This is probably the last post of 2011. A pretty good run for the first calendar year for this blog. When I started it, I didn't really know where it would head or even what sort of schedule I would settle on. I think when I started I had pretty well decided a Monday-Wednesday-Friday thing, but I couldn't stop myself at first. It didn't take long after those first few days to challenge myself a bit and decide to see how long I could keep up this every day post thing. I took a break basically through August, which worked out okay. It wasn't exactly planned, but I think it was good for me. I had a lot going on with the wedding and all and not enjoying my job, it kind of sucked the joy out of everything for a bit. But, I couldn't keep that itch away. It came back with a vengeance. I guess I took a bit of a break through November, too, and that will probably become an annual thing. I can't stay away from that sort of creative writing, either. I've been itching to do some more of that, too, so I might jump into that soon. I've got an urge to write a collection of short stories, so I just might do that.
As far as sports are concerned, all I watched was Purdue hold off Western Michigan in the Pizza Bowl. Purdue took a quarter to get going, then spent the second and third quarters blowing out the Broncos, and then held on for dear life during the fourth quarter as WMU tried to rally back. It all worked out, though, and Purdue can count themselves as bowl champions again. Hopefully next year it's on to a better bowl, but I won't hold my breath.
So, to sign off for 2011, I'll say that it's actually been a pretty disappointing year for my teams, but the sporting world as a whole has been good. Here's to looking forward to 2012, where I've already given up on the Cubs. I'm willing to be surprised, though. And for your viewing pleasure, here are a couple videos of Jonathan Toews* and Patrick Kane of the Blackhawks as kids.
*I can now count myself as the owner of a Jonathan Toews jersey, thanks to my wonderful in-laws.
First off, I wanted to let everybody know that my wife decided to start a blog. It's definitely in its infancy, but it's right here if you want to check it out.
Also, the triumphant Drew Brees over there (tastefully taken from his Purdue days) is because he is now your single season NFL passing record holder. Boiler Up! Or whatever Saints folks say. I can't say I really watch them for any reason other then Brees.
And, in what is typically a rare NBA post (though my second one in the past week) , the Pacers blew out the Pistons last night. I have no idea how good the Pistons are, probably not great. But, if that is the case, the Pacers did what good teams are supposed to do to bad teams. And Bankers Life Fieldhouse (nee Conseco Fieldhouse) was sold out for the occasion. That was definitely new. I don't have opening night attendance figures in front of me, but I would guess this is the first opening night they've sold out in a while. Probably the first time they've sold out a game that wasn't either a playoff or against the Lakers or Heat (or possibly the Celtics) in some time. I sure hope this is a sign of things to come. Larry Bird, as maligned as he's been in recent years, deserves a lot of credit for what he's put together. This core has big things in front of it, and I would be shocked if this year's edition doesn't make it to the playoffs, hopefully at a pretty decent seed.
Oh, and the Blackhawks have definitely regained their mojo. They beat the crap out of the Blue Jackets and will take on a disappointing Kings team tomorrow. The Kings are only a point out of the playoffs, but they were hoping for something much grander this year than scraping into the playoffs. They're not the most disappointing California team, though, so I suppose that's something.
Before I labor on today, I wanted make a couple quick announcements. For one, this will be the last post this week, with the Christmas holiday coming up. As for next week, I haven't decided my posting schedule yet. I'm pretty sure I will post on Tuesday and Wednesday, as Kristine works those days, but I haven't decided on the other three days at all. I'll let you know as soon as I know, either here or one of the various social media platforms. Which, to help that effort, I've added some very helpful badges over on the right today. Fancy, huh? I also took out the Categories thing. Clearly I wasn't going to use it.
