Why Isn’t Anyone Worried About Ryan Kesler?

Ryan Kesler might not be his usual self in the Stanley Cup Final

Update: June 17 — It has been reported following the Stanley Cup Finals that Ryan Kesler played through a torn groin and torn hip labrum.

The city of Vancouver is in a state of bliss. Nothing else matters to anyone right now. School, work, love, the NBA finals? Nope, everyone is talking Canucks.

It has been 17 years since the Canucks have made it to the Stanley Cup Finals and 40 long years without ever having won a Cup. This will be the first time in three appearances that they will go in as favourites.

The biggest buzz around town is the seemingly inevitable return of 3rd line center and one of the best faceoff men in the league. Manny Malhotra was deemed out for the season in March when lost his vision in his left eye after puck hit him square in the eye. His status has now shifted from” a return this season would be miraculous” to “cleared to play in game 1.”

It’s euphoria in Vancouver.

They say that ignorance is bliss. That phrase couldn’t ring truer for Canuck fans right about now.

News flash for Canuck fans: Ryan Kesler, your Selke and Conn Smythe candidate, is still injured. He most likely pulled a muscle in game 5 against the Sharks and after the injury, despite scoring the all-important tying goal, was moving more like a wounded soldier than a hockey player. A wounded soldier with a rifle.

Virtually all Canuck related news is overshadowing his injury and I can’t understand why. Whether people are talking Malhotra’s imminent return, Luongo’s game 5 brilliance or just taking in the Sedinery, Ryan Kesler’s injury is only being mentioned in passing.

Related: Roberto Luongo the Ex-Factor

The injury is cause for concern. He pulled one of those vulnerable muscles. The muscles that need time to heal. The muscles that re-injure most easily when you come back too early from them.

Kesler may have scored the tying goal in game 5 but aside from that he was simply a liability on the ice following his injury. He couldn’t fight for the pucks on the board, needed excessively wide turns to build up any speed and could not keep up with the pace of a Conference Final game 5.

Kesler looked helpless at times. Even with the 8 day lay-off I can’t imagine that he will be 100% healthy.

It’s the NHL playoffs though. You need to have one of your limbs falling off to keep you out of a game. It isn’t heroic to play on an injury, it is expected.

Ryan Kesler’s status for game 1 isn’t the question because we all know that he will suit up. This is a matter of Kesler being able to play anywhere near the level that he has this post-season.

Too many people are complaining about the long layoff and how the Canucks have lost any advantage that they gained from finishing off San Jose in 5. If anything, the Canucks should be thanking their lucky stars that NBC decided to play Wednesday. I’m sure Ryan Kesler is.

By the time game 1 rolls around Ryan Kesler won’t be able to play with his usual reckless abandonment. The thought of re-injuring that leg will be weighing on his mind. Contrary to popular belief, Ryan Kesler is not Superman.

It will be near impossible for Kesler to match the physicality of this modern-day version Big Bad Bruins. A coast-to-coast rush or game saving back check at full speed will in all likelihood be out of the question early in this series.

Sometimes being tough isn’t enough. Ryan Kesler doesn’t have a cracked rib or a bruised thigh. You can’t play through a pulled groin like you do with other things. Players don’t get warrior status from playing through a pulled muscle but the effects of it can be as severe as those glorified injuries.

To the Vancouver Canucks, he is as essential as any player can be to a team. He is a 40 goal scorer who is a lockdown defender. He’s as tough as they come and If I were a major media outlet I would also feed you a bunch of crap about Kesler being a great presence in the dressing room.

It’s odd that more people aren’t worried about this. A Stanley Cup is practically unfathomable without a healthy Ryan Kesler.

It would be nice if ignoring our problems would make them all go away but life doesn’t work like that. Ignorance is bliss until you have to face reality and the reality is that Ryan Kesler’s injury could prevent the Vancouver Canucks from winning their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. Also, follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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Buster Posey Silliness

In one of the most famous plays in baseball history, Pete Rose trucked catcher Ray Fosse in the 12th inning to win the 1970 all-star game. The all-star career of Ray Fosse was never the same.

As far as notable collisions at the plate go the Rose-Fosse crash ranks at number one. Notable collisions leading to career threatening injuries? The Rose-Fosse collision is the only one I can recall without taking a peek at Google. There’s a reason for that.

Until May 26th. On Thursday night, Buster Posey was run over by Scott Cousins, which lead to one of baseballs bright young stars fracturing his leg. Everyone from Buster Posey’s agent to the local butcher is now clamouring for the MLB to make a rule change.

Give me a break.

Hear me out on this one and then make your decision on how insensitive you think I am. I understand that the reigning Rookie of the Year was brutally injured in a play that some of you obviously think is unnecessary.

