-I wrote most of what I wanted to say about the Penguins’ collapse last week – it all still holds, the offseason emphasis HAS to be on upgrading defensively. They can remain an explosive team while playing solid defense – scary to think that they averaged over four goals per game and STILL lost in six games. The offense is there, no need to blow up the core, and no reason to panic – but adjustments to the roster are definitely in order.
-Every April I am forced to re-learn a lesson I seem to forget every March – NHL playoff seedings are MEANINGLESS. As of Tuesday the top seed in the West is out, the top two seeds in the East are facing Game Sevens, while Florida is leading their series, they went into the series as an underdog to #6 seed New Jersey. The bottom line: make the playoffs, and literally ANYTHING is possible – the regular season isn’t quite meaningless, but it certainly doesn’t have a lot of predictive power in this sport.
-Last note on the NHL – the Flyers are my favorite now to come out of the East, and if the Rangers and Bruins both drop their Game Sevens, Philly becomes a prohibitive favorite. New York is ‘kryptonite’ to the Flyers, but every other team will have problems matching the Flyers’ scoring depth. As long as Bryzgalov doesn’t implode in goal, the Flyers have a chance to play in June.
-On to baseball – I’ll have a first-quarter review coming in a few weeks, but early on my Pirate and Phillie predictions look spot-on…both teams have pitched very well, and much of that has been wasted because both offenses are inept. Pittsburgh has allowed only 44 runs, the fewest in ALL OF BASEBALL – yet they are only 6-9, because they have scored 30 runs in 15 games! They are 18 runs behind the next offense, and while they will eventually hit better than this – it’s just about impossible to hit worse – they have a chance to be the worst offense in baseball this year. The pitching will eventually crack, the bats HAVE to pick up some of the slack.
Philly hasn’t fared much better – they are next-to-last in offense with 48 runs scored, and the injuries to Ryan Howard and Chase Utley indicate this team will struggle for runs much of the season. Cliff Lee has hit the DL, which will put even more pressure on Halladay and Hamels to carry this team through the next two months. I strongly believe Philly’s stranglehold on the NL East ends this season.
-In the AL, there’s still a lot to sort out…but Boston has allowed 100 runs in only 15 games! They still have a fantastic offense, but if they cannot get their pitching sorted out they could well be looking at a losing season in Beantown.
-In the world of golf, the Masters was amazing for two reasons: Bubba Watson and Tiger Woods. Watson pulled off an incredible comeback, capped by the best pressure shot I’ve ever seen – the 150-yard wedge from the forest. His self-taught swing and good-guy reputation stand in stark contrast these days to Woods, who may be reclaiming his game but certainly not any semblance of decorum or common sense. I’ve long admired Tiger’s game and find golf to be must-see TV when he’s contending, but more and more I’m put off by his arrogance and his temper tantrums. Spitting on the course or slamming a club is bad enough, but to actually drop-kick a club after a bad shot – on national TV, at the biggest tournament in the world? Ridiculous. And his pseudo-apology afterward was even worse in my mind. It’s becoming clear that Tiger has been so isolated from reality now that he simply doesn’t care what people think, he will do what he wants to do and consequences be damned. This attitude has cost him his marriage, at least two coaches, a trusted caddie, and TONS of goodwill. I’ll still watch because I admire the talent – but I cannot honestly say I’m still rooting for him.
Finally, the NFL Draft – I’m not Mel Kiper and I am not going to analyze every team’s needs, but I will take a look at what the Steelers need – they need linemen, linebackers, and a running back. They have addressed the defensive line the past two drafts, but they need to pick up at least one more piece – a massive nose tackle to eventually replace Casey Hampton. No need to reach in the first round if there’s no fit, but this year or next this need must be dealt with.
On the O-line, they desperately need a guard and adding another tackle seems prudent – last season they ignored veteran Max Starks until they were out of options, and clearly that didn’t work out for the team very well. Injuries are a given on the line, and the Steelers have done a poor job building depth at the position. Running back isn’t a pressing need, but with Rashard Mendenhall out they could use a good change-of-pace back. Taking a RB in the top two rounds seems like a poor use of the pick given how many successful backs have been drafted late or gone undrafted (Willie Parker and Arian Foster are prominent examples).
The biggest need, however, is at inside linebacker, with the release of James Farrior. I think the conventional wisdom is the correct wisdom in this case – most draftniks have the Steelers taking Alabama’s Don’t’a Hightower, and I think he would be an excellent selection and solidify the Steeler LB corps for years to come. If Hightower is still there when the Steelers pick, they would be wise to take him. They can then look to their lines and their backfield in the later rounds.
Dave Glass can be reached at email@example.com.