Shooting from the lip/May 2nd edition
Looking back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports ...
This is going to come off as a little hometown whining, but how in the world is the Lightning's Guy Boucher not one of the three finalists for NHL coach of the year? The three finalists for the award are the Penguins' Dan Bylsma, the Canucks' Alain Vigneault and the Predators' Barry Trotz.
First, let's look at Boucher. He took over a team that has been near the cellar of the league the past three seasons. He had no dependable goaltending for half the season. His team suffered an injury bug that took top players Vinny Lecavalier, Simon Gagne and Steve Downie for good chunks of the season. And yet the Lightning finished with 103 points, the second most in franchise history and good enough for fifth in the highly competitive Eastern Conference.
It's hard to argue with Bylsma being on the list. He directed the Penguins to a four seed despite missing two of the best players in the NHL for half the season: Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. In fact, Bylsma deserves to win the award. But Vigneault? Sure, the Canucks had the best record in hockey, but was anyone surprised by that? They've finished with 100 or more points in three of the past four years. Vigneault has the reigning MVP, Daniel Sedin, who is a finalist for the award again this season. He also has a Vezina Trophy (best goalie) finalist in Roberto Luongo and a finalist for best defensive forward in Ryan Kessler.
Meanwhile, Trotz was a finalist last year when his team had 100 points. This season, they had a better team and a finalist for the Vezina (Pekka Rinne), and they finished with one fewer point than a season ago.
Look, Vigneault and Trotz are outstanding coaches. It's just hard to imagine, however, they did a better job than Boucher did in 2010-11.
Worst sense of direction
For the second time in three weeks, Fox baseball Game of the Week host Chris Rose showed how unfamiliar he is with Rays baseball by saying not once, not twice, but three times during Saturday's opening that the Rays play in "Tampa.'' No big deal, you might say. But this is a team that has won two division titles in the past three years, and anyone who knows even a little about baseball knows the team plays in St. Petersburg. There has been a World Series here, for crying out loud. And it seems like Fox's game announcers have no problems figuring out where the Rays play. Rose just comes off as ignorant when he keeps repeating that the Rays play in Tampa. And you would think one of the Fox production people would notice, too, and set him straight.
Hands down, the best moment of ESPN's draft coverage was watching Alabama running back Mark Ingram overwhelmed with emotion after reporter Suzy Kolber read him an e-mail she received from Ingram's father, Mark Sr. The elder Ingram, a former NFL player himself, is serving a seven-year jail sentence for money laundering and bank fraud and wrote the e-mail to tell his son how proud he was. Kolber's instincts were brilliant. She gave Ingram a moment and filled time while he broke down, but stayed with it until Ingram tearfully responded.
"I want to tell my dad that I love him, and I miss you, dog,'' Ingram said. "You've been a positive influence my whole entire life. I just want to thank you and let you know that I love you, and we did it!''
It was heartbreaking and heartwarming all at the same time, and Kolber was sensational.
One of the best things about the NFL draft is watching commissioner Roger Goodell at the podium announcing the next pick. But the mystery and drama have been eliminated in recent years because ESPN often reveals the player about to be picked just before it becomes official. You can't blame ESPN. It's the network’s job to break news. Still, it does take some fun out of it.
We can now safely say that, in the end, mock drafts are pretty much a waste of time. ESPN's Mel Kiper is about as good as they get, and you know how many of the 32 first-round picks he got right? Nine. ESPN's Todd McShay got eight right. And Sports Illustrated's Peter King, who is about as plugged into the NFL as any reporter on the planet, got only seven right. Meanwhile, Rich Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News might be the new draft king. Year in and year out, Gosselin's mock drafts are among the best in the country, and this year he got 14 right. When you think about it, that's pretty impressive, especially because he nailed several of the surprising picks: Jake Locker to the Titans at No. 8, Nick Fairley to the Lions at No. 13 and Anthony Costanzo to the Colts at No. 22.
Most weeks, Fox's baseball Game of the Week interviews the managers briefly between innings and then airs the quick two or three questions and answers when coming out of commercial break. But Fox mixed it up Saturday and interviewed Rays pitcher David Price while Price wore a headset from the dugout. Great idea. Because Price wasn't pitching, he was able to talk during the action with no time constraints. Announcers Josh Lewin and Eric Karros didn't have great questions, but Price's answers were thoughtful, insightful and, occasionally, funny, making the interview one of the highlights of Saturday's broadcasts. Also, nice work by Fox to show several revealing and scary replays of Rays leftfielder Sam Fuld getting hit near his left eye while attempting to bunt a pitch.
A favorite broadcast moment of the weekend came when NBC hockey analyst Pierre McGuire lambasted the Flyers coaching staff Saturday. Coming out of a timeout, the Flyers were burned when their fourth line gave up a goal to fall behind the Bruins 4-1. McGuire was incredulous.
"I can't believe coming out of a TV timeout, it's the fourth line of the Flyers against the first line of the Bruins,'' McGuire said. "That can't happen!''
And you have to admire the job done by McGuire from his station between the benches. He has built up so much respect in the league that players will talk to him during the game. Perfect example: During Sunday night's Lightning-Capitals game on Versus, he was able to ask Caps star Alex Ovechkin about missing a shift, and Ovechkin told him it was an issue with his skate and he was ready to return. Not too many analysts out there would be able to get a player to respond to a question during the game. Also, because of McGuire, viewers were able to learn that the Lightning's Marty St. Louis had a few teeth loosened by a high stick during the first period. We would have never known that if McGuire wasn't between the benches and paying attention.
Three things that popped into my head
1. Everyone knows what Lightning coach Guy Boucher is doing by pumping up the Caps every chance he gets, but it's still fun to listen to. (And P.S., Boucher just happens to be right in saying the Caps are supposed to win this series.)
2. The NBA playoffs not only haven’t been dramatic, they've been downright boring.
3 How refreshing to listen to Versus' Jeremy Roenick tear into the inconsistent and shoddy officiating in the Stanley Cup playoffs.