The NHL's All-Star game/weekend is over, meaning there are but a few more months for teams to either secure a playoff spot, or further oblivion.
Once again, the local ice hockey team that plays the sport of hockey in the National Hockey League is sitting on the outside. My hope/faith and confidence in the Dallas Stars continues to be rewarded with a giant pile of dog mess.
The team has lost five of its last seven going into the break.
The Stars sit in 10th in the Western Conference with 52 points. Unless NHL boss Donald Fehr and his soon to be new pet, commish Gary Bettman, suddenly agree to expand the playoffs to include a few more teams, once again the Stars will be out. The Stars are in real danger of extending their playoff-less streak to a franchise-record four straight years.
The Stars return tonight (Wed., Feb. 1) with a game at Anaheim, and again tomorrow night with at San Jose. The team returns home on Saturday against the Wild.
Bitter? No. Frustrated? Yes. I keep wanting to believe this team knows what it's doing and is building the right way, yet here they are in danger of becoming even more irrelevant than they have been. The new ownership needs time, and the ticket-price reduction was a solid first step, but at some point they have to give people a reason to care. The only way you entice fans for them to care about hockey is a playoff run.
Statistically, the Stars aren't bad. They aren't great. They are stuck in the middle. If they don't address their power play (ranked 26th in the NHL) soon they are doomed to be on the wrong side of the middle, and out of the playoffs again.
Whenever the Grim Reaper comes to finally visit Ron Washington many decades from now, my money is on Wash'. Nothing gets this guy.
This is the guy whom after his first season as Texas Rangers manager said he would give himself an "A". And the team finished 75-87 that season.
Today he agreed to a two-year extension through 2014. I lost count how many times this guy was going to get fired.
Wash is proof of what can happen if you just wait.
Here is Wash's record with the Rangers:
2007: 75-87, fourth place in AL West 2008: 79-83, 2nd place in AL West 2009: 87-75, 2nd place in AL West 2010: 90-72, 1st place in AL West - World Series 2011: 96-66, 1st place in AL West - World Series
Right now the only team really looking at Oswalt is the Cardinals, but his reported one-year $10 million price is a bit high. And a bit stupid.
The fact that he is going to be 35 this year is not the concern. The fact that he has never pitched in the AL is not a concern. The guy was a big winner in the stadium formerly known as Enron Field, so he knows how to pitch.
What should be the mother of all giant red flags is the state of Oswalt's back. With the Phillies last season, Oswalt twice went on the disabled list with back issues. Ask any man, pro athlete or no, who has ever experienced prolonged back troubles if the pain ever really subsides. The answer is generally no.
Unless Oswalt is the rare exception, and his back is really OK, maybe this is worth a shot. Maybe.
This kind of looks like a similar situation the Rangers were in last year when they gave Brandon Webb a one-year, $3 million deal. It was loaded with incentives, but it didn't matter. Webb was never healthy. He never pitched for the big league team, and the Rangers didn't need him anyway but blew $3 million to find that out.
Oswalt's health is much better than Webb's, but the Rangers are in a position of power right now. They have a starting rotation, and don't need Oswalt. Oswalt is growing older, has some doubt on his resume now, and needs to get on a winner.
If the Rangers can get him on the very cheap, great. If not, keep moving.
Caught the pilot of the new HBO series "Luck" last night, and even though it's a little hard to follow, and some of the dialogue is a little hard to understand, this series looks like a winner.
Not a winner in the mold of The Sopranos or The Wire, but a solid hit.
Starring Dustin Hoffman, Nick Nolte, Jill Hennessy, Richard Kind, Dennis Farina and co-created by one of slickest filmmakers around - Michael Mann - this drama has just about everything possible going for it.
The show weaves in the stories and life around the world of horse racing, which despite its continued fall from the mainstream culture still features some of the most diverse ensemble of players of any sport. From organized crime to the trainers to the jockeys to the gamblers to the state of the track, the show has a face for all of it.
If you like horse racing, try this show. Luck is the most accurate depiction of the horse racing life ever put to screen, good and bad. And the horse racing scenes put you in the middle of the race, on top of the horse.
If you like good acting, try this show. Hoffman and Nolte alone are worth watching.
If you like high-end production, try this show. Ever since he started Miami Vice the TV show back in the '80s, one of Mann's greatest gifts as a filmmaker is giving every scene a high-definition, "cool" appearance. Mann's fingerprints are all over "Luck", from the actors right down to the score.
This nine-episode season continues next week. I suggest you catch the first episode, and give the rest a shot.
Former Dallas Mavs center DeSagana Diop - he of the brilliant overtime against the Spurs in the West semis in 2005 - is now with the Charlotte Bobcats. The Bobcats lost to the Wizards by three points on Saturday night, and in that game THIS happened. This is not CGI.
As you can see, this shot was a good three feet short of the rim.
I had to double-take on this: the TCU men's basketball team is 9-1 in games decided by six points or less. The only game they lost in such a situation was the double-OT game at Colorado State on Jan. 14.
Nov. 11 v. Florida Gulf Coast, W 73-72 Nov. 18 v. Virginia, W 57-55 Nov. 26 at Houston, W 81-80 No. 30 v. Lamar, W 77-72 Dec. 3 at Evansville, W 70-68 (ot) Dec. 6 v. Texas Tech, W 75-69 Jan. 4 v. Rice, W 78-74 Jan. 14 at Colorado State, L 95-89 (2 ot) Jan. 21 v. Boise State, W 54-52 Jan. 25 v. Air Force, W 59-56
While TCU football recruiting is the bigger story in Frog land, the men's basketball team is 12-7 and 2-2 in MWC play. This team does not have genuine postseason potential, but if you are winning this many close games you are doing something right. This team has above .500 potential, which at TCU is reason for a parade.
If this team finishes at or above .500, TCU AD Chris Del Conte will have a hard time justifying getting rid of Christian.
It does not change the fact that the talent level needs a dramatic upgrade as the team prepares to enter the Big 12. So do the facilities. If you believe what you read on the recruiting front, TCU is on some big recruits in the Metroplex.
"The mentality is better and our confidence level is better," coach Jim Christian said this morning. "You have to do everything you can to make it a four-minute game and then make plays."
Including the first round of the MWC tournament, the Frogs have at least 12 games remaining. If this team somehow finish with a 6-6 record in those games ... it will be a surprise. Can the Frogs finish above .500 for the first time since the 2004-'05 season? It's possible, but beginning Saturday night with a game at New Mexico it will be hard.
"Without question this is the most coachable group I’ve had. This group wants to win. For a majority of the time they have put winning first," Christian said. "They have played more together as a group. We have not reached where we are capable. We haven’t had the productivity off the bench I envisioned, but those things will come."