Another announcement of sorts, it would seem I've made it internationally. After checking my Google Analytics for the first time in a while, it seems I've gained a small following in the UK and in New Zealand. Welcome aboard, folks. I'll admit to knowing nothing about cricket outside of playing it once, so I won't be much help there. I also can't stand to watch soccer on TV.* I suppose rugby would be popular, too. I do actually like watching rugby, but it's not on TV much here, and I'm getting too old to go to the Monon Keg Game these days. So, it's back to the usual baseball, hockey, basketball, and American football.**
*I did play soccer growing up and was pretty good at it. Gave it up when I got to high school, though. It was kind of a dumb decision, but no use in beating myself up over a decision I made at, what, 13? 14?
**I probably won't get into the habit of calling it American football, either, international folks. I do apologize, but I assume you can figure out why.
Anyway, as for my post of the day. I wish I had access to the kind of money it would take to start sports teams and leagues. Not even major league kind of stuff. For example, the post I wrote a while back talking about my idea for the Lafayette Conductors. I still wholeheartedly believe in that idea, but lack the funds. Related to that, the Lafayette metro area is also sorely lacking a true ice rink. Sure, there's a little area for ice skating at Tapawingo Park. But I'm talking one you could play hockey in and keep the ice in year-round. If Danville can support a rink and various teams throughout the years (and they have), Lafayette shouldn't have a problem. Also, building an ice rink would let the Purdue hockey team actually play in town. And who knows, maybe that would lead to it becoming a varsity team, which is something else that needs to happen.
Purdue is currently a club team, and apparently a pretty good one, judging by last year's performance where they won their division. But, it's still a club team, and that's just too bad. The Big Ten just announced last March that they are officially adding hockey as a conference sport, which was long overdue in my opinion. It's a six team league right now with Michigan, Michigan St., Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio St., and Penn St. I know the other six schools (Purdue, Indiana, Illinois, Northwestern, Nebraska, and Iowa, for the record) all have club teams that have done well on the club level. It seems like it would make a whole mess of sense to promote those teams to the varsity level. It would likely cut down on travel costs that I'm assuming the school is already covering by sponsoring the club. And you've already got a built in TV platform on BTN. Versus also shows some college hockey games, I'm sure they would pick up some Big Ten games as well. But, I have absolutely no power over anything at Purdue, and they didn't ask my opinion, so I suppose it'll remain a pipe dream for now.
The other side of Lafayette getting a real ice arena would be adding a minor league or junior team. I would definitely go to those games, as Lafayette is easier for me to get to than Indy these days. There are established leagues in the area, which would be very exciting. I would absolutely love, though, to create a more local minor league for hockey. There are rinks around the state in areas that should be able to draw enough of a crowd to support a low level league. Here's a list of ice arenas in the state now. It sure seems like you could pick out a handful of those and make a league that could develop into something big in the state. I know Indiana is a basketball state and that's not changing, but to instill some town pride and have the teams close enough that people could travel to games, I think it would go over well.
Ah, but, again, it's down to a pipe dream as usual. I'd rather have my baseball team, if we're being honest. If some wealthy Bash alum wants to step up and make this happen, I'm all ears. I'm sure we'd get a feature in the magazine, too.
After taking the first two periods off, the Blackhawks rallied back to make it a one goal game last night before running out of time. Unfortunate to be sure, but at least it was a good game. Now it's back to Chicago to take on the Canadiens. Hopefully things go better.
I just wanted to play around a bit with reorganizing the NBA like the NHL is planning to. I think that would work very well for basketball, since it also lets a ton of teams into the playoffs and has a longer-than-necessary regular season. I think it gives the league a collegiate feel, which is not a bad thing as far as passion is concerned.
So, let's organize our four conferences, shall we? Again, if you would like a file, here it is.
Again, I tried to be pretty geographic about things. Like the NHL, I found the Florida teams to be a pain in the ass. I split them up like so:
Midwest: Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls, Milwaukee Bucks, Detroit Pistons, Cleveland Cavaliers, Toronto Raptors, Minnesota Timberwolves, and Charlotte Bobcats.
