Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Armstrong Axed; Hull Hired?

With the lead story in yesterday’s blog being the chaos in Stars land, it certainly comes as little surprise that the Stars have made a significant move, firing their GM Doug Armstrong. You almost never see an in-season GM change, and you also wonder what sort of impact that will have on the team in the immediate future.

If you ask me, the inactivity in the last two summers is not about Doug Armstrong playing golf as opposed to courting free agents, it is the fact that the ownership group has stopped being aggressive to invest large contracts to impact players. Instead, a steady diet of 1-year deals to Lindros, Barnaby, Fedourek, and Winchester did not save a sinking ship. What a shock. Did Army deserve his fate? Given his drafts and the Turco deal, I suppose. But until this owner demonstrates a real commitment to winning in the post-Arod era, both his hockey and baseball teams will continue to barely exist above the irrelevant line.

Then, you hear that the job is being handed to Les Jackson and Brett Hull. One has helped over-see all of the drafts that put this team in the bad spot it is today, and the other is the “Ambassador of Fun”.

This may work, I wouldn’t bet on it, but I suppose we have no other choice but to hope. But, wow, is it going to get ripped in the meantime by the NHL media. Co-General Managers? Why not Co-Coaches? Crazy.

Next thing you know, they will tell us Kenny Rogers is their off-season target in Rangers land.

Another Tom Hicks Sports Production.

Lebreton’s take

Lousy drafting. An aging roster. Ineffective free-agent signings. First-round playoff failures.

And, amidst the growing number of empty seats at American Airlines Center, the general feeling that the NHL parade was passing the Stars by.

So, owner Tom Hicks went with the whisk broom and the handshake Tuesday, rather than the thunder and the bulldozer.

He fired general manager Doug Armstrong and said, "I think our players will respond to a change."

That's it?

Same coach? Same goaltender? Same guy who hired Armstrong?

Add to that the announcement that Brett Hull was being transferred from the golf course to the interim co-general manager's office, and it was an odd day at Stars Inc.

Would somebody please explain it to me?

I'm wondering what, exactly, does an "interim co-general manager" do? Make trades? Harvest the locker room gossip? Draft the next Sidney Crosby?

Why, after three straight quick playoff exits and after this season's disappointing start, fire the general manager and not head coach Dave Tippett?

"Because that's not the way I work," owner Hicks answered. "I'm a chain of command guy."

Hicks might have wanted to fire Tippett, in other words, but he couldn't get anyone in the room to second the motion.

I'm only kidding. I think.
The new co-GMs like Tippett. The players like Tippett. The head coach, the excuse says, can only coach what the general manager gives him.

That's been true, though, every season that Tippett has been here. And he still hasn't figured out how to get out of the first round of the playoffs.

Fans are frustrated. Empty seats are cropping up. The casual fan doesn't identify with this team. No Hull, no Joe Nieuwendyk, no Jamie Langenbrunner. Where did all the Finns and Swedes come from?

Thus, Doug Armstrong, loyal employee for 17 years, departed with a handshake Tuesday afternoon.

The job, frankly, called for a bulldozer.


The Stars are a poorly constructed hockey team. And even at that, they don't play up to their skill level. A 7-7-3 record is embarrassing, given the nature of the sport's overtime rules. In the NHL, if you're .500, you are below average.

The Stars are a dull team that has continued to lose its audience in recent years. You can see sellout attendance totals in the box scores (some nights), but go to a game and look around at the empty seats, especially in the suites.

The Mavericks are the hot indoor ticket. Stars fans, despite all those cute billboards, have been left out in the cold by the team's management.

Armstrong's first move as GM delivered a Stanley Cup.

To New Jersey.

It was hard to figure out trading Joe Nieuwendyk and Jamie Langenbrunner for Jason Arnott and Randy McKay back then. It remains so now.

He basically closed his tenure with a desperate and failed plan for postseason success. That brought Mattias Norstrom to town for more than $4 million this season.

It brought Ladislav Nagy to town for a few weeks and, if you blinked, you missed his contribution.

For that, Armstrong squandered this year's No. 1 pick and next year's.