However, why has this suddenly become such a hot topic? It happened because of an extreme event. In other words, something that doesn’t occur on a regular basis. This cry for a rule change is a classic overreaction to a problem that has been virtually non-existent for a very long time.

This isn’t an epidemic like head shots are in the NFL or NHL. This is a single incident that people are reacting to in a completely illogical fashion. Unlike other more important things, catcher collisions haven’t been a persistent problem over the years.

Remember when 1st base coach Mike Coolbaugh died after being struck in the head with a line drive? That was a tragic incident. Nevertheless, the fact that all base coaches now have to wear helmets because of one freak event is ridiculous. One coach gets struck in the head and its panic everywhere. I don’t mean to be insensitive but it isn’t only professional baseball where base coaches are at risk, it’s also baseball being played around North America and the world. One coach, that’s it.

Buster Posey was never at risk of dying on that play. Catching isn’t for the weary and Posey was involved in a typical baseball play. Catchers are aware of what they sign up for when they play professional ball.

Head first slides have become somewhat of a problem around baseball so why isn’t everyone clamouring for head first slides to be made illegal? Cold hard facts will tell you that more guys get hurt sliding head first than colliding with a catcher. No risk of death but serious injuries are involved. Just ask Josh Hamilton or Aaron Hill.

Many of you have probably been to the airport and recently been patted down or had your bag checked excessively by your friendly neighbourhood TSA agent. It’s kind of amusing when the 80-year-old lady is examined in front of her two little granddaughters because all this nonsense stems from the governments nonsensical reaction to a couple of radical incidents. At least people’s lives are on the line here.

A more apparent issue that the MLB is facing, that most are oblivious to, is baseball’s own version of the head shot. Intentionally beaning a player merely for revenge or because they are crowding the plate much should be scary thought yet to most fans it isn’t.

It will be a scary thought when someone dies. This is a part of baseball culture that should be banished. A 95 mph heat seeking fastball to the head is a much more important issue than collisions with the catcher. Nothing has happened yet but when something does you will see that similar panic reaction from around the country and rightfully so.

The thing is, throwing at someone’s head is far different from colliding with a catcher or a foul ball hitting a base coach. A collision with the catcher doesn’t pose nearly the same risks and a foul ball is entirely unintentional. A pitcher who chooses to aim for a vulnerable part of the body is something that can be controlled. If a line drive can kill a base coach than a fastball can too.

It’s okay though, nothing has happened yet so we shouldn’t worry about it. Right?

Old school NFL fans feel that the new rules are ruining the integrity of the game of football. They don’t care or understand the real danger that is concussions. With all the information we are learning about concussions, having a player knocked out each week because of an unnecessary hit is, well, unnecessary.

Buster Posey may not have been blocking the plate but this is a baseball play that certainly does not carry the same great risk. Excessive preventative measures are not in order here. By changing the rule the MLB would be putting its own version of the “may cause drowsiness” label on the bottle of sleeping pills.

This isn’t little league folks, where I’m sure you would be happy to learn that initiating contact with a catcher is illegal.

What’s almost worse is that this silly reaction is because Buster Posey is a star player. If this was Rod Barajas the issue would be swept under the rug.

The whole logic behind the reaction to Buster Posey’s injury is misguided. An insignificant issue wrongly thrust into the spotlight because of a rare accident involving a star player.

Last year, Kendry Morales suffered a broken leg celebrating a walk-off home-run. Suddenly, rowdy walk-off celebrations became a thing of the past because of another freak incident. Doesn’t make any sense does it?

Major League Baseball does not need to respond in this type of manner to the Buster Posey incident. Contrary to Harold Camping’s belief, the apocalypse is not upon us so let’s not react to this as if it is.

The rule doesn’t need to be changed. This isn’t helmet-to-helmet NFL style. Buster Posey was the victim of a legal baseball play that has to stay legal.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. Also, follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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NBA Playoffs – Where Legends Are Made

Muhammad Ali once said “Champions aren’t made in the gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them — a desire, a dream, a vision.”

Dirk Nowitzki and, as hard as it is for me to say it, Lebron James are proving themselves to be champions.

Dirk Nowitzki though has carried the weight of the world on his own shoulders year in and year out trying to get his Dallas Mavericks a championship. That weight will stay with him until he gets that ring to put on his finger but no matter what happens Dirk is finally receiving the accolades that he deserves.

This isn’t your everyday run-of-the-mill NBA star. Not to say that guys like Jordan, Magic, Bird and Kobe are. However, Dirk Nowitzki is a once in a lifetime player. Not once in an era or generation but lifetime.

