This Week In The 'Drome: Marty McFly, Mayor McCheese, stopping streaks, TSU's peaks and all the snurdiness you've come to love.
Feb. 27 vs. The 16th Thursday of the Season vs. July 31 vs. The Tuesday Following Week 6: Without a doubt, the NHL's trade deadline is the most interesting of the four major sports.
Did you even know the NFL allowed in-season trades? Probably not, because rarely is anyone anybody's ever heard of dealt during the year. Outside of the notable Herschel Walker and Eric Dickerson deals in the 80s, the most exciting in-season swap in recent memory was when the Pats sent Randy Moss to the Vikings for a pick. Of course, Moss ended up with the Titans a few weeks later in what would be the rancid icing on his career.
Deadline deals in the NBA are also reasonably rare and the Association's collective-bargaining agreement is so arcane (please, someone explain the Bird Exception and how it differs from the Early Bird Exception) and with a salary cap more relaxed than your dad's jeans at Thanksgiving, it's impossible to figure out the fiduciary implications of a trade without an accounting degree and a slide rule.
Baseball can make a case as having an exciting deadline day, but by the end of July, so few teams are in playoff contention, there is little balance between buyers and sellers. Without a cap of any kind, the only questions for MLB GMs is, "What do we need and who do we have to give up?"
Meanwhile, the NHL's playoff races last until the vinegar strokes, and the six-weeks-out deadline is perfectly timed for teams looking for those final pesky pieces of the puzzle. A hard cap and a hard floor add an extra element of engineering. Unfortunately, the three-point game in the NHL has created a false economy, where nearly every team thinks they can potentially be contenders. According to one reasonably well-respected metric, 22 teams have a better than 10 percent chance of making the playoffs, leaving just eight bona fide sellers — and one of those is the suddenly surging Anaheim Ducks, whose tear through 2012 has folks in The Town That Mickey Built feeling goofy with hope.
For weeks, trade speculation swirled around Edmonton and Carolina, but those teams have both made signings taking their attractive pieces off the table. The Hurricanes' annual 30-point man Tuomo Ruutu — of all people — was a coveted forward, but a recent injury chilled the chatter.
With rumors abounding Blue Jackets superstar Rick Nash might be on the move, the NHL might be saved from another boring deadline day — feel free to watch 10 hours of coverage on NHL Network, unless you are a U-verse customer.
From a local standpoint, it might be hard for Predators GM David Poile to find that elusive top-six forward and sturdy blueliner pretty much everyone agrees the Predators need to be a legit contender. ("Pretty much everyone" does not include Preds' radio man Tom Callahan, who deftly lowers expectations of any move here.) And the NHL Deadline Day might continue to slouch towards irrelevance like its brethren.
The Week Behind
Technically, Disappearing Is Magical: It's the time of year when Vanderbilt needs to figure out how to play "Johnny B. Goode" tout de suite, because if they don't, they'll keep fading out of relevance like Marty McFly.
Maybe it was the Enchantment Under The Sea-level excitement that was the rare visit from ESPN GameDay, but the Commodores started slowly, got it together and then, as they have all too many times this season, retreated into the background against Kentucky, as the No. 1 Wildcats left Memorial Gym still unvanquished in conference play.
The game, of course, was not devoid of controversy. Did Steve Tchiengang really punch a guy? Did Kentucky take advantage of a slow shot clock to hit a crucial late-game bucket (go here and scroll through the tick-tock to 1:52 in the second half; UK held the ball 39 seconds — four seconds too long)?
While certainly the 'Dores had their chances, they also fell victim to the same late-game woes (4:10 without a score at the end of the game) that have plagued them all year. With two weeks left in February, Kevin Stallings' team lacks a signature in-conference win (Thursday's shellacking of Ole Miss was a resounding thump signaling, perhaps, Vandy isn't quite ready to disappear completely) — and with their last best chance coming at Rupp Arena, they'll need some high-level intervention on the level of Marvin Berry calling his cousin Chuck to clue him in on this whole rock 'n' roll thing.
Skidding To A Stop: The Predators' post-All-Star Break skid wasn't too bad, so far as slumps go. In six games, the team went 2-2-2, with two losses in the shootout. The shootout basically being little more than crapshoot — the geeky analysis backing up that statement is here — Nashville was two coin flips away from winning four of six.
After a game Saturday in Boston when the team essentially stole a point from the Stanley Cup champion Bruins and Tim Thomas, their puck-stopping, Facebook-posting Patrick Henry Between The Pipes, they returned home for a Tuesday game against the Blackhawks, who are on a genuine losing streak — having not won since Jan. 20.
It was not any prettier an effort in Nashville than it was in Boston, but something clicked nonetheless. Barry Trotz's oft-quoted stratagem of "moving their cheese" worked, at least for Ryan Ellis.
The diminutive defenseman won nearly every thing he could in junior hockey and is treated by Canadians with a level of adoration they typically reserve for Degrassi bit players. And indeed, he'd fit in well in Nashville, but Trotz was becoming concerned with his risk-taking and scratched him for the Boston game.
Ellis returned against Chicago with a goal and an assist. Trotz admitted — tongue perhaps lodged firmly in cheek — that benching guys is his prime motivation tool. If it works for everyone else as well as it worked for Ellis, everyone may get a stint on press box patrol.
