finn.
- Derrick Pouliot: At 5-11, Pouliot is considered one of the top skating defenseman in the top of the draft. He could fall to Buffalo at 21.
Some other defenseman to keep an eye on include: Ludvig Bystrom, Slater Koekkoek and Brady Skjei. If the Sabres don’t trade both of their first round picks don’t sleep on a goalie either.
When listing the prospects I didn’t bother profiling the consensus top prospects at both forward and defense because like I discussed earlier I don’t see Buffalo trading up into the top five. One situation to keep an eye is if Mikhail Grigorenko falls and is there at No. 12. The 6-3 Russian center is considered the biggest question mark of the first round because of questionable intangibles. If he pans out for which ever team takes him he has elite talent if he commits himself.
Here are my projections if the Sabres keep both of their first round picks:
12. Olli Maatta
21. Brendan Gaunce
Check out the site tomorrow and I will dive into some possible trade scenarios and give my thoughts on what the best route for Buffalo to take is.
The 2012 US Open concluded on Sunday, fittingly Father’s Day, like it has every year since 1962. And this year,
was filled with storylines to keep the golf community abuzz for at least a month, until the British Open kicks off. First off, who is Webb Simpson and where did he come from to capture his first major victory? What happened to the top two golfers in the world? Can a 17 year old high school junior named Beau Hossler win golf’s toughest test, all while waiting to get his braces off this week? And would Tiger Woods finally silence the critics and win his 15th major? All these questions would eventually be answered by the end of the weekend. Let’s recap:
The US Open is referred to as “Golf’s toughest test.” I read a quote that I couldn’t help but reiterate. It was said that “Olympic club is harder than the LSATs” and I should know, because I’ve taken the LSATs three times. However, that is just a testament to how difficult that course plays during US Open week, and how precise a player needs to be to score well. Last year was a fluke in the way the US Open was played. Webb Simpson’s score of +1 is how one should win the US Open, Rory McIlroy shot a -15 last year at Congressional Country Club, and the USGA was determined to make sure a score like that would not be shot again, and they succeeded. With that said this course ate up the best players in the world and made them feel like they were playing their first round of golf ever. Rory McIlroy played his way out of the championship on Thursday, as did the top ranked golfer in the world, Luke Donald. This course punishes missed fairways, and missed greens. When you do hit the green in regulation, you better be delicate with your putt or you’re going to have a longer one coming back for par. In true US Open fashion, the golf course was the winner this week.
With all that was said about the course, just as much if not more was said about the players. Random first round leaders coming out of relative obscurity to shoot a -4 first round, to a 17 year old who thought the free dry cleaning service was the coolest part about the US Open experience. Regardless of what happened at the end of the weekend, the US Open is about the players and how they manage to dance around danger on a course built to demoralize them. A lot of people had high hopes for Phil Mickleson, but after a first drive on Thursday ended up in a Cypress tree and didn’t come down, his mood and emotional high were shot, and he finished +8 for the tournament. This year’s Master’s Champion Bubba Watson didn’t survive to play the weekend saying “this course is too tough for me.” Then there is the main storyline for this tournament, Tiger Woods. Tiger woods was the 36-hole leader and looked poised and ready to win his 15th Major, and 4th US Open title. But come Saturday, he was erratic, and unable to gauge the speed of the greens, and faded out of the lead to eventually finish +7. A lot of writers already gave the tournament to Tiger after his Friday performance, but the pressure to win was ultimately his undoing. Perhaps the biggest story on the weekend was 17 year old Beau Hossler, who just finished up his junior year of high school in Texas before playing the US Open. His original goal was to be the low amateur for the tournament, which was feasible with this kid’s game. He seemed to change his goal once Sunday morning came around and he found himself 4 shots off the lead, but the inexperience and difficult course took the wind out of his sails and his game came unraveled. But can you really fault the kid for playing at this level at 17 years old? I can’t, and I think it’s great for the game of golf that someone so young can compete with the world’s best.
This year’s victor was Webb Simpson, a Wake Forest Alum who played golf there on an Arnold Palmer scholarship. Simpson has been in contention a lot this past season, with his solid play and care free attitude, he has the mental capacity and competitive tenacity to compete for multiple majors. He is a true southern grown guy who prays to God more than anyone on Tour. It could have been divine intervention that helped Simpson to the winners circle, but I think it was his game through and through. From tee to green, he had everything going on all cylinders on Sunday. One of the few people to actually finish his final round under par, and that’s all it took for him to capture his first major. He’ll continue to perform at an extremely high level, and he should be a shoe in for the Ryder Cup this year.