East: New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets, Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers, Washington Wizards, Atlanta Hawks, Orlando Magic, and Miami Heat.
Texas: Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, New Orleans Hornets, Memphis Grizzlies, and Denver Nuggets.
California: LA Lakers, LA Clippers, Golden State Warriors, Sacramento Kings, Phoenix Suns, Utah Jazz, and Portland Trailblazers.
I would have liked to have kept Denver and Utah together, but I had to make a split somewhere, and that little island happened to be it. Going off last year's records, the playoff teams would have been as follows (from first to fourth):
Midwest: Chicago, Indiana, Milwaukee, and Charlotte. (168 total wins)
East: Miami, Boston, Orlando, and Atlanta. (210 wins)
Texas: San Antonio, Dallas, Oklahoma City, and Denver. (223 wins)
California: LA Lakers, Portland, Phoenix, and Utah. (184 wins)
So, we could get the Texas winner playing the Midwest winner, and the East winner hosting the California winner. Based on last year's playoffs, we most likely would have seen Dallas over Chicago, and Miami over the Lakers. And Dallas would still win the whole thing. Now, is that actually what would have happened? Probably not, but that's all the data we had. And they would have been very good series to watch.
It's all just an idea for now. File it away for a rainy day, I suppose.
I'm not feeling so great today. Probably related with how I slept until 11 this morning. Ugh.
It probably doesn't mean that much to the rest of the sporting world, but the Blackhawks are taking on the Penguins tonight on Versus. The Blackhawks are my favorite team, which you probably know if you've read this blog at all. The Penguins happen to be my brother's. They've both been very good the past several years, and this year is no exception. Right now in the overall NHL standings, Chicago is first and Pittsburgh is tenth. Being from different conferences, it's not really a rivalry game or anything, but one I like to circle on my calendar for personal reasons.
Chicago has won the past few, and I don't expect tonight to be any different. Pittsburgh has been keeping the ship afloat, no doubt, but they are certainly battling some injury woes that would put a lesser team into the basement.* The Penguins will be missing Sidney Crosby,** Jordan Staal, Kris Letang, and Paul Martin, who have all scored at least ten points this season. The only major Chicago injury is Brent Seabrook. He's listed as questionable after taking a big hit against Calgary. Which, again, I didn't see because of some inane decision at WGN.
*I'm looking at you, Colts. I knew losing Peyton would be bad, but what looks like a 1-15 season? That's shameful.
**I'm sure you've heard of him, regardless of your level of hockey interest.
If I've piqued your interest, the puck drops at 7:30 Eastern. On Versus, which you can find on channel 603 on DirecTV. It'll be one of your last chances to watch Versus before it's rechristened NBC Sports, which is a move I honestly don't like. That's such a boring name. But, if it lends some weight to the channel, I suppose I can't argue it.
That over there happens to be our Christmas tree, with a pretty decent amount of presents under it considering everything that's happened in the last month or so. I've officially been out of work for a month and a day at this point. It's a bit of a struggle, but we're doing okay. Thank goodness Kristine has landed at an awesome spot.
In the sports world, the Blackhawks have managed to climb back into the top spot in the NHL with a 4-2 win over Calgary last night. I couldn't watch it because of the stupid WGN vs. WGN America thing, but I'll assume it was a very good game based on the score and the periodic check ins I did last night. Also, the Colts won a game and the Packers lost, both very surprisingly to me. I don't think it will change anything come January, though. The NBA still hasn't started yet, so I can't really say anything one way or the other about that yet.
Purdue has me worried sick. Blew a 20 point lead to Xavier and a 15 point lead to Butler. I hate to say it, but I don't think we're going to beat IU this year. At least not at their place. The only plus is that we get them in Mackey first, so maybe that will give the guys a chance to settle down and shrug off playing in Assembly Hall.* Just trying to look at the bright side.
*By the way Indiana, get more creative with your names. You know Illinois calls their football and basketball stadiums Memorial and Assembly, right? You're not even unique in your own conference.