Staff writer Mike Heika ranks Doug Armstrong's moves:

•Sept. 30, 2006: Mike Ribeiro from Montreal for Janne Niinimaa

•Dec. 12, 2005: Niklas Hagman from Florida for a seventh-round draft pick

•March 9, 2006: Willie Mitchell and a second-round draft pick from Minnesota for Martin Skoula and Shawn Belle


•March 19, 2002: Jason Arnott, Randy McKay and a first-round draft pick from New Jersey for Joe Nieuwendyk and Jamie Langenbrunner

•Feb. 12, 2007: Ladislav Nagy from Phoenix for Mathias Tjarnqvist and a first-round draft pick

•July 22, 2003: Teppo Numminen and second-round draft pick from Phoenix for Darryl Sydor (who went to Columbus in a three-way trade)

To football, Rick Gosselin sums up the league these days

I spent 13 seasons covering the Kansas City Chiefs from 1977 to '89 and witnessed just one playoff game – a blowout loss to the New York Jets.

It was a remarkable run of ineptness by the Chiefs. I saw so much bad football. But there was one positive. Bad teams aren't attractive to the television networks, so the Chiefs were rarely scheduled any prime-time games. That meant I was covering a game with a noon (CT) starting time just about every Sunday – so I was always home for Sunday dinner.

I bring all this up because for the first time this season, the Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts play a noon home game Sunday, ironically, against the Chiefs.
NFL teams become national television regulars for one of three reasons – either they have a franchise quarterback, play a dominating style of football or call a major media market home.

The Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers owned that trifecta in the 1990s, and the New England Patriots are the network darling this decade for those same reasons. The Indianapolis Colts have two of the three, lacking only the market size.

Indianapolis has Peyton Manning, New England has Tom Brady and both franchises have claimed Lombardi Trophies this decade. The TV networks can schedule the Colts and Patriots national television dates in the spring with full confidence that the two AFC powers will deliver a quality show come the fall.

Indianapolis was scheduled five games in prime time this season and four others in that choice late-Sunday afternoon time slot that also affords national television coverage.

Buffalo rookie running back Marshawn Lynch appears to be ready for prime time, but the Bills aren't – at least in the eyes of the TV networks.

The Colts opened the season at home against New Orleans on a Thursday night, then played three consecutive late-afternoon doubleheader games at the RCA Dome against Denver, Tampa Bay and New England. Indianapolis was scheduled only seven noon starts in 16 games this season.

The Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars have none of the three key elements that make them attractive to the networks. That's why the NFL scheduled the Bills for 14 noon starts and the Jaguars 13 this season.

The more noon starts your team plays, the less regard it is held in the eyes of both the TV networks and the league. Thirteen years covering the Chiefs taught me that.
Now, let's take a spin around the league. The way I figure it, there are five elite teams (New England, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Dallas and Green Bay) and five doormats (Miami, St. Louis, Atlanta, Oakland and San Francisco). That leaves 22 teams that are about the same. All have .500 talent. Some will stay healthy and finish in the 9-7 range. Some will suffer injuries and finish in the 7-9 range.

There's not much difference between the team I place 12 each week in my rankings and the team I place 22. It's called parity.

More evidence that the Cowboys are the top dog

You might not call them "America's Team," your friends might not call them "America's Team" and maybe not a single person you know would call them "America's Team," but make no mistake, the Dallas Cowboys are clearly "America's Team."

How do we know this? Follow the money.

According to a Harris Poll last month, the Cowboys are No. 1 among adults who follow professional football. (The Colts, Steelers, Packers and Bears follow).

And you thought the Patriots were America's Team? What have they done lately, besides win three Super Bowls in the last six years and go undefeated so far this season? (Yes, the Cowboys haven't won a Super Bowl since 1996).

But this "America's Team" thing, it's all about the ka-ching.

The NFL Shop, which is the NFL's online merchandise store, lists the Cowboys first in memorabilia sales, ahead of the Bears and the Steelers.

The No. 9 jersey of Cowboy quarterback Tony Romo is the top-selling jersey this year.

If you don't believe the cash register, maybe you'll believe your eyeballs. When you take the five most-watched regular season games on television in the last 20 years, the Cowboys played in four of them.

JJT wants to know about Flozell’s future

At the end of the season, Jerry Jones will have to make one of the most difficult decisions he’s had in years: Pay Flozell Adams or let him go.

At the start of the season, the answer — based on the organization’s actions — seemed clear.

