Team Tidbits – Avalanche, Thunder, Panthers, & Reds

Thoughts on the Avalanche’s 2-0 start, the Thunder missing Westbrook, the Panthers trading Beason, and the Reds firing Baker.

Avalanche Show Fire: Turns out, you are allowed to be vocal behind the bench of the Colorado Avalanche. In a 6-1 route in his first ever NHL game as a head coach, Patrick Roy got fined $10,000 for shoving the glass partition at Bruce Boudreau after Ben Lovejoy tried to hurt Nathan MacKinnon with a cheap knee on knee.

Roy was a little calmer in game two, a 3-1 victory, but the team played inspired hockey for the first time since beating the Chicago Blackhawks and stopping their season starting win streak last year, led by Steve Downie.

We all knew that Roy would bring fire and passion to this team and it hasn’t taken long to see the effects. In the past few seasons the team has been way too soft in all areas and the most Joe Sacco would do was shrug his shoulders as his team got pushed around. You’re not pushing these Avs around, and if you try, Roy will defend his guys. The return of Downie, who missed all except the opener last year, has certainly helped. He’s not the biggest guy, but he gives 200% effort, plays with an edge, and can score. He’s proven to be extremely valuable on a line with Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly, because if you try to dirty them up, you’ll have to deal with Downie.

The defense is still a work in progress, but the return of Ryan Wilson, by far the most psychical defenseman on the team, will help. When they make a mistake though, Semyon Varlamov has been there to bail them out and is currently playing like the guy fans had hoped he would become.

We’re only two games into the season, and the Avs have gotten off to good starts before, but something feels different about this team. Something tells me that if they start to slump, it will only last two days instead of two weeks.

Westbrook Out Until December: After going down in the first round of the playoffs, Russell Westbrook is scheduled to miss at least the first couple of months of the season. It’s a shame Westbrook won’t be in the opening night line-up as he’s a key part in the Oklahoma City Thunder‘s success this season, but I don’t see much reason to worry.

The NBA regular season is a marathon, not a sprint, and the Thunder is still one of the best teams in the league. While losing one of the top point guards in the league for an extended period of time is never an ideal situation, the Thunder could actually benefit from this. Reggie Jackson proved to be a very capable starter, and that was during the playoffs, where the pressure is at its highest. He’s been through the toughest situation, starting the regular season should feel easy to him. Also, this will allow Jeremy Lamb to be the sixth man off the bench, getting him more playing time and experience, which he desperately needs right now if he’s going to be counted on down the stretch.

The Thunder is still going to be a top five team in the West by the time Westbrook comes back. And when he returns, it’ll be like picking up an all-star at the trade deadline and giving nothing in return.

Panthers Trade Jon Beason: I wanted the Carolina Panthers to make a move, but I didn’t expect them to make the one that they did. Earlier this week they traded former pro bowl linebacker Jon Beason to the New York Giants for a late round draft pick. Two years ago Beason was thought to be a top five linebacker in the league, but injuries really set him back. He sat out all but one play in the Panthers recent game against the Giants. The Panthers defense pitched a shutout.

Beason is a valuable guy in the locker room and he can still make plays against the run, but his limited mobility kills him against the pass and he can’t play sideline to sideline anymore. Beason was the cornerstone of the defense two years ago, but the emergence of Luke Kuechly and declining ability made him expendable. A late round pick doesn’t seem like much, and it isn’t, but that just goes to show where the value of Beason is nowadays. I’m not sure he’ll ever be the same linebacker that he was years ago, but I think he can still contribute in certain situations, just obviously not for the Panthers.

Dusty Baker Fired: It didn’t take Cincinnati Reds management long to do the right thing. Three days after losing the Wild Card game, Dusty Baker was relieved of his duties. Baker did a good job with the team over the years, getting them into the playoffs three times in the last four years, but not being able to advance past the first round with the talent that he had was cause for concern. Dusty is a well-liked guy, but this team needed a fire lit under them and he was never going to light that fire.

It sounds like the Reds are going to stay in house with their next manager with current pitching coach Bryan Price or Louisville manager Jim Riggleman as the leading candidates. Riggleman was good as the Washington Nationals manager a few years ago and is a very passionate guy who won’t be pushed around, so I’d be fine with him taking over the team.

No matter who the Reds hire, it’ll be nice to see someone not look like a zombie in the dugout next year.

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