Also, in honor of the news yesterday, I present to you one of my favorite blogs that I don't usually acknowledge: Kim Jong-Il Looking at Things.
Something I haven't written about yet and have been meaning to is the impending realignment plan that hockey recently passed. As if hockey weren't already looked on quite a bit different than baseball, football, and basketball in this country, this really isn't going to help.
Except, I actually really like this plan, honestly. Realignment was a must after Atlanta moved to Winnipeg. It didn't make a whole lot of sense for the Jets to be in the Eastern Conference and the Columbus Blue Jackets to be in the West. While it would have been easy enough just to swap those two teams, the NHL Board of Governors decided to do this with gusto.* The NHL, starting next year, will be broken up into four conferences, which will be much more geographically in sync than the current arrangement.
*Any day I can work in a Star Control II reference is a good day.
These conferences are as of yet unnamed, but I'll do my best here. The one near and dear to my heart would be the Midwestern conference, consisting of the Chicago Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues, Detroit Red Wings, Minnesota Wild, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Nashville Predators, and Winnipeg Jets. The Western Conference would be the LA Kings, Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Canucks, Colorado Avalanche, Phoenix Coyotes, Calgary Flames, and Edmonton Oilers. The Eastern Conference would be Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators, Florida Panthers, and Tampa Bay Lightning. The Vaguely-New York Conference would be the New York Rangers, New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils, Philadelphia Flyers, Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Carolina Hurricanes.
If you would like it in graphical form, here is a Google Earth file with the arenas marked and divided.
I always like when leagues actually pay attention to geography. I can be a bit of a geography nerd, so it tickles my fancy that way. It also lets the NHL truly balance the schedule. As far as how it affects the playoffs, that really doesn't effect me too much one way or the other. Still sixteen teams, it's just now four teams over four conferences instead of eight teams from two. Things will still be bracketed by conference as well. First place plays fourth place, second plays third. Nothing too radical there, it'll just be more localized (for lack of a better word). No word yet on how the semifinal (which would no longer be a conference final, that's really the biggest change) would be paired up, but I'm sure they will figure that out. If I had my way, it would just go by regular season points. The remaining team with the most points plays the one with the least, and then get second and third that way as well. That, though, might be a tad too obvious.
Another way they could do it, which I wouldn't mind, would be to seed the conferences. Now, you couldn't do this by straight points, as two conferences have eight teams and two have seven teams. But you could do it by the playoff teams out of each conference. And nobody could complain about schedule, because now they will all be balanced. So, let's just say we take the current standings and pretend we're already realigned. That means in the Midwest, the four playoff teams would be Minnesota (44 pts.), Chicago (42 pts.), Detroit (39 pts.), and St. Louis (39 pts.). That brings us to 164 points. The other conferences:
West: Vancouver (38 pts.), San Jose (35 pts.) Phoenix (35 pts.), and LA (32 pts.). Total: 140 points.
East: Boston (41 pts.), Florida (38 pts.), Toronto (35 pts.), and Buffalo (33 pts.) Total: 147 points.
New York: Philadelphia (43 pts.), NY Rangers (38 pts.), Pittsburgh (38 pts.), and Washington (33 pts.) Total: 152 points.
So, that means that the Midwest conference would be seeded number one, so whoever came out of that bracket would play whoever came out of the West bracket, as they are the weakest conference in terms of points. The New York bracket winner would get home ice over whoever came out of the East bracket. That way you get rewarded for playing in a tougher conference. It might also promote some conference loyalty. You want the other teams in your conference to do well to help out your own team. Think of it almost like a season-long version of the Big Ten-ACC Challenge.
Another idea I wouldn't mind seeing would be make every game worth three points. If you win in regulation, you get all three points. If you win in overtime, you get two points, the loser getting one point. And if you lose in regulation, you get nothing, obviously. This seems to make a lot more sense to me than creating an extra point if a game goes to overtime, as it currently stands. I stole this from somebody who emailed it to Grantland, but it just makes too much sense not to do it.
