Monday’s Seven Casual Contemplations

Welcome to the new, hopefully, weekly segment on Painting the Black. It is my goal to start your work week off right with random thoughts, ideas, rants and ramblings from the week that was in the world of sports. Exclusive to Painting the Black, here are your Monday Morning Casual Contemplations…

April is Undoubtedly the Best Sports Month

I used to believe that April and October were essentially equal in the best sports month department. I have now officially changed my mind. There is simply no comparison to the month of April. While October features playoff baseball and the new beginnings of the NBA and NHL seasons, the month of April contains all those things flipped around, but so much more. The Masters start the real golf season off right as we saw one of the most exciting Master’s of all time with big Bubba gettin ‘er done. But on top of that, everyone’s favourite bullshit season, the NFL draft is arguably the best football day of the year.

Yeah, April trumps the competition.

Liberal Strike Zones

I’ll never understand why so many umpires choose to give such liberal strike zones. The plate is there for a reason yet umpires are always giving 2 or 3 inches off the edges. This isn’t anything new to baseball but it is something that should change. The MLB is having enough problems with teams inability to score runs and it doesn’t help that umpires continually call strikes that hitters simply can’t reach in this steroid-less, nasty off-speed, hard throwing age of baseball.

It always rubbed me the wrong way that star players in any sport get the benefit of the calls. They are already the best and do not deserve an even bigger advantage. Greg Maddux is the pitcher that immediately comes to mind whenever I see star pitchers get the benefit of the doubt on calls outside the zone. Expanding the strike zone beyond its predisposed limits makes great pitchers like Maddux virtually unhittable. All this ‘they have earned it’ stuff is really just a bunch of garbage

Why the MLB puts up with this is beyond me. Like the NHL, they are losing ground on the NFL and NBA and a simple fix for more runs would be to tell umpires to call strikes within the strike zone. Who is running this league? Gary Bettman?

I don’t get it.

Pujols Struggling

The choice to sign a player on the wrong side of 30 to a double-digit year contract doesn’t really ever strike me as the brightest idea.
Now, of course it would be moronic to deem Albert Pujols’ 10 year contract a failure after 21 homerless games but the decision making behind the signing was questionable prior to the signing. The fact that his age is still an unknown and that he already was on the decline last season, despite his great second half, were not good indicators for his success over the next decade.

Missing Colour in the NHL

The amount of high quality colour commentators in the world of professional sports is few and far between but each sport seems to have at least 1 or 2 guys that qualify as elite. Except for hockey that is. Watching the NHL playoffs this year has brought this to my attention again.

CBC’s lead guy, Craig Simpson, suffers from a severe case of lack of insightful analysis and appears to be ignorantly blissful to all the head shots, hooking, holding and other problems that are hurting the game of hockey. Although Pierre McGuire knows his stuff well for the most part, there is a sense of arrogance to his general lack of likeability from NBC’s new top colour man.

It’s frustrating that, out of all the former players and front office men, they can’t find one guy to be the voice of authority for the NHL. The game experience really becomes a lot less enjoyable without that dynamic tandem up in the booth.

Steve Nash to Miami?

I keep hearing about Steve Nash to Miami and how this is the ideal destination for the 2-time NBA Most Valuable Player to win a championship. Sure, Miami would give Nash arguably the best opportunity to finally get that elusive ring but that’s about all it will do for him. The ring isn’t everything for Steve Nash. There’s a reason why he hasn’t demanded a trade out of Phoenix. He likes it there. He likes playing in a system that he is comfortable with and, more importantly, where he is the focal point.

Nash dominates the ball but that wouldn’t be the case with Dwayne Wade and Lebron James. I can guarantee you that Steve Nash doesn’t want that. Miami and Steve Nash makes about as much sense as cheeseburgers on a pizza. What, Pizza Hut did that?

Welp, anything is possible I guess.

Classy Bruins Fans. Very Classy.

Not that you probably need it but here’s another reason to hate Boston sports fans and it’s not a good one. Following Washington Capitals African-Canadian forward Joel Ward’s game 7 overtime game winning goal, a barrage of racially filled hate flooded the twitterverse directed at Ward by the defeated Bruins fans. It’s a classless display. I realize that it is only a small portion of the Bruins fans and by no means represents their entire fan base, but the fact that there were enough people to use the dreaded N-word in this defamatory manner to make a story out of it is pathetic.

The double-edged sword nature of twitter rears its ugly head again as its lack of any sort of filter allows emotionally charged individuals to vent their frustrations before they have any chance to properly collect their thoughts. Twitter is fascinating in that regard because it shows people in their most uninhibited state, without the masks that they put on for society each and every day. It’s almost like alcohol in that your true persona and feelings come out whether you like it or not. Now, I’m not naive enough to believe this could not have happened to another city’s fan base but, at the same time, it is by no means a shocker that the city of Boston is the culprit.

Good on Joel Ward for playing the story down though and not making this out to be something more than it has to be.