The Cowboys, who have had no contract discussions with Adams’ representative, appeared inclined to let him leave through free agency and let Pat McQuistan, James Marten and Doug Free battle for the job, with Leonard Davis available as a fallback plan.

Adams, though, has played so well over the last few weeks that Dallas needed to rethink things. Based on Jerry Jones’ comments the other day that Adams is in line for a third contract, it seems as though the Cowboys have already made their decision.

Yes, Adams will you drive you crazy with false starts from time to time, but when he’s motivated he remains an excellent player. He’s not Seattle’s Walter Jones or St. Louis’ Orlando Pace, when Pace is healthy, but he’s on the next level.

Quality left tackles are hard to find. There’s no more disconcerting feeling than having a hole at left tackle, which makes your quarterback skittish at all times. With Adams, there’s a comfort level none of those other players would give Romo or the owner.

The problem, of course, is that Adams will be 33 at the start of next season. How much money and how long of a deal is he going to get? You don’t want him to be an albatross on your salary cap five years down the road, when his skills have declined.

Maybe the parties can put together a deal like Terrell Owens’. That would allow Adams to take a shorter deal because he would get larger base salaries instead of simply trying to make the contract cap friendly.

The Mavericks use a big 3rd Quarter to defeat the anonymous 76ers

There was an MVP sighting Tuesday night at American Airlines Center.
Like the Mavericks, Dirk Nowitzki had been playing lukewarm basketball in the season's first two weeks. Then came the second half against Philadelphia, when the Mavericks and their leader clicked on all cylinders, proving they haven't forgotten how that looks and feels.

They started the second half with a 41-20 binge and pulled away for a 99-84 victory over the 76ers. Nowitzki, with plenty of help from Devin Harris, Jason Terry and Josh Howard, put his stamp on the second half as the Mavericks overcame a seven-point halftime deficit.

"He did what he was supposed to do," coach Avery Johnson said. "Boy, he was amazing. Like I've been saying all along, Dirk's a stud. He draws a lot of attention, and the more we can get him to make those passes, and the more we can finish ..."

He didn't have to finish the sentence. The way the Sixers wilted under Nowitzki's onslaught spoke volumes. Nowitzki finished with 21 points, 12 rebounds and a career high-tying eight assists. When the Sixers crowded him on the perimeter, Nowitzki lowered his head and powered to the rim. When the defense drifted to other Mavericks, he sank some mid- range shots and basically looked like a superstar is supposed to look.

It hasn't been that way most of the season. Through the first six games, Nowitzki
was shooting 43.8 percent and just 27.8 percent from 3-point range.

"This team is so good, we don't have to force shots," Nowitzki said. "If somebody's double-teamed, we can always move it. Everytime we take a bad shot, it's a lost possession for us.

High School team tries to put up the rare shutout Season

The Smith Center Redmen ran their winning streak to 52 games Friday night with a 56-0 victory over previously unbeaten Oakley in a Kansas state high school playoff game.
The Redmen, who are seeking their fourth consecutive Class 2-1A title and seventh in the last 25 years, recorded their 11th shutout of the season against the Plainsmen.
“This is really one of those top of the mountain seasons,” Smith Center’s athletic director, Greg Hobelmann, said. “We have a strong senior class.”

Smith Center has outscored its opponents, 760-0, and is on pace to become just the fourth team nationally to have 13 shutouts in a season, according to the National Federation of High School Associations.

The Redmen have a long way to reach the national record of 52 straight shutouts — by Bedford County Training in Shelbyville, Tenn., from 1942 to 1949.

Here is the Smith Center schedule and scores

If you can handle naughty language, The Eli Manning blog is very amusing

The Rangers target Kenny Rogers?????

The Rangers have expressed interest in bringing back pitcher Kenny Rogers, and have also begun their all-out pursuit of free-agent center fielder Torii Hunter.

Rogers is a free agent who was with the Detroit Tigers from 2006-07 but has spent 12 of his 19 years in the Major Leagues with the Rangers over three different tours. He began his career with the Rangers and pitched for them from 1989-95 and again in 2000-2002 and 2004-05.

