Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Tim Thomas Invited to Try Out for Panthers

It might be a perfect match for Thomas and for the Panthers. Thomas wants back in the NHL, the Panthers could use a veteran goalie to bolster 23-year-old starter Jacob Markstrom. Timmy will practice with the Panthers today after being offered a PTO contract (professional try out). He'll have competition, though. The Panthers also invited Tom Gilbert. Gilbert is 30-years-old, and he actually played in the NHL last year.

I'd like to see Thomas succeed. He's still one of my favorite Boston athletes of all time, up there with Pedro and Brady. He's a weirdo. And speaking as a Conservative, even I find his political views to be strange. And I don't care. I didn't like Thomas because of his politics, or even his personality. I liked him for his hockey playing, for the difficulty of his path to success, and for what he did for my favorite team.

And if Thomas makes the Panthers, he'll be in the same division as the Bruins. The B's will play Florida 5 times this season, with the first home game against them on November 7th.

Would Thomas get booed or cheered? I hope he'd get cheered. I understand why people don't like how he left Boston, but I can't understand people disliking him overall just because of that. The Bruins were trying to trade him, yet fans demand that he show loyalty to a team that's seeking to send him elsewhere? Do these unreasonable fans still hang on to their grudge?

People never really loved Thomas in this town. They liked him when he won the Vezina in 2009. When Rask put a few good games together in 2010, however, it became Tuukka Time. Fans liked Thomas again during the 2011 playoffs. Then a year later accused him and his political beliefs of being a distraction and disrupting team chemistry in a locker room full of Canadians. And as soon as he wasn't winning Vezinas and Conn Smythes, the team was ready to get rid of him. And so were the fans. Until Thomas wanted to get rid of himself. That, for some reason, was unacceptable, and that's when people who didn't love Thomas wanted him to stay, and were enraged when he didn't.

I'll always remember Joe Haggerty calling Colorado "more politically conservative" than Massachusetts in his article about Thomas and his family moving there. Obama won Colorado twice and the state recently legalized marijuana. Haggerty and others couldn't resist repeating the political storyline, even when it wasn't there (Although I'd agree that CO is more conservative than MA, then again EVERY state except for Vermont is more conservative than MA).

Back to hockey, I wouldn't be shocked if Thomas loses to Gilbert. Gilbert played 43 games last year. He's younger. Then again Thomas might have lower contract demands. Maybe the Panthers want a backup goalie who will also act like a coach to Markstrom, and not competition for his job. And if there's one thing I've learned from Thomas' career path, is that when he's doubted the most, he performs the best.

Johnny Manziel Not an NFL Quarterback

Johnny Manziel dazzles on the field with brilliant performances, like his 5 touchdown, 562 total yard game against Alabama. He's probably the most exciting player in college football, and he deserved the Heisman he won last year as the best player. However, I have yet to see anything that makes me think he'll have any measure of success in the NFL.

He has a strong arm. Great. There have been countless strong armed QBs who have failed miserably in the NFL. Manziel possesses the physical talents of an NFL QB. And he can even run, which is a bonus. Although he's also short (listed at 6' 1" but I'm not so sure about that). So that scram-bility is countered by the inability to see the field when surrounded by the behemoths of the NFL.

The height issue is minor, so forget about that. After all, Michael Vick is 6' and he's done okay in the NFL.

When I see Manziel make plays against college players, like he did against 'Bama this past weekend, I see a scrambler who takes advantage of defenses that don't contain the edge. Those reverse-field lanes won't be open for Manziel in the NFL. Bigger, faster, smarter defensive players will keep him much more contained than college defenses.

I see Manziel throwing a jump ball to 6' 5" Mike Evans, who is in single coverage against a small CB who doesn't have the awareness to turn around and play the ball. Corners who are that vulnerable are rarities in the NFL. Even the small ones know when to turn and jump to disrupt the play.

Then there's his decision-making. He seems more interested in making the big flashy play and not the smart play. Here's a highlight-reel throw that only he could make:

That's a great play, but a horrible decision. In a 14-14 game you blindly heave a ball downfield? You risk a turnover (and a return) just for a first down?

It worked, but I wasn't impressed. It reminded me of Brett Favre at his most moronic. And then seeing how impressed Manziel was with himself at making a lucky play, that revealed a great deal about Manziel's personality. What showed even more of that personality was his end zone interception 4 plays later, when he tried to make the difficult-but-amazing play instead of the easy play that was open.