We have almost taken Dirk for granted throughout his career. This is in large part because of his inability to win the big one. No one is taking him for granted anymore. What the big German is showing the world right now in these NBA playoffs is something to tell the grandchildren. He is moving towards legendary status.

The ridiculous shots are one thing. The ridiculous shots under the immense pressure that Nowitzki carries is quite another.

When the Mavericks needed him most, Nowitzki has done what all legends do. Against Oklahoma City he shot an incredible 56% from the field while missing only 2 free throws in 61 attempts. Oh yeah, 2 of those free throw makes came in game 4 to tie the game with 6.4 seconds left in regulation. Did I mention that he swished them both?

Regular season dominance means greatness but post-season dominance creates a legend.

I can say with an immense amount of confidence that there won’t be another player that can do the special things that Dirk Nowitzki does 7 feet off of the ground. He’s not considered one of the top 10 best players of all-time but his truly unique abilities are 1 in 7 billion special. Those 1 legged rainbow jumpers may get all the attention but it is just a microscopic sample of the extraordinary things Dirk does.

This is not coming from the euphoric passion of riding the Dirk Nowitzki 2011 playoff MVP bandwagon. This is popping the cork of that bottle of champagne that has been shaking for the last decade.

If anyone deserves a ring it’s Dirk Nowitzki. He doesn’t need it though and there is a good chance that he won’t get one against his likely opponents, the Miami Heat.

If the Mavericks come up short it won’t be Dirk’s fault and I think he has established that. Like many big market sports, basketball is a team one and playoff underachieving has been a theme among Dirk Nowitzki led Maverick teams.

Should that mean anything for a guy who has averaged 3.0 points a game better in his entire playoff career than his regular season career? Should playoff underachieving mean anything for someone who hasn’t had a legitimate center to clog the lane until his 13th season in the NBA?

For one reason, Dan Marino’s achievements are still belittled to this day. It’s unfair that Marino is punished for something that was out of his control to such a large extent.

Championship or not, Dirk Nowitzki should be considered a legend in his own right. It is wrong that people have considered him a failure, to a certain degree, simply because he lacks the infamous ring.

Lebron James is showing signs that he is clutch like a champion. However, unlike Dirk, his legendary status will have an extended stay in purgatory while the basketball Gods attempt to figure out what could have been for the self-proclaimed King.

Unlike Lebron, Dirk Nowitzki didn’t have to sell his soul for a championship and in the end that will make all the difference.

Related: Miami Heat Get the Easy Route

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. Also, follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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NHL Referee Conundrum

Consistency is arguably the most important quality of a referee. It’s too bad the 2011 NHL playoffs have been mired by inconsistent reffing.

The new rules after the lockout were supposed to free the game up for the skill players of the league and they have done just that. No more ticky-tacky hooking and grabbing. The elite players were allowed to be elite players again.

The early rounds of this year’s playoffs were a different story. It went back to the old rules. They might as well have had the police out on the ice because you had to assault someone in order to get a penalty.

Fast forward to the third round and suddenly the game has switched back to the regular season. In fact, at times it has been worse than the regular season. Penalty after penalty being called as players are constantly marching in and out of the sin bin. A player losing an edge seems to be enough to warrant a tripping call.

The players have no idea what to do. First they can get away with murder and suddenly a tap on the shin is a penalty.

There has been no consistency among each crew and frankly I’m sick of it. You all should be too.

Honestly though, the consistency line should be drawn where they call it during the regular season. All the hooking, holding and tackling should be out of the game. Let’s not give the game back to the grinders.

I don’t mind all the penalties as long as that’s how each crew is calling every game. Players need to at least know how the game is going to be called.

The Nashville-Vancouver series featured bad hockey. Not only are the Predators one of the most boring teams in the NHL but their defensive style was catered to by the referees who decided to lock up their whistles and throw away the key.

The San Jose-Vancouver series, on the other hand, has been dominated by the referees. Game 4 had the Sharks receiving 5 penalties in the first 25 minutes while that was followed by 3 consecutive 5 on 3 power-plays for the Canucks. The difference is astounding between what we saw in the first couple rounds of the playoffs.

I guess the NHL is consistent in its own way though. Their remarkable ability to consistently waver on key issues is always quite impressive. I mean, if they can’t set a precedent with the oh so important problem of head shots then why should we expect any standardization with their refereeing?

Related: NHL Head Shots

I was ready to call conspiracy in the Chicago series and prior to the 3 consecutive 2 man advantages I was ready to call conspiracy in game 4 yesterday. Well, it looks more like a product of bad reffing.

The NHL is your typical deadbeat dad. For some reason you always expect something more from them even though you realize that will never get anything. I have no idea why I still expect change for the better.

