As we brace for yet another winter storm (personal foul for piling on, Mother Nature) there are a flurry of sports-related thoughts running through my head.
Here are five thoughts/observations while waiting for the latest snow emergency:
1. Shaq Attack -- Big win for the Celtics in Los Angeles. However, there was one ominous sign from Southern California: Shaq's temper tantrum directed at Glen Davis after the Big Fella didn't get the basketball. O'Neal didn't talk to reporters after the game, and his behavior bears watching with Kendrick Perkins back. Yesterday, was the first time that O'Neal was not on his best behavior and put his personal agenda (sticking it to Kobe Bryant) ahead of the team's goals and game plan. Hopefully, it's the last time.
But there's a reason that the last couple of coaches Shaq has had in Phoenix and Cleveland were not sorry to see him exit. O'Neal has been a Bill Walton-esque boon to the Celtics' championship chase, but his personality, accomplishments and ego might ultimately prove too large to play the role of role player.
2. Logan's run -- Here is what you have to understand about Patriots guard Logan Mankins: He is more about principle than principal. If that weren't the case then Mankins simply would have signed his restricted free agent tender back in June for more than $3.2 million before it got slashed to $1.54 million, and he wouldn't have forfeited a substantial sum of that by sitting out the first eight weeks of the season. So, when he tells the Boston Herald he would not be happy to be franchised by the Patriots, he means it.
Mankins is from a tiny, bucolic California community called Catheys Valley, near Yosemite National Park. He grew up in the ranching world, where a man's word is just as meaningful to doing business as any check amount.
Back in October, when Mankins was still a holdout, friends of his from back home said Mankins was the type of guy who would walk away from football for a season rather than sign an unfair deal. "He's the type of guy who is perfectly happy on a ranch riding and doing those things that make him happy," said Trace DeSandres, a friend of Mankins and his former basketball coach. Mankins has already chastised the team once for not honoring its word. Don't be surprised if the franchise tag results in another protracted standoff between Mankins and the team.
3. Choosing sides -- My opinion on the NHL All-Star Game's new schoolyard pick'em format has not changed after the game. It's a vacuous gimmick that will soon grow tiresome. If you're not a hardcore hockey fan you have to keep checking to see who is on what team, and in truth I'm sure even some devoted puck heads had to go back and double-check the rosters once or twice to recall who was skating for Team Staal or Team Lidstrom.
The NHL has a great game with the greatest players in the world, and the bright minds in the league office have come up with some innovative ideas to showcase their sport, most notably the Winter Classic. This isn't one of them. I nominate it for worst sports idea of the year, along with the Big Ten naming its two divisions Legends and Leaders. Most All-Star games by definition are needless exhibitions (hello, Pro Bowl), but this adds a sideshow to a needless exhibition. On the plus side, I'm sure the NHL reeled in "Twilight" fans who loved the concept of Team Edward against Team Jacob.
4. Welcome back -- What a week for Bruins fans to skate down Black and Gold memory lane. Both former Calder Trophy-winning netminder Andrew Raycroft and erstwhile franchise forward Joe Thornton are back in town this week. The Razor, who is the No. 2 netminder for Dallas, and the Stars are here Thursday and Joe Cool and the Sharks take the ice on Saturday. Wonder if there will be any "Thank you, Raycroft" chants emanating from the Spoked-Believers? In a heist, the Bruins sent Raycroft to the Maple Leafs in a draft-day deal to obtain Tuukka Rask.
Tim Thomas's stellar play has relegated Rask to a reserve role, but he's still the goalie of the future. With the season Thomas is having, the fact he turns 37 in April and his $5 million-per-year price tag over the next two seasons, it might make sense for the Bruins to peddle Thomas in the off-season. But only because they have Rask in waiting.
5. Call to action -- Speaking of those infamous "Thank you, Kessel" calls, they seem to have quieted down, as has the play of the man (if it's fair to refer to a 19-year-old as such) who inspired them, Tyler Seguin. So far Seguin's rookie campaign has been closer to Kessel's than the 46-point production of Steven Stamkos. Seguin has 16 points (7 goals and 9 assists) in 48 games. He has three goals since Dec. 1. That pace of production projected over the final 32 games of the season would put him at 12 goals and 16 assists. The player to whom Seguin was compared in this past draft, Taylor Hall, has 16 goals and 15 assists right now.
If there is any silver lining to the unfortunate concussion-caused hiatus of Marc Savard it's that it could provide an opportunity for Seguin to show signs of being the franchise forward the Bruins desperately need him to be. Seguin is as close to a sure thing as you can get in a draft, but a little reassurance would be nice considering the Bruins' record with plucking franchise forwards out of the top 10 in the last 13 years.
Thornton was No. 1 in 1997 and Sergei Samsonov was No. 8 the same year. The two won just one playoff series skating in the Spoked-B. At least Samsonov netted the draft pick that became Milan Lucic. Kessel (No. 5 in 2006) is in Toronto and Zach Hamill (No. 8 in 2007) is in the AHL. Seguin needs to break the cycle.
...That's what the Patriots have when it comes to picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, which starts Thursday. After all those years of stockpiling picks the way a survivalist does non-perishables the Patriots have just five picks in this year's draft, thanks to Band-aid trades for Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco and Aqib Talib. Five picks would be the fewest draft picks in franchise history. (Part of that is attributable to the trimming of the draft to just seven rounds in 1994). Further complicating matters is that two of the Patriots' greatest needs are at wide receiver and cornerback, positions where they have sustained draft droughts. With that in mind, I'm convinced the Patriots are going trade back out of the first round of a quanity-over-quality draft where you're just as likely to pick a Pro Bowl player in the second and third round as you are in the first round.