Golf has been in a fragile state for the past couple of years due to flip flopping number ones, and no real standout to capture the hearts of golf fans everywhere. Tiger Woods achieved that feat since he started playing, but since he’s gone 4 years without a major, the game seemed to wane and the interest in it wasn’t as high. But with the resurgence of Tiger, the young up and coming players, the game of golf has never been more popular in my eyes. More coverage on TV, even for the lesser known events, and even if Tiger and Phil aren’t playing. People want to see the good guys win, and compete week in and week out. The next major is the British Open in July at Royal Lytham & St. Anne’s a mere 29 days away. Tiger will be playing in two tournaments prior to the Open this year, the AT&T National at Congressional, and the Greenbrier Classic, and then he’ll take a week off and play in the Open. Will he be able to capture his third Claret Jug? Only time will tell, and may the storylines continue on into this year’s major season.
Although many people have suggested trying to take a little bit more of a national approach with this blog on occasion, I’ve resisted. I’m a big fan of the national sports scene but I’ve always wanted this site to have an exclusively Buffalo feel. With that in mind, something happened yesterday that I just can’t help but write about. No, I’m not talking about Matt Cain’s 14 K perfect game masterpiece or R.A. Dickey’s contentious 1-hitter, even though they were both spectacular. I’m referring to the captain of all bullshit, Jim Rome’s interview with NBA Commissioner David Stern.
I’m never quick to take the side of Stern and honestly he’s my second least favorite commissioner in all sports (congratulations Bud Selig) but there’s a point when assholes can be outshined by even bigger schmucks. Stern agreed to go on Rome’s ESPN radio show yesterday and of course the results of the NBA Draft Lottery was the biggest topic discussed. Understandably the results of said lottery were somewhat questionable with the NBA-owned New Orleans Hornets landing the number one overall pick which will garner them Kentucky big man and potential superstar Anthony Davis. There’s been an outcry of ‘CONSPIRACY’ and understandably many fans were upset by the results. With an ace in a hole like that Rome had plenty of gasoline to toss on the fire.
Yahoo sports writer Dan Devine was kind enough to put the entire transcript from the conversation on his Ball Don’t Lie basketball blog this morning. The largest point of contention from the interview occurred within the first few minutes of the conversation:
“You know, New Orleans won the draft lottery, which, of course, produced the usual round of speculation that maybe the lottery was fixed,” Rome said. “I know that you appreciate a good conspiracy theory as much as the next guy — was the fix in for the lottery?”
“Uh, you know, I have two answers for that,” Stern said. “I’ll give you the easy one — no — and a statement: Shame on you for asking.”
Rome goes right for the jugular with his first question and it’s nothing out of the ordinary for him. He’s quick to back off when conflict arises however:
“No, it’s ridiculous,” Stern answered. “But that’s OK.”
“I know that you think it’s ridiculous, but I don’t think the question is ridiculous, because I know people think that,” Rome said. “I’m not saying that I do, but I think it’s my job to ask you that.”
Rome is quick to put his tail back between his legs when Stern calls his question ridiculous and claims that it’s his duty somehow to try to humiliate a man who agrees to do his show because his pack of “clones” demands it. He’s even quicker to take the high road when Stern asks him the following question:
“Have you stopped beating your wife yet?” Stern asked.
“Yeah, I don’t know if that’s fair,” Rome responded. “I don’t know that that’s fair.”
By no means was Stern insinuating that Rome actually beat his wife but rather putting the question he initially asked into terms Rome could understand. Asking the commissioner if the draft was fixed was a simple yes or no answer which the commissioner could only answer one way: “No”. Even if it was true Stern would never admit that he fixed a lottery on a radio show. Stern flipped Rome’s argument on his head by asking him whether or not he had stopped beating his wife. This on the other hand is a loaded question with no correct response. By answering “yes” Rome would be admitting that although he wasn’t doing it anymore he had at one time assaulted his spouse. By answering “no” he of course would be insinuating that there was domestic abuse still occurring. At this point Rome probably realized he was bringing a knife to a gun fight by trying to out-argue a man with vastly superior intelligence.
From that point on Stern went on the offensive and exposed Rome for what he really was:
“Well, you know, it’s good copy, and you do things sometimes for cheap thrills,” Stern said.