The great extent of this mounting problem isn’t realized by most people. Colour commentators and analysts should not be content with what is happening on the ice. Laughing off bad/non-calls and on a rare occasion pointing out a mistake sure isn’t going to invoke any change.

For fans to realize the problem on the ice, the one’s calling the games need to make it their business to show what is wrong with the refereeing. Once an outcry comes from fans and analysts maybe the NHL might start to listen. Okay, that might be a pipe dream of mine but it still shouldn’t be alright for people to be oblivious to or satisfied with the officiating.

The NHL has enough trouble generating an American audience and this year’s inconsistent garbage we see from the referee’s is enough to turn the casual fan away from the game. Fans have to know that this isn’t how the game is always played.

Call a penalty when it is a penalty. Sounds simple enough right?

Don’t let them play or call an excessive amount of penalties. The rule book is there for a reason so how about we have everyone follow it for a change?

It will not only make the game better for the players but more importantly it will make the game better for the fans.

Update: It didn’t matter because the Canucks took game 5 and are off to the Stanley Cup Finals. However, I failed to mention in the article below that the way the referee’s still call the overtime period is absolutely insane. On top of a game that was refereed exactly opposite to game 4, the overtime period featured 4 blatant penalties of San Jose’s and 1 blantant penalty of Vancouver’s that were not called. 2 obvious high sticks and 3 trips that my 85 year Chinese Grandmother could have seen. This isn’t an anomaly for the NHL because when it comes to overtime the whistles are put away. These refs decided they didn’t want to “decide” the game like they did in game 4 but they decide the game just as much when they choose not to call those penalties. Call the game the way you call it during the regular season. Call the game the way that you called it in the 1st and 2nd period. They’re lucky that they were in Vancouver and it took 3 brutally missed calls to get the “refs you suck” chant out of the stuck-up, corporate crowd. This is not the way that the 3rd and overtime period should be called yet the referees continue to stick to their old ways. I said it below but I have to say it again. Enough is enough, this has to change.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. Also, follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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Hierarchy Established?

It may have taken 7 games but it looks as though Robin, in Oklahoma City’s very own Batman and Robin combination, has finally realized his place.

For some odd reason, the mentality of Kobe Bryant, Terrell Owens and Randy Moss have rolled into one man’s brain. Highlighted by a triple overtime win against the Grizzlies in game 4, it was apparent that Russell Westbrook’s ego had expanded as large as Jared before he got on Subway.

Even though the Thunder won game 4 and Westbrook scored 40, the alarm bells were ringing loud. Time after time, Westbrook felt it was his duty to play the isolation game while Batman played spectator. He took 33 shots compared to Durant’s 20, while Durant still poured in a very efficient 35 points.

Throughout the year, Westbrook has played as if he has the talent and burden Derrick Rose possesses. This has been a problem for Oklahoma but the bright lights of the NBA playoffs have magnified the situation. Westbrook had to change. Prior to game 7, Westbrook had taken 134 shots compared to Durant’s 105. That just ain’t right.

In game 7, Westbrook took 12 shots compared to Durant’s 25. Well that’s more like it.

Thunder fans better hope that this is a sign of things to come in the Western Conference Finals.

Westbrook is one of the most explosive players in the NBA but he is not one of the best. It baffles me that playing beside the league’s leading scorer hasn’t kept that massive ego from swelling. Obviously no one else in the Thunder organization has been able to keep his ego in check either and it almost cost them an early exit.

It doesn’t matter if Westbrook figured this one out on his own. All that matters is that he changed. He was able to resign himself to the fact that he is Robin and that Robin is the sidekick.

Kevin Durant showed us all that he has the heart of a champion but he couldn’t have done it without his sidekick doing his job. Westbrook had 14 assists and became one of only a select few NBA players to have put up a triple-double in a game 7.

Putting all of this on Westbrook might not completely fair because Durant has to be more assertive. Kevin Durant is the boss and Westbrook needs to know that.

Coming up as clutch as he did had to show Russell Westbrook whose team it really is.

Russell Westbrook is becoming one of the NBA’s premiere point guards but he will always be second fiddle as long as Kevin Durant is around.

Game 7 cannot be an anomaly for the Thunder. It has to become a recurring theme not only for the immediate prospects of the franchise but also for the future. It’s scary to think that Durant and Westbrook are both 22. However, the Thunder are not nearly as scary if Westbrook has any intentions of continuing his campaign to be top dog.

We all know that Batman and Robin can be a lethal team but if Robin wants to be Batman then the whole dynamic is thrown out the window. If the Oklahoma City Thunder want the future to be now, Russell Westbrook needs to decide which character he wants to play.

Hopefully he knows that there is only 1 choice.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. Also, follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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