*Rumblings, Opinions, & musings on five of today’s hottest topics*
1. WINTER CLASSIC VIEWED AS DO OR DIE POINT?: As the NHL is headed towards another lockout, I get asked all the time when I think the NHL will be playing again. Since around June I’ve constantly heard from those in NHL circles believing hockey won’t be played until late November, early December and as the CBA deadline looms, there’s still a doom and gloom feeling around the league that things appear headed towards a month or two month work stoppage.
The key date to keep an eye on is the Winter classic which is to be played on January 1st. According to one veteran player, the players see the Winter classic as a do or die point in the negotiations. This game means a lot to the NHL from a revenue standpoint, including the players, and I’m told the players feel if there’s no CBA in place in time for the Winter Classic to be played, then the owners are going to be prepared to lockout the entire season. I was told a new CBA could be agreed upon as late as December 20th and the NHL would still be able to play the Winter Classic game on January 1, and under that scenario the NHL would surely open the season with that game. For now though, I’m sticking with my prediction that games are played by late November, early December.
2. LEAGUE WON’T NEGOTIATE NON-ECONOMIC ISSUES: One disappointment in the stalemate right now is that the two sides are not even working on finalizing non-economic issues. There are a lot of other issues they could be working on to reach agreements as there’s more to the CBA than just economic issues. The NHL feels there’s no reason to meet with the main economic issues not resolved. “We actually don’t think that meeting on the other issues while the main economic issues remain uncertain would be particularly constructive or productive in terms of resolving those issues,” deputy commissioner Bill Daly told the New York Post. “A lot has already been done and most of those issues are teed up for resolution if the main issues can be addressed.” The NHLPA has made it known they are willing to meet on non-economic issues at any time, which is another PR win for them. The NHLPA is winning the PR war so far, and that started with their proposal that they spun to the media and public as making several concessions when there really wasn’t any.
3. WAIT AND SEE ON HOLT: Brock Holt’s 4-for-5 game with a double last night in the Pirates 6-2 win over the Houston Astros is sparking chatter among the fan base and media about Holt replacing Clint Barmes as the starter at shortstop for when Neil Walker returns. While Holt lacks great range, it’s an interesting debate as Holt has experience at shortstop and there’s a feeling the Pirates have to get his bat in the lineup. I agree for now that they need to ride him out and see what happens, but I want to see how he does against real MLB pitching before anointing him a starter down the stretch over Barmes. Last night he was feasting off of Triple-A pitching.
4. RAVENS A HOT PICK AMONG NFL PUNDITS: The losers in the AFC and NFL title games are always hot picks for the Super Bowl, the following season. That’s certainly the case with the Baltimore Ravens. Some notable pundits on the Ravens bandwagon: NFL.com’s Michael Lombardi, Bucky Brooks have the Ravens reaching the Super Bowl with Steve Wyche predicting a Ravens Super Bowl win, while at ESPN, former longtime Colts executive Bill Polian predicts a Ravens Super Bowl win and Ron Jaworski has the Ravens losing to Green Bay in the Super Bowl. I don’t like this Steelers team that much and don’t trust the rising Bengals, but I see a third place finish for the Ravens who have a tough schedule, depleted pass rush with no Terrell Suggs, one of the oldest offensive lines in the NFL and an inconsistent secondary.
5. CAN COWBOYS PULL THE UPSET?: The NFL season kicks off tonight with the Super bowl champion New York Giants hosting the Dallas Cowboys. This game is always a trap game for teams going into the Super Bowl champions house, which is a reason Baltimore balked at playing Pittsburgh in the NFL season opener in 2009. The last Super Bowl champ to lose a season opener was the 1999 Denver Broncos. At the skilled positions, these teams are very similar but the key matchup is New York’s defensive front against the Cowboys O-line. New York has a big advantage there and for Dallas to win tonight they have to win that battle. New York 24 – Dallas 20