He won 32 games for the Rangers from 2004-05 and was an All-Star both years, but the club declined to re-sign him after the 2005 season. He was suspended for 20 games for an altercation with television cameramen before a game on June 29, 2005. The suspension was later reduced to 13 games on appeal but ultimately led to a split between the club and player.

Apparently, the split may not be irreparable. Rogers still lives in the North Texas area and has pitched more games for the Rangers than anybody in club history. He is second in club history with 133 wins and 2,308 innings pitched.

"We'd be open to it under the right circumstances," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "Obviously, finances would be a part of it. But I'd only want it to be a positive homecoming."

The Rangers' major priorities this offseason are center field, relief pitching and possibly a corner outfielder or first baseman. But Daniels said the Rangers could look at improving a starting rotation that right now consists of Kevin Millwood, Vicente Padilla, Kason Gabbard, Edinson Volquez and Brandon McCarthy.

"We're looking only at specific guys," Daniels said. "It's not a blanket search."
Rogers, who turned 43 on Saturday, was 17-8 with a 3.84 ERA for the Tigers in 2006 and was selected to the American League All-Star team for the fourth time in his career. But he was limited to 11 starts for the Tigers in 2007 because of surgery to remove a blood clot in his left shoulder. He also had elbow inflammation and finished the season 3-4 with a 4.43 ERA.

Today, scheduled to appear on the show is the great Jeremy Roenick. I have always loved the way he plays hockey. I am likely biased given that he was a young lad in Chicago when I was living nearby, and my top 10 Non-Stanley Cup hockey memories are almost all at Chicago Stadium in the early 1990’s.

Anyway, he is the perfect prototype for the players I love watching. Skill and heart and fight and guts. Love the way he played. Some dude named David Amber rates the top 10 American Born Players ….And since he puts Chris Chelios #5, his list is idiotic.

IF Chelios is not #1, then at the very worst he should be #2. Sorry. It isn’t even close. He is still great at 45. Look at the Cups. Look at the Norris Trophies. Look at the 1st team NHL awards. Look at the NCAA titles. Look at the Olympics. He is the alpha male of American Hockey.

5. Chris Chelios

Born: Jan. 25, 1962 in Chicago

Three years before Sidney Crosby was born, Chris Chelios broke into the NHL. With an NCAA championship at Wisconsin already under his belt, Chelios captured an NHL title with Montreal in 1986. The defenseman is the only player from that 1986 team still in the NHL. It's that unique combination of longevity and greatness that puts Chelios on our list.

Chelios, 45, is the oldest active player in the NHL and the third-oldest to ever play in the league. A self-described fitness freak, Chelios routinely rides a stationary bike for 45 minutes, in a sauna. The 11-time All-Star could play until he's 50 (don't be surprised if he does). The three-time Norris Trophy winner has barely slowed down. Sixteen seasons after winning his first Cup, he led the league in plus/minus and won his second Stanley Cup in 2002 with Detroit.

On the international stage, no one has led his country as often as Chelios. He is a four-time Olympian and was captain of three of those teams. He also played in three Canada Cups and two World Cups.

4. Joe Mullen

Born: Feb. 26, 1957 in New York, N.Y.

No other player on this list defied the odds like Joe Mullen. Born and raised in Manhattan's notorious "Hell's Kitchen," Mullen started skating at age 10. With a father who worked at Madison Square Garden, Mullen was exposed to the game and developed a passion for it. Despite not being heavily recruited to play college hockey, Mullen was awarded a partial scholarship to Boston College, where he quickly emerged as a star.

Every other player on this list was drafted to play professional hockey, and six of them were top-10 overall picks. Mullen, meanwhile, was barely a footnote to pro scouts and GMs and he had to claw his way to the NHL. Undrafted at age 22, he signed a free-agent deal with St. Louis. Two years later, after scoring 25 goals in 45 games, he was in the NHL to stay. Mullen was a key part of some great teams in St. Louis, Calgary and Pittsburgh, and he never missed the playoffs. Mullen's Hall of Fame numbers include 17 NHL seasons, three Stanley Cups and two Lady Byng Trophies, and he was the first American-born player to score 500 goals and collect 1,000 points. If hockey had a "Rudy," his name would be Joe Mullen.