“I did not do that for a cheap thrill,” Rome answered.
“Well, that’s what it sounds like,” Stern said.
Stern continued on the offensive:
“Well, no. But listen, you’ve been successful at making a career out of it, and I keep coming on, so …” Stern said.
“Making a career out of what, though, commissioner?” Rome interrupted. “See, I take great offense to that. Making a career of what? Cheap thrills?”
“What offense are you taking? You’re taking offense?” Stern asked.
“I am. Now I am,” Rome answered. “If you’re saying I’ve made a career out of cheap thrills …”
“… taking on the world, and now Jim Rome is pouting? I love it,” Stern said.
“I’m not pouting; I take offense,” Rome said. “There’s a difference between pouting and taking offense. I take offense like you took offense to the question…”
Stern sums up Rome’s entire career in a simple sentence by inferring that he’s made his career out of cheap thrills. Rome appeals to the lowest common denominator because he harps on what’s trending at that point in time and takes the opinion of the vast majority. He claims he’s controversial and “edgy” but in actuality he spits out a few turns of phrase and idiotic taglines to appeal to the people who actually have the ability to listen to his radio show at noon on a Wednesday. Some people would argue that Rome got the better of Stern because he got him riled up but in actuality Stern exposed Rome for the fraud that he is. Keep in mind this is a man who first gained notoriety for antagonizing former NFL QB Jim Everett to the point that Everett actually punched him in the face on live television in 1994. Since then Rome’s been nothing more than a tabloid sports journalist who wouldn’t know good journalism if Bob Costas walked up and punched him in the face with it.
Unfortunately my pleas for good journalism will again fall upon deaf ears. Rome will still be on the radio today at noon, preaching to his herd of clones about how he got the better of David Stern yesterday and there will certainly be drones of supporters who actually believe he did. Sift through the bull shit though people and try not to go down the path of a ring judge in last week’s Manny Pacquiao fight. Understand what you’ve heard and what was said to realize that Rome is good for nothing more than cheap thrills. If you’re looking for something to fill up your noon to 3 timeslot this afternoon do yourself a favor and read a book or go outside to enjoy the summer weather. For those of you who need your sports fix download Bill Simmons’ podcast or Football Today with Ross Tucker and enjoy quality journalism instead of embracing ignorance.
The stories of soccer seasons are written in the ink of patterns and repetition. With half of the 2012 FC Buffalo season completed and only one win to show, there have been several refrains as common as any song from The Situation Room: Shots off the woodwork; Missing the final ball; Good possession play with nothing to show for it, set piece chances wasted...the beat has gone on in frustrating fashion for a club that, for all intents & purposes, should probably have more than just 5 points and a tentative grasp on the final playoff spot in the Great Lakes Division standings.
The Buffalo Bills completely reloaded on defense this offseason and should be one of the most improved units in the league. The front four will be one of the most revered in the league while the secondary and linebacking corps seems to have some young up-and-coming talent. The likely resurgence on defense should equate to more wins in 2012 but don’t kid yourself, the Bills success this season depends on Ryan Fitzpatrick’s right arm.
Quarterback is the biggest question mark position on the roster. Fitzpatrick is the unquestioned number one but the depth behind him should be much improved with the acquisition of Vince Young. Here’s a look at how the roster currently looks at QB.
Ryan Fitzpatrick: Fitzpatrick’s 2011 season ended with drastically varied results. He looked like an All Pro over the first seven games of the season which earned him a 5 year extension worth close to $60 million. He totaled 1,739 passing yards (About 249 YPG), 14 TD passes compared to 7 INTs, and a 98.43 QB Rating. Fitzpatrick ran the offense efficiently and effectively and even led the team to two consecutive thrilling comeback victories against the Raiders and Patriots. He gave the fan base a glimpse of what a franchise quarterback actually looks like.
The second half of Fitzpatrick’s season was a complete and utter disaster. After starting the season 5-2, the Bills dropped their next seven contests, effectively decimating any hope of ending their 12-year playoff draught. Although all the blame can’t be placed on Fitz’s shoulders, he wasn’t the same player in the team’s second half. After a 23-0 drubbing of the Redskins in week 9, Fitzpatrick put up three of his worst career performances in consecutive weeks against the Jets, Cowboys and Dolphins, throwing for over 200 yards only once while tossing only two touchdowns compared to seven interceptions. He had a few promising performances before the end of the season but only winning one game the rest of the way.