Jose Bautista, ah, Struggling

Like Pujols, Bautista is mired in a prolonged slump, which seems to concern me a lot more than the rest of Blue Jays nation. Sure, Jose Bautista has hit the most home runs in the Majors in the past 2 seasons, had a slash line of .302/.447/.608 in 2011 and WAR’d an outstanding 8.5 last season. However, those inflated numbers were due in large part to his torrid April and May. Yeah, I know his OPS was still .896 after the all-star break last year but he hasn’t ever looked like the same player since last May. A lot of his walks were because of his inability to put the ball in play even as pitchers shied away from him less and less with the realization that he wasn’t Barry Bonds anymore.

Enter 2012, where Bautista is slashing a terrible .187/.337/.333. While it would be absurd to say that Jose Bautista cannot become close to a shadow of his former self, I think it’s starting to become evident that his post all-star break numbers are a better indication of what we’re going to see from him in the future. As a Blue Jays fan, I want to be wrong (kind of). I was wrong in the summer of 2010 when I told the Blue Jays not to re-sign Bautista. Being wrong doesn’t hurt nearly as much as seeing Bautista pop out or foul back good pitch after good pitch.

It doesn’t look as though it is merely a matter of finding his timing anymore. He still has the power but something is seriously wrong. Maybe this is a case of coming to a conclusion a little bit too quickly but this feeling has been churning in my stomach since last June and, as of right now, it isn’t going anywhere.

Don’t Turn Off the Game, Ever

I think I turned the Clippers-Grizzlies game when Memphis was up by 21 points with about a minute left in the 3rd quarter. Bad idea.

By now you probably know how the story turns out. Fairy tale for the Clippers, horror story for the Grizzlies and yada, yada, yada. Nevermind the awesomeness of the comeback in itself. This is just another one of those “if you put it in a movie you wouldn’t believe it” moments that play such a big part in making sports so fascinating to society. I realize I didn’t actually watch this comeback but these are the times when I feel sorry for people who don’t watch sports. Those guys are missing out.

Bonus (Shameless?) Contemplation!

I was thinking that you might want to check me out on twitter and then give me a follow @paintstheblack if you like what you’re seeing. Maybe before you do that, don’t leave the website and subscribe to the blog either through the email subscription in the right hand corner or with the RSS feed so you can have immediate access to the latest articles on Painting the Black. Sweet, I know.

Trip Back in Time Killing Canucks

The NHL has taken a trip back in time these playoffs. Well, at least the referees have and the Canucks are paying the price.

The vast amount of inconsistency among the reffing has been a major storyline throughout the playoffs. Following a penalty filled game 1, the referees seem to think it’s 1995 all over again. That’s the only plausible explanation for their ignoring the excessive amount of physical play that has taken over the series.

Yeah, it’s the playoffs. The reins are supposed to be loosened a bit but in the last 3 games the reins have fallen right off.

Since the lockout, those fierce battles in front of the net have been a thing of the past. Players are supposed to be allowed to stand in front of the net and do their work instead of having to assault their opponent for every half-inch of ice. Don’t tell the refs though because Zdeno Chara is brutalizing Ryan Kesler in his new found home every chance he gets.

Related: NHL Referee Conundrum

The unnecessary and absurd amount of cross-checking hasn’t escaped the attention of many, except of course the referees who have suddenly decided to check out of 2011.

The time travelling is no doubt hurting the Canucks and giving the Bruins a significant edge. The physicality being displayed, that is not supposed to be in the game anymore, is allowing the Bruins to travel even farther back in time to bring back the Big Bad Bruins of old.

Man, do they ever need it.

The Boston Bruins need this excessive physicality in order to slow down a Canucks team that is much faster and skilled. It is part of what has allowed them to get back in this series. The Canucks are not built as a team that can handle the physicality of a 1990’s playoff series, when violence that would be worthy of a prison sentence away from the rink was the norm. Don’t even get me started on the extra-curricular activity going on after the whistle.

Saying that you have to let the players play or that it’s the playoffs are easy cop outs for fans and analysts. You don’t rustle any feathers and that way you can maintain the status quo.

It’s not fair to the Vancouver Canucks. It’s like changing the rules in the middle of the game.

The Boston Bruins obviously don’t mind because it plays right into their hands. Not that it had any effect on the game, but the fact that Tim Thomas was allowed to body check Henrik Sedin shows how much things have gotten out of control. That was just game 3.

It’s difficult for a finesse inclined team to work under these conditions. Conditions that they could not and should not have expected.

This isn’t the only problem affecting the Vancouver Canucks because you can point to a zillion other things. However, the extreme physical play, that doesn’t look like it is going to be put to halt anytime soon, is something far out of their control. This is something severely hindering their play that they have no power over.

No Canuck coach or player is going to come out publicly and complain about this. I mean, it is the playoffs. You can bet though that they’re trying to address this behind closed doors. Too bad they don’t have the personnel to address something that should be a non-issue.

The game of hockey has changed from the animal-esque Neanderthal play we witnessed prior than the lockout. The game may have evolved but it’s clear that the refereeing hasn’t.

