Thursday, September 25, 2008

Hockey Season

Since we will be out at Stars Training Camp today for the show, I thought that leading with hockey was appropriate.

Brad Richards and Jere Lehtinen are both booked for the 1:00 hour today...

The Stars are pretty darn solid this year entering camp, and they are worrying about issues like who is the last guy to make the team?

B.J. Crombeen has taken advantage of his opportunities during the Dallas Stars' training camp.

That puts James Neal on the bubble.

Crombeen, 23, and Neal, 21, are among the forwards trying to snag what appears to be one last spot on the Stars' opening day roster. And while Ray Sawada, 23, Chris Conner, 25, and Landon Wilson, 33, have similar designs on the job, Crombeen and Neal are clearly taking the lead.

Neal started the race with a strong performance in an eight-team prospects tournament in Michigan a week ago. Neal had four goals and five assists in four games, and led the Stars to the championship.

Crombeen answered with impressive play and a couple of goals in two weekend scrimmages, and he added to that Wednesday with a dominant performance in a 60-minute scrimmage that was probably the most intense of camp.

Crombeen scored three goals and was on the ice for all five of his team's scores. He and center Steve Ott combined on a line that was difficult to miss.

"We may have found something there," Stars coach Dave Tippett said. "[Crombeen] had some pretty goals."

Crombeen also played Tuesday night against the Blues in the preseason opener, and while he didn't have a shot on goal in 8 minutes, 27 seconds of ice time, he had a nice, physical game.

"If I'm going to score goals, they're not going to be pretty ones. I think they're going to be bang-around-the-net, tap-in goals," Crombeen said. "My role will be more of a grinder."

The son of former NHL player Mike Crombeen, B.J. grew up in Ontario and played four solid seasons for Barrie, scoring 86 goals among 170 points – and earning 516 penalty minutes – in 248 games.

After a season with Iowa, the Stars shipped Crombeen to Finland for a season to work on his skills. He came back last season and had 14 goals and 14 assists in 65 games for Iowa, and played eight games with the Stars.

"He's a very focused guy right now," Tippett said. "He recognizes an opportunity and he's not going to let that opportunity slip by. Those things don't go unnoticed."
Crombeen is not scheduled to play in tonight's preseason game against the Colorado Avalanche, giving Neal a chance to catch up. Neal hasn't been as noticeable in scrimmages so far, but he has six preseason games to make his mark.

"We chirp back and forth all of the time, but you're always trying to push each other," Neal said. "It's an important time, and I think we're both trying to leave it all out there."

Cowlishaw looks ahead on Rangers baseball

The Rangers played their final home game Wednesday afternoon. In true Rangers fashion, they provided the ultimate tease in a 14-4 victory over Oakland.
Matt Harrison became the club's first-ever nine-game winner among rookie left-handers, making fans forget Jim Umbarger (they already have) and Mitch Williams (in Philadelphia, they never will).

In the process, Harrison makes you think ... "what if?"

Blalock hit a home run for the fourth straight game. He's been on fire since coming off the disabled list. This is back-to-back years he won't get near 300 at-bats, so these late-September bombs make you think ... "what if?"

Nelson Cruz hit another home run and is second only to Blalock with his 20 September
runs batted in after his call up from Oklahoma where he was Pacific Coast League MVP with out-of-sight numbers (37 homers, 99 RBIs, .342 average). Cruz is 28, but a 43-homer season under any circumstances makes you think ... "what if?"

The Rangers now lead Oakland by 11/2 games in that battle for second in the A.L. West which may not sound like much, but Michael Young has been here eight years and never finished second.

Call it the Rangers' version of progress.

But Rangers fans know it's not the real thing. This team lost 41 of 81 home games in 2008, but maybe more importantly, it lost 400,000 fans. The Rangers failed to draw two million.

This was their lowest attendance in 20 years. Blame it on the price of gas, economic woes, only one visit each from the Yankees and Red Sox, if you like.

The truth is that a lot of former Rangers fans finally had enough.

What can bring them back? What would constitute real progress in 2009, not just beating out Oakland's Triple-A roster for second place?