Garbage Time: Can you coordinate offense and/or coach running backs or offensive tackles? If so, just show up to the first day of MTSU spring practice and you might get a job. ... In men's hoops, MTSU clinched the Sun Belt's Eastern Division. ... LaVelle Hawkins will remain a Titan. So that crucial third-slash-fourth wide receiver question has been answered. ... The Sounds will have a veritable chunk of their games broadcast on 102.5 this summer. That's a half-mile better than the ESPN Radio programming that's usually in the after-hours. ... The OVC announced its post-expansion divisional alignment. ... Vandy opens its campaign to return to Omaha for the College World Series with three games at Stanford.
The Mind Boggles: What did David Lipscomb star Jordan Burgason — the nation's top three-point shooter — do to get dismissed not just from the team, but indeed from the school? Dancing? Touching? Spelling "Bison" correctly?
We may never know. What we do know, from Burgason's Twitter feed, is that the big guy took it in stride: Joking, presumably before he found out he got drummed out of school, that he was playing intramurals and treating the whole affair with the insouciance of youth.
We hardly knew ye, Jordan, but we miss you already. #muchlove
Here's One For The Grandkids: Even as Zack Bennett continues his effort to document out-of-town 10-gallon aficionados, comes this gem from the Calgary Sun. As part of a series naming the Flames' all-time team, Predators color analyst Terry Crisp is featured as the only man who brought Lord Stanley to Alberta's Finest City. Really, the cowboy hat is worth the click.
The Week Ahead
Smashing Slippers: As I write in this week's dead-tree, after TSU's big win at Murray, Coach John Cooper is proving he has the Tigers on the right track.
TSU ends the regular season in a big way. First up, a weekend trip to Oxford, Ohio to take on Miami (of Ohio, obviously), in ESPN's BracketBuster series. Then, the Racers visit Gentry Center, looking to avenge their lone loss of the year.
So far, the Tigers haven't gone into hangover mode even after their headline-grabbing win, beating Tennessee Tech and Jacksonville State at home. It's a testament to Cooper he's kept his over-achieving team focused. If the Tigers upset Murray a second time, they might just rip the glass slipper right off the Racers' feet.
Worthless Prediction: Always back the hot team. TSU takes both games and rides high into Municipal for the conference tournament.
People Stop Being Polite and Start Getting Real: It's a rare four-game week for the Predators, starting tonight with the tallest task of the season.
The Red Wings haven't lost at home since Nov. 3, a string of 21 wins at Joe Louis Arena that is an NHL record. That stellar mark has Detroit leading the NHL. The Preds will be without Patric Hornqvist as they try to keep their own stellar divisional record — they are 13-2-2 against the Central Division this year — going. The weekend ends with a Sunday evening game in Dallas — the Stars clinging to the last dim glimmer of playoff hopes — before the team returns for another tough pair at home. The Canucks visit Tuesday and the Blues come in Thursday, in what looks to be a preview for an inevitable first-round playoff series.
There's no easy stretches left on the Predators' schedule, but this span is certainly among the toughest.
Worthless Prediction: Someone has to stop the Red Wings' streak, right? Right? If the Preds can snag both home wins and maybe sneak out with three points from the road trip, that 2-2-2 post-All-Star slumplet will be all but forgotten.
If You Love Something, Let It Go: Maryland quarterback Danny O'Brien graduated. O'Brien still had football eligibility left and had a chance to play and go to grad school. Terps coach Randy Edsall begrudgingly granted O'Brien his release, with a caveat — he could go anywhere he wanted, as long as it wasn't elsewhere in the ACC ... or Vanderbilt.
Vandy, where former Maryland coach-in-waiting James Franklin is making splashes. Vandy, too, which has as top-flight a grad school as you'll find.
Edsall is being rightly pilloried — in an extended nautical metaphor which would turn Phil Bredesen the color of his famous vest with envy, WaPo columnist Sally Jenkins dubbed Edsall the "Chief Petty Officer," a turn of phrase so clever, this Navy man stood and applauded.
It is a decision motivated only by ego. Edsall's choice had nothing to do with the good of the program, nor did he have O'Brien's best interest at heart. Edsall didn't want to grab hold of his toy and not let anyone else play with it; he just wanted to deny Franklin his chance. And in doing so, he's denied O'Brien his.
Edsall is not the cliched scorned lover — "If I can't have you, no one can" — but he is a child, using a college kid as a pawn in a silly little power play which accomplishes absolutely nothing, except to expose him as a snivelly jerk. A snivelly jerk whose football team was 2-10, by the way.
And we'll have our conversations about commitment — Edsall said O'Brien was not "all in" at Maryland, not committed. Of course, since football scholarships are one year grants-in-aid, Edsall himself could have yanked O'Brien's scholarship at any time with no repercussions, if he was that committed that his signal-caller wasn't. We'll have high-level conversations about mercenary coaches and players who don't play out their contracts and what athletes "owe" teams and fans.
And meanwhile, O'Brien — who could have had a free Vanderbilt education — will work to graduate in May and hope he can find a team connected to a school with his program of choice.
And Edsall, presumably, gets to feel good about sticking it to Franklin. Hope he feels good about himself.
Think I'm too snurdy? E-mail me at jrlind[at]nashvillescene[dot]com. And listen between 4-5 p.m. every Tuesday as I join Willy Daunic and Joe Dubin on 102.5's Sports Revolution. I might just talk snurdy on the radio.