This is a make-or break year for Fitz. Buddy Nix didn’t draft a developmental quarterback in April so the team does still have faith that he can be the passer that he was over the first half of last season. A contributing factor to his steep decline in play can certainly be attributed to the broken ribs he suffered against the Redskins. Multiple injuries along the offensive line and inconsistent play, especially at the center position when Eric Wood went down, made Fitz more tentative in the pocket which made him force throws which in turn led to more interceptions. Adding a few more tools like T.J. Graham, a healthy Fred Jackson and a revamped offensive line will certainly help him. An improved offensive line, more weapons and a defense that has the potential to be dominant should lead to success for the 2012 Bills but it will also lead to a short leash for Fitzpatrick. Signing Vince Young was supposed to just improve the depth behind Fitz but make no mistake, if he falters after the first few weeks he’s likely to feel the former Heisman Trophy winner and Pro Bowler breathing down his neck.
Vince Young: The Bills signed Young to a one year deal in the offseason. He has the skills and ability to give the Bills a new dynamic in their pistol offense and is a significant upgrade in talent over Tyler Thigpen. Some people questioned the signing after Young’s putrid 2011 season that saw him start three games while appearing in six. He threw for 866 yards and four touchdowns compared to nine interceptions which was good enough for a 60.8 QB Rating. He didn’t provide much in terms of running the ball out of the backfield either, rushing for just 79 yards on 18 attempts.
Nevertheless, Young has proved that he can find a way to win in the pro ranks earning a 31-19 record in 50 career starts for the Titans and Eagles. He won’t beat anyone with his accuracy but he’s able to expand the pocket better than most QBs in the league and he’s always a threat to run. Make no mistake if the Bills find themselves with a losing record after the first five or six games and Fitzpatrick isn’t performing up to standards, the Ralph and the streets of Buffalo will undoubtedly flood with the outcry of “Bring in Vince”. In the meantime he should provide a nice change of pace out of wildcat and pistol looks.
Tyler Thigpen: The Bills saw enough out of Thigpen during his playing time in the preseason and the eight passes he threw (three were completions and one was picked off) to know that they needed a better failsafe. He was signed before last season because he was familiar with Chan Gailey’s offense from his time in Kansas City and the brief glimpses of aptitude he showed while dawning the Chiefs and Dolphins uniforms. At 28 he’s by no means the quarterback of the future however so his only chance of seeing the field this season or even making the roster will probably be beating out Young for the primary backup job. Don’t be surprised if he’s a late August cut.
Brad Smith: Smith looked great operating out of the wildcat/pistol in one game last season against the Eagles. He scored a touchdown and proved to be an asset against Philadelphia’s strong d-line. He threw one total pass last season and it was caught by a guy wearing the opposite teams jersey and it came in the team’s first game of the year. Smith wasn’t brought in for his passing talents however. He was brought in to give the team option packages. He ended the season with 20 rushes for 87 yards and that lone touchdown against the Eagles.
He still has plenty of potential to do damage receiving snaps out of the backfield but the acquisition of Young will likely relegate him back to special teams and receiving duties. Although the quarterback experiment didn’t work incredibly well last season, Smith did have some nice games at wideout after the Bills receiver pool was depleted by injury. He looked great in a week 12 matchup against his former team in New York, hauling in four catches for 77 yards including an incredible acrobatic touchdown catch. He finished the season with 23 catches for 240 yards and that TD grab.
Smith is also extremely valuable on special teams. His returning abilities seemed almost none-existent in 2011 and he wasn’t nearly the threat the Bills thought he’d be but he’s a major asset as a gunner on coverage units. Smith will likely wear many hats again in 2012 and could be a true weapon if the Bills use him correctly.
A gloomy day in Buffalo saw a road weary Greater Binghamton FC venture into All High Stadium on Sunday coming off a demoralizing 0-4 loss to Detroit. A fresh and motivated Buffalo side would prove their undoing as a hotly contested match ended 2-1 in favor of the Western New Yorkers.
Fans were still filing into the stands when FC Buffalo struck early.
With everything going on in the world of professional Golf these days, I figured it’s time to put my stamp on the BleedBuffalo website. Although the talk may seem more consistent with the Bills, Sabres and FC Buffalo, there is a small contingent of golf fans out there. With that said, the PGA Tour season is nearing its halfway point, that coming with the U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco in a week or so, and there has been plenty of action that is worth mentioning so far in this young season.