It’s killing the Canucks.

Related: Roberto Luongo the Ex-Factor

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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Significant Injury?

Nathan Horton lies on the ice following a late hit by Aaron Rome

Humans are social beings and as social beings our lives are overrun by emotions. Emotions cloud our judgement. Emotions change our perception of what we see and how we react to events.

Naturally, when a person is lying on the ice seemingly unconscious and having to be carted off our emotions get the best of us. No self-respecting person wants to see a person badly hurt no matter the circumstances.

Seeing Nathan Horton immobile for a good ten minutes following a devastating hit by Aaron Rome is a scary sight. As humans, we want revenge on the guy that did it. The Boston Bruins fans showed their displeasure by booing for a considerable length after watching the replay. Luckily, Nathan Horton was reported to have had movement in all his extremities while at Massachusetts General Hospital.

The sight of a motionless Nathan Horton led to a 5 minute penalty for Aaron Rome and a game misconduct. That wasn’t the end of it though. Today, Aaron Rome was suspended a whopping 4 games for his hit on Nathan Horton. The reason given by NHL Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations Mike Murphy was that “The hit by Rome was clearly beyond what is acceptable in terms of how late it was delivered after Horton had released the puck and it caused a significant injury.”

Significant injury?

This is yet another critical error in their method of determining suspensions. As humans, we feel that the length of a suspension should be correlated to how hurt the victim is.

Our emotions get the best of us. The sight of a severely injured player brings out the emotions that we don’t want to feel like fear, anger and horror. The emotion of a seeing fellow human being in distress can bring out the worst in us. Despite the many angles that advancement of technology allows us, the replay of a hit is suddenly far worse in our eyes when we know that the player has been brutally injured.

If you subtract the Horton injury from this equation and look at the hit from an objective standpoint it really isn’t all that bad. The hit is obviously late and is deemed late based on the timing criteria utilized by the NHL. The hit was 28 digital frames (whatever that means) from release of the pass and the NHL standard for a late hit is longer than 15 frames which equals 0.5 seconds. Rome’s hit does not qualify as a blind side, even though Horton is not looking, because Horton is moving in the direction of Rome and Rome simply steps up on him. Most importantly, there is no intent to injure. The elbow in no way flies out and Rome’s shoulder makes contact with Horton’s head because Horton is admiring his pass while smack dab in the middle of the ice.

The hit isn’t pretty but it is nowhere near some of the worst hits we have seen recently in the NHL. Intent to injure with a hit to the head has been a major issue in the NHL, with a terrible amount of inconsistency regarding the handing out of suspensions.

Aaron Rome isn’t one to dish out dirty hits and this wasn’t intended to be one. Rome has been on the receiving end of a couple of big hits in recent memory and has suffered a concussion because of it. Rome’s agent said yesterday that “Aaron told me he was sad to see Horton lying on the ice because he’s been that guy twice within the year and would never intend to injure another player. He hopes Horton is OK and is sorry.” Rome also texted Horton today telling him that it was never his intention to hurt him.

Aaron Rome on contact with Nathan Horton

Now the fact that Rome apologized shouldn’t be a factor in the decision-making process either but it’s a gesture that most likely shows there wasn’t any malicious intent. The replay of the hit shows that too.

There have been too many instances over the past couple of years where players have been on the receiving end of very dirty hits but were not injured. The players who dished out the dirty hits have constantly avoided a suspension of considerable length in large part because their victim was not injured.

It doesn’t make any sense. It doesn’t make any sense that the statement given by Mike Murphy (who has taken over for Colin Campbell temporarily) includes the reasoning that the length of the suspension was determined because it caused significant injury.

The action should define the suspension not the result.

You can “dig” through the archives from a month ago and remember Raffi Torres’ filthy hit on Brent Seabrook. Torres got 2 minutes for interference and avoided suspension. That hit was from the blind side, he was gunning for his head but Seabrook got up and continued to play.

Related: Throw the Book at Torres

The issue here is that if Seabrook had lain motionless in a similar fashion to Nathan Horton than we no doubt would have seen a suspension given to Raffi Torres. It is completely illogical that the same action can result in a different penalty based on the injury of the victim.

The NHL isn’t alone in their ill-fated logic but I guess this is all a part of their endless display of contradictory messages. Contradictory message #243 — Hit but don’t hurt.

There are at least a dozen hits that immediately come to mind that are much worse than the hit by Aaron Rome. Steckel on Crosby, Kunitz on Gagne, Downie on Lovejoy, Downie on McAmmond, Cooke on Savard, Cooke on Mcdonagh, Cooke on Tyutin and well Cooke on pretty much everyone. Listing everyone is pointless because there are just so many but you get the idea.

The city of Montreal wanted blood for all the wrong reasons when Zdeno Chara accidentally nailed Max Paciroetty into the stanchion. Boston fans want blood for what Aaron Rome did. They want blood for the wrong reason.

Aaron Rome is now out for the rest of the Stanley Cup Final and all because his hit caused “significant injury.”

Related: NHL Head Shots

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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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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