With apologies to Grantland, who I totally stole that title from. . .
The Blackhawks managed to beat the Wild in a shootout last night in a very good, back and forth game. Those two points managed to get Chicago into second overall in the NHL, but still second in the West, two points behind Minnesota, 44-42. This very well could be a preview of the Western Conference Finals, and it would be a very good series. Did I mention Minnesota is for real?
The shootout was a bit lopsided, 2-0. A full video of the shootout is below. The announcers were a bit backwards, they thought Patrick Kane would shoot before Jonathan Toews, but that doesn't really effect much. You might notice Cullen tried the same sort of move that Kane pulled off, but Emery was able to keep his composure and stay with it.
Ray Emery seems have solidified his spot as the Blackhawk goalie this year. This isn't all that surprising. He was a top notch goalie for Ottawa for his first three years in the league before turning into a bit of a journeyman the past few years. He looks like he's back to 100% now, and it also looks like maybe Chicago has some trouble evaluating goaltending. A few years ago, veteran Nikolai Khabibulin was supposed to be the guy, and he played okay, but not as well as back up Cristobal Huet. Huet was then the man going into the next season, but was unseated by Antti Niemi, who led Chicago to a Stanley Cup.* After he was let go, the Blackhawks signed solid veteran Marty Turco, who was outplayed by rookie** Corey Crawford. Crawford was supposed to be the guy this year, but Emery has looked awfully good. Why the carousel? I don't really know, but at least there's always somebody to plug into the crease.
*Niemi was a victim of cap space after that season. What he was awarded in arbitration was ridiculous. Niemi was good, but he was no threat to win the Vezina, and outplaying the Philly goaltenders in that series was nothing to write home about.
**Crawford made a few appearances as early as 2005, but not enough to lose his rookie status until 2010.
Also, below the shootout video, you have to see Marian Hossa's goal from last night. Scored it from between Toews' legs. Toews was given an assist on the goal, which was his 300th career point. Not bad for a guy whose only been in the league since 2007.
It's a bit of a slow week. Most schools are taking finals this week, so there's not much basketball being played. The NBA hasn't started yet, and I don't really care enough about it to follow what's going on to start with. I do know the Pacers signed David West, which I think is a good pick up. Hockey is still rolling on, and the Blackhawks are still going strong, though they've not looked as dominant as I would like. Too many overtime and shootout wins. But, they've got 40 points, which is good for second in the Western Conference and third in the whole NHL, so it's hard to really complain.
The Minnesota Wild, with 43 points, is tops in the league right now, and I do believe they are for real. Maybe that means we'll get an outdoor game in Minnesota, though I'm not sure where they would play it. I suppose the safe money would be Target Field, where the Twins play. Even though the configuration can be a little weird, I do prefer Winter Classic games to be played in baseball stadiums. Baseball fields are generally just much more scenic than football stadiums with the outfield seats generally opening up to a downtown scene or something similar. Not to mention that baseball stadiums tend to be more architecturally pleasing to start with. But, all that said, I wonder if they would play the game at the University of Minnesota's new football stadium.
As far as a seating boost, that would still definitely be present, even if Minnesota isn't exactly Michigan or Penn St. The Xcel Center where the Wild usually plays seats just over 18,000. Target Field holds just a bit under 40,000. TCF Bank Stadium (the Gophers' digs, if you hadn't worked that out yourself) holds right at 50,000. For a state that considers itself the capital of American hockey, I would imagine they would be able to sell out just about any venue you could come up with. And it might be kind of cool to see if a little bit of a collegiate atmosphere would bleed through. It may not, I don't think it particularly did when the Vikings played a game there after the Metrodome spectacularly failed.