Not only is Manziel willing to take stupid risks, he actively seeks them. Because that's how he gratifies himself. He builds his ego by taking risks and making big, flashy plays. He's cocky, not confident. Confidence withstands adversity, cockiness constantly seeks justification.

His off-field decision making is also questionable. I don't care about the partying or the sex or the drinking. If I were the QB at A&M, I'd be enjoying my share of T&A as well. But Manziel publicizes it. He revels in it. He broadcasts what he does. And that's not a desirable trait.

What motivates him to be so public about his private life?

Then there's his exit to the Manning Passing Academy. I don't care about his going out in New Orleans and drinking. Again, it's his life, live it up. But if you commit to something, then do it. He committed to an off-season academy and didn't follow through. And if you want to go out and party, then get away with it. Don't put yourself in a position to get caught. He was an idiot for thinking he'd get away with it.

As much as other athletes like Gronkowski party, they don't let it impact their commitments. Manziel is more like a Tyler Seguin type. He can't put the partying on hold, even for a few days. It's part of the massive ego he's built. And when criticized or questioned, he becomes spiky and defensive of his lifestyle.

For now, his on-field performances make his off-field activities a moot point. But at some point he will want to join the NFL. He will have to take that leap that all college players take. He'll go from being the big fish in the small pond to the minnow in the ocean.

How will he adjust? What will challenge him to make himself better? Guys like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Aaron Rodgers all found a challenge that they used as motivation. Peyton was challenged by his family, Brady by his 6th round selection, Rodgers by being stuck behind Favre.

The QBs that fail in the NFL are the ones that don't face challenges. They cruise on talent and standard levels of effort. Then they get to the League, and they get baffled by the challenge. They have no idea how to approach it. Ryan Leaf, Mark Sanchez, Matt Leinart, Joey Harrington, etc.

Johnny Manziel lives in a world in which he is the center, he is the best, and everything he does is right. That works for him at A&M. And it works for the Aggies. However, that kind of attitude doesn't work for a rookie QB in the NFL.

I'd prefer AJ McCarron, who is more confident than cocky. Who looks for the smart play not the big play. Who has been challenged by Nick Saban to be the best he can be for the best team in the country. I'd give Manziel another Heisman over McCarron, I'd draft McCarron over Manziel.

But if the NFL doesn't pan out for Manziel, maybe he and Tim Tebow could star in an Odd Couple reality show. Maybe one week Tebow could bring Manziel to church on Sunday morning and the next week Manziel could bring Tebow to a club until 4 AM and have a drunken orgy with a group of Swedish exchange students. We can call the show Holy and Horny: The Heisman Homies.

Jarome Iginla Scores Twice in Preseason Win

What a short off-season. After so many Lockouts, I've forgotten that hockey generally starts in the early autumn. Even earlier when there's an 18 day break in February for the Olympics.

I don't think you can learn much more from a preseason hockey game as you can a preseason football or spring training baseball game. The Canadiens started Carey Price, and most of their top defensemen. But obviously the matchups and intensity you'd experience in a regular season game were absent.

Jarome Iginla looked sharp. He scored two goals, once on the power play. For the PP goal he drifted into a soft pocket of the Montreal zone. Lucic passed wing-to-wing and Iginla had time and space to beat Price. That ability to find scoring areas BEFORE they become scoring areas is a trademark of a great scorer. And he finished both goals with expert precision and power. It's nice to finally have him in Boston.

Nick Johnson scored two goals. One was more Carey Price letting a puck slip through him. Or maybe the reduced pad-sizes mandated by the NHL was the culprit. Johnson's second goal was more impressive. He blocked a shot, broke away, tried Price's 5 hole, was denied, then showed some nice hands to beat Price at the post.

I wasn't impressed with goalie Chad Johnson, who all expect to be Tuukka Rask's backup this season. Johnson didn't glove a puck he should have had, which resulted in a goal shortly thereafter. P.K. Subban's high slot shot was too fast for Johnson to react to, even though he had a clear view and should anticipate that shot from Subban all the time. And he couldn't squeeze his pads together quick enough on the third goal he allowed.

Backup goalies aren't the most important thing in the world, but if Rask is forced to play 75 games because of a crap backup, or if Rask gets hurt and has to miss a week or two, that's when you need a backup goalie who won't give up soft goals like Johnson did last night.

Malcolm Subban looked okay, but inexperienced. He got a penalty for handling the puck outside of the trapezoid. Which demonstrates just how raw he is. Another year in Juniors will do him well.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Graham Hughes