Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Random Thoughts on Sports: 12/7/11

I usually save my sports commentary for Friday or Saturday, but...well, whatever. Let's tackle the last couple of weeks in chronological order, which as a Jacksonville Jaguars / Carolina Hurricanes fan have been very interesting:

Carolina Hurricanes fire head coach Paul Maurice: Hooray! The team is going nowhere, and I was kind of getting tired of seeing Maurice on the bench back there, anyway. Bring in first-time NHL head coach Kirk Muller, who - and this is unusual for GM Jim Rutherford - came from completely outside the organization and as far as I know has never been affiliated with the Hurricanes in any capacity. Rutherford is taking his share of blame, too, but he's not going anywhere...yet. One at a time, people.

But as we're now finding out, fixing the Hurricanes isn't as simple as changing the head coach. As former Jaguars beat writer Vic Ketchman liked to say: "players, not plays". I think that's as true in hockey as it is in any sport. How much difference does the coach make, really?

Jacksonville Jaguars fire head coach Jack Del Rio: I figured this would happen after the season, not during the season. I almost don't see the point in firing him now. The NHL season is still young, and there is time to turn it around. But the NFL season is basically over. Unless they plan on making Mel Tucker the permanent coach (I doubt it), why do this now, and not after the season? So that it would coincide with the change in ownership?

I agree with James that the Jaguars' struggles this season are not Del Rio's fault. But he's been here long enough, and he only made the playoffs twice in nine seasons (including this season), and never won the division. Time for a change.

Jacksonville Jaguars sold to Illinois businessman Shahid Khan: For me, this came out of nowhere.

You can look at this from any number of angles. Predictably, the national media started talking relocation, because the national media hates Jacksonville and loves big cities in non-southern locations like Los Angeles. But let's look at this logically for a minute. Why did soon-to-be former owner Wayne Weaver keep it secret all this time? Make it public that you're trying to sell the team, and all the people who want to buy it and move it elsewhere come out of the woodwork. (As an NHL fan, I know how this usually goes.) Keep it quiet, and you can better secure an owner whose first option is to keep the team at home. And there are other reasons why the team probably isn't moving any time soon, such as the stadium lease.

But here's why I'm excited about this. Everything I've read about Khan indicates that there is no ulterior motive here. He's just an excited football fan with a few hundred million dollars to burn and a dream of owning an NFL team. What's not to like? Everything I've heard about the guy sounds fantastic. And have I mentioned the moustache? The fan base certainly seemed pumped about the Jaguars' soon-to-be owner on Monday night, and that was great to see. I can't wait to see what he brings to the team.

Jacksonville Jaguars lose 38-14 to San Diego on Monday Night Football: In the meantime...yeah, the team still isn't all that good. The one thing the Jaguars have done fairly well this season is play defense, and that's kept them in the game almost every week. But, like, half the Jaguars' defense is injured now, so...that's over. They may not win another game the rest of the way, and that includes Week 17 against the Colts. That Week 17 game will truly be awful, by the way. I can't wait!

Did the Carolina Hurricanes get screwed by NHL divisional realignment?: The solution to the whole "Winnipeg in the Southeast Division" crisis? Start over! The Southeast Division will be disbanded, and the Carolina Hurricanes will now be in a 7-team conference with some of NBC's favorite teams: Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Washington, both New Yorks, and New Jersey. The biggest part of this is that playoff spots will be determined by conference standing ONLY, independent of how your record compares to the other 23 teams in the league. (That's the proposal, anyway. This isn't finalized.)

The good news: the Hurricanes are in one of the 7-team conferences (as opposed to the two 8-team conferences), increasing their playoff odds at the start of the season. The bad news: they have to compete with the same big budget, big market teams for playoff spots (and in the playoffs themselves), every single year. It's easy to say that there's no way the Hurricanes will ever compete with the likes of the Penguins/Flyers/Capitals/Rangers/Devils every year, but this sort of thing is cyclic. Before Crosby and Ovechkin came along, Pittsburgh and Washington were terrible. Remember those days? The Flyers and Devils have also had their share of clunker seasons, and the Rangers have never really been that good. Right now it looks tough, but things change. Five years from now, we could be talking about how the Hurricanes are lucky to be in a weak conference, instead of the other way around. And besides, it doesn't really matter what conference the Hurricanes are playing in this year. Speaking of which...

Carolina Hurricanes lose their first four games under new head coach Kirk Muller: Players, not plays.

1 comment:

James Allen said...