I’ll begin with the obvious, Mr. Tiger Woods. He has been the subject of criticism, ridicule and bad press since the beginning of the season. He skipped out on his normal starting tournament at Torrey Pines in February to play in Abu Dhabi for the first time in his illustrious career. Why? The appearance fee was quite hefty, and he also wanted to play against the world’s best, which he did and finished, 4th. Then came a whirlwind of ups and down for him, the downs being bad tournament play, the ups, a win at the Bay Hill Invitational, two weeks prior to The Masters. When he won that tournament, many analysts and critics alike, pegged him as the favorite to win his fifth Green Jacket, all based on one tournament result. As we all saw, he tied for 40th at the Masters, his worst finish there as a professional. With poor shots, awful course management and child-like temper tantrums throughout the tournament, those same critics and analysts said he was finished and he’ll never win another major again. And it seemed they were correct in their assumptions, with a missed cut at Quail Hollow and another poor showing at the Players Championship it seemed as though Tiger had lost his way and his drive to compete. Just this past weekend however, we caught another glimpse of what Tiger has left in his aging tank. A glimpse of greatness and final round heroics that we may have seen during his historic run to the “Tiger-Slam” in 2000 was present again this past weekend. A win at Jack’s Memorial tournament at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio seems to have put Tiger back on track. However, don’t be so quick to judge and give him another U.S. Open just yet. Think back to the 2009 season, prior to the knowledge of the “scandal”. He won at Bay Hill, yet didn’t contend at The Masters and he also won the Memorial at Muirfield Village, and had a dismal showing in the U.S. Open. Will history repeat itself? I believe it will. I’m not ready to paint Tiger as the favorite for this year’s U.S. Open quite yet. He’s still got a lot work to do on his mental game, his swing may be finally coming around, but his mental dexterity will be in question with the excessively long rough, tight narrow fairways and grueling competition that is sure to encompass this year’s U.S. Open.
Enough about Tiger, I know you are all sick of hearing about him. So I’ll review the past half year, and give predictions for the U.S. Open and so on. What the heck happened to Rory Mcilroy? He was on top of the golf world as a 23 year old phenom, but since he’s reached that plateau, he has fallen off the face of the planet. My guess, he went and got himself a girlfriend and has been jet-setting around the globe making appearances and what have you. Granted that comes with the territory of being number one in the world, and winning a U.S. Open by 12 shots, just ask Graeme McDowell, the same fall from grace happened with him after he won the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, but he came back, will Rory be able to do the same? We will have to see. If he misses his fourth cut in a row, there will be serious questions about his game, his emotional state, and where his priorities lie.
Looking back on who has won this year and who has been on the cusp of victory there are several story lines that start developing for this year’s U.S. Open. Hunter Mahan is a two-time winner on tour this year, along with Jason Duffner. They both have the solid play and relaxed attitude that one needs to compete at a U.S. Open. This year’s Master’s champion Bubba Watson has barely played after winning at Augusta, and that could prove detrimental at a U.S. Open. Luke Donald just won on the European Tour and seems poised to make a run at capturing his first major. Rickie Fowler is a novelty who will never win a major, but he may win again this year on Tour. He’s been close to the top over the past 2 tournaments, and that Oklahoma State Orange Sunday outfit will see the winner’s circle at least once more this year, but it sure won’t be a major. Phil Mickleson won the AT&T Pro/AM at Pebble Beach this year, but since then has fallen off the wagon. He cited mental exhaustion this past week at The Memorial, and I believe the two weeks of rest and relaxation will serve him well at this year’s U.S. Open. But Phil has been the Bridesmaid at 5 U.S. Opens, never getting to be the Bride. Will this year be his year? I don’t believe so either. My sleeper pick to win this year’s U.S. Open, is Matt Kuchar. Matt Kuchar has the game, the mentality and the fan support to capture his first major. He has been extremely consistent this year and is ready to capture that Wannamaker Trophy.
As a side note, for those of you who remember an issue in 2001 with Casey Martin, the golfer who requires a cart to get around based on a birth defect, he has once again qualified for the U.S. Open at the Olympic Club. The same place he lobbied the American’s with Disabilities Act and the PGA Tour to allow him to play, with a cart, in the U.S. Open. I’ll be back after the Open to talk about the results, and predictions for the British Open.