"I think what [fans] saw today is that it's about to happen," Washington said. "We've just got to clean up some deficiencies."

Oh, really?

We're not talking about a little cleanup on aisle seven here.

Stop me if you've heard this one before, but the Rangers lead the A.L. in runs scored by a mile. A good weekend in Anaheim and they might reach 900 runs.

They also have the worst ERA by a mile. And they have allowed by far the most unearned runs because they are the league's worst fielding team.

How do you go from worst pitching and worst defense to contender in one winter?
The answer is you don't.

How about this disturbing paragraph?

Washington said he expected to talk with Daniels on the final road trip, which begins today. The manager has not invited any of his coaches back and said he has yet to be given authority to make decisions on coaches.

Ryan and Daniels are expected to meet with owner Tom Hicks shortly – perhaps before the end of the season Sunday – to discuss and evaluate the year. Hicks declined to comment on personnel matters Wednesday.

Asked why he couldn't make an unequivocal commitment to either Daniels or Washington, Ryan cited still-unfinished business.

"It's premature to say that," Ryan said. "The season isn't over. We haven't sat down with Mr. Hicks. Just because people want to hear me say something, it isn't fair to say absolutely until you finish the process. In my mind, I don't anticipate a

Washington, after 2 years, has still not been allowed to make decisions regarding
his own coaching staff?

Double Owens at your own risk

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has grown accustomed to seeing Pro Bowl receiver Terrell Owens draw two defenders, but Sunday night he had never seen anything like Green Bay’s sellout coverage. Owens had two shadows on every play — run or pass.

“No one has done that to this extent,” Romo said. “A guy would run with T.O. the whole time. A lot of times, they’ll double him at the line and let him go to the
safety. This team would not let him go.”

Even on a trick play with receiver Patrick Crayton launching a pass to the end zone,
Owens was draped by a pair of defenders. So the plan worked — Owens caught two passes for 17 yards.

The plan also blew up.

The Cowboys ran for 217 yards, and receiver Miles Austin caught two passes for 115 yards with a touchdown.

Owens is 27th in the NFL in receptions with 10, and the Cowboys still have the No. 1 offense in the league.

“It’s no different than when I was in San Francisco and Jerry [Rice] played,” Owens said. “I’m familiar with the territory and the role I possess.”

Call it the T.O. Effect, and a lot of people benefit. Here’s how:

1 Space for the tight ends

When asked to name the player who benefits the most from his play, Owens said, “Pretty much the tight end. The numbers speak for themselves.”
Hard to argue. With a safety chasing Owens, it often clears up space underneath for a tight end, in this case Jason Witten. Over a six-quarter stretch when Owens had two catches, Witten had 11 receptions for 118 yards. Witten leads the team with 20 receptions for 273 yards.

2 Single coverage outside

Not only will Owens normally take a pair of defenders with him, he’s usually drawing the opponent’s best defensive back. That means a wide receiver — last season it was Patrick Crayton with 50 receptions — can line up one-on-one against an inferior defensive back. Or it can allow Miles Austin to run deep, as he did with receptions of 52 and 63 yards against Green Bay.

3 More running room

On plays Owens is taking a safety with him, that’s one fewer defender that can come up and try to stop Marion Barber or Felix Jones. The offensive line had more to do with the Cowboys’ 217 rushing yards against the Packers than Owens, but he had an effect.

“They were double-covering Terrell the whole time,” coach Wade Phillips said, “and
that leaves someone out of the run game, and we tried to take advantage of that.”

4 T.O. will get open anyway

Even against two defenders, T.O. can get his catches. Against the Washington Redskins last season in Week 11 at Texas Stadium, he finished with eight receptions for 173 yards and four touchdowns.

It wasn’t all against single coverage. “It’s not like it’s rocket science. Sometimes he’ll beat the double coverage,” Romo said. “It’s about doing what’s right for the team and no one wants that more than 81.”

Amazing Link: A Picture Diary of Hurricane Ike

Reviewing the first episode(S) of Heroes …I am not sure this show is great or not anymore…

By the way, Survivor and the Office BACK TONIGHT!

Guillermo at the Emmys


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