What's also odd about that video is something starts running away just before it really goes down. It looks like a deer the way it runs, though that begs the question of how did a deer get into the stadium. Pay attention to the far sideline at about the ten second mark.
In any case, Minnesota deserves a shot at an outdoor game. And now the Wild are relevant and good, so what better time than next year? And the opponent is easy. Bring Dallas back to town, the original Minnesota team, maybe even have them wear some North Stars throwbacks. Minnesota would go nuts for the game, and I think a lot of the rest of the nation would get hooked into it as well.
As it is, we'll be treated to the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers, which is a fine enough game. Philly has played in this game before, but it's their first turn hosting it. Citizens Bank Ballpark will be a very good venue. The Rangers are an Original Six team and all. It's not a bad match up. But it's not a particularly compelling one, either. Additionally, the hosts so far have been Buffalo, Chicago, Boston, Pittsburgh, and now Philadelphia. Other than Chicago, it's pretty easterly biased, you think? And the west has been totally ignored.* Still, I'm definitely looking forward to the game. It's become an annual tradition for me and my brother, at least.
*Though you try playing hockey outdoors in Phoenix or LA and see how that works out for you. If we're keeping it just to US teams (as Canadian teams have the Heritage Classic), it seems the furthest west you're going to be able to do this is Denver. Maybe San Jose. According to the city's website, the temperature averages in the 50's in the winter, and the NHL's refrigeration trucks are good for making ice up to 60 degrees, if I remember right. It seems like it would be pushing it, though.
I actually went with a half-Windsor knot yesterday, if anybody was curious. And the interview went very well, hoping for a second one pretty quickly. And in related news, the unemployment office found that yes, I do qualify for unemployment. Not sure what took so long, but better late than never. So, there's still some money trickling in from my end. Hopefully I won't be relying on that for very long.
In the sports world, John Calipari should be downright ashamed of how Kentucky lost to Indiana. I know IU is going to be better this year, much to Purdue's chagrin, and I wasn't all that shocked that it was a close game,* but how that game ended would have me beyond furious if I were a Kentucky fan. Let's recap.
*I am pretty shocked Indiana actually pulled it off, and I was surprised it was that tight of a game. Not shocked, but surprised.
Kentucky just took a two point lead on free throws. A timeout is called (I don't remember if it was Kentucky or Indiana) with five seconds on the clock. Kentucky has a foul to give. On the inbound, Indiana throws the ball undefended to nearly the half court line. The Indiana guy quickly drives down to close to the free throw line with little to no defense pressure. He drops the ball off with Christian Watford, who hits a three as the clock expires. Three Kentucky defenders fall over themselves trying to get out to him, but to no avail. IU wins by a point.
Yes, it was a pressure three and I don't mean to take anything away from the shot itself. But horrendous does not even begin to describe the defense by Kentucky. How do you just let them catch a pass from the far end line to the half court line without some serious defensive pressure? And when that happens, why do you not foul immediately to try to reset your defense, since you had one to give? It was even worse than Evan Turner's three from around midcourt to knock Michigan out of the Big Ten Tournament a couple years ago, and that was pretty shocking. You only have to play tough defense for five seconds. Put a man on the ball, make it hard to get in, and keep a couple defenders back to pick up whoever might come in for the pass. I hesitate to even call that a press, but you have to put some sort of pressure on the ball. Indiana may very well have never gotten off a shot with halfway decent pressure. Instead, Calipari played his patented pro-style defense (which is to say none) and Indiana was able to topple the number one team in the nation. I guess I can't speak for other fanbases, but this was a horrible outcome for Purdue faithful. The only plus is the rivalry might start getting the press it deserves again, but I don't think many Boilermaker fans minded handing the Hoosiers those losses in the meantime.
In other personal news, our wedding pictures finally came in. We've divided up the albums before, during, after, and at the reception. Enjoy, if you should be so inclined. And yes, those are Facebook links, but they should be good for the general public, so no worries if you are not a Facebook member or anything along those lines.