3. Brian Leetch

Born: March 3, 1968 in Corpus Christi, Texas

Brian Leetch was destined to be a star athlete; the only question was in which sport. As a sophomore, Leetch led his Connecticut high school baseball team to a state championship. Baseball scouts were drooling at his 90 mph fastball. Fortunately for the New York Rangers, Leetch choose to follow a career in his true love -- hockey.

After being drafted ninth overall by the Rangers, the defenseman immediately lived up to the hype and drew comparisons to Bobby Orr when he captured the Calder Trophy after a 23-goal season. The awards kept coming because the two-time Norris Trophy winner established himself as one of the game's best defenseman and helped the Rangers end their 54-year Stanley Cup drought in 1994. That team featured Mark Messier and Richter, but it was Leetch who had a team-best 34 points in 23 playoff games and picked up the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.

The nine-time All-Star, who captained the Rangers from 1997-2000, finished his career with five 20-goal seasons and 1,028 points.

2. Mike Modano

Born: June 7, 1970 in Livonia, Mich.

For nearly two decades, Mike Modano has been the heart and soul of Stars hockey. Just three years after being selected first overall by last-place Minnesota at age 17, Modano helped the North Stars reach the Stanley Cup finals. During that playoff run, Modano showed he was destined to be the next great American-born hockey player, tallying 20 points in the postseason. Throughout the 1990s, Modano proved to be one of the game's most gifted offensive players, recording at least 75 points in seven of those 10 seasons. Despite taking incredible abuse on the ice, Modano has been extremely durable, playing at least 75 games in 14 different seasons.

What has been most impressive about Modano is his ability to reinvent his game, never showing complacency, always looking to improve. Despite all of his natural goal-scoring talent, the six-time All-Star developed into one of the NHL's premiere two-way players, an offensive force with the puck and a solid defender without. It was that team-first attitude that helped Modano finally win a Cup in 1999.

1. Pat LaFontaine

Born: Feb. 22, 1965 in St. Louis

There has never been an American-born player as talented as Pat LaFontaine. If it weren't for a head injury that forced LaFontaine to retire at age 33, he could have recorded 600 goals and more than 1,300 points. Consider this: In his only season playing major junior hockey in the Quebec League, he recorded 104 goals and 234 points in just 70 games. That season, he outscored Mario Lemieux and shattered league records set by NHL stars like Mike Bossy and Guy Lafleur.

His prolific scoring continued in the NHL; LaFontaine averaged 48 goals per season from 1987-1993. No other American player has ever had as dominant a stretch as that. Mullen averaged 37 goals per season during his best six-year stretch and Modano topped 38 goals in a season only once. Not blessed with great size, LaFontaine compensated with incredible strength, quickness and playmaking ability. He was the 15th fastest player to reach 1,000 career points (847 games); Roenick (961) and Modano (965) needed at least 100 more games to hit that milestone.

A five-time All-Star and member of the 1996 American World Cup championship team,
LaFontaine holds the single-season record for points by an American (with 148). Known for his gentlemanly play, LaFontaine was smart and fearless as well as courageous, winning the Bill Masterton Trophy in 1995 after returning from a serious knee injury. A series of concussions would prematurely end LaFontaine's career, robbing the game of one its all-time greats.

Roenick 500 (craziest milestone goal ever scored?)

Worst Officiating Job Ever?


Tony said...

BAD Radio Curse?

Poncenomics said...

Tom Hicks = WORST franchise owner in the history of sports.

Yeah, the players will respond to a change in GM. That's what motivates players. Uh-huh.

Jay said...

Ha! I forgot ab the BAD radio curse, I suppose it is live and well!

As far as hockey stuff goes I think this continues to prove that Tom Hicks knee-jerk reacts to the point that he is continually drives his teams into instability and chaos.

Army maybe needed to go but it should have been in the off-season and Hicks should share the blame as he is sending his GM into battle with a pea-shooter.

"Army go build me a championship team, here's a stack of 1 year contracts."

On Norm's show he said the Mavs would be in similar trouble if they don't win this year. I think it's not even close bc with the Mavs you know that Cuban is doing everything he can to build a winning team, with Hicks you get the feeling that the bottom line is all he cares ab and who wants to be a fan of that product?

Jonathan said...

Hicks sidenote: Tom Hicks may be selling his share in Liverpool FC to move to Italian soccer.

Maybe this is why Liverpool have played well the past few weeks.