A Fan of the Game

Sports Talk, Straight Talk

Virginia Tech demoralizes a nation. The Hokie Nation.

Nathan (Michigan) and my (Virginia Tech) college teams finally have something in common — they are the only ranked teams to lose to an FCS school.

Unbelievable.

I started to worry furing the first quarter against James Madison when the score wasn’t 21-0, and it all went downhill from there.

Coming into this season, every Hokie fan knew we had a lot to replace on defense, but the problems are far greater than anyone imagined. Even the most fundamental part of defense — tackling — is difficult for them.

Where do these players get off thinking they can just push people and they will go down? Why is it so hard to wrap up a player and bring them down?

Linebacker Bruce Taylor has already started making excuses saying practice tackling doesn’t equal game-speed tackling. Of course it doesn’t, but why don’t you start using proper technique and it won’t be a problem — especially against a second-rate opponent in JMU.

The Hokies are being featured in a "How Not To Tackle" DVD.

Jeron Gouveia-Winslow is struggling mightily in Cody Grimm’s old spot.

So, how much blame should be put on Bud Foster for the defense? About 50%. Allowing 33 points against Boise, then 21 against JMU should never happen under Foster. I could be giving him too much credit, but I think his schemes alone can limit teams to 15 points.

As for the absurdly bad offense, it’s time for a change. Bryan Stinespring has got to be in the bottom five for worst offensive coordinator in college football. With so much talent, how can Tech put up 16 points last week?

Tyrod is scrambling way too much. Every play he is rolling out of the pocket. Why? He is a good passer, and he used to have great chemistry with Danny Coale. I think I’ve seen Coale catch a handful of passes this year.

You’ve also got Ryan Williams, Darren Evans and David Wilson in the backfield, the latter of which is already saying he regrets not redshirting. The Hokies don’t need any more drama.

I could go on forever about the offense, but I’ll stop.

Last but not least, Frank Beamer. He’s now 1-26, I believe, against top-five teams. And now he’s lost to a FCS opponent. It’s time to start looking for a replacement now.

But the last thing we need is a Bobby Bowden or Joe Paterno situation. Just because Beamer has gotten Tech on the map and a household name in college football doesn’t grant him an automatic 10 more years of mediocrity.

Clearly whatever he says to the team before big games fails. It’s like a broken record — a big game involving Tech? Put all your money on the Hokies losing. It sucks to even say that, but it’s true.

Everyone seems Bud Foster is the easy pick to step up. I’m not sure if that’s the right pick. I’d be worried about a Norv Turner situation — great coordinator, bad coach. Foster’s enthusiasm is unquestioned, though, and it just might be what all the Hokies need to hear.

Whatever the case, something needs to change now.

–Ray

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September 15, 2010 Posted by | Football | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fishing for Fins: Sharks add Niemi

Sharks fans everywhere scoffed at acquiring Antti Niemi throughout the summer and they all were forced to eat crow Sept. 2 when the Sharks officially announced the signing of the Finnish goalie.

San Jose now boasts a goaltending tandem of also Fin, Antero Niittymaki and Niemi as opposed to last year’s twosome of Evgeni Nabokov and Thomas Greiss.

But you won’t see any partying in the streets. Reaction everywhere on Sharks forums is negative and pessimistic. Of course, being a Sharks fan, the only thing you know is bad luck and seeing the glass half empty.

Niemi signed a one-year, $2 million contract with the Sharks

Playoff Proven

The addition of a Stanley Cup-winning goalie is an upgrade over Niittymaki first and foremost. You can argue technique and positioning all day, but Niemi has shown he can make the big saves when called upon.

Niittymaki has only played in two NHL playoff games and looked awful (.828 save percentage, five goals against in 73 minutes). That isn’t a big enough sample size to judge him on playoff play, but it puts him in the same boat as Thomas Greiss.

Previous all-star Nabokov was an OK playoff performer (.907 save %, 2.56 GAA), but couldn’t steal enough games by himself to bring his team to the promise land. Some fans have even dared to bring up how good he is in the regular season. Are you kidding me? Every Sharks fan should know by now how much the regular season means.

But didn’t Niemi have a great defense?

The biggest argument against Niemi and his Stanley Cup ring is that he had a spectacular defense in front of him. That’s very true, and playing for the Sharks will be a completely different experience.

However, we don’t truly know how that defense affected Niemi’s psyche. Maybe knowing he had a defense in front of him, he didn’t play up to his potential and relied on the defense to clear out his gigantic rebounds. Now backstopping an average defense in San Jose could spark him to step up his game to higher level.

Pure speculation but it’s something to think about.

Lame Argument

Niittymaki supporters like to mention that “when he’s on, he’s unstoppable.” This is an argument I love to hate. When any goalie is “on” they can be unstoppable. And if you have to use that argument at all in the first place, it means the goalie is inconsistent.

I wonder if Niitty is "on" in this picture.

The puzzle is still incomplete

One odd reaction to the Niemi addition is that people seem to think this is the roster the Sharks will enter the season with — three NHL starting goalies on one team with another star prospect (Alex Stalock) in the minors.

There is no way this team stays the way it is now. I think some trade will happen before the season starts — probably involving Greiss — to acquire a defenseman.

Ryane Clowe is a name that’s been thrown around numerous times for a package deal to bring in a top-4 defenseman. Something does have to be done about the defense, it doesn’t matter if Patrick Roy were the Sharks goalie, the defense has to improve.

San Jose lacks a shutdown pair, and unfortunately, Huskins-Wallin just won’t cut it (haha).

I’m not a fan of the Dan Boyle-Douglas Murray pair, just because I’m not a Murray fan. I think he’s a pylon who’s only good for one big hit a game. He was terrible in the playoffs, always being a step behind the play and leaving a man open.

There’s been rumors of the Sharks trading Greiss + other assets to Philadelphia for Braydon Coburn, and other whisperings of a potential offer sheet for Rangers restricted free agent Marc Staal.

"Jesus" Greiss' days may be numbered in San Jose

Either would be an upgrade over Murray, but those may be forever pipe dreams.

Sharks GM Doug Wilson must know the defense needs an upgrade, so I wouldn’t fret about the Sharks defense as it is now. It will change — hopefully sooner than later.

-Ray

September 4, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment